Fireworks at midnight 28:03.02N 16:43.55W
New year's eve there was not a breath of wind. The forecast had been for light winds but certainly in our anchorage there was nothing. We looked out to sea for any signs of full sails but saw nothing to give us much hope. We had no fixed time that we especially wanted to leave so we set about tinkering with various little tasks off the long list of outstanding "things it would be nice to get done before we leave".
One of these jobs was to check-over and reorganise the grab bags we had been preparing in case of emergencies. These consist of 3 large waterproof containers full of essentials to try and cover the very worst of "worst case scenarios" and they live in the nearest cupboard to the companionway - they are to take with us in the event we ever need to abandon ship and they contain a vast array of assorted items from a list we drew up having read many different accounts; opinions and experiences of survival at sea. Should the very worst ever happen we have a modern inflatable liferaft in a canister that we can launch. This was fully serviced before our departure from Gibraltar and contains a survival kit for up to 24 hours on the water. However, the thought of floating about in a small inflatable capsule hoping to be rescued doesn't sound quite so appealing as a well equipped sailing dinghy so our final efforts in the event Hamble Warror could not be saved would be to launch Fleur with her rig, paddles and our grab bags of essentials.
Amongst the dozens of items in these containers are our flares; the hand operated water maker, bags of dried fruits and boiled sweets, laminated copies of our passports and some dollars, sea sickness meds and painkillers, sunscreen, hats, playing cards, a hand line for fishing, snorkel mask, knife, whistle, spare binoculars, our spare VHF radio... it's quite a collection. I can't help thinking of the scene of captain Jack sparrow marooned on his desert island and wonder that really a large bottle of rum and a pouch of tobacco would make as much sense as anything though!
As I am writing all of this I realise there are two different types of people reading this blog... those that will be interested to know what sort of plans we make for this kind of scenario and those that are utterly horrified by the very thought of it. The latter probably don't want to read about liferafts and sea survival as we prepare to leave but it's important to explain that we have a plan for every eventuality and that planning for the very worst and preparing for it actually brings about an enormously calming sense of control. Further, just because something is intended for an emergency or crisis situation doesn't mean we need to look upon the item itself with horror. I will never forget not long after we first started sailing a few years back Jamie taking me to a chandlery to buy ourselves some decent offshore deckvests to replace the rather basic lifejackets we had been using. The assistant was a young girl absolutely brimming with enthusiasm as she gleefully showed us all of the features of each product. From the small discreetly hidden blade to cut yourself free from a jackstay to the bright yellow hood and automatic light to make you easier to spot in the water... as I listened to her bubbling sales pitch I couldn't help but think how differently we might all feel about being in a plane-crash if the air stewards could only adopt a similar pitch and tone to their safety demonstrations.. "there are these wonderful straps that you can pass around your waist and look here; there's a light AND A WHISTLE for attracting attention"!!
While checking everything over ready to leave Jamie discovered that the external aerial which we had fitted to boost our satalite gear was not working. This is a bit of a blow as it had worked beautifully on our crossing from Gibraltar so clearly a connection must have got damaged since then. The aerial allowed us to sit below decks at the nav station and upload blog posts and download weather in the warm and dry. Jamie spent hours taking it apart and trying to find the fault but with no luck. We were telling our friends about this frustration over messenger and they assured us they had managed their ocean passages some years ago with similar gear and not used an external aerial so eventually we resigned ourselves to leaving without replacing it. A holiday resort in Tenerife on new years eve seemed an unlikely place to find a solution to the problem anyhow!
As the day wore on and it was still calm and with new years approaching and boats coming in anchoring around us ready for the fireworks later we decided to enjoy our final night in the anchorage and leave on New Years Day. Jamie's superstitions about leaving on a Friday may have added to this a bit but I also think that we both felt we'd be departing now for the sheer hell of saying we'd set off in 2021!
We had a swim; poured a drink, put on some music and tucked into one of my pre-prepared dinners and at midnight we watched a spectacular display of fireworks from the best seats in the house. A large cruise ship had dropped anchor just a few hundred metres away and with their fireworks and the several separate displays ashore we enjoyed a 360 degree display of lights; explosions, whistles and whooping. Meep handled the whole thing with the usual calmness that only Greek strays can display while having their senses bombarded with so much ammunition... he stuck his nose up through the companionway and looked at the sky with disinterest then turned and went back to his food bowl to give it the same look.
Well that's 2021 over - HAPPY NEW YEAR everybody!