Yacht Fathom - Setting off from England in May 2016 on a single-handed voyage somewhere a bit warmer

Archive for May, 2016

La Coruña

I’ve had an enjoyable few days here in La Coruña and the Biscay crossing seems an age ago. Despite only speaking three words of Spanish I got ‘chatting’ with some locals over a beer last night and then got given a tour of their favourite bars in the old town. Recipe for sore head this morning but well worth it.

Learning languages does not come easy to me. I was lucky to scrape a C grade at GCSE French. But as i’ll be in Spain for a while I thought I should make an effort to learn some Spanish phrases. I have been surprised at the little English people speak outside the harbour area. I’m well aware that talking very slowly and emphasising each syllable in English while pointing is a poor substitute for some local lingo. Today I found a bookshop and purchased for five euros a lonely planet guide called “Inglés, Para el Viajero”. The only downside with this book is that it is aimed at helping Spanish speakers with English conversation and not vice versa. So 3/4 of the book I cannot read without using the google translate app on my phone which rather defeats the point. Nevertheless there are several pages with English and Spanish phrases written next to each other which is much more like it. These range from useful phrases such as  “Can I order a beer please” and “I’m lost” to those I don’t expect to use such as “excuse me my handbag has been stolen” and “I think i’m pregnant”. 

As it is early in the season the marina is very quite and there are few visiting boats around mainly French and Dutch. I’ve ticked off some boat maintenance jobs including stripping and servicing the windlass in anticipation of lots of anchoring in the next weeks and soldering on a new plug to the SSB radio cable.  Earlier today I walked to the north of the peninsular and climbed the ‘Tower of Hercules’ which is the oldest Roman lighthouse in use in the world and a UNESCO world heritage site.

Yesterday I was pleased to find a shop selling the ‘Atlantic Spain and Portugal’ pilot book (IN ENGLISH!) so i’m all set to head on down the coast. Thanks to Jojo and Bol for their recommendations on places to stop having sailed the coast last year.  My plan is to leave early tomorrow for Laxe which is around 35 nautical miles to the west.

Unfortunately I haven’t taken any interesting photos since I’ve been here so will make do posting one of the lighthouse and one of the statue of Maria Pita – a Galician heroine who helped defend Coruna from attack by the pesky British in 1589.

Posted on 27 May in: Logs 2016, Spain

Photos from leaving Plymouth on the 15th

Thanks to Caitlin for the photos.

Posted on 22 May in: Misc

Birthday arrival in Spain

I must have upset the wind gods because instead of veering to give me a nice beam reach into Spain as forecast the wind stayed hard on the nose for the last 36 hours. The theme of the last 7 days. After crossing the shipping lanes on Friday afternoon the wind increased to 25 knots again from the SW preventing me from setting course for shore. So I hove to for the night and got some sleep whilst minimising ground lost to the east. In the morning the wind was still blowing hard preventing me from getting west enough to reach La Coruna but after consulting the almanac decided to go for Ria de Cedeira 30 miles to the east which was described as having a good sheltered anchorage and approachable in all weathers.

Beating into incessantly strong headwinds was getting fairly tiresome by this point and I was counting down the hours until landfall. Eventually at 19.00 yesterday  I motored in to Ria de Cedeira and dropped anchor in the driving rain and wind. The glass of birthday whiskey tasted oh so good.

Today was spent drying gear and sorting and tidying the boat and the sun even decided to come out and say hello. Tomorrow I’ll head along the coast to La Coruna where I can have a decent shower (its been a week since my last!).

On reflection it is disappointing I didn’t make the Azores however in view of the worsening weather and oncoming low pressure system I definitely made the right call to divert. So far I know of 11 retirements out of the 22 starters in the Jester challenge several of whom had technical issues due to the conditions encountered and the rest in view of the forecast. I can’t help be concerned for those who set off with no way of contacting land and no way of checking the weather. Hope to hear good news soon. I ended up completing a crossing of Biscay single handed which was unplanned a week ago and did it without a suitable weather window so I feel chuffed with that. Fathom and I came through some pretty touch conditions well and I have so much confidence in her ability to look after me. What a boat she is. I’m now really excited about the prospect of cruising south and exploring interesting places on the Spanish and Portuguese coasts. An opportunity I wouldn’t have had if I had reached the Azores.

Posted on 22 May in: Jester Azores Challenge 2016, Logs 2016

Days 3 – 5 Lumpy Bumpy

Quite a few of us were close together as we cleared the shipping lanes off Uscant on Tuesday morning. The wind remained light and I managed to catch up on some sleep. Others were not so fortunate and spent the night dodging fishing boats. It was then all change later on Tuesday and overnight into Wednesday as the seas built and the wind hit 30 knots. I have not sailed in waves as big but with three reefs in the main and the staysail set Fathom took it all in her stride and we managed to creep to windward at a couple of knots. Others with lighter and smaller boats were forced to heave to until conditions improved. It was difficult doing any kind of task in the cabin but I managed to heat some soup at least.

Conditions were not much better through Wednesday morning and I had only managed to take 30 minutes sleep overnight. I received several VHF calls from another Jester boat to say he had electrical problems and had enough and was turning around and heading for Falmouth. I then found out another jester boat had received an unfavourable forecast for a few days ahead and decided to retire also. I have now learnt at least two others have also retired. After receiving the long term weather grib file via satellite phone yesterday I can see that there is an active Atlantic depression forming and heading from the Azores right into Biscay early next week. Not a normal path for this time of year and right through our route. I thought about turning round but have made the decision to plug on south and pull into a Spanish port to let the storm pass. The jester rules say stops are allowed.

As I type this we are flying south hard on the wind 200 miles north of La Courna. Nearly three days hard on the wind in 20 knots of breeze means cooking is suffering and I resorted to a boil in the bag yesterday. There will be some more headwinds tomorrow so hope to arrive in Spain by end of Sunday all being well. Once there I can catch my breath and wait for the weather to settle down before getting back in the game.

I knew with the highs would come the lows. It is a disappointing that I can’t make a crack for the Azores in one go but I have made the safest and most sensible decision and there is no way I want to get caught in that Atlantic depression. Looking forward to some following winds one day soon!!

Posted on 19 May in: Jester Azores Challenge 2016, Logs 2016

Days 1 & 2 – settling in to life at sea

I’m settling in well and life is relaxed onboard Fathom. I have just about finished my birthday cake a week early. I tried my best to hold off for a few more days but couldn’t resist. Looking forward to getting stuck in to Heather’s fruit and brandy cake afterwards.

Conditions have been light since the start on Sunday with full sail up just about all the time. Only had the need to put a reef in once and this was shaken out after a couple of hours. Yesterday morning the anemometer was reading 0.1 knots for around 20 mins. Requires a lot of patience to keep the boat moving in the light stuff. The fleet appears to be in two main bunches the first heading out west past the Scilly’s and the second bunch a more southerly route towards Ushant. I chose to make use of the NW breeze and head more south. Those of us within range have been chatting on the vhf which has been good.

Several seem to have been unlucky with fishing boats at night and have not had much sleep. Roy on ‘Spirit of Venus’ hurt his neck and has decided to pull into Penzance to get it seen to. 15 to 20 minute cat naps are keeping me fairly refreshed and hopefully once I am further offshore I’ll be able to sleep for a little longer with less traffic around. The AIS and radar watchman alarms give me warning when any shipping gets close but it has taken some time to put my faith in these and relax enough to sleep for a few minutes with the boat sailing herself. I’ve decided to make the most of a south west breeze to get some westing in today. Conditions are due to liven up this evening with around 25 knots and I’ll probably tack then and head south. Spag boll on the menu for dinner (with parmesan of course).

Posted on 17 May in: Jester Azores Challenge 2016, Misc

almost time for the Jester Azores Challenge

After leaving Yarmouth on Monday I am now in Plymouth and in 48 hours time 23 of us will be sailing off towards the Azores a voyage of 1400 nautical miles as the crow flies.

I have entered the Jester Azores Challenge which is open to single-handed sailors in boats under 30 feet. This is my first Jester event and it has been great to meet up with the many characters in the Jester family. The challenge runs every two years and alternates between the Azores and across the Atlantic to Newport, Rhode Island. A shorter event was run last summer to Baltimore in Ireland. The idea was formed 10 years ago in the spirit of the legendary Blondie Haslar and the original OSTAR race (Original Single Handed Trans-Atlantic Race). In 1960 Blondie raced his junk rigged folkboat across the Atlantic and proved small boats can be just as seaworthy and safe as much larger ones. These days OSTAR have banned boats under 30 feet from entering deeming the risk too high.

The Jester Challenge exists as a low profile, non-commercial event for like minded sailors with a sense of adventure.  There is a huge amount of camaraderie between the entrants and the emphasis is on self sufficiency and seamanship rather than being first across the line. There are in fact no rules, no regulations, no entry fees, no inspections. The only guidelines are:-

*must be single-handed – no crew

*boats under 30 feet

*human power is the only acceptable alternative source of propulsion other than the wind

*stops are allowed

*there is no time limit

*the challenge starts off the Western end of Plymouth breakwater at noon on Sunday 15th May

*the challenge finishes at Praia de Vitoria, Terceira, the Azores.

My aim is to update the website occasionally when at sea via text posts (no pics) and twitter updates and my position will be updated onto the tracker map automatically every 12 hours or so. Here’s hoping for following winds and a few fish on the line.

Posted on 13 May in: Jester Azores Challenge 2016

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