Autopilot plays a trick on me!

Cádiz was a quite good anchorage. If I wanted to I could have gone ashore for a provisioning run, since I saw a supermarket from where I was anchored. But my aim was to press on, so I didn’t have any time for excursions.

So it was time to raise the anchor and set off! I realized though that I was surrounded by those small fishing vessels that I had some close encounter with last night, but I was determined to sail away from the anchorage, and that’s what I was going to do. After hoisting the mainsail I pulled up the anchor and turned to starboard, filling the sail with some wind. The two closest fishing boats were easy to dodge, the third was a bit trickier, but eventually I had enough speed so that I could go a little closer to wind and avoid it as well.

Since the wind was straight into the river mouth and in my face I had to tack my way out of Cádiz. I pulled out the jib and as I was done I was about ready to tack under the enormous bridge, to avoid colliding with its pylons. Having huge concrete foundations in your face is a bit intimidating, so I stressed it a little, so I had some issues tacking the jib, but eventually I had both sails on the right side. What I noticed though was that I wasn’t moving forward, just sideways under the bridge. Or at least that’s how I felt. SO I tacked again, thinking that it would be embarrassing standing here under the bridge, tacking back and forth for some time before I get away. But you know how it is with fears, sometimes they become bigger than what you are afraid of, and I could feel and see Away picking up speed once again, leaving the bridge behind me.

Since I was tacking my way out of the harbor, I had to be more vigilant of other boats than usual, since I would turn at points where they might not be ware of it, so I had to be precautions on their behalf. I had a gang of water scooters on my starboard, but they eventually took off and wasn’t a big issue, there were some larger freighters docked so they were easy to have an eye on. At the same time I had to plan the tacking depending on the depth, close to land it was a bit shallow and I didn’t want to tack on the margins. A shuttle left the dock just in front of me, but they also sped away rather quick. I continued to tack short tacks, using the auto pilot each turn. As I approached an anchored power boat with some people fishing I realized that my plan to tack after the boat wouldn’t work, since the wind was pushing me off my course. So I decided to tack near them, but not too close to avoid any lines.

That’s when the auto pilot decides to act up, and go into panic mode, mid-tack. Fortunately I managed to get behind the wheel in time and continue the tack, but the sails were nowhere near done. The problem is that it takes two minutes before it can be part of the crew again. Since I had to handle the boat I couldn’t set the sails correctly, and the only way to sort this out at the moment was to turn back again, get some wind in the sails and do another attempt to tack. Which I did. Just to face an area marked with buoys, since there was a sunken boat there. So, tack again! The autopilot decided to join the crew once more, and I could focus on the sails for a few seconds.

I wasn’t able to clear the last piece of dock protruding into the river, so I had to tack, and at the same time I saw another sailboat coming out from that dock so I decided not to stress them by going too close (and to have wiggle room if there were any issues with the auto pilot once more) but tack, again. This time I allowed for some margin and waited until I was clear by far from the dock and saw the sea opening up in front of me. There was not much wind at the moment, but I made some slow progress. Leaving Cádiz behind I was some boats in front of me, and of course we don’t compete, but the race was on. Until they sailed away from me. Downwind is not easy without any downwind sails, I really have to practice more. I do get a lot of practice, though. But for some reason I just can’t keep up with any boat downwind. Maybe I’m too cautious with putting my main sail out to avoid it pushing too much against the spreaders to avoid chafe, but it doesn’t seem to change much how much I let it out.

I did get some reasonable speed after a while, but then the other boats was long gone. This day I had decided to do a shorter sail so that I would have a day sail through the Gibraltar sound. I have decided to go to Barbate for the night, where I arrived some time after 18. I did some… interesting choices in Barbate, but I will save them to the next post, since I think it requires its own post.

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