Trip on White Ibis starting 2016-08-01 in BSASep16

Progress of ‘White Ibis’ – Bill & Jade Barnes’ blog

This is the August entry on www.whiteibis.uk (Bill & Jade are sailing their Malo 39.)

Our last contact with the coast of England was Jade on the Pilgrim steps; with “the crew” now safely on the bow I backed out and set a course for foreign shores; Cornwall.

In FalmouthMap we collected a saloon table we had commissioned, and set sail to cross Biscay on the 7th.

We started by experimenting with the staysail, as we wanted to be ready for rising wind, but found it made the genoa harder to use and we didn’t have spare winches to easily manage sheets for both.  Once the wind did get up we certainly didn’t relish going to the foredeck to swap to the storm jib if things got worse.  We found that when the tailwind became excessive, we could keep our speed down by furling the jib and sheeting the staysail in hard having led the sheets inside the shrouds.

Four days, with a brisk following wind (N-NE, F4-5 then rising to F6-7 with gusts just touching F8).  Galley preparations were excellent, but my stomach was not up to the job for the first day and a half.  Fortunately, the sea state had moderated by the time we closed the Spanish coast, and the final approach to A Coruna was fairly calm.  One dark night, I was turned out of the passage bunk to give an opinion on a large and well-lit object.  The First Mate was worried as it looked quite like the huge bow-wave of a large fast ship.  Having inspected it I pointed out the reason it was not showing on Radar was it was 250,000 miles away.  Pesky moon!

The only “casualty” on the trip was when two dinner plates mounted a “reverse ram raid” and burst out of the locker to fly across the room.  The escape was a success, though it lead not to liberty but tragedy.

Approaching CorunaMap, there was a stream of fast fishing boats all sharing the leading lights which made for an “interesting” landfall.  As Jade jumped onto the pontoon at 4am, she was caught up in wire set out like on a battlefield; stretched out to discourage birds perching.  Poor birds.

This was followed by a lovely day on the pontoon, catching up on sleep then on maintenance, improvements and tidying.  Evening drinks with another Malo crew, who gave us very useful advice, then to the local bar for "Galician Pasties" (lump of Chorizo baked into a bread roll) fried potato, and fruit juice.  Heaven!

Walking back from the "Biscay is in the bag" supper, we saw the unusual spectacle of fireworks in heavy fog.  When a bright one went off the whole sky lit up, it was wonderful and special, but I expect the artist and organiser would have preferred a clear sky.  Having met a crew taking part in Jimmy Cornell's "Barbados 50" rally, we had decided to join up with them for the forthcoming ocean passage.  Jimmy has a wealth of knowledge, and is very generous with his time.

Thanks to the technology that comes with the rally, you can follow us on this tracking-map

A longish trip to BaionaMap, to where we were drawn by Alan’s stories of a mysterious drinking den secreted behind the innocent facade of a laundry.  A town with a holiday feel, with a music festival providing a free show each night.  We found the laundry, and a few bars which may have been Alan’s old haunt; with lively clientele, yummy food and live music.

A hop to PortoMap brought us to this wonderful city, with a fabulous bridge by Gustav Eiffel and another by his student.  A wonderful panorama of decorative tiles in the train station reminded me of the RinCon centre in San Francisco.  We bought grapes and bottles of port at a local shop.

Cracking along now at the pace set by the rally, we pressed on to LisbonMap where we stayed at the site of a former world expo.  Approaching the narrow marina entrance, we heard “St Jimmy” on the VHF; “If you can hear this, GO FAST!”  We shot through like a cork, and were untroubled by turbulence that caused some bumps in the past.  The architecture and “town planning” put London docklands to shame; lovely.  A less sophisticated, but very welcome, highlight was the fuel berth, which was attached to a car fuel station which meant it also sold ice cream!

Being part of a rally meant we were honoured with a pontoon BBQ party, and met lots of interesting people who were there for other reasons; including one lady returned from helping support the British Olympic team who dressed all in gold to mark their success.

The next passage was the longest yet; Lisbon to Lanzarote.  We had rigged port and starboard preventers, round the bow mooring cleats and back to the cockpit, so felt comfortable on a dead run.  The only rope I had spare was a 10.5mm climbing rope which was so stretchy we needed to grind it up to a high tension in order to reliably hold the boom.

Departing the coast, we happily said goodbye to lobster-pot floats, rocks, morning fog and manic fishing boats (reluctant to give away their favourite spots by using navigation lights), and settled down knowing we only had to watch out for the big boats.  This meant that 3-hour watches could be as easy as scanning the horizon and radar at 8-minute intervals.  The time between could have been spent calculating our progress by astronomical observations, reading pilot books of the Islands ahead, playing the guitar or learning Spanish; but I found lying in a heap trying to rest most appealing.

Unwilling to venture onto the foredeck to pole out the jib, we mostly ran under a prevented main; furling it and rolling it out again as the wind varied between 10 and 42 knots.  At the worst times we left it rolled up and motored one night, by request of the First Mate who didn’t want to bother with “nasty flappy sails” and the potential for a gybe.  We were very pleased that our Ibis is a very well-tempered bird in a fierce blow.

Recalling Biscay, and recovering from four days of hard weather, we had one day of “cruising” when Jade cooked real food and we sat at a table.  This was fine dining, compared to cup-soup and crisps, but not yet close to the standard of an Alan Banquet.  (Thanks Alan)

Passing Morocco we had a weary migrant hitch a ride; a tiny brown bird that sat on Jade’s foot and closed it’s eyes as it rested.  It flew around the saloon a little, and left a little something for us to remember it’s visit, perched on the wheel for a while, then departed to continue its passage.

Coming into LanzaroteMap, we were helped, applauded and greeted by our new friends; five boats that had shared the first steps on a path from London to Bridgetown.  We fell into the routine; sleep, wash the boat, have a beer, try to tick something off the repairs list.  I had my first trip up the mast, to replace the steaming light, which was conducted with a prussic loop to an improvised stirrup and a figure-8 for descent, with Jade taking up slack on a second halyard.

Having been granted a day of “shore leave”, with no boat jobs, we went to the famed craft market in Haria in search of Cochineal beetles.  We had a closer encounter than we expected as the taxi driver diverted to show us some on a cactus garden.  Coated by a white powder, these little black bugs hold a fabulous crimson colour; as the driver squashed one between her fingers I thought; “There’s another answer to the old riddle; what is black and white and red all over?”

Reflecting on this last month, we are struck again how much we learned from our friends and shipmates in the Bristol Sailing Association.  To have had so many affordable sailing opportunities organised for us has given us the “wind beneath our wings”.  Thanks to all at BSA.

Boat name of the month: “Floating point” (Written in fixed-width Courier, naturally)

Falmouth  50.1528,-5.0623
Coruna  43.3663,-8.3851
Baiona  42.121,-8.8434
Porto  41.1424,-8.6513
Lisbon Expo  38.7592,-9.0914
Lanzarote  28.9625,-13.5395