Back in the Med!
Conrad Colman (Spirit of Hungary):
What an amazing day
Remember that elephant story from a few days ago? Well, we’re down to our last chunk! Now back into the Alboran Sea in the western part of the Mediterranean, we have light winds and slow progress like the last time we were here but are not cursing Artemis or Heol as we are just thrilled to be here. However, making it this far was quite the story.
On the approach to the straights of Gibraltar we had absolutely blissful sailing conditions. Broad reaching with the big gennaker, smooth seas and sparkling sunshine. We were both giddy with excitement for making it through our final challenge and Nandor said it felt like waiting for Christmas. To keep the analogy, it was a Christmas morning we would have to work hard for, heading out into the forest to cut down a pine tree with a toothbrush before dragging it home through sticky snow drifts with wolves snapping at our heels. As the sun went down we were surrounded by cargo ships that are bigger than an appartment block and moving fast enough to water ski behind. Gybing south to avoid a mammoth tanker we found ourselves in a field of randomly flashing lights.
We quickly discovered they were marker lights on fishing nets, only we had sailed into the field through the only available channel and were now surrounded with no clear way out. Maneuvering quickly we avoided one line of floats by less than a meter and few others by dumb luck but were eventually caught. The associated fishing boat, a small open boat with four guys and an outboard engine and two bamboo light poles with milk bottle light shades, charged over to us and made it clear they were not happy with the catch of the day. After trying to disentangle us we were set free with a few cuts of their knives. Still in the thick of the nets, we managed to ask for directions from another fishing boat for a clear way through. They steered us around their net and then shouted encouragingly “todo recto, todo recto” to go straight ahead. No sooner had they said that then we heard the rattle of the floats on their neighbor’s net running down the hull!
Again we tried to get free with the help of the fishermen but with a 4.5 meter keel and two rudders there was plenty for the fine mesh to catch on. We furled the sails and let the guys cut their net on one side of us before heading around to the other side. Before setting to work with their knives again they wanted us to pay for their nets before they set us free. I felt terrible about messing with the livelihoods of these clearly poor fisherment but they had strung their nets far offshore and on the border of the world’s busiest shipping lane. I know we look pretty smart on our fancy round the world racing yacht but we don’t actually carry cash, so when they refused to let us go I swung down with my knife, cut the top rope on the net and set sail to rip us free from the rest.
Finally free from the nets, we slipped past Tangiers as the wind turned from west the north to east and then built again from the south. With this new land breeze and the rush of inflowing current we streaked through the remainder of the straights and into the Med. With the sun rising before us, the new rays glinting off the dolphins in our escort we felt like kings as we dodged the cargo ships. At least until the wind stopped again!