Marina Smir, Morocco (21 April 2017)
The crew flew into Tangier from three separate countries; Graham Ridding from New Zealand, Graham Reiher from the Phillipines and Violeta Ocwzarek from Germany. They met at 1pm on 21, April at Tangier airport and from there travelled 70km by taxi to Marina Smir, which is very close to the Straits of Gibraltar.
The captain, Noel McGuigan, flew into Barcelona and caught the bus to Salou where he was met by his brother Leo and spent the night at the Old Pirate Bar and Restaurant in the company of Leo and Edie McGuigan. The following morning Noel took the fast train (the AVE 300kph) to Algeciras where the ferry departs for Tangier Med, Morocco across the Straits of Gibraltar. Because of high winds and huge seas the ferries did not run for 4 days and so there was a back log of passengers and freight awaiting the first sailing. Leo (ground control) booked a hotel for Noel in Algeciras while Noel was en route by train. The hotel was only 800m from the ferry terminal and the captain was there at 0630hrs lining up for the first sailing which left at 1600hrs. The agent Khalid was there to meet him at Tangier Med and transport him to the boatyard at Marina Smir. It was warm greetings all the way around and a glass of rum to celebrate the reunion.
The weather could only be described as inclement with howling wind and rain and the sea breaking over the sea wall which is 5 metres high!! The crew had already been very busy in preparing Meg for ocean and in the absence of chocolate fish the captain awarded the crew Mars bars all round.
Noel McGuigan – owner/skipper Roaring Meg, Ocean Yachtmaster
Noel spends his days in the quiet and picturesque French settlement of Akaroa on New Zealand’s Banks Peninsula (an hour from Christchurch). He and his partner Sharon greet guests to their Beaufort House Boutique Hotel, and Banks House B&B along the road. When the winter descends, Noel makes his annual visit to his mistress of the seas – Roaring Meg.
Graham Reiher (G1) – diesel mechanic and engineer, quartermaster and first mate
Former president of the New Zealand Coastguard and also an Ocean Yachtmaster. Graham has sailed on seven voyages with Roaring Meg over the years, including the St. Petersburg voyage of 9,000km in 2014.
Graham Ridding (G2) – sound engineer and HAM radio operator
Graham has joined us from Wellington, New Zealand, as communications officer and is an experienced sailor. This is Graham’s first voyage aboard Roaring Meg.
Violeta Ocwzarek – events manager and paramedic
Sailor cadet seeking transatlantic sailing experience, Violeta is a trained paramedic in the German Fire Service (Feuerwehr, Deutschland).
The yacht should have been anti-fouled prior to our arrival, however, because of the foul weather it had not been done and our schedule was tight as we had made a commitment to a sailmaker to be in Gibraltar by 24 April 2017. The work was completed in the morning and we launched Meg immediately afterwards. Completing formalities with the police, customs and immigration took 1.5 hours and we immediately slipped the lines and set a course for Gibraltar arriving at 2000hrs. Unbeknownst to the skipper Queensway Quay marina closed at 1700hrs and had laid a boom across the entrance. So, we had to find an alternate berth at Ocean Village Marina – they were very obliging. As we had entered the European Union from Morocco there were more formalities to be completed however this is undertaken by the marina office and forwarded to customs and immigration.
Ocean Village Marina, Gibraltar (24 April, 2017)
Arrival in Gibraltar
The following morning we rented a car across the border at La Linea in Spain and drove 200km north to Torremolinas and the sailmaker who had agreed to put a triple reef in our second mainsail. This is an essential modification for a transatlantic crossing. As this is being written we are sailing in a 30 knot breeze with a triple reef in the main and a small amount of headsail poled out, but still making nearly 7 knots towards Lanzerote in the Canary Islands.
Gibraltar was all about provisioning for the voyage and replacing safety equipment such as fire extinguishers, flares, engine spares etc. One has to be completely self sufficient in a big ocean as help is much more than a phone call away. We had decided to replace two halyards and apart from buying the braided line each needed an eye slice which is a specialised job. By chance the man for the job was Alastair who was just two boats along from us in the marina and he did the job immediately.
The rental car was used to haul groceries from Morrison’s supermarket and after spending almost GBP 1,000 the challenge was to find enough space on board to stow it all. Basically we required food for four people for one month with a top up of fresh fruit, veges and protein in the Canary Islands. I went grocery shopping Spanish style – get the trolley, find someone to push it and fill it – meantime prop yourself up at the bar, order some tapas and something to wash them down with (wine, beer, or something a little stronger) and then wait until the self propelled trolley is seen coming through the checkout. Settle the bar bill and help pack the groceries into the getaway vehicle!
The two Grahams had worked very hard on the installation of new equipment such as the wind generator, the external satellite aerial, the Pactor 4 high frequency modem which enables emails and weather files to be sent and received via the single sideband radio over a very long distance (e.g. 5000km). This was on top of the usual engine and gearbox oil changes plus reeving of all running rigging, and function testing of all systems.
The skipper and Violeta focused on all new purchases and stowing same. Everybody worked at least 15 hour days until finally on 27 April at 1600hrs we were able to slip the lines, fuel up with 160 litres of diesel in the main tank, and an additional 100 litres in jerry cans, and set a course for the Canary Islands.
Street art in Gibraltar
Running the gauntlet – Straights of Gibraltar