Well, just in case you think this adventure is all about G and Ts on the deck before the sun has even gone over the yardarm, I thought I’d fill you in on the general daily sailing routine on board Linea.
First, obvs, Ian brings me a cup of tea and immediately my first work-out commences. Twenty vigorous pumps up and down and I can feel the pressure mount. Some lubrication is necessary. We use olive oil on the advice of other seafarers. Suddenly, flushing is a lot easier and the toilet (heads!) is squeaky clean. Frantic, but necessary exercise and then we have breakfast!
We set off to shower in the marina shower block, if there is one, and, afterwards, I go to the marina office to return the key and go through the obligatory paperwork. (At least eight pieces of paper, sometimes twelve!). Since the offices are at the arrival pontoon this usually involves a fair hike to and fro.
Whilst I have been away, Ian has been checking all the weather reports. It’s no good just checking the one, since the weather is so unpredictable in the Med at this time of year and each one predicts slight differences. We take the average and add ten knots!
He has re-attached the main sail halyard and unzipped the sail cover. The navigation has been done the night before, putting all the crucial waypoints into the computer so that we have a clear course to follow. We have the paper charts and pilot guide to hand, having read up, in detail, about where we are heading, obstacles along the way and the destination port.
Whilst waiting to depart we hear a Pan Pan message going out on the VHF radio to all ships in the Straits and Alboran sea. There is a dinghy adrift with 50 souls on board and we are asked to keep a sharp look out and report any sightings. We gasp at the thought of people being stranded in those waters with no means to steer or propel themselves in such a busy traffic area. Hopefully they will soon be found and taken to safety. These messages have become a daily occurrence.
Gathering ourselves together, we remove the heavy mooring lines from the bow and any spring lines we have set up. Once we are ready, we start the engine and Ian drops the stern mooring line. I then pull in the slip lines and we back out carefully from our spot trying to avoid the mooring lines of other boats next to us.
‘Clear!’ I yell, and off we go out of the marina. My first job is to remove all the lines and coil them up to be stowed. For short slip lines this is relatively easy, but lifting and coiling heavy mooring lines presents serious weight lifting for the arms
I carry them back to the rope locker tucked in the curve of my elbow and lying across my hip, like naughty babies and gently lie them in the locker until they are needed again.
Then, I undo all the fenders – one by one – that’s usually eight, sometimes nine. I carry them to the cockpit and lob them bodily down the companionway. Next, I have to climb gingerly down to the saloon and push the fenders under the table, wedging them in like sausages in a Tupperware box.
Back up on deck, I check that the cockpit is ready for the hoisting of the sails. Reef lines (three of them) need to be placed in even figure of eights so that they uncoil without interruption.
The main halyard needs winding round the main winch in preparation for hauling up. The topping lift needs winching in tight, the vang needs releasing, as does the main sheet.
Soon, we decide the time is right for the main sail to go up. I head the boat up to wind so that her nose is dividing the air neatly and evenly. Ian stands at the mast. I engage Pedro the auto pilot and dart to my position near the halyard. Ian sweats the halyard, I pull in the slack. Teamwork! So we go on, until the main sail is almost at the top of the mast. I then begin to winch in a centimetre at a time! Ian appears from the mast and continues. Then takes the helm to turn us away from the wind. He urges me to winch a little more. I make a tiny adjustment, which he accepts as ‘fantastic’ and, thank god, the thing is up.
No rest yet. I then have to pull the Genoa as Ian releases the furler and finally we have both sails up! Still more tweaking to do, so that they are set and I can sit. But not for long. This has probably taken the best part of an hour.
All the while we are both keeping an eagle look out, using our fantastic binoculars (affectionately called ‘knockers’) for Cardinal marks, lobster pots, fish farms, other boats, dolphins and huge pieces of floating plastic sheeting that can blow off the thousands of huge ‘greenhouses’ along this south facing part of the Spanish coast line.
After being head to wind for so long it is also necessary to check where we are in relation to our course and the chart. I nip down below and look at the Open CPN navigation charts on the computer.
I send the latest activated waypoint information to the helm.
Back up top I go to see how we are getting on.
Perhaps now it’s calm, it’s a good opportunity to pop to the loo, (sorry- heads!) and it is, of course,at this precise moment, that a huge pod of dolphins decides to make an appearance. Ian shouts with delight. I rush up top with the camera and glimpse loads of dolphins in small groups chasing and herding the fish and having a feast but quite far off. There are a number of seagulls flying along in their wake. They have discovered that where there are dolphins there surely must be fish.
The dolphins do not grace us with any close up, dip-diving today.
Surely, it’s coffee time now. I go back down and put the kettle on. Coffee and biscuits appear, as if by magic, in the cockpit and we have a quiet minute whilst Pedro carefully steers us along our course.
Suddenly, Ian is digging in the locker for the stainless steal polish. He sets to, polishing and buffing, around the boat.
Not to be outdone, I decide that this is a good time to start pulling the new dark blue nylon socks onto our scruffy old fenders. Back down the steps I go to retrieve the sewing stuff. Pulling the socks over the fenders requires remarkable strength and is akin to pulling tights up wet legs! Once they are in position, an over-stitch with shearing elastic creates a rope effect and keeps the collar and cuff of each sock in place on the fender. They do look smart!
The wind remains light and constant, so we decide to get out the mackerel fishing line. We are sailing over a fishing haven and there are bound to be fish.
Ian dangles the hooks and feathers over the side and within five minutes, he has a bite. He pulls in the line to reveal the smallest, spikiest fish I have ever seen. I put on the gloves and detach the fish from the hook and chuck it back in. Poor thing looks the worse for the experience. Having detached the minnow, I throw the lead weight back into the sea, but Ian has only a light hold of the rest of the line so the whole thing is jerked out of his hand and we watch it drop to the bottom of the ocean, helplessly.
Well, that’s the end of fishing, for the time being but there’s no peace for the wicked!
The wind is picking up and we decide to put the main sail away and use just the headsail as we are on a run and the wind is right behind us. (It’s safer and a lot easier to put away if the wind builds further.) We turn into the wind, which by now has increased to more than 20 knots, and release the halyard. The sail drops down almost entirely into the sail bag, just needing a hand to fold in the last metre or two.
We sail along at about 8 knots. It’s relatively peaceful on this point of sail and we are well-balanced. I rustle up a quick lunch.
The arrival port is in sight.
Then the foresail needs pulling in. Ian does the winching and I ease the genoa sheet so that the sail doesn’t get tangled around the forestay.
Then the engine goes on, and we are motoring towards our destination. I edge my way along the boat to pull up the motoring cone, which lets other boats know that we are motoring. Once that is done it’s time to put out the fenders, ready for parking. I have to go down to the saloon and push all the fenders back up on deck. I climb up behind them and push them into the cockpit and emerge like a hatchling amongst eggs.
One by one, I carry them down the side of the boat and tie them on to the rail. Back and forth I go, methodically. Next, it’s time to get the lines ready for mooring. Usually we need a stern line from the back of the boat and a bow line at the front. I dig them out of the snake pit and scurry around to attach and coil them so that they are ready to throw to the Mariners who are on shore. Of course by now it’s blowing a hoollie to bring added spice to our manoeuvres and I know within thirty of minutes of turning the engine off there won’t be a breath of wind.
Whilst Ian calmly steers the boat against the Arrivals Pontoon, I prepare to fling the lines ashore and onto the outstretched arm of the patient mariner. He attaches the rope to the shore and hands me back the end of the line. I pull this through the fairlead and on to the cleat as quickly as possible so that the boat can’t drift. As soon as that line is fixed I move to the bow and repeat the process so that we are balanced. We both breath a sigh of relief and whilst Ian sorts the paperwork out with the Marina Office, I have a quiet five minutes.
Now that we have been allocated a berth we will have to perform the parking exercise all over again. I fix another bow line. We untie from the waiting pontoon and motor on over towards our berth. We usually go bows to with a concrete pontoon because with the dinghy on the stern it means that it is impossible to climb off the boat when the tide drops.
I fling the bow lines again and fix them. Then I reach back to grab the boat hook and lean over the side of the boat to scoop up the lazy line and take it back to the stern so that Ian can heave up and cleat off the hefty mooring line to which the lazy line is clinging.
Phew, we are all sorted! No not quite.
I lug the huge mooring lines, that I put away this morning, back up to the bow and throw the ends to Ian who attaches them to the bollards on shore. They will take most of the weight of the boat, rather than the thin slip lines which are easier to throw but not as strong.
Then we tighten everything up, Ian ‘sweats’ in the line and I pull in the slack and tie it off. Knuckles are at risk of rubbing raw against the rough surface of the deck, fingers can be trapped by the force of the lines and we are still not done.
The halyard has to be pinned away from the mast so that it doesn’t clank in the wind and keep everyone awake. The sail cover must go on to protect the sail from rain and ultraviolet light. All the lines from the sails must be tidied up and placed in figures of eight around the winches or coiled on the rail to keep them neat.
The wheel is covered with its canvas cover and everything that can be stowed away, is.
Now, and only now, can the kettle be put on for a well deserved cuppa and a quick shower.
But, hang on….we were alongside the Arrivals pontoon at 1500hrs. How can it be 1820hrs already?
We need to cook some supper and then it’s nearly time for bed!!
Anyone interested need only make the briefest of brief applications to be crew on our next leg!