Offshore | Distant Shores Sailing Newsletters

Transatlantic to Saint Lucia with ARC+

Wow! 11 days (and a few hours) to cross the Atlantic! The winds were absolutely perfect with no gusts higher than 35 knots - almost all was 15-25 knots from ENE
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Main boom well out for downwind sailing!
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Our downwind rig with bow jibs flying - the windward one set on our Selden downwind pole…
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Main and Jib to port side and genoa poled out to starboard.
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Our sailing rig for almost all of this trip. Main on one side with a preventer, genoa on the other side on the pole, and the jib as well filling in on the same side as the genoa. More on this rig in an upcoming technical blog!
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A bright moon for much of the passage. Easy to sail and see the sails we always put the bimini back to enjoy the night skies.
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Sheryl prepared amazing meals!
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Lots of Sargasso Weed. We do not remember seeing so much weed on previous trips south like this. It fouled our rudders and our propeller a few times. We had to turn around and drift backwards a few meters to clear them.
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Our longtime Maltese friend Anthony came along to experience the transatlantic sail and "enjoyed every minute"! Our crew was excellent!!
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ARC+ to Cabo Verde Islands

Setting off on the ARC - we had been practicing our dual headsail rig… flying the jib on port and the genoa on the pole to starboard.
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Fast sailing the first 2 days with surfing up to 12 knots…
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We had a more than a few visits from dolphins…
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We tried setting the headsails 2 different ways…
1) with the smaller jib on the pole
2) larger genoa on the pole…
In the end we used this rig for more than half of the passage.

We used the smaller jib poled out when the wind was stronger. Then the larger genoa was somewhat hidden by the mainsail (which is on the same side). In lighter winds we wanted the extra area of the larger genoa, and poled that one out projecting more sail area.
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Sunset in the hazy skies… we come less than 150 miles from the Sahara and the air is mainly hazy from sand…sunset-sailing
A visitor comes for a rest. The little fellow flew off again but another came the next day…
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With light downwind conditions we were able to catch quite a bit of wind with this rig. Sort of like having a small spinnaker. But unlike a spinnaker we could fly it all night and one crew could reef it.
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A Sahara sunrise… even quite high up the sun is in the sandy haze.
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Desert on the sea! Red Sahara sand settled on everything…
Night sky as the sun sets… note the pole is set with an after guy. In combination with the foreguy and topping lift the pole is completely steady. If we need to we can reef the jib as it is and the pole will stay in position.
Sheryl made many great meals but the best had to be Ribeye steak on the last night at sea.
Arriving at 2am we are tired but happy! It was a very fast passage and we all did well.
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Prize Giving for Leg 1 Las Palmas to Cabo Verde - we won first in our class. Time is corrected by adding the amount you motor. We motored just 2.5 hours of the whole trip and won our class!!! Happy Campers!!!

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Sailing Madeira - Porto Santo Island

By Sheryl Shard, copyright 2015. All rights reserved.
madeira-porto-santo-beach-02This past summer Paul and I have been revisiting the mid-Atlantic islands of the Azores and Madeira aboard our Southerly 49 sailboat, Distant Shores II, but on previous Atlantic voyages (1990, 1992, 1997, 2007, 2012) we never had the opportunity to visit the starkly beautiful island of Porto Santo.

Porto Santo is an island within the Madeira archipelago that lies 30 miles to the northeast of the main island of Madeira but is so dramatically different, both visually and geologically, you feel as if you’ve sailed to another part of the planet.


Where the island of Madeira is dark and volcanic with lush green forests, fertile fields and mountains; Porto Santo is mostly low, sandy, dry and desert-like. But this is its appeal! Good sand equals good beaches and the sand bottom in the surrounding seas equals clear turquoise water - great for swimmers, divers and sailors.
madeira-porto-santo-north-coast-natural-pools-12Porto Santo is usually where sailors from Europe make landfall in Madeira since it’s the closest island in the archipelago to the Portuguese mainland at 545 miles. It’s a port of call, has a good marina and optional anchorage right close to the beach and main town of Vila Baleira and is a wonderful place to relax after an offshore passage of any length. Porto Santo is a quiet friendly place and many Madeirans use it as an escape haven, taking the ferry over for weekend get-aways.

We have met many European sailors over the years who have waxed poetic about the 9km-long crescent beach in Porto Santo but, having sailed in the Caribbean and Bahamas where we have enjoyed some of the best beaches in the world, we couldn’t imagine that it would be anything special. Maybe compared to the beaches in the Mediterranean, we thought. We were wrong.

madeira-porto-santo-beach-04The beach in Porto Santo really is amazing! And the sand is said to have healing properties due to the minerals in it. Whenever you visit the beach you see people covering their legs or entire bodies in this sand for hours at a time to heal their aches and pains.

Madeira to Porto Santo
We sailed over to Porto Santo from Funchal, the main harbour in Madeira. It’s 39 miles from Funchal Marina or 28 miles if you are staying at the beautiful Quinta do Lorde Marina and Resort on the Sao Lourenco Peninsula at the northeast end of Madeira, an easy day sail from either harbour.

It was a light wind close-hauled day and by afternoon the winds had dropped so we switched on the engine to motorsail the final distance. To our dismay, a submerged drifting fishing net fouled our propeller and Paul had to dive on it in the open ocean to clear it. (You can read the whole story of how he did this in his
Tech Blog “Offshore Diving on the Prop” 22/08/15.)

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We arrived at Porto Santo in the late afternoon motorsailing along the golden beach since the Porto Santo Marina lies at the far end.


On our way we passed the main town of Vila Baleira where New World explorer, Christopher Columbus, who married Portuguese noblewoman, Filipa Moniz Perestrelo, had a home at one time. The house is now a small museum. Porto Santo does tend to be a place where sailors get “washed ashore.”


We had called ahead to let the staff at the Porto Santo Marina (Tel. +351 291 980 080) know we were coming and were greeted by Marina Manager, Nelson Vasconcelos, as well as officers from Customs and Immigration. Although we had cleared into the European Union in the Azores, you are required to report your arrival and departure to these departments at each port while cruising in Portuguese territories. To our delight, one of the officers was a longtime fan of the Distant Shores sailing TV series! The show aired for many years on Travel Channel in Portugal and now airs primetime on Nautical Channel as well as across the rest of Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia. What a welcome!


The Porto Santo Marina is owned by the same company as Quinta do Lord Marina and Resort in Madeira and has good facilities for visiting sailors including a boat yard where you can have work done on your boat. Many sailors also store their boats here for the winter and return for Atlantic cruising in the summer.

The Marina has 140 berths on floating pontoons, for vessels from 6 to 30 metres long. There is a minimum depth of 3 metres. The 10,000 m2 shipyard can hold up to 80 monohull vessels (on metal stands) not exceeding 5 metres in length, 25 tons and a beam of 4.40 metres. The shipyard can provide the several services, amongst them water and electricity, technical repair services for vessels, bathrooms and changing rooms.


Unfortunately we only had time for a short visit to Porto Santo, 2 days, before we had to get back to Madeira to haul out the boat before flying home for 6 weeks to complete post-production on new episodes of Distant Shores Season 10 we filmed during the summer and also to conduct seminars at the United States Sailboat Show in Annapolis, MD, October 8-12. So we organized a 4-wheel drive tour with Lazermar to take in the sights and do some hiking.

With Sofia from Lazermar 4-wheel drive tours
Sand dunes of Porto Santo
Natural pools on north coast of Porto Santo
Beach at the hidden cove of Zimbralinho


Fantastic basalt formations inside the volcanic crater at the Ana Ferreira Peak

Although Porto Santo is a just a small island, 42 sq km (16 sq miles), two days there is too short! We really wanted to stay longer and get into the slow relaxed pace of the island and meet more of the islanders but we were just so glad that we didn’t miss the place this time round. We highly recommend making a stop there if you are ever cruising in this part of the world. Until next time!


Azores Passage to Madeira

The passage to Madeira was quite a mix of light winds, close hauled, calms and then force 6-7 gusting 8!!
Here are a few pix!

We start off with dolphins visiting as we leave Santa Maria and a wonderful time in the Azores! We will be back!!!
The first day is fairly calm and we have a lovely sunset!! Santa Maria is still visible upper right…
Sheryl in the galley making a delicious soup! Thick chicken lentil stew/soup … hmmm
Another one of MANY dolphin visits on this passage. They always look so great as they charge up to see us…
The wind builds half way through the passage… waves are over 2 meters.
Wind was forecast to get up to 20 knots or so for the last 200 miles to Madeira. This would be ENE so close-reaching…
Keeping watch Paul gets a wave in the face :-)
It built more as we got closer to the island! We saw Force 6 (21-27) then with 50 miles to go we saw steady force 7 (27-33 knots) with gusts of force 8. We dropped the already double-reefed main and reefed our tough little 100% jib. Still making 7 knots to windward!
Finally we get into the wind shadow of Madeira. Suddenly its calm (with 2-3 meter seas) and we approach this tall dramatic island.
We get a slip right in Funchal’s marina - normally crowded later in the season when boats are heading south we tie up and have a quiet night with no Nightwatches!

Passage to Azores Part 2 - Arriving

By Paul Shard, copyright 2015. All rights reserved.

Here is a summary of the trip with the pix we put up on Facebook using the IridiumGO unit (see IridiumGO tracker below)… This is the second part of the trip…

Click Here for Part 1

May 25 - Wind is up to 7 knots wow! Will these calms ever end ?? Sailing at 4knots close hauled again. Smooth seas grey skies. All well on board
May 26 - Squalls come through with wind up to 20 then back to 10-15 closehauled. Sailing well with 971 miles to Flores
May 26 - Sailing North! It's noticeably colder now and we're wearing fleece for the first time in years! Sailing close-hauled wind is 15 knots - I start nightwatch. Good night everyone!
May 27 - Closehauled! Lucky we are good at closehauled! Wind is ESE at 10 knots so we are hard on the wind still not pointing the Azores. Today will be a tweaking day trying to maximize the miles made good with this wind. I am nervous to check the forecast since I think we may have more calms!!
May 28 - Sheryl takes over the watch at 0300. Sailing closehauled at 4.5 knots 2 other sailboats around on AIS I'm off to bed
May 28 - Dolphins! Over 100 of the exuberant Common Atlantic Dolphin come by at breakfast. 10-15 play at the now! Lovely!!
Staying in touch!! We're testing the IridiumGo unit on this passage and it has been brilliant! We use sat email (no attachments) upload photos, tweet directly. Dawn in our office posts the photos to FBook! Cool #‎IridiumGO!
Heading north through Azores high means perfect calm seas for a proper dinner!
May 28 - Dinner together at the table!
Thanks to friends Dave and Janice on catamaran "Livin Life" who gave us some mahi mahi they had caught!!
May 29 - Moon set in the Azores high. Wind 2 knot motorsailing north perfect nightwatch. We sailors are all so lucky to see our beautiful planet!
May 31 - My wonderful first mate makes another great dinner at sea. We're sailing in light winds so it's nice and level for cooking otherwise I usually reef or feather the main to stand the boat up to make cooking easier
Downwind rig with genoa sheet run aft. It's a bit rolly downwind so we have the keel down to steady us. Nights are cooler now that we are so far north. Fleece and perhaps a hat
Sunrise on the Atlantic. Have picked up a NW wind Force 4 & are sailing wing & wing into the sun. Flores, Azores, 470nm to the east...
Enjoying the sunshine on my 1100-1400 watch. Breeze up. Sailing wing & wing at 6.5kts. #‎Flores, #‎Azores, 440nm to go. Sailing in company with S/V Indiana, a 39' catamaran that we caught up to last night. They left Puerto Rico on May 11. Track our position at
Atlantic crossings aren't all like this wow a proper sit down Sunday meal with roast duck (tinned) veg and mashed potatoes! The Azores high has given us such settled conditions
Evening watch as the full moon comes up. We are sliding downwind at 5-6 knots wing and wing with just 250 miles to Flores! Good night all!
Pouring rain still brings no more wind! True wind 1-2 knots!! So we motor a bit more. Just 172 miles to go. Can almost taste that dinner ashore.
June 2 - Practicing my Portuguese. 130 miles to go to #‎Flores, #‎Azores! #‎transatDS #‎passagemaking
Auto steering (as usual) we take a break at the bow while filming dolphins! We got some great shots!! Naturally this will be in Season 10 of Distant Shores come sail with us on video as well!!
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105 miles from Flores in the Azores! All going well, this will be our last night at sea on this passage. And it's a gorgeous night! Big moon rising as we sail under main & genoa in light west winds. Just spoke to the Dutch sailboat "White Witch in Blue" who I saw on AIS was 9 miles ahead of us. They were anchored beside us in St. Maarten in early May, then sailed to Bermuda with several other Dutch yachts before making the crossing. They left Bermuda 15 days ago. We'll all meet for a drink in Lajes, Flores, tomorrow! #‎transatDS #‎passagemaking #‎sailingadventure
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38 miles to go!!! 8am and we are on the chart with Flores. Sailing 7 knots but can't see the island yet... Who will "get" the "land ho"? #‎transatDS #‎raymarine #‎navionics
0603 paul and plotter
June 3 - Calamari anyone?? At least 2 came onboard last night. Glad I didn't get hit by that!! 20 miles to go!
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First view of land!! 13 miles from the south end of Flores ETA 1500 UTC

Arrived June 3 at 3pm local time - almost exactly 17 days…

We have arrived! We're in the Azores after 17 full days at sea! Distant Shores II is safely tied up in the new marina in Lajes and we have had a good walk to get our land legs back! We'll sleep well tonight and start exploring the island tomorrow. Thanks everyone for all your kind comments and for sharing in our adventures. More to come!

Passage to Azores Part 1 - Week 1

By Sheryl Shard, copyright 2015. All rights reserved.
Here is a summary of the trip with the pix we put up on Facebook using the IridiumGO unit… This is the first part of the trip… Click Here for Part 2

May 17 - Departure
We leave St Martin with the 1030 bridge out of the lagoon. This whole area for hundreds of miles has seen higher than average amounts of Sargasso Weed in the last few months and we try to divert around these house sized floating islands of the orange weed. When it gets caught in our rudders/keel and prop keg we are slowed quite a bit. We reverse and try to clear it every few hours but it is impossible to dodge in the dark. Nice sailing for the first day.
Passage Sun-Thurs - 2
Caribbean breezes take us north. Wind is not too strong and seas not very large so getting our “sea legs” seems easier than it would have if winds were stronger.
Passage Sun-Thurs - 5
We are testing an Iridium Go unit to get email, upload photos and tweets, as well as to access Predictwind and get routing advice and Gribs.
Passage Sun-Thurs - 8
Every morning we have a few flying fish onboard. Sometimes 5-6. They only come on board at night when they can’t see and make the mistake of hitting us in the dark. The first night a large one lands in the cockpit flapping wildly around until I manage to grab his slippery muscular body and toss him overboard.
Passage Sun-Thurs -flyingfish
May 21 - we put in our 4 spare jugs of diesel.
#‎autoprop testing. We are motoring in a "zero wind puddle" and want to extend our range as much as possible. The autoprop adjusts it's pitch so hopefully we will make more miles at low revs than a conventional prop. We have been making 5.6 at just 1600rpm in a flat calm.
May 21 - Wind is just 2-3 knots seagulls around all day. Mainly shearwaters plus tiny British Petrels and flying fish. Good night
Passage Sun-Thurs - 3
May 22 - Sea legs and a calm night mean we can have an amazing dinner! Sheryl makes an excellent flank steak with baked potato and green beans. We even get a small glass of red wine Bon a petit wherever you are!
Passage Sun-Thurs - 7
#‎Sunrise on the Atlantic. Another day of calm weather on Day 6 of our #‎offshorepassage to #‎FloresAzores from the #‎Caribbean
Sailing in the rain. There is a little more wind in the rain shower passing now so we can sail.
We are now one third of the way to the Azores so might expect 10 more days at sea. Fair winds everyone

Sheryl makes dinner as we get ready for nightwatch. Sailing fast closehauled we have reefed the main to slow up a little for the night so we are going 8.2 instead of 9 knots. I slow us to 7 to stand the boat up while making dinner. More comfortable for my wonderful galley chef!
May 23 - Close reaching 7knots main and Genoa. Sher is making bacon and egg sandwiches for breakfast plus cappuccino. All well onboard
May 23 - Morning stroll today's crop of flying fish plus there was also a squid who squirted ink all over deck and dinghy but managed to escape (we hope)
May 24 - Wind is 3 knots on the nose so we motor on a gorgeous sapphire sea. Just saw our first Portuguese man-o-war jellyfish. 1300 miles to go.
Omg- 3kt wind again! ESE breeze motor sailing main and jib weather a bit cooler as we are out of the tropics now nearly half way to Flores
What is this?? Steel tank floating looks like part of a ship. It hasn't been floating long judging by minimal growth in it and good condition. Will try to post more shots of other angles. What is this?? Steel tank floating looks like part of a ship. It hasn't been floating long judging by minimal growth in it and good condition.
May 24 - That she blows!! In the middle of 3-4 sperm whales. Easy to see in calm conditions. Smaller juvenile swims towards us to take a look. He is perhaps 30-35 feet long (full grown are over 50)
Wind is up to 6-8 knots so we are sailing main and jib 32deg apparent at 4.6 knots. Unfortunately the wind is directly from Azores pretty evening. We had another visit from a pod of sperm whales…
Continued Here

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Bahamas to St Martin in Photos

At the dock Staniel Cay Yacht Club before leaving...
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Our final anchorage in the cut by Thunderball Cave ready to lift anchor.
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First day is calm and we motor in smoothly rolling seas.
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The wind fills in from the North and will stay this way for the next 5 days!!
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We have the main and jib mostly but switch to our large genoa when winds get down below 15 knots. We hope to keep an average speed of 7 knots for this passage.
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Christmas decorations - solar powered lights...
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Sunset and clear skies.
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We are flying the Self-tacking Jib and a single reefed main for 60 percent of the passage. We unroll the big genoa for the other 40 percent.
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Charging along into 1-2 meter seas from the ENE but they are far apart and easy to sail.
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Sargasso weed. We are crossing the Sargasso Sea on this passage.
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Sheryl cooks on an angle...
GGT to SXM - 11

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GGT to SXM - 12
No moon means lots of great star-gazing - plus amazing meteors!! Turns out this was the Geminid Meteor shower and WOW did we have an amazing view. Some were so bright the whole sky lit up. On each 3 hour watch we would see dozens to hundreds of meteors!!
GGT to SXM - 13
Winds just forward of the beam, what perfect conditions?!
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Onwards we average nearly 180 miles per day.
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Admiring the sunset...
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Rare that we can set the table to have dinner outside like this. But the wind is so predictable and there are no squalls. Baked potatoes, chopped steak and green beans... Yum!!
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Who is having fun?!
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Great sailing!!
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Salt spray everywhere building to thick crystals.
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Rafts of Sargasso weed passing often. A few times they catch on the rudders and keel and prop skeg. I can lift the keel and they slide off but the rudders are harder to clear.
GGT to SXM - 22
Anchored in the lagoon in Saint Martin (french side) we are well ready for an uninterrupted night’s sleep!!
GGT to SXM - 23

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ARC At Sea

Winds 25-30 with higher gusts as we start the ARC. It is still cool and we are wearing foulweather gear for the first few days as we head south.
ARC crossing01
ARC fleet on AIS - note more than 50% of the fleet are not on AIS so there actually twice as many as show up here!! It made for an exciting and crowded first night. Luckily it thinned out after that first night.
ARC crossing02
Paul tries to send a SMS with the Satphone. Not a very satisfactory experience. Remember when you had a "non-smart" phone years ago? But tweeting from the saphone did allow us to update the website from sea...
ARC crossing03
Frequent visitor - flying fish came on board at least 3-4 per night - more during rough evenings. Paul had the distinction of being hit twice by a flying fish! Once one hit in the head and once in the leg :-)
ARC crossing04
We had one day of calms during the crossing...
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We ate quite well with a special steak meal on the calm day when we could set out a proper table!ARC crossing06ARC crossing07
We saw ARC boats every day - very unusual for us to see other yachts. This is the 56 foot cat Poco Loco who kindly took some shots of us as well.
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We are sailing wing and wing for much of the crossing. I will do more on this in a blog...
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3-4 meters swell were a constant feature...
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We surfed regularly at 12-13 knots and hit 15 on one occasion. It was our fastest passage ever at just 15.5 days!!
ARC crossing11
We arrived at 0158 on Thursday 13 December and were warmly welcomed by neighbouring yachties and ARC committee despite the hour!!
ARC crossing12

On to Gibraltar

October 11, 2012
Sailing in Spain - Valencia to Gibraltar

We set sail from Valencia on Thursday October 4 under main and jib to continue down the Spanish coast 61 nm to Calpe, the most northern port we had reached on previous trips to Spain (1990 & 1999/2000). So we felt that we were closing a circle by coming to Calpe from the north this time.

The winds quickly petered out unfortunately so we furled the sails and motored southwards. Throughout the day, the wind was up and down and round and round, coming from almost every direction of the compass. With the mountains along the coast and the afternoon sea breeze it is very hard to get an accurate wind forecast since there are so many local effects but the "sierras" or mountain ranges here are so beautiful that we never complain. Well mostly.

We arrived in Calpe about 1700 (by chance meeting up with fellow Southerly owners aboard an Southerly 110 from Denmark). To our delight Calpe was very much as we remembered it from 12 years ago with some expansion to the marina and new hotel development. But the thing that makes Calpe distinctive is the Peñon de Ifach, a towering rock that looks like a small version of the Rock of Gibraltar. We hiked up here with the cameras on our last visit documenting it for Distant Shores episode 2 which you can see in the Distant Shores Season 1DVD.


We pushed on the next morning, Friday October 5th, since the wind forecast was good, destination Torrevieja (meaning old tower) about 60 nm along the coast. Once we got off-shore a bit and out of the wind shadow of the mountains, we had a lovely wind from behind, so poled out the genoa and sailed wing and wing for a while. Ahhh. We have a carbon-fibre downwind pole built by Seldén (see how it was made in Distant Shores episode 80 on the Season 7 DVD) who also manufactured Distant Shores II’s mast. The pole is so light you can carry it with one hand and Paul can rig it on his own.

At around 1500 we passed Cabo de Santa Pola and the hazardous off-lying island of Tabarca, once a pirate stronghold. There is an active fishing community there and we had many fishing boats for company at sea in this area.

We arrived at Torrevieja at around 1830 with plans of just anchoring off the beach behind the breakwall as we had done in the past, since we were going to leave early the next morning. We love being at anchor. It’s like being on your own mini island! And going into marinas take so much time if you’re day-hopping - setting up fenders, going to the waiting pontoon, doing the paperwork for check-in, moving to your assigned berth, returning gate keys before leaving - these procedures can add another hour to your day. We don’t begrudge the cost of marinas since they are convenient and comfortable but they are time-consuming if you’re on the move each day.

Unfortunately, they were doing construction on the main breakwall at the harbour and anchoring didn’t seem like the thing to do so we went in and checked into the new Marina Salinas in Torrevieja which is lovely. We also had the pleasure of meeting new cruising friends, an Australian couple who recognized the boat. They told us they had used the Distant Shores DVDs to prepare for their current voyage through the Mediterranean and came to say hello. it means a lot to us that people love the shows and find the episodes helpful when planning their own voyages.

As we entered Marina Salinas we were impressed by the large custom aluminum yacht moored there with matching amphibious car, a two-propellor number!

Enormous custom aluminum yacht in Torrevieja with matching amphibious car.

The amphibious car has two-propellers.

Punta de Azohía
We had a relaxed morning on Saturday and left Torrevieja at around 1030 with the idea of heading to the major port of Cartagena where we had visited before. It was another calm day of motoring. At 1345 we rounded the major cape, Cabo Palos, and when we got to Cartagena at around 1630 we decided to continue on. Since it was so calm it would be a good night for anchoring in the usually exposed and rolly anchorages on this coast, so that night we dropped the hook off the village of La Subida at Punta de las Azohía, just east of Mazarrón, and were greeted by another delightful cruising couple, this time from England, who were Distant Shores fans. They had all our Mediterranean DVDs on board to help them plan their voyages. We really were touched.

Cala de San Pedro
Sunday October 7 was another glassy calm day which pleased us that day since we were headed for the pretty anchorage at Cala de San Pedro beneath the "castillo" or castle of San Pedro. You need calm conditions to stay there. You can only get to the beach and castle here by boat or a very long hike over the hills to arrive at a natural amphitheatre-shaped cove. There are caves around the castle that "hippy nudist troglodytes" had moved into on our last visit. They were still there, or the next generation of free spirits perhaps, but had to smile when we saw that they had added solar panels to their camping equipment so they could receive internet and keep the beer cold :-)

Castillo San Pedro

Distant Shores at anchor beneath the castle in Cala de San Pedro

Cabo de Gata
The forecast was good to continue south so we upped anchor from Cala San Pedro and continued south along the very natural undeveloped coast here to round Cabo de Gata, leaving Spain’s Costa Blanca behind and starting along the Costa del Sol along the south coast. There are very dramatic rock formations at Cabo de Gata, the most distinctive being the white marking beneath the Torre de Vela Blanca, "the tower at the white sail"

Sheryl at the helm passing the distinctive white rock at Torre de Vela Blanca (tower at the white sail) at Cabo de Gata

After successfully rounding the cape, which in any kind of wind can be very rough, we stopped for the night at the large marina at Puerta de la Almerimar where we had "wintered" the boat in 1999/2000. Again we saw lots of improvements and expansion including a large excellent supermarket on site. We also had an excellent dinner out, at "Fresh", one of several good restaurants within the marina resort. In the morning we woke up to thick fog but were only delayed a couple of hours until it cleared.


Caleta de Velez
We could see that in a few days there would be headwinds and we wanted to reach Gibraltar at the entrance to the Mediterranean before they set in. We could still make it despite the morning’s delay with the fog if we really pushed it. It was another calm day and we timed the daylight to the minute to reach the anchorage off the fishing harbour of Caleta de Velez, near Malaga. All was going well until around 1400 when, off Punta de Carchuna, we were approached by a Spanish Customs launch (Aduanas) who signalled us to stop. They wanted to board us.

Boarding by Customs (Aduanas) and Check for Red Fuel
In 23 years of cruising we have only been boarded by Coast Guard or Customs about 5 times and we normally welcome it as a cultural experience but today we were on a schedule. However it usually doesn’t take long since all they mostly do is check your paperwork and ours was in order, so no worries.
Spanish Customs (Aduanas) Launch

But this was the day they had decided to do spot checks on recreational boats to see whether or not they were using illegal "red diesel". This is a special tax-free diesel fuel available for use by working fishermen and farmers which is coloured red to identify it. The officers, who were extremely courteous and careful with the boat, took a sample from our fuel tank (we passed the colour test), and then asked to see the receipt of our most recent fuel top-up which had been in Almerimar. This was to prove that we had paid the tax. Then lots of paperwork followed so Paul asked in his best Spanish (this always helps if you make the effort) if we could keep motoring while we were filling it out so we wouldn’t be too delayed. They were happy to oblige. As in the past it was a very interesting and pleasant encounter.

Paul holding the sample of diesel removed from the boat’s fuel tank by Spanish customs officials who were checking recreational boats who might be using illegal red fuel. We pass the colour test.

Caleta de Velez
We waved goodbye to the officers and pressed on to Caleta de Velez which has a small marina mainly for use by the local fishing fleet but if you call ahead you can arrange docking for a yacht. However you can anchor off the beach at either end of the harbour in the protection of the breakwalls and, since the marina has limited space, they are happy for you to do that and that’s what we preferred. It was a perfectly calm night and we sat out in the cockpit admiring the scene for a long time.

Just before bed, a thick fog rolled in, which is so unusual at this time of year and also at night! We left lots of lights on throughout the night in addition to our anchor light so that any fishing boats moving in the dark would see us. Yay LED cabin lighting! Barely a drain on the battery.

We woke up next morning, Wednesday October 10, expecting another morning of thick fog but it had cleared during the night. Very confusing but who were we to argue. There was barely light in the sky when we had raised anchor and were on our way, Gibraltar ho! There were tons of fish pots and floats, sometimes hard to distinguish from floating seagulls at a distance so zigged and zagged and exchanged friendly waves with the crews of fishermen out in the bay around Caleta de Velez. Once out in deep water we were clear of the fish floats.

It was another day of motoring but fog rolled in and out at times with visibility reduced to less than half a mile. We have Raymarine radar and chart-plotters and the radar image lays right over the chart which makes it really easy to interpret. It is quite sensitive and was picking up small fishing boat, kayaks and inflatable dinghies. These we saw 4 to 5 miles offshore in some cases - dedicated fishers in the fog!

By mid-afternoon the fog had cleared and at 1515 I spotted the famous Rock of Gibraltar ahead. We really felt quite emotional since we’ve spent a lot of time there over the years. Then the headwinds started to build. We hugged the coast for protection and at 1630 rounded Europa Point and were docked at Marina Bay in Gibraltar, a second home for us, by 1900.


Time for Gin and Tonic!

Until next time,

Sheryl and Paul
Aboard Distant Shores II