Las Palmas to a T

We got our spot and picked up our laid lines between Takamoana and Maryna 2 right in the middle of the T on T jetty. It was good to have all the rally boats on the one jetty.

First on the Agenda was the second Autopilot and Rolnautic were soon on the boat mapping things out. With that in play we checked out the marina stores and started on completing our boat shopping list. Given the ARC starts from this marina, the chanderlies were well stocked and we managed to find most things. The marina is huge and it needs to be as there are 300 boats booked on the ARC this year, with another 200 or so following in their footsteps soon afterwards.

I’m so glad we are in this rally and not the ARC. The B50 rally is much more personable and undoubtedly a lot less officious. We are getting around and meeting everyone and really enjoying our first rally experience. And best of all we get to see all the different Canary Islands as part of the rally, rather than just Gran Canaria.

Despite being a little tired for an overnighter, we managed to head into town and find Vodaphone and a Nespresso milk frother to replace our failed unit. Finally a win on the cappuccino front. Then we found the beautiful boardwalk across the narrow peninsular and had a seafood dinner overlooking a surf beach.
Next day (Friday) it was back onto the Autopilot install. It took pretty much the whole day, with a manual switch that goes between the old L&S autopilot in the port engine room and the new Raymarine autopilot in the starboard engine room. Total redundancy with the flick of a switch. No more hand steering for us!

Saturday was our lets play a tourist day. We picked up our hire car from Dollar ‘Rent a Gutless Wonder”, whilst most of the other rallyers took an organized bus tour. We went to the North coast to start with – a specular drive, before finishing up at Arucas with its great lookout on top of a disused volcano and a cute old town with a mini version of Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia neo-gothic church.


Then we took the freeway to the south coast for a lesson in how not to do tourism with wall to wall hotels and villas. We gave up getting to the beach and the sand dunes due to a lack of parking and instead headed for the hills. 

The interior of Gran Canaria is simply spectacular. We kept pulling over to photograph the views before heading into a quaint little town for lunch on a patio with a superb view down the gorge behind. With Rabbit, Goat and Tapas washed down by beer and wine in our overly full stomachs, we drove upwards and upwards to the highest point in Gran Canaria, where we parked and hiked up to Roque Nublo (1800m above sea level), a very, very impressive monolith, jutting up 80m out of the surrounding volcanic landscape. It took us about an hour up and back, with quite a bit of loitering taking in the view and taking photos but it was undoubtedly the highlight of the island. Up the top, you could look across and see the top of Tenerife, floating on top of a bank of clouds. Surreal and impressive.

We continued our gorgeous windy mountain drive towards Tejeda, stopping occasionally to get yet another view of Roque Nublo. We passed a whole heap of rally cars who were transiting between sections of their rally race but who seemed to think they owned the whole road. Tejeda was yet another cute mountain town but it was getting late so we only stopped for photos before heading back to the old town in Las Palmas.

We got to the old town just after 7 and had a nice wander around the old streets. It was a little early and there weren’t many people around but we still managed to bump into Ken and Jenny from S/V Lady Rebel to share some wine and tapas at a local establishment. It was interesting to see a whole wedding party in their finest walk over to the outside TV screen after the local Canaries football team scored a goal against Barcelona. And then it was time to return the car as we had an 8am start the next morning.

The sail across to Tenerife was in three parts. Leaving Las Palmas, we had to beat our way north through a large swell before turning the corner and heading straight to Santa Cruz on a nice beam reach. Well, it would have been nice if the wind hadn’t died off at the top of Gran Canaria. But once we entered the channel between the islands we took off in 15-20kts of wind doing 7-8kts of boat speed.

Tenerife Traffic Control had kittens when he saw 30 yachts crossing his traffic separation zone and called up to find out what was going on so he could put out a navigation warning. Geoff took the call and carefully spelt out Barbados 50 to our man. Its always interesting being in a rally.

With a fast passage over, we entered Santa Cruz harbour and motored up to the end where the marina was located, pulling in stern to with all the other rally boats. We soon had the United Nations onboard enjoying a few drinks and discussing what a great sail we had across. Rob from BnG, whose a delivery skipper with a very impressive 200T certification was as always handing out invaluable advice in amongst all the banter. We are turning into total rally fans. Hope we can handle the pace over the next couple of months.

Upgrading for an Atlantic Crossing

La Mischief is now pretty ready to cross 2000nm of empty ocean (I hope). To get her there we’ve done the following.

  • New Iridium Go for communications including tracking and weather down loading. We have an older hand held sat phone but I like backup.
  • New 156m2 parasailor with reinforced payedes and 100m of new lines. Going downwind  requires some careful thinking and the parasail will be the most gentle on La Mischief’s catamaran rig believe it or not. 
  • Second raymarine autopilot. We have already suffered 2 failures and hand steering 10 days at sea would drive me and the crew mad. The ARC reported that 5% of autopilots failed and there’s other rallies that have reported much higher failure rates. I reckon 70% of boats in this rally have backup automatic steering systems installed (many monohull have wind vane steering).
  • A new D400 wind generator. Power always seems to be an issue on La Mischief and with the instruments going 24×7 , and the radar and nav lights going 12×7 it’s going to be chewing up a lot of amp hours.Wind gens aren’t the greatest when sailing downwind but every little bit helps and the steady winds of the Carribean should give us a boost.
  • New Danbouy,  new charts, new McMurdo AIS MOB devices  and new trilight at top of mast.

 I’m sure there are other bits and pieces but these are the major items.

    The First Leg

     With light winds expected, Jimmy brought the start forward to 12 noon. We all proceeded out of the marina and to the start line just south of the marina entrance.

    Thanks to OceanMinded 2016 for the photo
    Thanks to OceanMinded 2016 for the photo

    10 minutes before the start we put up our parasailor and hit the line at 12.02pm. We’d like to think that we were first over but others a little more objective than us controversially disagreed. Anyway its not a race!!!

    We enjoyed being out in front for a little while until we fell into a gaint wind hole and the whole parasailor came flopping down. We ended up bagging it before it got stuck on radars etc. which meant we slipped down the field to fourth last. Then the wind picked up a little and we flew it again. It was hard going with the wind all over the place but this time we managed to keep it flying. As we slowly got closer to the bottom of the island the wind picked up a little and we managed to pass most boats except for the two fast cats (Catana 50 and Outremer XL5).

    Passing between the bottom of Lanzarote and the top of Fuerteventura, we just couldn’t get enough angle and ended up sailing too close to the coast of Lanzarote as the wind bent around the mountains. We could see the whitecaps of the NE winds in front of us but couldn’t get there. Meanwhile the rest of the fleet had a much better angle through the islands. So down she came again whilst we motored across to the wind. Up went the parasailor but this time we couldn’t get enough angle the other way and were heading straight towards Fuerteventura. So down she came, which wasn’t a bad thing as the wind was starting to pick up.

    Dolphins – lots of them

    We had a bit of a delay in getting the main up whilst a freighter went past, but when we finally did we were down the back of the field again. No worries, as we had a great reaching angle and with one reef in and the wind blowing 18kts we were doing 8.5kts. Champagne sailing.

    Nice sunset

    As night approached we reeled in a few boats before the wind dropped a bit and swung more behind us. We took the reef out and still did 5-6kts. It was strang sailing in such a big fleet. Trying not to gybe whilst picking a path between boats was tricky, especially when a few of the boats did not have AIS. Interestingly our radar lost them from time to time even though they were quite close.

    About 8.30pm we lost a pin out of our main sheet shackle but we didn’t need to stop and repair it as the winds were light and the block settled against the other two blocks on the traveller without pulling out. Just so long as we avoided any sudden gybes we were right.

    Nice sunrise with Storm Breaker
    We were running 3 hour watches between the 3 of us (especially good since Jimmy said we need 6 hours of sleep in one block to function on extended passages) and as the sun came up at 7.53am we were nearly at Las Palmas. There was quite a line up of boats waiting to get in so there was some waiting involved as we finally tied up on T jetty amongst the 34 other rally boats.

    Rally Time

    After a good nights sleep, we wandered down and introduced ourselves to Jimmy Cornell and his daughter Doina. Jimmy rang a guy called Henning and organized for him to come down and install a pole for our D400 wind generator. Then it was off to the Frontier Police to check in. They are in the main port, a taxi ride away. They were quite particular about checking in and out and were concerned we didn’t check out of Algerciras because of Schengen.

    The Welcome Party for the Rally that evening was a great opportunity to meet the other B50 rally’ers. Dee whipped up a great pasta dish for the pot luck and we drank some great Lanzarote wine and beer. Party over, Phil and I wandered over to Ian and Ann’s boat to drink yet more beers before I needed to gently call time on Phil before he could still (just) manage to disembark (sans thongs). It was a great first night and an ominous sign of things to come.

    Next day we started on the cruising seminars, something Jimmy had organized for free for anyone and everyone, be they in the rally of not. It was great to get some formal education for what is now our profession. It can sometimes be a bit scary how much you still don’t know after all these years doing it. Jimmy is the guru of course having both done it all and then written numerous books and guides on our chosen vocation. His photos were brilliant too – we were treated to an amazing slideshow as Jimmy’s trip to the Antarctica and then through the North West Passage, as he sailed from Antarctica to the Arctic. In addition to Jimmy, we heard some a number of other experts covering all sorts of topics from medical to photography as well as all those topics you would expect on crossing the Atlantic. We were in information overload.

     

    One of the best speakers was Thomas, who had just sold me a parasailor, a spinnaker built like a parachute with a hole/wing in the middle. The parasailor came with a days training, which we were hoping to do whilst Thomas was in Lanzarote. Unfortunately the weather gods were not with us and with gusts to 50kts, we stayed in the marina and went through things on the front deck with Thomas. After he left and the winds died off we went out for a sail on Sunday and in a gentle 10kt breeze, we managed to put Thomas’ training into action.

     

    On Saturday, the Rally had organised a safety at sea demonstration with liferafts and a simulated helicopter rescue using a rescue helicopter from Gran Canarias. Dee volenteered to be the damsel in distress but they used a dummy instead. 

    In Arrecife, we had the choice of 3 chanderlies, where we could get 60% of what we needed. Luckily our next stop was in Las Palmas where the ARC leaves from and their chanderlies were fantastic. We were able to get a bunch of jobs done and we were pretty busy most days doing boat jobs. Some of the rally guys were very experienced in their own right and I was able to pick their brains on various subjects. We were enjoying our first rally experience.

     

    One of the things we worked out was probably 70% of the boats had backup for their self steering, either wind vane or dual autopilots. Being a cat, our only option was twin autopilots. Rob from BnG told us that 25% of boats had an autopilot failure last year on the rally and the ARC reported a 5% failure rate. Not wanting to hand steer our way across the Atlantic we decided to go for a second autopilot, this time a Raymarine. More on that later.

    We also managed to play a little, riding our bikes everywhere around town and down the coast on a magnificent bike path that went along the coast past the airport. We checked out a couple of nice restaurants, both in town and at the marina, and consumed more good Spanish wine on the backs of our and other boats.

    The rally organized an island tour, which Dee and Phil went on. The islands got a wonderful national park with its extinct volcanoes and lava flows. Phil managed a 30km walk to a church were the lava miraculously stopped, a pilgrimage the locals do once a year from wherever they live on the island to this church in the middle of the island.

    We also did an island tour to Fuertenventura, the next island down by bus, ferry, bus; as the rally had problems last year at this island’s marina and decided the safest way to get there was not sailing. This tour was great as we visited some cool sand dunes, some pretty little villages and drove along some spectacular mountain passes.

    Time went quickly on Lanzarote and the 10 days we had there and in no time we were at the skippers briefing and leaving party celebrating our last day in Lanzarote.

    Off to the Canaries

    Ok, so I’ve given up trying to catch up on my blogging and will now concentrate on blogging our time on the Barbados 50 rally, trying to fill in the (large) gap I’ve left behind as I go.

    The sail across from Agadir in Morocco was eventful to say the least. We started at 10am after checking out of Morocco, by motoring in thick fog, which gradually cleared as we got away from the Moroccan coast. The swell and the wind both gradually picked up and just as we were thinking about turning off our engine, we got a large chunk of rope caught up in it. We switched off the engine and folded up the prop and off it came only to drift back onto the fishing lure. Phil managed to pull it in but it was too heavy to lift to get the lure off. Atlantic Ocean 1 – Lure 0.

    Then we were off sailing. We soon had 1 reef in and were being hit by a large side swell as we were on a 90 degree reach travelling 7-9 knots. This time we were just talking about putting in a second reef for the night when we got pooped by a rather large wave, which broke over our back deck. Time for a second reef. Then not 5 minutes later the autopilot disengaged and went on strike. Atlantic Ocean 2 – La Mischief 0! With Meagan not ever having hand steered we quickly decided on a roster of 3 with Meagan sleeping through the night and steering in the morning. It wasn’t too bad at first when the moon was up right in front of us, but when it disappeared at 1am, it was steering by compass and wind angle only.

    Morning came and Meagan did a great job hand steering for the first time in her life. And then at 2pm, Eric the autopilot woke from his coma and magically started working again.

    Finally we entered Lanzarote Marina in the capital of Arrecife at 6pm and found our berth. The marina is spacious and modern, so modern that most of the power points were for super yachts. We pulled in forwards between the long finger jetties and got out our power cord, which didn’t quite reach the only small power point in the vicinity. So we simply backed out of that slip and in backwards to the slip behind us. Perfect. And much closer to the bars, laundry and supermarket.

    Making the same mistake twice!

    For once we had a nice sail down to Vis, stopping for the night in one of my favourite turquoise blue anchorages – Krknjas on the island of Veli Drvenik.

    13501708_10205987953890843_7381260580628221607_nBut we were on a mission to get to Vis then onto Italy so it was up anchor and onto Vis. We got to Vis around lunchtime and picked up a paid mooring in Komiza.

    13495109_10205987998371955_7909134616780263776_nWe spent a day and a half in Vis, waiting for the right weather to cross to Italy. We swam from the back of the boat and at the nice beach, and between the two. We walked through the nice town with its cutesy marina and nice waterfront promenades.
    13501691_10205988297779440_1305181831806828228_nWe took the dingy inside the restaurant we’d visited with Ooroo three years ago and had another nice meal overlooking the water. It was all very relaxing.

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    Then we checked out of Vis and set off for Brindisi – a day and a night and a day away.

    13528740_10205988297819441_5710585993321654046_nThe weather was overcast with light winds. We got the genneker out and had some success using it with one motor running to give us some speed. Then the wind dropped and went on the nose so we furled in the genneker and motor sailed towards Brindisi.

    As night fell, Dee went to bed and I watched the lightening on the Italian coastline. I watched a few squalls on the radar, and being 5nm away and somewhat behind us I thought it would take them a while to get to us and thought we could pass by them before they hit us.

    Then they were on us. I got Dee up to help reef the main as the wind picked up from 5kts to 35kts in a blink. As we were reefing down the main to the second reef, the dreaded genneker start to unfurl. Yikes.

    By now there was quite a swell running making steering a bit difficult. I headed upwind to stop us taking off and stop the genneker unfurling any more. Dee wasn’t keen on this as it took us into a heap of lightning but there was no way we could run away downwind with half a geneker out in 35kts of wind and a large swell. So we tried to ignore the spectacularly scary lightening show as I clipped on and went forward to pull the genneker down as Dee tried to steer whilst lowering the halyard at the same time, letting the geneker fall safely along the length of the boat.

    Having made the mistake of leaving the genneker furling up on the bowspit once before in Cascais, Portugal and having the same problem, I was a little bit more equipped to deal with the issue. But I absolutely hate making the same mistake TWICE!!! Mistakes are usually a learning process but this time I got a big fail.

    As the genneker came down it managed to knock the Badboy Wi-Fi extender aerial off the spreaders. I somehow managed to find this on the coach roof, but the fall damaged it beyond repair. Once in port we evaluated the damage and couldn’t find the swivel for the top of the sail. We thought it must have come off after I removed the halyard as the top of the sail fell into the water as I was putting it away in the front locker. We ended up buying a new one before finding that the old one had fallen off in the bottom of the locker and had hidden itself under the sail. The whole f***up cost us a few boat dollars.

    But I will be much better prepared (well ahead of time) for squalls next time.

    With the genneker now down, we found a wind angle that worked and comfortably sailed through the storm to Bari, a little short of where we were originally sailing – but hey we made it to Italy.

    Back in Croatia Fixing Stuff

    With just Dee and I on board now we decided against another overnighter, opting to get into Pula after dark, where we knew the lay of the land and could anchor up easily. Or that’s what we thought.

    It was a pretty uneventful sail/motor back from Venice after an 8 o’clock start, having hung around for the marina guy to show up to help us out of our tight slip.

    We got to Pula on dusk and got treated to the light show on the cranes as we came in. We pulled up to the customs dock and checked in quickly and easily. Then we anchored off to the side of the jetty and went to sleep.

    We woke to a knocking on the hull as the port guy told us we had to move quickly as a cruise ship was coming and we needed to give him more space. Okay, maybe anchoring wasn’t quite as straight forward as we thought.

     

    We didn’t stay re-anchored long as we needed to move into the marina to get our newly repaired wind instrument refitted. The guys had done a good job of refurbishing our badly corroded wind instrument but couldn’t manage to thread the new cable through the mast so they could wire it all up. All they did was manage to pull the old cable out – without the new one attached. Lagoon had left a mouse line in the mast but the top of this had come loose meaning that was no use either. There was much talk of having to drop the mast, before I called a halt to proceeding after having talked to the Croatian Lagoon agent who suggested we sail down to Murter to have things attended to.45629-lrg

    So early next morning we headed south. Murter was a bit far in one day so we stopped off in nice bay called Baratol on the island of Pasman, before getting up early to beat the final 15nm into Marina Bertina on the island of Murter, where the Raymarine guys who were recommended hung out.

    betina

    We got there just in time as we had 40kt winds for the next few days. The guys managed to get up the mast and get things sorted, finishing late into the evening before the winds got too bad. It was still a bitch of a job, as inside of the mast is a bit tight in places but they managed to get the mouseline, firstly down to where the halyards exit the mast and finally down to a rather crowded exit point where all the other electrical cables exit.

    betina

    In fact Murter is a bit of a find, being one of those places in Croatia where you find really good technicians. Talked to a lot of satisfied customers in the marina who had various things fixed over the years.

    Murter is also connected to the mainland via a traffic bridge making it a good island to leave the boat for a bit of exploring by car.

    But no time for that in our quest to get around to Sicily, before picking up Claire and Kane in Sorrento in a few weeks time. With the wind gone and the wind instrument reporting the fact, it was time to head for Vis, our final destination in Croatia.

    Venice – Last Day

    We started our last day in Venice by catching the Vesporetto around to the Frontier Police to check out of Italy. Good to get this one out of the way early.
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    Then we set about seeing what remained on our To Do list. We loved just walking around Venice, checking out all the nooks and crannies. My phone told me we did a couple of 14km days.

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    We wandered up a great shopping street just north of the Grande Canal and ducked in to see the Church of Madonna dell’Orto. The churches of Venice are pretty damn impressive. Then down to the long street again to see some of the impressive palaces on the Grande Canal. We found a nice nook and stopped for a pizza and some wine, before heading to the Rialto Bridge via some more interesting streets.

    13434761_10205938959186006_2032267993152033101_n We crossed the bridge and headed for the Santa Maria Gloriosa del Frari. As we got closer the rain started coming down in buckets and we retreated to a café for wine and cappuccino. Two drinks later, the rain abated and we made it to the church (on time). Its spectacular in its shear size and its marvellous paintings, sculptures and its pretty cool altarpiece by some dude called Titian. What caught our eye was a sculpture depicting black slaves, a quite haunting commentary on the wrongs of slavery. Good on the old Franciscan monks for taking a stand a long time ago because slavery was something the Venetians of old used to trade in.

    We were on a roll and the last stop of the day was the Ca’ Rezzonico, a beautiful palace on the Grand Canal from the 1800’s. It’s an interesting look into what living in a grand Venetian home was like in the last days of the grand Republic, decked out with 18th century furnishings and paintings.

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    13432388_10205939006827197_8696509876084080562_nThen  it was off to Harry’s Bar. Unfortunately it had just ticked over 6pm so my shorts were a problem. So back to the boat for a shower and a change. Whilst on the Island of San Georgio we checked out the impressive yacht club we were staying at but unfortunately the season was a few weeks off and the weather was bad so the bar and restaurant was deserted.

    Not to worry, they had another club restaurant on the main island, just off St Marks square with an amazing view back to San Georgio. This was the site of their original yacht club and we had a great 5 star dinner there for about a third of the price of the other restaurants huddled around St Marks. Afterwards we walked around to Harry’s Bar but it was closed.

    Never mind, it was getting late and we headed back to the boat for our early morning departure back to Pula in Croatia.

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    Venice – Day 3

    We started the day by farewelling Stevo as he made his way to the airport. Then it was off for some more exploring. We’d booked our Basilica “No Queuing” Ticket for 4 euros each online and that got us in at 9.45am. The Basilica is one of the most magnificent churches in Europe, dripping in Gold and fantastic mosaics and paintings. You can see that the church in the height of the Venetian Empire was the beneficiary of lots of its wealth.

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    13423947_10205909690494307_1206584263925079089_nWe then had another crack at getting a temporary dingy license to cruise the canals. This time the Tourist Info Office directed us towards the City Hall and after being bounced around several offices and ending up at one that seemed to know what was going on, only to be told it was no longer a municipale responsibility but has now been transferred to the regional government, one hours bus ride away. Back at the boat, I read an email from Ellen who said a girl at another marina could organise it, but when I rang her she talked about organising it through the Tourist Information Office, but not before we were leaving. It was time to put up the white flag.

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    We hopped on the vaporetto up the grand canal to see all those magnificent houses and palaces using good old public transport. We hopped off at the Daniela Hotel, which we found out about the previous night when watching the making of Casino Royale, the house that sank was based on this hotel with its magnificent interior.

    We then walked up to the Arsenal to see where the real power of the Venetian Lion came from – the shipyards that build the naval fleet that dominated the Mediterranean all those years ago. We then hopped on another couple of ferries to continue our exploration of the waterways and canals. The multi-day transport ticket was proving to be very useful as we hopped on and off at quite a few places.

    13346423_10205909675453931_7705910035293462541_nWe hopped off at Salute and admired the wonderful church and then wandered the interesting streets that are found around the Peggy Guggenheim Museum. With the sun shining, it was too good a day to stay inside.

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