With last minute preparations being ticked off the list with the help of Alan and Chloe at a rate of knots, and the food provisioning done, on Saturday 15th January 1pm, we finally left Puerto Calero after nearly 4 weeks. We had loved Lanzarote - it was great to meet people, and Lochy was especially sad to leave Kieran after having such a great play mate for three weeks.
Chloe's mum and dad were there to wave goodbye and as soon as we left the marina, we were reminded rather rudely of a couple of things we hadn't tied down as the swell was fairly lively. The first couple of days have mostly consisted of everyone finding their sea legs - Mia and Chloe are still to locate them, but they've booked them for tomorrow. We had a lovely few hours of spinny flying when the wind dropped, but then a reef in the main as we came through the islands. Now, no land in sight, but the sun is setting in the right direction and it's a beautiful sunset at that.
Crossing the Med with Phil was fun. We all got enough sleep and we felt we could have kept going. Coming down from Gibraltar was knackering, with just Mark and I on night watch - it was like having a baby again. And there's a reason we stopped at two. So, it made sense to put the feelers out re taking on crew for our next leg. Mark and I enjoy other people's company so I mentioned on Facebook that we needed crew - with nearly 200 "friends" surely someone would take us up on this once in a life time opportunity. Nada. Actually, the excuses were coming in thick and fast "I'd love to but I have the kids to think about" (well, OK that was pretty legit!) I appreciated Claire's honesty "Cath, I hate sailing - I'd vom the entire trip." So, a quick ad in a couple of sailing websites and we were inundated with replies. Mark and I had very different specs re what qualified for good crew. I won't elaborate, but we decided if we were going to take one extra, we might as well take two. So, we decided on a mixture of a more mature (more quips to follow as I get to know Alan better!) sailor who is making sailing his profession. And a 23 year old Russian backpacker who was already in Gran Canaria so would easily be able to pop over to meet us. Alan arrived, following a 48 hour trip from Yemen. 4 days after she said she'd be here we still haven't heard from Svetlana. Then an email "oh, I looked for a boat to Lanzarote, but guess what, I found one to Cape Verde!! I hope I haven't let you down yada yada yada." We were actually fine about it because the rigger here had said his daughter would like to come and we were sad to have had to turn her down. So, our new crew are now Alan and Chloe. Chloe is 20 and hasn't really ever sailed, so this trip is going to be an adventure for us all. Oh, I forgot to mention, we met the rigger when he did a rig check for us and then installed a new rig because our rig failed the check. Ouch.
So, we are supposed to be leaving tomorrow, but whether it's tomorrow or Saturday, it doesn't really matter - we still have a heap of things to do before we go as always. I will try to update the blog via SSB radio and Mark's mum as we go but if it doesn't work, then I'll write again in 3-4 weeks when we are in Antigua, pina colada in hand!!
There are worse places to spend New Year and Christmas. It's been a good one this year, though very different. We were so happy that my mum was finally able to come out after 24 hours delay and a hotel stay in Gatwick. One less day with us, but we packed as much in as possible whilst she was here, hiring a car and visiting volcanoes, camels, entertaining (but what would Durrell say?!) parrot shows! The weather is about 24 degrees; Puerto Calero is a very touristy spot with lots of people coming up to ask us about our trip.
Christmas was lego-tastic. Santa obviously knew about Mia and Lochy's star wars craze as he bought plenty for them to get on with. Most of it is already done, but it can always be re-done!
Another highlight of Lochy and Mia's stay in Lanzarote was that Kieran from Jersey arrived with his mum and dad to live in Lanzarote and we have all made the most of our time together before we cross the pond. New Year in Puerto Calero was a kareoke extravaganza with Nicola stealing the mike for most of the evening and Mark's birthday was spent walking along the coast - just like the cliff paths at home. Only volcanic.
New Years resolutions? To write more regularly in the blog! Watch this space! Oh, and a very Happy New Year xxx
You can probably tell how much I have settled in to a place by the presence or absence of blogs and I had settled into Gibraltar so didn't really think about writing. Hence the dearth of blogs for a month and a sudden frenzy of catching up.
We left Gibraltar on 12 December with what seemed a good weather window. A little light on the wind front but it was no bad thing motoring out of the bay and across the strait. Actually, the strait was a lot less scary by day, in the sunshine. And very quiet too. Obviously all the tankers had saved themselves up for our arrival.
The wind came out for about three days and we made good progress down towards the Canaries - Lochy caught another tuna, Mia gutted it - that's my girl!!
On the night of 14th December, there is an unbelievable show of shooting stars - it is literally raining with them. Every 10 seconds you could see 1 or even 2 at a time. Mark's Focus magazine tells us that it is debris from the astroid Phaethon - which we had naturally thought all along (in fact Lochy commented "Mummy, isn't that debris from the astroid Phaethon?") but it was nice to be confirmed!
On the Thursday, the wind died right down and we had to motor again, however we worked out that we would arrive at night, so we slowed right down, even turning round to follow a turtle for a few minutes. We also threw another fender overboard and this time got the kids to manouvre the boat to retrieve it.
In hindsite, it would have been better to have caned it down as fast as we could, even if that meant arriving after sunset as the winds came round onto our nose and picked up to 30 knots. The narrative in our log book read "lumpy" and "choppy" and "YUK YUK YUK" which pretty much described the last 12 hours of the trip. However, once again, the kids slept right through, Mia waking up at 9.30am to say "have we arrived, then?"
This was the first trip that no one felt sick - Mia was bouncing around the boat from the whole trip and we managed to do lots of school work - mental stuff like timestables, spellings etc, so that we can have a break when Grandma arrives.
I can see on the internet that my mum has made it to the the UK - Jersey airport having been closed all day yesterday, that's a huge relief - and we are really looking forward to her arrival tomorrow - so, please don't snow in the UK tonight - I really want to see my Mummy!
Speak soon, love Catherine x
Gibraltar reminds me of Jersey - but whereas we affectionately refer to Jersey as the Rock - I think we're going to have to have a rethink on that name - the rock that looms over us is immense and we have learnt by visiting the museum over 200 million years old. It is definitely more rockish than Jersey. But, like Jersey, it doesn't take long before you are bumping into people you know in the supermarket, giving the place a strong sense of community and claustrophobia at the same time. The difference is if you want to get off Gibraltar you don't have to spend over £100 on a flight - you can just hop over the border to Spain. Of course there are other differences. Although it's cold enough for us to buy a heater, when the sun is out the temperature was still about 21 degrees. They drive on the right. And Spain still wants the end of their country back. I think the French gave up on us a long time ago! There are also apes at the top of the rock - and we enjoyed a trip up in the cable cars to see them - very cute!
We were made to feel really welcome by Heidi, David and Milly who lived within spitting distance of our boat. I am so grateful to Heidi and David for giving me a lift over to Spain so I could do some Santa shopping without the kids, cooking us a meal, taking us to Morrisons, looking after the kids so we could get on with some boat jobs, amongst other things. I was also delighted to bump into Julie, a fellow Speech therapy student from over 15 years ago who I bumped into in Morrisons and who also had us over for a meal.
So, our overall impression of Gibraltar was of the wonderful hospitality. Thank you everyone. We were quite sad to leave!
You travel all around the world (or in our case only across the med so far) to experience new tastes and cultures but there's something strangely reassuring about being back on British soil for a little while, with British supermarkets and X factor. OK, so we've not been missing X factor but at least I know who everyone is talking about on Facebook now on a Saturday evening! So, our trip to Gibraltar. We reckon it will take us about 23 hours to get there (give or take), so if we leave at 11am, we would be negotiating the bay and all it's traffic during the day. What we didn't account for was the speed at which Pegasus travels with the wind on her back (I told you it was a steep learning curve!) and we keep reducing sail as much as we can but our speed over ground is still 8 knots with all our reefs in and a handkerchief for a headsail.
"Hmmm. At this rate, we'll be in Gibraltar at 4 in the morning" I joke. Not funny. We do literally fly all the way to Gibraltar and the AIS (equipment that tells us where all the big boats are) is looking busy. As it is 4 in the morning, there is what can only be described as a "car park" of tankers just outside the bay - possibly 12 or so just milling around, waiting for opening hours in the bay. Mark and I are both up from 2am on look out. It is pouring with rain - and it's really difficult to see anything. Apparently Gibraltar rock is unmistakeable, even at night. We can't see anything, except the lighthouse on the end - always a bonus. As we turn into the bay, the wind picks up, rather than sheltering us as we hoped, and the rain is sideways. We are both soaked through - literally - whilst the kids are toasty and warm inside - as we negotiate the traffic inside the bay - HUGE tankers loom over us. There are so many red, green and white lights around that I don't know how on earth we are going to find the marina. And then we see Morrisons - big yellow letters welcome us - and then I know where we are! We head back down a little and find the entrance to the marina. It is now 7.30 in the morning and the marina doesn't open for another hour. Lochy wakes up to see all the big ships and Mia sleeps through it all until we are nicely moored up inside the marina - 13 hours of sleep!
We are parked at the bottom of the big rock, apparently. We haven't seen the top yet, but hopefully, later this week, we will be able to go up in the cable car and visit the apes. Mia and Lochy met a new friend who took them bowling on Sunday whilst we attempted to dry out the boat and caught up on our laundry. I'll write more about Gibraltar later this week - That's enough for the time being!