Summer Gale

Flyer of Lorne
Dave Sturrock
Fri 12 Jun 2009 16:30
36:30.900N 12:90.550E

Sunday 31 May, Days Run 141NM, VMG 93NM

Saturday evening saw me on the 1st nightwatch from 21:00-24:00hrs. I had checked the Navtex earlier and noticed there was safety information relating to a gas pipeliine construction near cape Bon in our area to connect Tunisia and Sicily. As I approached the cape I could see more than a dozen lit vessels all in the lee of this point which were either part of the construction fleet or local fishing boats. Either way I decided to give them a wide berth by heading toward an offlying uninhabited island where there was sufficient depth to pass through a channel between this and a North cardinal buoy. Once clear i was able to head toward the lighthouse at Cape Bon. I had my full set of waterproofs on now as the rains and sometimes hail lashed down around Flyer. The wind had increased to F6 and at the midnight watch change, Zoe and myself put in the 2nd reef in the main. As we rounded Cape Bon the wind seemed to settle although it was SE, right on the nose for Malta! We struggled to make better than 50 degrees to the wind on either tack and seemed to gradually get headed on both tacks!

Sunday midday saw us approaching the Island of Pantalleri which is owned by Sicily.

We cleared this to the South and saw two yachts sailing for the first time since leaving Gib, one close inshore and the second going downwind in the distance. We often had noted how little sailing activity there was considering the anount of boats in the Med. We had seen a fair bit of shipping although nothing too close to call.

Monday 01 June, Days Run 130NM, VMG 90NM

The wind strength had remained steady until the eraly hours of Monday when it blew up to a full gale. The 3rd reef was put in the main and the genoa rolled as small as possible to still be effective. With this sail plan and the lack of the self tacker which sets far better we were making poor progress to windward as Flyer slammed into the big seas. My watch from 03-06:00 was memorable for me as the by now empty fuel cans lashed to the rails aft kept flying horizontally in the gale along with one of the emergency lights that kept coming adrift. My other concern was how the weakend rig would cope with this pounding. We made around 10NM's to windward in a 3 hour period which put our arrival at Malta back until about Wednesday. It was not a comfortable night but luckily the gale blew out completely so that by 09:00 we were motoring through huge lumpy seas which slowly abated.

A breeze came up by midday and later we were able to hoist the gennaker and make 7-8knots in a F4. About 18:00 we managed to ger a horrendous wrap with the kite round the forestay at both the head and tack of the sail. The whole snuffing sock had manged to get caught up and would not budge. I knew we would have to send someone up the mast to clear this but it was far too rough. We were able to make good sped downwind with the main, my only concern was how would I berth Flyer in Grand Harbour marina at Valetta.. We explained our problem on the VHF and were guided to am outside hammerhead pontoon berth which was all on a downwind course. I was extremely relieved to make the lines fast and also pleased it was twilight at 20:00hrs. Within moments of berthing we had 3 very helpful Canadians onboard from a yacht called "Cebe". In no time we had Mick up to the masthead and then down the forestay. He had undone the halyard and then just unwrapped the sail as he came down. I think we had around 5 people holding the sail in the blustery conditions!I have never been so relieved to get a sail down in my life and the beer tasted good that night!

Total distance from Gibraltar, 1,185NM