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Southampton to Gibraltar

November 08, 2006

The new yacht “AULICA” arrived in Southampton by container vessel from Kaohsiung, Taiwan on Saturday, offloading to the dockside. On Monday, myself, my two sons, and the Outer Reef team, were able to commence commissioning and preparing the yacht for the trip to Gibraltar - a distance of just under 1200 nautical miles. Wednesday, the yacht was lifted from the building cradle and launched into Southampton waters. After a thorough inspection of all sea valves and watertight fittings, we started the engines and made our way to the fueling jetty on the Inchin River, filling up to a capacity of just over 7,500 liters (2,000 US gallons), then on to Shamrock Quay Marina nearby for final commissioning.

Thursday afternoon saw the arrival of my three fellow voyagers, as Saturday morning was the target departure day. Two of them, on previous occasions crewed with me from the UK to Gibraltar on both sail and motoryachts, and on one trip having suffered storm 11 on a new yacht with sails shredded, surprised me that they keep volunteering! Weather forecasts were showing a change of pattern from the settled conditions of previous weeks with the Atlantic High over the Azores commencing to move and a series of lows crossing West to East towards Europe.

On Saturday, we slipped moorings and headed down the Inchin River and into Southampton Water towards the Solent, eventually clearing the Solent with the Needles lighthouse towards Ile D Oussant on the North West coast of France. By mid-afternoon we were crossing the Casquettes regulated shipping traffic lanes, keeping well clear of the large tankers and container vessels. On Sunday, we were at a position 18 miles north of the French coast, assisted by the tides, and expecting to round Oussant at 0400, winds had veered to NNW giving a confused port quarter sea. Our concerns were of rounding Oussant in present conditions and having to alter to a more southerly course which would bring the seas more on the stern.

Approaching Oussant, we had lost the south setting current and altered course due South and shortly after experiencing what must have been a 5 knot, north setting current, our speed immediately dropped to under 5 knots. With varying engine adjustments, we were able to maintain a reasonable southerly course. By 0700, the conditions had moderated and we entered the Bay of Biscay. As we were now in a position approximately 30 hours away from the general area, we decided to steer a course more easterly towards the fishing port of La Coruna. We had used La Coruna previously as a port of refuge, knowing it to be a sheltered port with good entrance.

Monday, 180 miles since entering the Bay, we were moving in a southerly direction to round Cape Finnisterre off the North West coast of Spain, then on course towards Cape Vicente, 350 miles ahead. Following day, we are 26 miles from La Guardia and the Rio Mino on the Spain Portugal border. Seas moderate to rough and pounding our port quarter, although uncomfortable, are of no real concern as by now we were used to the performance of the yacht.

Later that day, from our position west of Lisbon, distance to go to Gibraltar is 290 miles. Calculations gave an ETA around 2300 hours Wednesday evening, which would be too late for arrival at Queensway Marina. To arrive at the Marina on Thursday morning we reduced speed to 9 knots and continued on course south of the Algarve and towards the Gulf of Cadiz. Thursday, we had to make minor course alterations, with heavy shipping activity and to avoid early morning high speed ferries crossing between Spain, Morocco and Ceuta. We enter the main harbour just ahead of two RN subs also coming in to berth and at 0905 hrs we stop engines - end of an eventful maiden voyage.

In conclusion, Aulica is a 20-meter Outer Reef with CE certificate Class A Ocean, powered by twin Caterpillar C-9 engines each producing 500+ HP, controlled from 3 stations, together with fore and aft bow thrusters. Navigation electronics include three E120 multi-function screens, radar with 48” open array scanner, plus a full pack of ST 60 instruments, and Navtex for weather and navigational warnings. During the voyage the yacht proved to be an excellent sea keeper, we never felt threatened by the prevailing weather conditions. Quiet running and without any noticeable vibration or cavitation. Distance traveled from Marina to Marina with deviations - 1,175 nautical miles voyage over 5 days.

My thanks to the Outer Reef team, who commissioned the yacht in super quick time, which enabled us to sail on schedule, and with everything remaining intact during the voyage. Also, a big thanks to my crew, for their navigation experience, for their uplifting spirit and culinary vision (soup-in-a-cup), and for their sharp lookout during watchkeeping, and on-board poet laureate.

- George H., Owner of Outer Reef 650 Motoryacht "AULICA"

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