Winter sun, at last!

December 12, 2016

Blog 10 Dec 16
Arriving in Gibraltar was, as they say, an emotional experience. Not only did we make it under sail but it marked our exit from the Med. At least, it would do so once we managed to leave the place…
There was a lot to do to Tantrum before we could sail as well as welcoming Linda on board. She had a flight booked to arrive on the Monday after we arrived, so we had a chance to catch up on sleep and clean the boat after what had turned out to be a very wet passage.  
Gibraltar is a curious place. You know that you’re not in UK: the style of buildings and the fact that they’re really set up for warm weather sets it apart but there’s a large Morrisons store, the currency is Sterling and the policemen wear pointy hats. So supper that night was typical pub stuff and lots of it! We then slept for the best part of twelve hours before blitzing the boat, doing several loads of washing and a significant Morrisons shop (cider, oh blessed cider by the trolley load).
Linda arrived the following morning as did the rain. In the meantime we’d arranged with a contractor to come and clean out the tank. I cleaned the separators again and fitted new filters, leaving them empty until we had new, clean fuel.  

In amongst the big boats. My only photo of Gibraltar. Did I mention it was raining whilst we were there?

The works list was mainly small niggles that we’d come across during the trip. I spent a good deal of time with my head buried in the electrical cabinet redoing some wiring as well as fitting a replacement inverter that Linda brought out. Meanwhile, Steve has been working away replacing bits of rigging that had chafed and similar jobs.
By Tuesday evening it had become clear that the weather wasn’t going to cooperate with an early departure. The winds were high and westerly/southwesterly with accompanying swell and they were sitting there for about a week. So I packed my bags and went home from Thursday to Sunday.
Returning on Sunday, the weather defeated the plane’s attempts to land at Gibraltar so I got to see the coast of Spain from Malaga to Gibraltar by coach. In the rain. After a good nights sleep and a full English breakfast we set sail for Tenerife. Into the rain. And the wind. And the swell.
Poor Linda, even though she was well dosed with Stugeron, suffered from seasickness for the first couple of days. Getting away from the straits and into less current made for a smother sea and with the wind generally behind us we made reasonable time down the coast of Morocco.
On a long passage like this, things do begin to get a bit samey. The watch rotations dictate the day with Steve and I doing three hours on and three hours off. We tend to eat a brunch at middle day and have our main meal in the early evening. At other times, we grab a snack as the mood takes us. Whatever we’re doing, it seems to be working for both of us as we’re loosing weight as we go: I’ve lost about 10lbs so far.

Sunrise over the Moroccan coast. No more rain!

With things becoming a bit routine, anything out of the ordinary tends to take on a significance beyond that normally expected. Small squeaks in the boat become enormous noises and have to be tracked down and cured. Now, as most of you will know, I’m just a little hard of hearing. So to join in this sport, I wear my hearing aids (suddenly becoming aware of all sorts of noises previously unheard) and Steve and I hunt down the squeak. Once located, we then discuss how to cure it. This can take some time, as all options are covered. In the end, the usual cure is applied and the squeak is pronounced fixed. The usual cure? A dose of bike chain lube. Why the discussion? Because there’s not much else to do…
Then there are the oddities. The unusual happenings. The flying fish arriving on the trampoline (chucked back by Steve before he though of fresh protein). The dolphins or porpoises coming to visit, sometime just one or two, sometimes more than can be counted. Some stay for a few moments, just checking us out, others will play round the boat for tens of minutes before disappearing as suddenly as they arrived.
The small birds that arrives, absolutely in the middle of the sea, on the route to nowhere. They’ll fly round the boat, land on for a few minutes and take off again to continue their trip. Once or twice, we’ve had them stay longer, with one of them taking up residence in the saloon for a short time. But we’ve not yet had a repeat performance of the one who arrived when we were en route to Sardinia on Rampage who spent the night roosting in the saloon before leaving after breakfast the following morning.
Those of you following us on the tracker website will have noticed how we’ve not been following a direct course to Tenerife. That’s for two reasons. Firstly, we decided a couple of days out that Lanzarote offered a nicer marina for Linda and Steve to stay at for a short time before leaving the boat in Tenerife. Secondly, we’ve been playing tactics with the wind.
Like all sailing boats, Tantrum sails best with the wind at right angles to the side. Called a beam or broad reach, this is the most efficient point of sail where we gain most speed from the wind. So, having studied the weather forecasts and watching the updates we get via satellite we shaped our course to take advantage of the forecast winds.
This meant we hugged the coast of Morocco, mainly keeping the wind on our port side going from astern. Not the best point of sail but quiet and reasonable sailing. For the most part we made about 7.5 – 8 knots through the water but found there was a one knot current running against us for much of the time. For the last day or so of the trip, the wind was forecast to swing round from the north east to the south, so our tactic of staying inshore gave us a broad reach across the last day’s sailing as we turned west towards the south of Lanzarote.
It’s amazing the people you meet as you travel under sail. On Thursday evening we picked up an AIS signal (in fact it was an alarm, warning us of a collision danger). We were totally perplexed, as there was nothing, absolutely nothing, to be seen on the bearing of the signal. Looking at the data from the AIS, it showed the craft sending to was 2 metres wide and 5 metres long: weird or what? And this is about 30-40 miles offshore. Then, as the light faded, we spotted a navigation light, so there was clearly something there.

A true madman in the best sense of the word. He is aiming to cross the Atlantic in this craft!

We were reluctant to close too quickly with the light, as this part of the world does see some people smuggling. So we called the craft on the radio. It turns out that it was a stand up paddleboard called Impifish and it was heading for the Canaries and then on across the Atlanti.  The one person on board is Chris Bertish who actually has better communications than we have as he politely refused our offer to make contact with anyone ashore. Steve asked him why he was doing it and the reply is a classic of its type: “No one’s done it before….”. We left him quietly paddling his way across 2000+ miles of ocean. It really does make our own venture seem positively sane in comparison.  You can find out more about the project here http://www.thesupcrossing.com/live/ .
The wind on this final bit of the sail refused to cooperate fully with us. Instead of the southerly/south easterly we had been promised by the forecasters we actually wound up with a easterly. This meant that we couldn’t maintain our course easily as the wind was putting us more or less dead downwind: Tantrum really, really doesn’t sail well like this. We tried a variety of things to keep moving at a reasonable speed. We tried the Code 0 but it wasn’t happy and kept collapsing. The we had a go with the cruising chute but that was equally moody. Then, in a moment of inspiration (or was it desperation?) we dropped the main and just used the chute, set well off to the port bow. That worked. We kept up a steady 6 – 7 knots under the single sail until the wind started to build and the light started to go.
The cruising chute has a wind speed limit of about 12 knots apparent wind and neither Steve nor I am very happy about flying it at night, as it’s a bit of a drama queen to recover it. So as dusk fell, we brought it into the boat and hosted both main and genoa and adjusted course to cope with the wind.
It was now clear that, in accordance with Sods Law, we would be arriving at Marina Rubicon, Lanzarote at about 5 or 6 in the morning. In other words, pitch black as the moon would have set by this time. And we haven’t got detail electronic charts of the area, just paper ones and the cruising guide. So, it would be a back to basic navigational approach into somewhere neither of us had visited before. And Linda was getting a little angsty about it, as Steve and I discussed the approach.

Tantrum’s route from Gibraltar to Lanzarote.

In the event, it was almost a none event as the lights on the quay appeared as marked on the chart, there was enough light from the town to show us the entrance and the on duty marinero directed us onto the easy berth of the waiting pontoon.
And that was that. It took us just over four and a half days to make the trip, we covered about 730 miles and arrived into a warm, dry place. A really nice change after Gibraltar.  
We had a few drinks on arrival and a good sleep before being asked to move onto an interior berth by the marina staff: their usual Saturday race was taking place and the pontoon was required by race boats.  
I’m writing the last part of this as I fly back to Exeter, having been lucky to get one of the last seats on the flight. With luck I’ll be in Falmouth by early evening. Steve And Linda will move Tantrum to Tenerife sometime later this week: I left him removing the starboard holding tank so he could access the skin fitting that we think is the culprit for the persistent minor leak into that hull.
Julia and I will rejoin Tantrum for the Transatlantic leg which will leave Tenerife on 10 January 2017. You can watch our progress, as before, via the Delorme website. I’m now looking forward to a rest from watch standing: I hope my sleep pattern returns to normal quickly and you won’t find me wandering the house at night, searching for the energy bar box and drinking innumerable cups of coffee. 



  1. Hi Duncan I’ve been following your progress. It’s very hard to get back to normal sleep routine after the 3hr watch even a month back on land I still wake thinking I’ve to go back on watch. Good sailing for the crossing.

  2. Love the blogs, please keep them coming.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: