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1/12/06   HAPPY BIRTHDAY ANN!  Just after midnight, when we should have been arriving in our original destination of Chipiona, we were only half way across the Gulf, and the wind was increasing.  I watched the wind speed climb through 20 knots, 22, 24, 25....reef the main....26, 27...not again I thought, it was the 1st of last month when we had the Biscay storm....28, 29, 31....another reef in the main, and the headsail, then the moon disappeared and now in total blackness....32, 33, 34, 35.....the boat burying her nose into every other wave, sending spray over the cockpit, still short seas making it a bumpy ride. With Dee still in bed and me tired and unable to use my left arm  because of a shoulder injury sustained when I fell onto a winch in Lagos, I reduced sail to bare minimum, eased the sheets out and let the boat make slow progress to the north-east whilst I went below and warmed a can of chicken soup before grabbing 20 minute catnaps in the cockpit until daybreak.   At sunrise, the wind eased and we were able to resume our course ESE for Rota making a steady 5 knots or thereabouts.  Below, I could hear an awful metallic banging noise coming from forward and realised that the anchor must have come loose in the bow roller, a trip up to the bow was needed - and that was rising and falling into each wave, so wellies on, clip onto the lifeline and inch my way forward to the sharp end.   Whilst I secured the anchor and had several 'sea showers',  I noticed that our bow navigation lights had been smashed off during the night - another job to do when in port!   During the last 10 miles to the marina, the wind picked up yet again and we had to reduce sail, eventually dropping it all and motoring for the remaining 3 miles directly into the wind before turning into the narrow marina entrance and berthing at noon.  We completed all formalities with the authorities and washed the salt from the boat before having a shower and a late lunch.  The wind continued to blow sixes and we decided to rest for the remainder of the day and have an early night, leaving the town to the sailors of the American Fleet berthed in the  Naval Base one mile to the East.

2/12/06   Did some shopping for provisions and replaced the nav light with an old repaired one until we can buy new in Gibraltar.  Received text from Moody Time, telling us they were still in Vilamoura and intended to sail again for Rota tomorrow (Sunday) morning at 5am.

3/12/06   Colin and Trish arrived on the reception pontoon at about 8pm having had a good crossing of the Golfo de Cadiz, and we all strolled into the town for a beer in the ever present Irish Bar.

5/12/06   Our intention to sail today has been thwarted by dental problems!  I was kept awake all night by severe pain and found myself walking around the town and along the beach at four in the morning, chewing aspirins to alleviate the agony.  The town is a myriad of narrow cobbled streets, with Moorish stone arches and pretty squares and plaza's,  all decked with Christmas lights, nativity tableau's and 'Felices Navidad' signs which is an alarm call that it will soon be Christmas. (photo)    Onboard and especially at sea, we are totally isolated from the commercialism of the season and apart from a few carols in the supermarket of Cascais, the time of year has largely gone un-noticed.   At daylight, knowing there was nothing wrong with my teeth and suspecting an abscess which proved to be correct, I set off in search of El Dentista.   Unable to find one which was open, I went into the Farmacia and trying to remember any of my night-school Spanish asked the pharmacist if he spoke English - he didn't!   Hey ho, so the conversation went like this..... "Hola, buenos días. ¿Habla usted ingles?"......."No"........"Ah....er....er.... ¿Puede ayudarme? Tengo una flemón, me duele mas por la noche. ¿Tiene usted algo para una flemón?"    Now, the pharmacist gave me some tablets and told me "Tome usted dos pastillas cada vez con agua, tres veces al día" - to take two with water, three times a day - which just turned out to be Ibruprofen but it cured the problem and the pain eased, which is just as well because for all I know, I'd just told him I had a strawberry up my backside and he had replied "I'll give you some cream for it!"    Anyway, maybe it was beneficial that we didn't sail, for the wind didn't do as predicted and started to howl a Force10 later in the day, ripping the headsail from a boat moored just across the pontoon from us.  Spain has a Bank Holiday tomorrow the 6th and another on the 8th, so everywhere will be closed down.

07/12/06   0830 - With a forecast of light winds for the day (F7's tomorrow), we sailed from Rota, into the Bay of Cadiz and an area which witnessed one of the most significant naval battles ever fought. 

At the beginning of the 19th century, Napoleon's ambitions to invade Britain depended on his navy being able to protect his Grande Army as they crossed the English Channel.  The English fleet under Admiral Nelson, charged to prevent this, attempted to blockade the French and then followed their fleet across to the Caribbean and back to Europe.  By October 1805 the combined fleet of French (Admiral Villeneuve) and Spanish ships (Admiral Gravina) were anchored under the protection of the forts of Cadiz.   On the 20th October the combined fleet under Admiral Villeneuve sailed from Cadiz heading in line to the southeast in a light wind.  He was unaware that the watching English frigate HMS Sirius acted, through a line of relay ships, as eyes for Nelson's force, which gave chase.  Nelson briefed his captains on his unconventional plan of attack.   On the morning of the 21st, Villeneuve turned his fleet back north towards Cadiz.   Nelson made his memorable flag signal 'England expects every man to do his duty', and at 1215 gave his final message to the Fleet - 'Engage the enemy more closely'.

Nelson's 27 ships attacked the combined fleet of 33 ships in two columns.  His flagship HMS Victory (Captain Hardy) led the weather column, HMS Royal Sovereign (Captain Collingwood) the lee.  By late afternoon the battle was over, the combined fleet was destroyed or scattered without loss of a single English ship, and Nelson had been shot by a French marine from the fighting top of the Redoubtable.  Napoleon's invasion plans were thwarted and Britain controlled the seas - 'Trafalgar' shaped the course of European history for 100 years.

Nelson, a national hero, was buried in St Paul's Cathedral.  His famous statue on it's column overlooks London's Trafalgar Square.  The second ship in line behind HMS Victory at Trafalgar remains immortalised as The Fighting Temeraire - the most popular work by W.M.Turner who painted her in 1838.   HMS Victory, built in Chatham and launched in 1765, is the only surviving 18th century ship of the line in the world and remains in service with the Royal Navy in Portsmouth Dockyard.

After leaving Rota, not wanting to become a statistic of 'friendly fire' from our trigger happy stars and stripes allies, we altered course to starboard in order to give a wide berth to an incoming destroyer and Rhumb Do passed the outer fort of Cadiz to port at 0915, on a due south course, under mainsail and engine making 6.5 knots into a sunny day.  By 1100, we were under full sail and off Sancti Petri, continuing south toward Cabo de Trafalgar.  At 1400, with the Cape of Trafalgar on the port beam and the African coast of Morocco ahead, we heaved to, stood on the stern and dipped the ensign, observing two minutes silence for the sailors of three navies before downing a glass of 'Nelson's Blood' in true naval fashion!  We then rounded the cape and set course for Barbate de Franco some 8 miles to the East and the most easterly marina in the Atlantic, arriving there at 1630 as the weather deteriorated.   A forecast from the marina office confirmed F7's for tomorrow with rain, poor visibility and rough seas.......looks like we will be here for a day or so!!

09/12/06   Yesterday's torrential rain and strong wind have passed through and we left the marina at 0900 heading south to Gibraltar and hoping that we have picked one of the 60 odd days a year where winds in excess of 40 knots do not blow through the Straits past Tarifa.     The city of Tarifa, at only 8 miles distant from the coast of North Africa, is the most southerly in mainland Europe and is famous for it's strong winds which make it Europe's boardsailing capital.  At 1230, we had Tarifa light about a cable off our port beam and were enjoying a pleasant - albeit a little cool sail in a northerly wind, making 8.3 knots in bright sunshine .  Half an hour later, "The Rock" was in sight and came fully into view as we rounded Punta Carnero.  The passage across Gibraltar Bay proved to be the bumpiest and slowest part of today's voyage and we constantly changed course to avoid the commercial shipping which seemed to be going in all directions.   However, by 1430, we were moored 'bows to' in Marina Bay, Gibraltar - with the airport runway only a hundred yards away to starboard!  A visit to the supermarket showed depleted stocks because of the two Spanish holidays during the week.

11/12/06    Black Monday!   Another totally sleepless night last night.......a north-easterly gale blew up around midnight and we were in trouble.  Mooring here is 'bows to' onto static, non-floating concrete pontoons, with a 'lazy line' astern.  The wind was straight onto our stern and was blowing us toward the pontoon - dangerously close to the pontoon.   Donning full foul weather gear yet again, I eased the four bow lines and tightened up the lazy line, but the sea surge was tremendous and we were moving forward and back by about 10 feet.  Even though I also had the engine running full astern for four hours, I was unable to prevent the front of the boat from hitting the concrete and we suffered considerable damage, the pulpit has been pushed back and torn from the deck, all guard wires are now hanging slack and we have a major repair job on hand.   It is only 8am and not yet light, so as yet I am unable to assess the total damage - and the gale rages on!

Winds continued into the evening and the next morning.....the pulpit is going to need replacing, it is either fractured or broken in three different places, bent backwards and out of the deck at two fixing points.  The anchor has been pushed back in it's roller, bending a 12mm diameter stainless steel securing pin into a 'P' shape which will have to be cut off in order to release the anchor.  The third set of navigation lights have been smashed and lost overboard.   All four bow mooring lines have snapped and been replaced, only to snap again -  we now have six lines to the shore......how long will they last?  The boat is now pulled about twelve feet from the pontoon and impossible to get either onto or off, without going onto the boat next door which is unattended and has also suffered serious damage to the bow, along with many others in the marina.

12/12/06   Located a guy called Mike who can make a new pulpit for me.........but not until the New Year because of work load, so we are unable to move from here until then.  It seems that lots of boats at the other marina here (Queensway) were also damaged during Sunday night/Monday morning.  How have these marinas managed to stay in business for so long with antiquated pontoons and little or no protection from the winds and sea surge?  The adjacent marina with floating pontoons is Shepherds and although that may, or may not alleviate the surge problem, the marina has now closed and is part of a  housing development.

14/12/06  Up again at 4am with high winds and surging, tending to lines and trying to stop the bows snatching. The awful sound of fibreglass, wood and steel crashing into concrete from other boats on the opposite pontoon, their masts reverberating with each thump into the unforgiving material, shouts from different crews as they also struggled with mooring ropes.  This is a nightmare, no other jobs are getting done as all my time is taken up in preventing more damage.

17/12/06    Things have settled down somewhat, the winds have died and last night was our first totally calm and peaceful evening, with only the gentle creaking of stretching ropes to disturb our sleep.   May it remain so for some time to come!   Yesterday we witnessed the inaugural Iberian Airways flight into and out of Gibraltar - we could hardly miss it really as the airport runway is literally only 100 yards away on our starboard side!!  The flight apparently caused serious disruption and large traffic jams at the border, which was closed whilst television crews and reporters covered the event. (Gibraltar photos)   We still have no price for a new pulpit and I dread to think what it will be - Mike has now finished work for three months and is going to Thailand, leaving a younger chap named Dean to run the business, so I will need to chase him for a quote.   We are still having difficulty in getting on and off the boat and have looked into various methods of doing so, all of which are expensive. 

21/12/06   At last some reasonably good news!  I heard from Darren & Vicki some days ago, who informed me that their yacht Sentito had been found by a ship and later salvaged.   However, it is not quite the happy ending and they are having trouble with insurers.  Again, Darren has posted a request on the YBW Forum which you can read here.  Should anyone be able to offer advice or help, I'm sure that both he and Vicki would be only too pleased to hear from you.

23/12/06   Christmas Eve tomorrow, all the marina bars and town bars are packed with office parties,  Main Street is full of shoppers, supermarket shelves have been stripped by swarms of locusts (or so it seems).........it just remains for us to wish family, friends and fellow sailors A Very Merry Christmas........enjoy!!

26/12/06   That's it for another year!  Christmas Eve was exceptionally warm, no need for coats whilst walking in town.  On Christmas Day we had the full traditional dinner.......roast Barbary Ape, potatoes, sprouts etc. (or it could have been turkey!!), then walked out past Rosia Bay, the 100 ton cannon and onto Europa Point, allegedly the most southern point of Europe and where Hercules is supposed to have separated the continents of Africa and Europe.  It was a lovely, clear sunny day and the Atlas Mountains were plainly visible across the Strait.  On returning through the town's high street, we came across an ape who had wandered down into town and was busy emptying a litter bin in his search for food.  He then frightened the life out of a poor guy passing, by grabbing hold of his packet of crisps and also a bag of toffee which he was probably taking home to his kids!

Thank you to all who sent us Christmas cards, SMS texts and e-mails wishing us well over the Christmas period and for the forthcoming year of sailing, they are all very much appreciated.



                                    A VERY                                TO MY MUM!





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