Bob's gap years

Vessel Name: Ben More
07 April 2021 | Quinta do Loorde
30 March 2021 | Las Palmas
23 March 2021 | Arguineguin
16 March 2021 | Bar Ambigue (again)
10 March 2021 | Marina Gomera
02 March 2021 | Bar Ambigue
24 February 2021 | Cave Cuba
16 February 2021 | SUNNY COCKPIT
10 February 2021 | CAFE CUBA
03 February 2021 | HR39 S/S
25 January 2021 | BEN MORE
19 January 2021 | Ben More
13 January 2021 | BEN MORE
06 January 2021 | San Sebastián
29 December 2020
22 December 2020 | San Sebastian
15 December 2020
08 December 2020 | La Gomera
01 December 2020
24 November 2020
Recent Blog Posts
07 April 2021 | Quinta do Loorde

FAREWELL SPAIN

05/04/2021

30 March 2021 | Las Palmas

WHAT A WEEK

29/03/2021

23 March 2021 | Arguineguin

NO JOKES THIS WEEK!

22/03/2021

16 March 2021 | Bar Ambigue (again)

DUCKS

15/03/2021

10 March 2021 | Marina Gomera

PHOTO COMPETITION

08/03/2021

02 March 2021 | Bar Ambigue

ANOTHER BAD HAIR DAY

01/03/2021

FAREWELL SPAIN

07 April 2021 | Quinta do Loorde
Robert Coates | Very nice
05/04/2021

A good few days in Las Palmas. One evening Maria was contributing to a live Italian national news show as correspondent for the Canaries region. Much preparation and waiting for the studio to give her the thumbs up for video call. For a laugh we set up her kit in the cockpit with the red ensign in the background. It caused some interest from the other end! Damian and I had to crawl around on the cockpit floor to keep out of the way. The outboard was serviced, exit stamp from Spain obtained from the harbour office, tanks filled - 550 litres of water and PCR test taken. We left for the 300 mile sail to Madeira at 1910 on Saturday evening 03/04 two hours after getting the negative results from the PCR, 5 days before the strict time limit for the boat allowed in the Canaries expired but 3 days after the expiry of my Schengen limit. Legal issues in Spain were thus resolved when we were 12 miles out. While in Las Palmas I did not fly the red ensign to avoid any unnecessary advertisement that the boat was British. The police came to the marine regularly. The Portugese authorities look at the British much more favourably.
The weather en route was exactly as forecast. Reasonable breeze as far as the Ilhas Selvagens then going (unusually) light. For the latter half a lot of motoring was done as the wind was no more than 5 knots much of the time. We arrived off Funchal early Tuesday morning watching a beautiful sunrise over the Ilhas Desertas and straight to the marina. We were fortunate on the way to have some wonderful dolphin displays around the boat and especially one night when they were visible even when under water as they were surrounded by phosphorescence. A very rare and beautiful thing to see.
Next came Portugese legal issues. The SEF, Portugese immigration branch of the police, were notified and 2 plods came over from Funchal. We were berthed in Quinto do Lorde. They interviewed me for over 1 1/2 hours and were very sharp, but also fair and understood the complexities of boat rules as well as personal ones, including the difficulty of crew coming from the UK at present. They could not give me a passport entry stamp, now normal on EU arrival, but I have an official stamped document making my entry into Portugal official and giving me 90 days and I’m in the system so should be ok for the Azores. This document is the most valuable I have on board at present. If I have to be here for more than 90 days I will worry about it at the time although the plods understood that was possible. I also had made contact with an excellent Lawyer in Funchal before leaving Spain and who is on hand to help if needed.
So here we are. A Day in Funchal tomorrow and arrangements for Andre to join us from Porto (Portugal). Damian returns to La Gomera on Sunday. He has been a great help.
Today’s picture was taken late one evening on the seafront at Las Palmas. A wonderful promenade.
A more relaxed skipper out here after months with many concerns.
Beginning to believe I actually will get back and working on UK crew having justified reason of travel if the ban is extended.
Take care all. Miss everyone.
Robert

WHAT A WEEK

30 March 2021 | Las Palmas
Robert Coates | Nice
29/03/2021

After a day anchored at Arguineguin SW Gran Canaria we headed N to a lovely, totally remote anchorage a few miles north between high cliffs and at the head of a baranco with a stony beach. Sadly, despite swimming all around the boat, we didn’t manage to catch any sardines so had a meal from boat supplies (beans, bread, you know the style). Wanting to see an attractive town/harbour on return we stopped at Puerto de Morgan and went ashore to be greeted by the harbour authorities demanding we return to the boat for passports, papers etc due to new covid lockdown requirements. As it was getting quite windy and rough we were permitted 1 hour ashore only to get lifesaving supplies (coffee, pastries etc!) Afterwards we sailed the short distance back to Arguineguin.
Then a day of true drama. Woke up to a strong Westerly driving into the anchorage making the it pretty uncomfortable. Went ashore early for supplies and to use the library facilities and on return to the beach one yacht had broken its anchor chain and was heading for the rocks. We were unable to do anything to help (salvage claim!!) the sea front was full of people watching the drama. Eventually the lifeboat came to the rescue and towed the yacht backwards off the rocks. Obviously the hull was not holed as it didn’t sink! Ben More, the only yacht left rode the rough sea well but was a bit like a bucking bronco. On return to the boat the dinghy line snapped at a point of damage from the pontoon at P Mogan and started blowing to the beach about a 1/4 mile away. El Capitano stripped off, dived in, and swam for the dinghy. Sadly, despite getting close enough to almost touch it I was too tired to swim fast enough, so let the dinghy blow away and swam slowly to the beach after it. After a rest rowed back to the boat (hard work against the wind and waves) To escape the somewhat dodgy conditions we upped anchor and went a few miles East to a sheltered anchorage off Puerto de Pasito Blanco, an attractive marina and village development. Then the real drama of the day started!! After a quick trip ashore for a modest drink we returned after dark to the boat for our evening meal. While getting on the boat I failed to properly fix the dinghy and off it went again. Twice in one bloody day! (It’s only happened once before in my life) It was blowing toward the cliffs and rocks and could be seen in the moonlight. It was Damian’s time for heroics. While he was putting on my wetsuit Maria suggested getting the anchor up and getting close to the dinghy. We did this v quickly and went off in chase. When as close as possible to the dinghy in just over 3 metres of water (the boat has a draught of 2 metres) Damian dived off and went in chase. There’s was some risk to this due to the close proximity to the rocks. Maria kept the searchlight on the dinghy while I kept the boat in 3 metres plus of depth. Damian did a terrific job of catching the dinghy and swimming with it back to the boat. All turned out well and we returned to the anchorage for a very late meal. My thanks have to go to Damian for the rescue and to Maria for her calmness in action, despite being terribly worried for Damian’s safety, as I was. I cannot say how good and reassuring it was to have 2 people who acted with such positivity and absence of panic In very difficult circumstances. Thanks guys!
In the morning, Sun 28th March, we then had the most superb sail for the 40 miles to Las Palmas. The weather systems out here are quite fascinating, you can have light winds then near gale force in the space of a few miles with the effect of the mountains all over the place creating wind acceleration zones. We started with a strong SW wind dead astern and with a one reef main and jib tore along at 7-9 knots (for non sailors that’s pretty damn fast and exhilarating) however just north of the airport there was a short period of variable wind then it set in again from the NE, the absolute opposite direction. Waves were coming from two completely opposing directions. Extraordinary. We then had a fetch/beat to LP harbour and berthed at 1530 in time for a great meal ashore (restaurants now closing at 10pm)

Monday was a quiet day in LP, a nice contrast and had a good walk to look at the old town.

Today’s picture is of the lifeboat towing the disabled yacht, Ben More In the middle and a Guardia Civil patrol boat anchored offshore which in my state of paranoia I thought was keeping tabs on me.

Enjoy the better weather folks.
Cheers
Robert

NO JOKES THIS WEEK!

23 March 2021 | Arguineguin
Robert Coates | Pleasant
22/03/2021

Things hotted up with a bang this week. An island covid review last Friday put Tenerife, G Canaria and Fuerteventura into level 3 lockdown from midnight Sun 21/03. No one can enter or leave the islands after this date unless going to another country (+ usual exceptions). Before leaving Spanish waters I need a certificate of territorial departure from Tenerife or G Canaria. Chose to leave Sunday at 1 days notice for GC. Crew were ok with that - Damion, a Spanish Guardia Civil sergeant and Maria an Italian journalist. To do a nonstop 80 mile sail to the South of GC was borderline dangerous as strong gale forecasts were in force in most areas near GC for Sunday pm. We left La Gomera 1500 on Sunday in light winds arriving at an anchorage off Tenerife at dusk, and quickly took the red ensign down. Going ashore was out of the question in the circumstances so had a good meal on the boat and left at dawn on Monday (after the midnight curfew deadline had come into force!) The 55 mile sail to Puerto de Arguineguin , a pleasant small fishing harbour and relatively untouristy, was all you could wish for a day at sea. Initially a close then beam reach in strong but not gale force winds. The boat took the wind and large Atlantic swells beautifully although there was a lot of deck washing! (Waves over the bows). A fast and exhilarating sail and a great opportunity for Damian and Marie to get used to the boat. Wonderful to be at sea again. After anchoring and a good meal (made with my cheffy qualities) we had to get ashore fast before the evening curfew came into force for Maria to charge up some (fancy) equipment. So here we are, and over the next 2 weeks need to work up to Las Palmas (can be V hard against the trades) enjoying places en route as much as possible in the circumstances and leave Spain by the 8th April. I have reserved a berth at Quinta do Lorde Marina in Madeira. Just need to get there and sort out the legal situation on the way. Sounds like fun.

Leaving Gomera was strange. It has been home for 5 months and some good friends made. Had an afternoon farewell drink(s) session but otherwise a hell of a lot to do to get away.

Don’t like, but not surprised at the news that travel may not be allowed from the 18th May. If so a whole loada new problems. Another big round of contact with all needed to help me. Heyho!

Bit short of ideas for a photo this week so chose a smiling capitano with his new windgen. (Why isn’t it spinning?)

See you all sometime
Take care
Bob

DUCKS

16 March 2021 | Bar Ambigue (again)
Robert Coates | Very nice
15/03/2021

Months ago I explained that La Gomera was the island I wanted to visit most on my travels having been here for only a few hours many years ago before sailing to San Salvador in the Caribbean. I was enchanted by what I learned in that short time. Subsequently I learned that Caroline, who used to be in Dawlish, lived here. Great to have a contact especially as I have now been isolated here for over 4 months. She lives with her son Alejandro in Santiago and has established a great life and has helped me hugely. Ale is fascinated by the Titanic and has the most incredible knowledge of ships of that era.
So - well, for once it’s not me that has caused a drama but Caroline and I have to tell the story, it’s great and easily up to my standards. Caroline was out one night last week with her friend Rose, no doubt just having a bottle or two of wine. We have
Probably all done that occasionally. She returned home, well after midnight, with Rose and outside her apartment on the pavement was a DUCK. Ok, first there are no ducks in Gomera (or sheep, or cows etc) this must have been an escaped pet. Was a Muscovy duck and they are big and more the size of a goose (yum yum). Thinking like any sober people would they thought of catching it by throwing their coats over it, stuffing it in a cat box and phoning the Guardia Civil for help. At this stage Ale was advising from his balcony (best place to be ). Not so easy. The thing just kept quacking about in a huff but going nowhere. So Caroline ‘phones the G.C reporting a pato (Spanish for duck) in the street. Good old plod asked if there was a woman giving birth in the road. (childbirth in Spanish is parto. Sounds the same as duck when pissed!). Caroline could not persuade plod there was a duck rather than a childbirth in the street. After much skepticism from plod he radioed the local patrol to drop by and just hung up. It never arrived, Caroline went to bed and ducky eventually waddled off up the road.

My week’s been calm in comparison. The wind generator is up and running. I’ve had zero reply from the British embassy and Consulate in Portugal. Very disappointing. The best help has come from a firm of lawyers in Madeira, so far with no charge. I will be leaving Gomera during the next week for Tenerife with 3 others then continuing with Maria I to G Canaria aiming to get out of Spanish territorial waters by the 8th April when the Canaries time limit on the boat expires saving me having to go to the police for an extension request (not a quick process). The residencia lady, very efficient, wished me luck !
I won a pizza making competition (I was the judge, but fair), had a great lunch with several friends including Caroline and a friend of hers. Tomorrow I’m returning my Red Cross jacket and saying goodbye to the amazing and friendly staff there. Will be spending most of the time getting the boat ready for the ocean, including an underwater check of anodes, hull state, etc and transforming the boat from shore based to sea based mode, including restowing all gear. Sad thought leaving but great to look forward to some good sailing. The L Gomera chess Grand Masters championship final has not been decided yet but hope to complete by the end of the week.

Spirits seem to be better back home and hope blossoms with each day. Stay sensible ! stay safe. I look forward so much to returning and seeing everyone (in whatever form that is)

The picture today is of Caroline, Ale and Rose in Santiago where I spent a day this week.
Robert

PHOTO COMPETITION

10 March 2021 | Marina Gomera
Robert Coates | Nice
08/03/2021


A fair balance this week between formalities and enjoyment. Have heard back from Portugese immigration but difficult to establish next step! Have decided to leave the Canaries before the end of March which now means becoming au fait with yacht entry procedures in Madeira / Azores the details of which are amended regularly, are quite complex and very different for both islands (‘Q’ flag required in Azores. When did Any sailor last need one of these. Seems odd when they will swab crews anyway)

Had a great day with the Red Cross. Three of us drove to Vallehermoso, a road with stunning scenery to meet a lorry delivering three pallets of food for the needy. The goods had to be sorted into boxes tailor made for every individual family. Families came to the school to collect and help with some of the work. There was much appreciation. Wouldn’t have minded a box or two for myself. Then a relaxed lunch (small) and back. A good day. Yesterday I was asked to act as chauffeur to deliver a group somewhere. No one threatened to get out of the bus and walk so I must be getting used to driving big vehicles on the wrong side of the road.

Also helped an NGO with a plastics beach and storm drain clean. The results were horrifyingly impressive and the council have already reacted (in a rather small way) following strong entreaties from the NGO bossman. Probably to keep him quiet for a while. Afterwards all went for a beer. There were Spanish, Italian and French
Involved. All these lovely European friends then had a ‘let’s laugh at the English’ session. I’m so happy they all found it so funny. It was good natured and fun.

Have had a couple of good walks and an open sea swim. Had some chorros after one walk. They are very popular but make fatty chips look like the ultimate health food. Maria I was given a fresh caught bonito. (not a whole one) tried some raw. Surprised how good that was, and cooked the rest.

I have an appointment in the Residencia office in an hour so have to be a bit brief today (do I hear a great sigh of relief?)
Great news is that the wind generator has arrived and hope to have installed by the end of the week.

Today’s picture is called travel quiz. No doubt some people will have seen this place. Where is it? I will buy a small beer for the first correct answer given. I’m so bighearted.
Have a good week.
Rob

ANOTHER BAD HAIR DAY

02 March 2021 | Bar Ambigue
Robert Coates | Nice
01/03/2021

Tempus fugit and hair grows. Finally HAD to have a cut after Ali said I looked like a mad professor. Not many men’s salons here so went to the only one I could find opposite the Red Cross. Walked in and had bit of a shock. The three ‘stylists’ all had the sides and back of their heads shaved with spiky bits on top. At this point you must remember that I have an image to maintain, although I’m not quite sure what that is. While waiting I sneaked out to the street and put a few useful phrases on Google Translate - just a tidy up, not too much off etc. I refrained from any comments on their personal style. Sat down again. The only two magazines to take my mind off things were of motor bikes ✔️ and extreme tattoos ✖️. Some of their instruments looked more like garden tools. Anyway, survived and the guy was actually quite a nice bloke but the end result would not be my no 1 choice.

Maria has been anchored off Santiago and her daughter Simona and friend Jackomo were coming over from Milan so caught the 7am bus to help get her boat back to the marina here. It was a calm and sunny day so an uneventful but enjoyable motor along the coast. We were joined by a mad Italian, Roberto. Great bloke but boy, does he talk. Had a lovely cliff top walk later but ended up really cold (!) when the sun went down and a strong wind blew in our faces. The girls prepared a pasta something and brought it round to my boat (a bit more space on board) I did the antipasti and desserts.

Through a direct contact from Caroline I have been in touch with the British Consulate in Tenerife who acknowledged my situation was somewhat new to them and highly complex. I cannot say how relieved I am to feel the support they are giving. Departments here tend to be autonomous units with little or no liaison. I have to deal with three of them separately. Also it is agreed that approach must be made to the Portugese authorities in advance before I turn up in Madeira/Azores as an Illegal immigrant!! outside my 90 day Schengen allowance. Whatever happens I cannot leave for the final sail to the UK until flights start on 18th May + . It will resolve somehow and I’m still able to have a great time down here. C’est la vie. If all goes bums up I’ll give you the jail address for visits and food parcels. Thanks again to Caroline.

I have contact with a Spanish Guardia Civil officer who is mad keen to sail. I hope shortly to take him and a couple of French out for a sail. If he came with me to Portugal in full uniform and arms (the RPG variety) it might help solve the problems!

I’m looking forward to a good social week which is great. I have to keep a balance (important for an accountant)
In view of all the formal hassles here today’s picture is a very calming one taken on a recent walk.
Bestest to all and hig bugs as appropriate
Robert
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