Preparations for the Atlantic

James & Amelia Gould
Sun 7 Oct 2007 11:01

070918 – 071001 Atlantic Preparations


After Eleanor and John left (very sad!) it was time to get down to business.  The Canary Islands were the last place in Europe we were visiting until the homeward leg, and by all accounts the last place to provision before we arrived in less developed countries.  So we set about preparing Rahula for the next 3 months, when she will (hopefully!) visit the Gambia, Cape Verde and sail across the Atlantic.  We had been told that it was difficult to get tins and dry provisions in Africa, so we decided to stock up in one of the massive supermarkets that seem to dominate the Canarian skyline.


A long (very…J) afternoon was spent in one of these food emporiums, emptying the shelves of flour, rice and chocolate milk cartons as if there was about to be a nuclear war.  Though we expected many staples to be available in the places we were visiting (after all, even the locals have to eat!) we were warned that many of the packets would contain weevils and cockroach eggs (all adds to the flavour is what I say…J).  So to save an infestation onboard we decided to buy as much as we could carry onboard from a “clean” source.  We bought all sorts of tins and treats that we figured would be difficult to obtain out of Europe until our trolley refused to steer straight under the load.  Luckily the supermarket delivered, which meant we only had to carry ourselves back home!


Once back onboard we tried to organise some space for the masses of bulky items we bought.  We needed somewhere to store the vast amount of staples we bought, and in a kitchen shop we found huge 11 litre Tupperware drums which seemed ideal to seal in our flour, rice, and pasta and save them from getting damp or infested.  The problem was that these drums would not fit into any of the lockers, so I smiled sweetly at James and asked him to build a shelf for our new drums (he likes woodwork anyway!)(hmmmmm…J).  A hard day’s work later (and lots of cursing under J’s breath which I pretended not to hear!) we had a new shelf in the pantry.  As I started filling the drums with our newly purchased provisions I realised that 11 litres of rice is actually quite a lot (enough for one Israeli family meal anyway…J).  I think we’ve now got enough rice to last us until we return to the UK…  The rest of the provisions went into a huge fishing crate (found floating in Chichester Harbour, I told her it would come in handy…J) and placed in the guest cabin near the galley.  We are not expecting any more guests onboard for a while, and it seemed best to keep the weight in the middle of the boat.


New Shelf and Huge Staple Storage

3 Months worth of Dry Provisions


Next came the turn of minor alterations to Rahula to prepare her for many more anchorages and less marinas.  A sign in the marina’s laundry showing a picture of an old sewing machine prompted us to finally get the boat’s awning altered.  The awning came with the boat, and though it was fine for the UK summer when the sun isn’t that strong it was inadequate for the tropics when the sun is still boiling at 6p.m.  We wanted side flaps added to the awning that we could lower as required to keep the sun out of the cockpit and off the hatches.  The seamstress asked us to go and choose the cloth, and though we were tempted by some red and white stripy stuff (which would have made us look like a pusser’s warship!) (I always thought ceremonial awnings looked quite smart! J) we decided to stick to plain white.  A few days later the finished article was delivered and once we put it up we sat back and marvelled at the difference.  We almost have a conservatory onboard, with the new flaps creating an extra room, giving some privacy as well as keeping the sun off.


Room Outside – The new awning


The issue of electrical power has dogged us since we bought Rahula, and is a favourite topic of conversation amongst cruisers.  The original system that came with the boat was old and had too many modifications and add-ons to be efficient, so we rewired the boat completely before leaving the UK.  This new system seemed to work pretty well, and the wind generator and solar panels kept up with the demands placed on them.  We moved on every few days, normally sailing through some windy conditions to our next destination, so our batteries were generally kept topped up.  However, now with greater distances between destinations we are spending longer in each place.  All these tall volcanic islands in the middle of an ocean seem to be shrouded in clouds for the better part of the day, meaning that our solar panels are not generating to full capacity.  Our wind generator is actually a towed generator that can be converted to wind power, but though great in the towed mode, it requires a howling gale before generating anything in the wind mode.  We started getting wind generator envy, when we noticed that no matter how hard we tried to coax it our generator refused to turn while those on the boats all around us where whirring away, pumping in the amps.  Eventually we decided that it was ridiculous spending our days in harbour watching the batteries drain away, and it was time for a proper wind generator.  After lots of time spent researching we chose one of the cheapest models which promised to turn in the lightest of winds (the capability we were after).  We discovered that a chandler on the south side of Gran Canaria had one in stock for a good price, so we sailed to Puerto de Mogan to make our purchase.  A few days (and a big hole in our savings later) the wind generator was erected on its new stainless steel pole (made by a thoroughly nice German called Peter, whose welding was first class and who worked until 2300 to get it finished in time for our departure) and connected to our system.  Then there was no wind for 2 days…  However, it has since proved its worth, and seems to turn when there is not a breath of wind to flutter a flag.  So now we have wind, solar and water power generation onboard – you can’t get much greener than that!



The new Wind Generator


Most of the preparations complete we had some time in hand to enjoy our surroundings.  Puerto de Mogan is a lovely town, which though its mainstay is the tourism industry it seems to have retained some of its charm and character and not turn into a soulless string of all-inclusive hotels like other towns along the coast.  Most of the tourists are German, Scandinavian and Irish, and there is a relaxed feel about the place.  The streets around the marina had pretty white washed buildings edged with different colours, with bougainvillea and hibiscus overflowing over the pavements and roofs.  It was a lovely place to celebrate my birthday.  We went out for a tasty meal at one of the marina side restaurants, and for pudding James baked me a birthday cake.  The cake contained all my favourite ingredients and was delicious!  James was also sweet enough to remember that I was 29………..again…(I know it looks burnt, but baking in a boat oven is a bit of a black art! J)


Puerto de Mogan

Amelia’s Birthday Cake


On my birthday itself I decided I wanted to go on the Yellow Submarine with which we shared a pontoon.  We had been watching it go in and out for a few days,  once I found out that it really dives under water it became one of those essential experiences!  It was sssoooo cool!  We boarded the submarine at the allotted time, and climbed down a hatch into the main chamber.  Here there were lots of benches on either side of the boat, facing a large circular window.  We picked a bench closest to the escape hatch, and sat back to admire the view.  The submarine drove off still surfaced (with no safety brief or anything!), and once we were clear of the harbour started to dive underwater.  I could feel the boat pitch forward, and we watched on a little TV screen the boat get swallowed up by the sea, surrounded by bubbles.  We could see right into the captain’s steering console, where he had a massive forward looking window and lots of perplexing switches and buttons.  My engineer’s eye notices lots of red lights and alarms, but like a true user the captain was ignoring them all!  Followed the seabed for a while, and then came to a wrecked fishing boat.  The submarine drove around the wreck, allowing people on both sides to get a look.  There were loads of fish around the wreck, and through the gloom we managed to spot a few we recognised.  We then drove around the wreck of a tug boat.  45 minutes later we were back at the dock side.  It was a great, and totally unusual experience. (and my first time in a dived submarine! J)



Yellow Submarine

Captain’s Console


To continue on the water theme we decided to go for a birthday kayak and explore some of the cliffs near the harbour.  There were lots of caves in the rocks, but the large onshore swell meant that we only went into the really big one.   We also found a small blowhole that looked inconspicuous at first, until a big wave filled it and then there was a mighty roar as it sprayed out all the water inside.  It was really hot while we were kayaking so we didn’t stay out too long.  However, we left the kayak out to dry in the evening then we had a huge rainfall that drenched everything!  A wet end to a perfect birthday!


Mogan Caves and Cliffs

Blow Hole Blowing off