780nm South to Cape Verdes

FRIDAY

Set off at 8am on the 780nm jaunt to the Cape Verdes, a day earlier than planned as there was some strong southerlies coming on Sunday and our strategy was to head West of the rhumb line (whilst keeping a reasonable distance off Africa) to skirt around these Southerlies and get far enough South so we wouldn’t be affected. Most of the rest of the fleet had pretty much the same idea, although a few of the boats were going nowhere as the effects of the flu that went through our fleet had completely incapacitated them. So they stayed in El Hierro or Las Palma to recuperate. I wasn’t so sure about staying in El Hierro in Southerlies as it looked pretty exposed to the South. Will be interesting to see how they faired. 

With our sails set our immediate challenge was trying to get a decent angle to clear the bottom of the island. Wing on wing for a while but the new Raymarine autopilot wasn’t handling it so after a bit of hand steering we gave up on that idea and jibed our way to the bottom of the island.

We used up our last bit of internet for 5 days and then headed off into the big wide expanse of the Atlantic Ocean. The wind turned to the East and we had a steady sail for most of the day at 5kts or so. Phil and I were still feeling the effects of the flu, so we took it fairly quietly, with no extravagant sail changes, sleeping off watch where we could.

The highlight of the day was a pod of spotted dolphins that hung around for ages.

 

SATURDAY

By now Phil and I were both starting to feel better and out came the fishing gear as we motor sailed along in light winds. We were keen to at least get an entry in for the fishing completion, and Dee pulled out her secret weapon, a rather innocuous looking blue plug with a sing large hook on the end of it.

And it worked. A glorious 12kg Dorado jumped on the secret weapon and Phil pulled it in and gaffed it onto the boat. We managed to loose some horrible gin we picked up in desperation in Turkey down its gills, before lassoing its tail. We just passed an enormous underwater mountain – maybe that had something to do with the fishing. It was all happening as we noticed some whales broaching in the distance.

That night we really enjoyed the BBQed fresh fish, before settling down on our 3 hourly night watches. Dee was doing the 11pm – 2am shift when the wind picked up and off went the motors. I had to get up and help Phil put in a reef around 3am when the wind picked up to 20kts. It was on a comfortable tight reach, we were just East enough to avoid the stronger southeries and the swell was not much to write home about (so I won’t).

We made some good miles under sail hitting 8s and 9s but it didn’t last past dawn (a rather late 8.15am in the morning) and we were back to motor sailing.

 SUNDAY

With no need to fish, it was a rather quite Sunday at the office. We left the reef in all day as it didn’t really matter whether it was in or out, no wind is no wind. We motored into the Tropic of Cancer – another first for me in the Northern Hemisphere (having previously sailed through the Tropic of Capricorn on Camelot). 

We were starting to get the rhythm of a long ocean passage. We occasionally spotted Oysterbar and Dolojaime in the distance and picked up the odd freighter on AIS but it was largely a big empty deep ocean. We kept track of the other boats through a once a day email from rally control detailing the GPS positions of all the other boats. I download weather on my Predict Wind Offshore app on my Apple Mac via my Iridium Go and this gives me weather routing via 4 different weather models, GMDSS weather forecast and satellite imagery. And occasionally I get an accurate forecast.

That night the wind picked up again and we touched 9s with the reef in and the wind blowing 15kts. Perfect sailing on a beam reach. Everyone enjoyed a great night time sail under a big full moon, until my early morning shift when once again the wind died and the motors came on.

MONDAY

About 11am we decided it was time to deploy Hotlips (our parasailor with the red lips) in light 8-9kts of wind, which was right up our bum. In 4-5kts of apparent wind we were doing 4-5kts of SOG. A couple more knots of wind would have been good but at least we weren’t burning diesel.

It was a slow day all around. We took the cautious approach of taking the Parasailor down as night fell, probably a mistake as La Mischief doesn’t go very well down wind in light winds with just a mailsail and a jib. We engaged the services of the iron sail to keep us on track for a daylight arrival on Wednesday, provided we got a couple of decent parasailor runs. 

TUESDAY

Sunrise was at 8.30am and the parasailor went up at 9am. It was downhill all the way to the finish line in Cape Verdes and with the wind picking up to 12kts, we were set to average 7kts with hotlips showing the way. Our plan was to get to within 140nm, 24 hours out before sunset and that gave us an easy run home provided we did better than 6kts.

And that’s what we did. I’m struggling to work out why I didn’t get a parasailor earlier. Would have made some of our earlier passages a lot more enjoyable.

5 days in, the days seem to pass easily. Kindle eBooks and movies are consumed, whilst Dee is busy doing her exercises. Spot Mr. Lazy! Its very therapeutic being away from the Internet ….. and Alcohol! With all that fresh food and fresh air too. It’s a veritable health farm on the water.

About 6pm we decided to quickly drop the parasailor to check the socks control lines that appeared to be twisted at the top. Back on deck it seemed to untwist itself, but just as we were about to re-hoist it, the starboard engine stopped as parasailor line fell into the water and wrapped around the prop. Nothing like a mid-ocean swim to untangle her. Its very blue underneath the back of the boat with the snorkel and mask on!

Crisis over, off we went again doing 7kts with only the parasailor up. This was our first night sail with Hotlips up and it went beautifully. You could see the stars through the parasail opening as we surfed down the swell that had built from nothing to maybe 1.5m.

WEDNESDAY

Its nice to wake up at 5am in the morning and see we have a manageable 80nm to go. The moon was still fairly full and the wind was so consistent, never wavering much from straight behind us at 12-15kts. Trade wind sailing.

We thought we’d have a go at filling up the freezer before we arrived given we will have 5 hungry mouths to feed. Phil ordered Wahoo – but all we got was a baby mahi mahi that we threw back 

As we neared the islands the wind picked up and as we entered the channel we had 20-25kts. We were zooming along at 9-10kts and getting to our final destination quickly. We had some problems getting the parasail down with all that wind but Phil and I managed to get it in the sock eventually. Dolojaime were not so fortunate – they managed to wrap theirs around the mast and had to cut it off. Ouch!!!!

With parasailor down, out came the fenders and mooring lines and we were soon docked ready for our first beer in over a week!

El Hierro

We took it easy on the sail down to El Hierro as Phil and I weren’t anywhere near 100%. The marina there was a pleasant surprise as the floating pontoons were all brand spanking new. There wasn’t much there though. A coffee shop and a ferry berth were about it.

We were following the weather fairly closely at this stage and we decided to leave a day early to avoid some southerly winds that were making an appearance in a few days time.

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That left time for the island tour, which was very interesting. El Hierro only has 7000 residents and they have built a rather interesting power plant using wind turbines and a couple of big dams that they use to produce hydro power when the wind doesn’t blow enough. When the wind is blowing too much they use the excess power to pump the water up into the high dam. The hydro component helps level out the power as well.

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We were lucky enough to see it all in action. Spain is really pushing wind power and is aiming for 100% renewable energy in the near future. They have managed to touch 70% so they are putting Australia to shame.

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After the power plant tour, we stopped of for morning tea at a restaurant designed by Cesar Manrique, a famous Spanish architect from the Canaries who has buildings on each of the islands.

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Then it was off into the mountains and saw some great scenery with some lovely pines. Plus of course a good lunch.

We visited the capital and got some groceries but the supermarkets are small and most of us had done our provisioning well before El Hierro.

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Then it was off to Cape Verdes – 780nm to the South.

 

 

 

The Pretty Island

Once again we had a good sail, just as soon as we’d cleared the top of La Gomera and the winds turned NE. We had an early start at 6am and made the 55nm by 4pm that afternoon. The marina at Santa Cruz has an awkward swell despite appearing to be very well protected. And with 20kts of wind we were thankful for the two engines on our Catamaran. Some of the monos had some issues – its times like this we love being catamaran people.

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The marina is right next to town and what a pretty town it is. The first order of business was the Welcome Party at the Yacht Club. As usual it was a great party and it was also good to catch up with the other Fleet, if only for a day.

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Next morning we went off in search of an English Breakfast, but couldn’t find one anywhere. So we ended up back on the boat eating our usual.

Santa Cruz de La Palma is breathtakingly picturesque. Beautiful architecture, streets and shops. The main drag is somewhat strangely called Calla O’Daly, after an Irish Banana Merchant. The waterfront promenade has got some wonderful examples of old Canarian houses, with balconies overflowing with flowers and an overhanging dunny from the days when the beachfront was close by for efficient sewerage disposal.

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Next day we took a 40 minute walk south to Los Cancajos, a small beachside resort with a great black beach – really clean with excellent snorkelling. Best beach I’ve been to in the Canaries with lots of sub-tropical fish.

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The tour that the rally put on for free was around NE of island. The highlight was the tropical rainforest with a stunning waterfall. This being the only permanent river on the islands.

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After the tour, we went over to Aura for Crispy’s farewell party. The whole of fleet two came along so it became a dock party. There was a few sore heads after that party.

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The sore heads were exacerbated by the spread of the Dusseldorf Bug. Thetis had made a trip back to Germany and brought a nasty bug back with them. Just about the whole fleet got it (except Dee). Some of the boats got it so bad they couldn’t sail for days. Phil was really sick for a couple of days and I got it pretty bad.

So for our last day, Dee did a bus trip around the island, whilst we rested trying to get rid of the bug, whilst completing our job list before heading south.

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Then it was time to set sail to El Hierro.

Whistling Jack

The marina at La Gomera is backed by dramatic cliffs on one side and the laid back town of San Sebastian on the other. There was a cruise ship in town so the town was buzzing with street markets and German tourists.

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We wandered around with Anya, checking out a few of the cutesy shops and impressive churches as well as the old fort dating back to just before Columbus visited in 1492. We found the house that Columbus stayed at – well a later version built in the 1700’s that was supposedly in the same spot. The well he took water from was closed for renovations, which was a bummer. The town has a couple of nice black sand beaches, which we checked out as well.

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Then it was time to drop Anya at her ferry as she needed to get back to Tenerife. It was a petty that she couldn’t come to Cape Verdes as we had a fantastic time with her.

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Goodbyes said, it was time for a bit of exploring. We climbed up to the top of the cliffs where there was a nice hotel built from an old Parador with fantastic views down to the town and along the coast. We walked down to another look out and got some more great pictures of the marina and the town.

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Next day we were up early for the tour that the rally organized. It too was included in our rally fees – the rally is such good value for money.

The tour guide was a pommy lady who had gone to La Gomera on a gap year in the seventies and had just stayed. She was a wealth of information. We drove up through the mountains, over steep ravines and through mountain tunnels to the NE. We passed through Aloe Vera and banana plantations, small towns and back down along the coast, before heading up to the top of a cliff where we stopped at a beautiful restaurant. We ordered coffee and cake and then checked out the glass lookout inside the restaurant, where you walked out over the cliff and looked down through the glass floor at the sea far below.

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After the restaurant staff had finished making us all the coffees, we were treated to a real highlight of our whole year. In La Gamera they have a whistling language, which goes back to the days of the shepherds on either side of the steep ravines, where they used whistling to communicate in Spanish. Nowadays it is talk in schools and you hear the locals “talking” in it around the island.

Whistling Language from Steve Tull on Vimeo.

The waiters started by showing us a few phases and them for a bit of a party trick, a few of us hid items around the room whilst one of them went out the back. Then he came back in the room and the other waiter whistled directions of where each item was hidden and which one of us to return it to. We were very impressed.

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After this impressive party trick, we continued our journey into the mountains and up into the ancient rain forest, the last remnants of a gigantic rain forest that covered Europe a long, long time ago. We donned our jackets and had a nice hike around the visitors centre. Then it was back in the bus for another interesting drive back down to the coast to San Sebastian, where we spent the afternoon shopping and swimming at the town beach.

14556513_10206702258388009_2338417015279865307_oNext morning it was up early for a sail to La Palma for a brief rendezvous with Fleet 1.

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