Greetings from the Canaries
13 September 2011 | Lazarote, Canaries
1 September 2011
Greetings from the Canary Islands,
In our last instalment we were heading for Algeria, Morocco and Gibraltar to pick up our friend, Mark. Well cruising in Europe has perhaps made us a bit blasé about custom, immigration and quarantine, and when we were ready to pack off for Algeria found that we would need a visa prior to arrival. Oh well, so we changed plans to a somewhat more northerly route of Sardinia, Mallorca and then Costa del Sol, Spain. As our Italian friend told us, "Sardinia is the birth place of Western Italian wind"; meaning the wind blows at you when going and blows you away when leaving. We in fact were met a few hours from arrival in Sardinia with a gale, and had to sit on the boat at anchor for three days till it quieted down. Then we had a repeat performance on the western side of Sardinia waiting about four days for winds to stop blowing the wrong way. As time millionaires this would usually make little difference but our friend Mark was arriving in Malaga on a date certain from California, so we pushed along pretty hard across the Balearics to the coast of Spain where we kept waiting out strong winds in several anchorages and marinas. After the usual drama of waiting four days to get parts packages delivered from one side of Malaga to the other (one of which never came), we finally got off for the Canaries. The passage included a stop in Gibraltar and one in Morocco.
Mid Passage Morocco to Canaries: We're a bit over half way to the Canary Islands from Gibraltar. The sky is dark with cloud and the ocean is putting on one of its electric light shows. Dinoflagellates which are biolumenescent (mostly noctiluca) are leaving a trail behind Mary Ann at least a hundred meters long and the waves are likes little kernels of light being heaved about. Sitting on the foredeck you can see the occasional fish racing out of the way of Mary Ann like a shooting star with a comet-like tail trailing behind. On nights like this seeing dolphins at the bow of the boat is little short of magic as they are like the effect of waving sparklers around on a dark night, zipping through the water at remarkable speed. But if you want the real electric light show try flushing the head with the lights out and the lid up! Visually these nights remind me of the film Avatar when the hero is walking through the forest at night and everything is alive with light when touched. Sailing has its magical times.
It is not quite two months since leaving Croatia and we've covered about 2,100 miles. Cruising is as much about leaving things in your wake as all the new and fascinating things you encounter. We have opted for coral reef and trade winds this year and thus have breezed through Sardinia, the Balearics and southern Spain. The Med is a bit notorious for contrary winds and it has dished out it fair share this summer and when we had to deal with calms using the motor, contrary seas have rocked and rolled us about as well.
Mark Elkins joined us for the third time. He met us near Gibraltar in Spain and came along for the 620 mile passage to the Canaries. We've encountered a very surprising number of fishing boats off Africa where long lining is common up to twenty miles offshore. There of lots of men in 16 foot skiffs very far off shore. Morocco was a short but very interesting stop over. We got to Casa Blanca and had a fascinating walk through the old Medina and lunch at Rick's Café but Sam wasn't at the piano.
The fight against wear and tear has been intense of late. I spent about three days tracking down a leak which I thought was fixed years ago while in Spain. In Sicily we changed the seals on the transmission, patched one water tanks and reconfigured the bow pulpit. In following winds and big following seas the stay sail traveler broke. Upon arriving in the Canaries I decided to get the Sideband radio working and then the fridge compressor packed in. Cruising has been described as fixing things in exotic places, which feels apropos of late but this is also likely in part the consequence of a 27 year love affair with the same boat - now that's monogamy for you.
The other big news and relief of the past months was that in Sardinia, Murphy final started to use the foredeck for his business. Hurray!
Lanzarote's austere, almost surreal landscape of volcanoes, lava fields and ash everywhere has been strangely beautiful. Standing atop a magma dome where only 4 meters down the temperatures was 400 degrees C is just a bit spooky. At the volcano park the BBQ grill was merely a hole some 20 feet deep over which chicken was placed. No one would ever believe grapes could grow here but it has a thriving wine industry. The stark contrast of the white only buildings and the black ash gives the island a rather unique and haunting appeal.
We hope for about a month in the Canary Islands and then to head for the Cape Verde Islands which are about 750 miles south. In late November to early December we'll cross to the Caribbean. By that time the hurricanes will have stopped and the trade winds in the Atlantic will make the passage a bit of a milk run.
We may not have very good internet access in the Cape Verdes so our next missive may well be from Barbados or St Vincent.
john, Julia and Murphy
S/Y Mary Ann II