We did our RYA Day Skipper courses with Trafalgar sailing school in Gibraltar, so kept up with them on Facebook. When one of the instructors was looking for crew to take his own boat from Wales to Spain, Aleksandra couldn’t get time off work – but I jumped at the chance.

cloud nine 4

September 16 2018

An intensive day, flying from Kraków to Liverpool to meet skipper Rob, before provisioning, heading to his place to collect lasagne from his wife Sam, and making our way to Cloud Nine – Rob’s 10-metre Sigma – from a mooring in Holyhead. There’s not much time to prepare because we need to leave for Wicklow with the tide, sailing overnight to beat the bad weather. This is definitely in at the deep end, as I have to learn the boat on the way.

September 17 2018

cloud nine 2

We arrive in Wicklow at 09:30, and are tied up to the harbour wall just in time as the wind begins to pick up. We are to be stormbound there for a while, as the storm sends winds of 35+ knots into the harbour. We’re bouncing around most of the time, but that doesn’t stop Rob going up the mast in a lull to repair the wind vane. There are no electric winches, so for me it’s on with the sailing gloves, line around the winch, and heave!

September 20 2018

A narrow weather window opens up so we’re underway again. We think we can make it to Kilmore Quay before it gets terrible again… but we don’t. We slow a little coming around Rosslare, and that throws the tide timings – while the wind picks up at the same time. We spend the last four hours in a minimum of 25 knots of wind, and only make it to Kilmore after dark, guided in by the leading lights, soaking wet and freezing cold. We raft up alongside the fishing boat Emer Jane to warm up and catch our breath, before taking Cloud Nine round to the marina to wait out the rest of the storm.

September 23 2018

cloud nine 5

The weather is on our side again, and we’re heading out across Biscay for northern Spain. But only an hour in, disaster strikes. Cloud Nine doesn’t have roller furling so we have to do all sail changes by hand, and while we’re doing it we leave George the autotiller in control. Asleep on the job, he runs us over a lobster pot – fouling the prop.

But, this is a sailing boat, and nobody said anything about motoring across Biscay, so we resolve to press on for Spain without the engine. We’ll work out what to do with it later. In the meantime, there’s plenty of wind for sailing.

September 24 2018

Finally, dolphins! I missed them in Gibraltar, in Spain, in Mallorca and in Sardinia, and I find them somewhere south of Kilmore Quay. There’s not so much time to admire them, though, as the wind is falling off and we have to experiment with the #1 jib, two different spinnakers, and a huge code zero to keep Cloud Nine moving.

September 25 2018

The wind’s back and building. Looks like we’re in for a rough old time ahead. By 20:00 it’s reached a more or less steady 30 knots with swell to match and gusts pushing 35-40. Thankfully, Cloud Nine is a stable little boat and takes it all in her stride – which is just as well because this is going to continue for 36 hours and I’m going to have my ear practically in the water for most of my watches. George forgiven for the lobster pot incident, as he was able to pull his weight to make tiller duty easier on both Rob and I.

September 27 2018

All calm by morning, and we’ve gone from more wind than we can eat to almost none at all. By 21:00 we’re in sight of A Coruña, but the sea is like glass. With no engine, we’ve no choice but wait it out, and we spend a rolly night under bare poles with the anchor light on, catching up on sleep. Note to self: AIS is not like Facebook – just because the fishing boats aren’t on it, doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

September 28 2018

cloud nine 3

A miracle! Rob was preparing to go into the water to free the prop so we could motor into Caruna. He decided to give the line one last pull to loosen it up, and the whole thing came free. We’re underway at midday, when another miracle occurs – a pilot whale surfaces near Cloud Nine. It’s an amazing sight, and a stunning final chapter to two weeks of eventful, fantastic sailing that leads us eventually to the marina in A Coruña at 15:00.

See Anthony’s videos from this voyage here:

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