Sunday 11 September 2011

A day in the life of Juno

Not a breath of wind today so we are motoring from Almerimar towards Cabo de Gato, the eastern tip of the Costa Blanca, before we turn north towards Cartagena. Having had breakfast, Caroline and Saz are now sunning themselves on the foredeck and i am in the cockpit, sitting in the shade of the bimini.


Nothing much else to say today so i thought i would tell you about a day in the life of Juno. We wake, normally at around 8am, to the sound Fragile. This is a throw back from chartering in Turkey 20 years ago when Mike used to wake us, slightly hung over, to the strains of Sting rasping out Fragile on the boats cassette player. Nowadays it comes polyphonic from my iPhone and jolts me from a dreamy sleep. Juno is very well insulated, and with the cabin fans humming, nothing penetrates the interior of the boat, other than the sound of mice inside the satellite dome, making minute adjustments to the angle of the dish so that it locks onto the signals from the Inmarsat satellite, far up in space. The little motors inside the dome make short, intermittent buzzing sounds that travel down the aluminium aerial pole and make a beeline for a spot on the deck directly above Caroline's pillow - or so she tells me. I can't hear a thing but when we leave the sat phone on overnight she stomps out of bed and flicks the switch on the control panel, dispatching the mice and silence descends.

Normally we are making an early start on our relentless journey to Palma, with deadlines looming at every port. The next deadline is to get Saz to Cartagena by tomorrow evening to catch a flight home from Murcia Airport, so that she can pack a fresh suitcase and catch another flight the following day to Itlay - for another holiday. Depending on where we are, the first job is to stow the pasarelle, which is rather like folding a deck chair in a strong wind while balancing on a beach ball. It has a topping lift to the top of the mast to set the height, a fitting that locks into a socket on the transom steps, brace lines from either side to hold it in position and then carbon poles and a rope handrail to cling onto as you walk the gangplank across the short space of grubby harbour water that separates you from the dock. The pasarelle is stowed in the lazarette, a large locker in the aft deck which acts as my garage. It is full of folding bikes, scuba diving tanks, storm sails, spinnakers, kedge anchors, buckets bulging with an ever increasing collection of cleaning chemicals and a huge array of ropes that hang on a rail spanning the back of the locker. When i stand inside the lazarette the deck comes up to chest height and runs the full width of the boat, 5 metres according to Oyster.

Next, our tender is attached to the davits which overhang the stern and an electric winch built into the davits whirrs away as the tender is lifted out of the water and snugged up tight against the arms of the davits. OK, everything seems to be attached to the boat, so next i go below and check that all the hatches below deck level are shut tight and then i switch on the instruments; autopilot, chart plotters (two, one under the spray hood and one on the starboard steering pedestal), sailing instruments (echo sounder for depth, wind instruments, boat speed), AIS (automatic identification system, explanation to follow), Navtex (safety messages are broadcast to this little screen at the chart table), hydraulics (to operate mainsail furling), bow thrusters (more on this beast later), and VHF radio. Then i turn off stuff we dont need; air conditioning, lights, dish washer, washing machine, but i leave on the fans, fridge, freezer, satellite phone and the boats PC (so that i can pick up emails and weather information en route).

At last ready to go. In the med, because there are no tides to speak of, boats dock at fixed concrete pontoons. This compared to northern European waters where tidal ranges can be up to 20 feet and therefore boats attach to floating pontoons. The benefit of this is that many more boats can be crammed into the same space and this is achieved by means of lazy lines. These are thick ropes, encrusted with razor sharp shells and attached to heavy weights in the seabed in the harbour. Once your boat is secured to the concrete dock at the stern, a marinero will hand you one end of the lazy line and you then haul it in as hard as you can, lacerating your hands, and attach it to the bow to hold you a safe distance off the unforgiving concrete dock. The pasarelle then spans this gap allowing you to go ashore. To avoid the lazy line getting fouled in the propeller we cast these off first and let them sink, meanwhile we slip the stern lines and then motor gently away from the dock, with a touch of bow thruster if necessary to keep us away from our neighbouring yachts which are similarly moored either side of us. The bow thruster is a powerful electric motor which drives two propellers fitted in a tunnel in the bow of the boat under the water line. These are operated with a switch at the steering pedestal and a short burst in either direction thrusts the bow from side to side. The reason for this invaluable device is that with one rudder and one propeller, the only way to achieve steerage is to create a flow of water over the rudder - and this requires speed. At slow speed, the bow thruster comes into its own and allows you to manoeuvre at slow speed in port. Juno's bow thrusters are very powerful and as we try and slip quietly away in the early morning, one short burst of the thrusters blasts out from under our bows, startling nearby seagulls and announcing our departure to the world.

So much for a day in the life of Juno. We have barely left the dock and i have run out of space. Who was the Roman general who, having written a long report of his latest campaign, apologised and said that he hadn't had time to write a short one? Answers please by email to yachtjunoATmailasailDOTcom. Prizes will be awarded - even if only in appreciation of you ploughing through my turgid prose. Today is Paul Windsors birthday so if you have forgotten there is still time to buy that witty card and a gift in keeping with his advancing years.

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