“Some days you’re the driver”

We left the dock at around midday Saturday 28 October to sail the 80 miles to Las Palmas, Gran Canaria.  Getting the boat out of the berth at Fuerteventura was not exactly pretty, our skipper being a monohull man hasn’t quite mastered the finer points of two engines yet, nor will we mention the dockline.  But we are away, heading toward the big blue ocean.

. As soon as we were out of the harbour I was put on the helm while he hoisted the sails.  We had a bag of carrier bags on the aft deck which blew over the side, I’d spotted them go, so instantly put the crew into a man-overboard drill and got the bags back on board, first time, first attempt, nice little boat-handling and crew drill complete all within 10 minutes of leaving, things are good.  

  It would be a long old sail to Gran Canaria, we don’t have a spinnaker (but we do have a washing machine!) so in around 12 knots true breeze we are making a painful 4 knots through the water, 5.7 SOG makes it more acceptable.  

  Next we need to address the sail set if we are going to stand any chance of sailing somewhere like downwind.  There is no whisker pole either and the shrouds are swept quite far back, so 150 apparent wind angle is the most comfy at the moment, it could be a long trip on the ocean sailing zigzags!  We get the jib set up with additional blocks to run to the cleats amidships on the side deck, as with it tracked on the coach roof this sail is never going to set.  We have a better sheeting angle now, but sailing deep is going to be slow a painful.  

  Now… the fully battened mainsail…. The top is squared off and the leech is massive and open, while the boom is tracked down the sail is still sheeted in, so of course it looks like a bag of shite, no vang or kicker on these hotel cruisers either.  So the top is out and touching the spreaders while the boom is still in, I gently persuaded my shipmates to let the boom out a bit, then some more, then a bit more and aaaaaaaahhhhhhhh, that is better, we look like we’re sailing efficiently and the boatspeed reflects that.  I would be surprised if we averaged more than 8 knots across the pond (I hope I’m wrong), as my friend commented “that’s like taking a trawler across the Atlantic!”.  At least I will have plenty of time to figure this astro nav stuff out.

  It is brilliant to be back on the ocean in the sunshine and sailing downwind for the first time this year I think.  I’d forgotten how blue the sea is down here, so incredibly blue, superb!  I decide 6 – 8 knots would be quite acceptable, no need to rush really, it is great out here and the climate is most acceptable.

  We settle into ship routine with night watches starting after dinner.  We’re on a four and four rotation at night with two people on watch at all times, watches overlap so you’re with one person for two hours, then the next person for two hours.  It worked fine overnight, but chasing four and four through each day for three weeks could be tricky.  

  I’ve come up with a new watch system giving everyone 3 hours on watch alone through the 12 hours of daylight, then into the two-up, four and four pattern overnight, so there is now plenty of rest opportunity during the day, thank goodness!  The plan is approved.

  I had the first night watch (1800 – 2200) and the 0200 – 0600 shift.  I tried to set my alarm for 0145, but I couldn’t fathom why this was proving impossible on my phone.   “Of course!” It dawns on me…the clocks change tonight, which has really confused things, I now have UT, ship time, local time and our celestial time based on our longitude (which is now the same as local time, but until 2am it wasn’t), no wonder I can’t set my alarm.  Luckily the sound of the engines firing up at 0145 served as my cue to get up.  We are now going upwind – hence the engine – how bloomin’ civilised! No wonder people find “sailing” enjoyable 🙂

  Arriving at Las Palmas at 0430 was interesting, almost impossible to pick out anything against the backdrop of lights.  The radar picture looked like it does at the Chickens on 1st November, except these boats are ships.  Las Palmas is a busy container port, with all manner of shipping going on, tankers, containers, coasters, drilling platforms, tugs, we got it all here.  We did not have a berth booked in Las Palmas and the skipper had elected to anchor in a small bay to the north of the main port.  Our navigation circumstances weren’t ideal giving the lack of equipment (pilotage notes) on board at this time, so we ended up just holding off the coast waiting for a hint of light to give the confidence to go into the intended anchorage.  Happily I’d done my 2 – 4 watch and was now on snooze on deck (standby) until 0600 and it didn’t make the blindest bit of difference to me whether we were anchored or driving round in circles, I was happy dozing away under the stars.

  Which brings us up to this morning, safely anchored everyone had sleepy time this morning (hence my designing a new watch system with more rest – everyone was already knackered from one night of four on four off shifts).  Our skipper took the tender into the marina, he’d been gone about three hours and reckoned it had taken him an hour to get back in the tender! However, he had found us a spot to anchor just outside (literally just outside) Las Palmas marina.  We opt to move the boat and once again I’ve been given the helm.  The anchor had snagged in the rocks a little, but with a bit of persuasion, a spin of the boat and some engine power we popped her free motored round the corner.  It was a massive eye opener to actually see what the radar was showing last night – oh my word there are some boats and ships here!  I’m glad we didn’t attempt getting in here in the dark last night with no guidebook.

  Now we have just finished a Sunday roast and I have been through the boat doing another safety check and adding more to the shopping list for the chandlery tomorrow.  Once all items on that list are sourced I am happy that we are all set and ready to go.  All being well, we’ll be on our way across the ocean by tomorrow afternoon.,

  The plan is to head to Antigua ultimately, but there is the option of stopping at different Islands in the Caribbean and then island hopping up to Antigua – it all depends where the wind decides to take us.  There isn’t much breeze forecast for our latitude for the rest of this week, but from next weekend the trades seem to be starting to fill further south, so that is the way we’ll be heading.  We are not intending on stopping in the Cape Verde, however if for any reason we need to, it is an option (roughly 6 days sail from here).  Ideally we’ll head down to around 20N and then head west, but we shall see what the journey brings.  So a good trip across the pond for us would be 16 days I reckon, 20 perhaps, 25 would be bad – we have enough food and water for that, but I really don’t like the look of the tinned ravioli, so let’s hope for less than 20 days.

  At this point I am satisfied the boat and crew are ready and I am looking forward to adventure.  I’m currently sat on the beach in Las Palmas, there are thousands of boats in the marina here, it really is a sight to behold and nice to know that we’re not going to be too much alone out there.

 

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