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may 2007

01/05/07  Re-hoisted the repaired genoa and re-assembled the wind vane which I hope will now function correctly! Tightened the stern rope in preparation for the forecasted strong winds for today, which in fact didn't materialise.  Further gales and rough seas are forecast for tomorrow and the following day, so I may have to kick my heels here for a day or two.  I took the opportunity to get away from the boat and walk along the beach for about 4 miles, it's a Bank Holiday, so there were lots of people swimming and sunbathing, with excited children playing on 'bouncy castles' and so forth.  In the evening I treated myself to a meal ashore, joining Al, Gill and her sister Sandra in the Chinese restaurant.  Then Al and I adjourned to the Irish Fiddler for a pint and to watch Liverpool play Chelsea....(a Merseyside team playing a London team, on Irish television, in Spain!)

02/05/07  Just when you think that things are improving...the sky falls in.  After a day of continual rain, the wind and surge started just as it was getting dark.  Unlike Gibraltar, the surge is sideways on and the boat began rolling badly, the top of the mast making an arc of some 20-25 feet.  I am berthed between two power boats which have higher gunwales than Rhumb Do, so the fenders do little good, and whilst pushing off the boat on my starboard side, the port side stanchions were damaged by the boat on that side.  Also, the anchor hit the pontoon and further damaged the bow roller which has only just been repaired!  I am unable to tighten the stern rope any more as I have already hoisted maybe 2 metres of mussel encrusted  ground chain out of the water - this is because I have been placed in a 10 metre berth instead of a 12 metre one - "Thank you" duty marinero (see log entry for 29th April).  I added extra lines, from the bows of both power boats to shore, pulled them a few feet away from me, giving my boat a little more room to roll.  Tomorrow morning will see a change of berth and a complaint to the 'torre de control'.

03/05/07   Complaining brought the expected Spanish shrug of shoulders but a move to another berth - itself not without problems as the boat was sitting on the bottom and I gashed both forearms badly - I think on the mussels, or barnacles, but not to worry - a minor detail.  The weather does not look  promising, with gales forecast for the Alboran Sea area, it looks like I'll be here until at least the 9th.

04/05/07   WNW Force 6 blowing all day and increasing - it's the right direction, but I'm content to wait here a few days and perhaps have a more leisurely passage to my next port of call?

06/05/07   Happy Birthday Tracey!  Congratulations to my dear friend M'Leia who has now married and is living on Maui in the Hawaiian Islands, and has kindly allowed me to add another of her poems to my This 'n' That page.  The thunder of yesterday afternoon rumbled on into the evening and early hours of this morning, the wind swinging right round to the south-east around midnight, giving me the jitters about being blown onto the jetty again.  However, my fears were unfounded and the wind dropped to nothing during the night.   Today, it is perfectly still, the sun is blazing down and Spain, the Costa Del Sol and Estepona came to life with a myriad of market stalls along the marina frontage, Julio Iglesias (Begin the Beguine) being churned out from the CD stalls and crowds of young Spanish girls, who forgot to get dressed this morning, milling around looking for  bargains.  I had a clean up of the boat and did a few of my outstanding jobs before going to watch the Chelsea - Arsenal game with Al over a shandy in the Irish Fiddler.  Manchester United are the Premiership Champions following Chelsea's inability to beat Arsenal - c'mon you Reds!!  Plan to have a day sail around the area tomorrow and perhaps set off toward Almerimar on Tuesday morning.

07/05/07   Had a day out offshore  with Al and Jack - seemed odd having others onboard at sea! 

08/05/07   With the sun already hot in a clear sky, and hardly any wind, I slipped the mooring at 1000 and put to sea heading eastward on a course of 083o which kept me between 4 and 12 miles offshore.   What little wind there was, came straight over the bow but I hoisted the mainsail and motored at 5 knots across a totally calm sea.  The coastline of the Costa del Sol is fairly mountainous and from sea, it is quite impressive with the snow-capped Sierra's forming the background.  Generally the passage was uneventful, and although I spotted several turtles off Benalmadena, I had to wait until  I was enjoying my dinner at 8.30pm in the last rays of sunshine, before the dolphins turned up to play in the bow-wave.   They then stayed with me on and off throughout the night.  

09/05/07  Despite the popularity of the Spanish coast, I didn't see any other yachts until 0730 when I spotted one travelling in the opposite direction (German, as it turned out) and coming at me in head-on fashion.  I thought "this will be close, we should be able to chat as we pass".  However, as the distance closed, it became evident he hadn't seen me so I altered course to starboard, passing about 15 metres apart - there was no-one at the helm and a shout from me of "wake up" brought no response, the boat motoring away without anyone ever coming on deck - he (they) didn't even know they had passed another boat.....so much for Rule 5!!  Shortly after that,  I entered Almerimar, berthing on the fuel pontoon to clear the paperwork and refuel before having a couple of hours sleep.

10/05/07  Not too impressed with Almerimar although the marina staff are helpful, there is good shelter and all amenities are close by.  Left at 0900 and hoisted all sail in a SW 4.  The low level land around Almerimar is practically covered with mile after mile of plastic under which a major proportion of north Europe's winter vegetables are grown, but it does nothing for the view from seaward!   The sometimes erratic breeze  took me around Cabo de Gata, exchanging  the Costa del Sol, for the Costa Blanca.  Late afternoon, I entered and considered anchoring in San Pedro, but the anchorage is open to the southwest and not wanting to drag anchor onto a lee shore, I sailed out again and resumed course, sailing under full canvas, gybeing as necessary  through the night toward Cartegena.

11/05/07  Arrived alongside in Cartegena at 0700.  This is the opposite to Almerimar......open to swell and surge!!  I had a walk around this large naval town which is steeped in history, and maybe I'll come again later and give it more attention, but for now - it's fill the water tanks, wash down the boat and have an early night!

12/05/07  Motored out of harbour at 0900, hoisted all sail and set course for Cabo de Palos, rounding the head at 1230 and altering course for Ibiza, with 'arold on the helm.  Crossed the Greenwich Meridian at 2014 - now back in the eastern half of the world!  Once across the shipping lanes, I could see nothing except sea - no land, no ships, nothing!  Funny feeling, knowing that the passengers in the jet aircraft, passing 36,000 feet overhead are probably the nearest people to you!

13/05/07   Crossed the line of longitude of Gillingham Marina (my starting point) at 0336.  Sighted west coast of Ibiza at 10am, then picked my way through the rocky barrier between Ibiza and Formentera  (some dolphins turning up to show the way!), passing the town of Ibiza to port and making my way to the southeast of the island.  One hundred and fifty-nine miles after leaving Cartegena, I tied up alongside the Torre de Control in Santa Eulalia Marina at 1630, completed formalities and was directed to my berth by the duty marinero.  One July, I can't remember what year, I holidayed here with my Mum, my wife and our children and we stayed in a villa called 'Buena Vista'....it was a three day camel trek up a hill.....it's directly astern of me, and I can see it now from the cockpit of the boat.  Thank goodness I don't have to walk up that hill this time!

14/05/07  Well...... Santa Eulalia has certainly changed over the years!  In fact.....the marina wasn't here when I last visited!!  Previously, (when we came down from the mountain) we needed to walk through a hotel, around it's swimming pool, then along a narrow, non too safe rocky pathway, across a rickety wooden bridge and along a beach to reach the town centre.   Now, the pathways are paved and landscaped, the wooden bridge has been replaced by a modern, arty-farty suspension version and even some of the beach has been turned into fashionable, tented bistro establishments.  The promenade area has been transformed into chic restaurants and bars (tho' there is still one inevitable 'English eatery') where you can eat and drink looking out over the bay.    All in all - it's a vast improvement, yet not ruined by over-enthusiastic development - unlike Cala Llonga, a mile or so around the bay.

16/05/07   After leaving Santa Eulalia at 11am yesterday morning, I again made my way eastward, rounding the Isla de Cabrera, south of Mallorca at 2.30 this morning and setting a new course for the SE tip of Menorca.   The winds were all over the place, the first hours were spent in full foul weather gear with waves coming in over the port bow, then I was becalmed, then back to a blow for a few hours.  Constantly altering sail configuration time after time is tiring work!!   I sighted the western end of Menorca to port at 1.30pm, but it wasn't until very late afternoon that I closed Binibeca, and 6pm when I rounded the lighthouse to head up toward Mahon.  The harbour of Mahon is the second largest natural harbour in the World (after Pearl Harbour) and after passing the outer marker, it took a further hour to make my way up to the town centre.  Calling Ribera del Puerto on VHF achieved nothing and I'm amazed, that in a capital city, there is no-one on duty, no marinero's or office staff to receive arriving boats.  I readied the anchor (in case it was needed), but chose one of the few vacant berths and came in 'bows to' on the wall, not such an easy task when single handed!  Secured by 9pm and with another 152 miles 'on the clock,' I cooked and ate dinner, then  went to bed leaving the formalities until morning.

17/05/07    Ooops!  After the pleasantries of 'good morning, where have you come from, where are you going to',   with the Scottish couple on the boat ('Matata') next door to me, it became apparent that the berth I decided on last night, is one of the few owned and managed by Sunseeker Yachts and I could see mega signs flashing before my eyes!!  Should I make a run for it??   However....when I found the office, a very pleasant  moorings manager by the name of Ash' (ex Royal Navy), with the minimal of paperwork rigmarole, booked me in and demanded the princely sum of 18 euro's per night!  The showers/toilet are in the Sunseeker office and as expected, are second to none, spotlessly clean and with soaps, shampoo's, gels etc all provided - unlike Almerimar, where you have to supply your own toilet paper!  I spent most of the day wandering around the city and wondering why every road I took seemed to be uphill??  I found a great little tapas bar (where I obtained an internet access card) and had Tortilla de Espanola con dos cerveza grande, ....all for six euro's......I might even stay here!  A low pressure system over Italy is moving this way, so the forecast isn't good for the next couple of days and the next leg to Sardinia is going to be a long 250 mile trip.

18/05/07  Although it remained hot and sunny, the expected high winds arrived and blew in the harbour at over 35 knots for most of the day but I was pleased that even though the boat is on the very end of the wall jutting out into the harbour, it remained secure with two stern lines pulled taut.  Cruise liners coming in and out of the port pass very close at this point, almost blocking out the sun as their towering sides pass by my stern and the underwater force from their bows causes quite a disturbance to the moored yachts.

19/05/07  Spoke to Gina (Impulse) on the phone as she was rounding the top of Ibiza along with Roger and his crew on Storm Dodger - it seems we passed in Cartegena - but I wasn't to know that at the time!  I had intended to sail in the morning (Sunday), but with a wind forecast of SE5 tomorrow, and E5-6 with gusts of F8 the day after, I think I may stay here as I don't fancy beating to windward for the next two or three days.

Some photo's taken over the last two weeks.

21/05/07   The easterly winds continue and increase in speed.  Much cooler, with an overcast morning sky and white horses in the harbour.  Impulse and Storm Dodger are trapped in Mallorca by the same conditions, temporarily unable to make any further progress to the east.  Friday (25th) is looking good.....but I want to know what Saturday and Sunday are going to be like!!   I am having to wash the boat down every day.....the amount of sand which appears onboard overnight is unbelievable.  I have my own personal beach on the stern every morning!   Such a shame to hear this morning of the damage caused by fire to the Cutty Sark in Greenwich.

24/05/07  A few drops of rain this morning at around 6am, but an impressive display of lightning over the harbour entrance to the east.  Robert, Karen and their two children Amy and Ben onboard 'Slip Anchor' moored next door to me, are also waiting for the favourable wind to Sardinia and  we may sail together in the late afternoon tomorrow, although they will probably soon leave me behind in their much faster, larger boat.  They kindly allowed me the use of their dhoby machine today which saved me some time and hassle and was most generous of them.  Downloaded the latest grib files which are still showing a wind change for tomorrow about 5pm and which look set to last until the 28th, although the southerlies and westerlies are forecast to be light until that day, then picking up to F6's - so it may be a case of motor sailing to Sardinia.  Impulse and Storm Dodger also intend sailing from Mallorca in the morning.  After re-stocking the fridge, Robert and I were sitting on the deck of Rhumb Do in the early evening sunshine having a pomada when two passing policemen decided they were bored and asked for el Capitano.   They then went through all the ships papers, writing everything down, last port, next port etc., but they were very pleasant, unlike my last experience of Spanish police off Tarifa.

25/05/07  Passed the outer marker of Mahon Harbour at 2pm, hoisted all sail and set a course for the southern tip of Sardinia with Slip Anchor close behind.  The wind allowed good speed on a close reach but the seas were somewhat lumpy and about 20 miles out, Rob called on VHF and said that Amy was very unwell and that they were turning around and returning to Mahon.  It was very sad to see them disappear over the horizon astern of me, they are a smashing couple with two great children, I hope to see them again one day.  At 6.30pm, the winds died and I was left with nothing until shortly after eight when it picked up again.  Just after ten o'clock, I was making a coffee when something made me go up into the cockpit......it was black, and I don't mean it was dark....I mean it was black!!  Then jagged forks of lightning started to reach down into the sea - you have never seen anyone put about six furls on a headsail, two reefs in the mainsail and get dressed in full foulies and lifejacket, clip on the cockpit safety harness, drop the washboards into the companionway  and lock it, in such a short space of time!!  I then huddled in the corner of the cockpit, watching this display of power, thinking of all the things I had heard or read, instructions about what I'm supposed to do.  It was extremely frightening, I was sitting at the bottom of the only forty foot high structure for miles, with bolts of lightning dropping from the skies all around me.  It carried on until around 4am the next morning and it's not an experience I can recommend.

26/05/07  The skies cleared and the stars were visible again after the storm had passed but I could still see the lightning in the distance ahead and hoped it wasn't waiting for me to catch up.  I was glad to see the sun come up at six and continued to make reasonable progress until noon when the winds died away and left me no option but to start the engine.  I did some washing and hung that to dry over the rails and had lunch.   A small bird, about the size of a sparrow,  joined me and sat on the guardwire just six inches away - I was a hundred miles from the nearest land....how do they manage to fly so far?  Sophia, (the bird), would fly off every few minutes and come back with a moth (how do they fly so far??) and sit on deck to eat it before going off for another.  Then 'she' had a look round down below deck before falling  asleep on the wire.  She stayed with me for about eight hours, allowing me to stroke her feathers and we had some lengthy conversations although as she was Italian, we didn't understand anything we each  said!  She flew off at 7pm towards Sardinia, now about 65 miles away.  So, I had picked up my first 'young Italian bird' - not bad for an old fart!!    I made some spag bol and ate al fresco before getting ready for my second night at sea.   How unfair can it get?  Another electric storm was brewing in the distance behind me and this one looked worse than the last.  This had lightning that was travelling horizontally - it came down from the cloud for several hundreds of feet, then crackled along the cloud base before shooting back up into it - as if it were looking for somewhere to earth itself, which was really beginning to worry me!  So it was the same routine as last night - get all the party gear on, and  cower in the cockpit until it passed over.  Imagine.....get the electricity board to pipe in two open ends of cable from the pylons near your house and allow the high voltage to arc across your bathroom ceiling, sit fully clothed in your bath tub, turn on the shower above you for effect, hold a metal pole from the bath to the ceiling and switch off the lights....get the picture??

27/05/07   Sighted land much later than expected at 0513.  That's because the SW tip of Sardinia is sparsely populated and although in daylight, the mountains would have been visible, it wasn't until I could see the lights of civilisation along the coast that I knew l how far off shore I was.  The lighthouse on Isola del Toro (my target aiming point) was also defective and only showing at a reduced range of 5 miles, but hey - I was near land again, and hoisted the Italian courtesy flag!  I passed Isola del Toro at 0800, then made the decision not to go into Teulado, but to continue on into Cagliari where more was on offer in the way of provisions, fuel etc.  Winds were varying in direction and strength, going from zero to F5's at will, but I managed to maintain an average speed of 5 knots until I passed the headland at Capo di Pula....then it was a north westerly Force 8!!  Deep joy!!  The last 6 miles were a two hour struggle into wind, with constant incoming goffers and a port which didn't seem to get any closer.  Once inside the harbour I still had problems as the wind was coming in through the entrance.  Have you ever tried holding a boat stationary in 35 knots of wind, whilst you rig fenders and ropes in preparation for berthing?  My attempt to berth bows on in Marina di Sant Elmo was doomed to failure and although the positioning was good and bow lines were secured, the wind immediately pushed the stern round and I concluded this fine demonstration of berthing...... berthed port side to!   The marina staff on hand to help me were great (I had previously heard from other cruisers how friendly and helpful they were) and we warped the boat around until it was berthed 'stern to' the pontoon,  they even provided the mooring ropes and a plank for getting on and off the boat.  The same process was repeated with the next boat to arrive further along the pontoon.  So here we are in Sardinia, two days and two hours, 255 miles from Mahon.......and the only casualty is the Red Ensign which was new in Menorca, and was completely shredded in the gale heading up the Golfo di Cagliari.

28/05/07   This morning the gale rages on with the wind instrument still showing bursts of 35 knots and I needed to put out an extra bow line to stop the bows swinging to port.  Again, Sant Elmo marina staff were delighted to help out.  Looking across the harbour into Marina del Sole, I spied two familiar boats......Impulse and Storm Dodger!!  After I had been into town, I went over to the other marina and Gina, Astrid, Roger and Andreas, the two children and Mutley (the dog) had arrived in port this morning, somewhat bent and battered but all OK.  I helped Gina repair her steering, which had failed completely just inside the harbour wall when the chain and sprocket had parted company in the wheel pedestal.   We all sat in Gina's cockpit and exchanged stories about our relative voyages from Gibraltar, differing marina costs, the problems encountered between Gib. and here - and this awful weather!

29/05/07   I can take a joke as good as the next guy, but this has gone too far now.  We still have winds of between 35 and 40 knots from the northwest which is making life extremely uncomfortable in the marina.  Rod Heikell, the author of the Imray Italian Waters Pilot, says of this marina (and I quote) "Excellent all round shelter."   Well, Mr Heikell is going to get an e-mail putting him right about that because in a north-westerly, the berths are untenable due to the incoming swell combined with the winds.   I have two bow ropes bar taut to the laid moorings, two breast ropes on the port side, four stern ropes with springs, and still the boat is being tossed all over the place.  Both fairleads on the stern are gradually being ripped out from the deck and will almost certainly leak now.   Apart from the usual two marina staff who turned up to help me after I had been battling the elements for over four hours, no help was forthcoming.  As usual, when Ian wants some help, everyone has their radios and phones turned off.  Good ole' Ian, he'll be alright - well I'm not!!  I'm fed-up with no-one offering to help me in emergencies.  Why did I listen to other people and come to Cagliari?  Let's get out of this dump.   Some people like it here, ...if you like six lane highways choked with traffic and a city that looks like somewhere in an Eastern Bloc country....then you would like it too.  Personally, it's not for me and I was glad to leave.

30/05/07   OK, moan over for the year!   With a forecast of North Westerly Force 6 and sea state 'Rough', I crept out of the harbour at 0400 and headed into the Golfo di Cagliari - a blow at sea is infinitely preferable to another day of the same in the marina.   Rounded Capo di Carbonara two hours later and headed south easterly into the Tyrrhenian Sea.  The forecasters got the sea state right, but the winds were from the south west at Force 6 and I made good progress toward Sicily, running under just the headsail. The mountains of Sardinia were still visible astern at 4pm, some 65 miles away.  In the evening the sea worsened to 'very rough' and I watched as the rollers came racing up behind.  Each wave picked up the stern of Rhumb Do, the bows pointing downward into the trough, and we accelerated to over ten knots as the wave passed under the keel, before sliding slowly down the back of the wave.  Neptune was toying with me....but as long as he didn't get too boisterous, it was exhilarating, a real roller-coaster ride.   I made a red wine steak casserole  with runner beans and mashed potato to help see me through the night!!

31/05/07   It all died down around 1am, to a more manageable wind and sea as I continued on a course just south of east.  During the day, I saw a cruise liner, a freighter and another British yacht....this place is becoming crowded!!  Sighted the north west tip of Sicily at 2.30pm and by six o'clock I was north of Capo San Vito and the wind disappeared  - I was stationary!!   A re-think.....and I decided that, without enough fuel to make Cefalu, and no wind, I would put into San Vito for the night, so I started the engine and motored south into the small town, arriving alongside at 2200 hrs.  An hour or so later, this 'suit' turned up and said something about "tomorrow, my berth, wash boats" and rubbed his fingers together in a 'give me some money' fashion.  Well, his cheeks weren't stuffed with cotton wadding and he wasn't wearing a dark overcoat, so I told him to sling his hook - but spent the rest of the night half expecting Giovanni and Luigi to turn up carrying violin cases.

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