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Buenos Dias Gijon…

I did not want to approach a strange port, and the rocky N Spanish coast at night. So I intended slowing down and even stopping some miles off – say 10 or so – and waiting for dawn. The wind had other ideas. About 40nm off the coast, the wind gradually dropped to 2kts – then 0 kts. The sea state likewise over the course of about 2 hours became “slight” with just the gentlest of Atlantic swell. The stars came out from behind the leaden grey clouds of the day to reveal their magnificent show. It was a silent, black, crystal night. I went through my encyclopaedic knowledge of constellations – the Plough; Orion…. er…the Plough, oh and the Milky Way of course. All those episodes of the Stars at Night had clearly made a deep impression – unfortunately not a lasting one. I went below and began the tidy up. Might as well be ship shape for my entry into Gijon.

Enterprise just drifted slowly at about 2kts with the autopilot on again. I started the usual routine – radar and AIS alarms checked and on; mattress on the floor of the saloon; Raymarine app on my iPhone. You don’t really “sleep” as such since the alarm goes off every hour and in any case the weather and the world in general haven’t read the memo about your schedule. So I had quite a few trips up top. First having a little genoa out (I though a scrap would help keep some direction); then taking the genoa in; then reefing the main even more to try and lessen the slapping and cracking like some demented circus whip artist; then taking the autohelm off (its alarm kept going anyway as it objected to not having enough to do) and locking the steering. In the end just a scarp of mainsail, no autohelm, and locked steering seemed to do the trick. I drifted inexorably towards Spain. Funnily enough I think I did actually get some sleep.

About 0500 I decided to dived 40nm by 5kts and came up with the startling revelation that I was still 8hrs from Gijon. Still no wind. There was no choice but to start the engine. I was now anxious about the fuel issue. The fuel issue was this. – the last time I had filled the tank was Plymouth. The fuel gauge had been stuck on “full” ever since. Yet I knew now with amazing alacrity that this was not in fact something I could just ignore indefinitely. Obviously fuel had been used to motor in and out of each port since Plymouth. It had also been used for various manoeuvres like avoiding the Sir Ernest Shackelton. I started adding up all the hours recorded in my log book. I always note the time ON/OFF for the engine and the generator – which also uses diesel of course.  I then had to decide whether to multiply the hours  by 5 (as in 5 litres per hour of consumption) or 3 (if the revs are low around 1200 rpm the consumption is less). I came up with two numbers. One consumption figure meant that the engine was now burning air alone – a patentable invention I am sure. The other meant I had 20 hrs of fuel left.

Both results were of no comfort. I set the engine on 1200rpm and put the main sail out just to steady the boat and grab any air that decided to blow my way. The forward motion of a boat creates its own air of course, so pushing the boat along with the engine at about 3/4kts creates the same amount of apparent wind going past the sail.

Much to my relief the wind came careering along as I approached the heat of the Spanish coast. Engine off – full sails out. Enterprise was now bowling along again. I entered the outer harbour which is a huge bay like Falmouth, at about 1300. Now, how far could I go under sail alone. I decided the only place to break down would be at the mouth of the marina itself still about a mile away. So I did what I had seen so many mad French do before. I sailed right in to the marina. My thought was I would just crash into the Fuel pontoon – note the MI mentality – or the wind would drop and I would get the sail in somehow. Unlike a normal slab reefed main you cant just drop the main sail – it has to be wound in – that takes time. Again, providence stepped in. I had radioed already and told the marina ..”soy un navigante solo..”. I made this up from the words of “Oh solo mio” (Italian, I know) and “soy un hombre sincero”…I don’t know if “solo” meant I was “alone” or that I was “lonely” ….what the hell . There was no time to worry about that now. As a came briskly in to the marina, I deftly steered past the little tots sailing school that was on its way out into the bay, into 15 gusting 20kts of wind, each tiny dinghy hosting a 5 year old – totally fearless.

The Capitaine’s boat was there to guide me. The wind dropped as I coasted in behind the huge stone breakwater, (a construction worthy of Napoleon) and I got the boat sorted – fenders, lines –  by which time the Capitaine’s man was on a pontoon whistling and pointing at me and at his feet. I decided to take this the more charitable way. I tied up with the man’s help and went below to strip off. I was drenched in sweat not only from the 280 C sunshine, but from the anxiety and relief. I emerged with a London Pride (thank you John, Gerry and Vicky) and sat in the sun, trying to take in what had happened over that past few days – and more.

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Approaching Gijon – Wind 16kts – free fuel at last. Back on track after a night off.
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London Pride ! Locals paddling over to trade for biros…

3 comments to Buenos Dias Gijon…

  • Blimey Russ, i was relieved i read yesterday’s post before eating it looked terrifying…Today i have decided you are completely mad and definitely the man for the job. Enjoy your rest in harbour x

  • “Yo no hablo Espanol” may come in handy and is also the only Spanish I recall. Although I did only do one year waaaaaaayy back at school. Glad to see your humour has not yet flagged. be sure to get some chorizo; it will keep ages if you don’t scoff it all. x

  • Stuart

    Well there is another handy check like your mate said. Not only have I got my life jacket on, am I tied to the boat but now have I got fuel?
    I don’t think you will be short of fuel again!
    You hid your light under a bushel at school. I never you could write in such an eloquent way. Keep having a great adventure.

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