ship's log

Thursday 14 October to Sunday 31 October - based in Las Palmas


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Thursday 14 October – Sunday 17 October

The rest of this week continued to be focussed on ploughing through the jobs list on the boat, and exploring Las Palmas to find places to get the provisions we were going to need for the Atlantic crossing.

On Saturday and Sunday we took the weekend off, hired a car, and went exploring down to the South of the Island where all the beaches are, sheltered from the North Easterly Trade winds. We drove back through the centre, over the highest point, which is at 1900 metres.

The South of Gran Canaria is where all the tourists go, so it is carpeted in hotels and beach resorts. Most are not that attractive but there is the odd jewel if you look hard enough, such as Puerto Mogan, and Anfi del Mar. We booked ‘Lazy Duck’ into Anfi for a few nights next week, as we want to come here with Colin and Caroline Simonds. They are coming out with their family at half term. It took three hours to drive back over the mountains, as the roads were terrible, but the view made it well worthwhile.

Monday 18 October

Nick Esch and Sarah Howard arrived at lunchtime today, so Hannah and I went off in the car to collect them. They will be with us for a week, and the plan is to head for Tenerife, about fifty miles to the West. They have been working flat out on various projects in London to get ready to come away, so a relaxed couple of days are planned to start with, then we set sail on Wednesday.

John Wollacombe, a friend from army days, sailed into in to Las Palmas in his new Najad 44, from Madeira. He has quit his job at Cazenoves and plans to cruise for a while, joined at various times by his wife Fiona and their 6 month old baby. He has had a good delivery down from the Hamble, and is going to be with us on the ARC. We all have dinner together at the Yacht club and swap stories about the passage down.

Tuesday 19 October

Out for a short sail with Michel the Frenchman from Columbus Navegacion, to calibrate the wind instruments. We have had all sorts of problems with the Autohelm ST50 wind instruments and this is an attempt to finally sort it out. Michel is a great guy, and has fun trying to explain what he is doing in sign language as I speak no French. Eventually it all starts to perform to plan, and we are back tied up. It was good to give Nick and Sarah a couple of hours familiarising with the gear on Lazy Duck before the passage tomorrow.

Jorge Cantero, our host at the Club, came to dinner with his wife Dolores. We learn much about the islands their politics and history, and relations with Spain. They have been so kind to us, so it is a real pleasure to be able to thank them, even in such a small way.

One pre-occupation for tomorrow is the weather en route to Tenerife. There are wind acceleration zone between the islands, in known areas, where the wind can whip up to 30-40 knots from nothing in the space of a few seconds. There is one (albeit a minor one) directly on our path to Santa Cruz, the capital of Tenerife. We need to be very wary as we approach, and Jorge has lots of good advice about how to keep safe as we approach them.

Wednesday 20 October

A hot, relatively windless start to the day. We motor out of Las Palmas and try to sail, but not much chance initially. Suddenly the cry goes up "Pirate ship ahoy". On the horizon, the majestic sweep of a large square rigger appears. It is the ‘Kruszhenstern", a Russian sail training ship, that I know well from the two tall ships races I have done. In fact the last time I saw her under sail was in exactly this spot in 1984, as we jockeyed around on the start line of the STA Tall ships transatlantic race to Bermuda. They are a fabulous sight, and never fail to impress, with their tall masts and complicated network of rigging lines. We sail up close to have a look, and the girls get a full view of a Tall Ship from seaward, a sight I am sure they will never forget.

The passage to Santa Cruz is relatively uneventful. The wind is light to start with, increases steadily, then goes up by ten knots to about 28 knots very quickly as we come in to the acceleration zone about 15 miles off the coast of Tenerife. The island coastline is dramatic. The central peak, Pico de Teide, is 3700 metres high, a dormant volcano. Quite a sight from the sea, as it rises so steeply.

We motor in to Santa Cruz at last light, and settle the boat down for the night on a shoreside mooring.

Thursday 21 October

We hired a convertible jeep, thinking that if the roads are like Gran Canaria, we need something a bit more robust to go scrambling up the mountain with.

We drove to Puerto de la Cruz, which houses the Loro Parque, a huge Nature park, with the biggest collection of exotic birds like parrots, macaws and canaries in the world. There is also a dolphin and sea-lion show which the children loved. Hannah was chosen from the audience to be taken for a ride towed by a dolphin, which of course made her day.

We have somewhat mixed feelings when we see the dolphins in captivity, performing tricks for audiences like this. I guess we are particularly privileged to see them almost daily in the wild, so it seems odd to see them in this context. They seem well looked after, however, and the children love getting up so close.

Friday 22 October

Today we head off up the hill in the jeep, bound for the top of Pico del Teide. The road winds up for miles, coming out of the inhabited area into the National Park which makes up the centre of the island. After winding through the Pine forest, we arrive at the base of Pico de Teide which is at 2200 metres, and has spectacular views both East to Gran Canaria and West to Hierro and La Gomera.

Pico de Teide is a dormant volcano, and the surrounding area is full of lava fields, which we can climb through.The lava crust seems very fresh, even though it is many years since it erupted. If you pick up a piece of black lava and break it, the colours in the bright sunlight are amazing. A great day out.

Saturday 23 October

We set off first thing in the morning to sail back to Las Palmas, fifty miles to the East of us. There is very little wind to start with, and there are dolphins everywhere. There are at least three large schools visible at the same time in the glassy sea.

We motor to start with, then the wind fills in from the North East, and soon we are moving at a steady six knots. There is an enormous Atlantic swell. The waves are at least 4 metres high, with some much bigger, but because they are long rollers we simply surf along on them as they pass by underneath harmlessly. Soon after we got in I went for a run along the breakwater, and could see the difference in effect between waves on land and at sea very graphically. The rollers were thundering in, crashing against the rocks and shooting spume high up into the air.

Sunday 24 October - Gran Canaria, after a trip to Tenerife Lat : 28 deg 08N, Lon 15 deg 02W

Big boat clean day in the morning, then off to the Columbus museum before lunch. Christopher Columbus based himself here for a while to prepare for his first journey into the New World in 1492. The Governors house where he stayed has been turned into a museum. There are some great artefacts from the trip including a full reconstruction of his cabin on the Santa Maria, and scale models of the other two ships, the Nina and the Pinta. Also some maps from the time, showing the Canaries (known as the Fortunate Islands then) at Zero longitude.

Nick and Sarah are off tomorrow, which is sad. They have been excellent company and a great help on board. A week has seemed way too short.

Next week we will head for the South of the Island with the Simonds family.

Bird's Eye View:

Now that we’re preparing in earnest for our first really long passage, stowage has risen to prominence in our discussions. In fact, it has been a rather competitive issue between Jonathan and me from the very beginning, because there’s not a lot of it, and each of us has ideas about what to do with it that don’t always coincide!

At first it was simply a matter of where to put everything. Jonathan had spent a lot of time and effort in gathering together an extraordinary range of boat stuff which he spread out in neat rows over John and Emma’s garage floor. There were spares for every single moving part, heaps of life jackets, diving gear and rope, boxes of tools, shackles and light bulbs, and bags of sail mending kit and jubilee clips. Then back at the house every flat surface was covered with piles of user manuals for the awesome array of boys’ toys on board, pilot books and navigation charts for every place we were to visit and books about every blood curdling situation the elements might put us in.

And that was just Jonathan’s lot. I had spent the previous year or so gathering together an alarmingly large collection of books for teaching the children on board, as well as a groaning mound of paper for them to write on. The equally important games bag held every form of entertainment we could lay our hands on from liar dice to snap, and I managed to reduce the amount of space it all took up by removing the packaging and putting the pieces into their own (labelled) drawstring bags. Then there was the scary medical kit. After the serious medical training Jonathan and I had done, the kit we assembled to enable us to practice all our new-found skills, as well as to deal with the more mundane ailments, seemed to take up an awful lot of space. All the boring domestic stuff like towels, T-shirts and bed linen created such a huge heap that I despaired of ever being able to keep it all washed and fragrant. That was until one of those free catalogues of the newest, utterly useless inventions was pushed through our letter box. In it I found a small hand-operated washing machine that looked just the job – after a quick assembly it dealt with your salty laundry in 15 revolutions of the handle. When it actually arrived and I saw how big it actually was, I began an internal battle with myself about whether the advantage of saving the skin on my knuckles really outweighed the disadvantage of wasting all that space. I went as far as shipping it all the way to Malta and tried it out at the house, but decided at the last minute that in fact I would be better advised to just find a willing laundry at each port we visited! Luckily we’ve managed to do that in most places.

Once we’d compiled that little lot we then had to find somewhere to put it. Jonathan had been teased mercilessly about his mountain of lists - and lists of lists - but as it turned out, if he hadn’t created it the contents of the boat would still be a complete mystery to us. As OIC Stowage, I classified, inventoried and neatly packaged the spares into clearly labelled waterproof bags, and then began the process of discovering, with the help of John John, all Lazy Duck’s innermost recesses. As each red bag disappeared into the bowels of the boat I added it to my map. During the first week of the trip it was the most referred-to piece of paper as we dealt with various teething problems and got used to where everything was. I learnt quickly that it was foolish to expect to rely on memory when trying to find things again, particularly as there are so many things to stow and so many places to put them. Despite all our precautions we have found ourselves telephoning John John on occasion since he left to ask him if he can remember where something was! Thank goodness for mobile phones.

So that dealt with the spares. Jonathan and I found ourselves in surreptitious competition over the more visible lockers as we struggled to find a place for everything else. We became very territorial over the most insignificant of spaces before we’d even thought of what to put in it. But we managed eventually, and over the last three months or so we’ve become more adept at packing it all in. The big issue now is how I get around Jonathan’s strong sense of competition. I’m looking at our Atlantic crossing with the ARC as a major provisioning challenge, and he’s looking at it as a race. To that end he’s been talking about removing everything heavy from the bows (like the anchor and chain) to stow in the middle of the boat (to make the boat go faster) and then keeping that vast anchor locker empty! As I look at my 3-page provisions list I can see there’s going to have to be some serious discussion over this. However, as I’m not the skipper I don’t hold a huge amount of hope over my chances … except that Jonathan enjoys his food and I might just have to leave behind the chocolate rations to make more room. Watch this space.

Bird's Eye View ends

Monday 25 October

The Simonds family all arrived after breakfast, and we made ready to set off down South. Colin and Caroline are friends from J24 sailing days, although the most familiar view we had was of the transom of their boat ‘Joint Venture’ sailing off over the horizon. Their children James (12), Frankie (9) and Sophie (4) quickly settled in as they are used to boats having spent most of their childhood summers sailing off Seaview.

We waved goodbye to Nick and Sarah. Sad to see them go, and the week went by all too quickly, but we will be seeing them again in Tahiti.

The wind was behind us as we rocked downwind through the acceleration zone on the East coast of Gran Canaria. It is a forty mile passage to Anfi del Mar, where we have managed to get a berth on the overcrowded South coast. The first half of the trip is great, then the wind slowly disappears and we need to motor the last bit. Rather an uncomfortable sea and some green faces about. We eventually moor up in Anfi at dusk. It’s a lovely small marina, and will make a good base for the next few days.

Tuesday 26 – Saturday 30 October

For next few days we have a lovely relaxed time cruising the South coast of Gran Canaria. As I have said in a previous log, it is where all the tourist action is on the island, so it is somewhat crowded. The advantage of being based on a boat however is that you can escape and keep the grockles at a reasonably safe distance. We spent two days at Anfi, one night in Puerto Mogan, and the last night at a lovely peaceful marina called Pasito Blanco.

The children had an amazing time, as Caroline describes below. They flourish with other children around, and fortunately get on well with all the Simonds family. Colin makes a great Master of Ceremonies for all the games.

We anchored off Anfi, and scrubbed the bottom of the boat. The anti-fouling seems to be doing a good job of keeping the worst of the barnacle growth at bay, but the propeller and the grounding plates are in a very bad way and take a lot of cleaning up. Luckily we have lots of snorkels and willing helpers.

A highlight of Mogan was a trip in a submarine (yellow, inevitably) from which the kids saw a wreck, lots of fish but no sharks, much to the relief of the bottom-scrubbing party (see drawings).

In Pasito we had a musical evening. Frankie is very musical and had managed to learn all Sarah's favourite songs very quickly, so the pair of them treated us to an impromptu concert.

On Friday we set off back for Las Palmas after a very relaxing week in the Southern sun. Saturday was spent chilling out by the yacht club pool.

Sunday 31 October - Back in Las Palmas, after a trip to the South of Gran Canaria

We spent the day at a monster water park on the South of the island. A good day out for all the nine of the kids!

A sad farewell to the Simonds at the end of the week. It’s been great fun, and the children will certainly want to stay in touch by e-mail.

Next week we are in Las Palmas doing maintenance and continuing preparations for the Transatlantic. We set off on Sunday 21 November, so its getting ever closer…

Birds Eye View

Sarah and Hannah The girls have settled well into life on board the boat. After the horror of Sarah’s crushed finger only hours into our trip on Day One it dawned on me that I may well have to use our scary medical kit after all. But when she then fell down the fore hatch only days later, and another time into the harbour when climbing back on board, and when Hannah had fallen out of her bunk in the night on two occasions, I despaired of ever getting them both to Australia in one piece! Thankfully though, their toes aren’t stubbed now quite as often, and they manage to keep two feet firmly planted on the ground, with one hand gripping onto the boat, despite the huge Atlantic swell.

We’ve created their own little den in the forepeak, where everything they could possibly want is only an arm stretch away. Their clothes have been tucked away into makeshift nets along the walls of the cabin, and all their beanie babies, barbies, dinosaurs, crayons, books, tapes and body glitter (courtesy of Susanna Dinnage) are piled into their pouches which live at the end of their beds. The pouches are magnets for all kinds of treasures and rubbish though, and I have to do a blitz every so often to pick out from the bottom all the now crumbled shells, lost hair bands and spilt nail varnish before the residue is smeared all over everything. The girls spend hours in there, either together or alone, spreading their toys over every available space in some complicated acted-out scenario, or simply reading or listening to their tapes. Despite my fears that the forepeak configuration would be thwarted by seasickness, in the main they seem oblivious to the motion of the boat.

One slight concern we had was the absence of other children in their lives. The first month was bliss as they had their three cousins, Sebastian, Tommy and Julia to play with. The five of them welded together and apart from fighting like cat and dog every so often, entertained each other for most of the day by playing ‘Oh Hell’ (favourite card game) or Cluedo, or swinging on the bosun’s chair on the end of a halyard. Having 12 year old Sebastian was a major asset too, as they were allowed to take the dinghy under his tender care to explore the beaches and rock pools for sea urchins. The boat seemed very quiet after they had all gone, and the girls were bereft. Not for long, however. It appears that age doesn’t play a huge part in the selection of Best Friends, and as each new crew arrives Sarah and Hannah go into immediate action. The two of them together create an awesome welcoming party for any new person brave enough to cross our threshold. There’s many a time that Jonathan or I have had to rescue our unsuspecting guests, within minutes of their arrival, from a two-pronged barrage of questions like ‘what’s your favourite colour?’, or ‘what are your worst injuries and can we see the scars?’, and ‘please come and see all my beanie babies NOW’. Once the friendship has blossomed, no secrets are safe. I was surprised to hear the other day that according to Hannah, Mummy and Daddy kiss AND hug. So generally the girls have enjoyed the turnover of people on board, and although it’s always a bit of a wrench for all of us to wave goodbye to friends who’ve invariably become part of the family, for Sarah and Hannah there’s always the excitement of who’s next.

The latest highlight has been the Simonds invasion. With three children to play with – James (12), Francesca (9) and Sophie (3) – the girls have been in heaven for six days. We based ourselves in the south of Gran Canaria where there’s an imported platinum beach to play on and Colin laid on all sorts of fun, not least of which were the huge mazes he drew in the sand for them to crack. Then there was the ride on the inflatable banana towed by a wet bike, and even a spell in a yellow submarine to check out the local ship wreck. Their last day with us was the ultimate in kiddie bliss. We visited a water park where you could choose to gently bob around a circuit on inflatable tyres, or to zoom down vertical watery slopes at mach 2, so we lost the five children for the day as they soaked up the sun and defied death. It’s very quiet on board now that they’ve all gone, but in two weeks’ time their cousin Daniel (12) will be joining us to cross the Atlantic, and when we get across to the Caribbean they’ll fall into the arms of their three Ripard cousins again … so it seems as though they’re doing all right for company. The only slight drawback with all this socialising is that there never seems to be enough time for the school work! We have a week coming up now in which we’ll be alone on the boat, so perhaps we can regain lost ground then…

End of Bird's Eye View

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