Archive for Seasickness

Madeira to the Azores part I

Posted in Fun, Photographs, Sailing, the Atlantic Ocean, Unfortunate events with tags , , , , on July 9, 2011 by maidofmettle

Day 1: Thursday 23rd June

This didn’t quite work out. I’d been thinking it might make sense to go this morning, but when I was about to set my alarm the previous night I realised I couldn’t find my phone anywhere, which led to several hours of searching the boat and significant frustration. I’d planned on a final walk if I didn’t go, but decided I’d better try the police station instead, only to find it was shut for a public holiday – so that day was largely wasted alternatively looking in the boat and trying to forget about it.

There was at least a good distraction that afternoon – though I was further annoyed by the billboard I’d seen getting the start time of the Festa de Sao Joao (Festival of St John) wrong – it looked as though the flower-flinging action was already over:

Still, a lot of people leaving seemed to be heading in the same directions, and the celebrations in some of the eastern quarters of the city definitely weren’t over..

There were lots of narrow streets lit up and lined with tables, and bands playing around every corner (if you stood at some corners the effect was indeed quite strange).

So the evening was good at least, and there was always the next morning to try the police station and maybe leave later the next day.

However, at one point when I woke up in the night I heard a rather strange noise. I’d thought the absence of ‘low-battery’ wurblings was proof my phone wasn’t on the boat, but it seemed it had just had a bit more in reserve than I’d thought. Either that or there was an upset Teletubby somewhere in the boat.

The other annoying feature of flashing its screen on and off all the time was quite helpful in finding the phone – pity I’d forgotten that the previous evening! So, I had another look at the forecast to see if I should set an early-morning alarm, and reluctantly decided I should.

Day 1: Friday 24th June

Just before dawn on Friday I wasn’t exactly feeling energetic. The forecast looked about ok to go now, and if I didn’t it would probably be at least a week before the next good opportunity, so that made up my mind really. After the frustration of the last couple of days I was quite keen to get going, and make sure I had some time to see the Azores before sailing for England.

I actually left a bit later than I’d really have wanted to just because of tiredness, but I did still manage to leave reasonably promptly. I wanted to go as this would give the best conditions for motoring east in the shelter of the island to gain ground to windward and avoid the problems I’d had arriving downwind of Madeira.

I made it past the Ponta de Garajau, with it’s large Christ on a very high cliff.

Shortly after that, I decided that the plan really wasn’t going to work at all.. From motoring smoothly over swell at four knots Maid was now plunging up and down into fair-sized waves with a headwind, probably doing 1-2 knots on average.

So, I turned and headed south instead. I only put one jib up, but that was enough sail to do four knots again!

Of course, the downside was that I was actually sailing south, whereas the Azores are north-west… I didn’t sound too upset about it though –

It was nice just to be sailing, and as I noted it may have been the quickest way to find wind near Funchal, which is very sheltered by the big hills in the centre of the island. Plan B was to sail in a loop, keeping Madeira on my right-hand side and far enough away to avoid the wind shadow before eventually turning north up towards the Azores. So, crisis averted, for a good few hours at least, and the sun came out as well.

Unfortunately, later on the wind started dropping…

It was feeling very like the approach to Madeira all over again, but it seemed like it must be just a lull in the wind, as I was well clear of the island. It didn’t really feel like it though – I could still see it, and the wind was doing some very bizarre things that evening and night – changing in both strength and direction.

Day 2: Saturday 25th June

Early the next morning things continued much the same..

The wind did indeed die again a couple of hours after that, but after an hour or so of going nowhere a northerly wind replaced it. This didn’t really let me sail towards the Azores, but made enough sense with the forecasts and pressure charts I had for me to trust it would probably last, and shift more easterly with time and progress westwards, which would let me gradually turn in the direction I wanted to go. This was a big relief, as I was feeling very worn out.

Day 3: Sunday 26th June

On Sunday morning the wind gradually dropped, until the left-over waves started feeling rather unpleasant. I can’t help feeling that being sick over the side when the boat isn’t really moving isn’t ideal timing, though at least I recovered in 10 minutes or so.

Fortunately the calm spell didn’t last much longer, and the wind went back to being nice and steady and light again, giving me a chance to rest and relax, and also take a bit of a break from recording videos till the afternoon.

Day 4: Monday 27th June

Monday also started well, making good progress – – and a fine sunrise too.

It turned into a beautiful day, very nice for spending a while outside in the shade of the sails

and watching Horace do his stuff.

By this time I was definitely feeling recovered from the tiredness at the start and enjoying the trip, though unfortunately the favourable conditions didn’t last, with another spell of light wind.

There’s a very fine line – just a couple of knots of wind, and in this case an hour or so – between serene progress and very little progress: .

This time the calm spell lasted rather longer – four hours or so – but with the much calmer sea state it was far less distressing than near Madeira. It was also a good time to have a shower in the cockpit while there was sunshine but no wind chill! And that, of course, is even more effective than whistling..

By dinner-time we’d reached the milestone of 300nm distance to Santa Maria, the nearest of the Azores, which was a nice target to tick off though I hadn’t decided if that would actually be my destination yet – that would be left till later. Much like the continuation of this post (cue manical laughter).

Gran Canaria to Madeira part 1

Posted in Cooking, Photographs, Sailing, the Atlantic Ocean with tags , , on June 14, 2011 by maidofmettle

Day 1: Thursday 26/05

In the end leaving Las Palmas proved surprisingly easy. I’d actually considered going on Wednesday evening. The forecast suggested that would give me the best chance of getting north enough to catch the edge of a low pressure system and moderate fair winds up to Madeira, which is very unusual. However, I was feeling fairly tired, and it looked as though the wind might die overnight – I didn’t fancy spending the first night rocking around going nowhere still near land and shipping.

But on Thursday morning it still looked pretty good. After all the time deciding not to go – and if debates about when to leave can seem like they take an excruciatingly long time when there’s three of you, when there’s just one the freedom to second-guess yourself sometimes means they actually do – deciding to go was very simple indeed.

My goodbye committee made sure that I cast off:

I stopped briefly on the reception pontoon to give my keys back to the office and then headed out. The wind was a bit less strong than it had been earlier in the morning and gave excellent conditions for sailing once I’d motored clear of the port to get away from ships.

The wind held nicely until I’d got clear of La Isleta, the very north-eastern tip of Gran Canaria which protrudes from the end of Las Palmas, and then went very light and swung round to behind. I was just about to change all the sails round to see if I could make some use of it when I spotted a turtle swimming along behind.

It looked like it was gaining….

Until I think Maid got rather offended and splashed a bit, scaring it into diving. And handily at this point, the wind swung round another 90 degrees and became a nice light westerly breeze, so I was very glad it had distracted me and saved a fair bit of work.

With things settled down nicely it was time for dinner – pasta, mushrooms, courgette and olives with a sauce made from cream cheese, milk and parsley.

And a shower. Some things at least are actually simpler when you’re sailing on your own!

In light conditions, sleeping could possibly even be included in that. It was so calm I didn’t need to bother using the leecloth, and with very little traffic around, Horace steering and the AIS keeping an eye out for big ships I didn’t have much trouble taking 30-60 minute naps between having a look around.

Day 2: Friday 27/05

The second day was lovely – steady wind from the same side, and still reasonably fast but gentle progress. Lots of time for relaxing as well as keeping an eye on the boat and looking out for ships. Dinner was rather nice too.

Day 3: Saturday 28/05

The third day started similarly, but with the wind getting slightly lighter again. The morning was interrupted by a loud wailing (I wired the AIS ship monitoring device up to the burglar alarm) signalling some company, which came past fairly close on one side, but clearly not coming too near.

There were very light spells though: . The boat’s movement in the periods of little wind was a bit unpleasant at times though – I was sick once, though the feeling went away very fast after that, and luckily we were moving fast enough that Maid wasn’t left sloshing around in it!

Otherwise it was another nice day – very slow progress off and on, but still comfortable, and nice weather. It did get a bit hard to keep track of time – the main reason for putting the dates and days in this entry was to make sure I didn’t get too confused.

Day 4: Sunday 29/05

Today brought even more visitors. First some dolphins arrived – probably the nicest conditions I’ve ever seen them in (they usually like plunging in and out of big waves), but they still seemed to have a good time playing under the bow.

It was quite late before getting round to making breakfast after spending a while watching the dolphins, so I decided to have something a bit more substantial as a change from cereal, and improvised some very Canarian banana-and-gofio cakes.

The recipe is very simple indeed – just mix 2 very ripe bananas and 1/2 cup of gofio together and work till you get a very soft dough, then form into flat discs and fry. That probably serves a couple of people – I ended up saving two of them for later.

The wind was rather fitful though – but it was calm enough I could be quite philosophical about it:

It was often tricky to decide which way to sail, with neither tack making much ground to the north. Sailing westish would make some progress towards the Azores but possibly make it harder work, and quite likely make it harder to call at Madeira. Sailing eastish would make the trip to either longer but probably easier in the long term, but in the short-term the forecast suggested it might lead into even less wind. I tried to strike a balance…

The second arrival, who I’m fairly certain was a red-rumped swallow, was a nice distraction.

It was good to have someone around to judge my little steering competition with Horace (the hydrovane self-steering gear):

Though he didn’t actually seem to be paying that much attention, and at times didn’t seem that responsible – careful with those claws on that tube, we don’t want petrol everywhere do we? As a bird I’d think you’d know that petrochemical spills are undesirable.

Then again, maybe he wasn’t that clever. Most stowaways would realise that sitting on the captain’s head while he’s eating dinner would generally be looked on as insubordination, if not actually defined as mutiny. He was very uninterested in offerings of fresh water and food as well, though I admit I was a bit short on insects.

He got named Cheepcheep, as that was all he ever say, whether meaning ‘hello’, ‘okay, I’ll sit on your shoulder instead, though doing the washing up isn’t that piratical you know’, or ‘I’m going to top myself if you don’t get somewhere soon’. Unfortunately that last translation was only worked out with the benefit of hindsight.

The conditions were still pleasant that night, except for the slight worry that Cheepcheep might come and sit on my face while I was getting some sleep, but the wind’s direction kept changing inconveniently, meaning we weren’t making very much progress overall. The dot on the screen is my GPS position at the time and the line my past track.

When I went to bed I’d been heading NNE, towards the top right of the screen. Unfortunately, this had changed rather significantly within the hour or half hour, curving off to the right, which wasn’t really where I wanted to go. The big change in angle is then me tacking, to sail with the wind on the either side so I was heading vaguely north again.

Day 5: Monday 30/05

That happened several times in the course of that night. Not great fun..

Sadly it did prove too much for Cheepcheep. Glad he wasn’t an albatross, though the wind did definitely pick up after the funeral.

After the peace and quiet of the first few days, and a night without much sleep, it came as a bit of a shock, though on other days I’d definitely have said it was beautiful sailing.

Happily I did start to feel slightly differently: .

We were certainly making good progress, and it was a beautiful day as well. It was a slightly tricky decision to make on whether to keep heading for Madeira or not. It would have given the boat a much easier motion to turn away from the wind a bit more and head for the Azores, but would have made the trip quite a few days longer, and made it fairly impossible to change my mind and shorten the trip by calling at Madeira.

I wanted to keep that option open as long as I could in case the forecast started to suggest getting to the Azores would be a problem, so I decided it was worth carrying on for now.

Getting some rest was definitely becoming a theme in videos recorded that day: .

I’m not sure that last bit is something I’d normally say. It was certainly a bit optimistic.

To be continued..

(shortly I hope, videos are all processed and just need slotting in).


To Fuerteventura…and some even stranger developments

Posted in Cooking, Fun, Photographs, Sailing, Unfortunate events with tags , , on December 10, 2010 by maidofmettle

Journey from Gran Canaria to Fuerteventura

I spent most of yesterday afternoon asleep having travelled over from Gran Canaria to Fuerteventura the afternoon and night before. We were all pretty tired when we arrived after about twenty hours at sea. The journey itself was generally good, with quite a lot of wind but no huge waves which was a relief. We didn’t entirely escape sea sickness unfortunately so once again it was a case of going into survival mode a bit and seeing how little you can do in the cabin.

However we did see a whale of some kind (outside, not in the cabin luckily) so that was very exciting. I imagine it’s a bit like trying to see the big five in Africa on safari, you hope to see all the exciting animals before your journeying is over…now I’ve seen a whale I can go home! It was amazing even though it was quite far away you could tell it was big and we were sure it was a whale when it blew water out into the air.

Now feeling much more awake I intend to have a look around Gran Tarajal, the second largest town in Fuerteventura and highly recommended by a few people we have met. Chris and Pete managed to leave the boat yesterday so have had a head start on me. The marina itself is quite small and lacks showers and toilets for some reason (despite there apparently being a building for them) so we’ll be back to solar showers again. I guess that’s how it can be so cheap here, but at least there is electricity and running water.

We are quite glad to have left Gran Canaria in a way. The day we left we discovered the rudder to the wind vane had been moved from where it had been stored on the side deck of the boat and was dangled over the other side into the water with a piece of thin rope. In fact it hadn’t just been moved but the ropes that were tying it on to the boat had been cut and it looked like it had been hidden just under the water near our pontoon. We don’t know how long it had been there or when it had been moved but it all seemed a bit suspicious, especially given that these rudders are worth quite a lot of money. Whether someone had tried to steal it then got interrupted so left it there to come back for we don’t know but it was a bit worrying.

Weird…cut ropes

In other news, there has been no more signs of our little cockroach friend though I did see another one trying to smuggle on board yesterday from the water.
Also we used the last tin of beans the other day.

Chris distraught over the last tin of Tesco beans

Despite his shock over using the last tin of beans, Chris has surpassed himself by making a Christmas cake too, which we will eat on our boat Christmas not long from now.

It has been a week of culinary surprises. We went to a Lebanese restaurant in Las Palmas just before we left. Unsure of exactly what to order we opted for a set menu that was a sort of buffet between the three of us. It was really good. Fresh salad, bread, fried meats, kebabs, pasty-type things etc. Below is the recipe for the Lebanese salad that I decided to try and recreate with a little bit of help from Google. Dad, you will like this one because it has parsley in it!

Lebanese Salad

Parsley (finely chopped)
Mint (finely chopped)
Tomato chopped into small pieces
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
dash of lemon juice (optional- I forgot to put any in)

Mix all of the ingredients then eat

To the Canaries…tweet tweet…I mean woof

Posted in Cooking, Photographs, Sailing, the Atlantic Ocean with tags , , on October 28, 2010 by maidofmettle

We made it to the Canary Islands!

We left Madeira in a slightly less than perfect forecast but with a fantastic rainbow.

Bye bye Madeira

We had decided that we wanted to move on and the weather and wave forecasts suggested we would have a safe but possibly uncomfortable trip. As a result of the forecasted twenty knot winds we undertook a rather ‘bumpy’ sail to the Canaries. In fact, the word ‘bumpy’ is a well known sailing euphemism for rough, uncomfortably rolly and one of those sails that means you spend a bit too much time staring into a bucket. Fun as staring into a bucket is, there are things I would rather do.

We aimed first for Graciosa, an island at the West of the Canaries near Lanzarote and the first daylight hours of the trip weren’t too bad actually despite a rather unwelcome soaking near the start. This prompted a mass donning of full waterproofs which proved to be a good decision. The motion in the cabin was surprisingly ok as we were travelling nice and fast, though none of us wanted to outstay our welcome there. All three of us managed to eat lunch (good old lidl tuna salads, yum) and we all spent lots of time outside in the fresh air getting used to the boat’s motion again.

Some big waves

It is always slightly nerve-racking leaving and going out to sea again. It takes a good few hours to start to relax and not feel quite so anxious at the start and also to get used to doing things you once found easy whilst in port. A good example of that is getting in and out of the cockpit. Stepping over a couple of hatch-boards isn’t exactly difficult in harbour, but add in a safety line to get tangled in and the waves rocking the boat (and you) from side to side at inopportune moments and you can start to wonder how you even managed it before. However after a while you learn to look out for waves that might cause trouble and time your entrance and exit accordingly.

After over a month on Madeira it soon became clear that our sea legs weren’t as solid as we would have liked. As a bit of an experiment I had decided to try the Traveleze that we’d been given a while back by the Trycha and the girls. It seemed a good plan given that you only need to take them every twenty-four hours and they taste good too. I think they were helpful for the first twelve hours until it got dark and we started night shifts. The seasickness monster caught up at night. Pete suffered most followed by me. Chris escaped unscathed thanks to frequent drug taking. A combination of this, the waves splashing over the cockpit and the cold wind meant I was about ready to give up by the time I had eventually got to bed for the first time and was wondering why this was a good idea again. Yet again, I had just an inkling of why Ellen Macarthur spends so much time crying on her video diaries..seasickness makes you feel rubbish. No one should ever underestimate how difficult it is to get out of waterproofs in a rolling boat. It’s probably fair to say that all of us were at a pretty low point by night one.

Eerie night-time waves

The next morning I vowed to start taking Biodramina once again…I had become slightly disillusioned by it on our last trip but I once again had my faith restored by a recovery I believe was prompted by it. Given the direction of the waves (on our side), the discomfort of that and the fact that the forecast suggested they might get bigger as we neared Graciosa we spent quite a lot of time wondering what to do about our heading and hence our destination. We tried out a number of headings to see what they were like and eventually, somewhat reluctantly, it was decided to head to Tenerife (nearer the East) because this made sailing much more comfortable. The waves moved from our side to almost behind us which meant it was much nicer and dryer though we also knew this would most likely prevent us from sailing toward Lanzarote etc due to prevailing winds and conditions. Pete very stalwartly refused any seasickness drugs until he realised that we’d be in trouble if he didn’t stop being ill. After another night and a bit of sleep he appeared to have made quite a miraculous recovery…Sorry to go on about it but “Biodramina you’re amazing!”

Our last full day went quite well. Appetites were returning which was great and Tenerife was getting closer quite quickly.

Approaching Tenerife

All of this put me in quite a good mood even if I was already foreseeing larger steeper waves as the water shallowed near the island. In fact, my worst fears were not realised and the bigger waves never came. I even had a go at cooking whilst at sea – something that I’d never dared do before. I decided to challenge myself by cooking something mostly from scratch (ok so I used one tin of potatoes) It was quite fun if a little stressful trying to cook with a moving boat. The hardest bit was juggling two saucepans and having to gimble them by hand the waves rocked the boat. The bowl of dirty washing up wasn’t high on my list of priorities at the time and I soon saw it fly off the kitchen surface onto the floor with an almighty crash. The pan lid bears a rather good dent as a result of that. Next time I will champion the one pot dinner so my other hand can be ready to catch anything that cares to fly away.

Feeling smug about having just cooked inside at sea,
Caroline shows off by washing up on the floor as well

It was dark by the time we reached the marina. The last bit took quite a while because the wind had dropped with something of an anticlimax to what we expected – we were worried about the wind acceleration zones around Tenerife but didn’t experience them.

Tired…no, exhausted we moored up at Marina de Santa Cruz and went to bed.

Video Diary – Faro to Porto Santo – Part Dois

Posted in Fun, Sailing, the Atlantic Ocean with tags , on October 19, 2010 by maidofmettle

Here’s the second part of our video diary that takes us to Porto Santo

Video Diary – Faro to Porto Santo

Posted in Fun, Sailing, the Atlantic Ocean with tags , on October 15, 2010 by maidofmettle

Chris has been working on our video diary from the big trip across from Faro to Porto Santo.  What follows is footage of the first three days of the trip.  The rest will follow soon.  Enjoy…..

Faro to Porto Santo

Posted in Fun, Photographs, Sailing, the Atlantic Ocean with tags on September 9, 2010 by maidofmettle

We left Faro at about 6pm on the 1st of September. The weather looked as near to perfect as we could hope for, having waited for quite some time looking at it so we took our chance whilst we had it. What follows is a bit of a diary for each day.

1st Sept (evening)
Once out of the entrance to Faro we were surprised to see it was fairly rough out. Nothing too much to worry about but a bit of a culture shock after spending a month on flat water in the harbour and our bodies were obviously not too used to it. The magic of our faithful Biodramina seemed less than magical for me for the as I was frustrated to find myself battling with seasickness from the moment I tried to get to sleep…Great! Thought we’d got over that. Pete wasn’t too far behind either 😦 Me and the bucket were never far from each other unfortunately and I began to wonder why on earth I was even trying to sail for what would probably be the best part of a week. Despite this, we had split the night up into 3 hour shifts so we would just have to get on with it and hope that things would get better.

The good thing about being a crew of three is that after your 3 hour shift you then get the luxury of six hours sleeping (or trying to in some cases) so the night goes fairly quickly. I took the 10-1am shift, Pete did 1am – 4am followed by Chris doing 4am ’til 7am.

Leaving Faro

2nd Sept
By 7am I was ready to get back out and we began our day watch system of two and a half hours on and a ‘blissful’ five hours off. To start with the thought of spending five hours inside the cabin was a bit of a nightmare. All three of us struggled with feeling varying degrees of ill so in some ways during that time, being outside looking at the horizon was better than being off watch. Chris did much of the cooking to start with as Pete (much to his annoyance and our surprise) did not seem to be faring too well with the ‘bumpy’ nature of the waves. Bumpy being the word for downright horrible. It felt somewhat like being inside a simulator in the cabin with a very jolty motion that made you leave your stomach somewhere in the ceiling some of the time, loud bangs and large splashes over the boat. Not very nice and a bit scary especially when it wakes you up.

Not that you can tell… but these made it quite bumpy!

Chris demonstrating how valuable student cooking skills are…
Pasta and sauce… note the importance of a non-upright posture at sea!

3rd Sept
After surviving the second (quite sleepy) night I began to feel fairly confident that the waves were big but really fine (despite the nausea) and they didn’t appear to be getting anywhere near as steep as we’ve experienced before, thankfully! Apart from the shipping lane during night one there wasn’t much to look for out at sea. This made watches seem relatively stress free in a way though it took a bit of getting used to being woken up and trying to sleep at odd times.

More of an appetite, less sickness and a whole load of dolphins! They looked spectacular in the deep blue inky sea. I never would have imagined what people meant by the ocean being blue but it really is. Must be something to do with the depth of more than four thousand metres…It’s incredible to think that you are floating four kilometres above land!

Look carefully… and there are three dolphins

4th Sept
Had a good night shift last night. Fantastic clear skies with loads of stars that I actually managed to look at this time. I actually felt like we were flying through the water whilst I was outside sitting on the hatch boards. Somehow it was getting easier despite still being quite rough and noisy. Perhaps we were all sleeping better because we were tired, I don’t know but I definitely enjoyed some of it.

Had another brief visit from some dolphins today and because we had passed our half-way mark over night we threw a message in a bottle out during the day today. I hope someone will find it and contact us to say where it got to.

Bottle on its way to ?????

Waves were a bit bigger mostly we think because we were crossing an area near a bank of shallower water. Have learnt that it is not a very good idea to go under these banks as the waves appeared to have got a bit bigger and then carried on a bit. I think that our time going from Gibraltar to Mazagon might have done me a favour in terms of not worrying too much about waves. Although there were a few quite big ones it didn’t seem as bad as the ones we’d had before…so there was a reason we went through all that.

Ate a bit more and managed to do a bit more inside the boat during the day. Definite progress!

Horace hard at work

5th Sept
Our man overboard alarms kept going off during night shifts last night – very annoying and makes us question having it. The boy who cried wolf springs to mind. Also, having had one of the pendants replaced in Faro we have found that one of them has cracked again about a day in to our trip!!!

Watched a DVD during the day today 🙂 We’d been working up to this moment for days so it felt good to finally get there. Possibly eating out of something to do more than hunger.

Going downwind so the motion was a bit more rolly but generally calmer than before and it felt like a psychological turning point, downhill towards Porto Santo.

Managed to make lunch, even though half of it ended up in Chris’ bunk cupboard. I was quite proud given that to start with I didn’t think I’d be able to even eat food, let alone stay inside long enough to make something.

Proud chef with her cabbage and cucumber… beware of falling knives

6th Sept
Very very very calm in the morning. Flat in fact. Pete had a shift last night with no wind at all and I had fun taking the main-sail down rather messily because it was flapping around only to put it up again when Pete started about 15 minutes later. Chris managed to sleep through all this racket.

Looked like we were surrounded by a giant deep blue swimming pool. We even contemplated having a swim but then the wind came back. A bit disappointed that we were probably going to be spending another whole night out. I had thought we’d arrive in the early hours of the morning but never mind.

Anyone for a swim?

Lots of time spent on the foredeck talking, looking at the sun shining on the water and Porto Santo in the distance! Pete spotted a turtle yesterday and ‘a really big black thing’ that we think may have been a whale today. Could see quite a few birds gliding very close to the surface of the water, narrowly missing it at times.

Land Ho

Porto Santo, though we weren’t sure at the time if it was Madeira

I was very tired and napped quite a lot. This tiredness was not helped by the constant rolling that became relentless by the time I tried to sleep in the evening…Very frustrating knowing you have an hour or so after dinner to sleep before a shift and then not being able to because the boat is rolling left then right then left…

My night shift turned out alright in the end after the initial annoyance of not sleeping too well and then being woken up. The wind disappeared for me so I had to hand steer for a bit. Luckily it came back again, I didn’t feel like steering for 3 hours and Horace (our hydrovane) was able to take over after about an hour. Time went quite slowly and I was disappointed to find out after looking a second time at the clock that instead of having 1/2 an hour left, I actually had an hour and a half to go. Strangely Pete’s brain was also confused and he appeared at 11.45pm ready to take over, only to say “oh, I’ve got the wrong time haven’t I!” Tiredness seemed to have addled our grasp of the 24hr clock momentarily.

Our downwind Twizzle rig (2 sails poled out cleverly with ropes etc) needed to be taken down near to Porto Santo and we decided to wait until we’d reached a two thousand metre contour line to do it. At about 1 in the morning all three of us got up to take it down. By 1.30am it was all done and hungry and tired I went back to bed hoping to sleep through any nasty rolling.

“Twizzle” cunningness

7th Sept
Woke up to lovely views of Porto Santo in the sunrise. Over night we had miscalculated the tide and so ended up unable to head straight in. The wind was light and the tide against us so we stood no chance of arriving earlier. Lots of tacking quite fast through beautifully flat water 😉 and a lovely fry up later and we eventually arrived in the marina at Porto Santo at about 9am ready to go and show all our passports to the police and then rest and recover, pleased that we had made our longest voyage yet.

Porto Santo – Pico do Castelo

We made it!

The route, a few wiggles, but not too bad

Into the Atlantic!

Posted in Photographs, Sailing, the Atlantic Ocean, Wildlife with tags , , , , on April 16, 2010 by maidofmettle

Maid of Mettle left Gibraltar!

We had a good forecast for plenty of wind going in the right direction and having spoken to a few people in the marina  decided to go for it or risk staying there forever…

Our route

Getting up far too early to even consider it being morning, we disassembled the gang-plank and finished our last preparations  to leave just as it got light again.  We motored out into calm seas at about 8am and travelled towards Tarifa where we  planned to anchor for a few hours and await the promised wind to blow us right out of the straits.

our short anchorage in Tarifa

Tarifa was nice, if a bit scary when there were big ferries coming in and out of the main harbour.  I had my first successful  anchoring experience, tentatively exploring the depth so we didn’t run too close to the bottom.  After a certain encounter  with a rock in Cruas, that we’d all like to forget, these things are important to get right. The water was very clear with loads of fish, so clear in fact that you could see the anchor chain running down to the anchor  at the sandy floor.  We were joined by another boat that was being sailed by some New Zealanders (Joe and Trudy) we met at  the marina in Gibraltar so we left Tarifa in convoy which was nice.

So leaving Tarifa in the early evening we motored for several hours and awaited the promised wind…We were finally in the Atlantic.

I did shift 1 until about midnight.  Being only my second proper night shift alone I was a little bit nervous but I knew that  I could ask the other two for help if I needed it.  For the most part I didn’t need to ask anything until I suddenly heard a  message on the radio from a Spanish person speaking English saying “the vessel going from west to east, there is such and  such somewhere or other please alter course and follow the other boat…”

It was quite a hard message to understand late at night and no one was answering them either which made me panicky.  Given  that there’s a big shipping lane coming out of the straits of Gibraltar I hoped someone would answer.  The message was  repeated so many times (each time sounding more panicky than the last) that I began to wonder whether it was a message for  me!  Then,in my slightly tired, 1st night shift alone-type state I couldn’t remember whether I was going from West to east or  east to west! ‘Ahhhgh’I thought.  ‘ok so there’s nothing in front of me that I can see and as far as I can work out this  can’t be for me, but I think I should ask someone given the panicky person giving the message’.  Eventually I woke Pete up and asked his opinion on the matter.  We decided to carry on given that we weren’t in the shipping lane and there was nothing  obvious.  A similar message occured later in the night this time with “There is a fishing boat in front of you…” I double  checked with our big flood light just in case, almost blinding myself with the reflection of it on the boat, but saw no fishing boat…phew.

By the end of my shift I was shattered from the exciting radio messages and running around on deck putting some sails up when it looked like it might be getting windy and taking them back down when they were being annoying.  By the time Chris took over I hadn’t had time to look much at the chart and the quick and roughly packed sails (much harder on your own) were a bit messy but we were sailing all the same!   We will have to look at the misbehaving main sail that seems not to want to go up every time any more.

Chris napped a bit on the floor during his shift and did a few whilst Pete and I tried to sleep.  It was quite noisy and starting to get a bit rolly so that was a bit difficult.  I think the excess adrenalin might not have helped either.  He also did some clever stuff with poles and the jib sail (at the front) to stop it making a racket.

Getting back out of bed and outside at about 6.30am I saw the sun rise behind the clouds (a bit like that time in Derbyshire when we waited and waited to watch the sun rise and then it just got light 😉 ) Anyway, the morning proved to be much more exciting after that.  At about 7am, just after Chris had gone to bed I was helming and not a lot was happening.  The waves had got slightly bigger but not too big.  I heard a bit of a splash and saw a dolphin really close to the boat – much clearer than the one I saw on the way to Ibiza.  It went on to swim with the boat at the bow and knowing how much Chris had always wanted to see one swimming at the bow I rushed to wake him and Pete up to see it.  On getting back out to the cockpit one dolphin had turned into about 10!  They were amazing.  I couldn’t believe how fast they could swim or how close they got.  They seemed to be enjoying following us and some were clearly loving jumping out from the waves back towards us at times.

Our escorts

The wind got gradually stronger and the sea rougher as the day went on and we realised that we were travelling too fast to arrive at our planned destination of the Guadiana river in Portugal to get the tides right.  This meant slowing down for a bit.  We decided to try to ‘heave to’, which means setting the sails and tiller turning more into the oncoming waves and drifting slowly sideways with the wind.  This succeeded in making us almost side on to the waves and slightly nauseous (Pete having been struggling with sea-sickness even before this), so not completely successful.  However it did slow us down which was the main thing.  During this time we quickly realised that the idea of sitting like that for another 8 or so hours to wait for our chance to get into the river in the light would not be good.  After an uncomfortable hour and a bit of food we made the decision to aim for a different port, facing the fact that we would probably have to go into somewhere in the dark.  The options for that were quite limited especially since all but one or two places in the pilot book warned against entrance at night “unless familiar with the area”.  So the Guiadiana was out on two counts: because it was too risky to enter in both the waves and the dark.  Mazagon in Spain was really our only option as it had quite a lot of depth and reasonable night entrance.  We hoped to get there in the early hours of the following morning.

Pete helming

The afternoon and early evening is a bit of a blur.  Chris and I took turns to helm and rest whilst Pete tried to recover from the dreaded sea-sickness inside.  It really was much nicer outside until it started to rain heavily.  That in itself was impressive as it created a sort of mist over the water and seemed to dampen the waves a bit.  It looked a bit like a computer generated sea at that point if that makes any sense.  I needn’t have worried about getting a bit wet from the rain.

We had to change our course to go toward Mazagon which meant having the waves more on our side.  As they were beginning to get larger and splashy this was not an appealing thought.  The waves were the biggest we’d seen yet, possibly up to about 4 metres and some of them were pretty steep.  The hardest thing to work out is whether they will be annoying or not.  Some of them looked big when you first saw them but then turned out just to be gentle rollers, others that looked small decided to whack into the boat and send a lot of water crashing over your head and over the boat.  Though we were clipped in all the time this was quite disconcerting, very wet and made quite a loud bang when you were inside the boat.  I woke up with a start quite a few times whilst in the cabin.  It was worrying really to see the walls of water coming towards you whilst helming and not being too sure what they might do.  In fact, when they were at their largest I was so concerned I turned away from them so they were behind us so we could think about what to do.  I really didn’t want to turn back towards them.  We had no option really but to find a way of dealing with them.  The best way was to turn with them on our side when they looked harmless and then keep an eye out for the bigger more potentially nasty ones and then steer away from them and surf!  That was quite fun but fairly tiring and occasionally damp!  Our life-jackets got so wet that two of the automatic lights got activated causing them to flash on and off…not good.  That will be a phone-call to Baltic for advice or a new set of lights…boo!

The entrance to Mazagon was tricky.  Chris skillfully sailed us in with the waves being a bit of a pain, though by then they were smaller.  Seeing the lights to get in the correct way through the channel required 3 sets of eyes and even then was quite difficult.  We arrived at about 2.30am and were soon pounced upon by the Spanish Gardia who made a much better effort of searching the boat than the ones in Barcelona – even asking to see under the floor and amusingly shining a torch through a hole in the cupboard without opening it.  They even had the cheek to say the boat was a bit messy.  How rude!

Spanish police complete with utility belt...Chris was impressed!

The important things...Chocolate stash (in pink bag) and our faithful biodramina

Our new cupboard fixings, step securing bolts, sealing of the main hatch and cup holders had passed the test at sea.  The crew were left feeling worn out from all the excitement.

The rain in Spain falls mainly on…Marbella

Posted in Sailing, the Mediterranean Sea with tags on March 3, 2010 by maidofmettle

We are glad to have spent some time in Velez but it was definately time to leave for somewhere new. Not even the tat shops were enough to keep us there…

We left Velez about 7pm on Monday evening aiming to get as far along the coast as possible in some Easterly wind before it was set to turn against us again. It started out quite nicely, no wind and a very flat sea before the wind built up a bit around 11pm. I succeeded with my first night watch alone (mostly awake) whilst the other two slept. Luckily, there wasn’t too much to do other than finally switching off the engine so I spent most of the time keeping a watch out for other boats and doing ocassional plots on the map (chart if we’re being nautically picky), whilst looking forward to going to bed at half past midnight. The other two were slightly less fortunate, having to be disturbed after my shift so we could all decide where we were aiming for given weather conditions. It was bliss to have just under 6 hours of sleep instead of 3.

The reality of the wind didn’t seem to match the forecast all that well and the sea had built up quite a bit from the East so we ended up using the motor for much of the journey. The swell wasn’t all that kind to us and unfortunately Pete joined in with sea-sickness fun, having missed out on previous trips. However, he did appear to make a miraculous recovery afterwards and declined any seasickness drugs*. We are now in Marbella and it’s raining. The good news is that we are only 34 nautical miles away from Gibraltar…we can almost smell the fish and chips…and monkeys…

In other news

Whilst in Velez we found ourselves investigating uses for velcro around the boat. So far we have an exciting holders for the ipod, a pencil, suncream and notepad. The possibilities are endless, as it seems is our enthusiasm for velcro.

Our lifejackets have all been checked by pumping them up…it was a good job as one of the lights appeared to have been left on the wrong setting so probably wouldn’t have gone off automatically. It was a good excuse for a silly picture anyway…

Chris found a supplier of Robersons lemon curd…I’d lost hope that we’d find any of that outside England 🙂

*We should be sponsored by Biodramina…other drugs are available.

Continuing clinical trials – Santa Pola

Posted in Sailing, the Mediterranean Sea with tags on February 5, 2010 by maidofmettle

Spanish mainland

Having spent just over a week in Ibiza we left when there was the slightest hope of getting somewhere by sail.  Axel, who we had originally met on the rivers, had been stuck in Ibiza for a few weeks so it was nice to meet up again.  We had a good time on the island and thanks to a football, a frisby, the inflateable kayak and Axel’s newly aquired x-box computer games console we had not been bored.  The former two games reminding us how unfit we are when trying to run anywhere.  If we are ever going to improve our cardio fitness by running whilst on board we will be needing a considerably bigger boat!

We wish Axel (and Eddie and Dirk who we also met in San Antonio) safe onward journeys (if applicable) and all the best in whatever they are planning next.  San Antonio certainly seems to be a close-knit kind of place, especially in the marina.

The overnight crossing to Campello on the Spanish mainland was reasonably windy at times and at others (namely first thing in the morning) frustratingly windless and rolling.  The rolling motion is particularly horrible and seems to arrive any time you are trying to do something…It knows, it really does!

However, the drugs trials for Chris and I were reasonably successful.  The clinical trials themselves were an entirely unfair test.  Chris decided to try some Spanish aquired sea-sickness pills (Biodramina with caffeine) and I opted for some I had bought in England (Travel Calm).  The Spanish ones were apparently pretty good though they did appear to affect sleep a bit and put Chris into “super alert meercat” mode.  He also wasn’t too sure whether to push it by trying to read or anything in the cabin for fear of the dreaded sickness.

Travel Calm (hyocine) had the distinct disadvantage of making it feel like I had eaten a whole koala bear and also made me feel a bit wobbly on land.  Even more strange was the fact I could not work out what was happening to my taste-buds.  Sweet things were less sweet somehow and the tinned beans and chorizo dinner we had tasted incredibly salty and unappetising.  This effect wore off a bit and on the plus side I didn’t exactly feel unwell so I would consider them a partial success.

Given that Chris’ tablets gave him minimal trouble I decided to try them today on our day sail to Puerto Santa Pola. This is where the unfair test comes in.  The weather today was ok and there were some times when the wind actually propelled us.  The sea was pretty calm mostly but slight at times.  We both managed to spend some time in the cabin without too much trouble.  Reading and doing fiddly jobs was ok for short periods but how much of this is down to the better sea conditions I’m not sure.  Still, I think we hit a milestone all the same.

Calmish seas

After a comment about how someone on the boat didn’t think that sailing was very good for you cardiovascularly we have started a competition to find out who can reef the main-sail (take down part of the main sail when it gets too windy) the fastest.  There is plenty of room for improvement for me at least.  I will have to knock 7 minutes off my time to get to Chris’.  Pete has yet to be timed.

The Spanish coastline is pretty spectacular.  I’d like to come back here.

P.S thank you Clare for our stained glass (glass painted) ship.  I put it on the hatch the other day.  It looks really good when the sun shines through.

Our latest artistic addition