Message Log Archive:
No 5: Time in the Canaries- November 3rd to December 4th 2005
29th October 1140
Left Caleta del Sebo on Graciousa at 0900ut and motoring down west side of Lanzarote to Marina Rubicon on the south coast (28deg 51.5N 013deg 49W). Expect arrive 1530ut. Little wind but long benign NW swell. Sunning ourselves. Nat trying to photo seabirds.
Received 11 November 2005
We spent four happy days in Caleta del Sebo on Graciosa (25 th -29 th) – the easy smooth contented happiness that seems to come after a significant passage. The marina there had very few facilities; no water or electricity and only one shower/toilet a ten min walk away, but it was cheap at four euros per night. It was full of a wide variety of different types of boats, including the sort of nailed together boats standing more as a testament to human courage than nautical engineering. During our stay we watched the sunset from a tiny bar on the quay, swam in the clear water of quiet beaches and one day walked the whole length of the island watching a massive Atlantic swell crash on the desolate coast.
On the 29 th October we motored into a light breeze south to Marina Rubicon on Lanzarote. Maggie and Anna (Mark’s mother and sister) were due to fly out to visit the next day and we spent the trip planning the week ahead. We had a great week together splitting our time between the boat and their smart chalet over the other side of town. We took the opportunity to do some exploring with Maggie and Anna. After a whistlestop tour of the island in the rain, we all enjoyed sampling the local wine and tapas at the delightful vineyard ‘El Chupadero’. We were all amazed at how anything could grow in the bleak, black volcanic landscape. See the guest entry.
On passage to the Canaries the prop shaft had made some strange noises and started to leak water. Short of a brief dive under the boat in the toxic marina on Graciosa I had successfully buried this problem deep in the darker recesses of my mind since our arrival. Shortly after Maggie and Anna departed on Sunday this problem burst into my consciousness and I began rushing around with a great sense of urgency but little if any sense of direction. “Errr….better start doing something”. Nigel Calder’s book was consulted and the leak quickly solved by a bit of routine maintenance on the stern gland, but a new and equally strange noise now emerged from the shaft. I became deeply worried that something was seriously amiss. Luckily the boatyard were very helpful and reasonably priced and on Tuesday the boat was lifted out of the water to reveal….a perfect and nearly new shaft and bearing. Still concerned I arranged for an engineer to come to inspect the prop shaft and listen to the faint squeak as this large nearly new piece of steel turned in the large nearly new bearing – he looked confused – what was the problem again, he asked.
I felt stupid very briefly before feeling relieved and happy. We used this opportunity to check the rest of the boat, repaint the bottom with slippery anti-foul and service two seacocks in the heads. Gleaming and clean on the outside but a mess of tools and materials inside, Free Spirit was relaunched on Wednesday ready for the long Atlantic crossing ahead.
Received 25 November 2005
Confused Seas, Hard Decisions and Truancy (11th to 24th Nov)
Although already running late for the ARC preparations in Las Palmas we delayed our departure from Rubicon ( Playa Blanca, Lanzarote) for some days more: the wind had strengthened to the point where walking around the marina became difficult and we were enjoying our time with Nick and Ellen from Kika. Eventually the wind eased and although we knew the conditions may be poor we were running out of time.
We set out into a big confused sea at dusk on Sun 13th Nov in company with Trond and Lesley on Coconut. The passage was no fun.Without a period of daylight to become accustomed to the movement we quickly felt the nausea and lethargy of seasickness. The wind was on the beam rather than behind us as expected and it varied wildly from 8 knots to 30 knots in the squalls necessitating frequent sail adjustments. Daylight brought Las Palmas. A port about as full of activity as any port would be with 225 boats preparing for an ocean crossing. We were berthed on the wall at the far SW of the marina with the largest of the yachts.
We enjoyed the reunions with yachts we met on the way, making new friends, the bustle of seminars and briefings, and the happy hours. One of the high points was meeting Kevin, a previous owner of the company that built our boat. He was wonderfully helpful and checked over our boat giving us advice. Less fun were the clubs and boat parties keeping us awake each night until 0430 while we tried to stock up on sleep in preparation for 3 weeks of night watches. As the start approached we booked into a hotel to get some sleep and clear our heads.
Foolishly we had not checked the weather all week, perhaps we felt under the caring wings of the ARC, so when on the day before departure we were shown the charts we both fell quiet. The whole room of 500 people fell quiet. Just where we expected a high pressure to give clockwise and favourable winds we saw a low pressure giving anti-clockwise and unfavourable winds. We left the briefing stunned and completed our preparation of the boat for departure the next day, working through until darkness.
On return to the hotel the subject of the weather came up again and we talked in hushed voices about delaying our departure; an act of great heresy and not easy to consider. We decided to start the ARC at the back of the fleet (like we had a choice!) and consider the weather and our options carefully while we sailed along. This time was the hardest, as Free Spirit sailed along well gaining on several yachts and we felt part of such a wonderful event. We turned the boat around after two hours feeling very quiet and sad but once again in control of our voyage. We had a deep feeling that the weather was not right for us; there was no evidence of trade winds, the sea temperature was above normal and in a year with the highest number of hurricanes on record we feared this unsettled weather could do almost anything.
Received 29th November 2005
Tropical Storm Delta has now gone through and we and Free Spirit are fine but just a bit tired. Damage in Tenerife where the finger pontoons in the marina broke off with 60 kt winds apparently. Kika was at that marina but is OK. Here the maximum for us was 35 kts.
On 3rd December Free Spirit moved from Las Palmas aiming to go to the island of La Gomera but diverted to Puerto Morgan on SW side of Gran Canaria following problems with Nav Lights.
On 4th December Free Spirit left the Canaries for the Atlantic crossing and the Caribbean - Good Sailing
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