Cadiz to Lagos: When things go wrong.

I am sorry for the lateness of this post. Getting back to work made writing about sailing pretty damn depressing…..I will try to add a couple posts in the next week or two to complete last summer’s adventures. When we last checked in with the fearless crew we had just spent a wonderful 2 days in Cadiz, Spain. But time was ticking and we had to put Heldeleine to bed for the winter. We departed Cadiz bound for Lagos, Portugal. Due to the initial wind direction the plan was to first motor/sail north along the Spanish coast and then as the wind veered around to the north (the German Wind, as the non-germans call it…) we would turn onto starboard tack and cruise across to Lagos, Portugal. It took a while for the wind to shift and we were getting headed further north than I intended. Also, more importantly, we were heading up to the corner of Span and we were getting a lot of oil tanker traffic crossing our bow. What was that all about? After careful consideration (there should’ve been a more ‘careful’ preparation prior to leaving…) I discovered that in that corner of Spain is the industrial port of Huelva and a destination for many tankers. This was not a big deal during the day but I did not want to enter their traffic pattern during nighttime hours. (Remember the Strait of Gibraltar??) Time to turn left. The wind was still a bit too northwest and forced us southwest for a couple hours but then filled in from the north with a strong 20-25 knots and off we went. It was fast going for a while with 2 reefs in both sails and gusts into the 30’s on a nice beam reach. It got dark and the seas got a lot more robust. All was splendid for the next several hours as we rocketed west at 8-9 knots. I have to admit that I was having a great time. Finally a strong breeze from the right direction with Heldeleine in her element. Until…the damn wind disappeared. Disappeared, like it was suddenly switched off. It was the oddest thing. Aufwiedersehen went the German Wind. WTF! One look at the chart showed the likely reason. Due north of us was the town of Faro which formed a wind-break geographically and off went the wind and stop went the boat. Though forward motion ceased things were anything but calm and I naturally remembered that we had an ENGINE. I fired up the Yanmar and immediately things did not sound right. My sweet engine was definitely not purring. There was an open throated cough that signaled to me that there was no water exiting the boat with the exhaust. This meant that the engine was not circulating cooling raw (sea) water through the engine and that we would overheat and cause damage very soon. So, off went the engine and since the seas had been churned up by the once lovely but now vanished North wind, we proceeded to start rolling in an awful way. Crashing and banging down below as anything (coffee machine, pots under the stove and books) not secured went flying around the cabin. The girls thankfully and amazingly slept through the entire afternoon AND night.

Well, time to work the problem. I was not in a very pleasant mood. The last goddamn night of the goddamn sailing trip and the goddamn engine decides that now is the time to fuck with me. After 1,200 sea miles since Italy and the last freakin’ night….OK, enough…work the problem. No water exiting the engine.  Didn’t Laurie and I have a similar issue when we were leaving Italy? At the time I assumed an airlock had formed in the raw water line and with high revs water was finally moving through the engine. Could this be the same issue? Well, I am here to tell you that adding water to the raw water filter at a marina is a piece of cake when compared to doing it out at sea in a rolling boat. Shit. With me priming the raw water line and Maryly starting and revving the engine, I figured that things should be fine. No luck. Checked the thruhull, not blocked, Checked the hose, not blocked. Checked the raw water pump output, good. Hmmmm…..45 minutes into this fun, Maryly was rightfully sick of the swearing that seemed to be flooding out of me with nothing to show for it. It just Has to be AIR in the line. One final very high revving from Maryly and gurgle, gurgle there was FINALLY water exiting the boat. Engine purring, wife purring and captain not quite purring but definitely relieved. We later discovered that the exhaust elbow and the air muffler were both cracked and leaking and needed to be replaced. You just have to love boats. Of course the wind then returned and though we sailed, I did not trust turning the engine off until we were safely docked. 

Entrance to Lagos, Portugal is a narrow passage that terminates at a pedestrian bridge that occasionally opens to allow boats into the marina.  At noon, things were pretty crowded with powerboats and jet skis.

We fueled up and after the pedestrian bridge was raised we entered the marina. 30 hour passage, it was time to have a nice meal and catch up on some sleep. 

NEXT UP: Moving Heldeleine to the Sopromar Boat Yard for her winter stay on the hard and next summer’s plans.


Cadiz to Lagos: When things go wrong. — 8 Comments

  1. Ugh!!! Breakdowns are always in the worst sea conditions!!
    At least now I know where the expression “swearing like a sailor” comes from. 😉
    All said, I still wish I was on the boat!

  2. Sailing? One problem after another to be solved. Despite the cursing, you are AWESOME at that, Dan. Thanks for writing this up so we can all live it with you from the comfort of our living rooms. 🙂

  3. you know…reading about engine problems reminds me of why I am an avid day sailor/skipper/racer and not a big time cruiser. I am happy to crew for you guys who own the big boats but glad not to have the big boat headaches;) Each type of boat has its plus and minuses. You get to go to cool faraway places and sip Chardonnay while on a beam in a gentle to moderate breeze BUT eventually have to have to deal with systems breakdowns/glitches/very expensive repairs at some point. I get to sail in the purest way possible – just the wind, no sound/no fuel smells, no mechanical/electric/plumbing worries BUT one must be really attuned to the wind changes so as not to be caught in either the doldrums or a gale in keelboat! Not a lot of swearing necessary on day sailers except when racing at which time the swearing is not at the boat but usually the guy crossing you with only inches to spare…Thanks for the narrative of your journeys, very fun to follow 😉

    • Thanks Claire, everything is a trade off. The pureness and freedom for me is sailing out of sight of land for days on end and that will involve systems to do it in a safe way. Always great to hear from you!!

      • Yes, well your adventures attest to the allure of cruising – what great memories of yout travels with family and friends! And a far more civilized mode of sailing than the Volvo racers I’ve been following via the internet. They just made it to Melbourne after sailing the Southern Ocean leg that included subfreezing temps, 30 kt winds, high seas, crash gybes, canting keels that got stuck etc. They are world class sailors who are also crazy!!! Will be fun to follow your Atlantic voyage home.

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