Rudder problem encounted heading West. 1st-5th August 2010

Thu 5 Aug 2010 17:11
On the 1st August, with a lovely wind blowing SE Force 4, we soon were clear of Formentera and heading west down the Med.  On a beam reach Nimue soon got in the groove and with the new sails proving their worth, we soon were sailing at 8 knots through the water and even managed 9 knots in the occasional F5 gust!  With these speeds we noticed the luff on the mainsail (the bit of the sail next to the mast) was vibrating, so understood why Fabio (the sailmaker) advised we needed a ‘cunningham’ to enable us to flatten the luff.  Michael managed to fix up a temporary cunningham, which appeared to solve the problem.
  Sailing West (got it right this time!!)

After nearly 14 hours of fabulous sailing and getting our first sights of dolphins, we heard some strange noises coming from the stern area.  The rudder had become noticeably stiffer and the autohelm appeared to struggle.  By this time the wind had died and so the engine was put on, which gave time for Michael to check the steering gear etc.  There appeared to be no other problems, so we both decided there had to be something amiss with the rudder.  We decided to  make Cartagena landfall, as we had been there on our way East in 2008 and thought it would also be a good place to check things out.  Cartagena is a naval base and interestingly enough as we were heading into the harbour we noticed 2 boats escorting a Spanish Submarine, so we naturally kept our distance to let it pass.  
Arriving in Cartagena to be met by outcoming Submarine

140 nm later we safely tied up on our Med. mooring (the boat is either moored bows or stern to the pontoon) and started to put the new ‘passarelle’ together, which Michael had made during the long winter months in the UK.  A passerelle facilitates access from either the bow or the stern of the boat onto the pontoon.  
 Making use of our new Passarelle -   (Graham let us know if you want any more photos for your wall - private joke)

After making enquiries with other Contest owners (David and Derek), and Michael’s power of deduction, he was certain the stiff rudder was due to a problem with the bottom rudder bearing, something that was changed 2 years ago just before we left the UK!  But to be certain we needed to have Nimue lifted out of the water. The only 2 problems were; (i) the very nice Spanish engineer, who understood the problem, was not able to work at the boatyard and (ii) the boatyard’s crane was only able to lift up to 15tonnes!!  Nimue is very much on the borderline of this weight, so we decided this was a non-starter. 

We made some further enquiries and were recommended to go to Almerimar on the Costa Del Sol, which had a good boatyard – 110 nm further West.  We explained our problem with Paolo, the boatyard manager at Almerimar and booked our lift out for Thursday 5th Aug. 
So we set off on 4th and motored all the way to Almerimar, arriving against the reception pontoon after dark.  That night we both went to bed, with that uncertain feeling and wondering how the following day would unfold............