Aifric...Kinsale Ireland to Mogan Gran Canary.
Trip Start Oct 01, 2005
6Trip End Oct 22, 2005
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Aifric.........Beneteau Oceanis 41
The weather pattern in Sept in the Atlantic was very confused
There had been several hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico and America took a desperate bashing.
The Hurricane Katrina, the first category 5 hurricanes in decades, in early Sept flattened New Orleans, the city had to be evacuated a first ever.
Three weeks later Hurricane Rita threatened New Orleans again but veered towards Galveston Texas.
Again cities had to be evacuated.
President Bush had been caught out with the first hurricane and wasn't going to be caught out with the second one.
On this side of the Atlantic we got the tail end of Rita on the last week of Sept.
I was hoping that the weather would moderate before we left on the Sunday 2nd of October.
The first leg was to Madeira a 1200 mile trip was a long tough leg but I'm sure once we got over the first few days and got our sea legs everything would be fine, heading south into warmer climes.
We are building a power plant in Aughinish and expected it to be commissioning in early Oct.
I heard that this was put off until early November so I got a rush of blood to the head and put my name down with Sail Ireland Charter to bring the boats back to the Canaries on 1st Oct.
I stuck my name down on the holiday board at work and got a few of the lads to cover some shifts for me as I didn't have enough holidays left and decided to go.
I had travelled back from Mogan in the Canaries via the Azores the previous year in Julie Bryn, a Beneteau Oceana 411, and had said to myself never again.
It was lovely trip as far as Faill in the Azores, we stopped at San Sebastian in La Gomera for a night and then at Ponta Delgado in San Michael and then onto Horta in Faill.
From Horta to Kinsale we were hammering into NE winds and it wasn't a pleasant experience.
There were a series of lows around Ireland and at times I got very cold on occasions and losing my boots in Horta didn't help matters but that is another story,only to be told over a pint.
I e@mailed Clare and told her I was going and she replied and said her friend Peter was thinking of doing the trip also.
She had just changed jobs and was busy otherwise so it didnt seem likely that she would make it.
She said she would put her name down for the return trip in April.
Sat 1st October.
Catherine and myself travelled to Kinsale on Saturday morning the 1st Oct.and checked into the Sail Ireland Charter office.
We met Mike and Susan Loughnane and I had my passport copied.
I brought my gear to the boat and met Julian Renault the 25year old French skipper and some of the crew.
Jim Phelan was there with his girl friend Anna.
We went up to the Trident to meet some of the others and had a coffee there.
Back to the boat to meet the rest of the crew Yvonne Hall a doctor and Neil Griffin a retired Psychiatrist.
Catherine and Anna went off looking for accommodation for the night as the Trident was full up.
The Skipper and ourselves met and discussed and made a food list for the trip.
Peter Cassidy made the list and Jim and myself went to Super Value with him to buy the groceries.
We filled 4 trolleys and had them delivered to the boat, the cost was 1000 Euro.
Susan Loughnane had bought the meat for the trip which was vacuum packed and cost an extra 200 Euro.
We stored all the grub and headed off to the Trident, Mick and Susan were buying.
In the meantime the other boat the Ashling was leaving before we had realised it.
Brendan Long was the Skipper and he was heading to the Canaries via Bayonne Spain.
We headed down town then looking for some grub.
It was a busy night in Kinsale and several places that we had tried were booked up.
We eventually ended up in the Vintage but the delay in getting the food was something else.
We were just about to leave when it arrived.
Yvonne ordered chicken and had to hand it back as she reckoned it wasn't cooked properly.
We finished up with a drink in the Trident before retiring for the night.
We were due at the boat at 0600 hrs.
Catherine had booked us into a B&B for the night and it was expensive enough at 100 Euro.
Six o clock wasn't long in coming so I changed into my sailing gear, thermals, long johns etc.and said my good byes to Catherine.
It was a very dark morning and we departed under engine at 0600 hrs.
We hoisted the main and jib just beyond Charles Forth and were soon clipping along at 6 knots.
It was blowing WNW 4/5 out by the Old Head of Kinsale an no one on board was feeling good.
I ate one weetabix and very little else most of the day.
The skipper picked the watches and I was paired with Yvonne.
We were on the first watch from 1900 to 2200 hrs
I cooked some of Catherine's stew and what little was eaten went down a treat with her brown bread.
The night was dark and there was very little traffic around and we were glad to hand over the watch to Jim and Peter and head straight to the sack.
I choose the forward cabin again hoping that no one would be sharing it with me.
We were back on duty again at 0400 hrs for 2 hours so time was flying.
Yvonne still wasn't feeling good but nerveless got up to do her shift.
I had another weetabix for breakfast with a glass of orange juice but still hadn't got my see legs.
I sipped a lot of water during the day and ate some dry biscuits regularly.
Dolphins accompanied us for a while and they made a beautiful sight, seeing a baby dolphin swimming in front of their parents was breath taking.
I had never seen such a beautiful,natural sight.
In the afternoon we were still on the continental shelf, at Great Sole Bank, and had to adjust course because there were several trawlers and fishing boats in the vicinity.
This is an easy task during daylight hours as you can see what they are doing but at night time it is a nightmare.
This reminded me of the time we were coming back in 2004 and more or less in the same area we had desperate trouble trying to identify the fishing boats and trawlers that were fishing around the brink of the continental shelf.
Now I know why as they were continuously manovering in the same area and consequently changing position all the time.
The only solution at night time is to try and give them a wide berth.
I cooked the rest of the stew for supper and with the brown bread it went down well, well done Catherine.
Yvonne and myself were back on watch again at 2000hrs.
She was feeling worse and had the most unusual experience.
She said her Grandmother had come to visit her and it frightened her.
She felt it was so real.
I told her she should feel privileged that she had such an experience.
She had been taking seasickness tablets and maybe had overdone it.
She was still sick enough and had not been eating or drinking enough liquids.
We encouraged her to sip some water and eat a little but she didn't.
It was a pleasant night with no traffic and we were making good progress.
While in the bunk I could hear Peter singing his heart out to himself on deck.
It was still blowing a SE 5/6 and everyone was feeling a bit under the weather.
Our daily run, noon to noon was 170nm best so far.
All the sunsets so far had been different and this night was going to be very dark.
Julian managed to get the forecast and there was no change.Sole F 4/5 gusting to F6.
Yvonne and myself were on again at 2000 to 2300hrs and it was an uneventful evening.
The night changed and when we came on watch at 0500 it was beautiful starry night.
It was desperate to say that none of us knew any of the stars.
We had to take a reef in the main as the helm was heavy and the weather was changing.
It got a bit rough and wet and there was a 3 meter swell.
We made good progress during the day.
We had our best daily run also covering 180 nm, noon to noon.
Yvonne and myself were back on watch again at 1900-2300hrs.
There was a brilliant orange sunset and I was lucky enough to get a lovely photo which I will use as a screen saver.
The night was starry again and the moon was in its quarter phase.
We had a quite night again and there was no traffic.
We were back on duty again at 0500.This seemed to be the best part of the day seeing the sun rising over the horizon especially on a clear morning.
Peter cooked French fried bread for us and it went down a treat.
Julian got the forecast and told us they were having a F9 at home, we were hoping we wouldn't see any of it.
He also said there was a deep depression 1000m off Madeira.
We didn't dwell on this too much but kept it in the back of our mind.
We actually headed a few degrees westward in order to avail of the wind from the depression while heading for Porto Santo.
I had my first shave on deck and washed the bit of hair as well, things were improving, the weather was getting warmer and the winds were fair and we were close to the half way mark.
Niall surprised us with pasta and pesto for lunch and it went down a treat.
He certainly is enjoying himself and entertained us with some of his jokes.Id say these are some of the ones he uses on his patients, maybe he is treating us as 5 of his patients.
This one was about 2 deaf and dump people that just had got married.
Our daily run was 155nm.
Peter cooked steak for dinner and we had a glass of wine with it.
It was a delightful meal.
We got the French forecast again and could see there was a warm front moving in.
It was very overcast so once again we had a totally different sunset.
We had a different watch to night; we were on between 0200-0500hrs.
Again it was a quite night, no traffic but there was a low filling.
We were heading slightly west to avail of the low that was out there when heading to Porto Santo.
Peter drove us all crazy in the morning with a fantastic smell of bacon and eggs and potatoes around the galley.
It was enough to get anyone out of the sack.
I had my usual wash on deck and then headed back to bed for a while.
Our daily run was 125nm.
Life seems to revolve around eating and sleeping especially as the nights are so long. It is dark by 1930 on an overcast night.
We had a beer at noon followed by a chicken lunch and another of Neill jokes. This one about Bill Clinton and his quickies or quiche as we call it.
It was threatening rain in the evening and got dark very early so we had pork chops on deck in the dark for dinner.
We were on watch again at 0200-0500hrs.
It was a fresh night but very very dark and we were broad reaching.
We had a big fry up for breakfast; Peter was enjoying the cooking and certainly wasn't going to let us go hungry.
Our daily run was 130nm.
I took the thermals off to day as we were getting closer to our destination and the day was nice and warm.
We had a chicken dinner with peppers and ginger and it was very tasty and Neill finished off with one of his jokes about Adam and Eve and God telling him that she would cost him an arm and leg.
Oh it's great to have a captive audience.
We were on watch from 2300 - 0200hrs.
The wind was freshening so we took in a reef and shortened the jib for the night shift.
We spotted one ship off Cape Vincent and the clouds over Madeira looked ominous, we were heading into the low which according to the forecast was a barometer reading of 1007 F6/7.
We finished our watch at 0200 hrs and it was still blowing ESE 4/5 and freshening.
There was a spectacular lightning display off our port beam at first and later off the s/b bow as well.
The night was warm and the wind was warm so it was all very pleasant.
By noon the wind had increased to a F6 and we had a lively sail.
I was conned into making lunch, so I just heated a few tins of onion soup, put a few baguettes in the oven and put out tomatoes and cheese on the table.
It didn't take long and Peter was surprised as to how fast it was all prepared.
The only down side was that half of the soup was spilled down the sink because of the heaving of the boat but there was enough for everyone.
There was a beautiful half moon again which brightened up the place a bit.
While Jim and Peter were on watch they saw a flare and called Julian.
He switched on the VHF to see if it was in use but nothing else was seen.
Yvonne and myself were on watch at 2300hrs.
It was blowing F5 and gusting to a F6.
We took in a reef and shortened the jib to steady the boat.
Julian had got the French Forecast and they were forecasting a F7.
This is what we were expecting. The barometer was dropping steady enough.
The wind was increasing as we were finishing our watch at 0200hrs and the barometer was still dropping.
The helm was difficult enough and I felt we should be reducing sail again.
Neill and Julian were relieving us and reduced sail.
The motion in the forward cabin was something else, banging into the waves.
Later Julian sent Neill down to ask Jim to come up on deck as conditions were worsening.
When he came down I heard him saying to Jim that the skipper wanted him on deck and that he didn't know why.
He said to him "I know it is not your watch" but Jim said to himself the same as I said to myself "I know fecking why, we are getting a pasting and and there is help needed on deck".
Jim got organised and went on deck and called Peter as well.
I decided that I would get up and be prepared in case I was needed on deck rather than wasting time getting dressed and getting the wet gear on.
At 0530 hrs the barometer was reading 998 and still dropping. The rain was coming down in buckets and it was very black.
Suddenly the barometer dropped 5 and I informed the skipper.
I wasn't sure whether my watch had gone faulty or whether it had got a bang but I said I better tell Julian anyway.
I saw the blood draining from his face when I told him.
He backed the jib immediatly and lashed the helm and sent everyone below.
It was mayhem on deck and we were surging from 3 to 10 knots.
The howling of the wind and the noise was something else.
Pots and pans were been thrown about in the galley and I made an attempt to put everything away.
I was afraid that something might fly and hurt someone as most of us were in the saloon.
The cooker was doing some savage swinging and I stabilised it several times, it was coming undone because of all the movement and again I was afraid that the gimbals would break and the cooker could go flying across the saloon.
Aifric was on her own.
The barometer dropped to 987.
Things quietened down a bit and I had a look out.
We were in the eye of the storm.
I went to the toilet as things were quite enough and had a yogurt to eat.
I told Julian that we were in the eye of this storm.
Julian, Peter and myself went on deck to check things out.
We started the engine and motored for a while.
I took a photo of Peter on the helm and told him I would sell him the picture at an enormous price if we survived.
Then we backed the jib the other way and lashed the helm the other way.
We moved the traveller as well to the other side.
The Sail Ireland signs that were hanging from the rails were ripped to shreds.
We tidied the deck again and tightened down any loose bits of the main sail and then went down below again.
Been in the eye gave us the time to prepare ourselves and the boat for what was to come.
We knew we were in a bad storm but it never crossed anyone's mind that we were battling against a hurricane as we were to discover later, Hurricane Vince, Category 1.
As I said in the log we were ready to rock and roll again.
When I went down below I spoke to Yvonne, she was still in the aft port cabin since our watch.
I reassured her that Julian had done everything possible by backing the jib and lashing the tiller and that he was a very good skipper.
We had been in the eye for 2 hours.
It was starting to brighten up outside again and the barometer jumped 3 at 0855hrs and 4 at 0907hrs.
We were off once again, surfing between 3 and 7 knots.
I noted in the log that this was like riding a wild animal.
The sideways rolls were terrifying, the shrouds were pinging and it did cross my mind that if there was any weak spot anyplace we were in trouble.
The noise was something else, the howl of the wind was deafening.
It was a time to reflect on ones life.
I considered my own position, family reared mostly.
Brendan had just finished his Leaving Cert and had done exceptionally well.
He applied for the Aughinish Scholarship and we were delighted when he was one of the 6 to win it, it meant 1500 Euro a year for 4 years to him.
He had started in the University of Limerick doing a business course and was living in Plassey Village Campus.
He had achieved a lot while going to Secondary School winning 4 gold medals in Mosney for Draughts, Hurdles and the 4x100 Relay.
He was also All Ireland Schools Junior Hurdles Champion and Munster Minor Hurdles Champion.
He enjoyed his soccer with the Reional Soccer team as well.
Shane was secure enough been in the Guards and was graduating in January 2006 and he seemed to be happy in the job.
He was a team player and loved the comradely in the force.
He was based in Store Street and spent most of his time outside the GPO.
He was playing soccer with the Garda team in Dublin as well as with the station.
He came home as often as he could.
Lisa and Anthony were in the workforce and starting in their chosen careers.
Their money was not great but it could only get better.
They had their degrees in their back pocket so it was up to them now.
Both were working in Dublin, Lisa with Skillsoft and Anthony with Semantic.
They were living in Smithfield in a new apartment overlooking the square.
Catherine had become very independent and was doing her own thing mostly and had her part time job in the bank which she enjoyed and seemed to live for.
She looked forward to her staff nights out especially the ones away and her nights out with her friends, so she wasn't depending on me for much.
Our lives seemed to pass like ships at sea, I would be going to work and she would be coming home and when I would be at home she would be going to work, it wasn't the best arrangement.
I decided to put a few words on paper as I was doing nothing else in the event of the worst scenario and it went as follows.
Thanks for been my wife for the past 28 years
And putting up with me.....I love you.
To the lads. Lisa,Anthony,Shane & Brendan.
I am very proud of all of ye.
Don't be upset.
Brendan...I will miss you...but I will
be watching out for you all.
Lads..... Walk tall and no tears.
I love you all.
Wind howling.......This is like riding a wild animal.
0717......We are in the eye of the storm and the
boat is holding well.
Now lets rock and roll again.
I had a good one, ye all made it worth while.
Thanks for everything.
I'm sure we were all having personal thoughts as there are no guarantees in storms such as this.
The barometer jumped 5 again and was now at 999.
It was starting to ease a bit and we got ready to go on deck.
It was a wild looking scene but not daunting.
We unlashed the helm and let the backed jib go and took off with the wind behind us and the waves with us more or less.
It was good to be sailing again and it wasn't long before we had more on deck.
We had 75 miles to go and were over the worst and heading in the right direction for Porto Santo.
Julian got the French weather forecast again and had some news for us.
He said they apologised to all yachts off Maderia.They had forecasted a F7@ 1007 and said it dropped to 987 which we recorded in the hole, with F11 winds. It was a Hurricane, Category 1 for 6 hours and then reverted to a severe tropical storm.
They named it Vince, it was the 20th this year and they were running out of names.
In a way we were relieved and in another way we felt honoured that we came through the eye of a hurricane and lived to tell the tale.
The day was improving, weather improving and everyone was smiling again and we were getting closer to our destination by the hour.
We could see Madeira and Porto Santo in the distance.
At 2100 hrs we picked up the lights on Pta da Cruz and later Pta de Nordeste.
We could see IIheu de Fora, Ba de Meoi and IIhue des Cenouras in the distance.
It wasn't long before we were rounding Pta do Incao and IIhue de Cima and were looking at all the lights in Villa de Porto.
It didn't take long to pick out the flashing green and red lights for the entrance to the harbour.
We tied up at the reception pier and stood on dry land for the first time in 9 days.
I felt very wobbly and didn't venture far.
We had a beer to celebrate surviving Hurricane Vince and then I took a walk along the pier before retiring for the night.