I guess we’re not in the Med anymore Toto!

by Adrian on September 13, 2010

After passing through the Gibraltar straits with little problem we started experiencing something we haven’t had in a long time – current!

Our passage through benefited from being at the right place at the right time – 3 hours before High Water to be precise. We’d been losing a knot on the approach due to the constant easterly flow that counteracts the Med’s evaporation, but managed to catch a favourable west setting flow on the way through.

However, once through and setting course for Lagos we encountered a nasty 3 knot counter-current that not only killed our speed but also scuppered our heading and wind angle.

In short, the wind was directly behind us, it was blowing a gale (literally, at over 30kts) and we had to make a relatively precise course to avoid the shipping lanes and the shoals of Trafalgar, Cadiz and the coast.

With the wind behind us we were finely balanced on the genoa only, zooming along at 7-9 knots but actually only making 4 knots over the ground.

In summary, first Jax, then I spent a very difficult 8 hours overnight clawing our way away from Gib. We had to hand helm all the time without even a minute’s break due to fine balance needed to keep the sail set in the right place to avoid a gybe, maintain the course, overcome the current, control the boat in the 30+ knots of wind and deal with the heavy breaking seas. It’s a good job it was pitch black – otherwise it would have been very scary!

The maximum wind speed was 38 knots and the fastest boat speed was 10.7 knots.

We’ve been at sea for 5 days now with a maximum of 2 1/2 hours sleep at a time, so these conditions completely exhausted us – having to concentrate so intently for 3 hour watches. A payback for all those easy nights motoring in stillness I guess.

At about 4am, after 8 hours and a torrid 30 miles the wind suddenly died down. Although the sea was still rough, we couldn’t sail, so welcomed the luxurious respite provided by the engine and autohelm going on.

Its afternoon now and we’re still trying to recover lost sleep and get ourselves back to ‘normality’. It’s bright and sunny, warm and calm. The horizon all around us is clear and haven’t seen any other shipping all day.

We are motoring on reserve fuel and have about 50 miles to run to Lagos on the south west tip of Portugal – a Marina, dry land, fresh food, unbroken sleep and a day or so’s rest. We should arrive about midnight.

Next step, northwards up the Portuguese coast…

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