Our early morning arrival in Gibraltar meant we had a full day to use as we wanted. Whilst we had jobs to do, after 2 months at sea, the priority was to stretch our legs, so it was agreed a walk up the rock to the top, would give us all the exercise needed. Fortunately the day (Monday) was a public holiday here in Gibraltar, so everywhere was fairly quite which made walking through town on our way to the start of the climb up the rock, very easy and trouble free; it was also fairly cloudy so the temperature was just comfortable, so after donning our walking boots we set off to tackle the challenge of the ‘hill’, which really is a must if visiting here.
The rock rises very steeply from the start and whilst still MOD land, is designated a nature reserve, and is most widely known for the Barbery Monkeys that live there. We felt very righteous walking the whole of the rock, and visiting the fantastic caves near the top with huge chambers and magnificent stalagmites and stalagtites, as well as the siege tunnels and the World War 2 tunnels, of which the are 33 miles, but have to admit we did not walk the complete length, before a distinct weariness descended on us, forcing us to slake our thirst and rest our weary legs!!
We are moored in the Queens Quay Marina at the southern end of the town, which could not be nicer, as the marina is well protected from the winds that swirl around the ‘straits’ and is also at the quieter end of the town away from the runway and fairly close to the supermarket (Morrisons), it is also a very clean, tidy and well run spot with very accommodating staff, so a good place to rest our weary bones!! So after a very energetic day it was great to finish off with a sundowner and a meal in the marina, before turning in.
At 08:00 today we crossed our route made when we set off from the Mediterranean in August last year to position the boat in Lanzarote and completed the circuit – 8,314NM sailed. Distances covered :- positioning Tranquillity in the Canaries with Mikes help 1,211NM; leg one 2,887NM; Caribbean cruising 465NM; leg two to the Azores 2,388NM; leg three to Gibraltar 1,043NM. Back to Torrevieja 320; Total distance sailed on the circuit will be 8,314NM. A total of1,607 hours sailed. Subject to audit!!!
Peter’s reflections on the trip:-
To have the chance to live and not dream the dream has been fantastic. When you are miles from anywhere and well out of range for any immediate help, you have to rely on your own endeavours and your own knowledge and skills and you can’t say ‘it’s too hard I want to get off’. We have visited some really great places and also, experienced some that we would not want to revisit, but in total they all contribute to the whole adventure – there are not many who can say they have sailed a circuit around the Atlantic in 12 months crossing and re crossing a vast stretch of sea where you put up with whatever the weather throws at at you, because ‘it will be what it will be’ so you deal with it. At the same time, when you are out on this vast ocean and experience the sunrise and sunset and the starry night sky, or see dolphins and other wildlife, you can only just wonder and be amazed. We could have done the trip with an organised rally such as the ARC, but we wanted this to be our adventure and not one shared with 2 to 3 hundred others. I think we have managed this and as a result we can be rightly proud in what we have achieved. There is a lot to be said for cruising the oceans, as it is largely unregulated and you get to see so many different places you would not normally get to and meet so many really lovely people – how do you share the experience of sailing an ocean or having a sundowner on a Caribbean beach? You can’t you can only experience, remember and reflect.
It was a great adventure and could only really be bettered by having your family along to enjoy it too – dream on old boy! Tranquillity held up well and it was the high tech equipment and solutions that faltered. Tried and tested “old fashioned” equipment such as the wind vane for steering and towed water generator to charge the batteries plodded on without complaint. We met some interesting people and explored a lot of the islands but time was too short. Maybe next time!?! With the daily routine on board the days did not drag. Beating to windward across the Atlantic on the return was unexpected but weather systems seem to be changing. We saw less wildlife than expected but its a big ocean. Peter commandeered the galley for the entire trip and produced wonderful meals for the entire circuit, I may even have lost a few pounds! The last legs seemed easier with the four hour watch systems, got into the routine I think and quite often the watch was over and thoughts of where did the time go spring to mind. Notes made for better quality ships biscuits and sweets for night watch rations, I will have a word with myself!
Gibraltar update tomorrow…the picture is Gibraltar approach at sunrise
Position 36.13 -005.36
For nearly two days we have been experiencing strong winds (20-30kts, force 5-7) and a wave train coming down from the north, rolling under our hull on the port beam, throwing sea over us on a regular basis, so we have had to live in ‘oilies’ to keep both dry and warm.
It has been an excellent wind for passage making as we have been able to maintain a boat speed of 6-7kts during most of that period, and that is with only a ‘pocket hankerchief’ of sail out, not much larger than the storm sails we carry.
Whilst we have been thrown about a fair bit by the wind and the waves which means having to brace ourselves all the time, it means we have also been eating up the miles to Gibraltar. By late evening yesterday we had sailed into the Gulf of Cadiz at the bottom end of Portugal, where the Atlantic funnels into the straights of Gibraltar, and once we were well into the gulf, the waves subsided and the wind eased, almost as it someone had turned a tap off, so our night sail was much quieter and comfortable, without much loss of boat speed.
By early morning the wind died completely so time to put the ‘donkey’ to work motoring for a short time until the wind picked up, and we had enough to sail once more.
For the last 24 hours we have had to remain vigilant all the time as the amount of shipping increased the closer we got to the Gulf of Cadiz, with container ships, cargo boats and tankers either heading north and south or to and from the Mediterranean, with at least 31 vessels passing within half to two miles of us – fortunately as we were sailing it was their responsibility to alter course to avoid a collision, but even so we can’t assume they will, so need to be ready to change our course if need be.
Over the last 24 hours we have covered 132.2nm at an average speed of 5.5kts; just 100nm to go to Gibraltar where we will cross our outgoing track at the start of our Atlantic circuit.
Position: 36.37 -7.34
On all our legs of the Atlantic circuit we have seen at times what looks like shredded bits of plastic bottles blowing on the surface. Today curiosity got the better of me and I decided to collect a few bits for examination, as couldn’t believe rubbish could be that consistent over thousands of miles! What I netted was not rubbish but small blue sea creatures, pictured below, and never knowingly seen by either of us before.
Delving into the ships reference library, well a couple of Atlantic wildlife books, we managed to find out what they were. “By-the-wind-sailor” (Velella Velella) is a small platform structure with a flattened central sail above the disk, below some have a mass of tentacle-like structures similar to jellyfish – ours didn’t – plus feeding and reproductive flaps. It exists in tropical waters and rapidly disintegrates once drifted inshore and water salinity drops. Ours were about 80mm diameter, some can be up to 100mm. Nature throws up some beautiful surprises!
The sea is getting busier, today six ships all cargo or gas/oil have passed us heading to or from Europe. No cruise liners yet but Peter saw the loom of one over the horizon last night, floating cities lighting up the sky.
Today’s run helped by force 5/6 winds was hard work but a better 151NM averaging 6.6 knots. Cape Trafalgar and the entrance to the Straits are now a day and a half sail away, plus half a day to get through the Straits and to the port of Gibraltar (units change to days for Charley xxx). Today we changed our ship time to UT+2 which should put us in line with CET and ensure a timely arrival for a sundowner at Gibraltar!
Happy Birthday to my wife Dawn for today, have a fantastic day and see you soon. Lots of love xxx. (Plus Becky, our eldest daughter for yesterday xxxx)
Position 36.59 -010.04
Yesterday remained a grey and cold day right through until early evening, so to provide some cheer to the gloomy weather it had to be a steak, with butter braised cabbage and mustard mashed potato for supper. At least the gloomy day meant we had some steady wind so were able to make useful progress, but then just as it look as we would end without seeing any sun, faint glimmers appeared in the western sky, which gave the impression that we were sailing down a silver road, towards nightfall.
During the evening the VHF radio suddenly sprang into life with a yacht calling up a cargo ship that was obviously about to pass close to it, so it wanted to find out what their intended course was – which was a great surprise to hear anything on the VHF, as we could not see any sign of any shipping, so they must have been just over our horizon, otherwise the Radio would not have been able to pick anything up.
Unfortunately during the night the wind died and consequently our boat speed, so when we ended up just drifting 1-2kts through a dark ocean, it was time for the ‘donkey’ to take its turn, so the engine was started and we motored sailed until 6.30am when once again we were able to turn off the engine and start sailing again, which is great as it means ‘free travel’.
Not an uneventful nights watch, as at one point, three vessels all passed the boat at the same time, two cargo ships and a sailing yacht – like buses, you either have nothing or three come at once.
Overall not a bad 24 passage with 113nm covered at an average of 4.7kts so now have only 349nm to go to reach Gibraltar.
Position: 36.83 -13.10
At 15:10 yesterday we passed our halfway point to Gibraltar, under spinnaker, with 550NM left to go. We have managed fifteen hours of non-stop spinnaker sailing (“off watch” on short notice call) until 04:15 this morning when the wind dropped completely and we entered a thick fog bank. Visibility was down to less than 100 metres and radar became our eyes as we motored forward with target alarms set on both AIS and radar. Senses seemed to be more alert and watches more intense. Thankfully the wind picked up and we were sailing again, on a fine reach, by 08:45 with visibility of two miles.
One of the Barton snatch blocks purchased over the Internet before we left has proved cheap rather than good value. After less than a days use, as the spinnaker tack block, the snap shackle has worn away by 25% (Soft brass chrome plated not SS) so will be put to barber-haul duties and replaced.
The weather report that encouraged us to leave the Azores early without stopping at Sao Miguel has proved very accurate. As forecast the southwesterly winds giving us the spinnaker run dropped to calms before being replaced by northerly winds of Portuguese trades that will take us to Gibraltar in force 4 to 5′s on a port tack for a change. Today is cloudy and 20 degrees feels cold in the wind so lightweight waterproofs, fleeces and sea boots the order of the day.
Hi Ava – look who is helping Grandad with the navigation!
Another steady day with a run of 101NM averaging 4.2 knots.
Position 37.22 -015.39
The day started by looking very grey and grim but gradually brightened and by lunchtime we were enjoying a hot and sunny day and with it a slight change in wind direction, enough for us to change from our ‘goose winged’ rig, to sheeting the genoa out on the same side as the main sail, so as to put us on a beam reach, with the wind off our starboard quarter, trotting along at a steady 5-6 knots, which lasted throughout the night and into this morning, when the wind dropped to 4-6 knots, still off our beam and our boat speed consequently suffered as well, dropping to 2-3 knots, so we decided that the time had finally come when we could break out the spinnaker – so with the main and genoa furled and with our spinnaker now flying we are back up to 5-6 knots and have at times reached a good 8 knots of boat speed in very light winds, which means once again we are making good progress.
As we are approach mainland Europe (albeit still with 559nm to go) we need to adjust our time towards European time (U.T. plus 2 hours), so we changed our ships time by putting our clock forward by 1 hour, as we have been working on U.T (Universal time) since arriving in the Azores; once we get closer to Gibralter, we will move our time on another hour to bring us fully into line.
The daily checks on rigging and sheets for wear and tear continues so we can be sure to nip any issues in the bud before they happen, as does keeping the boat clean and tidy – you would not believe how much dust seems to arrive from who knows where, that needs to be kept on top of.
Once again a day of general chores coupled with the excitement of being able to getting the spinnaker up for the first time in the trip.
A good 24 hour run of 122.5nm and an average speed of 5.3knots, so just another 559nm to go to Gibralter.
Position: 37.54 -017.43
We are sailing the “shortest” route from South of Sao Miguel in the Azores to Gibraltar (will not bore you with definition of shortest and the various chart projections). This is also the course shipping will take so we are in effect sailing alongside the shipping route, two miles South of an exact course.
Sailing yachts do not show up very well on radar even with radar reflectors on the mast, or for that matter through binoculars. To enhance Tranquillity‘s visibility on passing ships radar screens we have switched on the “Sea.Me” active radar reflector. This bounces back a strong return for shipping using radar to sweep the sea around them for targets, making us identifiable and by the speed we are making as a yacht.
Shipping so far, including two tankers last night, have all given us at least a mile of sea room. We still employ our “mark one eyeballs” though, plus AIS (automatic identification system), 24 hours a day just in case we need to take avoiding action with any shipping, or other yachts deemed a collision risk!
Wildlife today included a barnacled turtle drifting along plus a few sea birds.
At 16:00 we broke into the “sailors cake” purchased at Peters bar in Horta, a wonderful rich fruit cake that will keep us going till supper.
Run for today a steady 128NM averaging 5.3 knots on a beam reach and all in the right direction. So far the weather forecast has held up and we should be in the Portuguese trade winds in two days for a fast ride into the Strait of Gibraltar.
Position 37.71 -19.98
Having decided to forgo the delights of Sao Miguel for the open sea, the wind from west meant we were able set the sails for a run (sailing with the wind from behind) and to goose wing the genoa (set on the opposite side to the mainsail), we made good progress passed the island with our course of 90 degrees set to take us to Gibralter.
During the evening and night the wind increased from force 3 to 4 (10-16 knots) to force 5 to 6 with gusts of over 25 knots at times, so we were getting some really good boat speeds for most of the night of between 7 and 8 knots, which was great for clocking up the miles, especially as on a number of occasions we recorded a boat speed of 11.1 knots as we surfed off the following waves.
Anyone who is tired of working out in the gym should try down wind sailing at speed in the dark and the pouring rain – you can’t see anything ahead or round you as visibility has been cut to less than 500 metres, you are having to brace your self as you lurch from each wave, so you are being tossed up and down, then as the wave comes in from behind it lifts and twists the stern, so you are thrown from side to side as well, all the time you have rain and spray thrown at you as you peer into the darkness, looking for any shipping or hazards – the two ships seen certainly class as potential hazards, although the one on Tony’s watch was the closest at only a mile off, on our port side.
As dawn arrived this morning the wind decreased slightly so our boat speed dropped to around 6 knots but the day started very grey and damp, so whereas most mornings once the sun is up we can dispense with the oilies and life jackets and change into shorts, that was not the case today as we still had minimal visibility, and with the lumpy sea, we decided to maintain a 2 hour watch system and keep wearing the deck vests
At least there was one event to brighten up the grey dawn when a pod of dolphins came alongside for a play in our bow wave.
A very good 24 hour run of 155.1nm and an average speed of 6.5kts – not quite a trip record but pretty close.
Position: 37.8 -22.66
We departed Horta marina at 10:45 heading for Porta Delgada on Sao Miguel, 150 NM away. A pod of dolphin came to see us off but sadly no whale sightings. The light winds died in the evening and we motored through the night making for a noisy sleep between watches.
Daybreak brought with it the forecast force four winds and a pleasant beam reach. The plan had been to wait out a weather system that is forecast to pass through the Azores with strong winds on Monday. Downloading the latest weather forecasts and with the good progress we have made, South of Porta Delgada by lunchtime, we have decided to press on to Gibraltar without stopping. Strange how a 26 hour sail changes into 8 days! Tranquillity should keep ahead of the weather and hopefully have good winds for much of the crossing towards the Portuguese trades.
Position 37.77 -25.87