Isla Graciosa - one bird saved another bird lost

Phil & Nikki Hoskins
Sun 16 Nov 2008 13:50
Our voyage from Madeira to Isla Graciosa (at the very northern end of Lanzarote) took just over 2.5 days. Once again we had a boisterous passage due to having a north-easterly wind and a south-southwest running ocean current, which meant that if we were to actually make Lanzarote (north or south end!) we would have to make quite a lot of progress to the east to make up for the leeway we make in our cat and to cancel out the effects of that current. We prefer to sail with the wind behind us - so to speak. Anything on the beam or forward of can make for rather uncomfortable sailing which is exactly what we had on this occasion.Our course took us over 40 miles east of our rumb line course to Lanzarote so that we always had something in reserve in case the wind veered more into the east. The theory worked and on the morning of the 3rd day we were off the north of Isla Graciosa.
Forgetting the weather for a moment the voyage was most memorable for the part played by 2 seabirds. The first joined Nikki on her watch in the middle of the night in the cockpit - not that she was aware of its presence until dawn broke and she noticed a small black bird with webbed feet huddled in the corner of the cockpit. Why it had chosen us to visit we have no idea. It was still alive but had no way of exiting the cockpit. It was lucky we hadn't had to reef in the dark otherwise I would have come up on deck bleary-eyed and trodden on it. So having contemplated what we should do Nikki asked for the heavy gauntlets we keep in the step locker. These gauntlets would enable you to handle a golden eagle let alone a small seabird but the pointed beak demanded respect so the heavy gauntlets were donned by our ace bird handler. Whether the bird was ready to take to the air again we can't surmise, but it took off and flew - perhaps because failure in the initial takeoff would have possibly taken it straight into our wind turbine and we would have been left with a tragedy on our hands and a lot of feathers to clear up. Fortunately all was well and we hoped it would soar off to live a long and happy life.
Our next bird encounter happened only a few hours later only this didn't have the happy ending of the first. Having trailed the fishing lure for hundreds of miles it was once again dutifully following us through the waves at a respectful distance. Then a curious (or very hungry) seabird - type unknown swooped down on the shiny metal spinner and became well and truly hooked. I will spare the sorry details but it became a sad scene as other birds, sensing a fish meal swooped down on the stricken bird to fight for a share of the 'fish'. I tried to real the bird towards the boat, typically not wishing to lose a prize lure and thinking the gauntlets might just enable a second rescue of the morning. Nikki appeared with a knife -"for goodness sake cut the line - you don't want that lot around the boat do you?" A momentary vision from Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" flashed through my mind and I allowed the line to be cut, leaving the frenzy of birds to gradually fall back into the distance, leaving us both rather shaken and saddened by the whole event.
Whether we were affected by the early morning bird mayhem or maybe we were just tired from the trip but our arrival in the anchorage at Isla Graciosa left a lot to be desired. With a strong wind blowing through the crowded anchorage we duly dropped all the chain and much of the warp attached to the chain as the windlass tried to spill everything it had in the locker. This wouldn't have been a problem had the anchor dug in - but it didn't and we commenced dragging all our ground tackle through the bay to the concern of the watching cruisers already in residence. To make matters worse having recovered all the warp the chain then jammed under the windlass gypsy. Without causing any damage to us or anybody else we recovered the remaining chain and motored out of the anchorage and headed for the marina in the solitary port that Isla Graciosa has to offer. At least the arrival and docking went without a hitch and we settled in for a few days enjoying the peace and solitude of this island largely by-passed by tourism. Despite having been to Lanzarote on many occasions we had never visited this Graciosa but had viewed it from high up from the mirador (tourist viewing platform) in the high cliffs on Lanzarote's northern coast, wondering if we would ever sail our boat to that tiny island - well we had - at last!