Tread softly because you tread on my dreams….


HAD I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet,
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams
W.B. Yeats
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Lagos2Brighton-nós chegamos


The trip to Brighton along the familiar South Coast was excellent. The winds were moderate the sea was moderate, the boat was – well – moderate. Night watch was spent clearing the south coast of the Isle of Wight with the vital St Catherine’s Point lighthouse flashing its comforting sequence – Fl.5s.41m.25M …and the much larger 750ft Chillerton Down radio mast brightly lit red and white that can be seen halfway across the Channel…

We were closing Brighton rapidly and we had yet to eat the huge Cornish pasties we had bought in Dartmouth – this one was easily solved …we slowed the boat..you have to get your priorities right when sailing.

Luckily the sea was calm entering our home “port”, Brighton Marina, no need to worry about the sand bank at the entrance….Jaz, Sam, Serena (niece) stood at the end of the pontoon blowing horns and shouting and screaming – they had warned the other berth holders so eyebrows only twitched with amusement instead of disapproval.

It was fitting that as I brought Enterprise into the berth, that we had left the previous February – I lost concentration and the stern sashayed across the berth, forcing me to have another go – the first time I had messed up mooring in over 2,600 miles and 13 ports.

What a journey, and what an experience. A Rubicon had been crossed. But, now another one replaces it – the Atlantic Ocean.

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St Catherine’s Lighthouse, Isle of Wight at night. Enterprise, a true Bentley of the seas…
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Yours truly and 1st Mate The crew…

Lagos2Brighton–Water everywhere..


So Bruce and Martin (Red Watch) and Joe and I (Blue Watch) continued the tradition of the rivalry between watches. Of course since Bruce slept in the bunk room and the top bunk was our larder, Red Watch always seemed to leave  lots of sweet wrappers , biscuit crumbs and cuppa soup packets after their night watch…

Blue Watch was reduced to hunting for scraps…and also trying to get the boat back on route after Red Watch – obviously distracted by their munching and sipping let the boat drift off course and back into the shipping lanes. This was ok, since we just gybed the boat on to starboard tack to make ground to the West. That meant Bruce would be sleeping at 45 degrees and trying to stay in his bunk by propping one leg against the opposite wall, meanwhile Martin would be catapulted from sleeping across the bed in the aft cabin to standing on his head at a 45 degree angle. This seemed fair.

But Blue Watch had podcasts. Joe had brought a number of podcasts with him on his iPhone. So it was that we wiled away the night watches. Imagine its 3am, its cold, the wind is blowing 25kts, the Bentley is romping along…and we are listening to David Cameron, followed by Rob Brydon on Desert Island Discs; What the Papers Say; From our Own Correspondent – ah, the BBC what would we do without it!

The biggest challenge was not when the forward heads blocked (I wont name names here), nor when I got so drenched, that my wet weather gear decided it would behave like I had entered a wet T-shirt competition, nor when the genoa twisted itself into a candy stick shape around the forestay. It was when we discovered that the water level meter was not lying after all – the water tanks really were Empty!

A quick audit of our fluid supplies uncovered 1 bottle of lemonade, 1 bottle of tonic, 2 litres of orange juice, 1 litre of actual water. A rule of thumb is that each adult will need 1.5 litres per day to maintain hydration, and probably more like 6 litres per day if they were washing. Well washing was “out” (it had been out for days already to be fair) and wet wipes were most definitely “in”. We watched the rain resentfully, then Bruce decided to collect some rain off the main sail. Balancing at the mast he managed to collect about 10 litres of water in various bottles, and we all felt better knowing we had delayed death by at least 3 days. Surely that was enough time to reach civilisation before we had to draw lots to see who would be eaten first. Another Bruce innovation was cooking rice and pasta in seawater – yes I know what fish and humans do in it – but it was at least 200nm to the French coast.

At last, the Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) off Ushant loomed. I downloaded a new Grib file using the satellite phone and re-calculated the options for making landfall – Plymouth, Dartmouth, Braye, Cherbourg all were possible. We chose to make way for Dartmouth. Looking at the Grib file I could see the F9 gale had hit the southern half of Biscay. I thought of the few yachts that had passed us heading south like all the pilot books say and hoped that somehow they would be ok.

I promised everyone hot showers, a good nights sleep and a full English breakfast in the morning, morale was high. As we closed the UK coast the GSM phone signal grew stronger and messages were sent to wives and friends who had been interested in our progress. We were nearly home – and (nearly) dry!

Friday 13 July 0355 – we entered the picturesque estuary of the River Dart and moored up at Darthaven Marina. Sleep.

The morning was sunny, we had our hot showers and our very large English breakfast. Brilliant. I decided we should leave at around 11am – no need to rush. The trip to Brighton would be a breeze after the one we had just completed. Its funny how your distance horizon shifts – the time was when Dartmouth to Brighton would have had me planning for hours and stocking up as if it was an ocean voyage. Now it felt like a run to the local shops. It was still an overnighter but there was no pressure now.

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Martin relaxing.. Martin relaxing..
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Martin relaxing.. Joe relaxing..
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Bruce making chapattis!.. Joe enjoying the sun..

Lagos2Brighton–Biscay …again!


Martin arrives safely and with the spare fitting for the outhaul. Bruce fits it and we get the boat ready for an early departure on Monday morning – the 9th.

Unfortunately it is Sunday, its Spain,  and we are trying to get supplies for the trip – but everything is shut. We end up finding the only shop that is open – a small bakery and deli and we buy as much as we can think of that will make “pasta surprise” – if not a gourmet delight – at least a “surprise”.

We have a full fuel tank – but in our hurry we assume that we have a full water tank too. Wrong. We have been using water for the past 3 days since we last filled up. This is one thing that comes back to bite us a few days into the Bay.

We cast off at 0400. The wind is from the north or the north west for the next 2 days – so we have to use the iron sail. But it is a balancing act between conserving fuel and making progress in the 4 day window that I calculate we have before a major gale hits the Bay. I don’t tell the crew this – deciding that since there is nothing we can do about it its best not to worry everyone. I also know that Enterprise can handle it, it is a Bentley after all.

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The weather on its way is F8/9… Westerly winds by the end of the crossing…
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Planning the route back… Alternative ports –Plymouth, Dartmouth, Braye, Cherbourg

Lagos2Brighton–Crew change over..


Having arrived at Baiona and moved over to the Monte Real Club de Yates, we feel a lot more relaxed. We can shower, get the washing done, have a cool beer in the yacht club – this is more like it! Amazingly it is also cheaper than the town quay !

We arrived on 6th July and we know that Sam’s flight – from La Corunna is Sunday afternoon. So other than trying to work out how she will get there it is nice to now that we can have a couple of days relaxing and sampling the life of the nearby town.

Inspired by Bruce’s enthusiasm we set to cleaning the boat on Saturday and give it a thorough wash down including the bilges….enough said about that. We reward ourselves with a relaxing coffee and cake…and then some cool beers…at the yacht club in the afternoon. I hurriedly exchange emails and texts with Jaz who is trying to source the replacement boom fitting for the outhaul, and get it to Martin who is flying out to join us.

In the evening we discover the lovely restaurant Jamoneria Jaquey VI. This is a lovely Galician restaurant. The food is base around the products of the Galician Deli that it is attached to with hams of different ages and qualities cut off the bone – and accompanied by a lecture from the enthusiastic waiter -  this, combined lovely Portuguese wine, cheeses and great seafood salads, make for a delightful evening out.

We have to say goodbye to Sam early on Sunday morning as she gets the bus to La Corunna, in the meantime Martin is on his way from La Corunna to join Joe, Bruce and myself for the final leg across Biscay.

Once more I pore over the weather data, routing options.Trying to estimate sailing speed and fuel calculations for the journey home. I am very aware that I cannot afford to be complacent. This may be the second time I am crossing Biscay in a month, but I have the utmost respect for that stretch of water and its fearsome reputation.

The weather is garbled as it has been for months. a succession of “small” lows means that any crossing will experience winds from pretty much all directions. Motor sailing may dominate the crossing if we have to get across in 4  days and avoid the prospect of F8 and F9 gales that are forecast.

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Jamoneria Jaquey VI Octopus salad …
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Last look at the bay.. Monte Real Club de Yates

Lagos2Brighton – Baiona…


Its daylight, Bruce has taken to playing chicken with tankers and container vessels. I know that we may well have the collision regulations on our side but I really don’t want to test some bleary eyed tanker captain’s grasp of them!

Bruce hails MV Chopin, a tanker, in the hope that they will change course by 1 degree and not just run us over. His request falls on deaf ears, there is no response on the VHF, but we can tell by the AIS display on the chart plotter that the tanker changed course by 1 degree – enough to put 1nm between us and them…at that very moment there is a bang and the main sail flies away from the boom…the sail is flogging wildly and we see that it is only the knot in the outhall that has jammed in the clew (corner) of the sail that  is stopping it flying away even more. Its a good thing I have hoarded some old halyards (ropes) and we have some spare blocks (pulleys). Bruce and I manage to rig up a contraption to bring the sail under control and we set it with one reef in. We then set about getting out of the shipping lane. Excitement over. We then have time to consider how a stainless steel fitting that is meant to run along the boom and hold the clew (corner) of the main sail in place can just fracture and snap!

The rest of the sail is without major incident. More dolphins – 150 at one point – I wish they would leave us alone….the forward heads water input pump stops working forcing us to use the aft heads only. The aft heads are manual and we are all grumpy at having to pump to flush the toilet.

We finally see land on the 6th July, we dock at the town quay at 1900. Happy to make port, happy to be in one piece and looking forward to eating something other than”pasta surprise”. We take Bruce’s advice and avoid the Royal Yacht Club – choosing instead the town quay.

Unfortunately, the facilities are far from salubrious. The toilet block is a porta-cabin on the quayside – easily accessible from the road, peeling lino and spitting and gurgling hot water cylinder. I suggest that we will move the boat across the bay to the Royal Yacht club where Jaz and I had arrived after our Biscay crossing. Everyone agrees enthusiastically.

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Outhall jury rigged… Dolphin watching…
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Pesky dolphins, haven’t they go better things to do? I love night watch…
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Bruce creating decorative Monkey Fist lashings… A welcome cuppa..

Lagos2Brighton–4on4off


We split the shifts 4on and 4off and apart from meal times we try to stick to the routine through day and night. Sam and I are Blue Watch Joe and Bruce are Red Watch. We make little competitions between watches to see who can keep the best course, or will forget to keep the batteries charged –watching the green lights count down on the Adverc battery monitor become important so that we can keep the fridge running.

Joe is back on form ever since Sines, its nice to see him enjoying the trip. Bruce is a gem – he is doing more than his fair share of chores apart from being a strong hand on the tiller and with sailing the boat. Everyone has gelled really well and there is a happy and relaxed atmosphere on board.

We are visited by dolphins on a periodic basis, I start to shout at them to leave us alone!….we see a strange shoal of fish that appear to be flying over the water – even  though we cannot believe they are really flying fish.

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Sam relaxing on watch… Bruce our stalwart 1st mate
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Joe getting the fishing line out.. Joe’s turn to cook “pasta surprise”…

Lagos2Brighton – Leg2


Its nice to have a respite in Sines. Good showers and a nice small town with one supermarket. I decide to give everyone 1 days rest and set off on the following morning – the 3rd for the next leg.

But what will the next leg be? That is the question. It starts to dawn on us that to get Sam to La Coruna for her flight by Sunday is going to be touch and go. We wonder into town to get some groceries for a long trip and sit in a funny courtyard bar which is clearly the local night spot – but in the day is deserted and quite seedy. We spread out the charts and search the web for flights, trains, buses any means of coordinating a boat journey with a land journey that has any chance of getting to La Corunna by Sunday.

Should we stop at Figueira da Foz and Sam takes a flight from Porto? Should we stop at Porto and Sam gets a flight from – well Porto? What about Peniche? How about Aveiro?. Finally we decide the only viable option is to go to Baiona in one leg, and then get Sam overland to La Corunna. We email Martin and tell him the good news. He will be landing in La Corunna on Saturday and will have to find his way to Baiona. We are never going to make it to L Corunna at all. Luckily the seedy bar has free internet and a good connection. I download Grib files and plan the route for the next 4 days. I estimate it will take from Tuesday to Friday – 4 days minimum to get to Baiona.

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The weather routing indicates that wind speeds should be between 10kts and 25kts for the week. The distance is 360nm. ETA midday on Friday 6th July. The first tack is 100nm out into the Atlantic before choosing our line and tacking back hopefully in one tack, straight to Baiona. Its going to be a gamble that we can hold the course close hauled. We will probably have to motor sail and pinch the course away from the ideal 60degrees to more like 45/50degrees using the engine to help us hold course.

Lagos2Brighton – Leg1


30 June. Introductions over. Safety briefings complete, lifejackets distributed, luggage stowed. I tell the crew that we must move the boat to out past the lifting bridge and tie up on the fuel pontoon ready for an early start. The mood is buoyant we are looking forward to whatever the journey throws at us.

0600 1 July 2012. We cast off on time. The plan is to do a 24hr run to Sines where we stopped on the way down with the Rally. I feel that this will be a good shake down for everyone – get their sea legs – test the anti-sea sickness tablets – give everyone a feel for a watch keeping routine – but not overdo it.

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Giving Cabo Sao Vicente more respect than I did on the way down we make good time. Bruce is great and fits in with the family crew well. Always willing to make hot drinks, cook lunch, do any sail adjustments –and it turns out he is quite a raconteur too and keeps everyone amused and relaxed with his light hearted chatter. A great asset.

 

Port2Uk-Leg1aAs dusk approaches we are at 37.00N 09.07W as planned and the wind is in the mid 20’s as predicted by the Grib files. The sea is pretty rough though making it quite an initiation for Joe and Sam. Waves are 2m to 3m but they are confused and irregular. All day Joe has been green, he caves in eventually with seasickness. A combination of work pressure and 60hr weeks has caught up with him. He is eventually persuaded to go below and sleep. That is really the best place to be when you feel like this. It can happen to anyone.

For once the weather routing software I am using – MaxSea TZ – has predicted the route and the timings almost to a tee. The distance travelled is 132nm in 25.5hrs.

We can see Sines in the distance as dawn breaks. It’s easy to make out the gas light of the refinery and the town is so small that it is easy to pick out the breakwater – remembering that there is a submerged part of the breakwater with a single light at its end. From the sea it looks like there is a reef with surf breaking around it. We pass safely and in no time we are being guided to an easy mooring alongside by the friendly marina staff.

Crew change..and return trip to UK beckons


Today Jaz left Lagos to return to the UK and work. It was very sad to let her go. Little did we know that she was returning to be told on her first day back that she was being made redundant! Why are some people such a$$holes. I sometimes think of people in business as they may have been in the playground at school when they were 13 years old. Jaz’s boss was definitely the bully who carefully picked on the smallest boy in the playground.

Luckily there was a threat of an air traffic controllers strike so her flight was delayed to Saturday 30th June – she will leave by taxi at 1600, so she will be able to meet up with Sam & Joe who arrive about 1100.

It is a gorgeous sunny day, Joe and Sam arrive on time and we have a nice handover, and lunch together, before saying goodbye to Jaz, and getting Sam and Joe settled in the boat. We await the arrival of Bruce the 1st Mate hired through PYD (Professional Yacht Delivery).

In hiring Bruce I had calculated that at least there would be two of us who could sail the boat singlehandedly in case the more inexperienced members were incapacitated  due to illness, or just not able to deal with the challenge. I shouldn’t have worried – the weeks ahead proved that Joe (Son), Sam (Joe’s girlfriend) and Martin (Bro in law) who joined in Baiona were more than up for it and were a great asset to the the arduous journey home.

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The pilot books and all the wisdom states that you are in for a bashing if you try and sail north up the Portuguese and Spanish coasts in July/August when the Portuguese Trades have set in. Well the journey down had shown that the weather had been far from predictable. We had not had fair downwind sailing as predicted by the pilot books and by WCC. So why should we have the predicted winds going back?

Then, as the days in Lagos passed by the Portuguese Trades (Nortada) set in with a vengeance – they would wouldn’t they! The patterns seemed to be that the mornings up to midday would have slight winds and then in mid afternoon strong winds – over 20kts and up to 30kts would set in until dusk, when again the winds would die away over night. I also knew that the 3 main Capes (Cabo Finsiterre, Cabo da Roca, Cabo de São Vicente) we had had negotiated on the way down had a nasty habit of increasing wind strength if you tried to cut the corner –so they needed a wide berth of at least 5 or 10nm.

I planned on getting from Lagos to Baiona – the first crew change and a good staging post for the final leg across Biscay – in two hops. Both would entail large tacks out to sea and back. Each tack would be several days in duration, allowing a week overall to get to Baiona.

This I figured would allow us to sail – close hauled – but, as I had found on the way south, the “old Bentley” seemed to shrug off such challenges. I hoped I could just set “cruise control” and sit back. That was the plan.