Rum Sodomy and the Lash

sailing around the world on our yacht, Ruby Rose

Month: November 2015

Atlantic crossing -See You On The Other Side…

With one more sleep to go before our Atlantic crossing, the atmosphere around here has suddenly become charged with excited anticipation. I popped into the ARC  office earlier and things are definitely a little tense. Everyone’s full of excitment, but there’s certainly an element of anxiety amongst most of the crews. Neil said that he was having a drink at the bar earlier and witnessed a full on marriage meltdown between two ARC participants, which I completely sympathise with! I may or may not have thrown my toys out of the pram a few days ago myself, and I’m pretty chilled out most of the time!

This photo was taken by the ARC official photographer- but was given to us on a memory stick, so hope I can use them on the blog!

This photo was taken by the ARC official photographer- but was given to us on a memory stick, so hope I can use them on the blog!

 

 

Again, this image belongs to the ARC

Again, this image belongs to the ARC

... and this one

… and this one

Wednesday night was the ARC Dress Up Party, and the theme was 80s films. I can now reveal that Nick, Neil and I dressed up as the cast from Flash Gordon (John said, “I don’t do fancy dress” so he missed out on half the fun as far as I’m concerned!). Nick was, of course, Ming the Merciless, while I chose to be Princess Aura (Ming’s daughter- yes, slightly creepy, but her outfit was actually the easiest to replicate without resorting to sparkly bikini tops, which I definitely have not got the abs to pull off right now), and Neil was the hero of the day, Mr Flash Gordon himself. We made the costumes ourselves, and were pretty relieved that plenty of other people made a huge effort- not always guaranteed!

Emperor Ming and crew (taken by the ARC photographer)

Emperor Ming and crew (taken by the ARC photographer)

Nick and I didn’t win any of the best dressed prizes, but a quick poll (including the winners of Best Couple) confirmed what we already knew: we’d been cheated of a win! Nick especially. He looked amazing. Such a shame Emperor Ming lost out to Sebastian from The Little Mermaid. Who would have thought?

Thursday was a slow one. We acquainted Neil and John with the boat and then went out for a test before our Atlantic crossing. It was actually the first time we’ve all sailed as a crew of four, which is a bit weird considering how much sailing we’ve done in company. But it all went smoothly, and boosted our spirits seeing how well we worked together at this early stage. By the time we arrive in the Caribbean following our Atlantic crossing, we’ll be like a well oiled machine.

Test sail. Pretty relaxed, no?

Test sail. Pretty relaxed, no?

We also took delivery of our meat order, which was an exciting moment, at least for me. We managed to fit it all in the bottom baskets of the fridge, where it will stay frozen (unless the fridge breaks, or someone knocks the temperature dial up, or some other catastrophe- but I’m trying not to think about that).

Tapas night with Magda and Tim

Tapas night with Magda and Tim

 

Thursday night we went to the last Sundowners and knocked back our two free beers, before heading to the old town for Thursday night tapas. Every Thursday is tapas night, and all the bars offer a beer and a tapa for about €3, which basically translates into a tapa-based bar crawl- my favourite type of bar crawl, frankly! We went with Tim and Magda, a Canadian couple who were originally meant to be on the ARC+ and started their Atlantic crossing , but had to turn around 100 miles away when their rudder stock started leaking. They’ve been lifted out ever since sorting that out and are now taking part in the ARC with the rest of us. Actually, they’ve just signed up for the World ARC, which is exciting (for them!).

Mmm, tapas!

Mmm, tapas!

 

Friday night was the ARC Farewell Party, and a chance for everyone to get together and de-stress before the Atlantic crossing .I think we really needed it: the forecast had made us a bit jumpy and we were suddenly feeling slightly worried that the first few days at sea weren’t going to be as enjoyable as we’d hoped. However, once we’d gotten a couple of drinks into us and the band had started, we let our hair down and danced the night away. An awesome moment was when a massive congo line formed in front of a guy with a GoPro- I’d love to see that footage one day!

Partyyyyy!

Partyyyyy!

Skipper and his happy crew!

Skipper and his happy crew!

Yes, even John is having a good time!

Party time!

Party time!

ARC farewell party

ARC farewell party

 

Fireworks at the ARC farewell party

Fireworks at the ARC farewell party

I accidentally pressed some random button, and this is what happened to my photo! I love it!

I accidentally pressed some random button, and this is what happened to my photo! I love it!

Today is our last day of preparations before the start of our Atlantic crossing tomorrow. That meant a lazy morning drinking coffee in the cockpit before Nick and I trundled off to the skippers briefing. There was a lot of talk about the start and where everyone is meant to be, and what we’re all meant to be doing, and then we got to the good stuff: the forecast!

So, in the words of the ARC meteorologist, Chris Tibbs, the trade winds are “well established.” In other words, it’s going to be pretty lively out there for the first few days (not too crazy- 18-23 knots from the NE, so coming from behind- hopefully the swell won’t be too bad and we can get some decent speed up without compromising on too much rest), then it will settle slightly on Tuesday, but it looks like a fairly fast crossing overall!

This afternoon was a festival of fruit and vegetable stowage, and a trip back to the supermarket to pick up any last minute purchases that we’d forgotten or weren’t sure we’d have room for. I’m pleased to say that everything fits- just!

 

Nick: "Would you put that camera down, and get to work!?"

Nick: “Would you put that camera down, and get to work!?”

So, one more sleep then we’re off on our Atlantic crossing ! You can track us on the tracking page on our website, but that will just show a little boat with lots of blue around it- not overly helpful! It might be better to follow us on the World Cruising Club website, here. The actual page for the fleet viewer is here (our event is ‘ARC’, not ‘ARC +’) although if you’re on a tablet you’ll need to download the app (you’ll be prompted as you try and open the page). For those on a laptop or PC or whatever, you should be able to view it without an app.

We’ll be writing a log posted to the official ARC website, here, where you can peruse our logs as well as everyone else’s. Obviously on our arrival in Saint Lucia, I’ll be writing up the mother of all blogs to bring you all up to speed!

So, that’s it for now! See you in three weeks! (ARRGGGHHHH!)

Make Me Some Water

Monday we had a fairly slow start. Sunday evening we’d had John, Sandra and Miles over for pasta and drinks- many drinks. Usually it’s Sandra weaving her way back down the pontoon (I don’t think she’ll mind me saying!) but apparently that night it was John who was a little unsteady on his feet. Nick and I woke the next morning feeling a little fragile.

Our pontoon!

Our pontoon! That’s our stern on the left. Look closely and you can see our new heart-shaped Christmas lights!

Sandra and I had plans to do a recce down the market that morning, so after a very strong coffee, a large glass of water, a carby breakfast and some paracetamol, I finally roused myself at about 10am to brush my hair and teeth, and change out of my pyjamas. And not a minute too soon: as soon as I’d made myself presentable, a knock came on the hull. It wasn’t Sandra. It was the media. Suddenly, Nick and I were in the cockpit with a guy videoing us and a woman recording us, being interviewed by the World Cruising Club. I could barely string a coherent sentence together. I was just glad we were outside so I had a good excuse to cover half my face with sunglasses, and I spent most of the interview trying to remember the last time I’d had a shower, and thanking the powers that be that I’d managed to clear the cockpit of the evidence of our previous night of boozing only minutes earlier.

That said, I must have turned in a reasonable performance because it was only at the end of the interview that she asked me how long I’d been the skipper for!

So, here’s a link to the interview. I don’t know how long it will stay up for, though!

Sandra popped by a couple of minutes after the two media crew had left, and we cycled to the market. This is where is pays to be part of an organised rally. All we had to do was pick up a form from one of several stalls at the marketplace, write down what we wanted, and they’ll deliver it to the boat the day before we leave. They give you green bananas and tomatoes, and make sure it’s all got a reasonable used by date. Plus- it’s delivered! I know I’ve already said that, but speaking as a woman who is mightily sick of lugging groceries all over town, that’s a big plus. And the guy who owns the stall we went to gave us a bag of bananas and mandarins for free!

Yummy!

Yummy!

Anyway, I get back to the boat only to find it literally turned inside out. All the floor panels were up, toolkits were out, and Nick was pacing around looking worried while some bloke who had clearly just arrived from the airport- his suitcase was in our cockpit, opened to reveal his washbag, some t-shirts, and a large metallic piece of equipment that I wouldn’t be able to identify if my life depended on it- lay face down on the floor with his head in a floor locker.

So, this was Jim, the watermaker guy. We’d had an issue with our watermaker off the Moroccan coast, as it kept cutting out randomly. Nick called the manufacturer who agreed to bring out a new engine for it when they came out to Las Palmas for the ARC. So we’ve been waiting for this part ever since. Unfortunately, when the guy replaced the engine, things still weren’t rosy. When we turned the watermaker on, it sounded like I do when I go for a run: on the verge of death. Even I could tell something was wrong.

However, Jim had to pick someone up from the airport or something, so he had to bail. The next morning Jim returned saying that he’d been kept awake all night trying to figure out what the problem was (bless), and he thought he had the answer.

It turns out that the fan Nick installed to cool down the watermaker was causing the 10 amp circuit breaker to trip out. So Nick uprated the wiring and changed to a larger circuit breaker, and voila! It works.

Yay.

Oh, we're all having so much FUN!

Oh, we’re all having so much FUN!

So, that done, we were free to go about the rest of our day. I rode down to the market and put in my order forms for our meat and fruit and veg. The guy who owns the stall gave me another big bag of mandarins for free, so now we have two big bags of fruit that we really need to eat before Saturday to make room for all the fresh food I’ve ordered! Oh, the irony.

I then went to the provisioning seminar, where I learned that broccoli only lasts for 2-3 days unrefrigerated. Bugger. Wish I knew that before I ordered, like, 2kg of broccoli. I thought that stuff lasted ages?!

So, guess what we’ll be eating for breakfast, lunch and dinner for days 1-3?

I also learned that we’ll be using a quarter of a roll of toilet paper per person per day (how much toilet roll we’d need was causing a lot of head scratching between Nick and me… not the type of thing we want to run out of). And if you wrap your carrots in foil, they will last weeks. Excellent.

Las Palmas love

Las Palmas love

Thomas the Parasailor man also came to visit our boat to give us some tips on flying the Parasailor across the Atlantic. He gave us some good advice, and even though we ended up spending another few hundred euros and it meant another trip up the mast for Nick, we’ll do anything for a safe and comfortable (and fast, if that’s not too much to ask!) crossing. Essentially, we should be flying the Parasailor asymmetrically, which we’ve never really done before, and we had to install a spinnaker crane to avoid chafe, apparently without which it wouldn’t have lasted more than a few days!

Right, almost there! Stay with me!

Last night we went to the crew supper, which was ever so slightly tedious to begin with (you know, lots of milling around drinking free booze, trying to find someone to talk to in a room full of strangers), but we ended up sitting opposite the same Aussies I’d borrowed the flag from at the welcome parade. They said they couldn’t work out why I wanted it. I informed my fellow compatriots that I am, in fact, an Aussie.

“Oh, no way?! I did not pick up on that at all.”

“Yeah, I get that a lot.”

“You sound English!”

“Yeah, I get that a lot.”

“Too long spent in London, eh?”

“Actually, I’m from Adelaide. We all speak like this.”

“Ahhh. Adelaide, eh? No wonder you moved to London!”

For the record, Adelaide is a fantastic place, and was this year voted 5th best city in the world to live in. So, there.

Me with the flag!

Me with the flag!

 

Anyway, so we had a nice night chatting to these two Australians who are crewing for a friend before flying home after Christmas. But Nick was still under the weather from a virus, so we bailed as soon as dessert was finished and came home. We’re both pretty knackered.

And today our friends Neil and John flew out! They’re crewing for us for the crossing, so now they’re here, shit’s getting real! They seem really pleased and excited to be here, but then again, they haven’t seen the cleaning rota yet…

Festive Season

There’s a definite festive atmosphere around here at the moment, and it’s not just because there’s mince pies in M&S and Christmas decorations lining the streets. Over the past few days, more and more ARC boats have arrived and the marina is now crammed full of boats flying their flags. The activity on the pontoon is increasing, with many new faces arriving every day. As we walk down the pontoon, we can always see lots of crews sitting around in cockpits having a laugh, or perhaps a bunch of guys with their toolkits spread out on the pontoons working on their boats. There’s usually a couple of kids running around, terrorising Molly the cat from next door or playing on their boats. An almost constant procession of delivery guys from the local supermarket push their trollies stacked with crates full of shopping, as everyone starts the provisioning process.

Welcome Parade

ARC Welcome Parade- more on that later!

Everyone is smiling and happy to stop for a chat. There’s also a feeling of anticipation and excitement, as most conversations revolve around how everyone’s preparations are going. The women ask each other how they’re feeling and compare stress levels. The men choose to focus on more pragmatic matters, and pretend that all this is just a walk in the park, emotionally and psychologically speaking! But everyone is feeling the same way.

Nick and Sandra having a giggle

Nick and Sandra having a giggle

If we weren’t in full-time work mode before, we sure are now! And, inevitably, we feel that time is now slipping away from us; there are several jobs that have been pushed to the end of the week in the hope that we might actually have a spare moment then. I think that’s unlikely, but we’re just going to have to make time!

The weekend passed in a blur of being ferried from one social activity to another, with the time in-between padded out with random chores such as weighing out flour for the bread I’m hoping to make (weighing this in a moving boat is both potentially very messy and, more importantly, inaccurate: the motion gives you an incorrect reading), scrubbing the heads, cleaning the teak, and unpacking all our stores, making a list, and then putting it all back.

This final job was one of those things that sounded very sensible before I started it, but when I found myself sitting inside a floor locker, surrounded by tins, cans, jars, packets and bottles of various foodstuffs which had, only a moment ago, been neatly stacked and packed, trying to write a list of everything that was spread around me (we wrote a list when we packed it all the first time, but I- for some unfathomable reason- felt that this needed to be re-checked), I wondered if this was really the best use of my time. Indeed, it turned out to be invaluable. Comparing the stock-take I did yesterday to the list I made a month ago when we bought all this stuff, I found a most intriguing discrepancy: we were short 1 packet of Pringles and 22 (22?!) muesli bars!

So, after two hours of work, my only discovery was that we had slightly less in the way of snack food than I had thought. Those are two hours I’ll never get back! And I don’t even like Pringles, and the muesli bars we bought are manky because we decided to go for cheap rather than tasty.

Sigh.

Haven't had a photo in a few paragraphs, so here's one of me feeling patriotic!

Haven’t had a photo in a few paragraphs, so here’s one of me feeling patriotic!

 

Welcome Parade!

Welcome Parade!

Sunday was the ARC Welcome Parade. Every nationality taking part in the ARC was represented with their flag, and we formed a procession down the length of the marina, complete with a band and everything. At one point, Sandra hurried up to me, grabbed my arm, and exclaimed, “Terys [the only people who drop the ‘a’ from my name are my mother and sister, but hey, that’s cool], I have to tell you what just happened!”

“Oh?”

“I was just walking along, looking out at the marina and all the boats with their ARC flags, listening to the music from the band and everyone around me, and I suddenly realised- I’m going to cross the Atlantic!” Her voice rose to a shriek. “I’m going to cross the fucking Atlantic ocean in a boat! It just hit me!” She’s holding onto my arm so tightly at this point that I’m starting to become concerned about my blood circulation. “I looked down at my arms and I had goosebumps- actual goosebumps! I almost burst into tears, it was such a rush of pure emotion!

At this point she’s laughing, but there was definitely a hysterical edge to it. I told her that I’d had the same ‘moment’ a few nights before- sans goosebumps though.

It’s quite reassuring to know that I’m not the only one having a quiet (or not so quiet, as the case may be) freakout.

ARC 2015 Welcome Parade!

ARC 2015 Welcome Parade!

The parade ended with raising the flags to half-mast and a minute’s silence in recognition of the events that happened in Paris last Friday, and then back to the boat to carry on with the long list of chores.

I’ll be back within the next couple of days to keep you all updated- I know you want it!

 

 

 

The ARC :The Final Countdown!

Nine days until we cross the Atlantic on the ARC. But who’s counting?!

Our ARC flag- look, and there's my little Aussie flag underneath it!

Our ARC flag- look, and there’s my little Aussie flag underneath it!

 

I realise that for some people, especially those who have done ocean crossings before, the prospect of 3 weeks at sea may not be so daunting. But- and I don’t believe I’m alone here- no, I know I’m not alone!- for us, the stress and anxiety levels are steadily rising, albeit in an uneven way. Sometimes we feel totally cool about everything. Other times we’re seriously questioning our sanity taking part in the ARC.

I had a moment last night during one of the nightly ‘Sundowners’ that the ARC hosts. I suddenly looked around at all these other people I’ve only just met, and thought, “What the hell are we doing!? What were we thinking? Are we really, truly, actually, seriously going through with this!”

And then I started chatting with a Swedish girl about my age who is taking her 2 year old across the Atlantic with her, and I was oddly reassured. It’s a comforting thought that no matter how much of a struggle the crossing may be for me and Nick, at least we don’t have a toddler to contend with as well!

Chart of the Canaries.

Chart of the Canaries- we’ve been here for 6 weeks now! Yes, time to leave..

In 9 days, Nick and I will either be so excited that we’ll be literally jumping around like a couple of energiser bunnies, or we’ll be face-down on the pontoon, holding on for dear life, screaming, “Please don’t make me go!” I don’t think there’ll be an in-between.

Anyway. Onto the preparations themselves!

I barely know where to start. Our to-do lists have reached epic proportions. The thing about lists is that, as you work through them, they’re meant to become smaller. Not so with ours! No sooner than we tick one item off, several more are added. We attended the first of the ARC seminars yesterday, and left with several more pages of things to do or check! A little snapshot of our to-do lists is as follows:

  • Service the engine- DONE (not without spilling oil over pretty much the entire saloon!)
  • Fit hydrogenerator- DONE – wait, no, as I write this a rep from Watt and Sea has come by to check ours and informed Nick that he’s not followed the installation instructions properly. Nick is currently showing him the instructions we were given and, sure enough, there’s two different versions! Rep now folded himself into the shape of a pretzel inside aft starboard locker trying to fix the problem.
  • Get new spinnaker pole- DONE
  • Modify sprayhood- DONE- we now have a lovely breezy cockpit!
  • Buy spare halyard- DONE
  • Clean teak and cockpit- DONE
  • Get diesel and gas- (half) DONE- need to get gas day before we leave
  • Buy oil filter- DONE
  • Set up ARC log
  • Pre-cook meals- (kind of) DONE. Hope everyone likes spag bol!
  • Download books onto kindles and tablets
  • Order Christmas present for the niece and nephews (just in case we drown or something… I’m kidding, mum!)
  • Make up flour bags for bread (yes, really)
  • Write up and print out watch system/checks/chores to be done on passage – DONE (I get exactly one day off! Woo hoo!)
  • Order meat and fruit/veg from market (this is made relatively easy because there’s several stalls with large posters saying things like, “ARC yachts welcome! We will help you provision!” Lord knows I need all the help I can get.)
  • Supermarket provisioning (Gah. Can someone do this for me as well?)
  • Check all rigging – DONE
  • Buy roughly a billion spare parts from the chandlery (don’t ask me what this list entails. It’s long and expensive, put it that way!)
  • Check all communications- SSB, sat phone, laptops, yellow brick tracker and check email set-up for weather reports
  • Buy courtesy flags for Saint Lucia and other Caribbean destinations
  • Thoroughly clean the entire boat from top to bottom (slowly being done in a fairly ad hoc way!)
  • Do test sail to check all systems, especially hydrogenerator and SSB radio
  • Get EC Dollars
  • Sort out medical insurance
  • Check hull, rudders, prop, seacocks
  • Buy a bottomless supply of Nespresso capsules
  • Do MOB and fire drills with crew
  • Buy new binoculars

Okay, that’s enough. The actual list is about 3 times that long. At least we’ve ticked a few off!

We also had our safety inspection, something that you have to pass in order to participate in the ARC. We duly got all our safety equipment out and the young guy who came and went through the checklist with us told us that it was the quickest inspection he had ever done- which made Nick very happy indeed!

Our saloon has been transformed to a safety equipment display room!

Our saloon has been transformed to a safety equipment display room!

We’ve also been pretty flat out with attending all the ARC events. They host evening drinks every night, often sponsored by someone we want to talk to (such as the butchers at the market who offer a vacuum packing and delivery service- and they were giving out free food!), so we’re heading along for those. Okay, drinking free beer and eating free food is not particularly arduous, you’re right!

Una palma in, er, Las Palmas.

Una palma in, er, Las Palmas.

We’ve also started the seminars. Those we went to yesterday were Management of Emergencies, Rigging (during which it was made clear by the presenter that we would all die a slow and horrible death and then spend an eternity in hell if we didn’t check our rigging about a thousand times every day on passage… needless to say, Nick and I went straight to the chandlery afterwards to buy spares and Nick spent the afternoon up the mast checking every last bolt and screw!) and Route and Weather by Chris Tibbs who is the ARC meteorologist and has done something like 20 trans-atlantic crossings before. Happily he and his wife are also doing the ARC this year, and their boat is about the same size as ours. So we have a cunning plan to simply follow Chris and Helen across the Atlantic and copy every tack and course change they make!

There’s also a fairly full-on social calendar. We’re pencilling in drinks evenings left, right and centre (mainly thanks to Sandra, social butterfly that she is!), not to mention the various parties hosted by the ARC. Tonight is the Welcome Fiesta. If it’s anything like the ARC + Farewell Party, it’s sure to be a good night. Tomorrow is a sombrero hat party, apparently. Sunday, during the day, is a welcome parade. Not sure what that entails, except that lots of flags from different nationalities are carried around the marina to much fanfare. I tried to snab the Aussie flag only to find it had already been claimed! Where are you, fellow Australians?! Who are you?

The beach at Las Palmas. Needless to say, we haven't had much time to spend down here!

The beach at Las Palmas. Needless to say, we haven’t had much time to spend down here!

Tuesday night is our yacht supper (sadly we have to pay for this one!). Wednesday night is 80’s movies dress-up party. Nick and I have our costumes sorted, and I won’t give anything away except that there’s been gold glitter scattered around the boat for a couple of weeks now! Fear not, photos will be posted on this blog. Trust me when I say you don’t want to miss that entry.

And then next Friday is the Farewell Party.

After that… Well, you know. 3000 miles of ocean and all that. The actual crossing is almost paling into insignificance amongst all the other activities piling up.

I feel exhausted just thinking about it. Thankfully we get a nightly email reminding us what we’re doing the next day, without which I probably wouldn’t have a clue.

All of that said, we are genuinely excited and full of anticipation. Of course we’re nervous too- we’d be crazy not to be. But we’re adventurous souls at heart, and we’d rather be doing this than anything else in the world- even if it does mean a few sleepless nights.

We really areally happy and excited- I promise!

We really areally happy and excited- I promise!

Time For A Holiday from ARC preparations to watch the ARC plus?

The last week has pretty much been us in holiday mode, because Nick’s parents came out to visit us one last time before we leave Europe for the foreseeable future on the ARC .This provided a much-needed break for us, although the week wasn’t entirely without work. Nick would often get up early and spend an hour or two in the morning working, and he’d usually scuttle off at least once a day to the chandlery. But we managed to get a lot of the big chores done before Gwen and Marco arrived, so we were able to relax a little, and watch the ARC plus depart.

Another food and booze filled week with Nick's parents!

Another food and booze filled week with Nick’s parents!

Actually, it was noted by many of our neighbours that we were, in fact, looking a little TOO relaxed. We did spend a lot of time in the cockpit drinking, eating and chatting, I have to admit!

When we weren’t people watching on our pontoon, we explored Las Palmas. No-one expected much from this city. I don’t know why. I personally assumed it would be a big, charmless, modern city that I’d be quite happy to leave. Certainly the view from the marina does nothing to challenge that assumption. All we can see is a line of tasteless high-rises and not much else.

Old town, Las Palmas. Don't ask me why there were statues of dogs.

Old town, Las Palmas. Don’t ask me why there were statues of dogs!

However, we’ve been pleasantly surprised. The old town of Las Palmas is just beautiful, dominated by a cathedral like most European old towns- but this one is surrounded by palm trees which is certainly a sight you don’t see in the rest of Europe! We went to visit the Spanish writer Perez Galdos’ house (Gwen’s a big fan of his, so we all went along), and- much more up my street- the Christopher Columbus museum.

Gwen's very happy to be visiting the childhood home of her favourite Spanish writer!

Gwen’s very happy to be visiting the childhood home of her favourite Spanish writer!

This place was awesome. It’s called Casa de Colon, but Columbus never actually lived here. Apparently it was an inn that he may have stayed at once or twice. A fairly tenuous link, then. But it was a fantastic museum and the building itself was gorgeous. Nick and I were especially fascinated by the maps of the four crossings he made, for obvious reasons. It really put what we’re doing in perspective! At least we have a fridge, a water-maker and self-steering. Not to mention a proper bed, and showers! Columbus had his own cabin, but the rest of the crew had to basically curl up to sleep wherever they could, and lived off dried and pickled food. No steak or fry-ups for them!

The market in the old town. YUM!

The market in the old town. YUM!

Mini pumpkins?!

Mini pumpkins?!

What to buy, what to buy?! (The figs won out)

What to buy, what to buy?! (The figs won out)

We also visited the Maspalomas dunes and Puerto de Mogán, a sweet fishing village-turned tourist resort with gorgeous streets filled with flowers.

Pretty Puerto de Mogán

Pretty Puerto de Mogán

Pretty Mogán houses

Pretty Mogán houses

DSC_0375_edited-1

Maspalomas Dunes

Maspalomas Dunes

The busy Playa de Inglés

The busy Playa de Inglés

Just take him for a walk down the beach and he’s happy!

While Gwen and Marco were here we also attended the ARC+ farewell/ ARC welcome fiesta, put on by the Gran Canaria tourist board. We went along expecting it to be, well, a little lame if I’m honest! However, when we were greeted by Miss Drag Queen 2015 for a photo op, and then swiftly handed a sangria, we admitted to being pleasantly surprised. I mean, that’s the way to get a party started! We went inside and the entertainment began.

First, there were… hmm, how to describe them? Basically a bunch of girls wearing only a long skirt, painted to represent a series of scenes from the sea. Think mythic sea creatures and lots of wavy blue lines. They slowly walked in a line wearing very serious expressions, while everyone tried not to look at their bare chests. Then we had dancers performing what was apparently a traditional Canadian dance (boobs out here too, just in case you were wondering; their skimpy costumes didn’t quite offer enough coverage… not that anyone seemed to mind!), and a few audience members were dragged onto the dance floor to join them. The adults were predictably a little inhibited, but when the dancers invited a young girl of about 12 on stage, she showed them how it was done! A band followed, and by then the free booze had done its work and the dance floor was packed. They sure know how to party, this lot!

On Sunday we went out in Eupraxia, John and Sandra’s boat, to not only run some tests on their engine (well, they ran tests while the rest of us sat with a cup of tea), but to farewell the ARC + boats. The ARC + are also doing an Atlantic crossing, but they’re stopping at the Cape Verdes first for a week or so. The ARC leaves two weeks later and we all meet back in Saint Lucia. This year the ARC + fleet was 64 strong, and the ARC has 202 boats. (A quick aside: Nick enrolled in the ARC on the day they opened for 2015 entries last year, hoping to be given the racing number 001. Guess what number we got? Yep, 202. That’ll teach us for trying to be clever!)

All smiles (to start!)

All smiles (to start!)

Sandra explains exactly who's boss as John runs around bringing in fenders.

Sandra explains exactly who’s boss as John runs around bringing in fenders.

Unfortunately the seas were a little on the choppy side and Gwen soon succumbed to seasickness, so after the engine checks we headed back to the marina. Even though Gwen was feeling miserable (something most sailors completely empathise with; we’ve all been there!), there was quite a sense of excitement amongst the rest of us, waving goodbye to the ARC + boats as we passed them on the way back into the harbour. Sandra, John, one of their crew Miles and I jumped on our bikes and cycled down the road to view the start. There were plenty of spectators, many of them ARC participants, and I couldn’t believe that in only 2 weeks time we’d be doing the same thing!

The ARC+ start!

The ARC+ start!

The start of the ARC+

The ARC+ boats dodging container ships on their way out!

In 10 days time, that will be us! (Except 4x as many boats)

In 10 days time, that will be us! (Except 4x as many boats)

I’m going to do a separate post detailing our ARC preparations for those who are interested! Hopefully that will be up within the next couple of days. Until then- adios!