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From Corsica to the Toscana Islands

We leave the Oscellucia in the afternoon of July 11th, heading to the Agriates desert, in NW of Corsica. The forecasts let us expect a total lack of wind, but happily, we manage to reach a good 5 knots speed average after hoisting the spinnaker. Once arrived, we start snorkeling as usual to cool down a litlle bit but avoid the jellyfishs. Adrien will discover a strange and unusual fish : a 15m long achoring chain in very good shape. No need for it on Karukera : we decide to give it to our neighbours, which only have 8 m of chain ! Our litlle walk in the desert wild land will let us see a few wild cows. We will leave them alone quickly when a big bull will appear in the middle of the « maquis » !

The next morning, we head to Capraia, the first beautiful Toscana Island. Having to turn the Cap Corsica, we have to sail against the wind, but hopefully the wind will slowly turn, letting us getting there without having to tack. Once at the Cape Corsica, we have to start the engine : the wind will unfortunately stop !

cap corse

We wait there a few hours, go snorkeling for a while, and then the wind comes back from the good direction ! we will sail to Capraia, and arrive around one in the morning. On the next day, we go on a hike on this wonderful Islands, wild and preserved from turists !

capraia

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We head to Elba without any wind : 30 miles with the engine under a hot sun are not the « sailing » conditions we like the most ! We take advantage of this boring day to design and 3D print the piece of plastic that turns the engine off. The original piece was partly broken, and each time we wanted to turn the engine off, harming our hands was a bit necessary ! The new piece is softer for them, and will work tremendously well !

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On Elba, we will stop in Marciana marina, a nice port in the NW of the Island. The next morning, an unfortunate surprise is waiting for us : the engine won’t start ! So far, we had been experimenting absolutely no problem with it ! After a little investigation, we discover that the exhaustion gaz are exhausted in the admission, on the wrong side ! Why ?

vidange moteur

After a few repairing trials, we change all the lubrification oil that got spoiled from exhaustion wastes. We finally call our mechanics partner Gwen marine (www.gwenmarinevolvopenta.com), who gives us tips by phone. He suggests that the exhaustion pipe is clogged somewhere. We will discover an important quantity of carbonised waste, that were effectively blocking the pipe… After a methodic cleaning of the different pieces, we start the engine. He will start immediatly, which we weren’t prepared to ! A black cloud of smoke will project soot all over Adrien, that will have to wash for a long time before being clean again !

suie estivale

nettoyage moteur

With the engine working, we leave to the next island : Giglio. This is the island where the Costia Concordia sunk a little less than a year ago. Entering on the accident site is forbidden, but we will still see a few cranes in action. On the next morning, we go to visit the castle at the top of the islands, offering a wonderful view !

giglio

Afterward, we head to the last of Toscana islands : Giannutri. Only 2 miles long, this island is actually the remains of an old volcano’s crater who collapsed ! Whil approaching the island in the end of this sunday afternoon, we see a huge number of motor boat leaving ! Thanksfully, because when we will arrive, there is still not so much space to put the anchor ! We can only imagine how crowded it was earlier in the week end !

On the next morning, we head to Riva di Traino, our first stopover on the Italian coast, not so far from Roma. Once again, there is absolutely no wind : 100% of the crossing with the engine… And guess what, we will be short of fuel in the middle of the ocean. We have two jerrycans of gasoil that will allow us to refill, and re-pressure the engine. After a ten minutes immobile, everything is back in order. Exept Yahia’s flip-flop : we have a FOB (flip flop over board). A good situation for an exercise. Don’t worry, it’s safe, and not to frightened !

pêcheur de claquettes

Approaching Roma, we need to choose the harbour offering a good compromise between proximity of the capital vs price : here one night in a harbour can sometime cost 50 € !!!

Barcelona-Corsica: delightful crossing and sea animals festival!

We leave Barcelona Sunday the fifth of July with a good favourable wind coming. We will be sailing at 7 knots along the Costa Brava until the sunset. Dolphins allowed us to leave the spanish coast with a smile on our face! They stay 30 minutes playing and jumping around the boat.

A gale force wind is expected to blow over the Mediterranean sea a few days later, and we have to reach Corsica before it does. But the wind will abandon us in the evening of the first day. We are worried about it because the weather forecast predicted good wind during the two first days. The third day should be a day without wind and the fourth day the arrival of the strong wind.

We turn the engine on for some long hours, the wind won’t come back for all the night. We manage to sail one little hour during the morning but the little breeze disappears and the « sweet » engine noise come back again.

During the second day, the mood is not here for Karukera’s crew. Living with the permanent noise of the engine is hard for the moral. We read, we try to rest as long as we can to avoid boring aboard. Fishing still doesn’t work, even with all our motivation. We would want to stop the engine for some hours, jump in the sea and enjoy the silent of the ocean but it is not possible because of the strong gale expected two days later.

And…the wind comes back in the end of the second day: the opposite of the weather forecast’s prediction. Anyway, we are sailing at 4 knots without the tedious noise! Happiness comes back aboard: the second night is amazing. The sea is calm, very comfortable with a breeze just as we want it to be, not too gentle and not too strong. We will be able to sail at 6 knots at some moment. We go through a bloom of phosphorescent plankton and we also see phosphorescent jellyfish. Under a sky full of stars and without the moon, the show is magical.

In the morning of the third day, the wind is still here! The half of the crossing is done and we put the French colour on. After two months out of our country, it sounds strange to be back in France, it will be too easy to speak with other people.

We enter the pelagic natural reserve where a lot of marine mammals are often observed: we won’t miss them! After having seen some dolphins playing near the hull, we see two whales 100 meters away from the boat. They disappear under the water as fast as they appear and we are not speed enough to take a picture of them. After that, the tunas will start to make the show. They jump around the boat, stay near the surface very close to the boat. At this moment, we want only one thing: fish one (or two/three/five…) of them. We put three towing lines behind the boat but fishing is apparently not our vocation: we won’t fish any of them.

In the middle of this natural reserve, we are shocked to see so many floating plastic. Plastic bags, polystyrene foams, helium balloons… We take those under our way but they are too many.

The last night will be short! We heard a weather forecast at the radio: the gale should arrive sooner than expected. It will also be stronger than expected. Thanks to our satellite beacon, we talk with Leo and he confirms us the bad news. At 4 a.m the wind begins to blow stronger, we keep all the sail out in order to maintain as much distance as we can from the real strong wind.

Just before the sunrise, the Corsica mountains appear and one last time the dolphins come and play around the boat. We are sailing at 7 knots, we like that and the dolphins too. With all those events, we forget to sleep but that is not important. In 4 hours we will be arrived.

We are going straight to Calvi bay, it is a good shelter from the SW wind. By crossing the punta Revellatta, we discover the citadel of the ancient city.

But the shelter that we had chosen (Oscellucia) is not as good as we thought; Even if the wind is coming from the earth, it is too strong for the anchor (until 45 knots). We can’t stay here. All the boat are moving to the marina of Calvi and we do as well. The summer season has begun and it is difficult to find a place in the marina but thankfully we find a place in the fisher’s harbour. It is 1 p.m and we are walking on the ground. We will spend the rest of the afternoon sleeping.

The day after, the wind blows more gently. We leave the marina and go to a small shelter from the E wind named Port Vechio where we go snorkelling.

There we enjoyed the sea and the beautiful Corsica landscape before moving to the next stopover: Capraia, one of the beautiful Toscana islands.

Costa Daurada : Crew shifts, planktoon and Barcelona

Peter has joined us a week ago, and it’s his turn to do the planktoon samplings. After collecting the planktoon soup with a 20 microns net, we need to filtrate the sampling and dry it.

Once in Peniscola, it’s time for Leo to leave Karukera’s crew. The farewell with our friend, that left Britain with us, are very early in the morning. The bad coffeewe drunk in the morning and our wet legs,  depicts quite precisely our mood at the moment. He is going back to France with the plankton samplings we collected since the departure, and a flight being too « easy » after two and a half month of sailing adventure, he will hitchike for two days to arrive in Britain, where he will spend the summer as a sailing instructor ( for Leo’s fans, you can suscribe to his lessons by going to the International Pointe Saint-Gildas Sailing Yacht Club).

The washing up, a matter of disagreement aboard every boat : Peter will put everyone in good mood by doing it moningly in the kayak !

Aymeric has joined us near Salou, in a desert cove, by night, without light nor GPS. The 3km walk will be a little longer than expected ! We will leave next morning, heading to Sitges.

A good opportunity to visit Sitges’ fablab, the beachlab (http://beachlab.org/). In front of Sitges main beach, it will be the first lab that we will visit in swimsuit ! Initially, the town Hall had forbidden that this place was only a « fablab » : in front of the beach they have to sell beverages. It became a hybrid bar/fablab, that finally works a lot with the city Hall. They need a lot of sensors, and the fablab is able to produce/design them for a much lower price than the regular industrial sensors. Sitges might become a high-connected city : useful for public service, the fablab lives from interesting projects that have a direct impact on cityzens ! Noise sensors in front of bars send texts to barmans to prevent them when they are over limit, thermometer giving real-time seawater temperature on line, etc. Francisco, our maker contact, is very entusiathic about the idea of a nautical lab : they have a « Marine research unit » inside the lab, a program that works on complementary issues of those of Lab-REV !

We leave to Barcelona with the wind on the side of the boat : even with this low breeze, we manage to sail at almost correct speeds. Perfect conditions to test a new sail configuration we’ve been thinking about for a long time. In additon to the three regular sails Karukera can carry simultaniously (artimon, mainsail, genoa/spinnaker), we can hoist an other jib, on the artimon mast. We set up a halyard to hoist its 12m2 solent, and Karukera makes the show with 92m2 of sail!

Once in Barcelona, we long to go and visit the masterpieces of Gaudi, exerience the incredible local night-life, and taste all the tapas. But patience is required : a good task list remains before setting sails to Corsica, our next step. We fill up the tanks to prevent the probable lack of wind. Oliver will sew for hours in a raw to install reinforcement patchs on the Genoa, repair the textile arrangements and other pieces of stuffs that require to be stronger. The inflatable kayak requires a patch after a sea urchin accident ! All that works during the European heat wave, under the hard sun beams of Barcelona, on the docks of wealthy Yachtsmen surprised to sea us in underpants manipulating clamps and glues in this incredibly protected and expensive marina.

Released to have reduiced the task list to its minimum, we are free to go and visit this cultural capital. Laura will join us for a few days to enjoy discovering the city with us, and Cassandra comes back for a few months of sailing.

Together we will visit the fabCafé (http://fabcafe.com/barcelona/), a hybrid place mixing fablab, bar and coworking space. Amazing mood in this place where maker clients drink beers while waiting for their 3D printings to finish !

We will also go visit the greenlab (http://www.valldaura.net/greenfablab/). A remote fablab, lost in the mountains just outside the city, on an 144ha property ! Not well referenced on google, we need to take a cab to head there : but the adress is wrong ! We end up visiting the surrounding valleys, and after 1h drive, the cab will drop us « not too far » from our goal. A little hike with flip-flops begins. We will end up lost in a closed restaurant, and use our « joker » by calling Jon from the fablab, who will pick us up with his Land-Rover, a necessity for the trail that leads to the fab.

We discover this amazing place, set up in an old hunting territory for gentlefolks. A big part of the forest was destroyed and replanted in the twentieth century : we clearly make the difference between parts of the valley where old oak trees remain and new pine trees were replanted. The goal of this lab is to look for sustainable solutions for our lifestyles. Food, energy, furnitures, transport… no lead is negliged, the idea is yet to identify the most useful –and feasible- ones. The place is used weekly as a fablab, host workshops for students, rent rooms on airBnB, and organize 400 peoples partys with Djs for the IAAC students (the architecture school linked to the lab : http://www.iaac.net/).

After a fight between the dog and the oaks, we go back to Barcelona : it’s time to finish the boat set up. A good weather forecast is arriving : moderate winds, in the good direction. Routings predict less than 3 hours of engine on the whole crossing : let’s go !

We will leave Barcelona Sunday the fifth of July, heading to the gulf of Porto on the west coast of Corsica !

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 : http://planktonplanet.org

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.