Risk management.

We finally get to Gibraltar.

30th July 2021

Roquetas de Mar, Spain – Cadiz, Spain via Gibraltar and La Linea, Spain

Risk management. This is not just something that is left to the finance departments of big corporations or the military leadership in conflict zones, this is a key skill in successfully taking a boat to sea. Some risks can be managed by having the right equipment, some risks can be managed by having the right training, but some risks can’t be managed. All you can do is cross your fingers and hope.

At the same time as exhausting the delights and fiestas of Roquetas de Mar the wind turned and opened our way to Gibraltar. While the town was sleeping off its collective hangover (from their holiday fiesta in honour of Saint Anna, who seemed closely connect to the port and especially to the fishing fleet) we slipped out to sea, put up some sails and coasted along mile upon mile of uninterrupted beach. This was low risk, low stress and low danger. Sleep could come easily and the biggest worry would be sunburn.

This low-risk sailing wasn’t to last as the current flowing into the Mediterranean threatened to push us back to the Balearics and the fog enveloped us making our world even smaller. Mitigating this risk, the magic radar saw through the gloom, showing us dangers and allowing us to push on at full speed. Even though this full speed was a slow walk.

Only one word could describe our progress; dull. So dull that Iain sought out anything to take his mind off it. He finally found something that was more interesting than the ‘sailing’ and it says something about the ‘sailing’ when polishing fenders was considered interesting.

Arriving in Gibraltar we knew that the levels of risk were about to get elevated to untold levels and made higher still as the only strategy we had to manage them was luck. We were about to run Orca alley.  Recently a few individuals in the resident pod of Orca have been striking boats, day after day there are reports of boats attacked, disabled and left floundering.

When at sea we normally find that being alone is the safer option but here we wanted company, we wanted other boats and we wanted the Orca to have multiple targets. We reasoned that they could only attack a single boat at once so there was safety in numbers. As we anchored in Gibraltar behind a Najad called Summersong Fiona got onto social media, tracked them down, made contact and created a plan. We now had company and a little bit of safety.

Our strategy for avoiding the Orcas, apart from crossing fingers, was to go into stealth mode and hug the shallows. This meant that we’d be sailing around rocks, with hardly any water under us, without a depth sounder and without an engine.

Surrounded by white water we blasted along, just spitting distance from the shore and headed north. We crossed Barbate Bay where most of the attacks in July had occurred and now all we had to do was get across the rocks at cape Trafalgar.

Heading into deeper water to avoid the dangers Ruffian was suddenly enveloped in the aroma of Cetacean. With sanctuary in sight our imaginations ran wild. Adrenalin pumped through us and we bore away through the rocks hoping that the risk of hitting the ground was less than the risk of the Orca’s finding us. Every splash we heard felt threatening and every white cap looked full of peril.

Every moment felt like an age, but as every moment passed we got into shallower water, and we hoped further away from the Orca’s hunting ground, and with every moment the risk reduced. It was only as the anchor attached us to the ground next to SummerSong in Cadiz that we could finally say that we’d managed the risk successfully and Orca alley was behind us.

The strategy of risk management strategy of using luck doesn’t usually prove to be a good one, but luck was on our side as we have headed north and although the Orca’s are still ‘out there’. They haven’t been ‘out there; with us.

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Author: Iain & Fiona Lewis

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