Rum Sodomy and the Lash

sailing around the world on our yacht, Ruby Rose

Category: Canary Islands

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!

Atlantic Rally. Las Palmas At Last.

Preparations for the Atlantic Rally

Just over a year ago we booked in our place in the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, and we’ve been anticipating participating in this event ever since. It seems crazy that we’ve finally arrived in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, which will be the jump point for the Atlantic crossing, and our final destination in Europe. We have just over three weeks until we depart, all of which will be spent preparing the boat and ourselves!

But first, let me bring you all up to speed. Last Saturday my friend Laura flew out from London to meet us in Fuerteventura, and the following day we sailed the 45 miles from Correlejo to Gran Tarajal. I’m afraid that Jimmy Cornell never did return to sign our book, which makes me very sad indeed! However, the beautiful weather we had for the sail kind of made up for it. There was, I admit, a few light showers, but otherwise the day was sunny and warm, and the sea was as still as a pond. Perfect conditions for Laura, who broke the news to me as soon as she arrived that she gets sea sick!

a rainbow appears at the stern of our yacht framing  the ensign beautifully

Perfect rainbow off the coast of Fuerteventura

Gran Tarajal is a small seaside town on Fuerteventura’s east coast. It’s quiet and, happily, has almost no tourists, which suited us well. However, Laura was keen to spend a day in Correlejo, since that’s really where the action is, and I wanted to go to the Correlejo dunes nearby, so we jumped on the bus and made the trek back up to the north of the island.

Beach at Correlejo

Two hours and two buses later, we found ourselves walking along a white, sandy beach with crystal blue water- gorgeous! Unfortunately, this was one of the most popular beaches on the island so we didn’t exactly have it to ourselves. It also became clear quite quickly that this was a nudist beach- and it was hard to ignore the simple fact that this is a past-time enjoyed mainly by, er, those of a certain age. One or two younger girls had their bikini tops off, but I’ve not seen so many bare, wrinkly bottoms- and more- since my days as a  paramedic.

Anyway, a swim and some sunbathing later, we continued our walk into town, which was the better part of an hour, and enjoyed a seafood lunch and then cocktails (then shopping at Zara- boozy shopping is never a good choice!), then finally headed home. We were looking at another long journey, but when we saw that we’d missed the connecting bus, and had to wait for an hour for the next one, I employed my sharp bartering skills with the taxi drivers and, to my surprise, secured a cab for just over half of the quoted price.

Ten minutes later and I was wishing I’d just waited for the bus. I’ve had my share of white-knuckle taxi rides, but this one was by far the worst. Half an hour of praying- yes, I found God at last- and we were deposited back in Gran Tarajal, scarred for life.

The day after Laura left, Nick and I spotted a boat that I swear has been stalking us all the way from Galicia- an Elan called AWOL. Lovely boat, that we first saw in Caramiñal being interrogated by customs, I believe. We’ve spotted them all the way down the Spanish and Portuguese coasts, but have never had the opportunity to introduce ourselves. Nick insisted we head over to say hello- social awkwardness obviously no hindrance to him- and so we did. Val and Cliff were very warm and welcoming, immediately giving us tea and biscuits, and we had a good old chat comparing our sailing experiences so far, and how excited we are to be finally closing in on the Caribbean leg of our respective trips. It turns out that they have actually read our blog, which took us aback somewhat! If you’re reading this now- hello!

as we sail along we watch the sun set over the ocean

Sun setting just off the Gran Canaria coast

So, the next day we dropped our lines at 6am and motored out of Gran Tarajal. The conditions were a little cooler than we’d had so far- the jumpers were on for most of the morning and then, later, in the evening. It was a 75 mile passage, and, as usual, we had to motor-sail the entire way. We also had some pretty impressive swell, which led to much speculation as to what kind of sea state we can expect crossing the Atlantic. As I pointed out to Nick- we’re already in the Atlantic! The depths between the different islands of the archipelago were in excess of 1000 metres; these volcanic islands literally plunge directly up from the sea floor. We also saw some minky whales (no autocorrect, not kinky whales!) on our approach to Las Palmas, but the light was fading and I didn’t get a good photo. Hopefully we’ll see them again when we leave!

Entering the marina here was a little confusing, since it was early evening and all we could see was a mass of lights. Dodging ferries and container ships was also necessary: this is a busy port! There was another yacht right in front of us, so we kind of just followed him in. We radioed up and were met at the entrance of the marina by a guy in a dinghy, who showed us to our berth. It’s all Mediterranean style berthing here, which we haven’t seen since Viana do Costelo in northern Portugal. We were a little nervous, but needn’t have worried- once we’d reversed into our berth, we were securely tucked between two other Atlantic rally yachts, and had plenty of time to sort out our lines. The fact that- for once- there was no wind helped!

as I lay on the pontoon working, Molly the cat joins me.

Nick hard at work. Our neighbour’s cat… not so much.

Yesterday and today have been mainly spent getting started on the long list of chores that need doing before the Atlantic rally- primarily, installing the hydrogenerator, which has involved a lot of swearing on Nick’s part, and many trips to the chandlery. I don’t know how it’s happened, but no matter how organised we try to be, there’s an ever-growing list of things being added to our to-do list. However, we have our priorities straight: after hearing about a Marks and Spencers in town, we went there as soon as the shops opened to stock up on percy pigs. Sadly, the food section was very small, but we still managed to find some mincemeat and pastry cases for Christmas, and we splurged on some fancy Christmas crackers as well.

Me: “Right, how many crackers do we need this year?”

Nick: “Um- two?”

Me: “Waaah!”

So, we have four spare crackers. Who wants a Caribbean Christmas?!

We’ve also done a recce to the supermarket of the El Corte Ingles, which is pretty much the Waitrose equivalent. We didn’t shop in Waitrose in London, but after months of shopping in Hiperdino’s, we got a little giddy at the prospect of something new. They even had Quality Street (€50 euros for a large tin?!). The canned goods isles were of particular interest to us, sadly enough. However, since Nick’s cleared out Gran Canaria’s entire supply of M&S Chicken in Creamy Sauce, I don’t think we’ll be needing much else!

we spent three weeks watching the sun rise over yacht masts

Sunrise in Las Palmas marina

 

Rainy Correlejo

After a few nights at Marina Rubicon, on the southern coast of Lanzarote, we made our way over the 6 mile channel to Correlejo, which is on the northern tip of Fuerteventura. We’d booked a berth, but weren’t entirely sure if our booking had gone through (it hadn’t, as it turned out). This marina- more of a harbour with pontoons, really- was notorious for having no space for visitors available, so we were hoping our luck would hold out and we’d find a space.

Beautiful day of sailing (NOT motoring!)

Beautiful day of sailing (NOT motoring!)

The sail over to Correlejo was beautiful. It was warm and sunny with 10 knots on the beam, so we put the sails up, turned the engine off and enjoyed an hour of blissful, calm sailing. As I said to Nick, if the Atlantic crossing is like this, we’re laughing (right, knock on wood for me please!).

As we approached the port of Correlejo, we started keeping very close tabs on sailing boats coming in and out, keeping our fingers crossed that there will be a space for us. There was no reception pontoon, and nobody answering on the VHF, so we just did what the pilot book said and circled around trying to find a space. A man on one of the tourists boats shouted to us which one the visitor’s pontoon was, and we saw a slightly smaller yacht making their way in to the second-to-last berth. Needless to say, we took the last.

Mooring up was straightforward, but when Nick went to the office to do the paperwork, they told us that they hadn’t received our booking (of course they hadn’t!) and we could stay for two nights. Nick asked for four. They settled on three. So, we’re being kicked out tomorrow.

We went for a walk around Correlejo and made a few inquiries into doing kite surfing lessons. Why, you ask? Well, because Nick’s bought himself a kite board! Whilst casually chatting to one of our neighbours in Marina Rubicon, Nick spotted a kite board on their deck.

“Hey! Is that a kite board? I used to kite board back in the day. You enjoy it?”

“I have no idea whether I enjoy it or not; I’ve never used it. I’m more a windsurfing guy, but my brother-in-law sold me his kite surfing kit before we left, and it’s pretty much just sat there ever since.”

“You have kites for it? A harness?”

“Sure, it’s in the locker.”

“Taking up space!” (This from his wife)

“How much did you pay for it?”

“£300″

(Apparently this is a bargain??)

“You, uh, looking to sell it by any chance?”

Husband and wife in unison: “YES!”

Me: “WHAT?”

Nick: “How much?”

Me: “Hang on, let’s talk-”

David: “£300. I just want my money back on it.”

Me: “Shall we just think about th-”

Nick: “Deal.”

So now we have a board, two kites and no harness because the bro-in-law kept that for some reason. Thus, kite surfing lessons.

Anyway, we decided that lessons were pretty damn expensive and time consuming, so we’re procrastinating on that one, knowing we’ll probably regret not just paying up and doing it when we have the chance. But hey, if YouTube can teach me how to do yoga, make swiss meringue buttercream and curl my hair, surely it can teach me how to kite surf? Right?

So, Correlejo. It’s quite different to the towns we went to in Lanzarote. There’s a chilled, surfy vibe here, which is quite cool. Lots of hole-in-the-wall type of bars, and plenty of surf shops. It’s a shame that we’re being kicked out of the marina.

A break in the rain in Correlejo

A break in the rain in Correlejo

Or is it? Actually, I think we’re ready to leave. This berth is just not treating us well. I blame the weather also. It’s been bloody awful. Apparently this time last year it was 35 degrees. Today it is 27 (okay, that part it good), but the rain has been absolutely torrential. It started Thursday night, the night we arrived. We were sitting inside watching Game of Thrones and the boat gradually started rocking around more and more with the swell and wind. Then it started raining, so we closed the hatches. Then, we could feel the boat bumping up against something off the stern- sure enough, our hydrovane rudder stock was banging up against the pontoon, as we were moored stern-to. Nick and I rushed out to try and move the boat, which is when the heavens opened and it absolutely bucketed down. Within seconds, we were both drenched. The sea was choppy, causing the boat to buck around like a skittish colt, and as soon as Nick loosened the lines to bring the boat forward, the wind pushed it off the pontoon. He couldn’t hold it alone, and I was the only thing keeping the hydrovane from being dashed up against the pontoon (thankfully we took the rudder off a week or so ago!), so the only option was to get help.

I knocked on the boat next door, and the lovely dutch woman who skippers it poked her head out. “Please, do you mind coming to help us? So sorry!” Without waiting for an answer, I ran back to the boat. Thankfully she followed, bless her heart, and she held the stern off while Nick and I tightened her lines. It only took a minute or so once we had that extra pair of hands, but she was completely soaked and didn’t hang around to chat.

We gladly jumped back on board and dried off, but the work had only just begun. All the little hatches we always keep open had let rain through, flooding random spaces on the boat which we had to clean up. Our bed had gotten wet also, so I got the hairdryer out and dried it off. Then, I got the bread maker out and put it on for our selfless neighbour, wanting to say thank you with a fresh loaf of bread in the morning (yeah, I was feeling pretty guilty!). But then, just as I turned it on, the power went off. Two days later, it’s still off, and won’t come back on til Monday.

The next day was a miserable one. It rained and rained and rained. We had no power, so couldn’t just bum around watching television. Generating power wasn’t proving very successful. As Nick eloquently put it, “This green energy shit is all very well and good, but if there’s no sun, no wind, and you’re not moving, it’s fucking useless.” Well said.

So, today dawned slightly less horrendous, and although it’s been raining on and off, there’s also been sunshine in between showers. And the reason why we’re being kicked out tomorrow has become clear: there’s a rally coming through. We helped a boat in to the berth next door and up walked none other than Jimmy Cornell! Okay, those who aren’t part of the sailing world will have no idea what I’m talking about, but basically anyone doing long-term cruising will have at least one of his books. His books are like our bibles. We have all of them, and they’re invaluable. So, Nick was standing topless in the rain, having just adjusted our lines to accommodate the boat next door, and I thought he was just allowing me the opportunity to admire his fine physique in the gentle rain, but no, he was simply star-struck. I would have played it cool, and been like, I’m sorry, Jimmy who? But Nick’s far more forward than me, and he jumped forward, and said, “Are you Jimmy Cornell? I’m Nick! Can you sign one of our books?” He said yes, but later because he was not only soaking wet, but in the middle of organising his rally, so we shall see!

Sunrise this morning. Why do you only get these stunning sunrises when the weather's rubbish?!

Sunrise this morning. Why do you only get these stunning sunrises when the weather’s rubbish?!

I do believe that brings you up to date. Laura’s arriving tonight, and we’ll be sending her to bed early so we can get up with the sun tomorrow and get the hell outta here. Correlejo is lovely. The marina- not so much. We’ll make our way down the coast to Gran Tarajal marina and hope it’s a little more protected from the swell.

Stormy Times

We’ve just completed our second week at Marina Lanzarote, and this morning we woke up and decided it was time to leave. Actually, what happened was that I was enjoying a morning sleep and Nick came in at 8am, woke me up, and announced, “I think we’re leaving today. Get up, have some coffee, let’s go!”

“Whaaa?”

“I’ll make you some coffee, then we can get moving.”

“Er… okay. What about that big black cloud above us?”

“Oh, it’s just a bit of rain. It will pass.”

“Well, if you’re sure!”

Arrecife harbour.

Arrecife fishing harbour.

I mean, obviously we shouldn’t have left, but to be honest, there’s been some pretty unpleasant weather almost every day for the past week, and it has tended to simply pass over within a matter of minutes. So we got going, and spent the next 4 hours dodging rainclouds- sometimes with success, sometimes without. We got our rain jackets out for the first time since we left the UK and enjoyed the ride. It was pretty windy- up to 27 knots- and mainly on the nose, but we just huddled under the sprayhood and let the autopilot do its thing. We’re used to that: it’s pretty much all we ever did while sailing along the east coast of the UK.

We're being rained on- but we're still smiling!

We’re being rained on- but we’re still smiling!

So now we’re safely tied up in Marina Rubicon, which is full of English tourists (we drove here the week before last, remember? €3 beers ring a bell?), but we can literally see Correlejo from here, which is our next stop, so as soon as we’ve got a weather window we’ll head on over.

Dodging rainclouds

Dodging rainclouds

Aaaanyway. So, I hear you ask, what on earth have you been doing for the past week in Arricife? The answer is quite simple. We’ve been madly preparing for our Atlantic crossing. Every day that we had the car we did a supermarket and/or IKEA run (yes, we found an IKEA. Very exciting. How is it you walk in not needing anything at all, and yet when you leave you find yourself unpacking a big yellow bag packed with random shit that you suddenly can’t live without?).

So in addition to chopping boards, a new duvet set, a miniature christmas tree, and some battery-operated fairy lights we bought from IKEA, we now have 20 8L bottles of water- actually, 19 now, because the tap water tasted funky, so we’ve been using our water stores- tucked into all sorts of random spaces, as well as two large lockers full of canned, tinned and dried food of all descriptions. We took the sensible precaution of writing down everything that we’ve stowed away in a little black book, otherwise we’d end up with 50 cans of baked beans but no milk, or whatever.

Stowing dried food away in the lockers

Pringles, cereal and biscuits. I think we’ve got all the basics covered.

We’ve also been working our way through a list of pre-crossing chores. Cleaning out all the cupboard space was an obvious one that, really, we should have done months ago. But we also put baggywrinkles on the spreaders (don’t understand that sentence? I promise you, it’s a thing), which we fashioned out of some cut-up pieces of pool noodle which Nick brought back all the way from Australia last year amidst much eye-rolling from me, covered with pieces of an old green towel. Our spreaders now look like they’re wearing tiny green mittens. How sweet.

Sewing his baggy wrinkles.

Sewing his baggy wrinkles.

Nick also cleaned the hull and the rudder from the hydrovane, which kept him out of my way for a few hours, and we finally got the storm jib out and rigged it up. I really hope we never actually need to use it, not least because even in a calm marina with no wind and the sun shining, Nick was climbing all over the forestay like a monkey trying to get the thing over the furled jib, so I don’t know how we’d manage that in a storm. I’m not sure it would be much better than a reefed jib anyway, but what do I know?

Speaking of sailing in dodgy conditions, Nick also moused the third reefing line so we no longer have to climb onto the coach roof to put the third reef in the main- it can all be done from the cockpit. Needless to say, this makes our lives not only easier, but a hell of a lot safer. Permanent preventers were also rigged, which will save time on passage.

Stormy sunset in Marina Lanzarote

Stormy sunset in Marina Lanzarote

 

Anyway, onto more exciting things- for me anyway. I have been baking bread in our new bread maker almost every day, and have so far made a white loaf, a french loaf (whatever that is), another white loaf which was more like a cross between normal bread and a brioche, sultana and cinnamon bread (Nick upon his first bite: “This isn’t cake!” Me: “No- it’s bread. Sultana bread.” Nick, chewing slowly, an expression of extreme disappointment on his face: “It’s like it’s meant to be cake… but it’s not. It’s bread.” Me: long-suffering sigh), and a banana bread (Nick: “This is more like it! Cake! Thanks babe!” Me: long-suffering sigh).

I think that pretty much brings you up to date! Tomorrow: banana bread, but with more sultanas this time thanks very much. And later in the week: my beloved friend Laura is coming out to stay! Laura, I hope we make it to Fuerteventura to meet you- because the long term forecast in one big fat low pressure system sitting over the Canaries for pretty much forever.

DSC_0066_edited-1

 

Bread-makers And Other Essentials

Well, the clue is in the title. This week’s big news: we bought a bread-maker! Totally unnecessary and indulgent waste of space on a 40ft boat? Or essential piece of kit that we couldn’t possibly live without as we plan for a life on the water? We shall see.

Our first loaf!

Our first loaf!

We are still in Arricife, in Lanzarote and we have now been here a week. Unbelievable- time is speeding past! Arricife is a small, quiet town, away from the riff-raff of the tourist resorts. It has a sweet fishing harbour, surrounded by a quayside of bars and restaurants, and a high street that doesn’t have much going for it, except a well stocked supermarket- but it holds a certain charm nonetheless. There’s a small swimming beach about a 10 minute walk away and a hypermarket a 5 minute drive away, as well as a series of chandleries on the other side of the marina. What else could we possibly need?

If the answer to that is a couple of friends to pass the time with, well, rest easy: John and Sandra made their way down from Gibraltar and arrived here a couple of days after we did. It’s been great catching up with them again, and we’ve been taking it in turns to cook for each other. It was at their urging that we bought the bread-maker, since they have nothing but praise for theirs. In fact, the suggestion that we buy a bread-maker was met with nothing but scorn from Nick (I was on board immediately, obviously!). However, the real deciding moment came when I had the oven on for, like, 15 minutes to cook some scones and Nick practically melted as he was putting the new lee cloth up in the saloon. He vehemently declared the galley a non-baking zone now we’re in a hot climate. I sweetly reminded him of his plan to bake bread as we cross the atlantic and, after a moment’s pause, he conceded that perhaps a bread-maker was the way to go after all.

Road trip!

Road trip!

The Marina Lanzarote is brand new and very modern in design. A row of square white buildings lines the promenade, holding host to a number of shops, bars and restaurants. It is, as we’ve discovered, the place to be on a Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and- for some reason- Wednesday night and, lucky us, we’re about 30 metres from the bar that is the hub of activity until the early hours of the morning. And I mean, early. I was up this morning at 5am and there was still music and the general sound of merrymaking. Happily, with our cabin fans and earplugs, the noise is effectively drowned out, so our sleep remained uninterrupted for the most part. Our neighbours weren’t so lucky, though, and left in a huff the other day after demanding a refund from the marina office.

Speaking of neighbours, this marina has a fantastic atmosphere, quite different to anywhere we’ve been so far. Almost everyone we’ve spoken to is in the Canaries with the intention of crossing the Atlantic, either with one of the various rallies on offer, or independently. So there’s a bit of a ‘we’re all in this together’ attitude, which is very pleasant. There’s a lot of conversation between yachts, calling out to friends, waving and nodding at others as they walk past. It’s lovely.

We also bumped into Mick and Fiona, which some of you may remember from Falmouth and, later, Galicia. They have the same boat as ours, and so a huge amount of conversation is dedicated to comparing notes. They were here for our first couple of days before they headed back to the UK.

Lanzarote lanscape

Lanzarote lanscape

However, it hasn’t all been socialising. Oh no, we’ve hired a car also, and spent a day exploring the island. The landscape is volcanic and quite stunning in a bleak and stark way. We drove past the national park and, on a whim, decided to enter it, assuming that we’d drive up to a lookout, park, take some snaps, and drive out again. After balking at the €9 euro per person entry fee, we were bemused to find ourselves ushered onto a coach with a bunch of other tourists and driven around the park for an hour, complete with a commentary on the history of the landscape- which, unsurprisingly, consisted of a number of fiery eruptions over the centuries.

Volcano-y!

Volcano-y!

We also drove to the other two marinas on the island to check out whether we could be bothered moving the boat. After paying €6 for two small shandies, we’ve decided that no, we’ll stay right where we are, thanks very much.

We’ve also decided to take advantage of the fact that we’ve got a car at the moment and start stocking up on provisions for our atlantic crossing from a nearby supermarket. Sandra’s made me nervous with her talk of preparing meals in advance and calculating exact quantities of rice, pasta, whatever for everyone. She’s already bought all her meat in Gibraltar- it’s currently residing in her freezer. So Nick and I have jumped on the organisation bandwagon and have started buying up tins of peaches, bags of pasta and packets of instant mashed potatoes. Not to mention 100 litres of bottled water which some nice young man helped me carry from the car to the boat! Oh yeah. I’ve still got it.

 

 

The Other Side of Sailing

Lest you all think that our lives are a little too easy these days, allow me to provide some perspective.

We spent a few days in Agadir, and a quick walk around this recently-built town revealed that the marina- which was quite lovely- was by far the most attractive part. As a result, we didn’t spent too much time exploring, and instead Nick went surfing at nearby Anza beach.

We had planned to spend perhaps a week in Agadir, but to be honest, the town itself has little to offer apart from a long, wide beach and a promenade of ever so slightly tacky bars and restaurants- and if we’re after beach-front dining, we might as well be in the Canaries!

So we checked the weather on Saturday, and found that if we left the following day we would avoid some heavy swell setting in Tuesday night. The wind was forecast to be 15 knots from behind, so we decided to take advantage of the weather window. That didn’t give us much time to get supplies (the nearest supermarket was a taxi drive away) but we figured we had enough on board to deal with a 220 mile passage.

The usual beaurocratic run-around ensued, as the police were unable to surrender our passports to us without customs giving them a thumbs up. Nick was told to go to the customs office the night before departure, which he duly did, but there was some issue with our boat apparently (an issue that was never explained to us and I’m fairly sure was fabricated) and a full-blown argument between the police officer and the customs official ensued, leaving Nick standing around feeling exceedingly awkward. Eventually customs agreed to hand over the relevant documentation the following morning, which- to our surprise- they did. Passports stamped, we then fuelled up and by 9am, were motoring out of Agadir marina.

Leaving Morocco behind was an odd feeling. Nick always says that you can never be sure of how you feel about a place until you’ve left it, and the experience has become a memory. We loved sailing down the Moroccan coast, and there were aspects of this country we found absolutely amazing. But it was also a little tiring having to go through a song and dance with the police and customs every time we not only arrived at a new port, but wanted to leave it, and I personally was sick of walking around in 30 degree heat in long pants and t-shirts! Plus, the lack of booze was becoming a serious, serious problem.

So, off we went. The sun was out, it was hot and the sea was the most beautiful cobalt blue I’ve seen yet- is this the colour it’s going to be from now on?! It was so clear, the rays of sun penetrated the water creating a mesmerising matrix of golden lines floating through the still, deep sea. Just stunning.

A friendly- and probably very tired- little bird came to visit us about 40 miles out from the coast!

A friendly- and probably very tired- little bird came to visit us about 40 miles out from the coast!

However, it was going to be ‘one of those days’ that perhaps- correct me if I’m wrong- only sailors understand. First the wind was very light and coming from the south (i.e., from our port side since we were heading south-west). We duly launched the code zero, which served us well for some time, and then the wind shifted and were coming from about 150 degrees to port. Nick and I looked at each other and said, “Shall we give the Parasailor a go?” So, we dragged the Parasailor out of its locker in the fore cabin, furled and took down the code zero, then launched the Parasailor. Those of you who are sailors realise that this is far more complicated and involved that a brief sentence makes it sound. For those of you who keep their feet firmly on dry land at all possible times, suffice to say this was a process that took about 45 minutes, and was pretty physically demanding.

Of course, it was at this time that a pod of dolphins came to visit, coming alongside for a gentle swim as we bobbed around doing a whopping 3 knots. They looked stunning in the clear water, and their underwater antics were clearly visible from the deck. Unfortunately, Nick’s a tough skipper and doesn’t give his crew time to appreciate- let alone photograph- these things when there’s work to be done, so I wasn’t able to give them the full attention they deserved. Needless to say, as soon as we were done and free to admire them, they buggered off.

Anyway, the Parasailor was up for a full 10 minutes before the wind shifted again to about 90 degrees, so, with a long suffering sigh, we took it back down and just put the jib out for a bit.

The wind then came around so it was on our nose, then shifted north so we were now on a port tack. Fine, whatever. Then, as I was casually sunning myself on the coachroof, minding my own business, the wind picked up from practically nothing to 17 knots! We went from a gentle motor sail to batting along nicely.

That didn’t last, and after a while the wind shifted around to about 100 degrees off starboard and died off to around 7 knots, so, with another sigh, we got the code zero out and put it up.

I only have pictures of this lovely tiny bird this week- sorry!

I only have pictures of this lovely tiny bird this week- sorry!

Dinnertime came and went, and I went for a lay down before my watch at 8pm. This is where the fun began. The wind built and built until Nick was forced to put two reefs in the main, and reef the jib as well, and when I came up at 8pm, we were absolutely racing along, which was a good thing. The bad thing was, of course (and you sailors already know what I’m about to say), it was bloody, bloody uncomfortable. We had a steady 20 knots, gusting up to 27 knots. The swell also built to what was probably around 3 metres, with a short wave period, making things pretty bloody uncomfortable if not downright hairy.

What would have been an exhilarating day sail, was an exhausting night sail. Neither of us got a wink of sleep. It’s not just the rocking and rolling of the boat, it’s also the fact that a boat under sail in those conditions is very, very noisy. Everything creaks and moans, and there’s always something- actually, many somethings- that bang up against something else with every roll. The bottles in the booze cabinet (Nick stuffed a pillow in there, which he forgot about until today), the chopping board against the cupboard, the tins of beans in the locker next to my head, the glasses and mugs, everything practically. That’s not counting the various items that go flying across the floor every time we hit- or, more accurately, are hit by- a particularly big wave. The herbs, which we put down below to keep them from becoming missiles down the companionway like last time, ended up on the floor. We just looked at the mess of soil, water and herbs and ignored it. The forecabin, when I eventually went in there, looked like a bomb had hit it. In short, it was mayhem.

The winds finally died down around 6am, although the swell continued to make our lives uncomfortable, but at least we both managed to snatch an hour’s sleep or so.

That day passed in an exhausted haze. Dinner time came, and we were both so tired that cooking something was almost beyond our capabilities- but Nick rallied, as he so often does when I give him that look (you know, That Look- the one that says, “Feed me, or you’ll be sorry”) and made a shepherd’s pie entirely out of tinned and packaged food. And, it could have been the sleep deprivation talking, but I swear it was bloody delicious.

We approached Lanzarote in high winds again- but at the very least our arrival time was 10:30pm, rather than the 3am time we’d anticipated upon departure from Agadir- so we headed for the marina and, after a slightly confusing and winding entry channel, tied up to the reception pontoon and went to bed. The wind was throwing water up against our hull, creating a rather irritating slapping sound (again, those who sail know what I’m talking about here), and I lay there with earplugs doing little to muffle the noise, thinking, “How am I ever going to be able to sleep with this noise?” The next thing I knew, it was morning.

I shall leave my musings of Arricife until my next blog, partly because we’ve only had a quick walk around town, and partly because I’ve already reached over 1300 words and you’re all probably like, “Is she DONE?” But we’re very glad to be back in Spain and we can’t wait to explore another part of the world.

Until next time! Sorry about the lack of photos by the way!