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Amberella goes Atlantic, Sailing adventure 2002 - part one

Friday 5 July 2002
Spain sends a welcome with hot weather. On the way to Roquetas de Mar I become aware of the many new construction sites, some that have already ruined the towns cape and still some get even more gigantic. Who will live here? , I wonder, in this concrete desert with it plastic back lands? (in Almeria there are hundred thousands square meters of greenhouses)? Since our last stay in R. d. Mar the building of an enormous shopping center, a theatre, a bull fighting arena and various huge concrete buildings has begun.
At the port , the old picture. Juanco and Isabella still live in their half finished catamaran named „Juanco“. J. earns his money with deep diving after red corals near the island Alboran. For the corals Juanco must dive more than 80m deep, a quite exhausting profession. The Italians buy and manufacture fashioned jewelry with it. I would say they basically wash money this way. J
The fishing port did not change, since we left last year. Only a large blue catamaran with crane is now laying at the middle pier. It is used for the new fish farm, laid out between Almeria and Aquadulce. Near the boat fish flour is piled in extra large bags. There tons of it.
The Spanish Mediterranean coast hardly offers any more catch. Professional fish farming has now begun. That is the last chapter of fishing. Fish, that could never be sold, can now be catched, shredded to fish flour and fed to the farm fish, usually low quality fish, sea brass or something. This deadly cycle will come to an end, sometime. In order to earn 1 kg of farm fish, one must feed about 3 kg of fish flour. Anyone can calculate how long this system works.
The old fisher man is still repairing his net. Day by day, they take their little boats out and catch whatever the sea is spilling out to them, still dreaming of the big catch or of days past long ago.

Our yacht, SY Amberella is pilled up on the hard and completely covered with the sand of the Sahara. The deck looks like the desert itself. A first control inside the yacht reveals; nobody had tried to get inside.
I look around for a while and begin to arrange the tools, write a list with todos and things …

Saturday 6 July 2002
The morning is hot hot hot already. I move around paralyzed and hide in the shades of Amberella's kiel. Later, on the way into the city, I take every chance to get protection in an air conditioned shop or office. On the way back I had a minor accident with the small aluminum scooter and scratched my left foot. Welcome to Spain, I keep bitching about this incident. At this temperature I will probably labor some time at this wound and of course "going swimming" is out of the picture for the moment. Just my luck. I decide to take some tapas and 2 beer, to calm my sorries, but realize to late that it was another bad idea. After this quick lunch am so tired and exhausted that I fall asleep until late evening . At 2100 o'clock, I finally begin to work on Amberella. With the coming night I switch a halogen light on and work until at night around 0300h.: I works as if I have to make up for this wrong startup. No more beer till Amberella is launched safely, I keep saying to myself...

Sunday 7 July 2002
I got accustomed to the heat now and begin the work early. I feel some pain, from the previous night work and also the foot wound does not look too good either. Nevertheless am I am full of energy and dedicate myself to the job. The keel, which I tried to sandblast last November, is now sanded by hand with 2 sanding machines. 6 square meters of rust and steel with a heavy wire brush. From noon till late afternoon I take a break, "siesta" ( the fine Spanish invention) and work until late night with the halogen spot light again.

Monday 8. July 2002
Beside the rough grinding work I dedicate myself at times to more technical things and work above all other matters at the ruder shaft and the prop shaft. I change a new stainless rotor for the PSSI shaft seal. The stainless steel rotor has corroded/galvanized heavily. The galvanization is caused because the graphite in the carbon ring (flange) that slides over the steel rotor is a very noble material and will pit a high quality of stainless steel. This stainless rotor is pushed onto the shaft and pressed on the carbon flange and thus withholds the salt water from the prop. PYI Inc. did exchange the 3 year old rotor at no extra charge and provide a very good service..
Work on the seam between keel and hull is needed. Everything so far is ready to replace the old laminate. Over the years water pressed up under the laminate that is glued onto the steel. Since I am quite skilled with resin now, this should not be a hard job to do.
In the evening I add putty to some gaps and roughen the steel in order to have a better surface for the new lamination. The epoxy which I use cures very slowly, stays subtle and flexible, compensating the movements of the keel. I have heard that other companies use Sikaflex for this purpose, but I rather put it back the same way as it was for over 28 years.
At the hull I also remove the old log, the speedometer, which did never work for me. In the times of GPS a wheel log is in my opinion becomes nearly redundant. Yet there are other ways of determining the speed. After three years living on the boat I can tell the speed by the noise made through the water or the noises inside the boat. Anyway, I find it saver to close that plastic troughhull fitting and fibre over it with epoxy resin.
Tuesday 9 July 2002
Jose and Anna our Spanish friends, we met last summer in Roquetas, have their small ship named „Austral“. Their boat is stored here as well. They removed the keel in order to fix a problem beneath the fitting and the hull. After 30 years the old sailing boat had osmosis. Josevisits me each day and explains more and more words in Spanish language. He is very helpful like many Spaniards and offers me to help with my work, since his own work consists more of waiting for draining the fibre.
I gladly accept his assistance and also there is more fun to work as two. Jose begins to paint the hull with a pre-coating primer.

Wednesday 10 July 2002
I laminated at the keel hull connection over night and in the morning again with several layers of glass fibre roving and mat, using epoxy resin. Now the keel can be coated with epoxy tar, a tar-like thick and absolutely waterproof paint.

Nina arrives today. Our children, Nastasja and Selina take their vacation from us and stay with my parents in Germany. Jose and I wanted to pick her up. But Kathleen, a Belgian friend who works in Roquetas is eagerly offering to go to the air port, meeting Nina first. Since I am in the middle of a sticky laminating job, I have no problem with it. The two women have to discuss months of events, at which I would be bored after 5 minutes. What a suprise,the same flight eas taken also by Markus, Skipper of the beautiful old wooden sailing boat SY Regina. So we arrange a welcome dinner with Jose, Anna, Kathleen, Markus and Nina and me the very next evening.

Thursday 11 July 2002
Nina's arrival brings new energy for the work on Amberella. In 5 days, on Monday 15th of July we plan to launch her, but if I see the list of jobs and the enormous load of paint, hardly someone would believe that we can manage.
So we go on. Amberella's hull under the water line get’s a first coat. The rudder and the propeller shaft are back in place and the batteries are fully loaded. One battery cell failed and was of no more use, the other 3 batteries still seem okay. The keel has a first coat of epoxy tar. More coats will follow.
We meet Uschi and Len of the yacht „Wego“ again. Len helps with welding a little hole in the keel. Galvanic corrosion caused a small hole up to the keel bolts. The welding of the cast iron proves a rather complicated task, but after one while at least a part is welded and the remainder is treated with 2 component epoxy putty.

Friday 12 July 2002
One day with lesser progress. We spend part of the day with shopping. Half of the new fuel tank is finished. I plan to install it till Monday. But I wonder if I manage to do so. Laminating the 4 hose fittings, inlet, discharge opening, ventilation and abundance line proves more complex than I thought and I spend the majority of my time with looking for a solution. As well I have not yet any idea how to fasten the new tank into the back locker.
One or more reinforcements must be laminated here and I manufacture 4 attachments which I can laminate to the inside hull, later used as supports to hold the tank with strong belts. In the evening Nina and me roll the first coat of yellow paint onto the upper hull.

The idea to change the color was mine, but when we both look the first coat, we are quite shocked at the radical change. White boats are the majority of all yachts and Amberella sticks now out of the crowd. Two coats of yellow seem not efficient to cover up the patches and dark spots, which were repaired on the hull. Jose helped us with the second coat and offers to ride into town the next morning in order to get another bucket of paint

Saturday 13 July 2002
A second view at the now gold-yellow shining Amberella feels much better than the first one. We are now accustomed to this change and find it rather attractive. Yes it looks already good somehow, although Nina means the wooden reeling is not in harmony with the yellow. The under water ship has already a last undercoating. We move the wooden stands, which hold the ship upright, and paint the covered places. The keel received already 4 coats of tar epoxy and a last primer, which serves as barrier between tar epoxy and antifouling paint.
Nina begins to arrange the chaos in the ship. Most things remain locked in plastic bags, since we go sailing only for 14 days. In Seville the yacht will be locked up again, waiting for another holiday with us. Sad, but true. There is not enough time.
Nevertheless we make ourselfs a home.

Sunday 14 July 2002
After I hand sand the hull with a hard sponge, one more coat of yellow paint will follow. Now finally the yellow is evenly painted and no uncovered spots are left. It would have been wise to have uniformly pre-coated the hull with a primer beforehand, but like so often one is ever smarter afterwards . The keel gets another coat of primer. It’s the barrier between tar epoxy and the antifouling paint. I spend most time in the engine compartment and try to get the flexible coupling with the engine into a line. The vibrations of the shaft did cause always problems in the past. With certain rotating speeds the hydraulic transmission lost oil, probably because by intense vibrations the shaft seals could not hold the oil pressure.
With the boat outside of the water this alignment can however be attained with difficulty since the hull shape changes in the water once more, and thus often also the position of the engine varies.

Monday 15 July 2002
Launching day is postponed by the wharf workers. 1 day extra time for us is okay, since our paint is too fresh, to withhold the pressue of the cranes belts. One component takes more time to harden than 2 component paint. But working with 2 component paint in the Spanish heat is not possibly, because the color dries on the brush and one can only prepare small quantities for the job. However we spend the day with more preparations and start cleaning inside.

Tuesday 16 July 2002
Today should be Amberella's’s launching day, but if I look at the working speed of the Spaniards at the neighbors ships, which block Amberella from being moved by the travel lift, my optimism is gone.
Luis, the master of the wharf, responds to my question with 3 contradictory answers and only later in the afternoon admits, that we are waiting another day. On of the other yachts has just only got its final layer of paint, and I fear we will wait not only until tomorrow, but even longer.
Our time runs out and we must get the boat into the water. So we continue to work on some more jobs on the list; I take care of some electrical connections in the ship and Nina makes a list of provisions to buy. At the evening we sit to a parting dinner with Markus in the cockpit of SV „Regina“. Markus sailed last spring with SV „Regina“ to Gibraltar, but had to turn back close to the passage behind the point of Europe, because he got there at the wrong time. The calculation of the correct time for navigating through the road of Gibraltar becomes a bit of a problem, since we have no experiences with the tides in Europe. The last time we ever had to calculate tides, was in 1996 when Nina and me sailed in North West Australia.
With the wrong tide and time, we can have a 4 knots counter current against us, and it is quite useless to try with our little motor to fight that current. As well strong wind could blow against the current making the sea high, step and uncomfortable.
From Markus we learned that Andrea, skipper of the sailing yacht „Kilmeny“ a Westerly 35, is planning to sail as well to Gibraltar, our direction. She has the correct tide tables and some more information of anchorages for us. So we try to meet her.

Wednesday 17 July 2002
The Spanish get serious. All other ships were launched already to water this morning. Amberella will be done this afternoon.
Yesterday I gave up the final construction of the new tank. I have just not enough time to deal with it. So in a hurry I put back the old tank, connected the hoses, and that’s it. This has to serv just another time.
There are some more little jobs to be done. Nina and me watch the hauling of the other ships and become ever more nervous. The old travel lift in Roquetas has broken already twice and I just hope it will hold for one last boat, Amberella. Well, I wish naturally also much luck to the remaining yachts, but I would not recommend any other yacht, larger than 8 meters to haul out in Roquetas. One can get stuck here, if this travel lift is finally broken and never repaired. Just last year it was broken into two pieces
Later in the afternoon Amberella is lifted from the stands and moves slowly towards the slip dock.
The new painted hull flashes majestically in the sun light. A splash-down always is like a new birth. A beautiful moment. After a 9 months pause Amberella is back in its element. The engine starts at the first attempt and runs as usual. I adjust and fasten the rig. Sail bags pile up on deck. Nina buys some more provisions and water. We meet Andrea and exchange tide tables and excerpts from a 20 years old cruising book. Also Andrea gives us more information about Gibraltar and the area.
The weather forecast for the next days is not very comforting. The local fishermen recon that we will have a fresh "Levante" (east wind), with storm strength. But we prepare ourselves as if we would sail out tomorrow.

Thursday 18 July 2002
As usual the mediterranean weather does not follow the forecast of the experts. We have perfect weather conditions, move the boat from the slip dock, have breakfast with Isabelle and Juanco „Juanco“. Andrea from „Kilmeny“ comes along and we sit a while in the salon and exchange the latest information. Andrea wants to depart now too. We are ready to go instantly. Thus we decide that we sail together. It’s always more fun to sail in convoy with another yacht. Andrea sailed through the Strait of Gibraltar at least 3 times and navigated a yacht with defective engine from the Canaries Islands until Australia. Nina and I are pretty impressed by this strong and self-confident woman.
SV Kilmeny departs a little earlier, since Amberella is expected to sail faster with its 10m water line. The first 15 miles consist of a perfect sail with the wind on the quarter. Amberella cuts through the sea with an average of 5 knots and makes a top speed of 7 knots. We catch up with „Kilmeny“ very quickly, but later in the afternoon the wind calms and we fall behind under sails, while Kilmeny uses the motor. At night we start our engine too and spent the entire night running the engine. In the evening a school of standard whales pays us a short visit. They are about twice as large than dolphins and have round shaped heads. They are all over and around „Amberella“ and accompany us for a little while. At the night we catch up with „Kilmeny“ again and decrease our engine speed. With light winds from southwest and with a calm sea we try to sail a few miles hard on the wind. We do not make a lot of speed, since there are only few ripples on the sea, but this is the way I like it best. When the little wind manages to push the 15 ton yacht through the calm night. It is very quite and only the breeze can be felt on the skin. Soon Andrea is catching up again with the engine.

19 July 2002 With the arrival of the day light we run with the engine and crossing along the bay of Malaga.
The Costa del Sol is terribly and ugly pawed in concrete. It is really ugly to lock at. Everywhere hotels and square concrete building. Nina and me keep wondering why this coast has such a reputation for the holiday catalogs. I guess, Nina and me, we are spoiled from other locations. Some areas of the Spanish coast have changed dramatically. Some for the better. But the majority of the coast is a whole construction area and a waste of resources. Roquetas for example still does all its waste into the sea. 50.000 people live here officially, tourists not counted.The tourist, some 100.000 at hight season, swim in their own waste and sometimes an easterly wind does not only offer the smell of fish and the sea, but of waste of the hotel complex.
Especially when the wind pushes the shit back to the beach, including plastic bags and dead fish from the fisherman thrown in without care.
That is of course not mentioned in the high gloss travel magazines.
Luckily the Atlantic has its own bad reputation. The saying about the Atllantic is "Always cold and windy... " an so on are the phrases we hear from others. For us that only means we can escape a little from the crowd and are looking forward to see new waters.
Anyhow, we find the Atlantic coast is full of green and many more facet-rich than the Mediterranean. The villages are still original and the tourism rather mild.
We continue our trip and sail with steady west-southwesterly wind conditions. Although all weather stations prophesy each day easterly winds, we have not seen those conditions since 2 days.
We decide to anchor close to Esteponia, approx. 15 sm before the Cap of Gibraltar . We need to wait for the tide to turn and better current conditions, in order to continue our trip. The anchorage is near Sabinilla and a little uncomfortable. Because of the current the boat rolls side ways to the incoming swell. However we decide to pay a short visit to the village. The current and the swell makes it difficult to strand the dinghy. After tapas and beer the return trip becomes particularly wet. Our dingi is turned over at a first attempt to launch it back into the sea. Here is no way to launch the dinghy safely, so we decide to go for a swim, with our belongings covered in plastic bags and enter the dinghy when we are save away deeper in the water, without smell. We arrive completely soaked but nevertheless happy and laughing at the two yachts anchored further out in the bay.

Saturday 20 July 2002 around 0900 o clock we are tying up at the gas station and refill our spare tanks. Now the last leg to Gibraltar can begin. We have approx. 1 knot current against us. The wind blows variable from southwest, then again northwest. From time to time we can use the Genoa to support the engine. After approx. 5 miles we receive a warm welcome of 5 dolphins, who dive and jump in front of Amberella's bowl.
This is actually the first time that I manage to get some decent photos of dolphins done. In front of the monumental rock of Gibraltar numerous freighters anchor and wait for the pilot boats helping them enter the port. We keep sailing close to the land and near Point Europe and right at the buoy that indicates the border to Great Britain's colony I change the Spanish for a British flag. We have briefly telephone contact with the yacht „Wego“, skippered by Uschi and Lenn. They anchor in La Linea, the Spanish side of Gibraltar.
We have planned to anchor there too, but by the time we round „Point Europe“ the tides seems to be different from what we expected.
After we have safely rounded Point Europe we are in radio contact with Andrea SY Kilmeny. She is calculating the tide again and we look into our books too. We have both different interpretations of the durations of the tides. The books and short descriptions for the passage vary very strongly. In any case our tactic is to navigate very close to the shoreline, because here counter currents would push us toward the west, similarly to an edges of a river. This way we can sail through the Strait with little use of the engine.
But first we must navigate through the bay of Algecirras. Because a strong current is pushing into this bay, we need to sail almost into the middle of the Strait, maneuvering through a steady stream of Ferry boats until we would sail back close to the shore line as previously planned.

After we crossed 2/3 of the bay we take course on the Cap of Tarifa and sail with the help of a running engine. With light south-west wind and only 1 to 1,5 knots current against us we make good distance good. Until we still had the backup plan to sail back to La Linea, if the weather would fail. The conditions however are good and we continue to pass the Strait.

A ministorm! After we make a good half of the distance, a small dark cloud is passing us slowly and the wind falls asleep briefly. Than with like a smash the direction of the wind turns 180 degreed and the strength rises up to bft. 7.

Caught unprepared, we need a while to get the sails under control. But with the wind now blowing from aft we rush with a small jib and with 6 knots of speed down the fast building sea. The waves are short and approx.. 2,5 meters high, since the wind blows against the current. Tarifa is almost visible . We have to make up plans for a new anchorage. We wonder whether this strong wind will develop to a full „Levante“ (east) storm .
After we rounded the peninsula of Tarifa, we set our anchor in moderate winds west from the city beach. The wind blow steady, but after about 30 Minutes it dies once again.

While Andrea and the SY Kilmeny is still about 1 hour behind she is telling us she has no wind at all from where she is coming. Strangely enough, the wind in our bay takes yet another 180° turn and blow straight from west. This beach has become an unsafe anchorage now. So we lift the anchor again and round the cap of Tarifa once more. Right in time Kilmeny arrives and we both decide to anchor on the east side of the peninsula. The small lagoon offers good protection from the westerly winds, but a little swell is constantly rolling in. But this lagoon seems much better than the port itself, so we decide to stay. Our harbor plan has only a short chapter about Tarifa, and tells only night mare about westerly winds and this port, so we stay at anchor.

Sunday 21 July 2002 The weather situation did not change. The Westerly blows steady and is not expected to abate in the next days. We use our unplanned break with a visit of the beautiful city Tarifa.

The historical core of the old part of town is really attractive and numerous cafes and beautiful businesses and shops fill the narrow lanes. We find only little tourists, only a few , usually Spaniards, or some backpackers. The beach is defined as wind-richest surfing beach of Europe.
We let go and have a treat of Tapas and „Clara“ (beer with Sprite lemonade) in an authentic Spanish bar.

In the evening we get visitors from Seville. Gogi and Sergio, our Spanish friends who have met us first in Roquetas de Mar in 2001 and we have visited them last autumn in their hometown Seville. So they came by and it was a warm welcome. Sergio was eager to accompany us on our trip up the river to Seville.
The strong west wind did not stop blowing during the night. To us this ment to remain in Tarifa. Only 9 days left to reach Seville.


Read more in part 2 Amberella goes Atlantic or check thearchive or go back to top