Friday, 28 October 2016

Photo Friday: Halloween Special

Today's Halloween Special takes us to the Carmo Church Bone Chapel in Faro, Portugal, and the Mertola cemetery, where the dry climate means you can simply slide a coffin into a glass shelf to keep your loved one on permanent display.  Happy Halloween !

Posted on Friday, October 28, 2016 | Categories:

Friday, 21 October 2016

Photo Friday: Looking Up

Welcome to the second week of Photo Friday, where we post photos that didn't make it into the blog from our summer sail around the Iberian peninsula.  It's only the second week and already I've decided to break my own rules.  I had the clever idea of posting photos in themes, but to properly curate such a collection, I decided to include some photos that have been previously posted. So there.

This week's theme is Looking Up.  This isn't a philosophical feel-good theme, but rather one that explains why I now have to slog through 10 sessions of physical therapy for a crick in my neck that hasn't gone away in the last 5 months.  As I was looking through my photos, I realized that most of our visits were spent with our heads tilted back, looking up at statues, monuments, fortresses, and cathedrals. I hope some good has come from our efforts and you enjoy the view with a neutral head position !

Posted on Friday, October 21, 2016 | Categories: ,

Friday, 14 October 2016

Photo Friday: Golden Hours on Mareda

As we settle in to our winter routine, I'm going through all the photos I took over the sailing season.  There are some I'd like to share that didn't make it into the story line of the blog posts, so I've decided to start a Photo Friday post to group some photos into themes.

To get things started off with a colorful bang, here are some photos I took during the "golden hours", when the sun is rising or setting, casting long shadows and splashing beautiful colors around.  As usual, you can click on the photos for a larger image.  Enjoy !

Portimao Sunset

Portimao Moonrise

Fort Berlengas

Culatra Moon

Sunrise over the Straits of Gibraltar

Sunset over Marina Alcaidesa, La Linea
Sunset over Combarro

Posted on Friday, October 14, 2016 | Categories: ,

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Winter Wrap-up 2016

Sailing season 2016 is officially over for us, we are back home in Brittany, and Mareda has been tucked in for the winter at Marina Alcaidesa, La Linea de la Conception, Spain, otherwise referred to by us as “Gibraltar” for lack of a more prominent landmark.

The rock, viewed from La Linea, Alcaidesa Marina.

La Linea, Alcaidesa Marina viewed from the Rock.
We’re disappointed that we couldn’t extend the season out to the end of October as initially hoped, but given the circumstances, we’re both very happy to be home a little early.  A mere 24-hours after landing, Patrick developed an abscess in one of his front teeth and his face swelled up like a balloon.  He was in agony for 48 hours despite maximum doses of Tylenol with codeine.  The antibiotics finally took effect and he’s back to normal but the prognosis doesn’t look good.  We’ll know more next week, but he could be looking at 2-3 surgeries with 4-5 month recovery times in between.  That could put a crinkle in our cruise plans for next year. 

As for me, I have an appointment with the rheumatologist to see about my newly blossomed arthritis, which could put a crinkle in more than our cruise plans.  We’re both looking at a lot of doctor’s visits over the next few months and we’d rather be home to cope with it all.

Patrick "Woo Hoo! We're in Gibraltar!"  Ape: "if I had a banana for every stupid tourist photo I pose for..."

Here are some statistics for 2016:

Miles covered =   1140
Days on boat = 114
Days sailing = 33
Longest sail = 78 hours
Hours motoring = 141
Different ports and moorings = 30 in 3 countries
Number of nights at anchor =  20
Average port cost for 2016 season = 17 euros / night   (calculation based on port fees, free nights at anchor and an exchange program between our home port and ports in Galicia, Spain that gave us some free ports in June.)


The thrill of sailing new territory in new countries

Visiting La Coruna, Porto, Coimbra, Lisbon, Sintra, Faro, Cadiz, and Gibraltar

Playing Robinson Crusoe anchored behind Culatra island for two weeks

Beautiful hot sunny weather from June to October !  (neither of us wore shoes for 3.5 months)

Meeting other cruisers and sharing the journey


Health problems; ours and visiting friends’

Stress (Patrick wishes to emphasize that the stress was mine, not his).  Sailing in new territory with new weather patterns and in a foreign language can be tough on the nerves.  We sailed around some mythic headlands this season: Cape Finisterre in Spain, Cape St Vincent in Portugal, and Cape Trafalgar / Tarifa / Gibraltar.  All went well, but the anxiety of anticipation was heavy.  Even though we didn’t really have a fixed calendar to respect, I often had the feeling that we were on a boat-delivery job and we didn’t always have time to enjoy a place because the weather forced us to either move on the next day or risk getting trapped for a week.  I had a small breakdown (yes, yes, tears and all) around Mazagon, which was just after our horrible experience in Lagos and just before I went to the clinic to find out why my hands weren’t doing what I was telling them to.  I have hopes that these issues will be resolved before we head out again next year and we’ve already agreed to take it much slower next year. 

Unbelievably poor internet services.  I think most ports have just given up trying to keep up with the demand and they now expect every cruiser to be autonomous (mobile telephone with 4G connections, sat phones, etc.)  Even the bars and cafes around the marinas have limited services.  When internet is your only means of getting good weather information, this becomes a critical issue.  We’re studying options for next year, but they all look expensive.

What worked

Riding sail: we only put this to the test a couple of times, but we noticed a big difference in our motion compared to that of our neighbors.

Heat management:  I was worried about this and my Breton husband, unaccustomed to heat. Despite 37°C / 99°F heat in Portugal, we stayed comfortable thanks to the bimini, the dodger and its opening front and side panels, our wind chute to capture even the slightest puff of air (when you hook it up even in light winds, you have the impression that you’ve turned on a fan down below), and good engineering by Jeanneau with lots of ventilation.  All the hatches have mosquito screens built in and we use a mosquito net across the door of our cabin at night so we can keep maximum ventilation.  The only thing missing is side panels for the bimini.

Electricity management:  Our solar panels kept us charged with no worries even after 2 weeks at anchor and despite a refrigerator working overtime.  Our electric wok and toaster, which we can use when we are hooked up to shore power, cut our cooking gas consumption by a factor of 3!

Diesel management: When we fire up the motor, we rarely ask it to give us more than 5 knots, usually in combination with sails, so our gas consumption was much lower than we anticipated.  We averaged 1.3 liters / hour.

What didn’t work

Internet.  We wonder why we even invested in an expensive wifi antenna.  Useless, given the circumstances. 

Spinnaker pole: we’re selling it!  We always thought it was important to have one to pole out the genoa or the gennaker, but the reality is that we are never sufficiently motivated to actually hook it up.  In addition, I discovered a new way to maximize the opening of the genoa when sailing with a tailwind or wing-on-wing, which is to use the gennaker sheets and the barber hauler to pass the sheets outside the boat (rather than through the sheet travelers), thus turning the genoa into a small gennaker.  By keeping the genoa sheets attached to the sail at the same time, I can bring the genoa back to normal (for quick hauling in / rolling up) without the hassle involved in dealing with a spinnaker pole. 

Pocket hose:  I loved my little pocket hose but it didn’t withstand its second season.  The problem is the textile casing, which gets fragile when too exposed to UV.  Once there is a rip in the casing, the inner tubing blows up like a goiter and explodes.  We’re back to a regular garden-hose type now, which is certainly more robust but also takes up much more space and is much heavier.

Lessons learned

You CAN sail in the Med, but you have to have time and be motivated.  You often hear that in the Med there is either too much wind or not enough.  This all depends on what “too much” and “not enough” mean to you.  We managed to keep our motor hours down thanks to the gennaker and accepting to drift along at 3 knots at times, but we did crack and fire up the motor more often than was really necessary and there were quite a few occasions where we SHOULD have put up the gennaker but didn’t.  The typical day is calm in the mornings with good sailing winds for a few hours in the late morning / early afternoon, then up to 20-25 knots in the afternoon, all of which can come from just about any direction, especially around headlands and cliffs.  You have to be willing to make lots of sail changes and to make them fast if you want to sail here.  Often what happens is that you opt for a “ready for anything” approach, which means 2 reefs in the main with the motor.  You motor-sail in the mornings, sail with 2 reefs and full genoa in the early afternoon, then sail with only the reefed mainsail and maybe a tiny handkerchief-sized genoa in the afternoon (or fall back to motor-sailing if the wind is too much in the nose).  It’s not ideal but it is the best lazy approach!  We tell ourselves we WILL make more use of the gennaker and try to just leave it out as much as possible so that we can’t whine and gripe about who has to go below and haul it up from the lazarette, hook up the furler, etc.  Eliminate the excuses as much as possible!

We’re more bourgeois than we imagined.  We like to think of ourselves as intrepid adventurers, but we’re much happier when we have good internet, good food, and beautiful or interesting surroundings to visit while we’re out.  On several occasions we were ready to head out in unsuitable weather conditions because of dissatisfaction with a port:  nothing interesting to visit, no internet, no good food markets nearby, ugly industrial settings, etc.  We may adopt the strategy of a few cruisers we met this year and make some long overnight sails to jump over the boring or ugly bits.

Clouds over Gibraltar,

Mareda, nestled down for winter behind the rock.