Viva Las Palmas

Sun 27 Aug 2006 23:43
Hello again. What a difference in the mood. I am writing this from a steady
secure berth tied up alongside in the marina at Las Palmas Gran Canaria. Our
final night and day run were really good. We did our usual 3 hours about
except that I felt sorry for Sue on a 11 to 2 am shift. I went up early to
relieve her as I could see she was tired but determined to do her bit. The
wind was wandering around a bit so going up early paid off as I was able to
spend some time working the boat and trying to get the best out of the
situation. In the end I abandoned the course and settled for speed in
slightly the wrong direction. I was keen to squeeze as many miles as
possible out of every shift as I knew we were already hard pushed to arrive
at Las Palmas before dark. I will happily do a night approach if there is no
other choice but would rather avoid it if possible. We had an excellent
nights run and the distance to the waypoint off La Isleta, the northernmost
point of Gran Canaria, was down to double figures by first light. The wind
and sea had gone down considerably by the time the sun was well up, but we
were still romping along at 5 to 6 knots.
As the day wore on it became obvious that our original estimate was about
right, and that the eta of 7 or 8 was correct. One of the pilot books said
to look out for the volcano from about 60 miles off, so Alex had his cameras
at the ready for most of the day, only to be beaten by the mist. I had to
pull the team together for one last push as we were already going off the
boil and lolling around. So when the speed dropped to 4 knots, we altered
the sail plan again, and tried to squeeze a bit more out of poor old Thisbe.
She is starting to have a few problems, a funny noise I cant identify coming
from the boom, the end fitting on a pole falling apart, some electrical
problems eg. bilge pump not working, tri col winking on and off, the VHF 'no
position' warning keeps sounding, wind speed indicator not working. Small
stuff but all needing attention soon. At about eight miles off, the twin
humps of the volcano finally loomed up out of the murk, the first land we
had seen for six days, great excitement all round. A bit more fiddling with
the waypoints put us in the right direction, as it was difficult to identify
some of the features due to poor visability. What a busy place Las Palmas,
huge ships coming a going from every direction or just heaving up and down
at anchor in the still considerable swell. The breakwater is about two
kilometers long, and straddled with huge cranes for a lot of its length. It
all made us feel pretty insignificant and even a bit vulnerable, picking our
way through and getting detail from whatever charts and pilot books we had
to hand.
I radioed the harbour control, and after some initial language difficulties,
received directions from some pretty slick operators who certainly had
everything under control. We were directed to tie up alongside the Texaco
fueling dock just inside the marina. To say that we were euphoric would be a
major understatement. Jumping up and down like kids. We did a lot of kissin.
Don Pedro, the man who met us on the dock, had already been informed of our
arrival, so after we refuelled he directed us to a temporary berth for the
weekend. Another man was already waiting to help us moor up, bows to, to
fixed stern moorings. We were very impressed with the way they handle things
here considering the size of the operation. We had run the engine for a
total of 30 hours, mostly to charge the batteries, but always in gear. Total
mileage from Sines was 675 miles. Total time 130 hours. A good average of
about 5.2 Knots. After a shower and a quick tidy up we hit the town. This
place is very smart and we were enthralled, sitting outside in the warm
evening air and having a great time.We (the old uns) retired at 12.30. Alex
blagged his way into a very smart club, with flip flops on, despite the
security and about 150 others trying to get in, and danced till 5am.
Signing off now that this first stage is over, Thisbe will be here now till
transatlantc departure on the 26th November. Alex departs tomorrow (Monday)
on an early flight to Exeter. Sue has yet to sort out her flight but is
hoping to be here for most of the week. I will stay on for a couple of weeks
to bring the boat back up to scratch before flying back to the uk. My
thanks to all family and good friends for their interest and encouragement.
I have tried to be very honest and tell it exactly as it happened, as I said
at the very start, warts and all. I cant speak highly enough of my two
stalwart crew, they rose to every occasion with cheerfulness and
determination. I am very relieved that it all worked out ok. I intend to
carry on from where this ends when we set off on the next leg. Thanks again
everyone for your interest and the many supportive emails we have received.