Finally we are off!! 27:33.17N 17:13.86W
New years day dawned and again there was little wind. We enjoyed a late breakfast and set about stowing everything ready for our trip in the hope the afternoon breeze would be enough to get us away from the islands. Once we were happy everything was either stowed below decks or strapped down we lifted our anchor and set about calibrating the tiller pilot to operate the self steering gear. This is a back up to our autopilot and a much more efficient one as it uses less of our precious battery power than the autopilot which could be useful on days when we don't generate a lot of solar power. We had attempted to calibrate it as we left Gibraltar all those weeks ago but the conditions had been too rough to be able to so today in the calm anchorage was perfect. Jamie managed to get it all set up and we tested it out. We now have four helming options... our autopilot, our wind operated self-steering (windpilot), the newly-calibrated tiller-pilot which works by operating the rudder via the windpilot gear; and of course the old fashioned method of hand steering!
It was shortly after 2pm and the wind was still light but we couldn't bring ourselves to drop the anchor again and we were sure there would be enough wind to sail if we just got away from the land a bit. So we waved goodbye to Tenerife and set out in just a couple of knots of wind under engine.
It was quite sad to say goodbye to the Canaries after such a wonderful few months. They really have given us some of the most fantastic memories; great sailing conditions, some beautiful anchorages and great value marinas, lovely people, spectacular scenery..... the Caribbean has a lot to live up to!!
It was so exciting to be leaving at last though. We motored away from Tenerife and after just over an hour we had 6kts of wind and were able to lift our sails and turn off our engine. Now it felt like we really were under way. The sea was calm and flat and visibility was incredible. As we sailed away with Tenerife behind us we could see Gran Canaria 60nm off our port quarter; La Palma 60nm off our starboard quarter, El Hierro 60nm off our starboard bow and La Gomera approx. 20nm abeam!
We had a fairly sedate sail through the afternoon which was a perfect start to our trip. We were making between 3 and 5 kts of speed but it was calm conditions and felt like a nice way to ease ourselves in to an ocean passage. We still had data signal for a couple of hours as we departed and our final contact with the civilised world included a video call from our friends and boat neighbours from our days in Lefkas marina; Eva & Arne, some notes and advice on hoving-to from our friends Alison & Nige and the news of a late winning goal by Spurs at Watford... although with the current VAR silliness we could likely arrive in the Caribbean to find it finished as a goaless draw yet!
As the sun began to set we sighted several large porpoises in the waters around us. They were likely dolphins but the very narrow and pointed dorsal fin combined with the size and the way they moved made me wonder if they were perhaps pilot whales which I believe you do get in this part of the world. We sat and watched as the sun set into the horizon and left behind a blazing red sky which lit up El Hierro still visible abeam.
As it got dark the temperature dropped and we wrapped up a bit but the cockpit remained dry which made things comfortable. It was nice to be able to put on warm clothes rather than wet weather gear which isn't cosy or particularly convenient!
I warmed us up some chilli and made mash potatoes and we ate in the cockpit as the stars came out. It was a beautiful clear night and soon the sky was full of bright stars and through the night the moon remained absent so we had these twinkling down on us right through until the sun started to creep back up the next morning.
We snoozed in the cockpit until the early hours and then Jamie took the first proper watch and I went off to my bunk and replaced him a few hours later.
As I lay listening to the water slapping the hull and the boom creaking above me I wondered what the next 3 weeks would bring.