28:57.6N 13:32.4W Curate's egg second half of voyage
35:08.77N 09:42.19W 9th October 7.30am Day 4 Calm to near gale.
“Space station up, moon up, you up honey.” Was Rob’s gentle rallying call and you will see we have changed our watch routine a little to fit in with nearly twelve hours of darkness. To come on watch at 3.00am and have five and a half hours of solitary darkness is something the single-hander accepts but is not really necessary in our situation. Besides four and a half hours kip is as much as we normally get straight off when we are not on a watch system.
Our clear and constant winds were dying and we had to start the engine to prevent chafe on the gear from wallowing, the start of a total of 33 engine hours during the second half of the voyage. We also decided that we need more in the way of solar panels as the mainsail often puts our 32 watt one in the shade. We played about rigging it up at different angles to catch the sun and this made a big difference to its output. So we plan to cover the stern coach roof deck and cupboard lids with panels that will be behind and clear of the mainsail for most of the time.
50 miles later a light breeze came along and Rupert ( the engine) was turned off having charged the batteries to 100% and given us tons of piping hot water. I started preparing supper, opened a tin of sardines for me and a packet of sausages for Rob when the fishing line started whirring out from the stern. “Sod’s Law,” I said “Five minutes earlier and I wouldn’t have opened tin or packet!”
Rob reeled hard and I watched, landing net at the ready and I couldn’t believe the beauty of the fish that fought for its freedom. The dolphin fish is a beautiful, almost florescent lime/yellow colour with a long spiky fin along its back and big black eyes. It is slimmer than the bonito so would do us just 1 fillet each. Rob’s task is to catch and despatch and mine to fillet (which I do on the after deck, straightaway) and skillet, so into the fridge and we would eat it for tomorrow’s supper. I am beginning to associate the smell of Malibu (which we pour into the gills to bring on an early demise) with a fish supper!
We had not yet entered the final waypoint on the chart plotter as we felt it was a big number to watch slowly decreasing and it might detract from enjoying the journey on a day by day and night by night basis, but as we were now over half way along in it went and the countdown began.
Also we had not started thinking about our choices of arrival either, Graciosa or Lanzarote, anchor or marina?
I was sitting admiring the view from the cockpit, something we never tire of, when Rob called me in a scary, worried tone. On the laptop screen an angry red Catherine wheel of wind arrows showed a massive area of low pressure heading in a NE direction just to the west of us. We were in for a blow. We are so lucky to have this weather viewing facility and being given time to prepare.
The barometer was falling slowly but the sky showed no signs of a blow so we continued as normal under full rig to make as much progress as possible accepting either one of us could be disturbed to help with a reef.
Day 5 Why do things so often happen at night!
Sure enough just after Rob had gone down for a kip at 3.00 am I had to call him for two reasons, I to reef and also lend brains to an odd shipping situation. At almost the same time as the gales we had in Biscay last year, Zoonie had to deal with winds up to 30 knots on her beam in a lumpy sea. At least we were making some progress without the engine!
Soon Neptune’s orchestra was playing; kettle drums on the foredeck when hissing waves made Zoonie roll causing the genoa to lose its wind and then bang as it filled again, tin whistles on the side-decks as the wind whistled through the rigging and on the leeward side the double bass was busy tuning up a few metres from us. Eventually Rob got his sleep and this time I did leave him till he woke before I went for a wash.
Not easy in that seaway, my ankles became universal joints, I wedged myself knee on cupboard door and back against the wall one hand for me and one for the boat, but what then do I wash with!
Well the first near gale of our circumnavigation started to ease at midday and 400 miles from Cadiz and away from the European mainland we really felt we were on our way.
Day 6 Burning Ring of Fire
Johnny Cash was singing this song appropriately as the sun peeped over the horizon and we noticed a pretty yellow wagtail walking around the foredeck. A little later a robin sized and shaped bird was more curious and at one stage came inside the sprayhood to perch on the jamming cleats. His back was light brown, shoulders yellow and tummy pure white. How illogical of me, thinking we needed books on seabirds I had packed all our landbird books. I’ll have to Google him later.
We now had the dilemma of planning our arrival time as it is not wise to enter the Canaries area in the dark. In retrospect we could have hove to and manipulated the remaining hours in that way but we chose to motor in the absence of wind.
The nights were amazing, the stars so bright that we could just make out the horizon all night long. The moon was in view just above the horizon for a short time and the space station appeared around 5.00am each morning and was unbelievably bright for such a small object, it even sent a pathway of light across the water to us.
However, on this night we encountered squalls. One in particular to the west of us was approaching during my watch. It was so black that it had the appearance of pushing the horizon down into the water in a threatening long curve. It hadn’t arrived by the time Rob came on watch but we reefed anyway in readiness.
Well I was just off into one of my lucid dreams, this one about sewing an evening gown for the Queen on my 1896 Singer when Zoonie lurched and Rob called “Barbs can you give me a hand?”
As I shot, semi-naked up the companionway steps I clearly remember thinking ‘We have a Tony Blair situation, too much power in the wrong place!” I leaped right and let go the genoa sheet. That’s where there was too much power and it was preventing Rob from bringing Zoonie back around since the wind, yep you guessed it, had got the wrong side of the mainsail forcing a gybe, despite the preventer being on. The mainsail was not out far enough to make the preventer really effective. I fired up the engine, more for moral support than anything else and Rob was able to ease her back onto course.
Day 7 Land Ahoy
For the first time on this trip we were able to fly the chute for a morning of blissful progress and in that time the distant volcanic peaks of Graciosa, Lanzarote and Fuertaventura came into view while still 30 miles away.
We studied the pilot and the writings on the reverse of the Imray chart and noted an anchorage on route on the south east tip of Graciosa. Although in a marine park for which we needed permission to anchor, we decided to risk it. I then read that we would need to do a bahamian moor with two anchor out of the same roller but dropped in opposite direction to eachother. We’ve never done that before. Apparently the flood tide heading NE over-rides the SW going current in the waterway between Lanzarote and Graciosa to the north which causes a confused sea likely to drag an anchored vessel off its hook. Added to that the holding is thin sand over rock. Oh boy.
Arrecife was another 23 miles away and we would not make it before dark. We considered sailing east for a few hours until it became light but the draw of stopping was too great and tentatively we made our way into what looked like a Scottish loch complete with volcanic cliffs on the Lanzarote side rising to 480metres and sloping elegantly with erosion dust down to the water’s edge.
It was six in the evening and humpbacks were fishing with dolphins and seabirds to our left. The passageway between the islands is a favoured migratory route for these whales. Wearing our polaroid glasses it was easy to see the sandy patches amongst the rocky bottom in the crystal clear water.
Down went the hook after 676 miles and out came the vino blanco for a celebration drink.
The elements were kind to us as the light NW wind was the other side of the island and this meant the current was not strong, currents being driven by wind direction. Rob set the anchor alarm and we settled on the cockpit cushions to soak up the beautiful surroundings.
On the shore a tiny settlement of white single storey houses with pastel painted doors set amidst palms looked like an exclusive holiday village, accessible only by four by four vehicles and boats. It was called Punta Barba. Much of the land was sandy with cushions of dune grass all over and evidence of ancient dwellings made of stones nestled in the sheltered lee of the slopes of the volcanic hills. The driver of a Guardia Landrover paid only passing interest in us so we thought we’d get away with being there.
Ferries operated between the islands into the night and resumed early the next morning.
We slept in the saloon ready for action if the alarm should go off. Both of us woke ever few hours and checked our transits and our position on the plotter. Bless her, Zoonie did not budge, she even faced the shore all night.
Day 8 Punta Barba to Burger King!
Rob commented that the anchor was barely buried when he retrieved it, so the pilot book was right, just thin sand over rock. We had been very lucky but we had also been ready, reducing the risk of dragging and causing any harm.
Another bonito was brought aboard as we made our way in heavy rain towards Arrecife. The marina staff spoke perfect English (and German) and a marinero helped us into the innermost berth right next to the marina wall and under the famous fast food outlet. If we paid in advance to moor in this smart well provided marina we would get a 20% discount plus a reduction for CA membership. “It’s a no brainer!” Rob said. The cost 20 euros a night, about £14. My jaw dropped in delighted surprise, we had been charged nearly double that at the southern Spanish marinas and Figuera da Foz!