Restless Goes Sailing

Grand tarajal to Las Palmas, passage info

Grand Tarajal on fuertaventura was great. Really traditional and unspoilt. The passage to Las Palmas was about 80 miles, so estimating 4-5 knots and not a direct line (allowing for tacking et.) we estimated 16-20 hours. Wanting to arrive in daylight meant we didn’t leave until 12ish, after swimming and coffee and tostadas. All very relaxing. Forecast was for light NE winds down east coast of Fuertaventura and then stronger NE winds on the west side . Forecast on west side was F4-5 but there were F6 winds in the area so we expected a bit of a blow again from the NE. It was already windy when we left, 22knots on leaving. Although the first sailing was downwind and would rely on the headsail we hoisted the main from the get go. Fully reefed so only there as a steadying sail and to a give flexibility in case things changed. For the first few hours it was great but madly variable, lots of wind and then instantly none and engine on for 5 mins then lots of wind and away again. Early log entries reflect this, “rock n roll, gusting 6 etc”. We had an unnerving moment when a motoring catamaran, motoring yacht and cruiser all together headed straight for us. As a sailing yacht on a starboard tack the right of way was ours but they did not change course. This was in a lull so we put the engine on as a precaution. Suddenly we saw something in the water in front of the cat, did they have divers or swimmers in the water? For safety we altered course slightly leaving the cat to starboard. Amazingly they were all following a school of dolphins and had thrown the “rules of the road” overboard. They passed waving cheerily, I did feel like a proper grouch but really.... I felt sorry for the poor dolphins being chased along. By 16.00 Tim recorded “screaming along in unexpected NW “fresh” winds”. Tim is not given to drama so that must have been fast. We were doing 8 knots at times. It was shorts and t shirts at first but we both added our sailing trews which are bib and brace affairs up to the armpits in my case. As I said we expected acceleration winds which form around the islands I think in part due to the high mountains causing wind diversion. Tim noticed whiter waves ahead, life jackets and clips were on. Very suddenly the winds increased, constantly above 40 knots and peaking at 48, or that is the highest we both saw at separate times. None of this discussed at the time, we don’t allow analysis or debrief until safely tied up. The fear that we could jinx ourselves is real. Whilst we had put on trousers we were in t shirts and shoes but no socks, not a great look I concede. Terrific waves were crashing over the boat, not always but fairly frequently. I had taken over the helm from the wind vane. When it is scary helming gives me some sense of control and something positive to do. When the big winds hit we rolled away all but a hankie of headsail. Problem, it was really storm sail weather but it seemed more dangerous to try and hoist it from the foredeck than to live with the rolled away headsail. Again we later discussed that we were both looking at the mast and rig and wondering how much wind it could take and stay up. I have never seen more water pouring down side decks and into the cockpit. We were soaking from waves breaking over us in the cockpit, and were getting cold. I went below first got my thermals, socks and boots, and jacket on. When I came on deck I felt a million times better properly dressed. Tim did the same. The wind had eased to high 30,s gusting low 40’s, and we put the wind vane back on. We have two vanes. The red nicknamed toro Rossi for f4 or less and the blue, the azure, for the rest. The azure did a great job in really heavy weather with significant waves. That is great as it allows us to keep watch but duck out of the winds whilst doing so. This lasted a good 3 hours, more wind and much longer than expected. One funny thing happened. A few days ago I dropped an eye make up pencil and it fell down the cockpit drain. Mascara and kohl are mandatory on board, Tim looks great. I had confessed this loss to Tim as I was worried it would cause a blockage but he hoped it would fall through and into the sea. As we battered along in those winds, the pressure of water was so great that my eye pencil was launched back up the cockpit drain and into the cockpit. Every cloud etc. What a laugh we had, it was so unexpected and random. Later, more deep joy. The traffic separation scheme caused no problems 3 ships going south and then a gap and one northbound but we were able to cross behind the southbound and ahead of the northbound. This TSS was different. Instead of just north and south lanes there was a big box where boats could join and leave in the middle. Due to our speed and varying wind direction we were able to cross just above this tricky box. We were now too early for Las Palmas as we had been going so fast, and wanted to arrive in daylight. There followed a frustrating few hours reducing sails to go slowly which isn’t comfortable in lumpy seas, but worth doing as we arrived 7.30ish. All sorted and tied up by 8.45. Log entry sums it up “Las Palmas, nightmare trip over”. Thanks for your comments and chat, it is great to have your company. Much of interest to tell you about the marina here and what we need to do over the next few days. Will do a separate entry about that. Some circus/trapeze training would have been good before coming here, but I’ll explain that more fully.