Ahead of our departure today from
Tenerife to Dakhla in Western
Sahara, the skippers’ meeting yesterday evening was a much more
informative affair than the last, as we got alternate French and English
briefings. There was a real sense of excitement as we are today leaving
Europe behind us for the last time and sailing into the
very different world of Saharan Africa. The briefing said that we might come
across “pirogues” – small boats – full of black African refugees trying to get
to the Canaries. They might well be desperate with thirst and hunger. Leave some
bread and water floating in a plastic bag for them to pick up, but do not let
them get to your boat as they might try and board you. We are to call the
coastguard with their position and the coastguard will come out to help them.
Cocooned in our privileged world on our luxury yachts, it does no harm to be
reminded of the desperate conditions in which so many of the world’s population
The rally organisers are taking the “This is rally – not
a race” business far too seriously. At the meeting it was announced that there
would not be a formal start today. Anybody was free to leave whenever they
wished anytime after 1000. So no jockeying for position on the start line; no
adrenalin rush as the countdown begins; no fist-in-the-air high-fiving as we
sweep over the line in first place as the gun is fired. Spoilsports. So we had
to engineer our own pursuit race. If you look at our position on the www.islesdusoleil.eu website you will see that we are at the back of the
fleet. THIS IS DELIBERATE and only a temporary situation. We decided to leave
almost last so we had a fleet to chase rather than the more boring option of
starting early and leaving most of the boats behind us. So in the hour between
the departure of the first boats and our departure, we made good use of our time
by tucking into a large plateful of the finest
Cumberland sausage, best
Northumberland black pudding, thick rashers of bacon and fried eggs, all
courtesy of Tom who brought them out yesterday. The smells wafting from our
galley drove our fellow competitors mad.
Our course to Dakhla is 290 miles almost due south. The
wind was forecast light from the NNE for most of the trip, but when we cleared
the harbour wall, there was a brisk F6 northeasterly. Too much wind for the
cruising chute at the moment so we are rolling along at 6.5 to 7 knots under
yankee (like a very big jib) and full mainsail. When I say rolling, I mean it.
The seas are much bigger than they were on our passage to
Tenerife and we are having to stuff paper in between all
the gin bottles to stop them from clinking together. It’s all frightfully
inconvenient. And it’s beginning to hot up as well.
Madeira and Tenerife have been a
perfect 25 or 26 degrees (Celsius) but as we now head further south it is 29
degrees and rising. But, hey-ho, no complaints.
My doughty crew for this leg are Lawrence Wells and Tom
Mallaburn. Tom arrived the day before yesterday and has been hard at it helping
to prepare the boat for this leg.
Lawrence, on the other hand, is in
disgrace. Having sworn to be back on the boat by 1030 yesterday (from his
champagne-swilling, lobster eating sojourn with, Carri, his good lady), he came
swanning in at 4.30pm still inebriated from yet another excellent lunch. I spent
most of last night grinding my teeth thinking of all the things that should have
been done by now, but which haven’t. As I said to
“Lawrence” I said “You have let me
down; you have let the boat down - but most of all” I said in an inspired moment
of originality “you have let yourself down”.
Lawrence laughed like a drain. But
he’s not laughing now as he has been detailed to clean my loo with his own
toothbrush. Lax crew, tough skipper.
P.S. As I finish typing this, the wind has come further
aft as forecast and we have hoisted the cruising chute. Now romping along at
about 7.5 knots, and we are overtaking boats. Perfect.