Reflections on the journey this year

It has now been a few weeks since we returned to the UK having delivered Mariadz to Brindisi. We have had some time to think about what happened and draw some conclusions.

It has become clear that long term sailing is about fixing the boat in exotic spaces as the phrase has it. Despite having spent a lot of money getting Mariadz ready for the trip, we still had breakages and quite a lot of expense. Some of these were just unfortunate first-time-use things or inexperience, like the rigging issues with our downwind sailing configuration. The autopilot breakage was unfortunate and having seen the large amount of such breakages on longer trips, combined with the first hand experience of long term hand-steering, means we have now ordered a spare autopilot.

Firstly, this has definitely whet our appetite for sailing around the world. We love the boat life, despite missing the cats, now 12 years old, who had stayed at home for this trip. We had a couple of hairy bits of sailing, particularly going into Cascais with a sail jam and the bouncy meetings of two seas at Tarife. I am not sure the cats would have liked those two parts of the trip and we were also worried as we skipped round the south coast of the UK with them that they didn’t seem to eat or drink water at sea. We have some thoughts about this for the future though and actually some of it may be that they need more time at sea to get into a routine. We are conscious that 12 isnt young for a cat and Clyde in particular is feeling his age at the moment. It is certainly something we need to think about.

We struggled to get weather information with very little coming through on our Navtex and no satellite capability. We had fitted an SSB but with the engine running a lot of the time, we struggled to overcome the interference we encountered. Our solution will hopefully revolve around Starlink, Elon Musk’s new satellite internet. We have this already on land and have friends who have already installed this on their boats, one a moody 54. At the moment, mid ocean internet is not available but we are hoping that in the next few years this will be a reality. As well as weather, this will allow Maria to call children and grandchildren. Despite this we didn’t have any issues with unexpected weather and the various sites we used, including windy, Windfinder and the French Meteo forecasting, were all pretty good and we were able to make some good decisions on when to go even when our various sites didn’t 100% agree.

However, the biggest unexpected expense, that would be different for our trip was the fuel bill. Fuel is especially expensive at the moment anyway and our engine burns a little less than a litre a mile. During our 3,700 mile journey, we used 1,800 litres of fuel, so we did get some sailing in. However, we were forced to use the engine rather than taking our time and waiting for the wind to change, hopefully fuel will be a lot less in the future but the fuel bill was around £3,000, a lot more than we budgeted. We could have lost a day or so by going to North Africa to refuel which would have saved us £1,000 and clearly when we have more time these considerations will take on more importance.

We were prepared for the cost of marinas and had selected Almerimar in Spain because it was good value, we were pleased with that decision since everyone made Maria very welcome. We were also able to get everything fixed due to the fantastic Paul. however, the repairs meant we spent more time in Marinas than we expected, our preference being to anchor. When we did anchor we generally found some really good places, except for our problems at Portimao, and again when we have more time we would expect to do a lot more of this. maria found the navily app to be invaluable when finding anchorages with useful reviews, I imagine that will get better as more people contribute, Maria will certainly be adding to the knowledge base.

With our first major crossing of a sea, Maria had decided that we should have crew for the trip especially the longer crossings. She recruited two crew from Crewseekers, Richard and Gerald. We did the right thing getting time with them before the trip but the difference between them and Christian, who did the Mediterranean leg, was like night and day. Of course we know Christian well and he is a very good sailor who complemented us. We found our crew weren’t as experienced as we were expecting with a few of the fundamentals around anchoring and mooring being a problem. This is probably understandable since sailors generally think about getting from A to B rather than the other aspects of cruising which a multi-week journey entails. Maria would do this again but I think we would need to be more diligent in understanding the levels of experience of the crew, although to be fair, most people with cruising knowledge will have their own boat and be doing it for themselves.

We swapped around our watch system a few times. In Biscay, people had six hours on watch and six hours off watch overnight with changes every three hours and no one on watch on their own. I think this reflected our confidence in the new crew who we had only known for a few hours before we left but also allowed us to balance our time together. The watch system changed slightly when we had the autopilot failure since we were keen to make sure that people were only hand steering for an hour at a time. All in all, it worked very well.

In the Mediterranean with Christian, we went with effectively a three hour watch system, so three hours on six hours off but with the the person finishing their watch hanging around for an extra hour. This meant we had two people up on deck every few hours which helped with any more complicated sail plan changes and also kept things interesting since you had company. Christian was great and we made a great team.

Maria had put a lot of thought into the menus for our trips making sure that the food was easy to prepare on passage. Lots of preparation and freezing of cooked meals meant that the food was excellent throughout the trip. People who know Maria won’t be surprised. I will see if I can persuade Maria to do a blog on the food.

We had made an effort to get the water maker working prior to our trip. However, Mariadz has 1,000 litres of fresh water and with our relatively frugal use, despite showers for most of us every day, we hardly worried about water at all and only used the water maker once, mostly to prove it was working,

While we were away, Maria did a video blog each day with her thoughts which seemed to be really popular and we will be putting this up on the YouTube channel. I think this may become her thing.

Anyway, just some thoughts and happy to comment on any questions people may have.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s