The last post, for a while anyway, as we are flying back to Bristol tomorrow for five weeks. I’m looking forward to seeing family and friends again. As for what we’ve been up to since the previous post…..
Wednesday 23rd September to Monday 5th October
We left Morocco just under two weeks ago for the three day sail to Lanzarote. The first 24 hours was not pleasant sailing with a nasty swell from the Atlantic causing Vega to roll. The wind was almost directly behind us, which makes sailing more difficult. We rigged up the preventer, a line which runs from the boom to the front of the boat and holds the boom in position so that the boat can’t do an uncontrolled gybe, which is when the wind catches the sail and the boom suddenly and violently swings from one side of the boat to the other with a mighty crash. Not pleasant.
The first night I became extremely fearful, imagining what would happen if Hugh fell overboard whilst going forward to change the position of the preventer in the dark, and I couldn’t find him. I couldn’t sleep when it was my turn off watch. The rocking of the boat and the noises of banging of loose rigging, plates rattling in cupboards and the water slapping against the hull all adding to my anxious state of mind. Cargo ships were passing in the night, some within half a mile. It seemed a long night.
Dawn came with pink streaks of cloud in the sky, and I finally slept until noon. The swell was not so uncomfortable, the wind increased to a steady force 5, the sun broke through and it became more enjoyable. I called up a cargo ship that was coming rather too near, on the VHF and had a friendly response. On my watch that night I took the helm at midnight with a bright moon lighting the sea, listening to music on the iPod, and it felt rather magical.
We were happily sailing along 48 hours into our trip, 210 miles from Morocco, 100 miles from the nearest land and 120 miles to go, with just the reefed mainsail, doing 6 knots in 25 knots of wind when the wind dropped. We idly wondered about the options: continue as we were, try just the genoa (ie the foresail), or get out the pole and goose wing with both sails. Whilst we were considering this, on the far horizon behind us the sail of another yacht appeared and they were slowly gaining. This called for immediate action. You will have read Hugh’s edifying blog on The Pole and this is what had to be erected. Half an hour later, goose winging with a sail out on either side of the boat, our speed had increased from 5 to 5.8 knots. We watched as the other yacht gradually changed course to sail away from us to the east and vanished from sight.
After 35 hours at sea I saw land at last, 11 nautical miles away on the port bow, the first sight of Lanzarote. I felt like the ancient mariners must have felt sighting land after weeks at sea. Perhaps I exaggerate, anyway the romantic effect was spoilt by a bleep from my mobile phone, with Orange welcoming me to Spain.
The Isla Graciosa, north of the main island of Lanzarote, was a joy. Simple, unsophisticated and very relaxing. I had always rather dismissed the Canaries as a place to holiday until we visited the La Gomera a few years ago. The scenery here is stunning, volcanic, barren, stark with clear blue seas and non stop sunshine. We berthed for two nights in the marina on Isla Graciosa, by a small village with some good restaurants, then had a night at anchor. We had a long walk around the island and swam from the rocks in a bay surrounded by unusual overhanging ochre cliffs.
Then on to the south of Lanzarote and the marina Rubicon where we are leaving Vega whilst we are away. We have visited the laundrette several times, found the supermarket, eaten out a few times, swam in the swimming pool. And caught up with lots of jobs on the boat, clearing out lockers, arranging with the yard in the marina to get Vega lifted out of the water to have the hull checked and cleaned, and the water maker we bought in the UK fitted. And I was made to go up the mast to check for a fraying halyard. a bit scary.
We will be returning on November 10th and then south. Longer sails this time. Seven days to West Africa where we plan to visit Senegal and The Gambia, where you can sail far inland up several rivers. My son Alex will be joining us there and doing some fishing (so far we’ve been too lazy to try and also discouraged by friends’ reports of no catches). Then three days sail to Cape Verde and after this across the Atlantic to Antigua. For the Atlantic crossing Steve will be coming along so it will be great to have his company and sailing skills for the longest passage so far of around 2500 miles, that’s about 20 days sailing. Also to get more sleep as we share watches, and it may stop Hugh and I killing each other ;-).