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01/01/07   HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!!  Once again, thank you to all who sent greetings and best wishes for the coming year.  All appreciated and reciprocated.  My thoughts at the start of the year are with my brother, going into hospital today for a triple by-pass operation. Hope all goes well bro!

Preparations for leaving Gibraltar start in earnest now, sort out the gear, get all the outstanding jobs done and when Gibraltarians drift back to work after the 6th, chase the pulpit repair - for which I still have no quote (and getting one is like waiting for British Gas to call.....sit onboard all day and nobody turns up).  I have been up to Estepona in Spain and located another small company who deal in stainless steel, and if all else fails here, I will sail (on a calm day) up there for repairs.

02/01/07  Thank you again for all the messages (Ann, Trev & Babs, Andy & Helen, to name but a few) wishing Clive, my brother, well in his operation scheduled for today.  I phoned home again just an hour ago (2230 local time) and he came out of theatre about 1930 UTC and is stable - everything having gone to plan.    Best wishes to him for a speedy recovery.

Today, as yesterday, has been a gloriously hot sunny day, the high pressure continues and the barometer is reading right off the scale.    Replenishment of supplies completed and a new, much improved Mk 2 gangplank fitted to the bow to enable us to get ashore more easily.  This one is a foot wide instead of the previous six inches, and has wheels on the shore end to enable it to move around the pontoon.

06/01/07   The hot weather continues unabated, too hot for jackets or anything other than a t-shirt.....and let's hope it stays that way!!    We went into town last night for the Three Kings procession and the official end of Christmas.  It was a splendid turn out, Main Street was packed with people as the floats drove  slowly through the town, the children onboard  bombarding the spectators with sweets and chocolates as confetti and streamers rained down from the balconies above the street.  I've put a few photo's on the Gib page.   

I have made nightly phone calls back to UK to check on Clive's progress but was unable to get through tonight.   The operation was more than we expected in that it was a quadruple by-pass rather than the anticipated triple, however, despite some set-backs, I understand he is making a 'normal' recovery.

11/01/07   Everything in the garden is rosy at the moment.......the new pulpit is well underway (being made by Dean, who finally returned to work on the 9th!), and should be here tomorrow for a final fitting and adjustment.  The ensign staff has also been modified to take an extra antenna in order that I can connect the satellite phone and use same from within the cabin, and the aerial cable has been run through all the starboard lockers.  Extra LED lighting has been installed over the pilot berth and chart table, all the windows have been renewed in the after cabin.  Repairs have been made to the bimini which was torn during the gale on the 11th of last month, and Worldwide C-Map charts installed on the computer.  On top of this, and most importantly,  I spoke to my brother Clive last night who is home from hospital and making a good recovery, which is excellent news to me.  He is naturally sore and tired at this stage - as can be expected - but I am sure you will all join me in wishing him well, and I should like to thank all who have asked after his health,  in the UK, Australia, Hawaii,  and here in Gibraltar.

17/01/07  6 days on and the pulpit is finally in place!!  After many "fittings" I was still unhappy with the deck entry points and kept returning it for adjustment and although it still isn't "right", I cannot wait another four weeks or so for Dean to correct it.  I now need to buy yet another set of navigation lights, fit and wire them in.

20/01/07    It is with regret that I said goodbye to Dee today.   She has sadly but predictably decided that sailing is not for her and flew back to the UK on the 1300 British Airways flight from Gibraltar.  She leaves with my best wishes for the future and I thank her for her  company over the last few months. It's a great shame that Dee was neither able to adjust to the 'cruising life', nor overcome her sea-sickness. 

So, it's 'go it alone' time again!

23/01/07   Unhappy with the pulpit, I decided it wouldn't do and went in search of Dean on the 19th, only to keep being frustrated with a closed workshop.  Finally, today, I found his father and left a message for Dean to come and see me - today!   He eventually turned up at 1600 and I showed him the problem, he then claimed it was OK when he left it and that I must have hit something!!   So now I'm taking it off again and returning it to him tomorrow in a battle of wills.

28/01/07   Disregard the first line of the log for the 11th!!  Another storm brewed up this morning at 4am and the boat surged into the pontoon again, causing further damage to the bow roller.  Perhaps it's as well the pulpit wasn't on.....or that would have been smashed again!  The marina office recorded wind speeds in excess of 100mph, my windspeed indicator showed somewhat less, even allowing for the reading in knots rather than mph.  There is considerable damage all around me, sails shredded on several boats, a forty foot portacabin blown off the third storey into the sea, boats broken loose and drifted off, tiles missing on roofs, a large and very expensive Sunseeker yacht scraped the length of it's stbd side.  The boat on my port side, named "Bamboo," was constantly hitting the pontoon as I fought to keep Rhumb Do off from 4am until after 10am when Nigel from "Captain Frank" on the next pontoon came to help me.  Whilst Nigel held fenders (which burst) over my bow,  I  boarded Bamboo and winched her off the pontoon, tied a spare halyard around the pulpit because her forestay was breaking out of the deck and the mast was in danger of toppling across my deck.  I then winched Rhumb Do further off and held another, third fender over the bow.  Loads of expensive equipment drifted past me from other boats throughout the storm, and a whole pontoon from Sheppards marina, broken free of it's mooring, crashed into boats moored on the opposite side of this marina.  A speedboat rushed along, parallel to the runway, also broken free of it's moorings and headed out to sea.   A large, heavy tub of marine sealant which was on the stern and had been used to fit the rear cabin windows and the pulpit disappeared over the side and my boarding ladder was sent hurtling overboard shortly afterward but I managed to retrieve that by quickly grabbing a boat hook and hooking it out as several large sea snakes swam furiously against the water flow passing the boat.  The snatching as my bow ropes tightened was horrendous, all loose gear was flying about and jumping off tables or shelves, I kept thinking the  bow cleats would be pulled out of the deck with each violent jerk.  My 'lazy line' at the stern is now so tight that it is ripping the teak rail from the transom, so that will be another repair to do before going back to sea.  Needless to say, there were no arrivals or departures from the airport today!  The VHF was a constant stream of messages all day from drifting boats, ones dragging anchors, or just crews yelling for help of some kind.   At 7pm, with the wind still blowing at over 40 knots,  the bow lines on Bamboo parted and her bows swung into my port side.  I frantically tried to re-secure her but she only has one samson post type cleat at the bow, and that is a dogs dinner of tangled rope.  The additional strain on my boat snapped one of my port bow ropes but the other two held firm.   Calls for help to the marina office on VHF - and a hurried personal visit - achieved nought.  They are just not interested in helping crews on their pontoons.  I managed to secure Bamboo after a fashion but I feared she would break loose again later in the evening and remained on tenterhooks throughout.  At 10.30pm, in heavy rain, I went onto the pontoon to assist a Maltese yacht coming into the marina, as I did so there was a loud crack as one of my starboard bow ropes snapped.  I hurriedly replaced the rope as the Maltese yacht hit the concrete, knocking a large chunk out of his 'sugar scoop' stern - like me, I bet he wishes he had never come to Gibraltar!

29/01/07  At 1am, another bow line on the port side snapped and I was again on deck to replace it, I was rapidly running out of rope!  The wind was still around the 40 knot mark and the rain incessant.  The boat was still continually snatching as the sea surged it back and forth making life below deck extremely uncomfortable.  VHF reports of a British catamaran, the "Prince of Tides" adrift from La Linea has hit a merchant ship in the Bay and an oil tanker dragging his anchor and grounding on the other side of the Bay.   Seven o'clock...... and the wind  finally dropped to a reasonable 20 knots although the rain, surging and rope snatching continued with the residue of the storm out to sea.  I had now been up and dressed in full party gear for 27 hours and was feeling sick with fatigue and hunger, so I took the opportunity to have a bit of a clear up down below and cook myself a very late breakfast before having an hour of sleep on the settee berth until daylight.   It's yet another Bank Holiday today, lots of people about on the pontoons looking at damage and also a TV crew.  There  is a fair bit of oil on the water surface from the tanker aground across the Bay.   The Maltese yacht opposite me on the pontoon had come from Lanzarote, her crew telling me that the last two days at sea were terrible and they had been twice laid flat with the top of the mast in the sea.  I've put some photo's here as a small illustration of the winds.

31/01/07  It's unbelievable how the weather can change so quickly!  Yesterday and today have been so still, warm and sunny, it's hard to imagine the howling wind of just a day or so ago.  The windspeed indicator over the last two days has been  showing zero knots...but not to be complacent - high winds are forecast for the coming Sunday!!  We are currently back in sunshine although there was a heavy downpour last night, rattling on the coachroof for hours on end.  I can live with that!

My 're-adjusted' pulpit is ready for collection, payment up front required - but I'm not buying that......he can deliver and we'll see if it's right before payment is completed.

Clive is doing great, getting about and walking further and further each day, which is an enormous relief to me.  I thank you all for your questioning of his health, it's been a traumatic month one way or another.   Now let's see what February has in store for us!!



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