Arriving in Gibraltar was a little like coming home for us, or at least as close as any one place can be considered home. Last year we started our Mediterranean voyage from here and this year we visited Gibraltar for 2 weeks in March for our respective sailing courses, so we were familiar with the setup, the marinas, supermarkets, shops and restaurants.
We took the opportunity to print our “Ocean Deva” logo for the boat onto large vinyls that were placed on the bow and stern, so our presence could be made. Our idea was to find a happy image that links us to the mystery of the sea and have a tie into our name – we hope you like our choice.
We also put our name on our dinghy and our boom now has a second usage with our website address on it. Finally, our neighbours can see who we are and what we are up to without having to send them messages to link them to our web site. Hopefully some initiative from the curious will bring them to interesting information and amusing stories within our ocean adventure.
Our reason to be in Gibraltar was based on trying to meet our energy requirements in the most efficient and environmentally friendly way possible.
The first part consisted of replacing our lead acid wet battery bank with a new set of Lithium batteries. Not only did this save me 200 kg of weight but the real benefit of the batteries are:
1) Instead of drawing down to 65% of battery life before needing to charge, I can draw down to below 30% (officially down to 10%, but no intention of trying this out). This simply more than doubles my battery charge capacity and the time we can spend “off grid”
2) Charging the batteries is also much faster and linear, so there is no slow down as the charge capacity gets closer to 100%
The practicalities of this are seen in our marina berth where we have not connected up to shore power for the last 2 weeks and I still have more than 50% battery charge remaining.
The good sunshine in Portugal helps, but we have been cooking on electricity and running the water maker (that does take a lot of power). We hope that our independence from shore power will greatly increase the time we can be at anchor or sailing without having to find additional power from our engine.
The only drawback is their cost, but I hope that independence and peace of mind will be worth the price tag.
Our second addition to our power generating options is a hydro generator. In our case, we opted for a Pod 600 from Watt & Sea
This generator is bolted to the underside of the boat and can supply power whilst sailing, day or night.
To date, we have not had a good opportunity to try this out as we have not had a good night sail with a speed to generate sufficient power. The generator needs a boat speed of greater than 6 knots before it will start producing
Our propeller is “regular” sized and I am thinking of increasing the size to give more power at lower speeds. Watt&Sea thinks that we may generate too much noise with a larger propeller, so we are trying to decide what is the best option for us.
Another thought, is that whilst we are still on Mainland Europe the possibility of supplies is “easy” and once we arrive in Madeira or the Canaries then our delivery costs and time go up significantly. I have also heard that there are some significant import duties in The Canaries as they try and protect their own industries.
With the same thought in mind, we are in the process of ordering the last required items for our transatlantic crossing, which include safety items and an upgrade of our life raft from coastal to offshore standards. We are also looking at purchasing a set of storm sails for which we have a mental problem with spending another few thousand euro on a set of storm sails that we hope never to use ! (do we pay for insurance or not ?) Unfortunately, it is a requirement in some locations such as New Zealand and as we would like to get there some day, this is probably an ideal time to make this order.
One major problem we had recently was the final breath of our Panda Generator. The generator has been giving problems for quite a while now and even after significant repair costs in Marina di Ragusa last year (thank you Mario) the Generator still did not work reliably.
Whilst trying to solve the problem remotely by discussions with a Panda approved engineer in Gibraltar, we “discovered” that the original installation had been incorrect and no matter what we did or changed, the problems of water ingress and corrosion would not change. Excellent research and trouble-shooting from Kevin (Marine Maintenance).
Our choice was to see if repair was possible – the problem being that Panda do not support the generator any longer with spare parts ! What kind of business is this ?
We thought to try, but Panda could not even offer any spare valves or give feedback on the suitability of the measured internal diameter of the cylinder head.
Whilst waiting for feedback, we filled our fuel tank with diesel (good price in Gibraltar) but due to the stripped-down condition of our generator, a large portion of diesel ended up in our bilges and made our boat smell like a petrol station.
As a result, I decided to decommission the generator and after a full "167 operating hours" we gave it away as junk. Considering the days of pumping out and mopping up diesel inside the boat, decommissioning was a bittersweet activity.
Our recent good vibes with our solar panel and the lithium batteries was the tipping point as we felt that we did not want to spend another €10,000 on a new generator that it probably could not be installed in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and was not supported with spare parts. We also did not want to continue to throw good money away by trying to repair a generator that may or may not be repairable.
Consequently, we are now more dependent on Green Energy than ever before – which is not a bad thing and we hope to use much less diesel as we start to sail where the wind is blowing and the sun is shining.
We have also replaced our marine fridge with a marine drinks fridge. You may remember that the last one could not survive Ingrid’s robust cleaning and defrosting activities and gave up the ghost with a puff of Freon that will find its way into the upper atmosphere (so much for going green). The benefit of the drinks fridge is that it does not have a freezer box that ices up and is a useless waste of space. Our only difficulty was that practical additions like racks for bottles was an optional extra and currently out of stock until November. We were very happy with the efficiency and helpful service from the supplier (Meumare) of the fridge here in Portugal – until we saw that they made 42% profit out of the sale. Due to the protectionism here, it is not possible to buy direct, only through a broker that does nothing but place an order with the supplier. The left hand opening door and material to re-mount the fridge was our problem.
It seems that this is a month full of bittersweet experiences !
However, we smile as we love life and we are living the adventure we have chosen.
A final note on the passage from Gibraltar to Vilamoura in Portugal where we “risked” an encounter with the Orcas. We were well prepared with 2 x pingers that were reputed to keep the beasts at bay by producing sounds they do not like. They are actually designed to be attached to fishing nets to protect the catch.
We found that the pingers bounce over the surface of the water whilst sailing as the boat speed does not allow them to sink, even with a number of diving weights attached below them. The good thing is that the pingers on the ropes to which they are attached, will not get wrapped around the propeller while they bounce along behind the boat. The big question is do they work under these conditions ?
In our experience, we were visited by a friendly pod of large dolphins that were scared away by Ingrid shouting “The Orcas have arrived” while I was in my deepest sleep. Whether it was the pingers or Ingrid shouting, I do not know and probably never will. I am not sure who was more frightened, the dolphins or Ingrid. At worst, they make a great set odd ear rings.
In a way, with all thy hype about orcas, the pleasure of meeting dolphins is a little diminished as the first views of a dorsal fin leaves the question; Is it a dolphin or is it an orca? If only the orcas had better manners and only eat tuna like they should do, then the oceans would be a happier place and I would be allowed to sleep when it is my turn.
We are however ready for our next encounter and pingers will be ready for deployment, should any orcas turn up for a nibble on our rudder.
Fortunately, the coast guard was not too far off and they came to visit us early in the morning, not long after our encounter with the dolphins. They seemed concerned that a sailing vessel was sailing at 1-2 knots on a very calm sea - did we have a problem ? Actually, we were just too early to arrive at our berth in Vilamoura and so it was an opportunity to enjoy the morning calm, have breakfast and enjoy a snooze after a night of watches and intermittent sleep. I am sure that a British registered boat, flying Hungarian and Dutch flags could not be considered as a border security risk.
Thinking about our footprint in the environment, we have been a little shocked to see the pollution that is generated by the big ocean-going container vessels. We often see smoke and fumes billowing out of the chimneys and leaving a long dirty trail. In the Med we would have to regularly wash off the black soot and dust from the many smoky ferries and working ships, not realising how much atmospheric pollution is out there. The attached photos show just one of the greater than 90,000 vessels polluting our atmosphere. We try to make our CO2 footprint as small as possible and hope that the marine shipping will come in line soon.
We are about 2 weeks away from heading to Madeira. From our passed blogs, you may remember Guiseppe who sailed with us from Brest to Gibraltar. On our next leg to Madeira he will join us again, and we are looking forwards to seeing him again and learning from his experience.
Many small jobs to finish and many deliveries to unpack in the next 10 days as we prepare for setting off into the sunset. We will let you know when we depart.