I took care that evening to check up on the weather forecast using my personal SMS weather service and double checked this against NAVTEXT transmissions (via my laptop and HF radio receiver).
I find I can only trust the forecasts on Internet web sites for two days, and sure enough, the situation had changed considerably from my three day old predictions. The heavy rain in what should have been fine weather was what tipped me off ;-), though F5 to 6 instead of 3 should also have given me a substantial indicator.
Near gales despite the weather predictions? Not as unusual as one might expect.
Another forecast check, first thing in the morning, assured me that the conditions would rapidly improve and smooth seas with F3 winds in just the right direction would prevail. I should have paid more attention to what my eyes were telling me and not just what was in the idyllic forecast. It took a full 24 hours before conditions approached what was forecast, and there I was merrily making my way to Tarifa in what turned out to be increasingly turbulent seas.
Here is a copy of the full transmission:
21 0710 UTC MAR 10
SPANISH METEOROLOGICAL AGENCY
WEATHER AND SEA BULLETIN FOR HIGH SEAS ON 21MAR10
1.- NO GALE WARNINGS FOR OUR ZONES
2.-GENERAL SYNOPSIS AT 00 UTC AND EVOLUTION.
LOW OF 982 SOUTH OF ICELAND ALMOST STATIONARY LITTLE CHANGES.LOW OF 1014 AT 35N 45W MOVING EASTWARDS AS FAR AS SW OF AZORES.NO CHANGES.HIGH OF 1026 CENTERED BETWEEN AZORES AND MADEIRA, MOVING NORTHEASTWARDS AND DECLINING.HIGH OF 1028 CENTERED IN N OF LIBIA MOVING SLOWLY EASTWARDS AND DECLINING , SPREADING AS FAR AS WESTERN MEDITERRANEAN, AT FIRST WITH 1022 BUT 1018 AT THE END.
3.-FORECAST VALID UNTIL 21MAR10 AT 2400 UTC.
SAO VICENTE:IN NW , N 4 TO 5 ELSEWHERE VARIABLE 2 TO 3 INCREASING TO NNW 4 LOCALLT N 5 BY AFTERNOON.SMOOTH INCREASING TO SLIGHT .SHOWERS.
CADIZ:VARIABLE 2 TO 3 BUT IN EASTERN SE 3 TO 5 AT FIRST, DECREASING TO VARIABLE 2 TO 3.SLIGHT TO MODERATE IN EASTERN AT FIRST DECREASING TO SMOOTH IN ALL THE AREA.SHOWERS AT FIRST.
ESTRECHO:E 3 TO 5 DECREASING TO E 3.SLIGHT DECREASING TO SMOOTH.SHOWERS AT FIRST.
CASABLANCA:N AND NW 4 TO 5 BECOMING NE, WITH VARIABLE 2 TO 4 IN NE UNTIL NOON.SMOOTH TO SLIGHT.SOME SHOWERS.
AGADIR:N AND NW 4 TO 5 BECOMING NE INCREASING TO N 5.SMOOTH TO SLIGHT INCREASING TO MODERATE.
ALBORAN:NW 3 TO .&&)0/+**.8*(*SHOWERS.
PALOS: VARIABLE 2 TO 4 BECOMING WBY AFTERNOON AND INCREASING TO W AND SW 4 TO 5 AT THE END.SMOOTH LOCALLY SLIGHT.MODERATE IN SHOWERS.
ARGELIA:VARIABLE 2 TO 4 BECOMING ELY BY AFTERNOON AND SLY AT THE END.SMOOTH LOCALLY MODERATE.
Things went slightly amiss just past Punta Carnero. There is a cardinal marker approximately two miles offshore from the aforesaid headland, and rounding this, under stay-sail and double reefed, my mainsail gave way, unexpectedly tearing itself to shreds.
Well not quite shreds… two big shreds is perhaps a more accurate description, but not to belabor the point, I can assure you that the sail (in two large shreds or several) was as effectively out of commission. Surprisingly, I wasn’t that bothered by the loss of the sail, (I’d normally be in tears…), after all, it was almost ten years old, and besides, I had a spare… but I really would have appreciated a more opportune time for its demise.
Auxiliary on, new trysail hoisted (it sounds so easy when I write it…), I bounced my way back to Gibraltar.
Below decks, everything that could, had dislodged itself, littering the cabin sole. Outside was no better, as Eileen of Avoca was ‘slipping it green’ and I in turn was slipping all over the place and turning blue from the cold… make that blue-green as I was also feeling decidedly queasy.
Still, matters could have been far worse, I reasoned that all the mess would be sorted out in Gibraltar and since I didn’t have far to go (10 miles at most), I’d soon be ashore finding someone to mend the sail and sourcing parts to repair the now defunct reefing system… Four unpleasant and thoroughly sopping hours later I found that this was an erroneous assumption.
Queensway Quay Marina sent me away, stating they had no room for boats of my dimensions (all taken by permanent residents) and Marina Bay wouldn’t or couldn’t acknowledge my frequent calls over VHF.
So be it… Back to the anchorage at La Linea, where I set about lacing my reserve mainsail and putting matters on board in some semblance of order.
I’ll just give it all another go tomorrow…