Thursday, 28 November 2013

Good ideas are often the simplest (but may take some time to implement)

With our fuel tank holding sufficient fuel for 500nm of motoring it is rare that we are ever short but for an ocean crossing with the potential for a lack of wind any extra fuel we can carry is a bonus. It will give us peace of mind being able to run the engine to charge the batteries if solar and wind generation fail or are insufficient as well as get us into a port. With that in mind Kevin had been mulling over how to fix fuel cans on the side deck since we left the South Coast last May. In Ireland we met a boat “Lady Menai” who had a plank affixed between the stanchions on either side of the boat. Each plank was drilled with holes through which line could be threaded back and forth around the cans ensuring they were securely attached and would survive almost any bad weather.

Mk I - Hardwood plank tied inside stanchions on Temptress
 Having turned down by reasons of cost and space, fuel cans in a sale in Baiona, Kevin has spent many hours since trawling hardware stores for suitable containers and planks. In Rabat he purchased two lengths of Havea (Rubberwood) for a good price and oiled them. Initially these were tied to the stanchions either side of the boat just forward of the cockpit using string but here in Lanzarote he was finally able to buy U-bolts so redrilled the holes and attached the planks outside the stanchions to give more space for cans and passing crew. The cans were found in Arrecife, a little expensive but practical sizes and strong plastic which we hope will be UV resistant for a few years.  Four thirty litre fuel cans and two twenty litre water containers are now secured in place using lengths of white cord, one cord per can so only one has to be undone at any one time. The water containers will give us an emergency supply should we ever contaminate Temptress’ water main tanks and provide a means for capturing rainwater if the watermaker fails. Just need a funnel now to direct the rain into them from the forward end of the mainsail.
Mk II - Held on by U-Bolts

fitted out with cans, looking aft

String stopping cables
disappearing down a dark hole
 Meanwhile down below in the forward heads a fluorescent light failed. It is one of four, two to port and two to starboard either side of each of the mirrored locker doors that hide our toiletries and first aid stuff. Replacing the tube is a simple task I’ve done before, unscrew the cover, replace the tube and hey presto. It was not to be; inserting the tube from the light on the other side of the mirror as a check revealed that the fitting was faulty, not the tube. The chandlery at Marina Rubicon hadn’t a slim enough 12v light fitting, cleaned out by the many other boats heading west across the Atlantic and not as yet chance to restock. Though it was nice to see that the ones they did have were the same brand; the Essex based manufacturer is still in business more than twenty years after supplying Jeanneau with light fittings prior to Temptress’ being built.

Grubby light fitting on starboard side
We pondered on alternatives for a couple of hours until John on Orion I, our neighbour on the pontoon showed us an LED strip light he’d purchased in IKEA. Originally meant for inside a cupboard, its slim profile, 50cm length was just right for vertical niche in the corner of the moulding behind the curved Perspex light cover. Even better LED lights are 12v so no transformer or additional wiring required simply snip off the supplied 12v “plug” and wire directly into the existing connectors. It was simple to attach using the provided sticky strip and screws. Not quite as diffused a light source as the original but it works and the light is pleasingly more warm white than the rather clinically cold glare of the replacement tubes we have. With the cover in place no one can see that it doesn’t match the other fittings and presumably it uses less power too. As a bonus whilst we were at it we removed the other light covers and cleaned away ten years or so of dust from around the remaining three light fittings.

Job done - new light strip on the right
During all this Kevin has been liaising with Waterline who will do the various repairs needed and fit the new rudders, JWS in Southsea who are building the rudder, Think Worldwide who will ship it  and Sancargo the local shipping agents who will import it on our behalf. It took a while to find shippers; too big to fly into Lanzarote at just over three metres and weighing 150kg including its packaging, the options were fly to Tenerife or Gran Canaria and put it on the ferry or ship directly from Europe to the island.

The latter proved interesting – by lorry from Portsmouth to Cadiz then into a container costs some two thousand pounds, almost as much as flying it in and beyond the limit acceptable to the insurance company who are paying the cost. However by road to Barcelona where the rudder can be loaded on the same ship as loose cargo at the start of its voyage to the islands, the cost becomes a more reasonable sum of around seven hundred pounds. It’ll take a couple of weeks to get here by this route (the ship calls at various places enroute including Cadiz) but at least it will get here. Southampton-based Think Worldwide have done this sort of thing for yachties before! So it’s looking like we’ll be approaching Christmas by the time rudder is fitted and we can do a trial sail.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Domesticated Or Is Boredom Setting In?

Today the sky is grey, the wind is howling and it apparently rained heavily in the night though the downpour didn't disturb me. Luckily the skipper got up and closed the hatches!

So far this our second weekend in Puerto Calero, has been quite productive. Yesterday the cockpit table and mug rack received their first coats of Deks Olje #1 in ages and are beginning to look quite smart again. There is a long way to go before they are fully finished as have to wait for one side to dry out completely (3 days) before can turn them over and do the other side. The task was started on Friday with a bit of a "doh" moment when having sanded everything I (Susie) realised the instructions for re-application said a wash would have sufficed. Still the sanding will give a better finish so probably worth the extra hours invested.

Spent Saturday afternoon polishing stainless steel - the bimini supports and a few other bits before tedium won. It is satisfying seeing everything bright and shiny again with the rust stains eliminated but there is an awful lot of it - solar panel supports, the wind gennie post and supports, umpteen stanchions, the wheel and binnacle, bimini and sprayhood frames, the pot our aft kedge anchor lives in and probably a lot more. Contrary to expectations stainless does rust but not as much as other steel...it just stains less! At least a week's work for the crew but as we've little else to do at present it is welcome work.

Later we said goodbye to our friends Buket and Ender of SY Istanbul who the following morning would be heading further west to the next island Fuertaventura (strong winds) for a week or so before making the trip to Las Palmas at the end of the month from where they'll set off for the Caribbean. It is a day's sail to Gran Tarajal and theirs will be a fast trip as it is blowing F4-5 gusting F7 but they are keen to not to get rooted in one place for long. Today, Sunday, the rally fleet for the Atlantic Odyssey (AO) are also due to depart. Their destination is a bit further as the thrity or so boat are heading across the pond; not a day I'd choose for making a start on such a voyage, one good reason to not be part of an organised group with a fixed timetable. Apparently yesterday in Arrecife was bedlam with the AO crews making last minute purchases of bottled water and chandlery.

Gradually over the next few weeks many of our friends will be leaving Lanzarote for Gran Canaria, timing their arrival to be just after the main Trans-Atlantic rally, the ARC has departed. By the time they arrive there should be space in both the marina and the anchorage and hopefully the shops will have restocked. We sadly won't be there until much later, probably January possibly February, when most yachts will have already set off.

Meanwhile Temptress waits for her new rudder and other repairs. The surveyors report has been sent to the insurance company and quotes have been requested. Whilst stuck here we have decided to invest in new salon seating, the old stuff is tatty, grey with years of accumulated salt and dust, gradually rotting away under us, the foam failing. So next week I am off to a fabric warehouse with our upholsterer, Janine to select new material and hopefully by early December we'll have brand spanking new, comfortable seating. Oddly when she opened up the cushions the base ones were done with average foam which has not surprisingly collapsed after twenty years of use but the backs which see less compression, wear and tear have top of the range foam which is perfect. The latter can be reused!

Having learnt from last weekend that everything and we mean everything even the supermarkets and chandleries, are shut, today we got up late and after a breakfast of poached eggs mooched around down below. Since breakfast I've put chickpeas to soak for hummus, mung beans to sprout and started a batch of yoghurt. The latter is a first for us on board and we wait with bated breath to see what it turns out like in six or eight hours time. The recipe I used was one from Hugh FW found on the Gruniard website - I doubled the quantities as we've a 1.5l thermos from our desert driving days. Yoghurt is another breakfast favourite, over fruit or with honey and pine nuts or all three, simple and easy to prepare at sea.


Yoghurt Making
Hummus and Beansprouts

Lest you might think the Skipper has been idling about; Kevin hijacked my Kindle and has been working his way through the entire series of Jack Aubrey novels between chasing up quotes and having the boat lifted out. He has been quite happy to volunteer to do the laundrette run! Whilst we were cruising ten years ago his IT skills were in demand from other boats trying to connect via their mobile phone to the internet... well technology has moved on and now the requests are for help with wifi or with satellite phones and the internet - strange how little has actually changed.

Lanzarote being a bit of a windy place and the Sahara being a hop, skip and a jump away across the sea, dust gets in everywhere. Not quite as bad as Dubai but still coating everything including the rigging, which you touch at your peril as ropes and wire have taken on a gunky brown tinge (more rain please?). And with hatches open to cool the boat the dust has been working its way down below too. Need to get the dusters and Dyson out in the next couple of days for a serious bit of "spring" cleaning unless we want to start cultivating potatoes on the salon shelving!

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Inspection Lift Out

Being man-handled backwards into the hoist basin

Going up

First sight of the rudder remains

Another angle

A single spot of antifoul missing forward of rudder
- contact with an unknown object?

The lower bearing had fallen out

The rudder went in here

Not a piece of sculpture

One man and his rudder

The skeg and internal structures were pronounced okay which was a relief, though the stern tube needs some cosmetic repairs. Mid afternoon Temptress was dropped back in the water without a hitch. Afterwards she was manhandled around so we are now stern to the pontoon meaning the cockpit is protected from the northerly breezes and has sunshine rather than shade most of the day. Result! Next step is to collate all the quotes for work to be done; rudder building, gelcoat repairs, sail and sprayhood repairs etc. and submit to the insurance company.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

The Aftermath

Alongside the reception pontoon - tow boat ahead
Thursday morning, Puerto Calero; Temptress' crew, still exhausted had to be up to complete paperwork and apparently first to be moved to a more permanent berth. The harbour Master himself would conduct the operation but we viewed the "tug" with alarm. It was just a few meters long, no bigger than say Southsea's workboat or Minima's safety boats but unlike them was not a rugged, heavy craft but  relatively lightweight elegant open boat with a generous curving bow. Pleasing on the eye but we wondered if it would be able to manage 16 tonnes of uncontrollable yacht. However it is their boat and their harbour so we went with the flow even when the HM said he wanted to tow from ahead on a line when both Kevin and I's instinct in such confined space would have been an alongside tow.

We untied the last of the mooring lines and the HM set off. Kevin called to him to go faster and more to port (left) so Temptress cleared the bows of a beamy catamaran secured to the pontoon a few boat lengths further on. Our tug sped up but not enough for Temptress' keel to bite in the water so she responded by yawing rapidly to the left well beyond her tug. Kevin yelled back at the First Mate to start the engine and I scrambled to put it in full reverse but could not avoid what happened next. Crunch! Temptress' pulpit (the metalwork around the bow) crashed heavily into the post supporting the first pontoon running out from the shore on our left. She reverberated off then swung away off to the right on the end of her towline. Somehow the pair of us managed to get fenders raised sufficiently as poor stricken Temptress came to rest alongside the forward part of a large motorboat whose flaring bow curved above our guard wires threatening further damage.

After some heated discussion the HM agreed that the Skipper knew best how to manoeuvre his boat and agreed to be secured along side us. Then, using the engines from both boats to alter course as required, Kevin got us moving in a more controlled fashion mid-channel up the marina. Meanwhile a group of cruising yachties had witnessed events from one of the other pontoons and a couple of them suddenly realised where we were headed. The berth adjacent to their boat had become free that morning when the occupant left for pastures new. The crowd scrambled along the shore quayside and onto Juliet pontoon up by the boatyard. From on board Temptress a shouted conversation between the Skipper and the HM (it was too windy for anything else) ensured we too realised where we were headed and as it dawned on me I seriously doubted we'd get there in one piece. Another sharp left was hampered by the huge bow of a bulky motorsailor we'd be sharing the space between the fingers with.

Ouch - one of several...
Although Kevin was fairly confident we could turn (ahead on one engine, astern on the other) and poke our bow in, rid ourselves of the tow and then be heaved in the rest of the way by the now large reception committee, the HM himself wavered. Temptress turned but wasn't going fast enough so drifted almost across the entry to the boatyard hoist basin. Kevin yelled, I looked up and caught mostly in the face a line from the far corner of the basin which was quickly secured to our starboard stern cleat. A line off our bow was taken by the team on the pontoon finger whilst others ensured we didn't collide with our other new neighbour "Orion I" moored on the opposite side of short finger. Soon the hullabaloo was over, the crowd departed and we were left to make Temptress secure. Debbie offered us coffee and her husband John made us welcome assuring us that we were in good hands even if the HM's boat handling did leave something to be desired.

Various marina staff came to visit during the rest of the day with apologies. In the office everyone could not be more helpful too so despite our rather dramatic arrival we began to be reassured and started to relax. Time to call the insurance company and get the ball rolling for repairs. By mid afternoon their surveyor had arranged a liftout for Tuesday 12 Nov at midday so he can inspect the damage. Meanwhile we'd been visited by the boatyard manager who promised that the pulpit will be replaced and the damage they'd caused made good at the marina's expense.

Snug at last if a little bent and bruised -
the anchor is upside down from our tow in,
turned that way to prevent it snagging on the bridle
And to add to our eventful day, it seemed we were minor celebrities due to our "dramatic rescue and tow" into Lanzarote. Alex from the office asked us if we wouldn't mind doing a local TV interview - just one question "what happened" and we had twenty seconds to answer. Kevin was perfectly tuned into the situation - what was needed was a plug for the SAR folk and he was more than happy to provide it ensuring that Canarians knew how professional and caring the crew of Guardamar Talia were. Then Alex took over in front of the camera; presumably his torrent of Spanish was a plug for the marina for being able to offer us shelter and lift out facilities! The cameraman then followed us around the boat "tidying up and examining the damage" for a few minutes before heading off. The following morning we learnt that Temptress' rescue had also appeared in the local Spanish language papers.

Adrenaline finally gone we slept shakily on Thursday night but woke resigned to being here for some months. It could be worse, winter in the Canaries is not cold, our home is still afloat and Lanzarote is spectacular, just a walk on the lava field on the headland beyond the boatyard is impressive with huge clear turquoise waves crashing on the foreshore. We've hired a car (the marina staff got us a good deal) and decided that as we are here for the foreseeable we'll tackle some of the bigger jobs on our boat list. You know the ones that aren't essential to safe sailing but none the less will add to the comfort of the crew or well being of the boat. Number one of these is re-upholstering the saloon - the grubby cushions are over twenty years old, seams are splitting and underneath the cloth is starting to rot badly in places. We've patched it but it is not going to last too much longer with us living aboard full time. The local sailmaker (a chirpy Brit) is organising someone to come out from Arrecife next week to take a look and provide a quote for new foam and covers.

We also have to consider what next. A long term stay in a marina was never part of our budgeting and this will be our second unplanned one, the other being Oban whilst the First Mate's back recovered during August. Therefore we may have to curtail our long term cruising destinations and return to the UK to top up the contingency coffers. However until Temptress is well on the way to recovery and we have some time scales, whilst we might mull over the options, we aren't making any decisions. Life is full of surprises and we like it like that - our mantra is that plans are made to be broken, better to have one to alter than drift along with no idea of where you are heading.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Numero Uno on the Phucket-Bucket List...

Moroccan fishing boat hidden in the swell
There are some things in life that make sailors long for a tree to sit under; losing your rudder on an ocean passage is one of them and is top of the list of things you hope never to experience second only perhaps to actually sinking. From Essaouira, Morocco to Isla Graciosa off the  northern tip of Lanzarote is around 250 nautical miles or about 36 hours at sea, small beer in terms of some passages we’ve made and Temptress set off eager to be somewhere new. The forecast was for a north easterly F4 becoming F5 later and perhaps becoming more easterly as we approached the Canaries. Our course was basically just west of south west and we chose to steer a little higher as we expected a 0.5 to 1 knot current which would push the boat south. The sun was shining, the weather pleasantly warm but not hot in the breeze. Cheerfully we argued about our top three anchorages before agreeing that Tobermoray, Loch Moidart and Warbarrow Bay qualified whilst Newton Creek, Lulworth Cove, Loch Dram na Buie were runners up.

Down here at 30 odd degrees above the Equator it gets dark around 6pm so we ate supper early on our first night at sea, Monday 4 November and Kevin took the first off watch. Temptress was romping along comfortably at seven or eight knots with the second reef in the main and a small amount of jib unfurled. The north easterly had kicked up a wave train at slight odds to the huge ocean swell which sporadically caused a mountain of water to break with a roar and our wake added to the melee with pyramidal piles of water that splashed up the starboard quarter sprinkling the watch keeper with cold salty water. Oiles, snug mid-layers and a warm hat were required.

There was a thump felt rather than heard in the cockpit but loud down below, quickly followed by a second one then George beeped frantically complaining he was off course.  I rushed to help him out but came to a stop short of the control panel down by the wheel as my harness line wasn’t quite long enough. Unclipping quickly I grabbed the wheel and pushed the standby button. Meanwhile Kevin pulled on his layers and lifejacket and appeared on deck. Having got round aft of the wheel it quickly dawned on me that the steering was oddly stiff then as a wave lifted us the wheel span far too easily under my grip. Temptress was tossed round in a gybe by the wave, we both yelled the “rudder has gone” as the boom swung across violently. Temptress carried on round into a tack and another gybe and probably another tack but by then we were trying to pull in the mainsheet and get things back under control. With the jib backed and the main pinned in we hove to, safe but shocked.

A quick assessment of the damage on deck showed that the traveller blocks had broken loose on the port side so we pulled the car up to starboard and locked it there. The portside traveller control line had ripped out it’s sprayhood eyelet  across as far as the companionway granny bar, by quickly shoved the cockpit cushions up against the hole any further ripping of the flapping material was prevented. Later we tried to duct tape it but the material was all too damp. And much later when it was light I scavenged a shackle from our davit hoist and repaired the traveller as faras we were able, daylight also showed that the lower pulley wheels on the blocks at either end had gone broken apart by the force of one or other gybe so it was no longer easy to adjust. We put in the third reef to slow us down.

What was left
Then clipping on around the backstay, the skipper took a torch and ventured down Temptress’ stepped transom. Lying on the bottom step and hanging over the edge he reported that the rudder had indeed gone but that the stern post and the metal work that had supported the GRP was still in place. One relief as without the stern post we’d have a large hole several inches in diameter in our stern and sinking would be a very real threat. In fact the lower rudder bearing with nothing now to hold it in place had dropped down onto the top of the metal work too but we only realised this later.

What were our options? Sixty miles out from our last port which now lay impossibly upwind, the huge lee shore of Africa to the south of us, the Canaries south west of our position and North America some thousands of miles to the west. We tacked over and hove to again so Temptress now pointed north-west, that way we’d drift away from the coast whilst we considered our options. Even like this we were making 4 knots, in the coming days we worked out how to get this down to under one knot. We took turns to doze. With the AIS keeping watch for any shipping coming over the horizon we felt fairly safe. At least the boat was floating. The initial adrenalin rush was wearing off we both felt sick with crampy stomachs from the shock. Wait ‘til dawn and then make a decision.

Rudderless sailing in a BIG dinghy!
Before dawn we’d figured out how to guide our drifting a bit by adjusting the sails. Unlike a dinghy though moving our weight around wasn't going to make much difference to our direction but similar principles applied and Temptress as always was well behaved responding to our alterations, waves permitting. And soon too Kevin realised that the stump of the rudder gave us some additional control when the odd wave tried to toss us round, but it was tiring on the arms, often full lock to full lock to bring the bow round or trying to hold the rudder in line whilst it was battered by a breaker.  The good news was and boy we needed some that we could sail this way at up to 5 knots with some directional control. During Tuesday I tried steering too but found that half an hour was all I could manage, Kevin steered for hours his hands sore from running the wheel through them. Adjusting sails was a constant task too so no respite for the crew not steering.

Torn sprayhood and damaged traveller

At least the skipper could smile!

Our knight in shining armour...
When the wind abated a bit and the waves went down we tried George to give Kevin a break but though he struggled bravely his computer brain wasn’t quick enough to counteract the breakers so after a couple of involuntary tacks or gybes it was back to the skipper. When Kevin needed a rest we simply hove to and locked off the wheel.

We found it hard to eat our bodies still reeling from shock were simply not hungry, our plan for a risotto from the previous days leftover were abandoned. I hated being down below in the spinning world it had become for any longer than I had to unless lying down. Quick notes in the log or checks on the AIS were all I could manage. We survived on cuppa soups, cups of hot chocolate or tea, apples and bananas with the occasional chocolate hobnob.

Sometime on Tuesday morning we started hearing Las Palmas Traffic Control but couldn’t raise them ourselves. We did though manage to raise SY Gemini our US flagged neighbour from Rabat who had left there after us heading for the Canaries. To hear Susan’s American accent responding to our call was a comfort and she promised to try Las Palmas on our behalf as they were closer than us. Meanwhile we also put in a call on the satphone to MRCC Falmouth to alert them of our situation and outline our plan to continue sailing as best we could towards the Canaries then call for a tow into Lanzarote when closing the land. Our course was at best a yawing one some twenty or thirty degrees either side of our heading and we didn’t think we’d be safe close to any coast. They provided us with Las Palmas MRCC’s phone number and assured us that they would notify them for us. They also asked us to report in to Falmouth every three hours or so and our short conversations with their calm English voices were also quite a comfort during the ordeal.

Frustrated with our progress which the PC screen showed as a wavering scrawl north west then west and then a bit more south west as we learnt to control the boat, late on Tuesday evening Kevin tried the engine. It was disappointing to discover that although the additional water flow over the holey steel plate gave better control the increased speed dragged down the stern which in turn forced water up through the stern tube into the boat. We did not want to bring about Temptress’ sinking so the engine stayed off.  We did though do some fuel calculations and if the wind should die would be able to motor slowly on our reserves for some twenty hours which might be useful later.

Next obstacle was the Concepcion Bank, a large area of rock that rises from the seabed to within 20m of the surface in one area lay between us and our goal. It doesn’t take much imagination to picture what would happen to the already high waves and swell when the Atlantic is forced to go from almost 2000m deep to 200 to 700m in a short distance. We definitely did not want to be anywhere to the north of that. Temptress was gybed so we were now heading almost due south to sail around thirty miles off its eastern edge, dispiritedly not making much progress towards the Canaries but at least safe from shipping which was passing either to the north of the bank or to the south. And the bank gradually started to give us some shelter from the swell which improved our comfort a bit.

Not the best course we've ever steered!
Our second night at sea was though the most miserable I think either of us have ever spent anywhere; worse than dismasting Clarionet off Ireland, worse than having to abandon Temptress during the 2002 hurricane in Barbate Marina. It was dark and moonless too. We weren’t cold or wet but with the crazy motion and tiredness I wanted nothing more than to be on land and never go to sea again, we both expressed a longing for a tree to sit under. Around 2am on Wednesday, both exhausted from sail trimming and hand steering we decided that we’d hove too again so Kevin could get some sleep, both staying in full oilies and lIfejackets, clipped on in the cockpit in case of any problems. The skipper snored and somehow kept his perch laying on the leeward cockpit seat whilst I sat opposite legs braced to keep me in place and dozed between occasional checks around the horizon and down below on the AIS.

After an hour and a half’s power nap we both felt improved. Temptress had covered 200 nautical miles since leaving Morocco, 140 of them without a rudder. Our overnight wandering track had taken us south to the rhumb line between Essaouira and the south coast of Lanzarote where the various safe ports were but back into the paths of shipping so a full watch was needed. Now clear south of the monster bank, the wind was down to F3 and the seas calmer, perhaps it was time to think about getting a tow. I tried Las Palmas Traffic on the VHF, we could hear only a crackly response and I guessed they heard not much more from me. Then we were hailed by Maersk Norfolk a container ship some five or six miles away steaming north to Europe, Las Palmas MRCC were trying to contact us and could he relay? My hero! The radio operator was cool, calm and collected as he passed information back and forth – name of vessel, how many people on board, what state were we in, what assistance did we need. Las Palmas promised to contact us again when they had an ETA for the rescue boat. Maersk Norfolk then wished us well and continued on their way, we will be forever grateful for their help.

Some two hours later the radio crackled into life “Temptress of Down, Temptress of Down this is MV Callisto” They had been asked by MRCC Las Palmas to relay the ETA for the rescue boat to us – four hours so about eleven in the morning then. In fact the large orange ship (sound familiar, it was a newer version of the one we’d rafted alongside in Essaouira) appeared over the horizon well within four hours and had been on a collision course with us for at least two of those setting off our AIS alarm each time the CPA was recalculated (ie with our every yaw sideways) until driven crazy by it we turned the sound off! At 09:10 Guardamar Talia called us on the VHF to say they were 52 minutes away. First impressions can be misleading “we will do this from the manual” was not exactly inspiring as we envisioned them actually reading through the preparatory work step by step. But soon we realised these were professionals who knew exactly what they were doing and were doing it by the book. Nothing happened until they were certain we knew what was happening.

First we had to take down our sails then we were instructed to check for any lines over the side as they did not wish to risk them wrapping themselves round their brand new boat’s propellers. Then 31 m of orange ship manoeuvred itself so that its 8m wide stern was within a few metres of our port beam and a heaving line thrown expertly across our bow. Kevin caught it and heaved. The bridle came over to us – a loop in the end of pair of wire hawsers attached to a heavy stretchy rope. He was instructed to slip them over Temptress’ forward cleats and use the small black lines attached to the loops to lock them down to they wouldn’t jerk off in the ensuing tow. After that the mother ship slowly moved off the crew un-reeling the line from a huge drum on their aft deck. All communication was clear and in good English and they gave us plenty of time to acknowledge each instruction was understood.

The Guardamar Talia about a hundred metres ahead of us slowly increased speed and suddenly Temptress was being towed along like a pendulum swerving from side to side. The problem was that as we swooped from left to right and back again Temptress was reaching eight knots and the electric bilge pump began hammering away urgently. We were taking on serious amounts of water though the damaged stern tube. A heart in mouth moment once again. A quick call on the radio had them slow down before we sank. Kevin dashed down below and crawled into the services area under the stern whilst I sat and operated the cockpit bilge pump which moves massive amounts of water rapidly. With a couple of small towels grabbed from the linen locker stuffed into the top of the badly cracked stern tube the worst of the ingress was stemmed. Whilst our rescuers chugged along at their minimum speed of 3.75 knots Kevin worked to sort out the bilge pump. He’d cleaned the filter only a short while before the tow started as a precaution but it was not pumping much away. He dismantled my wardrobe again to get at the pump and poked into the outer part of the filter with a skewer, then tweezers before finally removing the incoming bilge pipe entirely and finding it chocked full of rubbish some of which must have been washed down from nooks and crannies of the boat never reached before – plastic tape, a whole teak plug, oddments of epoxy all gummed up with hair and fluff. After undergoing surgery the pump worked more efficiently than it had in ages though it continued to go off during the rest of our trip as water found its way forward to the sump at the bottom of the mast.

Suddenly our lives became very quiet. We were no longer in charge. The sea was flatter, Temptress swung madly off one wave only to be brought up short by the bridle before charging off in the opposite direction so it was all a bit odd and jerky but we didn’t have to steer, adjust sails or anything. We tidied up down below, turned our left over veggie curry into a spicy risotto for lunch, dozed in the cockpit or slept on the saloon berth. Land Ho! After fifty one hours at sea we spotted the volcanic outline of Lanzarote it was almost 2pm on our third day at sea.

Coming alongside the Guardamar Talia
Eventually we thought to ask our rescuers where they were taking us. It turned out the new marina in Arrecife was the intended destination. I explained to our contact on the rescue ship, later we discovered his name was Paolo, that we would need a lift out and did they have a hoist large enough? He went off to find out via Las Palmas MRCC, what was available. The hoist there it turned out was as yet uncommissioned, Puerto Calero was the alternative but two hours further on so our course was altered, ETA around 11pm may be a little longer. The tow tried going a knot or so faster but rapidly realised that this was a mistake as the bilge pump sprang into life again so settled back at just over 4 knots. Patience was what it was going to take. Temptress crew discussed what lights were needed for a tow – we could remember what lights the towing vessel needed but what about us? We had to look it up and the answer was simple and logical, our standard lower navigation lights without the steaming light.

Supper was a boat stew of tinned chicken in white sauce, tinned potatoes and frozen peas – delicious, our appetites had returned with a vengeance after near starvation for twenty four hours or more. As we approached Paolo issued more instructions explaining how they needed to move us alongside for the final bit into the marina. We put out our fenders on the starboard side as requested, then they gradually shortened the tow line keeping the bridle in place as a precaution and only finally removing it when we were all tied up in port. Then carefully the huge steel Guardamar Talia came alongside our relatively tiny fragile plastic home and with big boat's huge fenders, our relatively minute ones and her mucky black rubber rubbing strake between the two boats Temptress was safely towed the last few metres round into the marina before being manhandled into a space on the pontoon behind her rescuer.

We’d been instructed to bring the ships papers with us and come on board as soon as everything was tied up safely. We guessed our rescuers would want to be off home to Tenerife as quickly as possible. It was strange to finally come face to face with the people you’d spent the whole of the last fourteen hours with. The orange overcalled crew took our thanks with smiles and expressions of relief that we were safely delivered to port. We all shook hands and then cups of strong coffee in hand sat down with the Captain to do the paperwork. A huge bill will be issued, he warned us, once he was back in port and could calculate the fuel but for now his estimate would be five thousand euros (yes you read that right) but don’t worry said his translator Paolo, your insurance should cover costs like that. He was busy reading the Spanish version of our policy. In one of those odd coincidences as we chatted about where we’d come from we discovered that Paolo and his family had holidayed in Inverness around the same time as we were entering the Caledonian Canal there. Wow that seemed like a life time ago to us now.

Towel stuffed cracked stern tube
Paperwork over it was time to say goodbye and thank the crew once more, they couldn't have been more professional, helpful, kind and careful. The Guardamar Talia left quickly and the marina night staff took over providing two more forms to be completed before we could retire to our bunk. It was gone one by the time we were sorted and finally in bed, glad that this particular adventure was over. Finally we could put away our phucket-bucket list for the foreseeable future, this particularly stressful entry having topped anything either of us had ever experienced before and not one we wish to repeat. Ever.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Of Fishing Lines and Anchor Winches




All tidy ready for going to sea
The last Thursday in October saw a mass exodus from Marina Bouregreg of boats who had been couped up in port during the big swell wanting to leave for destinations south. Temptress joined the queue – the immigration authorities had given all six or seven boats the same time for checking out 11am – the reception pontoon is only long enough for two boats with a third alongside the wall itself. Fortunately the marina staff realised the potential problem and instructed each boat on whether to wait in their berth or move out to the immigration quayside across the marina. Before 13:00 we were sailing south towards Essaouira (S-swear-ra - we think!) some two hundred and thirty nautical miles further down the Moroccan coast. The crew were hoping it would be warmer, Rabat was beginning to get a little cool in the evenings and northerly winds meant daytime temperatures were seriously reduced by the chill factor. 

Frederick & Julia aboard Susie Q


Cooking supper
Temptress rocked and rolled her way through the remainder of Thursday and into the early hours of Friday before the wind began to moderate a little and swing a bit to the east, off the land. The sea became calmer, the crew regained their sea legs and life became easier on board. Thursday night Kevin cooked yet more of the local spicy Mergauz sausages with onion gravy, cabbage and boiled potatoes. Friday lunchtime Susie experimented making Egg Paratha rolls using Arabic flatbread and four single egg omelettes to roll up in them, accompanied by some fried tomato, green pepper and chilli – tasty and by the fourth egg the chef finally got the hang of turning out the omelette onto the bread. Friday supper was a chicken risotto Kevin rustled up from the remains of a cooked chicken we’d purchased in a Rabat supermarket for lunch a couple of days before (good value for money as this was our third meal from it). The bones and seasoned skin made an excellent stock to cook the risotto with.

Sunset thursday evening
Friday morning we decided to try out our new Turkish fishing lure a gift from the crew of SY Istanbul some weeks ago.  It was not a success; we caught no fish but that was mainly because despite various swivel/weight arrangements, the line twisted badly as the lure regularly bounced off the swell.  Then the skipper managed not once but twice to lift up the rod in a manner that ensured he ensnared Fred our wind generator. There were several fraught moments but having binned three long lengths of twisted oily line during the course of the day we could only laugh at our cackhandedness then discuss ideas for repositioning the rod holder so our very bendy Tuna rod is less likely to act as a catapult for the lure. Alternatively we could get out Kevin’s big deep sea trolling reel that we have never used in ten year of ownership and workout how to mount it on the pulpit rails thus removing the rod from the equation altogether…. Just need a fishing tackle shop.

Friday's sunset
Passage planning for this voyage was always going to be a compromise; we couldn’t depart except at the time dictated by the marina authorities and the harbour entrance in Essaouira is only to be attempted during daylight hours as the locals often string fishing nets across it at night. We tried to go slower, something less than 5 knots would see us arrive on Saturday morning but it was not to be. Not only did we have a good F3-4 all the way either behind or abeam, Temptress fastest point of sail, there was also around one knot of favourable current so even sailing at less than 4.5 knots when the wind was at its gentlest on Friday evening Temptress was still making over five knots towards her intended destination. 

Rocks to the west of Essaouira (from the shore)
Essaouira lies on the south east side of a rocky headland and the entrance with its very long seaward harbour wall faces south. To the west of the wall are some impressive rocks (a la Brittany coast) so we needed to stay well offshore in the approach.  A mile or so to the south of the harbour is a small unlit island and the entrance to the bay is between the end of the wall and this. On the hills to the east to guide sailors in, is an occulting leading light WGR visible from miles out at sea. We simply sailed along the coast until we could pick out the leading light, initially red until once we’d progressed south enough we could see only its central white sector. At that point we turned to port (east or left) and motored down the the light beam at 130 degrees keeping it white, not red or green (the danger areas either side). Easy when you know how and despite the massive swells piling into the bay we made it through without problem. 

Susie went forward to drop the hook and after a couple of circuits of the two boats already at anchor the skipper gave the signal to let go anchor. Thirty metres of chain were needed so by torch light Susie watched the chain markings, as the thirty metre marker went over the bow roller she eased her foot from the electric switch. Oh! The chain continued to rattle over the side at a fast rate, the down switch had jammed on. She put her foot on the up switch which instantly kicked in heaving the chain back up.  The skipper came running up then disappeared as quickly to the master switch. Now what? 

This was a serious problem that needed sorting. It was dark, we were tired but it had to be done. So at gone eleven thirty Kevin heaved out the toolbox and persuaded the waterproof cap off the switch. Basically old silicon sealant had worked its way free and into the hole around push button jamming it down. A quick clean up with WD40, some vaseline around to protect the switch and a new seal of silicon round the waterproof cover and normal service was resumed. After hot chocolate and a ceremonial opening of our last packet of chocolate hobnobs the crew both retired to bed sometime after 01:00am for a rocky rolly sleep during which the depth alarm went off at low water, the skipper got up to check but with 4.5m still under the keel and the swell a little less we were safe

Fishing boats Essaouira
The rocking and rolling got worse though around dawn as the wind died and Temptress swung to be beam onto the incoming swell – eventually we could stand it no longer and decided to explore the harbour.  We approached cautiously to be hailed by Hassan master of the large bright orange Fisheries Protection vessel –“ici la!”. Hassan expertly caught each of our lines, Temptress was virtually aground, it being low water springs but we were soon tied up safe to the large dayglo orange vessel with Hassan telling us the office would not be open until around nine or nine thirty. He warned us we might need some cigarettes for the Port Capitaine but in fact this character in the last of three offices we visited was the most smiley and welcoming of all the welcoming officials we met. We should mention that in every office except the first, the Gendarmerie Royale, we had to fill in the same information each time on the various forms provided. The GR guy actually typed it into a document on his computer, a first for us in the country! By now we know our passport numbers and boat registration number almost as well as our date and place of birth and are pretty handy with French form filling.

Back at the boat after our trek round this small port’s official offices (they are situated in various corners not next door to one another) and Hassan leans over the rail of his fisheries boat – you will have supper with me at my house tonight be on the dock at 6pm. So there it is we won’t get to eat at Chez Sam on the adjacent quayside tonight. Plenty of time though to explore the wooden fishing boat building going on here and chat to the fishermen on the quayside and perhaps even explore the medina.