Saturday 24th May 2014
Swell N2-3 metres to very little around Costa da Morte
57 NM (519NM)
We set an alarm at 06:30, so that we would make good time leaving Sada as we knew it would be a long day on the water to Camarinas, some 55NM plotted out on the chart plotter. We wanted to check the weather, again, we had to pay the marina fees and there’s the usual pfaffing in preparing the boat for sea after a few days ashore. For the non-sailors, it’s best to stow everything away, as you never know what conditions you’re going to get, and risk things getting chucked about down below, getting damaged or damaging something else. Pretty much everything gets stowed.
We eventually cast off about 08:15, which makes for quite a lot of pfaffing! Of course it was raining, so we were in full heavy sailing foulies, me with an extra layer of gilet, as I didn’t trust the conditions to deliver ‘warm’. There was very little wind, and a little bit of swell coming up the Ria towards Sada. Was this really enough to cause the snatching of poor Whinchat in her berth? The swell predictions were spot on in direction and size. Unfortunately the wind predictions were also pretty accurate – not much! As we came past La Coruna, the wind was from the south (we think that it was funnelling), but there was enough to sail. So then began the process of grinding out the reefed main, with me on the wheel trying to hold Whinchat in the wind, with a rolling swell behind me. It seemed to take forever, but there was about 16m to grind out at Pete-speed (there are no electric winches on Whinchat), so totally understandable. This motion, going pretty slowly on low engine revs, was enough to throw my insides into turmoil, and I felt the edge of nausea wrapping its ugly self around me. Straight to the helm, in order to concentrate on something. Focus is the enemy of seasickness, if you can manage it. Pete also chucked Stugeron at me, which is a wholly chemical way of dealing with things. Pete kept asking me how I was doing, and at some point I said, “OK, but soon the Stugeron will kick in and I’ll pass out.” I clung on to the wheel, making reasonable progress, until the wind died, we started flailing around a bit, and, well, to put it bluntly, I was desperate for a pee. That was my undoing. Life jacket, outer foulie, foulie trousers unpeeled in the cockpit, and then a dash for the aft heads, eyes shut to pee. By the time I’d got back up on deck, focus had gone, and the nausea had raised its game. “I think I’ll have a lie down,” I announced.
Perhaps this is where we need another guest blog, because that was me, essentially, for the day. Pete reckoned that I was ‘out’ for seven of the eleven hours of passage. I can’t argue with that, but part of me cannot quite believe that I ‘lost’ so much of the day. Mine was in a fog of drug-induced sleep, with weird dreams and the occasional wrestle with nausea. I did wake a few times, to debate whether I would eat or drink anything. I had a packet of crisps, and later a mini mars bar. I refused to drink anything, for fear of needing to pee (which I had to again, setting off the waves of nausea). When that happened again, I said to Pete, “I think I’ll have a nap,” and so another two hours disappeared.
What did I miss? A day of motor sailing, with the wind on the nose, and not very strong, and the fact that the approach is not recommended in darkness… Blue skies (although buried underneath the sleeping bag, Pete’s foulies and my hood wrapped around my head, not much of the outside was coming in). The striking coastline of Costa da Morte, the Coast of Death (so called because of its treacherous nature and the number of wrecks and lives claimed over the years). Seeing other yachts appear on AIS. Fortunately, no dolphins were missed! Poor Pete had to do another passage solo; it’s a good job he’s as resilient as he is.
I roused for the last hour, as we picked our way through the navigational hazards – a lot of low lying rock to get around, none that you can see! The route was a kind of zig-zag, as we followed markers and leading lines. The rias here is so sheltered from the northerly swell, that is was gloriously flat calm. It is so beautiful, a rugged coastline pricked with yellow sandy beaches – I didn’t have the foresight to take any pictures. There is one huge craggy outcrop, with a lighthouse (perhaps) on top. Perhaps we will walk that way today and I can get some photos – or when we leave. By the time we came to moor I’d shrugged off the fog of the drugs, and was able to execute the tying up routines. I think Pete was a bit relieved! Mind you, we were greeted by by a marina chap, who told us where he wanted us to moor. Lots of hand signals, and the odd Spanish word. I have to do better! So, we’re in a very small marina, with only a few visiting boats tied up. There are more spaces than not. There are also four boats at anchor, including one that followed us here. You don’t pay to anchor – and you don’t have shore power, WiFi and the ability to walk and have a beer…. Which is exactly what we did last night.
The really good thing about feeling seasick is that when you make land, it goes away. It’s like the land shakes its grip. So, just what was needed was a couple of beers and some tapas. Chiperones (baby squid) and tortilla. You wouldn’t necessarily think that it was the reviver after hours of feeling, well, crap, but it is. I cooked supper – and we ate around 21:30, so Spanish – thinking about the day.
One of the things that I kept on thinking about was the crew of Cheeky Rafiki. I’d seen the headline that they’d found the upturned hull, and that the keel had basically been ripped off. In moments of lucidness, feeling the sea move us about, I thought about them. It wasn’t until we got in and connected back to WiFi that we learned that their liferaft was still in the boat. Those poor men; those poor families. They were experienced, and yet it would seem that the conditions overcame them, and took them. It is so sad. The boat that would have given them such delight in the racing, came undone. Cheeky Rafiki is a racing boat, and unlike Whinchat, is not really the design for crossing oceans. For the avoidance of doubt, and in case my mother/mother-in-law has made it to this part of today’s blog, our keel could never come off. It’s moulded into her hull, encapsulated is the term, and she really is designed for putting to sea, and dealing with challenging conditions. She will never win races, but that’s not her design, but she will and does look after us. There should be a better debate on the boat classifications, in my view, and perhaps this dreadful incident will promote some sensible reflections about fit for purpose.
Today’s Haiku – perhaps some interpretation needed! When seeking to be soothed during moments of seasickness/stress, and we are under motor, I often imagine us being pulled along by 50 underwater horses powering their way to harbour.
fifty horses ‘neath
the bucking bronto seas – oh
take us safe to port