After leaving Almerimar on August 7 we sailed to Gibraltar just before the Levante started blowing. As it was a strong Levante with 50+ winds forcasted west of Gibraltar, we decided to stay in Alcaidesa and tour Gibraltar, Ronda and Sevilla as described in an earlier post.
As soon as the Levante had calmed down we sailed thru the straits to Barbate. The only reason for going in to Barbate is to break up the trip if going to Cadiz, or waiting for better weather to transiting the Straits. Barbate is not a charming place.
As the Grib files showed no wind for the next 5 days we decided to sail to Rota. We anchored the first night outside the beach. I was diving under the boat in order to clean the propeller from scales that had been growing when the boat sat in Almerimar for four weeks.
Next day we went into the Marina. Rota has a nice marina and it is only a 5 minute walk to the old city.
I was looking at weather every day to find a window for the crossing. Saturday looked promising in the beginning, but as Saturday came closer I realized that Monday would be even better.
Predict Wind showed a crossing with almost no motoring and winds betwwen 15 and 25 knots. As a new Levante had started blowing we should get good winds from the beginning. However we had to motor out of the Marina for 2-3 hours and then the easterly wind came strong as expected. When we met the Portuguese trades we got an even more comfortable sail to Porto Santo which is close to Madeira. We are not spoiled to be able to sail 500nm without starting the engine. The Mediterranean is a sea with either no wind or too much wind. We have been using the engine far too much in the Med.
When leaving Rota we used our backup autopilot as it had been recalibrated. I was surprised how good it was steering as it had been a problem for a long time. The recalibration made it as new!
After 10 hours on the backup pilot we switched to the main autopilot. I immediately understood that something was seriously wrong with the main autopilot as it did not respond. When I looked at the hydraulic linear drive, I could see that the hydraulic cylinder had been coming apart from the housing and the hydraulic fluid had leaked out in the bilge. I changed back to the second autopilot and we decided to sail a little bit conservative as we had lost redundancy for the autopilot. In all we lost 5-6 hours on an 80 hours crossing when we slowed down to around 7-8 knots instead of 8-9.
We had a fantastic trip with winds and swell from the right direction the majority of the time. We were 3 people which made the trip enjoyable. Iris who have been sailing with us for years does not understand what seasickness is, and is preparing wonderful meals in all conditions.
We were surprised how little traffic it is going south. We did only see a handful of freighters after leaving the straits.
There are 3 ingredients to plan a successful crossing. Good weather information, time and patience. Over and over again it is the two later one that are most critical. If you have guests with a schedule you are suddenly on their schedule and might feel pressed to leave at the wrong time. We encourage our guests not to buy a return ticket as they are facing the risk to rebook. Patience is important as it can be frustrating to sit and wait.
Thanks to good weather routing software, patience, and a backup for the autopilots we got one of the best crossings ever on Bella Luna.