Thursday 27th October – Las Palmas, Gran Canaria
We departed Porto Santo at around 1300 on Saturday 22nd
October. A pretty serious low
pressure system was on its way to the Madeiran islands and the options were
either to get well south and out of its way or accept being locked in for a time
and then deal with the inevitable lumpy seas following the passage of the
low. So, somewhat reluctantly, we
ran away south.
The wind, of course, took umbrage. Either we wanted to play – in which case
we knew the date and place of the big party – or we didn’t. It was not going to show up in a more
moderate mood at any other time and place we might have in mind. So, ever the stoic, Mr Perkins carted us
south for the next day and more until, at about 1730 on Sunday 23rd ,
we began to feel the effects of the deep low pressure system closing in on
Madeira – now some 200NM to our north.
The wind showed up from the west; a lovely Force 4 (what Nelson’s sailors
would have called a “soldiers’ wind”) and it was right on the beam. Up went the sails and off we went
apace. The night, when it fell, was
cloudless; the sky was a mass of stars and the sea a jumble of seething
Enter stage left:
Hector the Hydrovane. You
haven’t met Hector before and there has been quite a lot of discussion about
his/her name. One school of thought
favoured Hyacinth; another Hagrid, or, maybe . . . or, there again, . . .. Many and lengthy were the discussions
that were held upon this issue and much was the heat generated thereby. Often, rather less light. And, then, like magic, it
happened. The boy (for boy, it now
had been agreed, it was) had been christened. The relief was boundless.
Hector’s job is to steer the boat. Which, of course, is precisely what
Orville the autohelm does. But,
they operate in quite different ways.
Orville’s brain is the size of a planet and he is essentially a whizzkid,
smartarse, technocrat. He spends
his life processing data from instruments and doing hard sums. Having worked out what the hard sums
mean, he then arranges for the rudder to be given a bit of a push or pull via an
electric motor and a hydraulic linkage.
You can ask him to steer the boat on a given compass bearing or at a
given angle to the wind or to some point on the world’s surface. Whatever; he will do it. But, like many whizzkid, smartarse,
technocrats he is inclined to over-complicate matters on occasions. Often, what is required is a bit of gut
feel, instinct and commonsense rather than a scientifically defensible wrong
(or, sometimes, a little late) answer.
But, don’t knock him. He’s a
good guy. However, he is pretty
high maintenance. He consumes a lot
of electrical energy, because he is constantly driving the hydraulics connected
to the rudder. That energy has to
be replaced and re-charging batteries is a serious issue aboard any sailing boat
at sea. So, the less we have to do
it, the better.
Hector is a quite different kettle of fish. He has no brain at all. And, because that is so, he can’t begin
to work out whether having one might be a good thing or not. All he knows is that you align his
nose (vane) with the wind and tell him to keep it there. Such is his construction that as soon as
his vane is out of line with the wind he cannot fail but turn his small integral
rudder to correct it. He asks for
no power and, unlike Orville, consults nobody else. He does require much more in terms of
understanding in setting him up and balancing the sails. But, the reward of being aboard a boat
trucking along under sail in starlight at 7-8 knots; no hands, no whirring of
electric motors, completely silent – all entirely mechanical . . . Whoa!
And, that’s how we made Marina Rubicon in Lanzarote at
around 0600 on Monday 24th October.
But; not so fast!
We are in some danger of being carried away here by the euphoria of night
sailing and failing to report really important stuff. It must be recorded that, at 1130 on
Sunday 23rd October, we successfully caught what must, surely, be a
record-breaking 2lb skipjack tuna/atlantic bonito/arctic bonito/have it your own
way/call it what you like fish. See
the photo below. Not for the first
time have we wished for a Hemingway type fighting chair. The monster fish made a pretty good (if
rather small) starter for four of us.
Mr Fish, what were you thinking? That lure is nearly as big as
So, what of Marina Rubicon in Lanzarote? One or two minor issues with wifi but it
is difficult otherwise to fault it.
It has pretty much everything you might want and isn’t particularly
expensive – at least compared with UK prices. It is massively better than the harbour
at Playa Blanca - just across the bay - and not as overdone as Puerto Calero
(all polished brass bollards and manhole covers, stainless steel ladders and
marble buildings) a bit further east along the south coast. We lazed about on Monday
24th, generally sorting things, getting laundry done and so on. We had a great day touring much of the
island by car on Tuesday 25th.
We went to the Fire Mountain, took in the excellent visitors’ centre that
is in the associated national park, avoided taking the camel rides up the
mountain (the bilge rats would, doubtless, have been unable to resist those had
they been here) and had a very good lunch in a little village close to the
northern shore of the island.
As Chris Copeland Remarked “Challenging Terrain”
Lanzarote has a lot to offer.
Inevitably, some of the south coast has been developed into a typical
Brit-oriented tourist trap. But
there is much more to it than that.
The volcanic terrain is stunning and the interior is largely
unspoilt. There are excellent
opportunities for water sports of all sorts and the associated developments have
not been allowed to impinge unduly on the rest of the surroundings. On an architectural note, virtually
every building is painted bright white with all the paint work in the same shade
of dark green – someone must have negotiated a good deal on a tanker load of
gloss paint. A lot of time and
effort has gone into landscaping the centres of the little villages and towns –
there is an unexpected abundance of palm trees and other greenery which can cope
with the arid conditions to be found there. There have even been successful attempts
at growing vines and the production of some pretty reasonable wine.
Three Grockles We Saw
We knew that following the passage of the low pressure
system to the north, there would be very little wind for a couple of days. But, Chris and Penny were due to fly
back to the UK from Las Palmas on Thursday
evening. So, it made sense to get
going from Lanzarote on Wednesday, regardless. That involved a 14 hour trip with
Orville and Mr Perkins doing the business and we arrived in Las Palmas shortly after
midnight on Thursday morning. Once
we’d eventually been moved to our allocated berth - around mid morning - Chris
did a quick underwater inspection of the hull, anodes, rudder and so on. All looks fine but he’ll do a bit of
tarting up of things using his sub aqua kit when he and Penny return on
14th November – 6 days before we are due to leave for St Lucia as one
of the 250 or so boats making up the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC).
Just before the Copelands left we resolved the thorny issue of the
leather sea boots. The soles of
Jon’s (which, it has to be admitted, were not in their first flush of youth) had
decided that enough was enough and had fallen off. Chris had brought out a new pair but
these had yet to be christened and the fate of their predecessors decided. The new ones fitted perfectly and were
taken on strength. After some
heart-searching, the old ones were subjected to some savage butchery to recover
some useful leather before being consigned to the skip. Poor ol’ boots.
Tread wearin’ a bit thin
Now we’re talkin’
There is plenty for the Duttons to be getting on with during the run-up
to the start of the ARC. The boat
is now in pretty good shape but there is inevitably servicing to be done on some
of the systems. There are plenty of
ARC boats here already and the whole jamboree begins to assemble properly on
Monday 7th November with an opening ceremony on Sunday
13th. Apparently the
latter involves parading around the place in national contingents behind a
national flag bearer. This is
followed by an international rubber dinghy rowing race. We know that Chris and Penny Copeland
and Tim Dumas will be heartbroken to have missed that by a day by the time they
arrive. However, they will be in
time for the fancy dress party on Wednesday 16th when we are all
bidden to appear as cartoon characters.
Meanwhile, Carol continues to puzzle about the appropriate collective
noun for a group of retired Royal Artillery colonels – all three of whom,
inevitably, are slightly deaf and speak rather loudly. How does a cacophony sound? I SAID “A CACOPHONY”,