By Mike & Natalie
The plan was to depart at a time, that with our calculations would have us arrive at the straits at dawn. We didn’t want to miss or to contemplate it in the dark. Sines had a customs department so we were able to check out of the Schengen zone as we were heading to non Schengen Gibraltar. This would help us to preserve the 90 days that as Australians we are limited to in Europe. Gibraltar is a big hang out for non Europeans who are also trying to be compliant with the rules. If you would like to read more about our restrictions here is a link to our previous post on it. So we would have 2 days sailing and perhaps 3 days in Gibraltar and perhaps another 2 days sail until in Spain again. At this point we have to be in Greece by the 1st June but now we could push it back another week.
11 am was departure. The early afternoon began with next to no breeze. Although we were motoring it was lovely to be out in the still glassy sea. No swell, a dead flat sunny day. By 3 pm we were sailing in what I would describe perfect conditions. Full sails out and and 9 to 10 breeze abeam us and we comfortably doing 8 knots. It was magical this is what we were here for. Mike was in his element. He was supposed to be resting but couldn’t help himself but be out at the helm sailing. He really enjoyed the afternoon wanting to constantly trim the sails to learn more about Scout and how she responds. It was our most delightful afternoon so far and at this rate we would be at Gibraltar way before our planned time. It was calculated on an average of 5.5 knots because of the light winds forecasted on our nose and we thought we were going to have to motor a lot.
So, just over a month into this sailing life and I am loving it. Apart from the obvious traveling aspects, visiting different cities, the food, speaking and understanding different languages, what I am loving the most is getting there by sail and learning a new skill. I have always loved numbers, procedures and maps and even though I knew would love the obvious wind in my hair analogy, what I have really loved more than I thought I would, is increasing my understanding of wind angles, bearings and headings, the difference between true and apparent wind speed and I love keeping a log. Every hour calculating averages- speed and remaining distance and logging our position in relationship to the rest of the world. This is our little world on this boat and it is like we exist completely independent of everything else but I love plotting and searching our location in relationship to it.
That evening we made it to the point of Cabo Sao Vincente, the south western point of Portugal where we start turning east towards the Straits of Gibraltar and the Med. We had to go around 2 headlands to get on this heading and the first one we arrived at just on sunset. A beautiful majestic large lighthouse at this headland had just turned on its light as we approached. The sun was setting to our right as we made our way around the cape. I love the slow anticipated rounding of headlands, even this one as it was becoming dark. As soon we turned, lined up on our next heading, we could see the second headland and there was the full moon just rising over it. It was breathtaking! My night shift started and the wind had dropped. We dropped the sails and we became (what we fondly call it) motor vessel Scout. For the next 90 minutes I motored directly into its path. The moon straight ahead rising. It’s lit path across the glassy sea became my path to travel along. A memorable moment!
Well it’s is such a shame that that path of light turned away from me as I changed course an hour later because shortly after, in the dark, that tranquility and pleasure subsided….We hit a net or fishing pot at 22.30. What a fright. A loud crash and then a sickening noise from the engine as the prop churned with something wrapped around it. There was also a loud banging as the float attached to it, was hitting the hull. Immediately Mike turned off the engine, tried it in reverse but no luck. We just couldn’t free or see it underneath. No wind, no engine, not much choice but to sit there and drift for the night and wait until daybreak- 8 hours. As a positive there was no wind, no current, no drift, calm seas and we were only 3 NM from shore. I had always wanted to go to Lagos and here we were bobbing off the coast. We may even yet have had to pull in there for repairs. We had no idea what to expect. There was a full moon to light outside and the pretty lights to light up the coast. Mike and I just took turns sleeping and lit the boat up like a Christmas tree so no one could run into us. It was a long, very gently rocking calm still night.
At dawn Mike braved the cold water and dived under with his knife to cut free the rope and float from a fishing net. I was so proud of him. Not because I think others would not do. It was because I don’t think I could do it. 10 mins later we were on way again. 8 hours behind our schedule we decided to use the motor more than we had planned to and set course for the rest of the way at an anticipated 7 knots average.
We did it. The rest of the trip was fairly uneventful. I became completely paranoid about fishing nets and pots and eyes were peeled for the rest of the trip. Portugal- we loved your seafood but ahh those nets! Well it was just another challenge and obstacle to overcome.
Mike awoke me from my sleep on the Thursday morning at the start of the Straits of Gibraltar. We had both been looking forward to it and he didn’t want me to miss it. The sea was choppy like bath water with currents escaping so unevenly from this narrow channel of water between two large land masses. There wasn’t as much ship traffic as I had anticipated but there was certainly one of the largest freighters I had ever seen with containers stacked about 6 high on the deck. Didn’t look too stable to me if it encountered rough seas. On our right was Africa and to our left Europe. Both continents so close. At its narrowest it is only 14 kms. The view was a bit hazy so unfortunately not much of a photo opportunity but nevertheless it was a memorable moment.
Gibraltar was just around the corner and was spectacular on approach. With the hazy morning it actually reminded me of Hong Kong. Low visibility, steep elevated cliffs, tall buildings and of course lots of ships in the Harbour. Unfortunately Gibraltar was not to be. There was no room at the marina, which was no surprise as it is popular for those with visa restrictions like us. It was the same just over the runway/border into Spain where both marinas were full. Nevermind. We were so excited to be in the Mediterranean that we decided to keep on going. The Costa del Sol was waiting for us