Yacht Pipit


Crossing to the other side of the world - Torrevieja, Santa Pola, Altea and Denia, 20th July 2012

All the zeros - crossing the Greenwich Meridian just east of Altea.

The Virgin del Carmen Festival occurred whilst we were in Torrevieja, which involves a statue of said Virgin being paraded through the streets of the town, then aboard a fishing boat for a trip around the bay, accompanied by a flotilla of boats bedecked with lights, flowers and flags. Many yachts and motor boats from the marinas (there are two marinas in Torrevieja, we were in the newer one) joined the fleet around the bay. On returning to their berths, one unfortunate motor boat had a coming together with a moored Bavaria just two boats along from us. I saw it all happen as I was sitting in the cockpit enjoying the festivities whilst Andy was cooking dinner. The motor boat hit the Bavaria with a reasonable amount of force as the Bavaria was shoved into the well fendered Island Packet next to us, and I watched the Island Packet surge about two metres sideways. We don't think the collision was due to poor boat handling or José having had one too many cervezas to toast Carmen, but rather that his gearbox failed to go into neutral and/or astern as he was lining up to reverse into his berth. It took some doing by a number of people to untangle the two boats, at which point it became obvious that the motor boat's engine was still in forward gear as he began to power forward again. Shouts of "kill the engine" or my panicked "muerto el motor" (I knew this was wrong, as this means "dead the engine") seemed to have the desired effect, but unfortunately meant the now freed boat was drifting with the breeze - towards us! Andy and I both got roving fenders ready, but luckily they were not necessary as, by this time, a marinero in a small boat had arrived to tow the disabled motor boat back to its berth. Fortunately nobody was hurt, but the pulpit of the Bavaria and the bow roller of the motor boat will need a bit more than a buff out...

After that excitement, dinner was slightly crispier than intended, but we were treated to a brilliant firework display. Not quite the British Firework Championships in Plymouth, but the best we've seen since we watched those a few years ago.

There are some very nice bars at the new marina development in Torrevieja, and although one or two changed from playing nice chill out music during the day to thumping noise late at night, it wasn't so noisy that it stopped us sleeping. The seating in the bars reminded us of the Ionian - lots of rattan furniture with comfy cushions, although there seems to be a fashion for four-poster beds as well - not sure that laying in one is entirely conducive to enjoying a relaxing drink though, so we stuck to a more conventional rattan suite in one of the terrace restaurant/bars. They served beer far colder than our fridge can make it - there was even an iceberg in Andy's beer!

Ice cold beer in ice cold glasses of appropriate sizes in Torrevieja.

We had a pleasant sail from Torrevieja to Santa Pola, skirting one of the fish farms and sailing between two where I thought I could spot a gap... That is a gap, isn't it?

Yes, it is a gap... Phew!

Marina Miramar at Santa Pola was quite nice, but presented a new type of berth we hadn't yet encountered - finger pontoons which were not floating but fixed to the concrete quay and landed on a pile at the outside end. They are also very high so more like short piers, meaning that we stepped up slightly from the deck of Pipit to the pontoon. Whilst it was a bit of a shock to see these for the first time, particularly as I had fenders and lines ready for Med-style stern-to with lazy line mooring, it actually worked very well and I needed only to re-lead one stern line, move the other to the bow and rig a spring, no fender adjustment necessary. Sorry, did I say only there? This was all done in a bit of a rush upon discovering the set-up whilst Andy manoeuvred Pipit about outside the fairway and the ever helpful marinero waited patiently. Once in and tied up, all was well as the pontoon pier was quite wide and very stable too - no Breton-style springboards here!

Being in Santa Pola also gave us the opportunity to get together with Andy's niece Kate, who was visiting Valencia after finishing her degree at Manchester University. We had hoped to make enough progress along the Costa Blanca to enable us to meet up so we were thrilled when it transpired that we arrived in Santa Pola the day before she was to fly out of Alicante Airport, a short distance away. It was great to see her the next day and congratulate her in person for achieving her First! We spent a lovely couple of hours over some tapas before she dashed back to the airport for her flight back to the UK in time for her graduation ceremony on Friday. Thanks again for making the effort to visit us Kate, and further congratulations for landing your first 'proper' job with Journey Latin America!

Catching up with Kate over tapas in Santa Pola.

We left Santa Pola on Thursday morning with no wind, but fortunately also quite a flat sea, and so endured an uneventful motor to Altea. Passing Benidorm en route the views were quite pleasant with the Costa Blanca Mountains as a backdrop.

We stayed just one night in Altea, wishing to make more progress and the next hop to Denia. The Club Nautico at Altea reminded us slightly of the one in Vigo, albeit smaller but similar in design and decor.

Leaving Altea on Friday with much the same forecast we'd had the day before, we half expected another long motor to Denia. Happily, we found 9-10 knots of southerly breeze which put it right on our beam for the first leg. We crossed the Greenwich Meridian and I managed to get a photo right on the money - not bad as we were making over 5 knots and the third decimal place was changing quite rapidly!

The Greenwich Meridian! Must remember all longitudes are East from here on and to reverse what we've been doing for so long when adjusting True to Magnetic and vice-versa (where necessary)!

Sailing from Altea, Costa Blanca Mountains in the background.

On the next two legs, the wind remained in our favour, putting it onto our quarter then astern for the rest of the passage, increasing marginally to about 16 knots keeping us sailing along nicely. The coastline was very pretty, and passing the dramatic headlands of Cabo de la Nao and Cabo de San Antonio we reflected on the fact that these were probably to be the last major headlands we would round on mainland Europe this year. Our reflections were rudely interrupted when the wind suddenly increased on the north side of Cabo de San Antonio to 25-30 knots. The prospect of mooring stern-to in the marina in these winds was slightly daunting as we're still learning techniques for Med style mooring in differing conditions and with various quay or pontoon types and heights. Thankfully, as we headed down the fairway into the berth Marina de Denia had allocated us when we'd radioed, the wind dropped to a more subtle 12-15 knots and, as is customary, there was a helpful marinero standing by to take our lines and pass me the lazy line. With the wind blowing sideways across the berth I (Andy) did take 3 attempts to reverse into the gap. I would rather do this than try to correct a situation once it's gone wrong - I was taught to abandon a manoeuvre as soon as it starts to go less than ideally, get out, regroup & have another go. Of course there are occasions where a quick tweak of helm or power can have the desired corrective effect but, in general, so far it has proved to be sage advice - thank you Canary Sail!

Sailing towards Cabo de la Nao.

Cabo de la Nao.

Cabo de San Antonio.

The lovely backdrop in Denia, although the wind gusts quite strongly off the mountain in the afternoons!

The shower facilities at Marina de Denia are worth a special mention - they are the nicest we have encountered since Pendennis and Portland. Each one is a separate bathroom, with WC, washbasin & vanity unit, mirror, modern tiling and shower cubicle with good pressure & heat. Each bathroom is big enough to hold a dance in, which is good because there is piped music too!

Upon realising that we didn't know when we would next be attached to mainland Europe, on Saturday night we did that very British thing and went out for a curry in the marina's Indian restaurant. Although we cook a fine curry aboard Pipit, there's nothing quite like a curry house curry, and of course they served Cobra beer too...

Back on the subject of Med style mooring, we've found that many of the lazy lines are actually doubled, i.e. there are two lines, sometimes attached to the same pick-up line, sometimes separate, so that you bring one each side of the bow (if going stern-to) or stern (if going bows-to). This takes some work sometimes, as the lines can be twisted, making taking up tension quite hard work, particularly if there is any wind blowing. The lines are also usually quite thick and only just fit through our fairleads which adds to the difficulty in taking up tension. Oh, and thanks to John and Mo Walker who, during their Med Cruising talks over the winter in Lagos, gave the top tip of having a pair of gloves handy for lazy lines to avoid getting covered in slime or receiving cuts from barnacles. I'd add my own tip to that of having a lazy line top - an old t-shirt that I change into before handling the lazy line - it took me splattering three tops with mucky water from the lines to twig to that one! As I said earlier, we are learning how best to secure Pipit with this system, but it does often take some heaving and grunting, even if aided by the engine! As well as ensuring all the lines are tight, we sometimes need to adjust both ends to allow the passerelle to reach the quay.

So, that brings us back to our passerelle, which the avid yachtpipit.com website readers amongst you may recall is actually a dog ramp made for allowing the aging and no-longer-so-nimble Shep to get into and out of the back of one's Range Rover... So, how has it performed so far? Well aside from the first refusal due to lack of length at Ceuta and some fine tuning to how we rig it (for fine tuning, read spending a few more Euros on blocks, line, etc), it has been very successful. We've now deployed and used it onto high concrete pontoons/quays where the inboard end sits on a rubber non-skid mat on the helm seat, a lower concrete quay and onto 'normal' height pontoons where the inboard end sits on the mat on the sugar scoop. The sides are extruded aluminium and quite strong, but the ABS plastic base/tread does flex when stepped on, which was disconcerting at first. Although we've now become accustomed to this flexing, we still tread fairly carefully to hopefully prolong the life of the dog ramp... sorry, exclusive passerelle. We're still not sure how long it will last and how the heat and UV will effect the ABS, but as an experiment costing less than €80, or about €120 including the bag to pack it into, plus blocks, line and fittings to rig it, we're happy with this passerelle option for us. We have, so far, moored stern-to. We prefer mooring this way anyway, but haven't yet worked out a way to rig the passerelle to Pipit's bow. There will be occasions where we will want or have to moor bows-to, so we will need to develop some way of getting ashore in these instances, even if it doesn't involve our trusty pooch ramp. Overall, the ramp has several advantages and we're very pleased with our choice. It's light at under 6kg, telescopes down to 100cm x 43cm wide x 10cm deep and so fits easily into its bag and into our deep cockpit locker. In the interests of Elfs 1 we should point out that although rated for up to 180kg worth of Shep (the mind boggles...) it is intended for pet use only! Still, if you are interested, it is a Solvit Deluxe Telescopic Dog Ramp, available from EasyAnimal and elsewhere in two sizes. Ours is the 180cm model (so it fits in our locker), but a 221cm model is also available.

Our passerelle and, below, recent fine tuning we've done with fittings for easier rigging and height adjustment.

Listen to this for a clue to our next destination:  

More on that next time...

1 Elfs = Health & Safety types...