Trip on Aldila starting 2016-07-27 in BSAAug16

Porto Colom to Cartagena aboard, Aldila, 27 – 31 July – report by Brian Adams

Day one

Met up with Howard, Amanda and Cameron Pearson at Bristol airport. Arrived in Majorca 0920 hours. Taxi to the port of Porto ColomMap on the east coast of Majorca .We boarded Aldila a 50 foot Van de Stadt, Dutch design hull. A Bermudan rigged sloop with a 20 metre mast and a rolling genoa foresail, 10 years in the making, 20 years old. She was a very, very roomy boat down below, with not a lot of grab rails.4 cabins all with a loo, plus a crew cabin in the bow the size of a jib sail locker but also with a loo. All running rigging apart from the genoa sheets and rolling reef operated from the bottom of the mast. A weird mainsail reefing system, we could put a reef in, but are still not sure how it is supposed to be fully employed.

After a shopping expedition we victualled, fuelled and topped up water tanks. We had a couple of beers to cool us, as temp was probably 30 degrees, in a local bar before setting off from Porto Colom with a planned route to sail through the night on to Cartagena.

We set off about 1530 hrs, left the natural harbour, headed off with a broad reach set and into calm seas, a warm wind speed of 8 to 10 knots on course of 225 degrees eventually passing the end of Majorca and leaving what appeared to be an uninhabited island of CabreraMap to our starboard. We sailed onward and with a small group of Dolphins for a very short while. Night time setting in and into 3 hours on 3 off night watches. No real traffic to cause any concern and we saw the sun rising in the east. We passed Ibiza and Formentera and onwards to the mainland Spanish coast.

Day two

An uneventful day so far, apart from the shackle at the foot of the genoa on the roller reef coming adrift. Luckily Howard found both the pin and shackle on the foredeck and refitted it. A gentle sail with 5/6 knots over the ground we progressed westwards. With the wind gently veering around and increasing to 12/13 knots with a swell of maybe 2 m, we set a broad reach with preventer to stop the boom causing any surprises in the current swell. Our plan is to sail on through the night again to Cartagena. Partly to avoid entry during night hours into a strange port, Alicante, also to prevent the costly expense of 100 euros mooring fees in Alicante. Another long night ahead of 3 on and 3 off.

As we are all aware, all good plans sometimes go astray and as we were plodding along it all changed. Howard was looking in the port forward cabin and noticed the shelf was working away from the hull. He popped his head out of the forward hatch and could see the deck where the port shroud fixing was rising and falling with the gentle rolling of the swell we were encountering. Howard came aft and said we have a problem, He decided to drop all sails to further investigate and look at our options. With some minor further investigation we observed the reasons for the movement. The stainless steel angle plate which forms the anchor point at which it enables the strain on the shrouds to be bolted through the deck and attached to the hull to keep the mast up. The fibreglass attached over the stainless plate and to the hull had come away. With just the weight of the mast and the rolling of the boat this was causing movement of 20 to 50 millimetres where the fibreglass was covering the plate which had been formerly attached to the hull. We used the mainsail halliard and another halliard to help reduce the strain on the weakened point which did have a positive effect.

The obvious option was to motor on into Alicante for further investigation and get professional advice. We were some fifty miles from Alicante. It would mean we would be entering during night hours. Not a problem. Howard has a purpose made laptop for the boat and all the charts up to date and with great magnification on the plotter we could see our way in without a problem. Amanda and I had the 1000 hrs to 0100hrs watch which proved quite interesting with the amount of traffic during our shift, having to alter course on at least two or three occasions to make avoidance necessary, with one ship crossing from our port to starboard side and almost immediately after another from starboard side to port. Lights at night are always playing tricks with one and when a ship is lit up like a Christmas tree and appears not to have a starboard steaming light it leaves you with some doubt as to the seaworthy-ness of some vessels. However, safely through a shipping channel we could see Alicante some fifteen miles off. More lights. But not as many as entering Plymouth sound. Flashing lights from light houses, determined from the charts to give confirmation of where we were, and headed to. End of shift, time to get head down.

I have to say, I feel night time sailing is more stressful at times when getting closer to landfall, you are seeing so many lights which to say the least, can be confusing and disturbing. You are straining your eyes and seeing things which are really not there at all. Maybe it was due to a couple of Spanish beers or maybe, it really was the sea monsters reaching out to us.

Day three, I think.

I awoke to find us entering Alicante marinaMap to which we made fast and moored up next to an office with the name of Nauti cost chandlers. The clue is in the name, Howard made enquiries for someone to come and survey the damage. Meantime we exposed and removed the shelf and cabin linings which exposed the fullness of what was described earlier, I have some photos if interested. It has to be said, during a hurricane in Lavrio on the Greek mainland earlier in the year Aldila had been knocked over whilst in a boat yard on dry land. According to Howard Aldila had been surveyed after the knock down for insurance purposes, when all repairs were carried out at that time. It may be that Howard’s crossing from Sicily, when he encountered force 7/8 winds for three days constantly, had exposed the vulnerability of the weakness even further. Whilst we were waiting on the report from the boat yard maintenance, and sweltering in the heat 30 degrees plus, we managed to get more provisions, more beer, and more food.

During our time in Alicante we managed to visit the Volvo ocean race Centre / museum, which I can thoroughly endorse, well worth a visit to get out of the heat and into an air conditioned building to see static displays, plus the Pirates of the Caribbean Volvo yacht with its 30 metre mast plus the 70 foot Brazil hull and a film all in English about the history of the race since its inception as the Whitbread round the world race back in 1973. Is also free entry so well worth a visit.

Back on board Aldila, after a few more beers and more waiting on the Spanish costings and timings of the repair required, we eventually got a phone call back advising Howard that as it is Friday and manana time, they would not be able to give a price, or start the job until Monday at the earliest. With an estimate to take at least three days.

With that in mind we decided to motor on down to CartagenaMap some 60 miles further down the coast the next day. We would have a night ashore with a nice meal and a bottle of local wine. Cartagena proved to be a very nice place with a lot of history and a natural deep harbour, free museums and the marina was fairly priced at only 42 euros, very favourable. The marina also had its own swimming pool, bar restaurant which was very welcome after another long hot motoring day. This was my place for departure on the Sunday to enable me to get back to Bristol from Murcia airport a twenty min taxi drive.

Howard’s plans were to motor on to Ayamonte on the Spanish Portuguese Border 400 miles or so, where he has an expat friend whom he could trust to do a good repair and at a reasonable price. I wish him well and his family, especially Cameron who is only 20 years young but has the best taste in music I have encountered in such a young lad. He kept me entertained all week in music I love, The Blues. Blue seas, blue skies and a fantastic range of blues music.

I thank the Pearsons, Howard, Amanda and Cameron aboard Aldila for letting me sail the Mediterranean or at least a part of it.

Distance sailed approximately 250 nM, motored approximately 110 nM, total 360 miles approx.

Porto Colom  39.4242,3.2621
south of Cabrera  39.0778,2.9389
Alicante  38.3377,-0.4806
Cartagena  37.5965,-0.9805