38° 11 N 000° 34 W
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25 and 26 May 2003
25th and 26 May 2003,.....Yesterday and today were two of those definitive days. The term that required defining this time was "Mixed Feelings"
We started Saturday morning from this heavenly bay. dry hills embrace this tranquil little town in Southeastern Spain. The morning hinted it was here with the clear calming sound of a goatherd off to pasture, with the thin muffled sounds of bells a-clatter, interspersed with the herders whistle, and the dogs barking in reply. We lifted the CQR and with the Deutsche Wetterdienst, recent forecast of SE force 3/4 in our minds, prepared to make the 141 miles to Formentera, just south of Ibiza.
The first leg was a beam reach to the end of the cape of cliffs that run East West along the coast just West of Cartagena. Gilana was showing her grace and beauty with the two girls in my life reading and listening to music on the foredeck. I disturbed their rest by asking for space on the foredeck to bring up the Spinnaker, as I expected the wind to back to about 120 deg as we made or final turn for the 100 mile run to Formentera. The pole was rigged Stbd side, the sock pulled to the masthead using the strop as suggested by an expert in the business of Spinnakers. Up it went outside the genoa and staysail, which were quickly furled and struck respectively. Gilana was now overtaking the slight seas and the eerie calm of being "In the Groove" settled like a cloak over the family, even Jack, our dog was impressed.
Two hours later a we had dropped the Mizzen and reefed the main to stop spoiling the air. The wind was now at 160 deg steady at 22 Kts. We were touching nine knots, which is not bad in a run, with a 49ft LWL. I heard a strange sound ahead a looked up to clear skies where the Spinnaker should have been. All that was left flying was a great big capital "H" the two luff tapes were intact, as well as the repair we had made in Horta, Horizontal across between the numbers. The bag was FUBAR! We got to the foredeck and dowsed the remnants in the shadow of the main, stuffing what was once fabric into the orange elephants trunk, all that was left was miles of messy thread.
We continued under Genoa, full main and Staysail (which is actually the Storm Jib). Liz, now aged 14 was on watch first, 21h00 to 00h00. She woke at 23h00 to say that we weren't making any headway at 3.8 kts. I was on deck soon to find the wind had gone to the north, and was almost directly on our nose. I decided to motorsail the last 80 miles hard on the wind. When we do this in any kind of headwind we always take a reef or two, so I furled the Genoa totally, tightsheeted the Storm jib, took a crack more on the windward running backstay, I also reefed the main to 3rd. No sooner had I completed this than the wind piped up to 30 Kts.
I woke Laura to tell her I needed to discuss the plan and we decided to head for the coast 18 miles away and seek shelter, rather than bash on, tally ho! By the time she was up, we were in 50 kts!! no bull! the wind instrument pegged against its 65kt limit everytime we rolled to windward. Things inside were re-arranging themselves by now.
Its strange how ones priorities change. Normally I get upset with the dog if he sits on the cockpit cushions with a wet bum. Now we were fighting to survive with those same cushions floating around in the cockpit, wet be damned! Some damage was now happening, the Aerogen wind generator was howling like a Stuka Divebomber, when suddenly it ate the danbouy's flag and cover, gulp! the fibreglass pole, PVC flag, just dissappeared.
We have never had such wind and short steep sea on the beam, which is where it had to be for a safe landfall. At 05h00 we crept into an anchorage in the lee of a small harbour. We are anchored near a dredge, and morning light brought its own revelations. The piston hanks on the inner forestay were all but through. I estimate that a pumping storm jib has a piston hank life of 24 hours max. in 50+ kts. The slider gate on the main'mst track had unscrewed, opened and somehow the lazy sliders had ballooned out. The RIB had chafed on its lashings (Never get an inflatable tender again!!) and looked like an old balloon on a suckerstick. We had taken on water, only about five litres, but spread out throughout the boat, a little in the fwd haead, a little in the aft, some came through the companion, and some more through a dorade that could not cope, just enough to make things sticky. We spent the day tired but picking up the pieces.
I had not slept since 7AM the day before. I looked behind us in 20 kts now, anchored in good mud, and see the weekend revellers, some on kitesurfers, 19 in one swarm, like some bizarre kiddies breakfast cerial tossed into the wind with their artificially vivid colours, tumbling and spiralling with their acrobatic danglers underneath. A bit closer, dragonfly wings scream across the bay at impossible speeds with boards and riders hanging on.
So is cruising the best life of all? you betcha! Ones emotions morph from exhilaration, awe, love, fright, survival, gritted teeth, accomplishment, wonder. All in the space of a day. Above all we love this boat as part of the family, she is so incredibly sea-kindly, I would not have liked to be in anything else than Gilana last night. We spoke by radio to a 120 foot Perrini Navi headed for Mallorca. They were seeing 75 kts on their wind instruments. They spent the night Hove To. So our first Mediterranean storm is over. I suppose there are more to come.