Gibraltar to Sardinia - non stop
This leg of our journey was an important step for us – we planned a 7-day, 800 nm trip without any crew that had more experience than us, so in effect the full responsibility of the boat, safety and overall wellbeing was my responsibility ! This was quite a daunting decision, but it had to come at some point as we cannot depend on other people’s experience on our boat. This is our lifestyle choice and it was necessary to start taking on the full consequences of the way we want to live.
As ever, in the planning phase we spent ages looking at the weather and wind direction, so that we could plan a route where were quite confident that we would avoid the heavier weather and have a great sail.
Setting off with our new crew member, Guilherme from Brazil, living in Portugal and an Italian passport we had a person who was young, energetic and had a desire to add to his sailing experience. It was a good combination for us, an opportunity for us to share our home with a like minded person, to share the cooking, night watches and generally help us take care of the sailing.
Our route took us along the southern cost of Spain where we had a great view of the snow on top of the Sierra Nevada. We then headed up the east coast of Spain towards the Balearics Islands where we turned east and passed between Ibiza and Mallorca into the direction of Sardinia.
The sailing was not as we expected and the weather was somewhat different from the forecasts. Not only was the wind direction frequently directly against our path but is was also either much stronger, much weaker or just variable.
In the beginning, as we were heading east we had a good, strong wind directly behind us that blew us along at speeds up to 10 nm/hr. The sea state started off quite gentle, but with time it increased with waves from about 1m to waves up to 3m high. These little hills made our passage a little rough and uncomfortable from time to time, but on the whole it was a fantastic beginning to our journey.
Unfortunately, late in the evening of our second day, after the 3rd reduction in sail area, one of these larger waves just happened to break on our stern, causing a flood of water into our cockpit and into our living area. Most of the water was quickly mopped up and soaked up by our carpets, but some water happened to drip through to our battery area, causing some loss in battery monitoring capabilities as our Mastervolt Shunt got wet. The running of the boat was not affected in any way, it was just an inconvenience as we could no longer see the % charge of our batteries and the positive effect of our solar panel.
In the morning we were greeted by many dolphins that enjoyed the big waves and the interaction with our bow as we were making way. It is always a pleasure to see these animals playing around our boat, helping to take our mind off the lumpy sea and strong wind.
As our boat turned northwards to pass along the east coast of Spain, the winds started to turn and blow against us. The winds were light, but they were blowing around the islands and parallel to the coast so that no matter which way we turned, the wing was always from the direction we wanted to sail to – resulting in a lot of motor sailing which was not in our plan.
The best part of the trip, in my opinion, occurred as we had just passed between Ibiza and Mallorca. I had my fishing rod out, with my favourite, tried, and well tested lure. A few minutes later the reel zipped away and there was a fish ! Great excitement as I went to take the rod from its holder, but the line broke almost immediately and the fish was gone with my lure.
Undaunted, I selected another lure, this time untried and un-tested, and thought to try my luck again. 5 minutes later the reel starts zipping away and there was another fish on the end of my line (now fortified with a stronger wire trace). A short time later a good-sized fish from the tuna family was at the back of the boat, waiting for Guilherme to gaff it and bring it aboard. This process was not as easy as I thought, but it was successful in the end. And so: a beautiful fish, 85cm long and weighing about 15 kg.
The plans for lunch were quickly changed and I prepared a selection of sashimi and lightly cooked tuna steaks with a fresh salad – a delicious meal for those of us on a plant based diet !
This was a part of our “dream”; to sail in warm climates and catch tuna for our lunch – we are getting to where we want to be and the journey has been worthwhile.
The rest of the journey to Sardinia was “difficult” with variable or light winds sometime with us and sometimes against us. As we got closer and closer, the winds were more and more in our favour. Sometimes there was sufficient wind to sail nicely – for 15 minutes, an hour or two, then back to the motor to make any descent headway when the wind had dropped. At least in the calmer moments, there
was an opportunity to drop the Gibraltar flag and hoist the Italian flag.
We had a little “scare” at about 1 day away from Sardinia when the boat began to vibrate with the engine and we lost some power. The engine itself was running fine, so we were not sure what was going on. Thinking that there may be something on our propeller, we made a few turns, went backwards, turned off the engine and started again. This seemed to have cleared our problem and we were off again. I need to plan a short dip into the sea to have a look at the propeller to see if there is anything obvious, but all seems fine now.
There was opportunity to test our water maker while sailing – it seemed to work well while we were sailing slowly in calm waters, but performed poorly in rougher conditions and at faster speeds. We will need to work on these problems in the near future – but at least we know how to make water when necessary.
Due to the variable winds, we did not have a good opportunity to try out our Hydrovane, but there will be plenty of time in the future for this. There are still so many things to learn and each needs its own time and this journey had its own priorities.
With the end in sight, the wind picked up nicely and we sailed into Cagliari in style, only to have difficulty in mooring the “Mediterranean Way” due to a strong 15 Knot wind blowing across our bow – always a wind when you don’t want it and in the wrong direction.
After 813 nautical miles, 7 days and 4 hours sailing, our longest sail on our own, we arrived a little tired but happy at our achievement. Cagliari, warm, welcoming and safe, we made it !
Time to wash off the salt from the boat and make her all spick and span again, get our feet on dry land, say goodbye to Guilherme who was meeting his sister, open a chilled bottle of prosecco and then bed for a good night's sleep.