We arrived in Gibraltar just as the sun was rising over the eastern horizon.
Our trip from the Balearics had taken four uneventful windless days.
Gibraltar was the staging area for the last part of our trip around the
world. We had to sail across the Atlantic in a year of unruly weather,
but before we set sail through the pillars of Hercules, we had to get our
affairs in order. Exit Only wasn't ready for three thousand miles of
offshore sailing without doing a great deal of maintenance in the shadow of
Exit Only had a dead mainsail. The old one was a disaster area.
eleven years, the Dacron was so rotten that with very little effort I could
push my finger through the sailcloth along its leech. We ordered a new
one from Thailand to be delivered in Gibraltar and looked forward to bending
it onto the mast.
Our high frequency radio was out of commission, and we couldn't send and
receive emails at sea. Not getting personal emails wasn't a big
problem; you can get along without emails from family and friends for
a couple of weeks. What worried us was being unable to receive weather
files that gave us real time weather reports while we were crossing the Big
The high output alternator on our starboard engine was out of commission.
Although we still had an alternator on our port engine, if we lost that
engine or its alternator during our transatlantic run, it would be
inconvenient at best. We have an electric autopilot that steers the
boat 24 hours a day, and if we don't have enough electrical power, we would have to hand steer around the clock for two or three weeks.
As far as I am concerned, hand steering qualifies as cruel and unusual
punishment of the captain and crew, and I will move heaven and earth to
prevent that from happening. Although I have solar panels and wind
generators to make electricity, I always adopt a belt and suspenders
approach when making passages offshore. I'm not afraid of being
without electricity, after all, I'm on a sailboat. But I'm also
interested in making the trip as pleasant as possible.
Before I sail offshore, I always climb the mask to check the stainless steel
rigging. When I climbed the mast in Gibraltar, I discovered that the
head stay was failing. Two strands of the twelve millimeter wire were
broken, and one upper diamond stay had broken strands as well. This was
both bad and good news. It was bad because it was going to be
expensive to fix, and good because I was able to get it fixed before I
started sailing across the Atlantic. We had to remove our roller
furling gear and construct a new head stay, and as a precaution, we also replaced
the two upper diamond stays. Spending money on rigging may be
expensive, but it's not nearly as expensive or inconvenient as loosing your
mast out in the middle of the Atlantic.
Those were a few of the biggest jobs that demanded our attention. It
took a solid month to prepare Exit Only for the transatlantic adventure, but
it was time well spent, because we sailed confidently over the western
horizon and arrived in Barbados without any complications.
Like Phoenix rising from the ashes, and the Gibraltar sun rising in the east,
Exit Only rose to the challenge and was ready to sail across the Atlantic.