Normal surgery resumed

With the deadline of flights from Arrecife on Lanzarote and the added attraction of an arrival for the England World Cup warm up game against Ireland, we are pressing on and with the feeble wind, we are resorting to the almost constant use of the engine.

I am very happy to report that after a partial relapse, all of the crew are now well and participating fully – to the extent that Stephen is contributing his ‘Notes from the Doc(k)’ as follows:-

“Having been a tad let down by my normally reliable friends Stugeron and Stemetil, I have now emerged from two days of an intimate relationship with a black rubber bucket. Having contemplated the chances of successful self cannulation in a corkscrewing Hejira, oral fluids are now, thankfully, heading in the appropriate direction. I was, at last, able to contribute to the 1-5 am watch which was remarkable only for the occasional appearance and disappearance of a ship (?ghost ship) on the AIS. Bob and I considered that we were being tagged by a submarine however fanciful that conjecture is in the cool light of day. (Skippers comment when passing the censor ‘you were probably scaled out on the limit of VHF range so the reception was intermittent – smart arse!’) The temperature was mild enough to complete the watch in shorts and tee-shirt (and of course life vest). Am pleased to report the rest of the crew are in rude health with the exception of the skipper’s right great toe which I shall deal with in my morning surgery. “

Stephen back on form

Liberated by the fact that we can now successfully send and receive Emails through the compression software over the Iridium satellite system, I sent a mail to Funchal Port as our preferred Madeira destination. They have responded offering no guarantees other than ‘we will try to find you a place on your arrival’ so we have been reviewing this news. Barry, Bob and I having previously been to Funchal have no special need to see the capital and Stephen seems indifferent so we have turned our attention to the nearer marina at Quinta do Lorde which appears to have both room and an all-important restaurant after 4 days of my cooking!

What a relief

Yesterday was not one of the best.

Unfortunately, the sea state did not abate during the day which failed to bring the hoped for relief to those with the ‘mal de mar’.

The swells passing under the stern made the galley only suitable for accomplished jugglers and I do not begin to qualify. First a jug of sauce lost its equilibrium and spread its contents over the work surface, cooker and floor then, all the washing up crashed to the floor both before being washed and then again from the draining board – grrrr.

It was also time to commission the water maker as, because once it is initiated, it needs to be maintained, it has never been put to work since it was installed by Northshore 3 years ago. I should have expected that this would not just be like ‘throwing a switch’ and it seems I have a fundamental problem which I will have to address once we moor up and the yacht isn’t lurching around and I am not wedged into a sweat box. Better that the issue is discovered now rather than two days into a 3 week crossing.

Even our fishing has had a disappointment as, having hooked our first fish, it was lost while I went below for a landing net – typical !

I am writing this while the crew sleep and the wind has dropped to around 8 knots so we are motor sailing at 2000 revs using only the yankee jib and we are doing nearly 6 knots on a flatter sea. This is where the new Bruntons Autoprop should be in its element as it self-adjusts to optimum pitch and, when motor sailing is supposed to be 20% more efficient – so there.

Crew have all now surfaced and I am very pleased to report smiling faces throughout.

Stephen, Barry, me & Bob

WHAT A MASSIVE RELIEF ! ! !

Hoping for a better day today.

Tom & Dick

Our adventures resume with Barry. Bob and I returning to Vilamoura on Wednesday to prepare and victual before our departure on the 520 mile passage to Madeira once Stephen arrived on Friday.

The forecast was for good reaching on Friday night but, unfortunately, Stephen succumbed to reaching of a different nature in the evening and was confined to his berth throughout the night.

Stephen is our ‘yacht medic’ (Williams, not Maturin) and he did not have a good day. After landing at Faro Airport, he found himself locked in a toilet cubicle when the handle broke and had to be rescued – he actually phoned his daughter in the UK for help……? Soon after our departure, he tried his hand at fishing and managed to get the line wound into the wind generator putting that out of action, then he was violently ‘tom and dick’ all night. Let’s hope he bounces back today!

After two reefs through the night, sun up and the wind dropped and veered so a direct course puts the wind too far aft for a smooth sail with the swells spinning Hejira and flogging the sails as they pass under so, while the crew sleep, it is a case of heading up onto a more comfortable point of sail until they surface and we can review our sail plan.

A fine warm morning with only thin cloud after a cool damp night. With the swells gradually reducing after the blow in the night, Hejira is a little more comfortable off the wind and we are able to lay a better course towards Funchal, several days away.

It is now 9.45am and there is no sign of any other crew which is not surprising as they had a bit of a night of it with heavy traffic through the separation lanes off Cape St. Vincente. With this blog being partly experimental as I have not previously posted via the Satellite compression software, I am inclined to despatch it to see if it all works, so expect them ‘thick and fast’ hereafter.

Vilamoura sojourn

There is quite a lot to tell so this is an ‘intermediate’ blog whilst enjoying a summer of visits to the Algarve coast.

Lagos proved to be something of a gem with excellent facilities, charming (if a little touristy) old town, an excellent chandler and superb beach. Following a brief trip back to ‘Blighty’ I returned with Paula, Ollie and his girlfriend Gini. Gini, seen here with Ollie after exploring ashore in Alvor, is not new to sailing and was a welcome addition to the crew.

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We discovered the benefits of pre-arranged Airport transfers which were cheaper and more convenient than just jumping into a taxi. We also noted that in sailing west to the anchorages near Cape St. Vincente, the wind is generally much stronger and colder as the predominant northerlies have not had the benefit of warming over the land. However the comparative seclusion is worth the effort and the sail back with three reefs and staysail didn’t upset the crew so early in their stay.

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The trip up the mast to replace the anemometer unit was rewarded by a fully functioning wind display but the replacement Air Breeze was a little more problematic. I had chosen to replace the whole thing as I did not want my planned ocean passages compromised by a faulty unit. Unfortunately, even when the blown fuse had been replaced, the unit continued to ‘crash stop’ regularly with the diagnosis suggesting fully charged (definitely not) batteries. This situation was marginally improved by adjusting the cut out setting (not recommended in the literature) and this gained more consistent charging. Reluctant to adjust excessively, I asked for advice from Barden, the supplier of this and the original unit as well as the 5 replacement AGM batteries and solar panels but despite my patronage they could offer no coherent explanation and I think I will just have to monitor the situation and continue to scratch my head and wince at the expense.

A replacement engine oil pressure sender helped to rectify the low readings and a number of other improvements and additions will make life on Hejira more comfortable in the future.

During my family cruise from Lagos and subsequent ‘chaps’ cruise with Ollie’s mates, we explored the Algarve coast along and into Spain experiencing ‘the good the bad and the ugly’. We enjoyed several anchorages with a real ‘Southerly’ experience in delightful Alvor and the vast but attractive lagoon at Faro/Olhao.

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The visit to the island of Culatra, enclosing the Lagoon was quite an experience as it has a real 1950’s feel to it with no cars and tiny dwellings housing the small time fishing community, you almost expect to turn a corner and bump into Ernest Hemmingway!

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While with the ‘lads’, we anchored off a beach within the Faro lagoon and, with attendance in case of a problem, I tried my new ‘patent’ diving gear for the first time. The idea is just to enable access to the underside of the yacht for extended periods to carry out tasks which would otherwise require a dry out or lift to address. The ‘equipment’ (too grand a name for it!) comprises a Hozelock pond aerator pump, filter, lengths of hose and an adapted snorkel with an air vent at the bottom of the tube. We found that, so long as care is taken not to ‘pinch’ the tube, I could swim underneath (I checked the rubber strip on the keel aperture) and I spent 20 minutes with a scouring pad on the propeller. During this time Ollie repeatedly checked I was OK as to have someone disappear like this for the first time is a little un-nerving. The only problem was that, after twenty minutes totally immersed, I was extremely cold once back on deck. Just goes to show that even in the summer, I should have worn the wet suit.

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The usual fun and games punctuated the lulls in the wind and I think the lads all left having had another memorable sailing experience.

Fun and Games

In Albufeira I met Simon and Jenny on Fenicia who were also going trans-Atlantic this winter and enjoyed a meal with them while the lads were doing what lads do. As always when talking ‘bilge’ (as Paula calls it) and looking over the idiosyncrasies of others yachts and their preparation, I picked up some ideas and contacts. As a result, I have taken their recommendation of a rigger in Vilamoura and I have embarked on the replacement of all the standing rigging and this is extensive and substantial on a Southerly 135. The rigger to his credit said that the insurance precaution of downgrading the rig cover for rigs over 10 years old (Hejira’s is 11) was un-justified  in that the 135 has a grossly over specified rig and suggested I ask if an inspection would suffice. I did ask but having already commissioned an inspection before I left Blighty which did not impress the insurers, I took the decision to replace the standing rigging, assisted by the favourable Sterling/Euro exchange rate. The insurers did relent in that they allowed the Selden bottle screw to be re-used. So I have taken the opportunity to have the furling gear serviced, two fold out steps added to the top of the mast to help with access to the equipment at the very top and insulators added to one of the back stays (so it can act as an aerial) for the possible future addition of SSB. I have also incorporated a slick, easily rigged gybe preventer which will be a real boon on the trade wind passages.

Having also seen the security measures taken on Fenicia, I have designed and commissioned ‘de-mountable’ security bars for the two large hatches so that they can be safely left open when away and overnight. These will slide into a compact, narrow space for easy stowage when not in use and they will lock using the same ‘keyed alike’ padlocks which are used on all the locks throughout the yacht. A consideration was also the speed of opening in the event of a fire but, we can only do what we can do.

Having installed a very comprehensive Vetus gas detection system, it involved modifications to the pipework in the gas locker to incorporate a solenoid shut off valve and I had a by-pass installed in case of failure of the solenoid valve. I had grown concerned about the rapidity that I was getting through gas bottles and it became clear that I had a leak in the new pipework. I commissioned a specialist to re-seal all the unions in Vilamoura but Dave Cooke, who was staying aboard with Linda and friends discovered a serious flaw in the gas locker drain installation which, I imagine is typical of all 135 vessels if they are the same. Basically, the gas locker drain outlet is higher than the bottom of the locker outlet bend so, if it takes in water – which it can when sailing, it will sit in and effectively block the drain. I am currently scratching my head about this and have, in the mean time, adopted a discipline of blowing the water out once moored. The saving (maybe quite literally) grace is that any gas leak will drain into the Lazarette locker which also has a drain. Also the new gas system starts a bilge fan if it detects gas. Unfortunately this is yet another example of Northshore not doing their job properly – I could write a book !

Linda actually escaped an injury when using the boarding steps to climb on board. One of the steps gave way and it was only good luck that prevented a nasty injury. Dave however was not so lucky, two days after his return to Deal he suffered a heart attack and was rushed into hospital. I shudder to think what would have happened a few weeks earlier when the two of us were well off shore in Biscay……….. Thankfully he is now home and recuperating – we wish you a speedy recovery Dave !

Vilamoura is an acquired taste in July and August. It is necessary to ‘get over’ the propensity of the great British public walking around and even sitting down to eat with bare chests. Maybe it is a result of the recent fashion for ‘body art’, after all, if one takes so much pain and expense to adorn oneself, I guess there is a natural pressure to display the result. I may be old fashioned but this is distinctly not my cup of tea so let’s leave it at that in case any of my burgeoning readership has a fondness for self-mutilation.

The Marina is very well served with shops, bars, restaurants, a good chandler and marine services. I am even considering seat and back cushions for the pushpit seats – this crew is spoiled !

So, I will be returning home next Tuesday leaving Paula on board to host the arrival of a couple of her old student friends then it’s back on the 26th to prepare for our departure towards the Canaries.

The regular blogs will resume then.

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