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Delivery trip from Lowestoft to Gibraltar bit long sorry

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As delivery trips have been very scarce, in fact non-existent so far this year, I was somewhat surprised when an enquiry came to deliver a Broom 50 from Lowestoft down to sunny Gibraltar, not too much persuasion was needed to accept the job.

I had been involved in moving the boat a couple of times in the last 12 months, up and down the east coast, to and from the Thames so she was no real stranger to me. Taking into consideration some of the boats I have moved over the past 3 years, Aqua fleur was a veritable super yacht!

She is a very well found vessel and equipped with all the usual electronic gizmos, 2 howling Yanmar diesels fully laden with the latest EMS systems, (electronic management systems) and there lay the initial problem.

Last year whilst on passage from the Thames up to Lowestoft, the EMS shut down one of the engines on to get you home mode, as there was a fault indicated. At the due time for leaving Lowestoft for Gib, the fault remained and only low revs could be coaxed out of the port engine. Specialist were called in from the engine suppliers, Tom Brissenden, who had taken part with me in the 2008 Round Britain Powerboat Race, from Brooms, attended as well as Local engine specialist East Coast Diesels. Computers were plugged in and it was all gibberish to me, however the fault was traced to a turbo sensor, a replacement sourced, and a successful trial carried out on the Tuesday afternoon, 4 days later than the departure date. Not a good omen as we were on a time scale.

Susan and I loaded the vessel for the coming trip and booked the 1900 bridge lift out from Lowestoft Haven Marina on route to Ramsgate, our first port of call. Final checks made and off we went,

Weather was superb for the leg down to Ramsgate, just a couple of teething problems on the way down, lost the GPS system for a short while as we got to the Sunk, not the best of places to lose the GPS but dead reckoning navigation came into play so not too much of an issue, more of a problem was the lack of navigation lights! Again, this problem was soon sorted and we continued on past the Kentish Knock, the North Foreland and arrived at Ramsgate at midnight.

I must admit, the abundance of wind farms down the east coast came as a bit of a shock. At one point we could see the Gunfleet, the Gabbard, the London Array, the Kentish Flats and the Thanet wind farms. All in the Thames estuary, one of the busiest shipping lanes in Europe. I must say though, these obstacles posed no real threat to our passage.

On arrival at the Royal Harbour at Ramsgate I was taken aback by how quiet the marina was in terms of leisure boats, wind farm support vessels were in abundance.

Thursday was spent in Ramsgate as the weather had picked up overnight and a moderate to rough sea state predicted. The day was spent passage planning and visiting the Belgian Bar for a glass or two!!!

We planned to leave the berth at 0500 on Thursday with a forecast of moderating conditions. Engine checks were duly carried out and off we went. The journey south via the Downs was perfect, Dover wasn’t too bad in a westerly 3-4, Dungeness a little livelier, then Beachy Head was something else!

The weather had not moderated much at all so it was decided that Newhaven was the best place to be, although that decision should be open to comment!!!! We refuelled at Newhaven and decided to overnight in view of the weather. Dawn on Friday broke with a gentle puff of wind from the west, a vast improvement on the previous day so we got a move on to depart.

The next stop was to be St Peters Port, Gurnsey.

I was keen to get across to the North West coast of France before the weekend as I wanted to be in Gibraltar by the following Wednesday. We had determined by this stage that the range of Aqua Fleur was going to be 200 nautical miles maximum. This discounted crossing Biscay from Ushant to Cape Finisterre, a distance of 350 miles, so alternative plans had to be put into place. Gurnsey offered the normal superb hospitality and a fine lunch was enjoyed whilst waiting for the enormous tidal range(compared with Lowestoft) to allow us to get alongside the fuelling berth.

Here we took on just on a thousand litres of fuel at tax free prices, and then left the port enroute for Laber Wrach, on the north west coast of France. We had been there before and arrived in the dark and it looked as if we would be doing the same this time around. Wonderful place and this time I knew there was a new marina so we were looking forward to getting alongside with a visit to the local hostelery once secure. Should have known better! On the way across from the channel Islands we saw many tall ships and various sailing vessels. This was the end of the Tall ships annual gathering at Brest and the ones we saw were heading north and east Laber Wrach was west and south and as a result, the Marina we were so looking forward to was packed. No alternative then but to pick up a mooring buoy and forgo the delights of French Cuisine.

Bright and early we slipped the mooring and headed of to the challenges of the Chenel Du Four. The Dawn was perfect and bode well for the passage down to our next refuelling stop at Loctudy. What a delightful town we found here. The predominance is a fishing port but a run into town for supplies of bread and cheese determined us to revisit this part of France sooner rather than later. Alas we had a shedual to keep and we headed of to our next and overnight stop at Sables De Oloronne. We arrived at Sables at 20.00 and found a cosmopolitan port with a huge marina complex which puts our marinas here on the east coast to shame. The facilities were second to none, fuelling wa a different story but as self service goes we managed although Susan said I had difficulty in keeping my temper with the fuel pump. A superb supper was welcomed at one of the harbour side restaurants, seafood being top of the menu and we then sat and whiled away a pleasant couple of hours listening to a local band playing head banging rock music which quite appealed to me.

I know that the climate is somewhat different to ours here in the uk but I could not get away from the fact that here as in many places visited over the years how social the continentals are. Here the restaurants were welcoming, and I do mean welcoming guests up to and beyond midnight, we went into an hotel in Newhaven for something to eat and was told ‘sorry the chef went home at 8’

Again here is somewhere I would like to revisit.

Sables was our stepping off across Biscay Point. Not the way we have done the crossing in the past, but we had range restrictions and so our next destination was Sandanter.

Sables dissapeared into the distance as we set off on a course of 202 towards Sandanter where we planned to arrive at around 18.00.

We really could not have wished for better conditions, calm sea, blue sky and pots all over the place, just like the east coast, the only difference was that the depth in places exceeded 1000meters, I wonder what size crustaceons were found at that depth.

At about 1600 the sea conditions perked up a little as a result of offshore breezes and the North coast of Spain hove into view. Sandanter is a very busy fishing and commercial port and a very large marina has been established. We had a bit of a task findinf the fuelling berth as it was the other side of the river from the marina, we only just arrived in time as they were just about to shut up shop, but a couple of cans of cold beer persueded the attendant to stay on but I think he was a little put out when he discovered we needed 1700 liters! The marina and fuel berth are situated along side the main airport and a steady stream of Easy Jets and were seen to be taking off but at around 19.00 they seemed to stop flying.

The marina here is enourmous, and there were many boats of 25meters plus, however predominantly the boats consisted of smallish angling/dayboats and yachts. The facilities were first class and it is true to say the marina fees a bit expensive, not too much of an issue if the facilities are good.

An excellent dinner consumed on the afterdeck as we watched the sun go down left me contemplating the next bit, will the weather hold, can we get to La Corunna in one hit, can we make Gibraltar in the time frame, all ponderables, the weather I had no control on, the next leg was too far for one run, time frame? Out of my control. Where do we stop for fuel? The answer after a quick referral to the almanac suggested that Gijon was the best choice. So an early night as an early start was on the cards for tommorrow.

Up with the lark on the 23rd and engine checks carried out. The day started bright and sunny with no wind and we got underway from the marina at 0630. There is quite a way to go from the marina down to the entrance and we encountered many small fishing boats on the way down, it diddnt seem to bother them that they were slap in th emiddle of the main channel but we managed not to run any down. One or 2 ships were anchored just to the west of the entrance to the Ria but there were a couple of structures to the west which looked very much like the Met Masts that have been appearing off the each coast as a precurser to wind farm construction.

By mid morning the wind speed had picked up to a force 5 easterly which wasn’t too bad as it was up our chuff and gave no real problems, I was very concious of our time scale and prayed for the wind to stay as it was and were it was, seemed to have worked. We arrived at Gijon at 1145 and went straight on to the fuelling berth, here we took on 650 liters which will give enough fuel to reach La Coruna. Again a lovely town which could do with a further look at some point. Off we go again towards our next stop. The sea state had by now increased to moderate, but we were able to maintain 18 knots cruising so we were content to watch as the North spanish coast slipped by. There seemed to be a bit of a hazyness as the visibility diminished slightly, not a good omen as last time we were here we were caught in a real pea souper!

2030 saw us into La Corruna entrance were we quickly found the Marina, couldn’t really miss it as the port control building, a massive structure towered above the yacht harbour. We decided on a run ashore tonight and a good meal, I had heard that Coruna was a buetiful medieval city and so fuelling was for Manana! I was struck by the huge newish marina which catered for the smallest of boats to superyachts, the facilities second to none, complete with underground car park, but the place was reminicent of a ghost town! At a guess I would that the marina had just about 40% occupancy. Glad I diddnt have to finance it all

We found a town square which reminded me of Brugges or St Marks square in venice, with out the music! There were many restaurants and we were spoiled for choice, after carfull consideration, ( the one serving the biggest beers) we sat down to a superb dinner of sea food, the Spanish really can do seafood. We were struck by the amount of people about, at 2330 we were ready to leave but still people were coming and going not just adults, but their children too! We finally left to head back to the marina when we got caught up in a fiesta!. This was in the form of a medieval market with stret traders selling a huge range of stuff from sweets to perfume, from cheese to vegetables. Music in all forms and the place was buzzing. Incredible and we wished we had more time to spend, but we were tierd and an early start beckoned. We were both struck by the life style the continentals follow. It seems that this country have lost a great deal in the sense of values.

Refuelling the following morning was soon complete and a bit more of a passage plan was called for as time was an essence.

We decided on a relativly short hop round Finisterre to Bayona a distance of a little under 100 miles. It was intended to stop in Bayona for the inevitable fuel and a quick run ashore for something to eat and some shopping and then head off on an overnight passage to Nazare.

We sliiped at Coruna at 1045 and headed off into the promise of a settled passage. Finisterre gave us the usual mist patches again and we were abeam of Cape Villano light at 1330 30 minutes later saw us in thick fog with visibility down to 50 metres, not were I wanted to be as fog has always been voodoo for me. Relief came a couple of hours later when we found ourselves in clear bright sunlight but surrounded by fishing floats and small angling boats the size of row boats, 6 miles offshore!

We complain about pots here on the east coast but the east coast has nothing to compare with the west coat of Spain and Portugal.My philosohy is if you see them, avoid them. If you cant see them, don’t worry as you will give yourself a breakdown!!!!

By 1700 Bayona was in our sights and we were secured along side the fuelling berth at 1730, a quick fill of Gaz oil from the very helpful marina attendant and we were off ashore for victuals and a feed. Once again we where impressed by the café culture here. We found a smashing little restaurant where we sat outside and enjoyed a couple of beers with a superb meal which set us up for the coming night passage. I must admit the prospect of an overnighter started to cloud things as it would have been nice to stay over but no we must press on. 20 45 saw us casting off and underway towards Nazare, our next stop.

The weather was spot on, flat sea and good visibilty, it wasn’t to last.

After a couple of hours of dodging fishing boats, there was a target on the radar at 2 miles but I couldn’t see anything ahead, 1 mile, stiil nothing. Half a mile, now I am getting a little concered so slow down to 10 knots. Still nothing visual. Suddenly, at less than a quarter of a mile the stern light of a coaster appeared. Fog again! The last time we were off this part of the coast we had the same conditions but at least this time we had radar so all was not lost, my concern was the very small fishing boats that we had been encountering all along this coast. As we started to approach the coast into Nazare the fog started to clear away and we were gald to see the light of the port appear.

The almanac stated that there was a marina with fuel which is why we decided to stop here. I am always cautious of entering a strange harbour in the dark and so we loitered outside untill the dawn started to break when we could make out the entrance and the marks that led into the marina.

The Riveara, this place is not! The fuel pontoon is a rickety structure with a couple of old pumps and you are constantly buzzed by the local fishing fleet leaving at a humungous rate of knots leaving the resultant tidal wave of wash that really does not not do do too much good to the hulls of the unwary.

To get service from the fuel pumps meant a quarter mile treck to the local filling station where they activatied the pump once you gave them your credit card and the pump would then dispense 400 euros of diesel at a time. Hey were adamant that we must leave the card with them whilst we filled up but Susan decide that the finer side of caution be observed so handed over the card but she decided to keep the card company as she reckoned the staff looked a bit suspect! Nonthe less it took all of 2 hours to fill up and get our Nectar points( it was a BP station) and we were gald to see the place dissapear over the horizon. At 08.20 we were gone. At least now we had fine weather. No cloud, sunshine late morning but most important, no fog. We were on shedual for the next stop which was to be Lagos on the south coast of Portugal.

The last trip we had in these waters saw us passing Cape St Vincent in calmsea and sunshine, this trip gave us the same. I edged in a little closer this time and it was well worth it. What a magnificent sight. These people don’t mess about when they build light houses. It is huge, but then I suppose it needs to be as it is the furthest SW point in Mainland Europe. You can only imagine what the conditions would be like during a South Westerly storm in the winter. Today was idylic. Apart from the ever constant fishing pots that is. Like Lands End, the Cape had many visitors which could be seem from seaward, but I diddnt see any of the reputed anglers who climb down the cliffs and risk life and limb to catch the evening meal!.

At this point we were an hour and a half from Lagos and some rest. Whatever any one says, being a delivery skipper or crew is tiring, it does have its benefits though but I always have found that I get tired at sea far more so than on land., and so we were content to arrive in the river leading to the marina at Lagos.

The first stop was the fuelling berth,(no suprize there then). Filled up and decided to stay on the outside pontoons as to go into the marina proper would mean going through the lifting pedestrian bridge which diddnt start operating untill 0800 the following morning. Here our nightmare started.

There are only 2 electric hook up points and one water point on the waiting pontoon. All of these outlets were taken up by a catermaran who was crewed by a bunch of Gallic gypsies who poseesed more money than manners. They would not give up one of the electric points as they needed the air conditioning system on board. The other hook up must have been for the underwater lighting system along with a very noisy sound system, So we decided to have a run ashore, pay the fuel bill and get something to eat.

Night mare scene 2.

The credit card payment was not accepted as it seemed that the Portugeese banking system is slightly out of sync with the UK system. After an extended call to the bank in the UK all was sorted and we managed to find somewhere to eat. We may just have well been in London if the amount of expats could be accounted for. The Algarve at its worst in my opinion. Within the Marina complex it seemed that every one there was a Brit. The restaurants were all occupied by Brits on holiday, and loud. I must admit that although this was the second visit here I will not be in a hurry to return. The most expensive Marina I have ever stopped over in when you consider that we were on a waiting pontoon, no electric or water all for 87euros for the night, but the Gallic gypsies diddnt much appieciate the noise of our generator at 0200 nor the accidental application of an eccessive amount of bow thruster noise close alongside at 0600 when we left on our final leg to Gibraltar.

We had topped the tanks up to overflowing but I still had nagging doubts as to weather we had enogh to get to Gib in one. Not too much of an issue as there where many stop off points but they would mean a diversion which I diddnt really want.

Again the weather was very kind to us. Blue skies and flat seas were the order of the day, in fact any oily calm is the best way to describe the sea. This meant we could see dolphins from a distance, unfortunatly this is were they stayed, at a distance. I think the noise of the enginges kept them away. One or two did venture close but not as close as we have seen them in the past.

A course was set as a direct line from Lagos to Tarifa. This would take us close to the point where the battle of Trafalgar took place, perhaps it was imagination but as we passed clos by, an erriey silence pervaded with no sign of any birds, nothing. I have felt the sensation on a couple of ocaisions before, at the Somme and Yper.

Then we lost an engine.

Great I thought. All this way without too many problems and we get to within 60 miles of our destination and this happens. I know I thought I know someone who can advise so I telephoned an font of all knowledge of Broom Boats, Tom Brissenden. Tom and I go back a few years to the 2008 Round Britain Power Boat Race and if any one knew Tom would.

Check the main breakers in the engine room, not on the panel in the saloon but te engine room was the advice. And so it was. The Port braeker had dropped out not allowing the engine to restart, reconnecting the breaker did the trick and we were off again after going round in circles a couple of times. Where do all these fishing boats come from. We don’t see this many around the UK coasts.

Tarifa came and went and we were now meeting some serious ships. An aircraft carrier came up with more air planes lined up on the deck than the RAF posesses. Then the welcoming sight of The Northern Pillar of Hurcules was before us. The Rock of Gibraltar. I thought whack the power on for the next 3 miles and so I did 30 knots into a short steep chop that we had experienced before here but we were glad to have arrived. I had called Marina Bay Marina and reserved a berth and we finally moored up along side the main Jetty at 1700. A safe arrival drink was quickly consumed as is our habit and tradition and we decided to clean the boat before going ashore and we set to in earnest. As I was cleaning the upperworks I saw a couple who I regognised who had left Lowestoft Haven Marina 2 years before and we arranged to have a drink with them that evening.

Boat cleaned and us cleaned, a quick visit to the good ship Misty and then off to Charlies restaurant and bar for a meal. Be have been to Charlies before and had been well fed and watered but this time we had a lot of noise to put up with too. I cannot understand why people have to be so noisey when in restaurants.

Back to the boat and time for reflections.

£13000.00 worth of fuel. Whow

1300 miles.

14 ports and stop offs.

And arrival with a day in hand before our flights back to Blighty.windfarmboatsatRamsgate.jpg


















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What a fantastic journey and Paul very envious.

Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to post I know this is time consuming but it gives us great pleasure to read and follow your trip.

You certainly get my vote for post of the year cheers

The Misty you mention.... Is this a White Steel Yacht with and English Gent and a French Lady? If so they were berthed behind us at Shotley for some weeks we got to know them quite well. They were off to Gibraltar (or the yacht was with a delivery crew and they were meeting it there) a few of us in the marina were only wondering the other week how they were getting on with their new life.

Thanks again.

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The Misty you mention is the very one. John and Jackie where here at Lowestoft for a while a couple of years ago, they then went to the Orwell and we saw no more of them until Gibraltar.

Brittania Sea School took the boat down there for them.

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