This is my view as I write this blog, not too shabby eh?
We had so many things planned for Wednesday. The dinghy was getting lowered into the water and we were going to have our first attempt at lowering our 40 kilo (88 lbs) outboard onto the back of it. Then we were going to take a long (slow-ish) ride around the big bay at Javea to add to the engine run-in hours. In the afternoon we were going to have a 'gear check' dive off the swim platform of A B Sea and finally get to blow some bubbles after 9 months without diving. And although the sea surface was definitely what you'd call calm, A B Sea certainly wasn't. A long rolling swell was coming straight into the bay and the wind was sporadic, sometimes nothing at all, then suddenly gusting to 15 knots. All of that meant that our home was in a constant cycle of gentle bobbing for 2 minutes interspersed with manic rolling from side to side for 1 minute. Nothing was achievable until one of two things happened. Either the swell ceased or the wind started to blow at a constant 10 knots from the same direction as the swell. Neither happened so I decided to write this blog.
I've jumped ahead of myself, let's step back a few days
A B Sea is tied up to a free mooring ball just 150 metres (492 feet) from the pebble beach at L'Albir on the Mediterranean coast of Spain. We had no plans to visit here, but yesterday time and wind forced our hand. Departure version 2.0 (I'll tell you about version 1.0 later in this blog) from Marina de las Salinas at 10am on Sunday was thankfully uneventful. There was no wind at the start of our journey so we just motored for the first couple of hours and A B Sea was clipping along at 7.5 knots according to our GPS. We didn't have a boat speed readout as the log (a small impeller doohicky on the bottom of our yacht) either wasn't sending data or wasn't rotating. I did dive down for a look at it Monday morning and there was some weedy growth happening on it. I cleaned that out and it spun with the flick of my finger, so we'll see if that's fixed it when we leave L'Albir.
Anyway back to our journey north, we had planned on stopping overnight at Isla Tabarca about 6.5 kilometres (4 miles) east off the coast from Santa Pola, however we made it there by 12.30pm and made an executive decision to carry on to our planned final destination of Playa Granadella. This decision was initially good as the promised 15 knots of wind arrived just after we passed Santa Pola and we were able to unfurl both sails and switch off the engine. Surprisingly A B Sea still managed a GPS speed of 7 knots under sail. Our silent sailing happiness didn't last too long as the wind kept shifting direction and eventually fell off to 8 knots and our sails were just flapping uselessly. The genoa sail (headsail) on A B Sea is huge and it's very noticeable just how big it is when it has to be furled away after use.
With both sails happily furled away we were now back under engine power and motoring by places that we'd previously seen only while driving past in a car. It was particularly interesting seeing Benidorm from offshore, it is a crazy mass of hi-rise tower blocks which reminded me of a mix between Manhattan (USA) and the Gold Coast (Australia). As we passed by Benidorm I checked the time and checked the distance to Playa Granadella, did a quick mental calculation and realised that we'd be getting to our anchorage around 9pm. It's still daylight at that time of day in the summertime but it didn't give us a lot of wriggle room, so we zoomed all the way in on our chart plotter and found a spot not too far away and more importantly well protected from the south east wind and swell. Another executive decision was made and we altered course slightly. We were not sure what we would find in the bay, as the chart on the 2GB compact flash card that's in our plotter is the original from Noah's Ark therefore the info is well out of date. We'll see how we go with it and maybe get an updated one. It's not a small decision as they are 300 Euros (AU$475) each.
I just want to say for the record that once the decision had been made and we were 20 minutes from our first overnight stop, my stomach was a knot of nervous energy. Thoughts were running through my head faster than Usain Bolt. Would we be able to get our anchor down in a sandy spot, would the water depth be shallow enough, would we swing on our anchor and hit rocks or worse, another boat? To say we were pleasantly surprised would be an understatement. Rounding the corner of a huge cliff face we could see calm water, a big beach and lots of other vessels either at anchor or on a mooring ball. We slowed to a crawl and went closer in to the beach and our parking angel did a great job. A big power cruiser had just disengaged from a mooring ball as we came around behind him and it was in just 4 metres (13 feet) of water. Our original idea of anchoring was immediately scrapped and Aannsha headed to the bow armed ready with the boathook.
During our lessons in Gibraltar we practiced approaching a mooring ball and tapping it with the boat hook, but we never actually stopped the boat and attached a line. As it turned out it was relatively hassle free and we didn't make ourselves look too foolish. At first we had a line through the mooring loop and lead back to the two foreward cleats. A little while later we decided that we'd sleep better knowing that we had some redundancy so we also attached our new snubber line to the cleats and the mooring.
Sleeping is not what I'd say happened that first night. Sure we were very confident that A B Sea wasn't going to slip away from the mooring but we hadn't counted on how much she would rock and roll. You see the boat swings on the mooring as she's pushed around by the wind, which is great as you get a constantly changing view, but generally the sea swell only comes in one direction. If you can imagine one of those professional water skiers zooming from extreme left to extreme right behind the tow boat and bumping through the turbulent water every time they cross, it's a bit like that. So I'd just be drifting (no pun intended) off to sleep with the gentle rocking and then A B Sea would cross the swell at a particular angle and it was like being on a fairground ride for 20 seconds, which would jolt me back awake. I'm used to a crappy night's sleep (as I mentioned in my blog # 19) but this night was one of the poorest in recent memory. The next morning with both Aannsha and myself looking and feeling very lethargic we decided to review our (hasty) first time attaching to a mooring. We lowered our dinghy from the davits and with me in the dinghy and Aannsha on deck we removed the single line and then properly attached our snubber to A B Sea and the mooring ball. It felt better already but time would tell if we'd get a good night's sleep or not. We didn't.
Row, row, row ya boat
Everything onboard is limited, fresh water, cooking gas, diesel and petrol for the outboard. With this in mind we have agreed that whenever possible we'll row the dinghy ashore, not only does it save fuel and wear and tear on the engine, it also gives the rower a bit of a workout. It was my turn to row first and I'm sure I won't be winning any medals in the Olympics for either my finesse or time taken to complete the task. I probably looked like a bird with a broken wing trying to take off.
The reason for rowing and the bonus of having to stop where we did meant that we could go ashore first thing Monday morning and get a 20GB recharge on our Spanish sim card. It didn't take us long to find the shop and I was pleasantly surprised that in the 3 months we'd spent in the marina the price of that data package had dropped from 30 Euros to 20 Euros. Don't you love it when things like that happen? So now we have Internet, which is the reason you're able to read this blog on schedule.
We also treated ourselves to a full English breakfast and got some fresh veggies and meats to top up our provisions. Heading on to the beach, where we'd parked our dinghy, we were approached by a man in a uniform with a badge that pronounced him as part of the 'beach vigilante' team. He pleasantly explained that we were not allowed to park dinghies on this part of the beach and that there was a designated spot a little further along. I think I'll let Aannsha have her turn at rowing next time, as the dinghy parking spot is quite far away.
Tuesday morning, after another night of disturbed sleep, we decided to slip the mooring lines and go further north. Not so fast said Mr Learning Curve, somehow in the night our double snubber line and the mooring line had been engaged in some kind of macabre dance and there was no way we could untangle it from up on deck. Putting on my dive fins I jumped into the water, let me tell you that certainly gets the sleep out of your eyes at 7.00am. Five minutes later the snubber was untangled and removed and a simple slip line was attached to the mooring. The engine was started, fenders secured at the transom, hatches locked and seacocks closed. I instructed Aannsha to slip the line and we motored away from the mooring looking like we actually knew what we were doing. It's just a pity that there was nobody around at that time of the morning to be impressed. The added good news is the cleaning of the impeller doohicky worked at treat and we now have a boat speed indicator.
Destination Playa Granadella
Our plan was to motor (no wind again) 3 hours north and anchor in the small bay at Playa Granadella. We'd visited the bay by car in February and had mused how nice it would be to visit in our yacht and do some scuba diving. Lots of things change between winter and summer and as we sailed around the headland we could clearly see that Playa Granadella was very different, 75% of the bay was marked out by yellow buoys as a swimming only area and it was obvious that there was no way that we'd get A B Sea in there. So we turned around and out again without injury to someone or something. Disappointed we moved onwards and a short while later we thought we'd found a great spot to anchor, have an afternoon of playing in the water and a calm place to stay overnight. The depth was perfect at 4 metres (13 feet), the surface was calm and it was protected from the wind. It also looked like a sandy bottom with patches of seagrass and large rocks. We dropped anchor, backed off letting out five times the amount of anchor chain in relation to the depth and the anchor held fast. We also looked like we knew what we we're doing, which was a good thing as there were lots of onlookers. After our professional anchoring display there was one last rule to follow, checking the swingage of A B Sea on 24 metres (78.5 feet) of anchor chain. Mask and fins on I went in to check and was not happy with what I saw. Off to the port side was a huge slab of rock and it was only 1 metre (3.2 feet) below the depth of our keel and rudder. If a fair sized swell came through it could easily bounce us right down onto the rock causing serious damage. Bugger! I also noticed that what we thought was a sandy patch where we'd dropped anchor was actually a sand coloured slab of stone and it had been pure chance that the anchor had gained purchase. Again this was not good. Climbing back on board I relayed the bad news and Aannsha went forward to bring up the anchor.
Just 40 minutes around the corner was Javea bay, where my brother Phil's place is, and we knew that there were free mooring balls along the outside of the marina sea wall. Motoring over we were glad to see that there were still two moorings available. This is where we finally put on a show for the other boaties. You knew it had to happen at some point didn't you?
My first approach was on target, Aannsha hooked the mooring loop, I didn't manage to bring the boat to a standstill quick enough and the boat hook was pulled out of Aannsha's hands and overboard. My first thought was "Oh we're f^ #*ed now." Luck was on our side, even though the boat hook was overboard it was still technically on the surface, attached to the loop of rope on the mooring ball. I instructed Aannsha to get her dive fins on and go off the back and swim over to retrieve it. She asked if she had time to put a swim suit on, I replied no time, just go in with your shorts and t-shirt on. A few minutes later with boat hook retrieved, a mental note made to buy a back up one and with Aannsha back on board we motored around for attempt number two. This time it was a successful manoeuvre and we were on the mooring. With our lesson learnt from using our snubber and getting it all twisted, this time we used two separate lines securely attached to the two foreward cleats which we passed through the mooring loop and then tied them both off at the cleats. It worked a treat and as I write this blog we're still firmly attached to the mooring without any entanglements.
So what about departure day version 1.0?
It was an interesting first day (Saturday 14 July 2018) and it involved a round trip of just 7.5 nautical miles (nm). We left the marina at 11.00am and at 3.25nm out I unfurled the mainsail for the first time. It came out of the mast easily enough and I was just about to ease the main sheet to let the boom out to one side to catch the wind when a loud cracking sound split the air and right in front of my eyes I watched the main sheet block explode into fragments.
Aannsha was at the helm and didn't see the block explode because she was quite rightly looking up to the top of the mast to see the wind direction and keeping our bows pointed into the wind. "What was that!" she exclaimed. "Something not good." I replied. The boom now released from the restraints of the block and with the mainsail fully unfurled decided to dance from port to starboard like a pendulum. Think fast my brain said. Firstly instruct Aannsha to point us back into the wind. Now get that sail back inside the mast. OK let's secure that boom before it does some damage. I lashed the main sheet, now uselessly dangling from the bottom of the boom, between the two cockpit winches and brought the boom under relative control. There was nothing we could do, we didn't have a spare, all we could do was turn around and motor back to the marina.
Luckily Jose was working late in his office and managed to find us a replacement, which is a small miracle considering it was 2.30pm on a Saturday. We installed it in 5 minutes and agreed that it was now too late in the day to head out and so we made the most of one more night in the marina.
A B Sea is a 23 year old vessel and despite all the work we've had done to her over the last three months, there's still plenty of her that is the original equipment that came out of the factory in 1995. Things will break, wear and tear will happen and we'll just keep fixing when it's needed.
Sailing A B Sea will have its ups and downs and highs and lows. This is what I signed up for and I love the learning, the problem solving and the experience that will eventually make me a salty seadog.
Thanks for reading and take it easy.