Up anchor and I’m at the helm again, it is 0800 and we’re headed for the fuel dock in Las Palmas marina. “Do you want your boat back skipper?” I ask on the way in to the marina. “Erm….. no, it’s alright….. can you just drive us on to the fuel dock?” FFS… I think and then, yep ok, I’ll put the boat in there for you. Once on the dock I rig a bow line to slip, extra fenders up fo’red and we’re all set to get off the dock nice and easy. This time he helms and I talk him through what he needs to do. “Ahead slow on the outside engine, let the stern come out, neutral, slip, both engines astern GENTLY!!” And we are off the berth with no drama and this time we really are off out into the ocean, fifteen years of waiting and that moment is here….
My next mission is to get the instruments set up to show something useful, like true wind speed and direction and I have to spend a little time explaining to my shipmates why apparent wind is an irrelevant number when sailing dead downwind, and why in 8 – 10 knots true breeze our apparent wind is reading 2 knots. Plus we need to record true wind readings in the logbook if we are to have a chance of monitoring changing weather patterns as we cross the ocean. For the none sailors amongst you, if you are on a bicycle and there is no wind, as you start pedalling you feel a breeze on your face, this is your apparent wind, the wind you generate in relation to yourself as you move forward. Now imagine you are on a bicycle with a good stiff breeze at your back (say 25 mph) you start pedalling forward at 10 mph, do you feel the wind on your face or do you still feel the wind on your back? Of course you feel it on your back because it is travelling past you at a faster rate than you can pedal. The same principle applies to a boat sailing dead downwind, you cannot exceed the true wind speed (at least not with our sail area displacement ratio), so the apparent wind you create by moving forwards is tiny. And now you are already ahead of my shipmates.
It seems to take forever to lose sight of Gran Canaria and get out into the real open ocean. It is lovely out here, blue blue sea, nice rolling waves. I start the trip as I mean to go on, plotting our position on visual fixes from the land and then on to dead reckoning, then the sun and stars…