My first thought when writing this was to give an overview of all the things that have been refurbished, repaired, renewed, discarded and added during the Autumn, Winter and Spring months. That would be too dull, so let’s just say that I spent the dark months trying to improve Elice, well, the inside anyway.
Now we’ve dispensed with that, let’s move on to the more interesting stuff. After what seemed like an age, we finally left Penarth Marina on Monday 13th June. Despite the endless graft and lack of actual sailing, it was worthwhile and productive. I must also say that the marina staff and people we met at were fantastic. They must have been glad to get rid of us though. The fixated down-and-out lurking about Elice mithering passers-by and the mouthy blonde who’d undertaken a small-scale Coup d’état claiming the marina communal quiet area as part of the Swansea City Council extended land grab programme. It was time to go.
We left at 6:30 in the morning and followed Gianti out into the Bristol channel. It wasn’t that we’d asked Andrew and Gill to accompany us with a full suite of Amel spares, simply that they were heading to Gods’ country (Ireland) and like us, had opted to go with a break in the Westerlies.
It was sad seeing them disappear as we followed the North Devon coast and they followed the South Wales coast. They’ve been such great friends and helped us out so many times, but they had new adventures to enjoy.
There wasn’t much wind once a few miles out and I imagined the £ signs scrolling frantically as the engine went on and we motored for the vast majority of the journey. No worries, fuel will be as cheap as chips in Europe!!
The plan was simple, we’d head past Falmouth and up the river Fal, anchoring just south of Malpas. It’s still one of my favourite places to anchor and is the ideal placed to wait for the weather to cross Biscay. True to form the sun shone and we managed to get a few jobs sorted and to catch up with some friends.
A trip down to Falmouth to purchase some boat tat, enabled us the catch up with Andy and Jo, who were waiting to set off for their trip to the Caribbean. Andy was my first sailing instructor and had taught me and my son Joe the sailing basics, so it was great to catch up with them both.
We also met up with our old pals Geoff and Niki from Penmar. They were in Falmouth for the weekend for a family get together and took out some time to join us onboard on a glorious Saturday for a bite to eat and check what we’d done to Elice. We’d planned to meet up again the next day, but a big blow came in and spoilt things as we needed to monitor the anchor, but we should hopefully catch up with them in Portugal in the Autumn.
We constantly monitored the weather and spotted that once the Northerlies eased a little, we’d, have a chance to cross Biscay. Unsurprisingly, the forecast wasn’t ideal for the whole crossing, but South Westerlies would set in by the end of the week so better to take the opportunity and go for it.
Light winds helped us out of the river Fal and the wind increased as we passed Falmouth. All three sails were set and we flew along on a close/beam reach at between 6 and 7 knots. The wind was predicted to be with us for the best part of the next 3 days, but the wind gods got a bit arsey and as night wore on the wind faded.
Next morning, we were on a dead run (wind dead behind us) with the headsail poled out with a monster Amel pole on one side and the main sail set on the other. We sailed well into the night with Elice was doing exactly what she was designed to do, eating up miles with a following wind. Even the swell was coming from NW didn’t faze us.
The wind died late into the night so back to burning pound notes. I came on watch around 5:30 on the 3rd morning, just as the sun was beginning to rise. The wind was building again so sails were deployed and engine switched off.
It was at this stage that I had the bright idea of engaging the prop shaft alternator. With the speeds we were doing we’d easily put 9 to 13 amps into the batteries, so it was free power, a no brainer.
Now then, this alternator isn’t something that can be run when using the engine, so I’d had the smart idea of placing a post it note on the instrument panel telling me quite clearly to isolate this alternator before turning on the engine.
A couple of hours passed as I watched the sun rise and enjoyed peaceful sailing in complete isolation. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before the wind dropped and we were hardly moving. It was time to turn on the engine.
My next actions were those of a simpleton. The post it note telling me isolate the prop shaft alternator was in front of my face so I couldn’t avoid seeing it as I turned on the ignition. I held the glow plug switch in the heat position for 10 seconds, while I stared blankly at the note stating “isolate PSA before starting.” Without a care in the world, I pressed the switch down, giving a reassuring nod as the Perkins engine burst into life.
We motored along at about 4.5 knots as I poked my head down the companionway. It was then, as I looked at the control switch for the alternator, I realised what I’d done. It felt like slow motion as I screamed “nnoooooooooo” while grabbing the throttle and wrenching it rapidly back. My enthusiasm to rectify the situation led me to pull back too far on the throttle so we went into reverse momentarily.
The engine was turned off and the alternator properly isolated. The engine was turned back on in silence and we motored on across Biscay. I knew I’d done some damage to the alternator, but wasn’t sure whether it would be repairable or fatal. After a short while I started to see the charge going to the engine batteries drop. Once this reached zero, the temperature gauge dropped quickly, followed by the oil pressure.
So, one thing I did know was my act of gross stupidity had cost us engine start batteries at the very least. I just wish I could be as care free and unconcerned as the British Government.
The wind and sea both started to build as e progressed, the only issue being that we were heading straight into them. By now we were 70 nautical miles from A Coruna in North West Spain and it would simply be an uncomfortable slog to get there by midnight.
We came in to A Coruna at around 1am and watched a fantastic firework display taking place across the bay, obviously in celebration of our safe arrival! Thankfully there was a berth available for us so once we’d moored up, we had a large glass of red then fell asleep.
Right then, it’s time for my siesta.
6 Replies to “Captains Blog 45 – Are we Nearly There Yet?”
I bet they were glad to see the back of you, that’s why they arranged the fireworks for your arrival, to ensure you prefer it there and won’t return 😉 enjoy your travels! X
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Sounds like your adventure continues…. Just try not to break too much! 😂. Enjoy the sunshine and wine. Give my love to Sarah x
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Thanks Fleur, the sunshine and wine are going down very well. X
Just wrote you but think it didn’t send as we are out sailing in the middle of nowhere on beautiful Georgian Bay for the summer – loved your blog – always great fun to follow your adventures – thx for keeping us in the loop
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As always, loved your blog – great fun to follow your adventures – so happy you keep us in the loop – we are out on Solstraale sailing for the summer – good weather and lovely summer days – it’s a good Life for sure –
Thx for keeping in touch
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Thank you both, it’s always great to get a message and fantastic to here you’re out sailing for the summer. Take care 👍🏼⛵