Menora to the Canaries
01 November 2013 | Canaries
Jane, windy although sun is now out
We are currently at anchor off the south west corner of Graciosa Island, a delightful spot just north of Lanzarote in the Canaries. Graciosa is a small, flat and sandy marine park with four low volcanic cones with no made up roads. A forty minute walk yesterday afternoon took us to the little harbour of Sociedad. There was not much there, more like a ghost town, but we did manage to get some fresh bread and a cold beer overlooking the fishing harbour.
Seems like a lifetime ago that we were in Menorca, but as that was where I finished our last blog, it seems only fitting that I start off from there. We love Menorca and enjoyed revisiting Mahon and Ciudadela the two main towns, both of which have a lot of character. In between we went to Biniparraitz (bit rolly, cala would have been better), Cala Covas our favorite with lots of tombs and hikes, and Cala Saura. We were with our friends on Van Kedisi most of the time and enjoyed a lot of pot lucks (shared dinners) and games evenings together.
From Menorca we sailed down to Pollensa in Majorca in time to watch the 1st and 2nd America's cup races with another New Zealand boat we met there called "Silver Fern" in an Ozzie bar. The America's cup then became a major part of our life, trying to find Sports Bars on our way down through the Baleriacs became a challenge, but we managed to watch most of them. However (in some ways sadly) we can now slow down our sailing plans, as our hopes were to be in Auckland for the next cup with Ta-b, but now it looks like we will have to wait a few more years.
We stopped off in Soller on our way to Andrax before we met up with our friends Caroline and Simon who were joining us for our next leg. Having spent quite a bit of time in Andrax on our way East across the Meditterean it was lovely to return and spend some time there. Unfortunately we soon found out that jelly fish had decided to take over the local waters and it became impossible to swim, which for water babies like Caroline and myself was a huge dissappointment.
Within a couple of days we sailed to Ibiza where we anchored in Cala Talmanca the bay east of the town. When we were last there we had boats dragging everywhere, but luckily this time it was calmer and we went ashore with Van Kedisi who were once again traveling with us to watch the cup and have dinner. They also came down to Formentura where we spent a few days waiting for the right weather to cross to Mar Mehon on the mainland of Spain. We had been recommended to go there as there is a huge inland lake and you wait for the bridge to open before you can enter. To be honest it was not worth the stop and we departed early the next day to go down to Cartagena.
On arriving in Cartagena we met up with several boats we knew from Marmaris; lots of tales to share. While there we were lucky enough to enjoy the start of their week long annual festival. Everyone was dressed up as romans and there were all sorts of events, a great atmosphere and we had a lot of fun while ending up licking our wounds over the America's cup.
We ended up staying in Cartagena for longer then planned as the weather was not in our favour with big seas forecast against us. Even our friends on Half Moon delayed their departure, and Tom is a weather guru. So we ended up departing together and had a fantastic sail to Garrucha where we got together in the evening as we stayed overnight in the more or less empty marina there with them.
Sadly Caroline and Simon left us in Cartagena. They had been great fun to have on board, particularly while we camped out as we still had no generator. With no water maker and four on board we had to be very frugal and cooking on a little camping gas burner added to the entertainment. Luckily we were often in places where we could eat out and so enjoyed some great Spanish fair together.
We arrived in Gibraltar at 0300 hours on the 25th September, the day we had hoped to arrive, but against our rules of never coming into harbour at nightime. Well rules are to be broken, adrenaline was high after nearly 2 days of sailing, and we had been there before. Thank goodness for our AIS system, as a picture I took will show that it was like playing dodgems on the way in. We were most impressed (luckily we were up) the next morning ,when our generator guy turned up at 9am to start work on our generator a day earlier than we had booked him.
I left for England the next day so that Russ could take the boat apart in my absence. Luckily there were a few boats in Ocean Marina to feed him in the evening and also look after our frozen food as it looked like our freezer had packed up (it was only a loose wire in the end). Both of us were busy with Russ managing to get a ton of jobs done, while I rushed around sorting out parts for the boat and visiting my mum nearly every day. I even managed to get together with a few friends and other family, an added bonus, but the time went by way too quickly.
However as always It was great to get back home to Ta-b and Russell. On my return we decided to put our trip to Morocco on hold as we still had quite few jobs that we wanted to sort out before we left Gib. We did not want to rush a trip to Morocco, so I spent the next ten days going to Morrisions every day with my granny trolley and back pack, loading up with goodies (lovely English treats too) for our forthcoming offshore adventures. Tons of cleaning, cleaning, cleaning to keep me busy too. The weather was lovely, sunny every day although a tad cold in the mornings.
Jane and Sean of Happy Hour got back from England on the 15th October and our friends Richard and Phillipa arrived on the 18th October, so we had some very social evenings together before we left to go across the bay to La Linea. We really recommend the steaks at Gauchos in Gib and we had a great last evening with Happy Hour who we hope to see again in Grand Canary next month. We had our Liferaft serviced by the Viking dealer whilst we were in La Linea; which is on the Spanish side of Gibraltar harbour. Lots of history in Gibraltar although a 2 hour covers most of it, but what we found really fascinating was how "British" it is, even though it is so far away from Britain. We could have been in Britain and certainly enjoyed the pork pies and scotch eggs to be found in Morrisons. Plus we have loaded up the freezer with Crispy Aromatic duck for those special "romantic" nights ☺ It was riveting to overhear two guys chatting in Spanish, then move into a British saying, and then finish the conversation in a broad cockney accent. Most people in Gib speak both languages although in Spain we were surprised how few people spoke English. For those boatie friends following us, Ocean Marina was about the same price as Le Linea and was very convenient for spending time in Gib. They do not often have space, but if you contact Kevin (we can give you his details), who does excellent work, he will make sure he gets you a berth.
So when were we going to find a weather window for our leg to the Canaries? It looked like we were going to have to wait until the Saturday for any wind, so we decided to go to Ceuta across the strait as we had itchy feet. It is not in Morocco being part of Spain, however at the last minute we changed our minds and thought what the heck, lets make for the Canaries and if it takes us six days instead of five, what is an extra day. On Thursday afternoon we motor sailed across the strait and by 9pm (the start of my three hour watch) we were off Cape Espartel. I was certainly kept on my toes navigating through lots of fishing boats, flashing blue buoys and the like. It was the fishing boat that came across my bow from the starboard side and then forced me to do a 30 degree turn to starboard, as he came straight for me, that was obviously going for an insurance payoff. Certainly made me sweat, and I wondered how a boat with less experience might have suffered.
I was able to turn the motor off at 10pm, once clear of land (and bl..dy boats) as the wind picked up, however the seas were very confused and we had an uncomfortable night, especially our crew who had yet to get their sea legs. By Friday morning we were getting a lot of black clouds and lightening that we were trying to avoid, so much for the weather forecasts before we left. We played dodge with the clouds, squalls and lightening most of the day, but were trucking along quite nicely with the wind. However the seas were still very confused and by evening the wind was up and down like a yoyo.
The grib files were still showing that we were due to pick up a nice wind from the north on Saturday so we could head wing on wing down to the Canaries and at last it came giving us a fantastic days sail. The seas were calmer and Richard and Pip were beginning to come right, the wind was great, although it was not as warm as we had hoped, so when the sun came out it was wonderful. I even made my tradional roast lamb offshore dinner that evening, which everyone was able to enjoy.
Sunday on my watch at 9am, we had two visitors on board a moth and a small bird, apart from the dolphins and a whale on leaving Gib we had seen very little other wildlife on our trip. By Monday as we got closer to the Canaries and the wind picked up we began to see more boats, they certainly kept us on our toes as the waves were building and sometimes they were difficult to see. The winds by the evening were a constant 28 to 32 with our instruments showing a maximum wind (not gust) of 37.5 by the time we arrived on Tuesday at 5.30pm. We were flying although we only had our third reef out on the main, it was exhilerating and even our crew were enjoying themselves, in the seas that got to be 5 plus meters high. Looks like Russell won the prize of top speed at 15.6 although not witnessed so Richard and Pip decided they won on their watch with 13.7 knots. Well done Ta-b she did a wonderful job as always.
By the time we dropped our anchor in the protected anchorage of Graciosa we were happy to celebrate the completion of another leg of our journey. Our crew had been stoic troopers and we were very proud of them and Ta-b, it was a tough trip. The wind was still at 25 knots and has not come down much in the last 2 days, however our plan is to move onto Arrecife in Lanzarote tomorrow as the forecast is for only 15-20 knots and Phillipa and Richard would like to get to the Grand Canaries by Sunday which is still a good sail away.
We have Kim, Cam and Jim (just noticed our crew's names all end in M - interesting) arriving on the 23rd November and we hope to leave soon after the ARC rally to cross the Atlantic. Our plan is to take the southern route to Barbados to arrive there before 20th December; which is when Amy and Edwin arrive for Christmas. Depending on weather and time we may stop in the Cape Verdes for a few days on the way. I would like to get a blog out before we go and apologise if I have rambled on a bit in this one, but have had two months to share with you. Hope that this finds you happy, healthy and enjoying life.