AROUND THE WORLD IN 35 DAYS

Back in Auckland again after circling the globe in a westerly direction.  So nice to be back in Auckland, bright sunshine and clear sky’s to welcome me.  Auckland Airport is one of the worlds easiest to arrive in, so quick to get through immigration and the baggage is usually on the belt ready for collection.  So efficient, just like Singapore.  Australia needs to look and learn.

Rangitoto Island, Auckland.
Rangitoto Island, Auckland.

Now I am back the last trip seems so quick, the route Auckland, Dubai, Bucharest, Galati, Constanta, Gibraltar, St. Johns, Toronto, Hong Kong, Auckland.  I only had time to Visit Gibraltar and St. Johns briefly to collect fridge magnets, the rest was in transit.

One of the things I enjoy about ship delivery is the satisfaction of completing the job and handing over the boat to the owners in good condition.  Of course, delivering a new boat is a privilege.  It’s also a challenge, a new vessel has thousands of individual components from differing manufactures that all need to work together.  Often during a delivery voyage mechanical or technical problems arise that must be fixed on route, always an interesting challenge and a testament to the fact we never stop learning.

Now I am back in New Zealand I will have a few days rest and catch up on sleep.  Then I will start preparations for next years sailing on Truce.  There are quite a few items of gear that I want to renew and repair.  While I was away the engineers have installed a new shaft and dripless seal on Truce.  The previous shaft was scored in the stuffing box area, causing more drips than I wanted.  I have now gone for a dripless seal and am looking forward to a dry bilge.  The sea water strainer has also been changed out for a Vetus unit that is easy to clean.

Other items on the wish list are; a new cover for the steering vane, new fitted bed sheets (Ngozi has promised to get her sewing machine out), New sea cock for Raw water intake, seal up the speed transducer through hull, new guard wires, jib furler overhaul, replacement VHF radio.  I will also look at fitting an additional solar panel and new batteries to boost the electrical storage capacity.  Other items on the wish list include, inflatable dinghy, outboard, inflatable kayak and Barbecue.   That reminds me, I need to write a note to Santa.

SPECTACULAR ARRIVAL AT ST JOHNS

After what seemed like weeks rolling through the North Atlantic – in reality it was only a few days – we arrived at the St. Johns Pilot Station at seven in the morning.

Moonset ahead and sunrise astern entering St Johns
Moonset ahead and sunrise astern entering St Johns

The sea became calm and the swell subsided, a full moon set ahead of us into the harbour entrance as the sun rose from astern.  Our entry into St. Johns was spectacular and memorable.

We entered the harbour through a deep channel protected on either side by high ground.  The same high ground that Marconi took advantage of to send his first radio signal across the Atlantic.  I can’t imagine he could have realised the changes to the world that transmission would trigger in the future.

St. Johns is a wonderful natural harbour and reminded me of Norway with colourful houses scattered about the shoreline.  The Portuguese from the Azores were the first Europeans to regularly visit on fishing expeditions and the city is one of the oldest in North America.

After turning left into the harbour we berthed alongside, close to the town centre.  The town looks interesting, there are some interesting taverns visible and I am looking forward to tasting some fresh fish.  However, before then the ship needs to be handed over to the new owners and a heap of paperwork to be completed.  I hate the paperwork but it must be done – just wish all ports and countries could be consistent in what they require.

AZORES HIGH

Since leaving Gibraltar we have travelled a thousand miles.  During that time, we have rolled relentlessly accompanied by squeaking and creaking, moaning and groaning, rattling and shaking, and a cacophony of other noises.  This vessel loves to roll.  She is so enthusiastic; the speed and severity leaves you with a headache.  I would love to bring the naval architect who designed this ship on board so he can experience the genius of his creation – which appears to have the hydrodynamic properties of a biscuit tin.

We are now north of the Azores in an area of high pressure and have some relief from the wind and swell experienced during the last week.  St. Johns, our destination in Newfoundland is only a thousand miles away, everyone on board is looking forward to arriving, delivering the ship and heading home.

Between us and St Johns lies an area of unsettled weather.  I have four forecasts on board from different sources.  None of them seem to agree so further investigation and evaluation is needed.  In the next few hours I will need to decide whether to slow down and let the weather pass by or to keep heading direct to Newfoundland and try and sneak through.

Meanwhile life on board is good.  HP Sauce to accompany bacon and eggs makes breakfast a civilised affair.  Frank Coopers thick cut marmalade on toast washed down with fresh coffee at morning Smoko enhances to the feeling of wellbeing.  A cold beer before lunch sets up the afternoon for a period of horizontal contemplation.

PIT STOP IN GIBRALTAR

Approaching Gibraltar from the Mediterranean side in the early morning is always a special occasion.  As you get closer the rock rises above the horizon and features become visible and the Europa Point light house provides a reference for entering Gibraltar Bay.  Many generations of British Sailors must have felt relief in the past on sighting this Bastion of the British Empire and the shelter it provided.

Gibraltar Europa Point
Gibraltar Europa Point

As we approached closer, the Gibraltar Vessel Traffic Services informed us we were turn two for a pilot behind a large tanker.  Impatient and not wanting to be stuck behind a lumbering tanker I asked if we could speed up and get ahead of the tanker.  The pilot agreed and we rounded Europa Point at full speed to pick up the pilot.  Forty minutes later we were safely tied up alongside the bunker berth.

My first visit to Gibraltar was as a cadet during my first trip to sea. Gibraltar was then a very different place, full of sailors and British forces personnel, a wild and bawdy place, quite exciting for a teenager. Now the main street is populated with tourist shops, some of the pubs and bars still exist but the customers are quite well behaved now.

On the way into the berth I noticed we had to pass three very noticeable yachts.  The first being ‘Ice’, owned by Finnish car driver, the second, ‘Maltese Falcon’ a unique automated square rig sailing vessel and finally the massive and so good looking, ‘Eclipse’ owned by a Russian who owns a football club in London.  Little was I to know at the time but I had to
shift berth a further three times in close proximity to these mega yachts, something I managed to do without bumping into any of them!

Yacht Eclispe Gibralter. Photo Ray Penson
Yacht Eclipse Gibraltar. Photo Ray Penson

The stop in Gibraltar was for bunkers and to sort out some technical issues.  The trip through the Mediteranean turned up some minor technical problems that we wanted to sort out before crossing the Atlantic Ocean. By morning we were bunkerd and our on board systems tested OK and running well.  We ordered a pilot for 11:00 and prepared to depart.  I just had time to get a taxi up to the local supermarket and pick up some HP Sauce
and Frank Coopers thick cut English Marmalade, with these essential food items on board I was ready for the North Atlantic.

The pilot joined us at 11:00 and we let go to head out the harbour, as we headed for the breakwater the pilot jumped off after cheerily telling me to leave everything to port.  We headed down the bay, turned into the westbound traffic lane and by lunchtime heading into the Atlantic.  So ended a hectic 24 hours and now we get settled back into sea routine for another 11 days before arriving in St Johns.

 

DARDANELLES IN DAYLIGHT

I have transited the Dardanelles many times but always at night.  Today I had the opportunity to make the passage in daylight and bright sunshine. Wonderful.

Turkish war memorial. Photo Ray Penson
Turkish war memorial. Photo Ray Penson

We entered the northern end of the Dardanelles from the Sea of Marmara at daybreak and the blinking lights on shore gradually turned into recognisable structures and landmarks.  The straits have traffic separation lanes, just like a motorway, with southbound ships keeping to the lane on the western side.  Pilotage is not compulsory so we headed
south without delay.

The highlight of the Dardanelles is passing Canakkale where the strait narrows and turns.  On shore either side are impressive castles, the sense of history about the place is very powerful.  On the eastern shore at the town of Canakkale can be seen the Trojan Horse.  Canakkale looks like an interesting place and I would like the opportunity to visit sometime.

Castle at Canakkale. Photo Ray Penson
Castle at Canakkale. Photo Ray Penson

After passing Canakkale the Dardanelles open out into a wide strait heading westwards towards the Aegean Sea.  On the north shore is the impressive Turkish War memorial and the biggest flag you will ever see. The Turks seem to be fond of large National Flags, they can be seen painted on hillsides, flying from bridges and just about any tall structure.

Slightly inland can be seen the French war memorial and further along the coast the British war memorial.  It makes you wonder about the logic of expending so much effort and losing so many lives fighting over a featureless, barren piece of dirt.

Once out of the Dardanelles we turned south, helped along by a strong northerly wind in sparkling seas.  Our next stop is Gibraltar where we will load some more fuel to get us across the Atlantic.  We should be in Gibraltar in about eight days.

HEADED TO NEWFOUNDLAND

One week ago I boarded a plane in Auckland and now find myself heading down the Bosporus with a long voyage ahead.  This time I have no heated bathroom floor – a hardship I will have to live with.

romania-to-newfoundland-canadaA 30 hour trip from Auckland brought me to Galati in Romania where a new build ferry was waiting to depart the shipyard.  The ferry is headed for Newfoundland, a distance of 4,000 plus miles through the Mediterranean Sea and North Atlantic Ocean.  My crew of seven is a mixture of Dutch, Belgium and Indonesian nationals.

I enjoy ship delivery, it’s always interesting, varied and at times challenging.  The ability to solve problems, improvise and good seamanship are helpful attributes.  It doesn’t matter what type of ship, big or small, new or old, they all provide opportunities to learn new tricks.

Anyway, today we are lucky and have a Bosporus transit in beautiful weather and daylight.  The first time I made this passage many years ago there were no bridges, now there are three magnificent structures connecting the European continent to Asia.  Istanbul is now a massive sprawling city with many high-rise buildings.  The waterfront is very pretty with cafes and restaurants overlooking the strait.  I didn’t feel any desire to get ashore for a visit.

Our Bosporus pilot turned out to be a surly, bad tempered, miserable individual and it was good to be rid of him before we headed out into the Sea of Marmara towards the Dardanelles.