Current location for King Malu

Friday, 13 April 2012

Sailing to Beirut... the full story

120 nautical miles

We had planned to leave sometime between 18:00 and 19:00, however as this seemed to be a weather window for getting out of the marina with reasonable wind and wave conditions. However, the wind dropped 16:00 and fooled us totally, so we decided to leave at about 16:30.

Inside the marina the water was like a mirror reflecting clouds and blue skies towards the horizon. Tim was helming us out, Richard is lookout and preparing for the long crossing.

This was the last sight of Larnaca... for a few days. Wind was light, 10-15 knots. As predicted. We settled down for the long sail.

It didn't take long for the wind to build up significantly: gusting 24 knots.

This brought up the sea conditions to fairly significant waves. The predicted height was 2.2 metres, but Tim reckons they were double that at times. What made it worse was the swell was coming on our beam, which meant that the boat was rolling very considerably, probably only 25 degrees in each direction, but that means it was overall a 50 degree roll every 5-8 seconds.

King Malu felt safe in these conditions, but sadly it affected me (Richard) and I got quite sea sick. This added a burden onto Tim. By morning the wind had abated, but it took quite a few hours before the sea conditions caught up. By that time the wind had shifted to approx 120 degrees on our starboard side, so we were running with the wind. This meant that King Malu was still rolling all over the place.

This was the first time night sailing with AIS. AIS stands for Automatic Identification System and all vessels over 300 tonnes are obligated by law to use it to transmit their location, speed and other information to all surrounding vessels. In the past we had used radar, but because the boat was rolling so badly radar proved useless. AIS on the other hand proved invaluable.

We were following one large tanker for a few hours and it's AIS showed it changing course somewhat erratically and also displayed 'Not under command'. We thought maybe the captain had not set that correctly since my son had done many night watches on a large ship and had said this was often the case.  We were concerned we were on a collision course so gybed and ran for 30 minutes and gybed again, only to find we were still on a collision course! One of the other things AIS gives is the name of the vessel so we called up the vessel by name and found out that they really weren't under command, just drifting with the wind.  Hence, although power vessels are supposed to avoid sailing vessels, because the power vessel was unable to control her passage we were therefore obligated to avoid her.

Early morning we were called up by the Turkish Navy on patrol and asked for all our details. Arriving close to Lebanon we were contacted twice by United Nations warships.

The first time was a request by a UN Warship that wanted to do a live firing exercise and requested we increase speed to approximately four times our current speed. When we explained we were a sailing vessel travelling as fast as we could in these sea conditions they requested we change course and sail on their required course for three hours. We tried to comply and spent half an hour attempting to sail that course but because it would have been directly behind us this proved completely impossible in the sea conditions so we eventually settled back to the original course and got agreement from the UN Warship that we would be safe on this course! Maybe captains of warships should be taught to sail so they can understand what can and cannot be complied with by a sailing vessel in various sea states.

Finally we also had to 'clear in' with 'Oskar Charlie' which is the Beirut VTS control.

We finally arrived safely at the Mövenpick Marina sometime after 7pm. Customs and Immigration met us and then we had a quick meal and off to bed! Both cabins proved extremely comfortable to extremely tired bodies.

One thing that had happened one the crossing was the halyard for the mizzen staysail successfully pulled out and dropped out of the block at the top of the mizzen mast.

So today Tim wipped an eye to the end of the halyard to stop it falling through again and I went up the mast to re-thread it through the block.

That's a thumbs up from Tim an Ellie when I got the halyard rethreaded!

Tim remarked you go along way to find someone with his fishing skills to pull a line out of a mast!

Mövenpick Marina is just south of Ras Beirut and the skyline shows how the city is being rebuilt.
Here from the top of the mast you can see the Lebanese curtesy flag flying from the starboard spreaders of King Malu.

Our neighbour was a power boater, who admitted that he preferred sailing, but his family preferred the power boats.

1 comment:

  1. Wow sounds great - must have been a wonderful experience!!!

    Take care