Highlights from Thalassa’s Return Trip - Gibraltar to Plymouth
 (Or in Richard’s words “The Slog Home”)
28 May-23 June 1972

Skipper                         Richard
Crew for the first leg;    
                                    Alan Liddle
                                    Jeremy and Caroline Mackay-Lewis
                                    Michael Smith

Sunday 28th May 1972 : The Log might have read something like this:

0900 Cast off Gibraltar
0901 Aground !
1000 Off at last into the Straits. Thalassa relaxes into perfect gentle easterly. Set Main, Genoa, Staysail, Mizzen, Mizzen Staysail and Bikinis. Magnificent sight of the Rock disappearing in a pretty little cloud not realising “pretty little cloud” is what they call the “Levanter”.
1245 Levanter strikes! In the narrowest part of the Straits entering Tarifa Bay. Wind E. 6/7. Crew soaked and sunburnt.
Lunch: Roast lamb, for the intrepid. Wind gale force 8 gusting 9.

As the Levanter raged we kept anchor watches in Tarifa for the next 22 hours, whilst curious Spanish troops ashore kept us under strict surveillance, (this was still Franco’s Spain) until we set off the following day to round Cape Trafalgar.

30th May San Lucar. 0745 Skipper had lengthy exchange with Spanish Garda on motorbikes on the beach. Dined with Skipper’s friends and he went ashore for dinner in smart yachting reefer, blue linen trousers and FLIP-FLOPS.

1st – 3rd June. Frolicked in Largos in brilliant weather, before a chilly wind set in.
3rd - 5th June Largos to Lisbon (Cascais) .
3rd June. I wrote: “It is now a filthy night and they all say the Irish Sea is a tropical paradise compared with this. Skipper says weather so unpredictable here, weather forecasts useless”

4th June “After rounding Cape St. Vincent, the wind really set in and we had a terrible night. We did everything but heave-to. Caroline, Richard and I somehow managed to produce some rice and curried eggs, they were really terrible but we had to eat something. We have been picking up rice all over the ship ever since. I don’t think any of us slept much until about 5am when it began to quieten down a bit. The waves have been very, very big and Jeremy was once washed right out of the cockpit”

“Yesterday was a beat the whole way and I fear it will be from now on as it is set in for the summer. Richard had specially chosen this time so that it wouldn’t be, so it is very bad luck. We had a Levanter in Tarifa, now we are in the teeth of the Portuguese Nortada which has come early. Not only is it on the nose but cold as well”
6th – 9th June. Lisbon (Cascais) to Oporto (Leixoes) I wrote Wind 6/7 gusting 8 on the nose. Three days and nights and we were wet through the whole time, including the bunks. We were tacking out into the huge Atlantic rollers. No hot food for 48 hours, we couldn’t boil a kettle. Went up to the foc’s’le and found 12 broken eggs swilling around on the galley floor. Every time I opened the fridge (then mounted next to the oilskin locker), everything shot out in my face. I have never lived on bananas and Ryvita before. We had picked the last cold chicken to pieces and eaten all the chocolate. In the end Jeremy and Caroline shacked up together to keep warm and give us one more dry berth”

“We conserved the last few drops of diesel for coming in but when we tried to start the engine it wouldn’t, so we tacked in, in the early morning with wind dead on the nose and sardine boats all around us. A brilliant exercise”.

“Apparently last year July and August were boiling hot and flat calm. Nice to hear about it”.

“At times I was so frightened. There were so many ships so close to us. Richard is very calm and unflappable and I was so relieved when he joined the watch. His navigation has been very good despite a most peculiar set of Log readings”.

10th June Leixoes, Oporto. Dried out, fixed engine, drank port and had the best breakfast ever, before most of the crew flew home.

12th June With change of crew, Robin Platts as Mate, Robin Brown and Ian Mitchell and loaded up with port from Skipper’s friends, Thalassa went into the Viga Ria, and met some mussel boats. Robin conducted a conversation in pseudo-Spanish with the fisherman, and for a pint of beer ended up with enough mussels for two meals.

14th June Sangenjo. After what he thought was an early night at 0100, Skipper woke 0500 to thumpings on deck and was mystified to find the crew dragging the dinghy on board via the main halyard and a row of Peseta notes drying out on the frapping lines. The following morning, departure delayed while Skipper furiously looking for Ensign which had disappeared. Big, big rumpus before he finally spotted it flying from a nearby tower. The truth dawned and before the Spanish Garda stepped in, a rather sheepish Crews Union agreed to take on the almost impossible task of climbing up to retrieve it. It had taken them 4½ hours and one near-drowning incident to get it up there.

18th – 23rd June Muros -.Plymouth. Fine sailing for crossing the Bay of Biscay once the wind picked up. Although Force 7 to 8 at times, we were off the wind. As we crossed the continental shelf the sea changed from blue to green. We had to alter course for a school of whales. We only saw one other yacht the whole trip and the whiff of Gaulloise from a French aircraft carrier. The prime moment came when I had the pleasure of waking the skipper at 5.30 am on Friday and told him we were just passing the Eddystone Light off Plymouth. With a dodgy log, dead reckoning and taking sun sights, apart from one rather weak radio signal off France, this was a remarkable landfall after five days at sea.
Bobby Teague