Sailing the Mediterranean, finally!

After my short stop in Gibraltar it is time to move on. I had a couple of stops towards my final destination planned in my mind, but talking to people in some Facebook groups I decided to take it all in one go, it isn’t really that far and the anchorages along the way isn’t that good in these wind directions. Who’s anxious to get to the marina, get Away on the hard to see the carnage of the keel? Who? Me? Naah… Well, maybe. But also, when getting closer to a destination I always get impatience and want to go faster, to hurry and to be there instead of be where I am.

So, I slip the lines, leave the safe harbor and get the boat to the fuel depot to get the last things done before i’m once again untethered from the world and free to go wherever I want – fuel up and check out. As I arrive at the depot there is a boat blocking the entire dock. I ask if they can move forward a bit so that I can squeeze in behind them, but all they answer is that they are students and don’t dare to move the vessel. Totally understandable, so I wait, hovering a few meters outside them until it is my turn to dock. Eventually their teacher returns and they take off, so I dock at one end of the dock, fill up my jerry cans and then the internal tank. I fill it full and notices that with the jerry tanks I filled up 225 liters, and the tank holds 200. So, most likely I had about 20 liters left in the tank. Maybe I should get a new tank meter so that it will be a bit more precise?

After standing in line to get into the office for some time, I’m cleared and is ready to set sail. It is an interesting feeling, leaving a marina to go my own way. Relief, joy, excitement and anxiousness. The latter was strong this time, since I was most likely was going to do a 24h sail and sailing at night is something special. A small side note; if you dock and use the same pollards as another boat, make sure your lines doesn’t jam the other boats line. There isn’t anything more frustrating when you try to pull the last line to be free from the dock, just to realize that the line is stuck and you have to get on land again to release the line, thus releasing the boat from the dock, creating an unnecessary and risky situation for a single handed sailor. Thanks.

Slowly motoring out of the breakwater into the busy harbor of Gibraltar, I’m checking the wind speed and direction. It is pretty much dead in my face, so I will have to tack my way out into open water. I like that, as it feels as an accomplishment doing it. There are dozens of ships in the bay, some are moving in or out of it, but most are anchored. I vision my way out between them, obviously aware that it won’t be exactly how I will eventually sail, but it gives me a rough route and I can look for obstacles and how to deal with them before I even start sailing. I feel confident.

I’m ready, all is planned and now it is time to set the head sail. I adjust the course a little to point the bow straight into the eye of the wind, and then I start hoisting the sail. As it is up, I fall off to starboard, watch the sail fill and turn off the engine. Bliss. I have a wind of about 15 knots, so the speed is reasonable. I check all the ships, water scooters, speed boats and other sailboats and find that I’m in a good position to set the head sail, and it rolls out nicely as I pull on the sheet. I’m sailing properly now, doing about seven knots. Time for tacking my way out through the field of anchored ships. I feel the thrill, the joy of sailing and I feel free!

After a few tacks I notice that the current course is enough to round the tip of Gibraltar, so I hold a steady course. I also notice that the wind has been picking up, it is now hovering around twenty knots, and the state of the sea is getting more and more disturbed. Short, steep waves from several directions makes the boat rock and bounce a bit, so I decide to reef. First the head sail, since it is easy to reduce, and then the main sail. Since I’m close hauled winching in the head sail is reasonably easy after I let it out a bit to get the most of the pressure out of it. The head sail is a little more complicated, as I have to loosen the main halyard to facilitate pulling the sail down to the first reefing point, but it too goes fairly easy after depowering the sail. It only takes me a couple of minutes, while keeping an eye on the ships around me, and now she sails much better, with less heel but still at eight or even nine knots at times.

As I turn around the point of Gibraltar I see the Mediterranean open up in front of me, as well as under me as the depth plummets several hundred meters. There are some huge drilling ships parked behind the cliff of Gibraltar, waiting. But still, the iconic cliff is impressive to see in all its might as I turn around and say farewell to Gibraltar.

It is time to look forward, towards my goal. At this speed I can actually be arriving before midnight, and since it seems to be the general rule that the wind picks up in the evening it might even be earlier than that.

The wind has shifted as I turned around into the Med, as I got away from the cliff. It is now coming straight through the strait of Gibraltar, straight at my stern, so I let out the mainsail as much as I can and furl in the headsail. I’m still doing eight knots, some times surfing down the waves at ten knots, and I enjoy it greatly! The sun is warm, I relax in the back of the cockpit while the autopilot makes sure I hold my line, straight to Almerimar.

At six o’clock I start to make some food, and I’m in a really good mood, not just because I’m sailing but also because I’m closing in on Almerimar. Little did I know then that in just an hour the wind would die down and the rest of the trip would be by engine.

But it did, and I had to. I noticed first that the speed was lower, it had dropped to six, then five, knots and eventually the waves was rocking the boat bow to stern enough for the mainsail to start flogging slightly. At three knots it got bad enough that I decided to start the engine.

Eventually the sea calmed down, and the sun was flooding the cockpit with its warmth. I mean, I can have a much worse time than this, right?

Eventually the sky exploded in colors of blue, yellow orange and red as the sun finally met with the sea as the day ended and the night commenced. I really like sailing at night. Motoring is not as quiet and tranquil, but it is still enjoyable. As it grew darker all the stars begun to show and when it got really dark I could see the bioluminescence surrounding the boat as we momentarily cut the sea in half, moving towards the final destination of this trip. The shoreline was lit by the town lights and I start to look for lighthouses and ship lights.

Eventually I go into a shallow slumber, bobbing in and out like a fishing float. At three in the night we’re close enough that I can make out the lighthouse that I believe is the one marking the tip near Almerimar. Eventually I see the red and green lights of the entrance to the marina, but I decide, since it is still quite dark, to anchor outside. Going into an unknown marina at night is still outside my comfort zone.

Next up, entering Almerimar and getting Away on to the hard to inspect and repair the damage.

One thought on “Sailing the Mediterranean, finally!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.