Sailing in the mountains…….

Posted October 19th, 2011 by Nick and filed in Uncategorized

Barracuda, originally uploaded by melandnick.

Oh Dear!
As usual I have left it too long between posts.
It seems like we have been here for months, can it really have only been two weeks since we arrived on these magical shores?
Something has changed now we are in the Canaries.
It’s not an easily definable thing but to me it feels like the whole trip has stepped up a gear.
In the run up to our departure from England I had always explained to Mel that the main draw for me was the people we would meet along the way. I figure that anyone who gives up a “normal” life with jobs, houses, cars etc, takes all of their possessions, wraps them up in a floaty thing called a boat and then places everything including themselves at the mercy of the very rawest of elements MUST be quite interesting really.
On the way down here we have been fortunate to meet some great people but with a few exceptions they were not heading across the Atlantic.
It seems that nearly everyone we meet now is heading to the Caribbean, many with stops in Senegal, Gambia and the Cape Verdi’s.

While in Puerto Calero we had a great evening drinking champagne sangria and getting to know Angela (an Italian conceptual artist) and Massimo (a professional super yacht skipper). They had both been on board “Bernard” the catamaran that had passed us on the way down from Portugal.
While in Calero we also came across a boat…44’ long….steel….nice lines….professionally built in 1985…..well equipped….10,000 Euros asking price….Yes, that’s what I said, 10,000 Euros!
Unfortunately, though she ticked nearly all of the boxes in our “next boat that will last us for life” list she needed a lot of structural work to the deck etc and was too much for us to take on at the moment.
Thanks to my oldest friend, Nick and our new friends, Bryan and Dorothy on “Caitlin of Argyll” for talking some sense into us.
We met Bryan and Dorothy in Marina Rubicon, Playa Blanca. We had hired a car for the day and drove to the Marina knowing that Marco was staying on a boat there and we wanted to offer him a lift to his next destination. When we got to this huge, new marina we realised that we didn’t even know the name of the boat he was on.
After a fruitless visit to the marina office I walked down a pontoon to look at the boats and was challenged by a voice from one of them asking in a suspicious tone if they could help me. As usual I was looking pretty scruffy but after explaining that we had a boat in another marina and were looking for a friend we started chatting about steel boats.
They turned out to be the right people to ask as within a few minutes they had invited Mel and I on board and were offering drinks and showing us around their IMACULATE Van De Stadt 42 which they had built themselves from scratch, keeping a very detailed photo log of the build. As we only had the car for the day and wanted to do some sightseeing we cut the visit short and promised to stop by on the way West.
On the way back to the car we decided to look down one of the other pontoons in the hope of finding Marco and there he was, just a few boats along, greeting us with his usual infectious smile.
Next day we left Calero and made the short hop round the coast to Rubicon and dropped anchor outside the marina entrance.
We popped in on the dinghy and grabbed a bite to eat before seeing Bryan and Dorothy only to have to cut the visit short when a strong wind blew up making me feel very nervous for Borne.
Once back on board we felt a bit happier though the wind howled all night. We were glad to have invested in a bigger anchor and new chain before we left the UK.
Next day we picked up Marco and headed out, cutting between Lanzarote and Fuerteventura and aiming for the South of Gran Canaria.
As usual we had a line out and sailing along the North coast of Fuerteventura we had a bite, we were in quite strong winds and seas and hove to as I struggled to pull in the Barracuda (see pic above).
I took huge fillets from him and Mel worked her usual genius and baked him to perfection.
After a good sail we made it Gran Canaria and anchored off a very exclusive timeshare development called Anfi del Mar where we relaxed on the white sand beach for the afternoon before getting a good night’s sleep and heading on to La Gomera.
Next day was when the real fun started. Mel stayed cosy down below as Marco and I did battle with the fury that is the acceleration zone.
Imagine a fast flowing river with big rocks in it. The water will boil and surge around the rocks, speeding up as it tries to force its way between them.
Now imagine that the river is the Atlantic Canary current flowing down the coast of Africa and the rocks are the Canary Islands….get the idea?
The wind also works in exactly the same way. The phenomenon really needs to be seen to be believed as you venture out in mild winds and flat water only to see a line in front of you, and I really do mean a line, with flat water on one side and waves and white water on the other.
We had a wild ride. The wind was near gale force and the waves were as big as any I have ever seen. We were sailing in valleys and mountains. The tops of the waves were breaking and the wind was blowing spray away in horizontal streaks. Every now and then a wave would hit us and Marco and I would be drenched and we would hear Mel down below chuckling away. The bigger the drenching we got, the more hilarious Mel (sitting cosy and dry on the main bunk) found it.
When we were hit by a big wave that was breaking there would be a moment of almost weightlessness and the feeling of being supported by bubbles as Borne laid over. Once on her side she has quite a flat shape and the feeling of surfing SIDEWAYS down the face of a wave in a 7 ton yacht is a truly unique feeling.
We arrived in San Sebastian marina in the early hours after another acceleration zone with Mel sleeping through it and waking up only after we had parked the boat.
I think that Mel now knows that Borne is stronger than we are and will look after us and I know that Mel is pretty much fearless.
The only problem we had was that while we were ploughing through the waves we took a lot of water through the anchor chain pipe and this ended up in the front cabin, soaking everything and destroying some of our books. It’s an easy thing to sort though and we are glad that we now know about it.
La Gomera has been great. The marina is the cheapest we have stayed in and is full of sailors preparing to head onwards.
Its late here now so I will finish and write a bit about Gomera and the people we have met in the next post.
I promise not to leave it so long.


Sea Safari

Posted October 4th, 2011 by Nick and filed in Uncategorized

PA010038, originally uploaded by melandnick.

Leaving the south coast of Portugal brought about mixed feelings for me. As we were sailing away from land, I was excited for us to be embarking on our longest passage yet and getting to the Canary Islands, due to take 5-6 days. At the same time I was very anxious for the weather to be kind to us, as I’m now only too aware how quickly weather can change to make a previously comfortable and pleasant journey into a very rough and sometimes quite scary experience. The forecast for our trip looked favourable, light winds from the north-north east, so we were set to go to our last destination in Europe before crossing the Atlantic later this year.

In addition to weather anxiety, on previous multi-day trips I’ve always suffered from severe lack of sleep. The watch pattern of four hours on, four hours off had resulted in me actually not getting much sleep at all; probably due to the movement, and odd sleeping patterns. I’d heard that you’re supposed to get into a routine and sleep comes more regularly, but so far this hadn’t happened to me.

It took a couple of days for the sleep patterns to bed in, but they did, and by the end of the trip I was happily sleeping solidly when off-watch, even with the engine churning loudly in the background. The only complaint about the weather was that for the last day or so there wasn’t any wind at all, which for me is preferable to strong winds!

One of the highlights of the trip was that we caught a small skipjack tuna (1.5kg) on the second day which we seared in a hot pan and had with a nice salad for dinner – delicious!

On the fourth day we were hailed on our VHF radio by a large catamaran gaining on us. It turned out that they were heading for the same marina as us, and we agreed to meet there for a drink with them when we arrived which of course we have held them to – hello Massimo and Angela! Their boat, Bernard, was much faster than little Borne, so we watched them go on ahead of us and eventually out of sight.

The lack of wind on the last day of our trip, as we closed Lanzarote, though irritating in terms of making progress, turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Both Nick and I agree that it was the most magical day either of us has ever had at sea.

The magic began when I came on watch around 2am. Nick had just finished taking down the sails on the front and all of a sudden I heard dolphins breathing next to the boat. For the next 15mins the dolphins were swimming all around the boat, and underneath it, leaving sparkling phosphorescent comet tails in their wake.

As the sun rose, Nick was on watch over a patch of relatively shallow water and for about an hour he was surrounded by Dorados literally leaping out of the water all around the boat. These are one of the most stunning fish in the sea and are also pretty big. He caught, but returned, two smallish (1.5kg) females, in pursuit of a large male which eluded him.

I awoke at around 8am to a blue sky and warm sun surrounded by a flat calm sea which in my opinion is one of the most beautiful sights. We were in truly blue water, around 3-4000m deep and crystal clear. This clarity and deep blue colour gives the water a special quality which makes it reflect the sky, clouds and sunlight in a way I’ve never seen before. I’ve tried to capture it on camera, so hopefully you’ll see what I mean if you check out the pics on flickr.

At one point in the morning we stopped the boat and dropped a coin in the water which we could see for a full minute reflecting the sun as it sunk down into the deep.

We spent most of the first half of the day enjoying the calm weather, and listening to music in the cockpit. The choice of the day was the Doves (their ‘best of’ album) which I’d downloaded a few days before, and we both love it and it seemed to capture the atmosphere of the day.

In the early afternoon, we started to spot turtles swimming in the sea, after an hour or so we were totally surrounded by them and continued to be until the sun went down. They are very amusing to watch, as the boat gets close to them, they seem to wake up from their leisurely bobbling and spark into life rapidly flapping their flippers around and eventually gain some traction to dive down and away to safety fighting their inherent buoyancy all the way. They can be quite big, some of them seemed to be nearly 1m long.

Then off in the distance to the east, we spotted a pod of pilot whales, they were quite far away and although the seas were flat, we only saw them for a few minutes. Another couple of hours past and we saw two more pods of whales, the second of which we got very close to and could count around 8 of them altogether, including 2 calves. They actually turned to point towards us as we got closer which was when we realised they had babies, so we quickly turned away from them hopefully signalling that we weren’t a threat, as it seemed to be a defensive stance on their behalf. It really was amazing to get so close to them.

To complete our sea safari, we saw a flying fish skimming across the top of the sea with only the tip of his tail in the water using his fins to glide along.

As the day drew to a close, we sighted land and our destination, Lanzarote. We were treated to one of the most beautiful sunsets we’ve seen so far on the trip, probably enhanced by the calm seas. As the sun went down, there was a second burst of jumping Dorado around the boat and then the stars, including several shooting stars, came out to play.

Around 3am in the morning we docked in Puerto Calero marina (which is very nice) and finally settled down to sleep after a truly exhilarating day.

We’ve been here now a couple of days exploring the good (landscape of volcanos & lava fields) and bad (the hideously tacky anglicised resort Puerto del Carmen) of Lanzarote and we will be moving on to explore another Island in another couple of days with our German friend Marco who we’ve bumped into yet again and offered to give a lift to the next destination (either Gran Canaria or Gomera).

Mel x