logo Kingfisher 2013
Date: 26 Nov 2013 18:30:00
Title: Short sojourn in Mogan



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Subject: Short sojourn in Mogan
Date: 26 November 2013 19:02:09 GMT

We have been stationary for longer here than at any time in the last month but somehow I have not been able to fulfil my blogging duties.  This may be something to do with the presence of Sally and Milly over the weekend followed by the rush to get provisions on board. From my perspective at least, the primary recipients of the blog suddenly became part of the story for a few days…my sincere apologies to anyone else who is following our little voyage. You no doubt have a right to compensation under the same EU regulations that have allowed the Spaniards to construct the system of brand new roads and tunnels to access this tiny village right at the end of a small island in the middle of nowhere.  Finished just 6 months ago the road leading here has a series of tunnels that make the Hindehead project seem like a student exercise. Mogan is pretty and lively but totally devoid of commercial consequence except for the swarms of mainly German and English tourists who are spending a lot more than they should be on the local facilities….i.e. restaurants. The entire marina and most of the village is given over to eating and drinking with the main activity between meals being to walk around the marina to admire the boats. Whilst this is flattering to the boating types like us, it would be helpful if just a tiny bit of the marina administration was dedicated to looking after the modest needs of the yachtsmen in their care. As one of the obvious ports from which to leave for an Atlantic passage, Mogan could easily equip itself for this role but, so far, does not appear to have even considered the possibility. There is no chandlery, no laundry, no technical service facility and on our particular berth (a concrete wall with 2m of tidal range), no power within 20 metres and (as was proudly announced to us on arrival) a water supply that no sane person would consider drinking (we have been filtering it so we can fill the tanks). To be fair, the marina is very busy at this time of year and we were lucky to get a berth at all, but it was still a little bit irritating to spend more than 5 hours trying to get shore power after we arrived at 1330 on Thursday afternoon following the 20 hour trip from Rubicon…..

We checked in at the marina office, and raised the small issue of the absence of a power connection.  Ben and I were given a length of cable with ominously small connectors on each end and told that this would absolutely solve our problem. Innocently putting our faith in the wisdom of some of Mogan's finest minds we returned to the boat to discover that the connections on their cable did not match the only relevant connector on the dock - a matter that proved to be less relevant than the fact that the cable was also 5m too short to reach the power source.  My enquiry over the VHF resulted in the appearance of the one and only marina assistant - a delightful young man equipped with expressive hands which are used frequently for gesticulating, but very rarely for anything else.  It was he who only half an hour before had waved airily at the berth before disappearing as we approached the wall very gingerly to berth Kingfisher between a raft of small fishing boats and a 100ft superyacht and he was very quick to reassure us (using sign language) that we were in possession of the ONLY extension cable of any sort within miles around, maybe even on the whole of Gran Canaria.  After lengthy consultations over his radio with Mogan's nerve centre I intervened in English and was quickly informed that such conversations are not suitable for VHF radios and was summoned back to the office for high level negotiations.  Picture in your mind a Spanish version of the Irish builder in that wonderful Faulty Towers episode with the doors and you have a fairly accurate image of the scene that followed.  All attempts to communicate the simple facts of the matter were met with a wagging finger, sad shaking of the head and slightly alarming rolling of the eyes…..the ears did not feature.  At every opportunity (about six times in all) it was patiently explained to me that it is the captain's responsibility to carry the necessary adapters. How could Mogan possibly hold, in a marina of modest size, the number of adapters necessary to connect to every boat in the world? Whilst conceding this point, I tried to explain that we actually had many adapters on board,  including the ones needed to connect both to his dockside power and indeed to his extension cable. The eye rolling became medically dangerous with each repetition of these ridiculous assertions and a very long telephone conversation with the harbour master ensued. Although, I do not speak Spanish it was quite clear from the earnest intonations and eye movements that I was a raving lunatic with aggressive and quite insulting mannerisms who probably should not be allowed to remain in the harbour.  I later found out that the harbour master, who was a charming man, had been trying to make sense of the story he was being told, (repeatedly, over his 3 hour lunch break) had asked his trusted assistant to inform me that he would be along in about an hour to sort things out.  Rather than wasting such valuable information on me, our man in charge made it very clear that I had only 2 choices.  Either I could go into the town to buy the necessary adapters and fix the problem (well, one of the problems) myself or, if I persisted in menacing the town, I could leave. These two choices had to be reiterated quite a few times before someone as clearly deficient in the mental department as myself would be able to grasp them. Duly following instructions, I waited for the only shop in Mogan not selling ice cream to re-open at 4.00pm after the tiring morning session they must have had and confirmed beyond any doubt that no-one in the last 10 years had ever succeeded in buying the adapter required.  The entire marina is based on the other type of adapter (the one on the extension cable) so I was probably making a huge mistake with my request anyway!  We returned to the berth to ponder this new information, and realised that if we turned the boat around to face the other way, we might just be able to reach the nearest "standard" connection on one of the normal pontoons a few metres beyond our allotted power point (the one with the connection that is never used in Spain). Just as we were about to execute this brilliant plan, the young marina assistant (not the Faulty Towers man but the one with the hands) managed to save us from such foolishness by pointing out (literally) that the power point we were aiming for was not actually working and was, in his humble opinion, unrepairable.  Best not to waste our time turning the boat around. At this point, we managed to demonstrate to him a couple of the pertinent issues that had eluded him and his colleague earlier - namely, that his extension cable was not long enough and that it was his connection that did not match his own dockside power point and not ours.  A great deal of radio traffic kicked off at this point - apparently it is OK to use the radio for such conversations in Spanish; just best not to do them in English. We were embraced in parts of the conversation, through sign language, at irregular intervals. Had we yet purchased the necessary adapters in the town? No! (the eye rolling became clearly audible over the VHF). Were we now planning to leave the marina? No! (we were now out of choices). The man with the hands gesticulated sadly that he had to go and sit down so we were left to our own devices again.  Slightly tiring by this stage after having only slept for a couple of hours in the previous 36, Ben and I went back to the only shop in Mogan not selling ice cream and made one of the largest purchases they have ever seen. We bought 10 metres of power cable and 3 connections (one for each end of our new extension and one to re-wire the marina connector).  If you are technically minded, and still following this sorry tale, you may be wondering how we could be planning to re-wiring the marina connector.  I forgot to mention that the rogue connector we were meant to be using was, in fact, hanging by its wires in a broken cabinet surrounded by a lot of concrete rubble and other trash - no doubt that result of some previous unfortunate incident with a mad English captain.  It would be no problem to re-wire it, provided we could persuade mastermind to switch off the power before we touched it!  As you can imagine we were not so confident about this part of the plan…..  We were saved at this point from certain electrocution by the arrival of the harbour master. Although he turned out to be a charming man in the end, even he was suspicious of us at first. We had not had good press from his trusted assistant in the office. Did we realise that we had disturbed his lunch? Why were we so angry about everything? Did we expect Mogan to carry every adapter in the world? Could we turn up at his office in the morning to face up to our web of lies and misinformation in front of his staff?  At some point in this debate, as we valiantly tried to explain our side of the story, it was as if a mist suddenly lifted from around us all. He stared into the middle distance for a short while and announced suddenly that it was all his fault. He was sorry. He would fix it all.  This was good news, except that when considering how to fix it, some of the realities interfered with his excellent intentions.  The young man with the hands turned up out of the gloom (it was now dark) proudly carrying a new cable that had turned up unexpectedly in a skip somewhere nearby. It was a great find….marred only by the fact that both connections had the wrong number of pins. Now desperate, the harbour master discovered our recent purchases. He was horrified.  We had paid for these ourselves? We had actually thought that he would not return from lunch and fix all the problems? He was ashamed. However, our solution did have some merits. It might actually solve the problem. He would stay by the boat until we had made up our new cable to make sure that it worked.  There was another problem though…. he could not allow us to re-wire his marina connection. Suppose that another boat came in with that connector and wanted to use it. He would be forced to re-wire it himself (or worse, ask the assistant to do it without using his hands). This was unthinkable. How could we have ever come up with that idea? We were stumped again.  Until….the assistant produced a key that he had had discovered on his person and managed to unlock another power locker next to the crumbling and broken one that we had been trying to use. In this locker there was a brand new, unused connection - of the right size and type for his extension cable. He was pretty happy with this new dimension to their solutions for us.  Now, all we had left to do was to make up our 10m extension to add to his one and we would be connected. We would have to hurry up though, because it was nearing the end of his shift. Ben and I set to work under the cockpit lights. The harbour master and his now happy assistant watched silently. It took us about 45 mins to make up the new cable - we were slow with this task in their opinion. Finally, we got it done and all was fixed.  At around 7.30pm in the evening, we got our power connected.  Everyone was very pleased and we all went off for a well earned supper……their undersized extension cable with dodgy wiring on the connections did not burn out until the following morning…..

Dinner (post "power up")

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The following day, Friday, broke hot and sunny. Having promised the guys a relaxing day off I suddenly realised that we still had to clean up the boat in preparation for the fleeting visit of the Fleet commander.  Jobs were allocated, dodged and re-allocated.  Both heads, the saloon, each cabin, the decks, all the sheets (of both kinds). We set off with all of the linen over our shoulders in pillow cases like 4 imitations of that stupid cat who carried his home over his shoulder and boldly walked into town to find the launderette.  Of course, there isn't one.  Ben bravely offered to head off in a taxi to find the promised laundry that might exist a few miles inland, that might be open and might be prepared to consider our needs.  I have to admit that I wasn't very hopeful - BUT, he came back without the laundry and beaming with the satisfaction known only to yachtsmen in Mogan.  Somebody had actually volunteered to help; and they seemed to be very efficient.  Quietly dreading the bill that might be attached to this new experience we had lunch on board and decided to celebrate by sending Tash up the mast for 2 hours to clean the rigging.  To her eternal credit, she accepted the challenge (it is quite a high mast) and claimed later to have enjoyed it.  The perambulating crowds certainly enjoyed it - there must have been over 150 photos calls during her task and the rest of us, forced to lounge about on the deck in case she needed us to move her up or down a few feet or change the water in her bucket, were not shy about taking the brunt of the attention for her.  Some people churlishly wanted to know why we had sent the only girl in the crew up the mast to do all the work.  That is the type of ignorance you get around this marina…..we didn't deign to give the nautical explanation for this; they would never have understood the finer points of it.

Tash - attention seeking up the mast

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With the boat totally spruced up inside and out we welcomed the new Alex aboard as dusk fell and chatted waiting for Sal and Milly to arrive just before 8.00pm for a drink on board and dinner ashore.  It was great to see them and they brought news from home, hugs for all and we had a lively dinner.

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Milly, cooperating with the photographer as usual

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Saturday was the day that Discovery (boat builders) had agreed to come across from Las Palmas, where they had been helping out with 4 other Discovery yachts doing the ARC to see us and resolve one or two residual problems. Now that it is fixed, I can mention that we had been concerned about the lower rudder bearing for some time.  A nasty knocking sound and a bit of movement in the rudder stock had been worrying me since before Gibraltar.  If the Discovery guys had given us a bad report on it we would have had to move to Las Palmas, haul out the boat again and fix it before we could leave.  Fortunately, the rudder bearings are fine (as they should be after only 3 years) and we changed one of the joints which had suffered enough wear to be causing the knocking under high strain.  It took quite a while to fix but I was very relieved that we do not have to delay and haul out.  They did a few other little jobs with us and Malcolm from Greenham-Regis (electronics firm) upgraded some software in the sea talk connectors which he claims will stop the minor glitches we have been getting with the chart plotters.  They finished up at lunch time and Alex and I had lunch with them.  Ben, Alex S and Tash had taken a taxi across to Puerto Rico to meet up with Sally and Millzy and returned in the afternoon.  We decided to cook for the girls on board and had a festive evening.

Sunday was a day off - we had a slow start and left Alex H in charge of the boat while the rest of us taxied across to the Palm Beach Hotel in Maspalomas where Sal and Milly were staying to join them for lunch.  A trip to the Aqua Park was aborted by the boys but continued by the girls as the rest of us went to the beach, swam in the Atlantic and watched the front of the ARC fleet heading South for their first night of their crossing.  


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We came back to the boat for another dinner aboard and said our goodbyes later that evening.  It felt a little strange to wave them off knowing that we would be meeting up again in Grenada in about 3 weeks time having sailed there. The main event was about to start. We are actually about to go……

On Monday we set out to drive to Las Palmas in order to do the provisioning in the famous and massive Corte Ingles supermarket in the centre of the city.  The only car rental establishment in Puerto Mogan had no cars available for rent. How could we have been so stupid as to imagine that they would just have cars for rent whenever we felt like turning up!  Nothing can surprise me about this town any more so we gaily set off for the hotel to ask the receptionist there if there was any other way to get a car that day.  A very entrepreneurial young man from a village just down the coast turned out to actually have cars for rent in his car rental business and he arrived so quickly we had to pulp down  our €3.5 Cokes without breathing in order to meet him and be taken to his office (shack) to do the paper work.  This all worked rather well and we set off in good spirits for the lengthy drive to Las Palmas on the super highway that has been specially built for us (and about 2 other cars that we met on the way).  We drove into the Las Palmas marina (after a few abortive attempts to find the way in by car) and had an excellent lunch there before wandering around the marina and being amazed by the sort of shops and services that a real marina has to offer.  Naturally, it was all closed for siesta at this point so we were not actually able to purchase anything but it was still reassuring to know that marinas sometimes do have people who try to sell things that their customers might actually want to buy. We picked up the package of spares that Discovery had left for us in the marina office (also closed for lunch but full of people whose job appeared to be to tell us that it was closed for lunch) and then made our way to Corte Ingles.  What a large and confusing supermarket it is….they have pretty much everything there; it is just very well disguised and dispersed. Fortunately, we had a comprehensive list and after about 3 hours we had amassed a terrifying amount of food and drink in about 6 trolleys.  

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An army of very experienced people swept everything into bags and boxes to be sent to cold storage or flash frozen or simply stored overnight for delivery the following day. They have been provisioning the ARC for years and had just finished doing the same job for around 250 boats who had left the day before so we were in good hands.  We did not like the look of the fruit and veg that had been left behind by the scavengers on the ARC so we decided to source this elsewhere.  I am delighted to say that Alex S won the sweepstake on the bill (he low balled it) because I was fearing a much higher total.  We have managed to cater for 150 man days for just over €12 each which I think is pretty good.  I was very tired by the time we got back to the boat and grateful to the crew who produced Waitrose lasagne and baked beans with cheese at short notice.  I retired to my bunk as they watched the Hunt for Red October and went to sleep wondering how on earth we were going to get all of those provisions into the boat without sinking.

Day broke today after I had got up….a lot for the skipper to think about. Ben and I set off in the trusty hire car to locate the fruit and veg and buy that last few things we need before we go.  We managed to cobble some reasonable stuff together from a few different places and got back to the marina just in time to hand back the car at 12.00 and man-handle all of our purchases onto the dock.  We then set about cleaning all of the fruit and veg (to keep the nasties off the boat and help preserve it for longer on the trip). Pictures explain this better than words…

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Kingfisher, before the arrival of the Corte Ingles delivery this afternoon…

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Amazingly, I am sitting here at 1830 having packed the entire load of provisions for 20 days at sea into Kingfisher with absolutely no visible effect on the appearance or organisation of the boat.  It has all been found secure homes and stowed away without any fuss.  I really thought we were short of storage space but I have been proved (or proved myself) wrong.  We are literally poised to go now.  We will have a quick dinner on board, get an early night and be out of here before midday tomorrow. The wind is not playing ball for us at the moment so we may have to motor South towards Cape Verde and contemplate a stop there for refuelling if we don't get the trades filling in before we get there.  I am quite keen to see the islands but we will not stop unless we have to - it is a slight detour but much better to get off and underway rather than wait here for the wind to arrive.  At least we will be 3 days further forward even allowing for the detour and there is a good chance that we can press on without the stop if we haven't had to use too much diesel to get there.  All the preparation is done. We are ready to go. My holiday starts tomorrow!  I can't wait to get started and the whole crew feels the same.

Next blog should be from offshore…..


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