Saturday, 14 May 2011

Champagne Sailing to start the Season – then the bubbles burst! ….. May 2011

05 – 06 May 2011

At last it was time to leave our winter home in Cartagena, Southern Spain.  All the jobs on the “to do” list had actually been completed, there were really no more excuses to stay.  We had a weather forecast of 10 knots from the east for our first day, and then 15-20 knots from the east to get us on past Cabo de Gata the following day.  I am always filled with great trepidation when untying after months safely spent in a marina, but in order to sail around the world, one must keep heading ever westward!

So this was it, water tanks filled, power disconnected, mooring lines released, hooters rang out in farewell from the live-aboard community and we were on our way.  The 2011 Cruising Season had officially started.  This season would be a long one, the broad plan is to cruise westward along the Spanish/Portuguese southern coastline with maybe a month in Morocco, then jump off from the European mainland to Madeira before sailing south to the Canaries in the Autumn then onward via a pit stop in maybe the Cape Verde islands before crossing the Atlantic (gulp) in December.  The start of 2012 will hopefully see us kicking back cruising the Caribbean until around this time next year when we will probably head up the Eastern Seaboard of the USA for the summer of 2012, then who knows?  So we will be on the road, so to speak, for at least a year now, and will cover many many miles. P5040020

With this in mind, a gentle downwind sail in flat water the 30 miles to Aguillas was just what the Admiral had ordered to ease back into cruising mode.    We arrived into the small port of Aguillas early evening, set the anchor off the sandy beach, opened the bar and sat back to enjoy sundowners watching the sun dip over the fort on the headland.  As with nearly every natural indentation on the coast in Europe, if there is relatively easy access and shelter from the elements then over the centuries it has been used as a port, whether it be tiny or huge.  Aguillas is quite small but had enough room for a few boats to anchor to the east of the inner harbour entrance.   The water was flat except for the wakes of returning fishing boats, the wind just a gentle zephyr, the new moon not much more than a sliver above the setting sun.  Day One of Season 7 had been a success.

Sadly the bubble burst and Day Two decided to remind us just who is in charge.  We had set the alarm for 7am.  We were looking at making Aguadulce over 80 miles away, so with over 14 hours of daylight now, and 15-20knots forecast we were expecting a long day of good down wind sailing.  As Skipper was lifting anchor, I looked outside the harbour and saw a rather large fishing boat crashing into waves like a bucking bronco, instantly my positive outlook somewhat diminished!!   Just what on earth had happened to our flat water???  I consoled myself by accepting that he was going to windward and we would be off in the other direction, but I knew I wasn’t kidding anyone.  P5040021

And so the day began, with 2 reefs in the main and the headsail poled out we pointed the bow south, running slightly higher than our course to try and keep the boat reasonably comfortable.  The wind wasn’t more than 25 knots but the seas had stirred up completely and made for a very lively run down to Cabo de Gata, the hours ticked away as did the miles.  The further south we got the more the swell came in from behind so we took up surfing instead of rolling, neither of them being my favourite pastimes.  Just as I was getting used to surfing it was time to gybe to go around the Cape.  Gybing is always a serious manoeuvre on Balvenie, even with the main double reefed it was still powered up and we have a very long heavy boom.  So we rolled in the headsail, gybed the main and flew off around the Cape with gusts of 35 knots apparent speeding us on our way, phew!! 

Thankfully as we moved further west around the Cape the water started to flatten, but the wind kept whipping through, accelerated now by the gusts off the land.  We decided that our intended destination of Aguadulce may be too difficult for us to get in to with the onshore wind so made our way around and up the west side of the Cape into some flat water.  We anchored just off a long sandy beach, over 60 miles in well under 12 hours.  What a day – certainly good practice for getting back in the swing of things, but just how much practice do we really need???

For Cruising Info on Aguilla and Cabo de Gata, including anchorage waypoints and depths click here to go to Balvenies Cruising Info blog


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