Nazare to Santa Cruz
15 November 2010 | Santa Cruz, Tenerife
Nazare to Santa Cruz, Tenerife
After a couple of days I was ready to sail down to Cascais and so on Tuesday morning I paid the marina fee and checked out. However, as I left the office going back to the boat I had a sudden change of mind. I knew that there was a good bus service direct to Lisbon, similar to National Express. The marina in Nazare was much cheaper than Cascais and it would save me sailing the long 70 miles there. The distance is too long for a sail in daylight as it would take at least 14 hours and would be a tiring sail too. I liked Nazare and found that its marina nicely scruffy and not all shiny stainless steel and pretention.
So it was that a couple of days later I was up long before dawn and walked the 25 minutes to the bus station heading for Lisbon airport. The bus left at 0650 and arrived in the middle of rush hour. However, I had had a call from Mary saying that Kate's flight was delayed anyway due to the French air traffic controllers being on strike. I had a couple of hours to wait but I had a roll and a coffee and got my nose into a Yachting Monthly which I bought for a king's ransom in the bookstall.
Eventually Kate emerged from the arrivals hall complete with an enormous bag which weighed a ton. Most of this was equipment and bits for the boat that had been sent back to UK to be repaired. We got a taxi to the bus station and the driver was not at all amused as it was only a short journey and not into the city centre. I had a similar experience at Heathrow a number of years ago when I went to Uxbridge and not Knightsbridge and got earache from the driver all the way. I wonder if they do a course in wingeing and is it part of their final practical exam?
We just missed the next bus back to Nazare and had a five hour wait for the next one. Fortunately there is a left luggage office in the bus station so we deposited the bags there and caught the metro into the city. We had a pleasant afternoon wandering around and we discovered that it is a really nice city and definitely a place to go back to for a proper visit.
We got back to Nazare at 1930 and caught a taxi out to the marina. It was dark by this time so Kate didn't get much chance to see the area but was glad to get to the boat. The next morning we discovered that she had brought the rain from Wales with her which was to last for about four days along with a gale. I had not had any real rain since leaving home apart from a downpour overnight in La Coruna which had dried off by the morning.
We did manage to dodge the rain showers, which were heavy and walk into Nazare and the first evening went for a meal in one of the many restaurants in the town. It is a seaside town and in the summer it must be packed solid, judging by the amount of bars and restaurants there. There is a long beach in the bay and looked ideal in calmer conditions than when we saw it during the gale. The surf was pounding on the beach and sending up huge amounts of spray many feet into the air.
Back at the marina I unpacked all the stuff for the boat and as soon as the wind had died I went up the mast to fit the SeaMe, the active radar reflector. We used the electric windlass to hoist me up in the bosun's chair and Kate did really well considering that she hadn't done this before. I also fitted the control box for the autopilot which would save long boring hours at the wheel when on passage.
The marina is part of the fishing port in Nazare and a great deal of activity centres around the trawlers there. Next to the port offices is a mini-mart cum bar which is always crowded with fishermen having a sandwich, coffee or beer. I became something of a regular and the chap who ran the place treated me like his long lost brother whenever I went in for a cold one. The place was very lively and I could tell that there was much banter going on between the fishermen and my mate the owner.
Much to Kate's delight we found an ice cream shop on the beachfront which had dozens of different flavours so we had to go in to sample their wares. I had a modest two scoops but she went for the big time and had three (no idea where she put it all).
Eventually the storm blew itself out and we were ready to leave. Mike, the harbourmaster told us that there was a gale forecast to be over Madeira when we were due to be there. Therefore I decided to skip Madeira and go straight for Tenerife. The distance is about 750 miles and I anticipated it would take us about 7 days to reach there. So at 1330 on Wednesday 3 November we slipped from the fuelling jetty and set off on my longest sail of the trip so far. The swell at the harbour entrance was still quite high and steep but as we got a little way off shore this became more regular and not so steep. We were soon bowling along at 5 knots on a beam reach in bright sunshine. Our initial course led us out to the Islas da Berlenga about 20 miles away. We cleared this by nightfall and altered course slightly to the south west heading for the Canaries.
Next morning the wind became lighter and went round to the north. This meant that we were on a broad reach and the genoa was being masked by the mainsail making it flog at times and then snap suddenly as it filled with wind. I edged up further into wind to keep the sails quiet but of course this meant putting on extra miles - such is sailing. However, at least the autopilot was working so we didn't have to steer. The nights were long but clear with millions of stars to see. It was quite cold during the dark hours too so when on watch it meant quite a few layers of warm clothing. Fortunately it was dry so it was possible to wrap up in a sleeping bag so the watchkeeper could keep warm. I always made a flask of hot water before each watch so that I had plenty of hot drinks at hand.
The motion was quite jerky for the first few days and so Kate was not on top form although she did keep all her watches. We lived on snacks as neither of us felt like going through the difficult process of cooking. I kept most of the night watch and the second night out we had to cross a traffic separation some miles off Lisbon. This was like crossing the M4 during the morning rush hour so I had to be vigilant and alter course several times to avoid close encounters. Much to my disgust the SeaMe still didn't work and I was not impressed with it at all. We really could have done with it at that stage as there were a large number of ships about and we needed to be seen on their radar screens. I am convinced that so few officers of the watch actually look out of their bridge windows but rely purely on their radar plotters which warn them of any targets they pick up. That was proved crossing Biscay, much to my disgust. They don't think about small boats with low radar reflecting characteristics at all and assume that if they haven't had a warning from their radar that all is clear.
The wind dropped on our third day out to a light easterly breeze which dropped our speed down to about 2.5 knots. We motored for a couple of hours to charge the batteries as the wind generator didn't have enough wind to whizz it round fast enough and the solar panel wasn't making sufficient to keep up with the drain brought on by the autopilot. Still we were gradually closing Tenerife and the motion was now a lot easier. The long Atlantic swells were now with us and it was fascinating to watch a huge wall of water speed towards the boat and suddenly you were on top of it before sliding down into the trough again. Our appetites returned and we began to cook meals, which was a real boon.
On our fifth day I noticed that the batteries were completely flat and couldn't start the engine. Fortunately we had two big batteries forward which powered the windlass. Humping giant batteries about in a pitching and rolling boat is quite a feat of acrobatics but I managed it relatively easily and soon the engine was fired up and charging again. After some thought I realised that one of the batteries was actually duff and this was draining all the power from the other one in an attempt to charge itself. I isolated the bad battery and had no further trouble. I would have to buy a replacement in Tenerife - more expense!
On our last full day at sea we were visited by a huge school of dolphins who stayed with us for quite a long time. Despite having seen dolphins many times they still always bring pleasure as they put on their performances of speed and aquabatics with such ease and grace. The wind had gone to bed so we had to motor for the whole day or have another day at sea. With the destination so close it was too tempting not to use the engine.
That night Kate spotted the light house at the north end of Tenerife and soon we could see the loom of the city lights both from there and Gran Canaria off our port bow. While Kate got some shut eye we gradually closed the island and by dawn were only a few miles off. Then Kate came up and we sat there looking at the first land we'd seen for almost eight days. The morning sunshine lit up the rocky and mountainous landscape and we soon were able to discern individual houses and vehicles.
We entered the marina in Santa Cruz at 1000 and our long voyage was over. We were both desperate to dive into a shower and after completing the usual formalities got our wish. We both felt so much better to be clean and have fresh clothes on which were not caked in salt.
The marina here is big but the infrastructure isn't up to much. There is no fuel dock, no wi-fi and its seems like a building site where the owner has run out of money with it only half completed. But it has the advantage of being really close to the city centre so everything is within walking distance. The big shock was the amount of tax that we were charged here which is really eye watering. The island government know that they have got you in a cleft stick because everyone crossing the Atlantic has to stop here and they can skin you for whatever amount they like. For those of us on very limited budgets this is a big blow and I really feel that we have been ripped off.
Ashore things are good. There is an wonderful fruit, vegetable and meat market full of colour and life. We have found an excellent restaurant with wi-fi where we can sit outside under the shade of huge umbrellas and talk on Skype while having cold beer. One of the waiters has decided that I'm his amigo and always makes a fuss of us when we go there.
Mary is flying out tomorrow to join us at last and I'll be very pleased to see her. The only thing is that I have no idea where her two huge bags of stuff that she is bringing out will go as the boat is full. However, she is very adept at packing and so will find spaces in lockers and I'm sure that it will all disappear in short order. Then we hope to get a couple of days to do the tourist bit and have a look at some of the island.
Incidentally on Saturday there were five humungous cruise ships in and the place was swamped by white legged groups of humanity all trying to spend as much money as possible. You have never seen so many coaches and taxis in all you life waiting to pick them up and take them to the tourist traps.
We are planning to visit Gomera and possible Hierro too before the big one so I hope to report from there. If not then I should be able to post something before we tackle the Pond.