Friday, November 18, 2011

Today we went up to the top of the Rock of Gibraltar in the cable car. Unfortunately it was pretty cloudy so we didn't get to see the spectacular view which can be seen looking south towards Africa, Morocco which is only about 15 miles away. We did however get very close to the monkies who live up at the top. I was not too excited about seeing the monkies as last time I was here they were all very badly behaved towards the visitors. This time they were actually really nice and alot of fun to watch. Tony had a couple of close encounters as you'll see from the videos.
We took a walk this morning across the airport runway - its open to pedestrians except for when an aeroplane is taking off or landing and is actually the border between Gibraltar and Spain. I'm trying to get a video of a plane taking off or landing from the boat in the marina to show the close proximity of the runway. Tomorrow we'll provision shop as we wish to leave here on Sunday - looks like we have a weather window which should take us down the African coast to the Canary Islands - about 700 miles, which all being well should take us about a week.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Gibraltar - Whew!

We got into Gibraltar day before yesterday - we've had the mandatory piss-up which we need after being at sea for awhile (we don't drink alcohol on passages)before really good fish'n chips in the local pub and when we started to feel better yesterday we got on with our chores. Coming into Gibraltar from Estepona was a delightful trip. We hugged the coast anticipating that as the tide came through the strait it would cause a back-eddy along the coast. We were right, so with the sun shining almost all of the way we snuck up on Gibraltar - whose way too high and mighty to see a little thing like us creeping in.

Coming into a 'way station' like Gibraltar is exciting. There is an expectant mood as many of the boats here are moving on to a long journey. So we share information with each other and compare our equipment and knowledge. Gibraltar is also a very nice place to live and many people like us come in expecting to transit but they stay and find a way to make a living here.
So now we need a 'weather window' to head south where we'll stop in the Canary Islands for another break and provisioning before heading across the Atlantic. We'll aim at Antigua.
We're still trying to work out problems with our SSB radio - we really want that to work for our crossing so that we can post our position on a regular basis as we did before. Its very reassuring for us to know that you all know where we are.
While we're here we'll take a cable car ride up to the top of the rock. Tony wants to see his monkey relatives. Must find out how they got here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Med has almost let us go

Leaving Menorca was terrible. We had pretty good weather information and we knew that to get down and around the south coast of Spain we would have a couple of days of tough going. As soon as we left the protection of beautiful Menorca we were hit with electrical storms accompanied by torrential rain and strong winds - we motor sailed through it for many hours cussing and swearing all of the way - mopping up gallons of water - now that's the type of rain we need when our water tanks are empty. Its funny - we thought Menorca was so perfect and clean and friendly that we kept making jokes about how the inhabitants were all in a conspiracy for the 'common good'. 'Be really nice to them so that they'll stay - we need all the spenders we can get'. Well it felt like the actual weather was in on the conspiracy - it was hard not to run back in for protection. 3 days later we pulled into Forementera, a lovely small island south of Mallorca where we anchored long enough to try to fix our SSB antennae and have lunch on flat water - lunch was nice, antennae still not working. We can receive but not transmit. We'll try to fix it in Gibraltar - where we should be later today. So - it took us 6 days to get from Menorca to Estepona. We sailed as much as possible, motor sailed sometimes to push us along a bit faster, but when the wind was opposing us we had some days when even though we had travelled 100 miles only 30 of those miles were in the right direction. 20 miles from Gibraltar yesterday afternoon the favourable wind that had been pushing us along on a broad reach with a triple reefed main at 6 knots died - left us with a punishing slop and then turned to the West. Yes that's right in the direction we were attempting to go. Our motoring speed was cut down to about 3 knots. Knowing we would not get into Gib until way after dark we turned right into Estepona - a lovely little place, nice Marina, great rates and a free bottle of wine - 'All for the greater good' - we'll head out in about an hour for Gibraltar. Here's a couple of videos showing the complete contrast in weather conditions from 1 day to the next.


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Why Menorca is Green

Now I know why Menorca is so green - about a million gallons of rain fell in the past 24 hours. We actually didn't venture off the boat at all today - just did jobs inside the boat which needed to be done - lots of preparation for the upcoming long journey. We were amused when watching the coverage of the Volvo race which just started from Alicante, Spain - not very far from us. They talk about 'stacking' the boat which though it sounds very technical, basically means moving all of the moveable weight - i.e. sail bags from the low side to the high side of the boat which is like having about 5 more men sitting up on the rail.
'Oh yeah! we stack Moondancer too - we move everything to the low side so that it
doesn't all fall down there.'
That was one of the jobs I've been doing - improving the holding areas for all of the things that are necessary on our boat as its also our permanent home. Usually we take most things away from their normal living space when we are at sea - many things get put onto our bed in the aft cabin as we never get to sleep in there on passages. We sleep in the single bunks in the main cabin with lee cloths up to stop us from falling down to the low side.
Tony has been working on our SSB radio - though we are receiving well we are not being heard - looks like the antennae cable has some corrosion so tomorrow we'll try to search out and replace that cable.
The weather seems to change very quickly here and we are checking it regularly - it looks now as though we'll be able to leave on Tuesday and may be able to get all the way to Gibraltar.
My next post will verify whether we did.
We have made friends with an American boat called Sonrisa. We met in Malta while they were also undergoing repairs in the yard. They've made it to Mallorca, just south of us and are also planning to head across the Atlantic. Its nice to have
SSB radio contact with other boats on the ocean - we get to compare weather information etc.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Spiritual Experiences on board

A few people have told me about 'spiritual experiences' they've had when sailing long distances - such as finding a dead relative sitting beside them in the cockpit on night watch which they found comforting. If that were to happen to me I'd probable die of fright, at the very least scream my head off and wake up Tony and the dead. I think these experiences are fuelled by extreme exhaustion. I had something like that happen on the last passage from Malta to Menorca, which is where we are now for a few days waiting out nasty weather. Just after we left Malta I got a very bad cold or flu - whatever it is its really horrible and should definitely be treated with rest - REST, that's a joke when there's just 2 of us running the boat and one of us is always awake. It may not be such a bad thing to nod off out in the ocean when its very unlikely that you'll hit anything, but in the Med its a bit different - there's quite alot of traffic day and night. In fact it seems like alot more ships show up on our AIS at night than during the day. So - 3 nights out in stormy conditions with a bad cold and very little sleep I was having a bad watch. Standing up in the wind and rain will certainly help to keep one awake but not as comfortable as sitting under cover in the cockpit. Every time I sat down I would nod off - and wake up just as my head hit something close by - the bimini/dodger framework or the edge of the steering pedestal. It happened many times but I couldn't wake Tony because he really needed his sleep too and had already been very generous with giving up some of his sleep to me as I was sick. So my spiritual experience was when I fell into more than a 'nod off' and something whacked me around the head pretty hard - this time it wasn't something I fell against. So someone else must have been on watch with me and obviously a gentle shake 'awake' wasn't going to work. So for the last hour of that watch I stood out in the rain and wind and kept myself busy. So we're in Menorca, the Ballearics, Spain. We got here 2 days ago. We had hoped to make it to Ibiza a bit further south west on this leg but we had to deal with a technical problem and Menorca was closer. We've not done much other than REST, check out the chandleries for things we need aboard and work on Moondancer. Today will be more of the same, but tomorrow we'll do some sight seeing. Its a very lovely island - so clean and the people are polite and courteous. Instead of running across the road in fear of one's life - we stand on the curb and wait and people actually stop to let us cross the road. Incredible. Menorca reminds us so much of other countries we have visited - particularly Bermuda in its tidiness and cleanliness. Funny how when we come to new places they always seem to have characteristics like other places we have been. The video and pictures I'm posting speak for themselves and as yet I know nothing about Menorca as we have not really been out and about - we hope to rectify that on Saturday, our last day here before the weather turns in our favour for getting further along. We knew when we left Malta that getting out of the Med was going to be tough - so far that's exactly what it has been. We'll have to work within weather systems and there are plenty of harbours on the Spanish coast to duck into until we finally get out, then once in the Atlantic we'll basically have to work with the wind direction until we get far enough south to head west. We obviously hope that the trade winds will then carry us across as fast as Moondancer can go.