Well, I sometimes wonder what we have been doing for the
last week, but whatever is was, we have been very busy at it!
There is no doubt that with so many other boats about,
there is a sense of getting wound up by all the activity going on about
you. We have had various safety checks and seminars on all sorts of
subjects from down-wind sailing to rigging, radio communications, power
management (battery power on board), life raft demos, etc etc..... With so
much to do, there hasn't been much time to attend many. While all this was
happening Sylvie has been arranging the food stores and deliveries to the marina
with Jenny from the other Malo in the ARC. Ben has returned to the UK for
3 days to see the family and will be back Friday for our last 1 1/2 days to
finish everything off.
The winds are likely to be light on start day (latest
forecasts available on Sat at the skipper's briefing meeting). We will
probably aim to travel south towards the Cape Verde islands and swing westwards
as we pick up the steadier (hopefully) NE Trade winds which will blow us across
the Atlantic. 'Downwind' sailing is not as pleasant as it sounds.
Because the wind is from behind, the boat tends to roll a great deal (if wind
from the beam - or side, then the boat is much steadier). We will try a
combination of sails to see what works best.
The Canary Islands are very high volcanic islands.
Until I saw an amazing satellite photo yesterday I wouldn't have believed the
effect that the mountains have on the prevailing NE winds. As the wind
swirls around the mountains they cause tremendous turbulence and vortexes
downwind of the islands - for about 100 miles! Also, as
the 'katabatic' winds drop off the mountains around the islands they create
'acceleration zones' along the eastern and western sides of several of
the main islands like Gran Canaria and Tenerife. These winds can be very
strong and we have been warned that just off the airport (about 15
miles south of Las Palmas) there is one of the 'acceleration zones'.
I have read about these zones in the pilot book covering the area and had
some fore-warning. Winds can increase from say a pleasant 15
knots - up to say 40 knots in a matter of 20 - 30 seconds, and if you are
not ready for them you can do a lot of damage to sails and boat.
As a result of all these nasty surprises that can catch
us out, and as a cautious sailor, I think we will just go off with 'white sails'
only (i.e. none of the fancy downwind 'coloured' sails such as our big yellow
cruising chute). We will attempt to get well clear of Gran Canaria before
hoisting our cruising chute or twin headsails. Call me a chicken, but we
have 3 weeks to go and I would like to retain a full sail wardrobe all the way
across, partly for convenience and partly for