As it turns out there isn't a gremlin on board A B Sea that goes around at night smearing the lenses of our glasses, it's just mother nature at work.
Before I hang my sunglasses on their hook for the night I make sure the lenses are clean so that the following day I can just pick them up and go. The hook they hang on is just below a hatch that is always open for fresh air and during the night when the dew falls the dew is fine enough to pass through the fly screen netting and then settle on my sunglasses lenses. I'm glad I've found a logical explanation, but it does mean that the scheduled gremlin hunt will have to be cancelled and that's going to disappoint the crew.
Stress comes in many forms
Before we began the actual sailing part of our adventure I had daydream visions of being anchored in beautiful sandy bays, sipping chilled wine in our cockpit and watching stunning sunsets with not a care in the world. It is kind of like that, but no one told me about the stress of being in a busy anchorage.
If you're a non-boatie person let me just paint you a picture. A B Sea is just over 14 metres (46 feet) in length which means she presents quite a lot of surface area for the wind to affect. When we are anchored and the wind is blowing anything more than say 5 knots, our bow always points into the wind and as the wind direction changes so too does the position of our boat. She can just swing in a small arc or if the wind is all over the place she can actually pivot 360 degrees around her anchor point.
So let's put together some numbers. We've found a nice calm bay with a sandy bottom that's perfect for anchoring and the water depth is 5 metres (16 feet). We drop the anchor down 5 metres (16 feet) then drop an extra 20 metres (65 feet) of anchor chain. The wind is blowing at a gentle 8 knots from the north and as our bow turns to face the wind direction A B Sea is gently pushed backwards to almost the full extent of the anchor chain we put out. So now our anchor (pivot point) is roughly 20 metres (65 feet) in front of our bow and when we add the length of the boat itself, our davits at the back of our boat are roughly 34 metres (111 feet) away from our anchor. Now let's say that gentle 8 knots of wind changes direction to blow from the south. A B Sea will turn with the wind (because the bow always points to the wind) and pivot around her anchor so the davits are now 68 metres (222 feet) away from where they were when we first put the anchor down. That's a lot of swingage that we have to account for when choosing a spot to drop our anchor.
If we were alone in this nice calm bay we'd have to make sure that we don't swing around into shallow water and don't swing into rocks or coral heads. (I'm not even going to get into the heights of the high and low tides here, after all we are in the Mediterranean and the tide is negligible.) But we are not alone in our nice calm bay, many other boats want to come and share the beauty of this spot and this is where the stress enters the equation. I estimate that 80% of the other boats we've seen at anchorages are power boats not sailing boats and they love to come very close and drop their anchor. I did mention in my Blog # 38 that at the main anchorage in Formentera the boats were eight to ten deep along the whole 5.5 kilometres (3.4 miles) of the anchorage. By lunchtime we are usually surrounded by anchored boats, so as we sit in our cockpit (usually working on our computers) we have to keep an eye out for not only the swingage of A B Sea but all the other boats immediately around us. At an anchorage where the wind direction is changeable it means constant vigilance.
Where's our anchor chain laying?
Another stressful issue that we need to add into the equation is the possibility of someone's anchor getting hooked underneath our anchor chain. This is an unseen wildcard that comes into play whenever a boat anchored near to us decides to leave. When we're pulling up our anchor we follow the RYA procedure of slowly driving forward onto our chain and anchor as we pull it all up vertically rather than horizontally. This is done because the windlass is not designed to pull the 9.6 tonnes of A B Sea forward, nor is it designed to horizontally pull our anchor out of the sand. Admittedly the power boats weigh considerably less than we do and the skippers either don't know or don't care how much strain they're putting on their windlass, so when they're ready to leave they just pull up their chain and anchor almost horizontally. If their anchor does not have a firm hold it will drag along the bottom and could potentially hook under our chain and pull our anchor out of its hold.
If that happens in the middle of a busy anchorage you now have two vessels attached to each other by chain, not being held in position by either anchor and at the mercy of which way the wind is blowing them. The potential for hitting other vessels is significant and that's where the stress comes in.
Time to refuel
Our fuel tank was half full so we decided to refuel before leaving Formentera. The harbour, where the refuelling station is, is extremely busy especially with big ferries coming and going all day long and as I had not yet pulled A B Sea alongside a wharf I was quite apprehensive about the whole scenario. Someone told me that the fuel station opened at 9.00am so I had a cunning plan to be tied up at the fuel dock by 8.00am. On paper it was a great plan, in practice it was foiled by the fact that there were several smaller dive boats already there when we arrived. Luckily there was little to no wind that day so I decided that I could just hold A B Sea in one spot just a little off from the fuel station, then zip in once the smaller vessels left. The fuel filling guy arrived and attended to the already docked boats, then he noticed us and indicated that we should move out of the way as a bigger sailing vessel was 'booked in' and therefore had priority. I didn't know that booking ahead was even a possibility.
As I looked behind us there was indeed a huge double masted ocean going yacht heading straight into the harbour. I obliged and moved off to one side as he slid expertly alongside the fuel dock. I will admit to getting a little bit peeved at this point because our diesel capacity is 201 litres (53 gallons) so it would be a quick turnaround for us to refuel as we only needed 100 litres or so. This big yacht must have had bottomless fuel tanks as took almost an hour for him to refill. During which time the scheduled ferries started coming and going which in turn meant that I now had to take A B Sea outside the harbour entrance to wait.
Eventually the big yacht left and I began our approach, just as two smaller pleasure craft tried to jump the queue and get in before us. The fuel guy had it under control though and directed one small craft to go all the way forward to the petrol filling pump and for us to come in behind him to the diesel filing pump. The actual docking was thankfully uneventful and 10 minutes later with our diesel tank full we reversed out, did a 180 degree turn and motored out of the harbour. To any onlookers it must have looked like I knew what I was doing, I actually impressed myself a little.
Goodbye Formentera - Hello Ibiza
Anchoring in Cala Tarida in Ibiza was a breeze after the crazy busy anchorage in Formentera and we spent a wonderful week there working, swimming, exploring and relaxing. The stress levels were still pretty high whenever anyone anchored too close, but most of the time the other boats politely left plenty of swingage room.
While we were enjoying the beauty of Cala Tarida I got a message from my brother Phil saying that he was in Javea on the mainland of Spain for a week, so we waited for a wind opportunity and sailed back to the mainland early on Thursday morning looking forward to catching up with Phil and his family. Little did we know that within 36 hours Aannsha and I would be thrown into a nightmare scenario when a mooring ball failed and A B Sea was dashed onto the rocks. But you'll have to wait until next week's blog to find out exactly what happened because it's a long story.