Around the Atlantic, Lagos to the Canaries

Oct. 22nd, Position 35°16.596N/11°10.899W

It’s been 2 days now since we left Lagos and are about half way to Porto Santos, a small island just 20 Nm NE of Madeira. We didn’t spend much time in Lagos so we thought it might be nice to make an extra stop over at Porto Santos. Just after we left Lagos, we were visited by the Portuguese Coastguard. They called me over the radio and soon after they came over in a dinghy. It was just a routine inspection and they were very polite and friendly. They didn’t search the boat or anything, but checked all the documents, licenses, safety equipment and then left again. Over the radio the skipper told me I had to report to the maritime police at Porto Santos or Madeira to buy a tax? I had no idea what kind of tax he was referring to, I’ll see it when we get there. Some time later we were taken over by a cruise ship of ferry, obviously heading for Madeira too.

There is a bit more wind so we had a good sail so far. The weather is great, sunny and the nights full of stars until sunrise.  The storm that was forecasted did seem to move NE after all, but still, I don’t want to take any risk. The forecast in general could be a bit more specific. On the navtex there was a gale warning for the area between 25° and 7° W and parallels 35 and 45; that is a huge area, about 600 by 600 Nm… Anyway, we’re at the far south of this area and lows always move to the North, so we’ll be fine. It’s very quiet and peaceful in this part of the ocean. Occasionally a freighter or tanker passes, but in general we have no pings on the sea-me. So we can actually switch the sound of. What a difference with before, if we turned on the sound then it sometimes looked like as if morse code messages were coming in.

Oct. 23rd – Position 33°44.074N/012°52.291W, Change in plans

We were heading for Porto Santo and the sailing was nice after the second day. The wind was fine, about 10 kts and from the perfect direction. However the wind picked up to 25 kts true and veered to SW. As we were on starboard tack to avoid some heavy rain, I downloaded another weather fax. It showed that the depression that was forecasted for Portugal was indeed heading due East.

That would mean that we had to deal with over 30 kts straight on the nose for another 170 nm. We decided to keep going South, avoiding the hardest winds and that was in fact the course to steer to the Canaries. It’ll be a bit further but we’re good on food and water. So far we have been able to avoid any rain. The plan is to keep it that way, and we’ll sail around the Canary Islands for a few days.

Oct. 24th, Position: 31°10.907N/012°47.826W

We’re 5 days at sea now since we left Lagos. All is fine and we are having a great time. Andy is teaching how to cook. Andy is really a fantastic cook and  since he’ll be flying home soon, now is the time to share his experience. As posted earlier, we had to change our plan of destination because of the low that was coming in from the Azores. The best course was going South. That way we would be on the best side of the depression. That course was directly heading for the Canaries. We waited until the evening to decide whether we would keep this course or tack to get to Madeira.

Change in plans, again, new destination: Canaries

When I downloaded new gribfiles it showed that we would have to steer directly into the depression if we would tack to get to Madeira so we decided to keep our course to the Canaries. However, there was a secondary low developing rather quickly that wasn’t om the gribfiles yet. When the wind kept picking up I downloaded a new file and that showed a SW wind increasing to 30 kts. Still this was the best course to steer; you don’t want to go West into the northern section of a depression. East was the direction the depression itself was heading and North would take us to the primary depression. And, after all,  South is the best option if you can stay East of the center. We just made it to stay East of the center but came really close. The barometer stayed just 1 millibar over the lowest on the gribfiles. The wind picked up to 45 kts. But, with the second reef in the main and the staysail ½ furled in, the boat was in perfect balance and so we sailed close reach into the night.

Dinner was changed to noodles, cooking was no real option anymore. At day break the wind had decreased to 40 kts. with a spectacular sea state. Good thing that you can’t see the waves at night. Beating a force 9/10 in the Atlantic was originally not in the plan but nonetheless quite an experience. I changed the watch system back to 4 on 4 off with Rutgers watch overlapping the last half of Andy’s and the first half of my watch every other watch. I slept on the floor of the saloon, stand by at all times. We managed very well apart from the moments you’d wish someone could turn off the wind for a moment. It’s not really the wind itself, it’s the mostly the noise. Apart from that we were totally okay.

Good call

Later we learned that the storm had caused some severe damage very close to where we’d left Portugal. It turned out to be a very good decision to change our plan and Madeira for another time. Next morning I downloaded new gribfiles that showed that we were coming out of the heavy wind section. By noon the wind should have decreased to 15 kts and so it did.

After the storm was over, we had a really great sail. With a 10 to 15 kts wind on a beam reach we made 7 to 8 kts in speed over ground. As the gribfiles indicated, the wind decreased to 5 kts, backing to SW. With still a 60 nm to go we decided to start the engine and set it at 1500 rpm so that we would make landfall next morning instead of in the middle of the night.

Puerto Calero, Lanzarote

The timing was perfect. Just at sunset Lanzarote emerged from the darkness of the night. Some time later the wind picked up and we had a great sail for the last bit to  Puerto Calero. The marina was real nice and with good facilities like excellent showers and a laundry.

Today, Rutger and I will rent a car to explore the Island. Andy had a real sore foot and stayed on the boat..
We drove up North to the national park with the volcanos. The drive itself was along the coastline with the swell breaking spectacular on the rocks. After a while we came at the national park where we did a 40 minutes bus tour through an amazing landscape. Just black lava stones and rumble with no vegetation at all. The rocks were even darker then the asphalt of the road. We ended at the restaurant where there were several holes in the ground down to the still very hot lava. To show that, they poured water into one of them and a few seconds later it turned into a geyser. In another hole they threw a bunch of twigs that was set on fire a few seconds later. At one point you could see the reddish glow of the lava. Over it they had mounted a rack and used it for a barbeque. You couldn’t really look into it because of the heat. The whole Island is just one big lump of lava with none to very little vegetation. That’s also because it hardly ever rains. Not even enough to provide drinking water for the inhabitants. It was a very interesting tour in a moonlike landscape.

When we got back I went over to refill the gas bottle, I saw this van with all this advertisement about rigging, electronics, fitting and stuff. I asked the guy if he could help me with the rigging. I was using the uphaul as a halyard for the genoa and that worked out very well. However, I can’t use the originally halyard as a uphaul for the spinnaker pole.

Change in plans, again

The boss of the company on the van was a German technician and promised me to come down to have a look. Just based on my story he suggested a better way so I didn’t actually had to rig a new halyard. Monday the rigger came to change the fitting of the genoa halyard, he was done in 15 minutes!! However, while he was up the mast he also checked the rest of the rigging. It turned out that the inner fore stay was broken. Apparently the 45 kts had taken its toll. We had planned to leave the same day to Las Palmas from where Andy was flying home. Obviously that was not gonna happen, we had to have this fixed before setting sail again. Fixing it in Las Palmas was no option. No riggers would be available with all the ARC boats that were getting in. So, Andy booked a flight from Lanzarote to Las Palmas and was leaving early next morning.

Goodbye Andy

It was a bit of a weird goodbye. We knew he was leaving, but now it was all of an sudden and not in a way as we had said goodbye to Monique. Our last sail together had already happened. We had spent 6 weeks together on a boat. That’s very intense! Also Andy was the best cook you could wish for. Cooking was his passion and he certainly proved that! Fortunately, he was still there when Phil and Kim came over to visit us. Phil was our instructor when Andy and I did our Yacht master offshore course in Falmouth and he happened to be at Lanzarote just a day after we made landfall. What are the odds!

After Andy left, Rutger and I spend the whole day cleaning and doing all kind of little jobs. Wednesday, the rigger will come over to pick it up the broken stay and hopefully Thursday the new one will be ready. We’ll see. In the mean time we’ll reorganize the boat a bit to get it ready for the crossing, we have to stow a lot of things then.

Friday Nov. 3rd, all set again

Yesterday the rigger finished his jobs. He also closed part of the hatch of the anchor locker. On the front the hatch was completely open, meaning that every time we had a serious wave over, the anchor locker was filled with water in a split second. The self-draining holes weren’t big enough to let it all out in time for the next wave so over time the bilge got filled also. In the meantime, Rutger and I got to tick off a lot of jobs from the list and cleaned the boat inside out and  now we’re all set for sailing again. For the first time it was just the two of us and I realized how fortunate I was to spend all this time with my son, sharing this adventure! At no point in time we had any argument whatsoever, on the contrary. We got along so very well

Today we’ll leave Lanzarote and sail over to Fuerteventura to hop down the East coast. The wind is West so that will give us some nice and sheltered anchorages. In a few days the trade winds will be back and then we’ll hop over to Gran Canari. It will be day sails mostly with also time to snorkel. There should be some nice reefs out here according to the pilot book.


We left Puerto Calero heading for Corralejo, Fuerteventura. The wind was westerly and about 20 – 25 kts. So on a beam reach we made over 8.5 kts of speed over ground. The sailing was great! However with that speed we would be in Corralejo in less than 2 hrs. We had been too long in the marina for so short a trip. We decided to keep on sailing and go to the next place on our list: Puerto del Castillo. At around 4 pm we went into the narrow channel leading to the marina. I knew from the pilot book that the marina wasn’t too big so I called them by vhf, no response. We went up the channel anyway. No response isn’t that uncommon.

The marina was indeed kind of small and looked kind of crowded too. I was already having second thoughts on entering, because the 25 kts of wind was on the beam and would leave me little room to maneuver. I called them again  and again; no response. Then I realized it wasn’t 4 pm yet and thus still siesta time. We went up and down the channel until they were awake again. This time I got a response, the marina was closed. Well, whatever, we set sail again and headed for an anchorage, Pozo Negro, just 9 nm further South. The anchorage was nice but desolated.  About 6 to 10 houses on the shore. We stayed for the night and I cooked dinner for the first time this trip … pasta with tuna sauce.

When I checked my watch to make a log entry I saw that is was Friday. We had to get to a super mercado to stock up. So next morning we left Pozo Negro sailed to Gran Tarajal, a short trip of about 15 Nm, a real sort of town were we could do some shopping.

Gran Tarajal, adrift

The marina at Gran Tarajal is also not too big and most yachts anchor just North of the marina in a beautiful bay. There were already several yachts at anchor. We found a nice spot, but the anchor dragged and since the windlass for some reason had given up on us, Rutger had to pull the anchor in by muscle power. We found a new place, but again the anchor didn’t hold. This time it was my turn to haul the anchor in. Third time lucky, it held. We launched the dinghy to get ashore. It turned out the windlass had a companion in failing; we couldn’t get the outboard started. The pulling cord was jammed. I managed to fix it, nonetheless it wouldn’t start. So we rowed ashore. By that time we were in for lunch. I didn´t want to leave the boat by itself and the dinghy by its own on the beach, so I went to do the shopping while Rutger would keep an eye on things. When I came back the dinghy was gone, so was Rutger. I saw the boat a bit further offshore steaming up to the beach? I saw Rutger dropping the anchor and then another yacht came along side.

Later, when he picked me up from the beach, he told me that when he went back to the dinghy he noticed that the boat was further away. We had the boat all the time in sight when we had lunch. I even took some pictures and all seemed okay then. But it turned out the anchor had dragged again and the boat was already about half a mile adrift. Since Rutger could not see me coming back yet, he took the dinghy and started rowing. A yacht that was just leaving the bay gave him a tow. They had noticed that there must be something wrong, no one would anchor that far from shore and when they called there was no response from us. They notified the people at the marina but by that time Rutger was already on his way to the boat. The people of the yacht helped Rutger out in steering the boat while he hauled in the anchor. Anyway, all went well and we invited the couple from the yacht that helped us out over for a drink. It turned out that we had met Mike and Alexandra before in Oeiras and we had a nice chat. They’re sailing the ARC by the two of them. When Rutger rowed them back later, I let out some 10 meters more of anchor chain. You would expect that 30 meters of chain in 5 meters of water should be enough, but the ‘sand’ over here is more like gravel – very loose and not very holding. Well, every day is a school day I guess.

We left Gran Tarajal and sailed to Moro Jable just another 20 nm south. We had a sort of race with Mike and Alexandra. The wind was kind of light and they were overtaking us. So we set the gennaker and were catching up fast. We then entered an acceleration zone where the wind funnels and we sort of took off. We had to drop the gennaker, the wind was to strong. With one reef and the genoa we still made over 10 kts. Mike and Alexandra had too much sail up and had to bare away, so we won

Las Palmas, Gran Canari

Next morning we left for las Palmas, Gran Canari, a 60 nm trip. It was a great sail, sunny, warm and with a great 15 kts of wind. I knew there was little chance we would get a berth in the marina because of the ARC. Actually there was no chance at all. Just north of the marina is an anchorage. That too was kind of crowded but we found a nice spot. The anchor seemed to think differently though, it dragged again. After Rutger hauled the anchor by muscle power cheered by the crew of the next by boats, we found a better place also according to the anchor, it held perfectly.

Next morning we rowed to the marina and found a place to fix the outboard. You can row in a dinghy but that’s just for emergencies.  Mañana the outboard would be ready. Next thing was to find someone that could fix the windlass. Also I needed to have the gas bottle filled. Well, first things first. One thing I learned is that you just have to take things as they come nothing gets to be planned. When we picked up the outboard next day it seemed to be fixed. It made a lot of noise for some reason but it works. Getting the windlass fixed was another thing though. Because of the ARC all the mechanics were too busy.

We spend the time to reorganize the boat a bit more. We need to stow a lot of stuff for the crossing, stuff that needs to stay dry! We also had the chance to clean the outside of the boat from the dinghy. After we finished I could use a bath too so I jumped overboard to have a swim. The water was great, clean and warm but, has its own inhabitants like jellyfish. Amazing how such a tiny creature can cause zo much pain. I got out of the water and put a sponge with vinegar on my arm. Since we had just reorganized the whole lot I knew where to find it.

Getting the gas bottle filled too turned out to be not possible. There is this Disa company that does gas but the filling station is about 20 miles south. You can’t take a gas bottle in a cab and if you’d rent a car there’s still no guarantee they can or will fill it. According to the pilot book there should be a service station in las Palmas also. So next day Rutger and I spend the afternoon exploring the town in search of this station. We had a great walk through the place and did actually find the station. The manager told me to bring the bottle so he could have a look and if possible it was no problem to fill it. Since it was already late afternoon we agreed  to come back next mañana. When I did, he wasn’t there and the others had no clue. If I would come back in an hour they would get in touch with the guy I spoke to yesterday. Anyway I had to get to pick up some stuff I ordered at the chandlery. It hadn’t come in yet maybe mañana or Monday, because mañana would be Saturday.

While I was at the chandlery I ran into the mechanic. If I would leave the windlass at the shop he would pick it up and check it. Well, we’ll see I guess. When I returned to the gas station, they weren’t able to help me. They weren’t allowed to transport my bottle because it wasn’t a local one. If I would bring it myself they would see if it was possible to fill it. No guarantees. Well whatever, I’ll use the camping gas I had as spare. I realized things like this would have really pissed me off before, for some reason it now felt like just part of life. I was very pleased to actually be aware that I was okay with it. It’s a different world when you can to take things as they are and happen. The technician actually showed up and, even better, he managed to fix it the windlass!

Nov 15th new crew arriving

Jur arrived  yesterday and this morning Marc would fly in but he decided to take the evening flight. He later confessed that he had forgot to bring his passport and missed his flight. That night we had a SNARC-event. All the sailors from the boats in the bay went to the beach to have a So-Not-ARC drink. That was really great. We met people from all over the world. Some of them started a trip for a year or so … 3 to 7 years ago.  It was great talking to those people and listen to their story’s. We had our own story too of course, about the rescue in A Coruna.

Just about all the jobs were done now and when the last item I ordered at the chandlery comes in tomorrow, we can set off for the final leg before the crossing. We had decided to sail to La Palma and stock up there, away from the ARC crowd. Also that would be an nice sail to let Jur and Marc get a bit used to the boat.

La Palma

The sail to la Palma was great. God winds and nice weather. When we got close to La Palma we saw a pod of dolphins hunting. The marina at la Palma is owned by the same company as in Puerto Calero and evenly good! Next day, Marc and I did ‘some’ shopping while Jur and Rutger cleaned the boat and reorganized the lockers. It took us 5 hrs. to stow all the stuff! The super mercado was used to supply sailors for the crossing and they had a great service to deliver all the stuff to the pontoon next to the boat. We managed to stow 18 boxes of food, drinks and lots of other stuff, including filled gas bottles! We already talked through the plan and how we’d do watches, cooking, cleaning and stuff. We all felt very comfortable and are more than ready for it. We’d leave next day, Nov 19th late afternoon. My youngest son would turn 19 on the 19th and we planned a skype session to sing for him when he got back from work.

Before that, we used the afternoon to explore the Island a bit. We drove all the way up to the top, Roque was quite a drive, the road had more hairpins then any road in Switzerland. la Palma is for sure the most beautiful Island of the Canaries. Forests of pine trees palm trees combined I never saw before. Also the rocks of granite and lava were astonishing. After we came back and returned the car, we cleared the last few things, topped up the diesel and had a bite to eat and sang for Laurens, who was very pleased.

We finally slipped the lines, next stop: Tobago