OUT OF VALENCIA
Valencia may be the chosen place for the 2007 Americas Cup series but it is not an obvious place to commence a catamaran charter. The nearest port of Denia is forty miles away. Already works are underway to accommodate the Americas Cup teams, some of which are in other coastal ports until the building work is done. Prada are established in their compound opposite the Marina and are tuning up.
My Dutch neighbour Peter, RYA Day Skipper qualified, had persuaded three colleagues from their North Sea Oil processing ship to share the 40’ Nautitech catamaran charter for four days. Craig had sailed dinghies some years ago, Bill and Andrew had not. Peter had asked me to come along to be his shadow skipper, to give him advice, and to help to train the others in the ways of sailing.
We met up from different points of the compass on Wednesday afternoon, except for Craig who sadly could not come because of a family funeral. The inventory checking was relatively straight forward as Eva spoke English, and Peter and I managed some Spanish with the technical man.
It was worrying though that much equipment was still in it’s wrapping, including three fire extinguishers. Questions about anchoring and using a bridle could not be answered, nor at what wind speeds to reef. It was also two days before we found that the boat has escape hatches, hidden behind removable steps.
There was some confusion about what inventory was on the boat, not having had a list in advance, so we found some expected items lacking, including a Pilot Book for the Spanish mainland, whilst we duplicated on other items.
Actually for Spanish charterers it is convenient to drive to Valencia, then sail the boat to Ibiza, 74 miles away, rather than flying the crew to Palma, Mallorca, say. Charterers from Northern Europe might enjoy this option if they wish to make passages. Families might to prefer to start nearer to the Balearic cruising grounds.
With a novice crew we decided to take the boat just past the Puerto and back and then practice mooring up stern to, Mediterranean style, before dinner aboard.
Next morning at 0800 we set off towards Ibiza with a variable 3 forecast. By 1100 we were sailing in 20 knots of westerly wind. Soon after the genoa was reefed. Within an hour there was cloud and light rain and the wind dropped to 6 knots: engines on again. Soon a dozen dolphins were playing around the bows. As the wind came up again a cockpit cushion blew over the side so gave an unplanned man overboard drill.
By 1540 the wind was back to over 20 knots and allowed a good sail to San Antonio. Heavier rain for the last hour left David helming in waterproof gear, the others not having them to sail in the Med in Springtime. “ Mojito” was anchored in 1.8m just before 2000.
The plan for Friday was to practice some tacking and anchoring. Starting with two reefs in the main and a reefed genoa the novices took turns helming and winching through tacks. A solo race started in the Bay.
Soon the wind was up to 18 knots (22 knots apparent) and the boat felt comfortable in reefed mode. A turtle was spotted as we closed Isla Conejera where we anchored in 8m for a leisurely lunch stop. By afternoon the cloud returned and the wind died. Mojito was motored into the fuel berth only to find that the opening hours were 0800 to 1400. We returned to our shallow corner of the harbour and prepared to go ashore for dinner, a mix of tapas dishes washed down with an acceptable red Reserva.
On Saturday we moored at the fuel berth at 0730 and topped the tanks. Not wanting to take the same track back to the mainland Denia was chosen as a different landfall, allowing Bill to jump ship near to his home in Moraira. At 1250, still motoring in light winds we altered course towards Moraira with the aim of dropping Bill off in his hometown, but the headwind and seas picked up. By 1420 we altered course towards Javea allowing sailing close hauled on the port tack. The wind rose and veered so again Denia became the destination. Apparent wind reached 30 knots so two reefs were put into the main, the genoa already being well reefed. The three oilmen enjoyed some exciting helming conditions under the clear blue skies.
The genoa was unreefed after we reached the shelter of the two headlands, Caco de la Nao and Cabo San Antonio. After a passage of 58 miles we dropped Bill at the Club Nautico and tied up at the fuel berth of Marina de Denia to top the tanks and arrange a berth. It was hot and still in the shelter of the Puerto. Showers and another dinner ashore followed.
Sunday again started calm. The berth was left at 0710. The goal was to be berthed up in Valencia by 1500 for Andrew to catch his flight to UK. With twelve miles to go by 1100 Peter suggested some M.O.B. exercises, after which David and Peter went aloft in the bosuns chair as Mojito cruised at two knots towards the destination.
It is not easy to reverse a large catamaran in a cross wind into a berth, and to pick up the lines. It was done at the third attempt. We had covered 187 miles in four days.
We took some CD’s but not all worked. Most of the music was therefore by Frank Sinatra. We called the trip “the crooners’ cruise”. The 60’ racing trimaran TIM of Giovanni Soldini was tied up nearby, en route for Plymouth and the Transat race.
At the debrief we pointed out to the boss the problems we had encountered at the briefing, also defects in manufacture of the Nautitech such as one mainsheet jammer being wrongly angled towards the winch, and the lips on some galley lockers being on the underside instead of topside of the shelf.
We made a list of recommendations including to take their staff sailing to give knowledge of the boat, to fit the extinguishers ready for use, advise anchoring procedures and to supply a reefing schedule.
This is a new company, formed in 2003, under the umbrella of Bambou Yachting. Alvaro gave the impression that he would action all the matters raised for the safety and comfort of future charterers.