Departing Valencia: Things get weird in the dark!

Atlantic Crossing Leg 1: Valencia, Spain to Gibraltar, UK

Arriving in May, we had no idea what we were really walking into.  We were excited about being brand new boat owners of this beautiful newly designed catamaran.  What we found when we arrived was that it was not quite ready to go. We toiled and toured all summer and we finally feel like the boat is ready to go…well as good as it can be to safely start the journey!  So, on October 16, 2022, our good friend Geoff, sailor extraordinaire, and his son, Louis arrived.  Crew. Check. 

Erin & Kevin
Louis & Geoff

Since neither had been to Valencia before, we decided to take them out on the town for a beverages to celebrate our last night in Valencia and get reacquainted before we set sail. Geoff is a HUGE Liverpool Fútbol fan so tracked down a pub we could watch the latest game. Turned into quite the night. We met some interesting folks and had some pints.  Geoff, making friends everywhere he goes, ended up buddies with the bar’s owner and over came some interesting random shots on the house…Well, here’s to a long (and hopefully, uneventful) journey to the Caribbean!

We Finally Depart Valencia!

The next morning, we slept in knowing the around the clock watches would begin mid-day.  I laid out a nice spread of sandwiches for lunch as we talked about our plan for  the next few days of sailing. Around 2pm, we pulled away from the dock and put Valencia in our “rear-view mirror” for the last time. Right out of the gate, we encountered light winds and calm seas which had us cruising along at a comfortable 5-6 kts with the main and jib up. A few hours into the sail, the winds slowly began to die down and we opted to pull the jib down and put the Code 0 up.  It was a nice way to get the crew comfortable working together and changing sails in calmer weather. By the time we were done dinner, we were motoring in less than 3 kts of wind. Doh.

Morning chat
Spinnaker Up
Setting the Jib

Getting Settled into the Watch Rhythm 

We set up a watch rotation that had us doing 3 x 4 hours watches from sun up to sound down and then 6 x 2 hours watches in the dark. This was our experiment that would allow short watches at night with at least 6 hour breaks for adequate rest.  You would end up with every 4th day off and either 1 or 2 watches at night.  This way no one got stuck with the same brutal zero dark thirty watches over and over.

Our first night we had our first emergency fix.  We got a starboard engine overheat just as Geoff was heading to bed after his watch around midnight.  Unfortunately, it was the engine under Geoff’s bed who had just crashed out. So much for sleep on night one!   We determined the engine coolant wasn’t flowing. The winds were picking up, so we raised the sails to keep moving forward while Kevin trouble shot the problem to get the coolest flowing again. It took about an hour, but we got it going.  First crisis adverted! 

First Night Complete…Day 2 more of the same!

On day 2, the seas started picking up to about 1.5 – 2 meters pushed by a quartering tail wind as we continued on at about 5-6 kts.  Half the crew started feeling a bit queasy. Ginger Ale and Saltines to the rescue!  Once again, the wind started dying just after sunset. As we brought the motors online, we got a starboard motor controller problem and the engine went off line. Super. This one was a bit tricker to solve. We emailed back and forth with Oceanvolt in Finland over our IridiumGo and finally narrowed it down to a loose fuse on the motor controller. Crisis two averted! Hoping this trend in motor issues does not continue…we have a long way to go!


Our First Catch!

The rest of the day and night went on quietly, not much traffic, very quiet and dark, but calm. Up to this point, we had dragged fishing lines on a few passages with out any real luck. But, on day two we did manage to reel in our first tuna! Kevin pulled in a Skipjack Tuna. It wasn’t big, but it was delicious. It was quickly fileted(-ish) up and cooked in some teriyaki sauce for a lunch at sea!

Reeling it in
Fresh Teriyaki Tuna

Things get weird in the dark!

On the 3rd night, Kevin woke me up early at 3 in the morning.  Told me to get up and come outside ASAP, “Don’t worry about getting more dressed, just hurry”.  Umm, I did need to at least put shorts on, we have guests on board! He was INSISTENT that there was something I just need to see!  As I came out I noticed the wake behind the boat was lit up light CRAZY with bioluminescence in some spooky black seas. It was beautiful.  He yelled to clip in and come up to the bow quickly.  He wasn’t kidding…that was nothing…compared to the….GLOW IN THE DARK DOLPHINS criss-crossing each other riding the wake on the bow and zoom to and from the boat. I couldn’t even imagine anything like it.  It was mesmerizing.  You could see their entire bodies outlined and glowing. There were at least 20 of them. They were so fast and so agile. It was WILD. I sat up there for about 30 minutes mesmerized until I had to be on watch at 4 am, they departed about the same time and it was just back to dark and murky with bioluminescence trailing behind the boat. Sort of surreal surroundings. The dolphins came back once or twice just before the sun came up. Hand’s down one of the most amazing experiences of my life being out oat sea and alone in the dark quiet with these majestic creatures circling the boat, ridding the way and putting on a light show. No pictures sadly 🙂

A Foggy Gibraltar Arrival 

As the sun rose, I woke up after a post-watch nap and walked right into a white cloud.  The fog was thick and just got denser as we approached Gibraltar. Once we were about 3 miles away, the traffic really started increasing with lots of tankers and fishing boats coming and going on the horizon.  Yay for our working radar! We hung our Gibralter courtesy & quarantine flags just as the fog started to clear and the enormous rock bloomed into sight. It was quite surreal to look around us and know that we could see UK owned Gibraltar, the Spanish coast in the distance around the rock and the continent of Africa just a few miles away. Geography is cool.  We rounded point Europa and worked our way through the narrow winding entrance into Queensway Quay Marina, where we had planned to stay for the next 48 hours before our next leg. On this leg we covered 417 miles in just over 3 days, our first multi-day trip with crew. 

Foggy morning
The Rock comes into view
Queensway Quay Marina


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