July 6-9, 2006
My first week on the Ranger was spent doing a variety of work in the coastal waters around Cagliari. This work included several dives documenting marine life and patrolling south of Sardinina along the 1000 meter depth curve for illegal driftnet fishing operations. This diary is about our crossing the Western Mediterranean from Cagliari to Rosas Spain a trip of a little over 330 miles of open ocean.
The Ranger is basically a motor sailer with limited capabilities to sail upwind and with only one fully functional engine our cruising speed in good conditions is about 6 knots. Bucking into head winds presents it’s own set of difficulties. Ranger is very stable even in somewhat rough conditions, something I’d learn about a couple of days from port.
We estimated if we had fair conditions the crossing would take 4 full days, as the saying goes “the best laid plans —” Xavier has assembled a first rate crew with extensive experience in the different skills needed to mount high seas expeditions. After already having spent a week on the Ranger I felt good that we’d be able to handle whatever mother nature sent our way and this proved to be the case.
Watch teams of three were assigned with two four hour watches daily. My watch was from 4-8 pm and again 4-8 am. The early morning watch has always been one of my favorites greeting each new day with the sun rise. My watch mates were Albert a licensed merchant marine officer and Juan a very enthusiastic young photographer, a great combination to spend so many hours with.
Fully provisioned we departed Cagliari about 8:30 am Thurs morning July 6th. It would take us about 10 hours running along the coast of Sardina until we cleared the south end and could set a course for Rosas a small port almost on the border with France. The seas were calm and the winds not only light but favorable for me to pull out one of my toys, a parafoil multi colored kite which I promptly send aloft to cheer us along for the first few hours.
Xavier and others could see the potential of sending Oceana banners up to advertise given the right circumstances. None of the kite came out again until a couple days later and then only a few inches of it. Depending on the angle of the wind at times we’d set a gib sail to improve our speed and take it back in when pushing upwind.
Thurs passed without incident, Indy keeping us well fed, watches changing like clockwork, speed averaging around 6 knots and we all expected and early arrival in Spain. Too good to be true and it didn’t last. Thurs night the rain and lightening started late and Fri. greeted us with a choppy sea and our progress slowed to 2.5-3.5knots. We’re still making headway and held our course directly to Rosas.
Sometime after midnight on Fri. the wind freshened to a steady 30 knots directly on our bow, this isn’t Ranger’s strong point so much so that forward progress virtually stopped, we’re treading water 150 miles from the nearest land, anything not properly stowed found it’s way to a low spot. As my watch started I thought I had returned to the North Pacific, with a 150 plus miles of fetch the seas had built to a rough 5-7 foot with an uncomfortably short period.
This Med is acting like every other ocean give it some wind and it’ll kick your ass, so much for the flat summer cruise. Capt. Jodi came on deck to assess the situation and decide on a course of action, set out a reefed in gib and start tacking trying not to loose ground until the weather abated. For the next 15 hours we’d make long multi hour tacks and never really get any closer to Rosas we weren’t however losing ground back towards Cagliari but for those of us that wanted and expected to watch the World Cup final on Sun night it wasn’t looking good.
We were right in the middle of the Med with Menorca 150 miles west and the north end of Sardinia 150 miles north east, take about no good place to go and a minimum of 15-20 hours to get to either, so we just kept pulling away tack after tack basically going no where. 15 hours later the weather started to back off and we’re making a blistering 3.5 knots towards Spain finally. 3.5 knots might sound slow but after taking a beating going no where for the previous 15 hours we were elated to be making headway again. The wind and seas continued to back off during the day Sat. and by afternoon the ride was again comfortable and cruising along at 4.5 knots everyone’s spirits picked up.
The weather and winds only became better and better and most of Sat night we did about 7 knots making up for lost time. Sun morning’s watch continued the good conditions and at daylight we set the Genoa (large gib) 7.5 knots and we’re flying, we haven’t dropped below 6.8 knots all day and now we’re only 3 hours from Rosas. World Cu p Final here we come – GO FRANCE!
One last note: sailors all around the world use similar expressions to talk about ocean conditions and while the weather was kicking up Xose, an experienced sailor, was describing the conditions as “muchos borregos” translated in means many sheep describing the white caps much the same as we say lot’s of sheep today when the white caps are rolling. Next stop Spain!!!!