Waiting for the wind.

September 9, 2009

As you are no doubt aware (and you should be after reading this blog), a sailing boat such as Rampage is dependent on the wind for her motive power.  What you may not be quite so aware of is just how dependent we are.  Our account so far has often talked of motoring to make progress southwards, so you may have formed the opinion that when the wind isn’t going our way, we can just turn on the motor and away we go.

Nothing, I repeat nothing, could be further from the truth.  Since leaving Cadiz last week, we have faced winds blowing from where we want to go to.  Now, some wise people amongst you will say ‘well that’s OK, you can tack into the wind and still get there, just takes a bit longer’.  Take my word for it, this is not always an option.

At the moment, we have winds of about gale force 8 blowing down the Gibraltar Straits, straight on to our nose as we try to go east.  You will know that we’ve been here in Barbate for about 3 days now, waiting for the wind to abate enough to make progress.  Today, (Tues 8th) we thought the wind had dropped enough for us to give it a try and our 3 day old wind forecast files seemed to back up our opinion.

We set off at about midday, aiming to catch the rising tide into Gibraltar.  I think we all knew that it wasn’t going to work as we left the harbour, which faces east, with the engine at full throttle and only giving us 3 knots through the water (normally, we’d get about 6 – 6.5).  Anyhow, we hoisted the mainsail and moved on to a northerly tack to clear the harbour breakwater.  Once we’d gained a bit of ground, we tacked on to a southerly course and let the genoa out a bit.  Instantly, we were off a fair old lick – about 6.5 – 7 knots.

The boat however was very overpowered and wouldn’t hold her course, as the mainsail was pushing her back end round.  We tried letting the sheets out but it was still too much and she was starting to refuse to answer the wheel.  Result; we dropped the main and sailed on under just the headsail.  Much more controllable and still doing about 6 knots.  Our course, however, if we were to make Gibraltar needed to be about 160o but we were only making about 180 – 190o in other words we were being blown westwards as we tried to move east.

Having made enough ground south to be safe, we then tried the opposite tack, heading northwards.  This was better and we made a bit of ground to the east but nowhere near enough to be said to be making real progress.  It was at this point that a short soviet was held and we decided to head back into Barbate and wait until the winds had really either dropped to the extent we could motor into them or until they swing round to west – even the north or south would be good, just not easterly!

Rampage on her new berth in Barbate - headsail removed for repairs

Rampage on her new berth in Barbate - headsail removed for repairs

We came back into Barbate and chose a different pontoon to moor to, one facing the wind and with a bit of shelter from the wind.  We were greeted by another liveaboard crew, who had been considering making the same move as us but had decided not to move.  We’ve decided to go out to supper tonight and compare notes.

Weds 9th.  We had a pleasant meal with Rose Smith & Brian Varley of Alixora from Glossop who turned out to be doing very much what we are: heading for the Mediterranean with no very fixed plans in mind.  They bought their yacht in March & spent the next couple of months preparing her & clearing their home ready for letting to tenants.  We had a lot in common to compare notes about.

Today the forecast is even more gloomy – strong winds until at least Sunday so we shall be stuck here in Barbate for over a week.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a horrid place – there is a lovely nature reserve all along the coast, west of the marina – it’s just not really where we planned to be at this point so it’s frustrating.  The beaches here are beautiful too – great sweeping curves of white sand with very few people on them but there’s a reason for that.  The wind is such that a trip to the beach would be more of a personal sand blast than a relaxation and pleasure.   

We’ve had to take the headsail down and hand it over to the local sailmaker for repairs after our fun yesterday.  He appeared on time to collect the sail, so we’re hopeful of a quick turn round, although the weather seems set against us.  Still, life is not too bad really.  The sun is hot and the beer is cheap so we relax, take the odd walk and wait for the weather to sort itself out.

View back to the port from the Nature Reserve

View back to the port from the Nature Reserve


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