Amberella goes Atlantic, Sailing
adventure 2002 - part one
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
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. http://pyiinc.com 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
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“ http://www.wegosail.com
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
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
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
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
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
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