MILOCURA turns 16 and the trip between Cadiz and Lancerote in the Canaries
Part one, Cadiz to Safi, Morocco
Dear family and friends,
It is November and the count down to the Atlantic crossing has started. We are now moored at the Puerto deportivo de las Palmas, in the city of Las Palmas, capital of the island of Gran Canaria, some 550 nautical miles south west of Gibraltar and 150 miles west of the coast of Morocco.
When we eventually arrived in Lancerote, one of the most northerly of the Canaries, the log on MILOCURA was reading more than 16,000 nautical miles so, a sweet 16 celebration was in order but left pending for a while.
Here in Gran Canaria we will stay until December 1st, our planned departure date for the Caribbean, some 2700 nautical miles west, south west of the Canaries.
Our trip from Cadiz, in mainland Spain, was a difficult and dangerous one, probably the worst that we have had
.MILOCURA and the crew performed extremely well, but not without some bumps and bruises!!
Before you start reading this account get yourself comfortable, preferably with a drink of your choice, and be ready to close your eyes and imagine how it was on board
While in Cadiz we received our crew for the trip, Octavio and his wife Marianne, their son Leif and his partner Lindsey.
The Marmolejo and Trifilio families have a long history of seafaring adventures together
.this will prove vital during the trip.
Marianne and Zoa (evidently the smarter ones of the two families) were flying to the Canaries to meet us there, for what was going to be a four to five day 600 nautical miles trip (in the end we sailed and motored more than 1200 nautical miles to get there!).
The departure date was set for October 21st, when a small weather window was expected within the otherwise unattractive weather picture
.it was then or cancellation for at least ten more days.
The window was just to get us started. We expected to be faced with head winds and fairly heavy seas all the way to the Canaries.
Left over heavy seas from a couple of weeks of low-pressure fronts entering the west of the Iberian peninsula from the Atlantic Ocean.
While we got ready, we enjoyed Cadiz, its people and places, particularly some of the most delicious tapas and Flamenco bars !
Encouraged by the departure on the 20th of a neighboring vessel, we got ready for our departure next day (we latter found out the this particular vessel had aborted five days into the trip and had returned to mainland Spain to lick their wounds).
Mid day on the 21st, and after fueling up, Zoa and Marianne said good by as we departed Cadiz, taking a generally westerly-south westerly direction, well in line with the direction to the Canaries but, with winds from the south-south west, the going was uncomfortable, with 20/25 knot winds and moderate seas.
It is 07:00 of October 23, we plotted our position and found ourselves some 60 miles due west of the city of Casablanca, in Morocco. We had advanced some 210 nautical miles towards our target in 43 hours, not a good show. Half of that time was motoring only, to try and gain ground towards the Canaries.
We could not continue in this way
we knew the winds will remain from this direction so there was no use in keeping to the same strategy.
This was especially true as the port engine quits due to plugged fuel filters
our drama begins.
With winds shifting more and more from the south we decided to tack to the north west and head for the island of Madeira, which lay at about the same distance as the Canaries, but, due to the wind change we gained more ground going there instead
.we were still 400 miles away from both destinations any way, so we had to keep both options open.
Madeira was not an option considered at the last minute, by the way. It was in fact our first choice when we were planning the trip, and it was only left as second choice due to the predicted bad weather in the general direction of the Madeira archipelago.
It is 06:00 of October 24, we had sailed the last 23 hours advancing over the water some 180 miles but, unfortunately, as we advanced north west the winds got stronger, the seas heavier and the wind direction shifted more and more to the west, forcing us further away from our target.
It was a wet ride with the occasional wave breaking on the side getting a good shower into the cockpit, and almost constant big waves braking forward.
This steady wind shifting is typical of the circulating winds around the low-pressure centers that were moving east at the time.
The heavy weather predictions were coming true.
In the mean time we had spotted a medium size boat and called them on the radio. The Spanish Navy patrol vessel, appropriately named Mar Caribe (Caribbean Sea), responded and their crew was kind enough to give us an updated weather report, which confirmed the 25-knot southwesterly once again.
Facing heavy weather to the west we decided then to tack again and go southeast, once again towards the coast of Africa. It was the early hours of October 24.
MILOCURA was happy with the change for a while, she was going fast against the wind 10, 11 knots at first with one reef on the main and full Genoa then 13 and 14 knots, even after having reduced the main with one more reef and furling up the Genoa to half
.it was a very fast ride on heavy two meter seas that lasted the next thirty hours
.the seas were breaking everywhere.
When we tried to furl the Genoa the furling system got jammed, taking me to the bow of the boat to undo the jam
there were two or three occasions like this one, when the life lines on the decks and safety harness are vital for survival
it was wet and bumpy but we managed well.
The crew was doing three-hour shifts and sleeping in the saloon, waiting for the person in charge to call if help was needed
.it was not cold but we were wet and could not help it.
Once again we used the VHF radio to call for weather information. This time it was an open call to any ship that would pick up our signal (Any ship that did would be in the vicinity, as VHF signals do not go too far).
Shortly after we got response from the cargo vessel Nariva some 13 miles south of us and on their way to Gran Canaria
Nariva was extremely kind with us, providing weather forecast, current weather where they were and even a high frequency radio channel for us to call them in case we had further needs when the VHF would not work any more
The news were not good, they were recording 45 knots winds that very moment, with seas of over two meters and the prediction was to continue for the next 24 hours.
So, we were in the middle of it
..the wind got very strong, so strong that we were in a sea of foam, white everywhere and MILOCURA riding on top of it like a bat out of hell with heavily trimmed wings.
The odd wave broke and sprayed water
we were so wet
no one could sleep
.cooking, which had been spectacular earlier in the trip was no longer an option
sandwiches and some hot tea only and thanks to Lindseys dedication and strength.
As the 24th wore out we got in and out of heavy seas but the wind did not abate.
With the small sail area, even when we were going fast, we were very safe from having a major accident. Due to this we kept fine-tuning the sails to get the most out of them
The night of the 24th it got even worse, we had thunder storms all around us, one came as the other one left, salt water from below and fresh water in buckets from above
it was dark, except for the lightning
far away at first then it got nearer and nearer
.like a flash, the lightning illuminated the surroundings, a white ocean full of menacing waves waiting to give MILOCURA the next bump.
Then it hit us very close
we all saw the two big balls of fire in quick succession, blinding us with the light and deafening us with the noise, all at the same time
then it was gone and the thunder was far again.
Do not ask me why were we not directly hit but we were not. A direct hit would have burnt all electronic equipment and more on board, as catamarans can not be grounded as other vessels can.
Damage control found that the radar was not working and that Octavios breathing equipment (for his sleeping apnea) had been damaged
we got away with little damage in the end!
We managed through the night, tired, stressed and wet
It was early morning on the 25th , the ocean was not particularly better or worse, or the wind stronger or lighter, the size of the waves the same.
But this wave caught us from and odd angle lifting the starboard transom close to a meter out of the water and, as MILOCURA came crashing down on the wave, we heard a big crack
I immediately knew we had broken the starboard rudder!!
The rudder blade floated away on the confused waters
.we could all see the black blade get lost amidst the foam.
Almost immediately too we lowered the main sail and stayed on the Genoa only
at the time the rudder broke we were doing 13, 14 knots over the water, with the Genoa only we were still doing 10 knots and, on one rudder the autopilot was holding well!
Having advanced some 300 miles towards our target in nearly three days, with the port engine stalled and the starboard rudder gone we weighted our options
return to Cadiz, go to Casablanca in Morocco or keep going to Lancerote, approximately 300 miles away.
Even before the rudder broke, we had been on the radio for a few hours trying to get new weather information, and we finally got hold of Casablanca
they were not interested in giving us weather information but gave us something better, another option and one only some 50 miles away. This was the commercial port of Safi, in Morocco.
Once we had checked the charts and the available information on our navigation systems, we decided to go to Safi.
By now the seas had gotten better and with the new direction and lower speeds, we were able to change filters on the port engine and get it going again
..this was good as we wanted the two engines to go into port.
We had the two engines going plus the Genoa and were advancing well towards Safi when the starboard engine stalled
what is going on!!
Soon after I realized that, by my own mistake, a line had been left on the deck, finding its way to the propeller, fouling it
.the seas were better but too rough to attempt clearing it in the open ocean
so, there we were again, back to one engine.
When we left Cadiz we had coordinated with Zoa a High Frequency radio contact channel, that she should use in case we had not arrived on the 25th
it was the afternoon of the 25th so they must be looking for us by now
and so they were.
Zoa and Marianne had difficulty finding anyone with the right gear to call us so, when the marina office was approached with the request, they called the Gran Canaria Rescue Center that in turn started a radio search
as agreed, we had the radio on at the frequency so we picked the call the first time it was placed.
It was the tanker Algeciras Spirit whos extremely professional crew collect all needed information to report back to the Center and Zoa and Marianne
location, description of damage sustained, condition of the crew, expected arrival in the Canaries
.it gave us peace of mind to know that the wives knew now we were well and soon on our way.
When the ship called we were just one hour away from shore and shortly after 15:00 on October 25 we were moored at the commercial port of Safi, in Morocco.
END OF PART ONE
This is too long to continue now
but do not miss the next installment
read how we repaired and turned MILOCURA around in less than 24 hours, working almost through the night
read about the famous Moroccan tangerines and other stories.
We are well but very sad, as we lost Zoas father last November 21st. The rest of our trip will not be the same.
Our crew arrives in Gran Canaria in a couple of days and the weather is starting to look good for departure on December 1st.
Sad but ready, we will most probably depart on that date.
There are literally hundreds of sailing vessels departing from this port on the ARC rally starting November 26, and many others departing after that date, so we will have lots of company on the big Ocean.
Your positive energy and good wishes have helped us get here, please keep sending them!!
Love to all,
Orestes, Zoa and MILOCURA