MoisJune 2015

Costa Blanca y del Ahazar : explorations, DIY and fablabs

The nice breeze that should have pushed us to Alicant will finally fall with the night. We make a stop in Carthagena, and gladly discover this wonderful city and its culture influenced by all the great mediteranean historic cultures !

On our way to Alicante, the wind will be with us, and conditions are good to make measurements abour our hydro generator production. Unfortunately, the blade that was printed by fablab EDP breaks ! Printed in ABS, she should have been stronger than the other ones that are in PLA (PLA and ABS are the most common plastics used in 3D printing). It seems that the different plastic layers are less cohesive with this material tha the one we are used to. Let’s print a new blade !

But the PLA melts at lower temperatures, and this has been a problem since Lisbonne. One of our wind turbine blade didn’t resist to the screwing of the threaded shaft that makes the assembly between the two parts of the blades. After a few failures and a few printed blades, we finally found a solution : using olive oil, we have lubed the threaded shaft enough for it to create its thread trough the plastic blade ! The grease lowers the friction, hence the temperature when we screw it on.

Once in Alicante, we visit and receive the local Fablab team. Being a University fab, they work with a different model at the previous ones : their public are students, and they allow them to realize models for their projects.

We leave in slight breeze conditions, heading to Valencia. Just enough wind to go forward, but a little too much to allow using the engine. Average speeds are not good, but the moral is ! A sequence of nice moorings give us time to pursue our sub marine expeditions, and to enjoy the cliffs of Costa Blanca ! A mooring between a cliff and a little island will be shortened during the night, when the unpredictable winds will reverse ! We take time to enjoy our days, but as soon as wind is blowing, we move forward, whatever the hour.

In Valencia, we meet the fablab team, also connected to the University, as well as the local Hackerspace. Very well equiped for a small fablab, they have one problem : the university forbids them to receive students. An understandable security issue, but a total non-sense after having given a place and machines to those makers ! As everywhere, they have to trap the administration, and find a way to focus on what they are passionated about. They are experts in photogrammetry, this technique that  « scan » the real world to make 3D models, hence 3d printable. They will show us a model of the Valencian Cathedral door that we have just visited : the result is impressive !

We benefit from time in this cheap harbour to check the top of the mast. Nice timing ! The rope that holds the genoa was quite used by friction on the genoa furling system. A ring of steel is responsible for it, so we cut it and change it for a shackle.

Our AIS antenna (the ships detection system we prototyped) has to be put higher in the masts, and for a long time we’ve been looking for a trick to fix it easily. Leo will fin dit, and the new system seems to be quite efficient ! We can see the ships at a range of 6 miles, compared to professional system, it’s twice less, but it is still twice more than before !

A new crew member arrives in Valencia : Peter is coming to spend one week of holidays with us. A week that will be full of shifts in the crew. Peter arrives for one week, Leo leaves after two months, Aymeric and Bruna come for one week end, Cassandra comes back for two months, and Laura for a few days ! With that many « youngs » aboard the boat, we obviously adopt the local « fiesta » spirit ! But the winds are not strong : we sleep very late, and get up early to do as much miles as we can ! Naps start early in the day !

Heading to Castellon de la Plana, we will encounter a very strange local weather system : a sea breeze is opposed to the wind of a storm coming from the land. Perfect conditions for the creation of waterspouts ! The spiral clouds help us spot the phenomeneon, and we put the mainsail down in time, just before hitting 45knots gusts, and seeing the formation of a small waterspout far away. Wikipedia will be reassuring : this kind of watersprout is not dangerous, just impressive !

Costa del Sol, pétole.

Pétole : feminine french noumn , from the latin peditum (pet). Total lack of wind, calms.

Gibraltar-Almeria : 160 nautical miles, a very short distance! It’s half the distance between Pornic and A coruña, it should take less than two days !

Hell no ! We definitely are in the Mediterranean sea, and here the wind does as he pleases whatever the weather forecasts say ! And now, he doesn’t want us to move forward ! It will take us eight long days to finally arrive to capo de Gata ! And not in the greatest cities of Spain…

The Levante, a tipically Eastward wind, was waiting for us after the Gibraltar Strait, and allows us to make our 40 first mediterranean miles, until he will abandon us progressively, then definitely.

We use the engine to head to Torremolinos (which we never heard about befrore), and discover with chock the damages of mass tourism… Big concrete towers on the beach and hundreds of tourist-like restaurant filling each square meter near the beach, expensive harbour filled with Yachts…

We are beginning to understand that the Costa del Sol doesn’t have any interest when you’re not an english tourist looking for fiestas and crowded beaches. The landscape is very mineral, the region being the drier of Europa, and is filled by an alternance of buildings and white greenhouses (where the « december tomatoes » grow).

The forecasts are not reliable, but they say there might be a little bit of wind offshore, 20 miles from the coast. Should we go South instead of East to try to catch it ? What if after 5 hours of engine the wind is not here ?

We will change our philosophy, don’t look too often on weather forecast, and set sails as soon as we feel a little breeze ! One constant thing : the wind is not blowing at night, so we better find a shelter before !

With these hard conditions, we usually get busy during our shifts : steering is easier when the boat is not moving at all. Reading, sending mails and postacards will help us support the super shiny sun !

We only manage to sail 15 miles a day, less than a quarter of our average speeds. We start when the wind rises, around noon, then he decreases progressively, and when the boat is at less than 1 knot, we start the engine to get to the next shelter.

But those quiet conditions allow us to make a few planktoon sampling, and with joy we practice this activity who allows us to get busy for one hour, despiste the extremely low speeds we have to go to (1 to 2 knots).

Nevertheless, far from the touristic towns, we will discover a few wonderful moorings, with great snorkeling spots. The harpoon fishing becomes more efficient that the towing line that has prooved its inefficacity since Cape St Vincent. We will make a nice meal with two wild mullets, three trigger-fish and one octopuss !

Unable to cook the octopuss properly (Google tells us than it needs to be frozen 24h before getting cooked : not convenient without a freezer), it will be a little squichy…

After one week, we finally arrive to Capo de Gata, marking the end the Costa del Sol, and the beginning of the Costa Blanca. The winds are with us, with a perfect angle, and with the spinnaker, the average speed is around 7 knots !

Capes to Capes : from Lisboa to Gibraltar !

Here we are, at the gates of the Mediterranean Sea ! Since Lisboa, the wind is weakenig, and speeds are decreasing.

A first day in a strong favorable breeze pushed us fastly to Sines, with an average speed of 7 knots, and surfs up to 13 knots ! Sines is the last shelter before the St Vincent Cape (the most south-west point of Portugal), which is 60 miles away. We need a good weather forecast to leave Sines, and wait for a few days, while doing a few repairs at the top of the mast, doing laundry, etc.

We also meet Baladin’s crew, three frenchies with whom we share tips for fishing, and exchange a few gears. Yahia, our « official fishing manager » join Karukera’s crew, and will experience the last Portugal swell with us. We pass with him the impressive cliffs of Cape St Vincent !

Right after the Cape the swell disapear, and altough it is not the official limit of the Mediterranean Sea, we feel we are getting closer to it ! We spend the first confortable night at sea since the departure. The new fishing line proves itself, catching a few maquerels and a little tuna !

We head to Olhão, a little town located in Faro’s laguna. We cross the symbolic limit of 1000 miles since Pornic while entering the Laguna. After a night in front of the beautiful Island of Culatra, we will moor in front of Olhão’s market, the marina being forbidden to visitors (!!!). Now is the time to test if our 2 person kayak is able to support the weight of 3 persons + the groceries !

Cassandra will join us for a week, during which we will reach Rota, a little town in the bay of Cadix. The wind will totally abandon us in the middle of the crossing, right in front of the spanish border. We take advantage of the very slow speed of the boat to make a few plankton samplings for the Open Science project Plankton Planet :

But when the boat is totally stopped, with the heat and no hurry, we enjoy a ittle swim alone in the middle of the sea !

During this little swim, Oliver will discover a piece of net stuck into the propeller, that we have to remove with a knife ! This swim was a good call !

We finish the trip using the engine : oh sweet smell of frying oil ! We spend a few days in Rota, little town centered around the beach and its touristic activities : no doubt, we are arriving in the South of Spain, and its mass tourism ! We try to reach Cadix one afternoon, but the wind will get up to 50 knots, so we turn around and go back to Rota. With only a few square metters of the Genoa, we will sail at an average speed of 6 knots !

We will leave the next day, heading to Cape Trafalgar, the first point of the Gibraltar strait. No battleship for us, altough a psychological fight begins against the becalmed, that will continue for the weeks to follow…

Our itinerary leads us to Tarifa, the narrowest point of the strait (only 14km from Morocco), reknown windsurf spot for its 300 days per year of 30 knots winds ! The hundreds of windturbines on the nearby mountains are here to testify it.

We discover the changing weather of the Mediterranean, with the wind shifting from East to West in less than two hours. This allows us to reach the Gibraltar Bay, so charming for a little sailing boat among the dozens of huge cargo ships ! The bay, reknown for its mists and random weather, will offer a hard arrival at dawn with winds shifting from 30 to 0 knots. Thankfully our AIS beacon works perfectly, and allows us to predict the huge floating buildings directions, and avoid them.

Gibraltar is one of the most important place for maritime worldtrade. This gate between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, linking Africa and Europe, sees thousands of merchendises transit everyday. It’s also a place of high tensions, with the English enclave of Gibraltar « last colony of Europe », and its famous rock.

Luckily, when we had the chance to visit it, the rock was not in a cloud, and we could enjoy the view on the bay, the Mediterranean and Morocco.

We pass Europa point the 2d of June, marking our entrance in the Mediterranean.