Having paid our dues, we motored out of Queensway Quay with about 30mins to go to the witching hour and then discovered that HMS Ocean had arrived earlier that morning and was moored up on the southern mole. She was busy refuelling in preparation to heading across to the Caribbean in support of the post Hurricane Irma relief effort. Her deck was filled with almost every type of helicopter in the inventory of the UK’s Joint Helicopter Command as well as a couple of ‘pinging’ Merlin for those vital anti-submarine operations which will surely be required in the Caribbean!
Pictures duly taken, we headed out of the harbour at Gibraltar. Once clear, we double checked that there were no leaks from the work that we had done on the exhaust system and then relaxed and enjoyed the view of ‘the Rock’ as we motored north.
Picking our way through the anchored ships, we worked our way a short distance north. Our plan was to move up to the anchorage at La Linea and tackle some more maintenance tasks whilst we waited for our new mainsail to be ready.
|Sunset at the La Linea anchorage|
|Servicing the winches|
In the morning, we tackled the largest maintenance task we’d set ourselves, servicing our 7 winches. To do this properly they all need to be stripped down, cleaned and reassembled with fresh grease and oil. We lined the cockpit with newspaper and slowly worked our way through dealing with each winch in turn. It took ages but it only needs to be done every 2 years and we now know that they are all in good working order and shouldn’t let us down.
|RAF C17 flying stores and equipment in for HMS Ocean|
There were a few interesting distractions from working on the winches. First a flight of 3 Chinook helicopters landed at the RAF Gibraltar airfield, there was then an A400M transport plane followed a little time later by a huge C-17 transport plane; the RAF had been very busy helping to get stores and components to Gibraltar to load onto HMS Ocean for their hurricane relief mission.
|Fixing the cracked clutch for the genoa furling line|
On Wednesday, we kicked off the day’s chores by removing the clutch for the genoa furling line. One of the side panels had a long crack in it and so needed to be replaced. Having removed the clutch from the deck it was very easy to strip it down, clean it and then rebuild it with a shiny new side panel. With a couple of blobs of sealant applied, it was bolted back down onto the deck.
|Our take on a Caribbean wind scoop|
My focus then switched to making a new wind-scoop and rain cover for the forehatch. It rains heavily every afternoon in the Caribbean and normal wind-scoops just end up funnelling lots of rain onto your bunk. Nicky had read up about possible designs; it needed to be large enough and low enough to allow rain to bounce on the deck but not be blown though the hatch, plus it would needed to be well secured to cope with windy anchorages. The simplest solution she’d found was a 2½ x 1½ metre tarpaulin stretched out over the hatch and angled marginally higher at the front and lower at the back to funnel the wind down the open hatch. We worked on that as a start point and thought through some improvements. To make the hatchcover more light proof, I added a lining material. I also added a batten at the front to help it hold a better scooping shape and a lifting point in the middle to make sure that it shed any rainwater. Making all of that up took the rest of the day.
Meanwhile, Nicky was busy hand-stitching net curtain material to make a fly-proof bag for hanging the leg of ham that we had bought at the Spanish supermarket at the beginning of the week. Whilst we will have to wrap the ham and stow it securely when we’re under sail, when we’re at anchor, hanging it from one of the hatches means that the air circulates around it nicely and helps it to dry a little between slicings. And after all that busy-ness, what better way to unwind than chatting over drinks and nibbles with friends? Mike and Kate’s Kealoha V had been relaunched that morning and they had invited us on board for drinks. So we fired up the dinghy and, ignoring the ‘No Dinghies’ sign at the entrance to the marina, pottered sedately in to see them. We had a fabulous evening and they spoilt us rotten with such a marvellous array of canapés to accompany the drinks that we stayed far later than we had originally intended. Isn’t that ever the danger when you’re having fun?
Thursday morning arrived a bit sooner than we really wanted but we had jobs to finish and even more to start so we couldn’t ignore it. We started by attaching the securing lines to the ‘Caribbean’ windscoop and tried it out. It certainly funnels the wind effectively enough but we’ll have to wait a while to see if the design is a total success and copes with heavy rain.
|The old instrument covers (top), the new one (middle) and the new one stowed for sailing|
So, with that job ticked off and the sewing machine still out, we looked at making up a cover for our cockpit instruments. Three of the grey plastic sun covers are well past their best and falling apart. However, despite our best efforts we have been unable to find replacements for them. I did think about making up some new ones in glass fibre but Nicky suggested that a canvas cover might work. I cut down another short length of batten and attached a rectangle of canvas to the top of the instrument panel. Rolled down, the batten sits securely under the wooden panel keeping the canvas taught. When rolled up around the batten, the canvas sits neatly above the instrument secured by a small strap. We thought that it was a neat solution and so much better looking than the old faded plastic covers.
To celebrate the completion of half of the canvas-work tasks, we took the dinghy ashore to try (again) to top-up the credit on our Spanish SIM card. This time Vodafone’s credit top-up system was working correctly and, better still, the lady who served us spoke excellent English so we now have the Spanish words we need to go through the process again in a month’s time. Unfortunately, with credit on the data SIM there is now no excuse not to publish blogs – so I’d better try to catch up!
|La Linea, Spain|