The Wind That Blows, The Ship That Goes
It’s been a slow week; I blame the weather.
The Portuguese Met office named her Emma whilst she was still a baby. Born mid-Atlantic, she grew fast and soon made her presence known in the Canaries and the Azores. Then she stormed up the Atlantic coasts of Spain and Portugal before arriving in the UK and meeting up with a bad boy nicknamed ‘The Beast from the East’.
Born in Siberia he’d swept across Russia before touring Europe and heading west.
Emma blew hot, the Beast blew cold, they didn’t get on and took it out on the UK and Ireland.
As usual, we got away lightly. It’s not called the Costa Cálida (Warm Coast) for nothing.
But we still knew Emma was close. The wind and the rain told us.
She left another clue.
We’ve grown used to the near tideless Mediterranean here in Cartagena, the maximum tidal range at Springs is 20 centimetres (8 inches). You hardly notice it.
We’ve sailed in Brittany France, where the range is 14 metres (46 foot). You have to pay attention to that.
As Emma passed by the atmospheric pressure dropped to 993 Mb; standard sea level pressure is around 1014 Mb.
For the first time, we experienced something called the inverse barometer effect or atmospheric tide.
Low air pressure results in higher sea levels. In our case another 30 centimetres (12 inches) higher.
It doesn’t sound much, but after 18 months of standing on a floating pontoon with the concrete quay at waist height, it was very odd to just take a small step from one to the other.
Even stranger was watching as the level changed visibly from minute to minute as the pressure fluctuated.
It was an amazing reminder of the close connection we have with the water supporting our floating home.
With the low pressure came the wind. For several days it didn’t drop much below 15/20 knots. At its peak, we got 30/40 knots. Not as severe as the windstorm we had back in December, but enough to have ‘Gleda’ moving around some and jerking on her lines.
Mind you we were like a rock compared to the lines of monohulls heeling and surging this way and that.
The shrieking and howling of the wind through masts and rigging were shared by all.
It’s been one of those weeks where we’ve been grateful to be tucked up safe and snug in a secure marina.
Others don’t have that luxury.
As I’ve mentioned before, Cartagena is the Spanish Navy’s main base in the Mediterranean. The Navy operates whatever the weather. On Thursday a chorus of foghorns carried above the howl of the wind.
The foghorn salutes were a send-off for the patrol ship ‘Infanta Elena’, departing the harbour on a four-month deployment to the Gulf of Guinea and West Africa.
P-76 ’Infanta Elena’ was built right here in Cartagena, launched in 1976 and commissioned in 1980 as a Corvette (A corvette is a small warship, traditionally the smallest class of vessel considered to be a proper (or “rated”) warship). In 2004 she was reclassified as an Oceanic Patrol Ship.
She’s not large.
LENGTH: 88.8 metres (291 foot)
BEAM: 10.4 metres (34 foot)
DISPLACEMENT: 1,510 tons
The 89 crew weren’t eased back to sea as they steamed out into a gale.
The families waving from the quayside must have felt as generations of Naval families have felt before them. Watching their loved ones leaving a safe harbour and wondering if they’d see them again.
A few days later the news came through that Captain Javier Montojo Salazarhad had died in the Antarctic after going overboard from the Ocean Research ship ’Hesperides’. A33 ’Hesperides’ is another Cartagena based ship and we watched her leave in October last year at the start of her long voyage south. It’ll be a subdued homecoming for her.
But Cartagena has been a shipyard and naval base since 1731, a trading and fishing port for centuries before that. The people here know how cruel the sea can be.
On a more cheerful note, Gail and I were pleased to welcome some visitors aboard ‘Gleda’ on Friday.
Ondra & Eva are a young couple from the Czech Republic. They are building Wharram Tiki38 #150 ’Sea Climber’ (Ondra is a mountaineer and tree surgeon).
They are a good way through the build of their first hull and making good progress. The build shed is only big enough for a single hull so they have to finish one before starting the other.
They were only passing through Cartagena on their way to a birthday party in Almeria. So many questions, so much to talk about, so little time.
I well remember the boost I got when I saw a Tiki 38 for the first time. That was ‘Pilgrim’ in 2012, two years before ‘Gleda’ was finished. I hope I was able to help Ondra and Eva as much as Jacques helped me all those years ago.
Last time out I said that March would be all about the boat. So far there’s not much to tell. Like I said, I blame the weather.
That said I’ve been working my way through the main cabin tidying, clearing out crap, and getting the inventory up to date.
I’ve also made a new booking with Ascar boatyard to get ‘Gleda’ lifted out on Tuesday 20th March. Third time lucky I hope.
I’ve also hit the button on an order for charts. The Balearic Islands, Corsica, Sardinia and Sicily. Thoughts and ideas are all well and good, but there has to be some commitment and action too eh?