From Ibiza to mainland Spain. (This is an update from our crossing August 24 and 25, 2018)
In August we visited Ibiza. Eivissa, as it’s called in Spanish, is a wonderful island and we had good times there. It was our first time in our sailing career that we anchored all the time. The first ten days, after we arrived from Cartagena, we did not even set foot on land. We swam and snorkeled nearby the boat, explored little bays and coves with the dinghy and did what we always thought retirement should be: follow NO calendar. It worked.
But now the dreaded calendar is back and we have to get underway to southern France for finally finish outfitting (and repairing) the boat which did not happen last year by Nautitech and the electrician company in La Rochelle – kind of finishing the delivery process.
Our plan was to sail to Barcelona and then careful head further east crossing the Golf du Lion. The Golf had Mistral conditions, wind forces you do not want to encounter on the water. Badalona marina, east of Barcelona, could not accommodate us anymore after we changed our arrival day, so we headed for Roda de Bara to the West of Barcelona. It’s 140nm straight north from Ibiza, but since when do we sail a straight course 🙂 .
On the 23rd we lifted anchor at 5am in the morning. It’s tranquil so early in the morning. Working on the dark deck with only your red headlamp was eery. Wind was light and with the help of radar and two keen pairs of eyes we maneuvered carefully out of the anchorage avoiding other boats (some were unlit). We set the main sail and the large Code0 sail to make the best of the light wind. Moving with 4knots we shut down the engines before sunrise and it was quiet again.
The weather forecast was good sailing for the day with the following night freshening up to 23knots steady and gusting 30+. The Predict Wind forecast (see photo) shows nicely the strong Mistral further east in the Golf du Lion and our milder forecast with some wind further north. We’ll see how that turned out for us.
At 10:00 it started to freshen up and we stowed the Code0 on the trampoline and sailed with the Main and Genoa. Two hours later it freshened up even more and since we were sailing upwind Lunara was dunking the trampoline on nearly every wave. The Code0, tied to the deck and trampoline floated up with every wave, had to be stowed in the front locker. So I went in summer foul weather gear, that is swim shorts and safety belt with life-vest, on the foredeck. It was really hard work. Surprisingly, I enjoyed the 15 minutes there. I was doused with warm Mediterranean water in nearly every wave. While being there I prepped the small staysail for the following night and made it ready to hoist. Then got under deck and took a warm, fresh-water shower. That turned out to be a bigger challenge in the active sea then I thought – I can only say sitting is safer than standing.
Early afternoon the wind went light and we got the big Code0 out again. As much as we love the sail, because it always pulls the boat in the lightest winds, but the weight of 50kg and the bag being 4meter long is a torture to get out of the hatch and set-up. The Code0 stayed up until 20:00 and coming darkness made it prudent to change again for the smaller Genoa. We met a tug boat fighting with his tow (see picture). The watch of the tug called us on VHF radio and asked to give them a wide berth and which we gladly did.
The photo shows that the barge in tow was often bearing off 90 degrees from the course of the tug boat.
In the meantime we passed by Islas de Toretas some little islands which we could barely see far to the west of us. On our chart plotter these islands only popped up when we zoomed in. Reminds me of the VOR race boat Vestas dramatic grounding in the Indian Ocean several years ago. They had a similar occurrence namely that only when one zooms in enough, the chart-plotter will show details like an island. Zoomed out it showed us 280m depth.
Around 22:00h, Susanne was on watch while I was sleeping. We were still waiting for the wind shifting north indicating us that the stronger forecasted winds from the Ebro valley had arrived. We had prepared our small staysail and planned a 2nd reef in the main for the wind. Well, the windshift came, the Genoa backed into the shrouds twice and until we realized that this was the forecasted Ebro wind, it was blowing 25kts. We put the boat back on a northerly course, upwind now and waited for the wind to recede a little bit in order to reef and change the genoa out for the staysail. According to the latest weather forecast the wind was supposed to increase steadily and provide some time to reef. That receding of the wind never happened – lesson learned. By now it was very dark. The wind increased further and the waves were short and choppy. The new wind created its own waves generating uncomfy crossing seas. We had already rolled a third of the Genoa away buy still were banging hard into the waves going upwind with 8 knots boatspeed. Our wind pause never came and the foredeck at night appeared very risky to me being constantly washed over. Also, I was still believing a little bit in the wind forecast that the strongest we should encounter were 30kts for a maximum of 3 hours. Alternatively, we could have been bearing off the wind. But at night with so much sail would have meant that the boat speeds up to 15 knots and I did not dare to do that. Beyond that, we would have sailed in the wrong direction. The Admiral, who had a long 6 hour watch, went to her bunk and I took watch. An hour into the blow (which was forecast to last max 3 hours – haha), I furled the genoa completely and ran both engines at idle rpms to help the boat stay on course. Lunara does not like going upwind with the mainsail alone. She, like all catamarans with this sailplan, wants to turn her nose into the wind.
We constantly ran 10knots and bumped pretty hard into the seas. I sailed Lunara in the dark as high upwind as possible to reduce pressure on the mainsail and reduce the boatspeed. My dinghy sailing experience helped me a lot. As a kid I learnt how to keep sailing a dinghy in stronger winds with my little body weight to counter the windforce. This method, though not ideal, reduces the stress on the boat and mitigates the windpower on the rig as much as possible. The blow, with gusts to 40 knots, went on until sunrise. It was a wet ride with an occasional full moon followed periodically by clouds taking the light away. When the moon was shining through a whole in the clouds I had a wild view of the waves and the constant spray coming aft from our lee bow. Our stern waves were throwing a high crest and sometimes a crossing sea tossed the water back into the starboard cockpit.
Coming closer to shore we encountered increasing commercial ship traffic. Our AIS system nicely identified other vessels with course and speed. Still far offshore we encountered a 5miles long, well lit oil rig and pipeline facility which the prevailing wind direction forced us to pass to the south. A north rounding would have been a shorter route to the Spanish coast, but to the south we had the open sea and were not committed to a certain course in this weather. What I did not need that night was our B&G autopilot frequently failing. In the end it was not such a big deal. I had to hand steer most of the time anyway to balance out the wind gusts. We must have some loose NMEA data connectors in our electronics network. We also lost the GPS information feeding our VHF radio and we did mind that. The GPS information allows our VHF, in an emergency, to automatically transmit our exact location.
We will not forget the ride we had 30 miles south of the Ebro valley.
Late morning the winds receded to a steady 25kts and we first partially unfurled the Genoa and soon could fully unfurl the sail. 20kts wind felt really calm.
Admiral S is on watch again and exhausted I nap whenever I can between sail changes and other minor duties.
Mid afternoon we approach Roda de Bara. 5m miles out we have 3meter swell setting onshore and I become concerned about the sandbar at the harbor entry being only 4 – 5m deep. Out of caution we plan for the larger port of Tarragona, some miles further to the west, but continue our approach to Roda de Bara. As we come closer we observe other boats safely entering the harbor. The swell gradually lost its power during the last 5 miles. No breakers in the entrance, no alternative necessary. We were quite happy.
Docking was quick and easy. We are becoming quite the champs in Mediterranean mooring (more about in another blog). Connecting to shore-power, switch on the Air condition (it was really hot) and… the AC pump fails. Found saltwater in our port bilge which the pump did not like. (We found out later that we have to replace the pump)
We are hosing down the deck, sails and everything with fresh water. When you slid your hand over the deck, you literally had a hand full of white salt crystals. The photo with my salted glove does not do justice to the quantity of salt we had.
Otherwise, we found minimal technical issues after this sail. All deck hatches and top salon windows were leaking. Admiral S placed water catching bowls everywhere. At certain times we looked more like a vessel from ancient Captain Hornblower times and not a modern boat.
We napped the rest of the afternoon and walked for dinner along the beach to a rocky peninsular called Roc de Sant Gaieta. A beautiful walk and vista from the rocks. We had tapas (what else) and a local wine with an interesting new taste not bad, but not really stellar either.
This night, I slept 12 hours nonstop to 10am. Having a nice morning coffee, peacefully in the cockpit outside, never felt so good. The Admiral had a different night. She reported rain and that she had raced around to close all ventilating hatches and place the water bowls everywhere again. (Still not repaired by Nautitech).
Today’s plan: Air Condition pump repair. Cleaning the engine rooms, which continue to have saltwater leaking in on both sides despite further sealing of the hatches before leaving Ibiza 🙁
And, planning our next leg. Leaving in five days for France, ca. 140nm away. We hope that the Mistral conditions are gone by then.
Lesson of the trip: nothing beats a nice, peaceful coffee in the morning, but it only tastes so well after an exciting 24hour crossing.