22nd - 30th November – Crossing to the Cape Verde Islands – Never a dull moment!
We weighed anchor at dawn on Friday 22nd and set off for our longest non-stop passage yet - 760nm. It’s a given that the length of any crossing is dependent on the winds but we were hopeful that we would complete the trip in about a week. ‘Ishtar’ a Warrior 40 just like Ocean Rainbow completed the trip earlier this month in 3 hours less than 5 days, so we felt a week wasn’t unrealistic. However, not a chance with the ‘hand’ we were dealt! We actually took 9 days. Guess we should have realised we were in for a long passage after the struggle of the first two days to sail rather than motor. During the passage Red Passion went up and down 9 times, we tried all kinds of combinations of white sail and even flew Charlie Cruising Chute – which was lovely and fast but not quite in the right direction on the first occasion, but we were just happy to be sailing! - We changed sail 60 times during the trip with the longest sail plan lasting 8 hours. No wonder we can eat copious amounts of chocolate, flapjacks, ginger cake and bread without putting on any weight. So much for downwind sailing being the easy option! We had wind on the nose for a day and found ourselves ‘beating’ our way to the Cape Verde Islands. The winds were really fluky and we even had a preventer on the main when we were beating to help cut down on slatting when the wind swirled around and left us wallowing for short periods. Great practice for the big crossing in December and it would be nice to find that we could fly Red Passion the whole way after this little episode. Until this trip we have not had such trouble keeping her flying and can only think that the rolly seas are to blame because we have flown her in 5 knots of wind before with great success. The last 60nm of the passage were extraordinary. Out of nowhere we had winds gusting at 40 knots and monster seas (technical term!), we were drenched (not by rain but by the waves as they broke over the cockpit) and we were in serious storm conditions with everything battened down (using our restraining nets in the galley and saloon for the first time). Ocean Rainbow was fantastic but we were rather tired by the time we arrived in Palmeira.
So what else did we do on the passage? James read books, puzzled over amphours & battery charging, calculated speed, timings and estimated arrival date (!), checked fuel levels and did more calculations, had concerns about not making his flight back to UK and wrote his speech for the Regimental dinner! Claire, on the other hand took things easy! Feeding a starving Skipper interesting meals takes a little while: washing up in salt water first and then rinsing in fresh water is also labour intensive. We had put ourselves on a fresh water economy drive for the trip just to check that we really are carrying enough water for ocean passages. Although we have a watermaker on board we wouldn’t wish to make it part of our critical planning.
One of the challenges Claire had during the passage was to work out a recipe that would make good use of the disastrous almond brick doughnut objects that James had purchased in La Gomera thinking they would be yummy night-time munchies for the crossing! The final result was an Apple charlotte meringue – tasty but, in Claire’s opinion, not worth all the effort . An apple crumble would have made better use of the apples and the fish should have eaten the ‘bricks’! We still have another 4 bricks to use but, being of Scottish ancestry, James is unwilling at this stage to use them as fish fodder!
Our night watches passed extremely quickly. James drew the short straw in one way as he was on watch from 7pm to 11pm and again from 3am to 7am with Claire doing the 4 hours in the middle. However, this meant that Claire didn’t need a sleep during the day and so was able to do all the cooking etc without ending up seriously grumpy (do note the qualifying adjective before grumpy! …. early mornings never have been, and it looks like, never will be her strong point!) However we have eaten very well on the trip and it has been fun preparing the meals. We have both read some good books (and some rubbish!) and we’ve enjoyed the peace, tranquillity and emptiness of the ocean. It’s just a shame that our cameras can’t capture the different states of the sea and sky. At one stage Claire was terrified when a vessel appeared on the horizon heading straight for Ocean Rainbow – a quick check on AIS (automated identification system) showed no vessels – returning to the cockpit she discovered that the monster vessel at 3am was nothing more than the moon finally getting out of bed! It took a while for her heart to recover! Another strange sight was when the flat calm sea merged with a sky of the same colour and the horizon disappeared – again not something that we could capture on camera. James had his frightening moment too - he was attacked by a flying fish! They’re not all little tiddlers and if they catch you bare skinned they can seriously hurt.
We did see a few yachts during the passage. The first was a French racing yacht who hailed us to ask for an up-to-date weather forecast. Three other yachts passed by at night within 3nm of us but failed to answer their radios! We suspect iPods and earphones were to blame – they obviously hadn’t sailed with Jimmy Cornell who bans books and music on night watches. We aren’t quite that strict but Claire now listens to her amazing music collection (thanks to Paul Dickens) with only one ear plug in place. It doesn’t detract from the enjoyment factor and it might mean that her hearing lasts longer! All in all a great passage and we are now looking forward to our time in the Cape Verde Islands.
We left La Gomera marina and headed down the coast a couple of miles to spend a night at anchor before setting off to the Cape Verde Islands. Really peaceful and just great to be at anchor again and away from the madding crowds! Shame to leave without Hecla but she had a slight mishap on arriving in La Gomera so Jon is staying to fix things. We need to get to Sal so that James can catch his flight back to UK!!
16th – 19th November
The prime reason for visiting Tenerife was to meet up with Claire’s parents in their hotel in Los Americas which we duly did on the Friday afternoon (15th) giving Claire’s father a real nightmare awakening from his afternoon sleep! It’s great to see them both on such fine form and we have had a lovely two days with them, enjoying the hotel swimming pool and the amazing lunch that is produced for them! Although Tenerife is not a place we would want to visit on holiday we can understand the attraction of their hotel as it has lovely uninterrupted views out to sea and everything they want to hand in the hotel.
We left them to return to the boat and get ready to go back to Las Galletas but were somewhat hi-jacked by our Belgian neighbours on ‘Roompot’ (Katrin and Hans with their children Fien and Seppe) who invited us over to chat over the Atlantic crossing and our preparations. Another Belgian family joined us (Jo, Hannah and their 2 children from the yacht ‘Smiles’) and it wasn’t long before we were discussing engines and Victor’s rattle – without further ado, Jo jumped up and said he would come and have a look as he loves engines! He was unable to fix the engine himself which was a shame but really kind of him to have a look and give us the benefit of his experience. Further conversations and the subject came round to anodes and the next thing we knew Hans had offered to dive below Ocean Rainbow and change our cone anode. Amazingly kind and an offer we accepted. So, bright and early on Monday morning James dived below the boat to check that he really did want to change the anode and then, before Hans had even made pancakes for the children’s breakfast, he was in the water and did a fantastic job in no time at all! What’s more, he scraped the speed log, the propeller and the water inlet pipes. Not to seem idle and since he was wet anyway James went around with a scrubbing brush and removed the few barnacles that had had the temerity to attach themselves to the bottom of Ocean Rainbow. Quite a busy little Monday! Then we set off for Marina San Miguel to meet with the Volvo engineer.
We have heard a lot about Canaries timings but are delighted to say that we have not suffered, as yet! David turned up and diagnosed the problem. He merely sniffed the air and declared – fuel injector! He said he would return the next day and fix it for us. Sure enough he did …. although a little later than hoped for us to leave and get across to La Gomera in daylight. The wonder of the whole process was the fact the David had broken his leg playing football and so travels with a couple of friends who help with the tools and also the translations! They were a great team and a pleasure to have on board. What’s more, in fixing the fuel injector David found another problem which we will need to get sorted out at some stage but he has done an amazing fix with some extra electrical ties and has left us some spares just in case we need to redo his work! All in all a very positive experience!
13th – 15th November
We left Arrecife at 0830 on Wednesday in light winds and set off for Tenerife. Red Passion flew at the start but as we sailed between Fuerteventura and Lanzarote the wind died away and we resorted to Victor Volvo. A slight concern as Victor has developed a ticking rattle so we’re going to get an engineer to have a look for us. No point setting off across the Atlantic with a worry about the engine … there’ll be enough of those on route! The night passage to Tenerife went well although very rolly and very few stars but we didn’t have rain, just the occasional light drizzle. One of the strange sights on this passage has been the acres of artificial grey along the coastline – we speculated about greenhouses, solar panels etc but in reality this acreage is masses of netting protecting the banana trees! Not a very pretty sight!
To make the passage to Tenerife more comfortable we sailed at 120° to the wind rather than dead downwind (wind was too strong for Red Passion) so we ended up jibing our way down the coast and doing a few extra miles, but we did make it to San Miguel before dusk and therefore managed to get ourselves sorted out in the daylight. Yet another challenging little mooring in strong winds but we gave ourselves a big pat on the back as we did it perfectly! James then made enquiries about buses to Los Christianos and Volvo engineers – lo and behold an engineer would be visiting the marina on Monday afternoon! However, buses to Los C didn’t run from San Miguel, and we were advised to move 2nm down the coast to Marina del Sur. This we did on Friday morning and we are now moored – stern to – at the land end of a pontoon with rocks and the harbour wall rather close to our port, however we are safe and secure! The language problem does mean that we aren’t given very much information when we come in to moor so we were not informed that we were medi-mooring! Therefore when we came in the first time we were bows to which made getting off the boat impossible. We decided to turn round and come in backwards which worked extremely well thanks to the help of our Belgian neighbours. So we are now ensconced in Marina del Sur in Las Galletas until Monday when we will go back to San Miguel to meet with the Volvo engineer.
5th – 12th November
Feverish activity continued on Ocean Rainbow in the absence of the Skipper! The foredeck guard rails were laced to stop the cruising chute or spinnaker going overboard and getting wet – it could also prevent one of us going through the guard rails in rough conditions so a double role. Not sure it will stay as now because the Aussie on the boat opposite said it looked like a dog’s dinner! More to the point it has been put on too tight so we might have to revisit the solution and do a more laborious version. Skipper to decide on his return! (postscript – netting came off and went back on again in a different design. Aussie opposite said the pattern now looked really good!!)
Jimmy Connell and his team are in the marina getting their Atlantic Odyssey ready which is great for us as we have been able to use their safety check lists to ensure that we really are going to be setting off across the Atlantic properly prepared. This prompted another visit to the Ferreteria to purchase a couple of things. We now have the wherewithal to secure our washboards from the inside to stop them floating out of the companionway should we find ourselves pooped (!) but we still need to fit a security bolt on the inside to prevent intruders in the middle of the night …. It might save us having to resort to the baseball bat! A slack handful of jubilee clips, some WD40 and those natty little strainers you put in the bottom of the sink to stop rice and suchlike going down the drain completed the purchases. Nitassinan were also in the Ferreteria at the same time and they went away also with a couple of strainers, wishing they’d had them earlier to stop the blockage they had recently experienced!
Then it was back to the boat for the massive re-stowage exercise. All the cushions and rugs were stowed in the stern cabins giving easy (a relative term in a boat) access to all the lockers used for stowing food and drink. A stockcheck was taken and various things were moved to more convenient locations. When I did the stowage initially everything seemed logical but when put into practice it didn’t work as well as we would have liked. We have increased some items (long life milk and cereal) and reduced others (cleaning materials!!) but you will be happy to read that the major item now carried on board is red wine!
The stowage operation continued all Wednesday (with a quick stop to collect the laundry – great success with a hug from the little old lady who had done the laundry for us!). Supper in Arriete with Colin and Izzy from Endorphin and Jon (Hecla) was also a lovely break but on returning to Ocean Rainbow the shuffling of stores continued! The reorganisation was finally finished by Thursday midday so the next step was a trip to the local supermarket to replenish the stores. For the first time since leaving England a proper shopping trolley was needed! Much hilarity was caused at the checkout – trying to explain that I wanted to use the free shopping delivery service to our boat in the marina. First a taxi was offered but that would have meant unloading everything and carrying all the bags down the pontoon, eventually I achieved success and late afternoon the most helpful young man turned up with a sack barrow and 3 great big removal containers. He offloaded all the bags onto the boat so all that remained was to stow the additional goodies. The task was completed in time to greet James’ return to Lanzarote. The spreadsheet, on the other hand, wasn’t finished until Saturday afternoon!
The winds have got up again and are gusting at 30knots which is making our mooring quite lively. We have taken our staysail boom into a workshop to have the replacement end welded back in place. A very quick job for the professionals but it would have been a real headache for us. Saturday evening we went on board Summer Wind and had a really lovely and informative evening with Holly and Alan Sawyer who have lived on a boat since 2000 and have many, many miles under their belts. Sunday continued with jobs including cleaning Humphrey's rudder but we did have a little break when Colin and Izzy popped over for a cup of tea. We'll hope to meet up with them again in the Caribbean.
We have attended a couple of Jimmy Cornell’s talks about the routes around the world and timings and we have also had a very full talk on First Aid – preparation and prevention is the way to go as we certainly don’t want to be faced with having to find remedies for some of the potential accidents! On Monday evening we invited Summer Wind on board for supper with Jon. Holly came across armed with the tastiest brownies and crème anglaise to add to the repast – and a very jolly evening was had by all. Today there’s a talk about parasailors and then it is on our way to Tenerife to meet up with Claire’s parents who are holidaying in the south of the island.
1st – 4th November
Marina fever was setting in and the red dust settling over Ocean Rainbow was threatening to mummify her – it was time to escape. With the help of Jon (Hecla) and Paul (Aditi) we slipped our lines at 9.30am in 25 knot winds and set off for the anchorage at Papagayo – a 20nm trip south of Arrecife. We would have loved to go north to La Graciosa but the northerly winds were predicted to go round to the south on Sunday and that would have meant a beat to La Graciosa and a beat back – very hard work in the current seas! So, we took the easier option and went south. What a treat. Papagayo beach is beautiful and relatively empty. The waters are azure coloured and having anchored we had our first swim since leaving Barbate! It was fun to find Nocturne at anchor in the bay as we were able to invite Vicki and Darren over for drinks and supper. It was an early night (to make sure James returns to UK next week with his batteries fully charged!) but it was good to be able to reciprocate Nocturne’s hospitality from Morocco.
Saturday was spent enjoying the sunshine, the peace and quiet and, inevitably, doing a few chores! James scrubbed the boot top while Claire did some mending of pennants. We swam ashore again – our exercise which justified dropped scones for tea! The wind started to get up during the evening as did the swell so we had a fairly rolly night and the anchor chain crunched and groaned a fair bit which is unusual. However, on inspection we couldn’t find anything wrong, James set a snubber and we went back to sleep. In the morning we started to weigh anchor at 9.00am to set off back to Arrecife but we found that we were snagged around a rock. We think this explained the odd noises in the night … James donned fins and snorkel and set off to find out how we could untangle ourselves. Thank goodness for the clear water. With an idea of the set of the chain we were able to turn the appropriate circles to clear the rock – otherwise we could well still be there firmly attached to the ocean bottom. It was 9.30am by this time – a tad longer than we normally take to weigh anchor! We had an excellent trip back to Arrecife although it was somewhat disappointing to be rained upon! Full oilies is not our idea of fun! We came into the marina and managed to park after a couple of attempts. The marina staff wanted us to moor on a different pontoon so we changed, then the space was too small so we went back to our original pontoon, then the wind, which was gusting 25 knots blew us off but we did manage it eventually with no harm done (which is always the major consideration).
James has now set off back to England and Claire is left in charge of Ocean Rainbow! A novel experience in a foreign port. The day started with taking the most enormous bag of laundry into town – hopefully ready on Wednesday at a cost of 18Euros. Then a haircut – serious value for money and seriously short!! It’s a haircut that will last and that’s for sure. Next admin on the boat, washing lines, the sprayhood, sail covers and deck to get rid of the red dust and a special fresh water clean for the boot top that James had so lovingly polished!