Monday, 13 February 2017

Cape Verde Islands

It was not easy anchoring in the harbour at Palmeira, Sal in the dark. On the first attempt the anchor chain jammed in the locker with about 5 metres of chain and the anchor hanging over the bow. I could not free it. Jeremy managed to free it and we tried again. This time we were too close to the ship quay and had to weigh anchor. Third time lucky is the expression and fortunately it was for us.

Sunrise over Palmeira Harbour
The next morning we launched the dinghy and motored ashore to a busy fishermen’s quay, where I had to climb up the wall as there were no steps. Friendly people met us and no-one asked for money. We were directed to the Policia Frontera but the officer was not there and we were to return later. We started walking towards the main town of Espargo, about 7 kilometres away. The landscape was totally barren. Dust and volcanic ash stung our legs in the wind. We flagged down an aluguer, a local minibus, and we were able to pay in euros as we had no local currency, Escudos or CVE.

The second ATM worked and we were both able to withdraw CVE. This was a relief because there were over 100 people in front of us in the queue for the bank counter. Jeremy spoke to a local man who had good English and we found out where to eat and where to buy groceries. Back at Palmeira, we checked in with Policia Maritima and our boat papers were kept until 24 hours before our departure.

Kathy at Salina
The next day we saw Policia Frontera and had our passports stamped. Policia Maritima returned our boat papers. We caught an aluguer to Espargos and Jeremy asked where we should catch a bus to Salina, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The driver said, “Stay on this bus,” which we did, getting a bit worried when we were the only passengers. We realised we’d accidentally made a private hire and there was no way we could avoid paying the fare of 1000CVE (approx. 10 euros). At Salina we walked around a volcano crater where acres of sea water were drying in massive salt pans. Some tourists float in the water, which is said to be saltier than the Dead Sea.

Catholic church at Santa Maria
From Salina we wanted to see the tourist resort of Santa Maria. There were no buses, so we hitched and were picked up within minutes by a Portugese couple who were going to the same place. After lunch and a wander round the pleasant beach resort, we caught an aluguer back to Espargo for 100CVE each, then another to Palmeira.

Porto do Tarrafel
The following day, Wednesday 8th February, we weighed anchor at 0350, in the dark, and set sail for Sao Nicolau, 90 miles away. The sea was rough and the wind was strong. At first light, I noticed a vessel, Altair, on the AIS, which was on a collision course dead ahead. It took several VHF calls and a DSC alarm call before Altair answered and said he could not see us. Jeremy gave our position and Altair avoided us by 0.3 nautical miles. He did warn us of a ship astern of him on the same course, so Jeremy called Harpa Doris and they gave us 0.2 nautical miles clearance. We were glad it was light.

Looking down from the mountain path
The sun went down as we approached Porto do Tarrafal, Sao Nicolau. We anchored in the dark. Next morning we had to re-anchor as we were too close to another yacht and our chain was stuck on something. Three attempts later, the anchor held and we went ashore. A young “boat watcher” took us to Policia Maritima, where we checked in, causing some amusement as one of the police officers was called Spencer, like us.

Fabulous peaks behind. Getting tired now.
We caught an aluguer to the main town, Ribeira Brava, hidden in the mountains. To our surprise, two English speaking men were on the bus and we were given lots of information about the island. The scenery was completely different from Sal. Up in the mountains there was a fair amount of agriculture taking place with terraces up the hillsides. The views were spectacular as we wound and twisted our way to Ribeira Brava. We had lunch in Banana Secca eating al fresco in a shady courtyard. Feeling refreshed, we walked to Cachaco, which was only 2.5 miles, but most of it was uphill and some was almost vertical. Two worn out sailors arrived at the top and caught an aluguer back to Tarrafal, where we collapsed on SD with a couple of cervejas to celebrate.

Resting on a flat part
We were unable to retrieve our boat papers from Policia Maritma until 1500, so we had lunch ashore in a restaurant recommended by Casa Aquario.

We struggled to weigh anchor the next morning. Fortunately, the wind that rushes furiously down the mountain ravines and into the bay had died down in the small hours. Our anchor chain snubber had snapped and our chain was stuck on the stony bottom in several places. Once free, we reefed our sails and started the 45 mile passage to Mindelo, Sao Vicente. We arrived here on Saturday evening, 11th February. There are a number of international boats here preparing to cross the Atlantic. All being well and assuming we stock up with food, water and diesel, we should leave here on Tuesday or Wednesday for a 2091 mile passage to Martinique in the Caribbean. We’re allowing 20 days, but might be a little faster if we pick up a decent current.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Gran Canaria and El Hierro

Kathy at El Golfo
The first job ashore at Las Palmas, Gran Canaria was to visit a chandlery. This was quickly achieved without leaving the marina. Next was to search for a new pressure cooker and visit a supermarket. We were surprised to find ourselves in Marks and Spencer looking at socks and underwear! Focusing on the task again, we entered the huge department store called El Corte Ingles. Here we found a good choice of pressure cookers and bought a 6 litre one made by BRA.
The long and winding road: eat your heart out Dervaig
On Tuesday 25th January we caught the numero uno bus to the old town and had a look at Christopher Columbus’s house, Casa Colon. After a hearty lunch at El Herreno, we caught a different bus to the old port, where we had to get an exit certificate from the Policia Frontera. Unfortunately, we got off too early and had a 2-3 kilometre walk through the port. We had no problems getting our exit clearance once we found the right office.
Famous sculpted tree
We had a passage of 144 miles ahead of us from Gran Canaria to El Hierro. We left soon after mid-day on 26th January, motoring round the north end of the island in calm, sunny weather. Two hours later a short, uncomfortable swell started and the 5 knot wind accelerated to 22 knots. These acceleration zones are common in the Canary Islands, but not expected on what was such a calm day! We altered our course and sailed towards Tenerife. Five hours later, the wind returned to 5 knots and we motored the rest of the way to El Hierro, arriving at the new marina just before dark on 27th January.
Drove my Chevy to the leve
Jeremy checked in with the harbour master the next morning paying the very reasonable 13 euros a night fee, which included electricity and showers. We were at the bus stop in good time to catch the 1100 bus to Valverde, the main town on El Hierro. We don’t know how we missed the bus, but the harbour master came to our rescue and said one of the port staff would take us in his car. That was how we found ourselves with Jose, who spoke no English, driving to Valverde and trying to explain that we wanted to hire a car. Jose stopped at a petrol filling station and called to a friend, who telephoned someone, who said we would have to go to Frontera for a hire car, a twenty minute drive away. We wondered what we had let ourselves in for and how we would get to Frontera, when Jose said, “No problem,” followed by some Spanish, which we thought meant he was going there anyway. Off we went to Frontera, where we parked in front of a house and waited for Roger and the hire car. The back shelf of the hire was car was Roger’s office and he filled in a form and charged us 46 euros for two days. Jeremy asked about insurance and Roger said it was included. Once again, we have been touched by the generosity of local people towards complete strangers.

We were back in Valverde for lunch, picking up two hitch-hikers on the way. We met up with Bob and Liz, friends from our last visit to El Hierro. They took us to their house, which has a fabulous view out over the sea to La Gomera and Tenerife. We spent the afternoon with them drinking coffee and admiring their house and extensive gardens.
Kathy, Bob and Liz
The next day, with a map borrowed from Bob and Liz, we drove round the whole island in our Chevrolet. El Hierro is a beautiful island of contrasts which include stunning sea views, high mountain passes, pine forests and bleak, lava fields. On our return to Valverde, we stopped at the filling station and filled two large containers of diesel, ready for our next passage to the Cape Verdes.
Our magic carpet in Estaca
Monday 30th January consisted of doing jobs during the day. Jeremy donned his wetsuit and spent an hour and a half scrubbing SD’s bottom. His hard work paid off later, giving us an extra half knot of speed. In the evening, Bob and Liz came to SD to collect us and take us to a restaurant for dinner. We saw the last of the sunset at a miradore, before having a lovely supper in a restaurant nearby. Soon it was time to say goodbye to our friends and thank them for their hospitality. We shall think of you, Bob and Liz, every time we spread homemade plum jam on our bread. Thank you for the gift and for all the information you gave us about El Hierro. We had a lovely time.
OAP birthday boy/old man

Yesterday, Monday 6th February, we arrived safely in Sal, Cape Verde. The five and a half day passage was fast in the strong, trade winds, with SD covering 135 nm on three days. The sea was rough at times and we flew twin headsails – no.2 jib to port and a well-reefed genoa to starboard. Our trusty Hydrovane wind pilot steered the whole way. Jeremy celebrated his 65th birthday at sea and is looking forward to his first state pension cheque in three weeks’ time. We anchored in Palmeira harbour, on the island of Sal, in the dark, at the third attempt. First, the anchor chain jammed in the locker. Then we were too close to the ship quay and finally, the anchor held firm. It was 4.35am.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

On the waves again.

Beautiful flowers
We left Arrecife, Lanzarote on Monday. The winds were light as we passed down the east side of the island and the swell was kind. As we turned west through the passage between Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, the swell built up and became uncomfortable. We cleared the lee of Lanzarote and the NE wind came on pretty strongly so we could turn the engine off and sail all the way to Gran Canaria, where we arrived by 10am on Tuesday. It took two hours to be berthed in the marina. We will leave on Thursday for El Hierro. Hasta Luego.

Outside Chris Columbus' house

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Back in Lanzarote.

Christmas Eve at Whispering Pines

Welcome back to another year of reading our blog. Please feel free to leave comments.

Our 10 weeks of being landlubbers passed quickly. Our house was in good order except for a sticking ballcock in one of the cold water tanks, which was soon fixed by Jeremy.

It was good to spend time with our daughter, Emily, son-in-law, Ben and our grandchildren, Ellie, and Sophie. We stayed with them for 3 nights: Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. It was lovely to watch them open their presents, first of all, on our bed and later, downstairs. Sophie particularly favoured the cardboard gift tags, which were perfect for chewing!

Very soon after New Year, I flew to the Isle of Man to visit my 91 year old mother and my two sisters, Pat and Sara. Mum continues to be given the best of care at home by an excellent team of carers organised by Sara and assisted by Pat, when she is not working. Although Mum is now fully dependent on her carers and continues to have health issues, she is as well as can be expected. She was very pleased to see me and enjoyed looking through photograph albums, even though she could not always remember the people pictured or the places she’d been to on holiday.

Pat, Sara and Mum
Pat flew back to Gatwick with me and stayed at our house. She came to Sophie’s Christening and to a buffet lunch afterwards at Christine’s in Woodbridge. Here we met up with Jeremy’s brothers and their wives: Ritchie, Gavin, Catherine and Eileen. There were many more Deacon family members and plenty of friends with babies and young children. The church service was informal and fun and the buffet was delicious. Thank you, Em and Ben, for organising a delightful day.

The Christening
Two days later Pat flew back to the IOM and the very next day Jeremy and I set off for Stansted Airport. We were glad we were spending the night in an airport hotel when our bus arrived 45 minutes late. All went well for the rest of the journey. We were up at 5.00am on 19th January and checked in before sunrise! There was ice on the plane windows as we left the UK. Three and a half hours later, the sun was shining on the runway at Lanzarote, where the temperature was 19C out of the wind.

On the way to the party
Sal Darago was in good shape with all lines still attached and no water or mould inside. There was a coating of Sahara dust all over her decks and Jeremy was pleased he had removed the halyards and sheets. The engine started second time as there was a loose electrical connection to the glow plugs.

Yesterday, we provisioned for 2 months and finished recording and stowing everything today. I have another sore throat and hope it won’t develop into a cold. I seem to have been fighting off viruses since before Christmas. Hopefully, the best prescription is going to be sunshine and sailing.

Ellie and Sophie
We hope to leave for Gran Canaria in a few days’ time. It’s an overnight sail of 114 miles. Then we want to visit El Hierro, about 144 miles from Gran Canaria, before setting sail for the Cape Verde Islands. Hasta luego!

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Agadir, Morocco to Lanzarote, Canary Islands

We had been in touch with Canadian friends, Ann and Barry from Cat’s Paw IV and knew they were somewhere in the Canary Islands. They were in Marina Lanzarote near Arrecife and would wait for us if we were leaving Morocco soon. We told them we would sail direct to the same marina and see them in two days, if all went well.

Reunited with friends from Cat's Paw IV
The wind stayed in the northern sector, so on Gavin’s birthday (Happy Birthday, Gavin for 14th November) we left Agadir. Customs and Immigration only made us wait an hour and 40 minutes for our exit papers. Other yachts have waited longer, so we considered ourselves lucky. An hour later, the engine was switched off and we sailed all the way to the approaches to Lanzarote. We began on a beam reach and put a reef in the mainsail just before dark. The sun set in the west and almost immediately the moon rose in the east, red and full. Not long afterwards, Venus disappeared over the western horizon. A short, sharp swell hit us on the beam making us rock and roll and spray splashed into the cockpit.  It was cold at night; full sailing waterproofs were needed along with woolly hats and boots.

As we moved further SW we picked up the north east trades and sailed downwind with the mainsail put to bed and the genoa poled out. Once more there was a beautiful sunset and a stunning moonrise. The moon was bright enough to cast shadows. The sea was rough after midnight making it hard to sleep down below. Jeremy woke with severe indigestion, but came on watch anyway.

Working hard preparing for two months layover
I could see the lights of Lanzarote before the sun rose. There was a wind shift off the coast which gave us a better angle for the swell. We started the engine, furled the genoa and when Jeremy called Marina Lanzarote on VHF 09, we were allocated berth E29. Cat’s Paw IV were in E2 and were surprised, but pleased to see us at 9.30 am. I knocked my ankle hard on a cleat as we set off for the marina office. I’m still applying ice packs three days later, but it is much better now the swelling has gone down.

Marina Lanzarote
Marina Lanzarote is in Puerto Naos, near Arrecife. Avid readers of this blog will remember that we were here in 2008 when almost everyone had to anchor. What a contrast. A retail park lines one side of the marina and all facilities are provided. The cost for us is about 15 euros a night with discounts for longer stays. Sal Darago will be here until the third week of January 2017.

Distant volcanoes rise behind Arrecife
We had a great time with Ann and Barry. The last time we saw them we were in Antigua on our way back to the UK in 2014. It was great to get together for sundowners on the first evening we arrived. The following day we were invited aboard Cat’s Paw IV for dinner and cards. We played Bridge, girls against boys, and I have to tell you that the girls wiped the floor with the boys! The third night we had sundowners on Sal Darago and went out for dinner in town.
Sal Darago flying the WOA 50th Anniversary flag in Lanzarote
Sadly, on Saturday 19th November, we helped Ann and Barry leave their berth and wished them “Bon Voyage”. Perhaps we’ll meet up again in the Caribbean. Perhaps we’ll meet up in Panama. Watch this space.

Jeremy and I are busy preparing SD for her sojourn here in the marina. Our flights are booked and we are looking forward to seeing Emily, Ben, Ellie, Sophie and Tess.

Happy Christmas, everyone and may 2017 be your best year yet.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Mohammedia to Agadir

The anchorage off the beach and just outside the harbour at Mohammedia was well sheltered from the southerly winds that we were experiencing. We checked the weather forecast and knew that northerly winds were coming soon. We also knew that we should wait a day before leaving to allow a gale further south to blow itself out. What we didn’t know was that the wind would switch direction so quickly. We went ashore for supplies for the two day sail to Agadir in calm, sunny weather. We returned in strong onshore winds with waves breaking into the dinghy and Sal Darago pitching and tossing on her anchor. Jeremy wanted to leave immediately, but we still had to clear out, which meant another dinghy trip ashore.

All sailors know the dangers of a lee shore – if the anchor drags the boat will go aground – but they also know the dangers of a gale out at sea. We went ashore and cleared out with Customs and Immigration, returned to Sal Darago and hauled up the dinghy with some difficulty on our bucking bronco of a boat. We decided to stay put until first light with the anchor alarm on, but be ready to leave immediately should we need to. Thankfully, the wind eased a little in the night and the anchor held firm. We motored out of the harbour waving at the returning fishing vessels.
Sunset over Agadir beach
We flew the genoa only as the strengthening wind was behind us. Soon the first squall hit us and we furled the genoa to a small triangle. The squall took the wind away and a yacht called Panacea that had been in the anchorage with us came sailing past under full sail. We raised our mainsail and later put the engine on as well as the wind varied in direction and strength. Our trusty autopilot, Neco, stopped working after another squall. Jeremy ducked under the stern bunk and found a grub screw had come loose and was able to fix it.

Agadir motto - God, Nation, King - on the hill
We motor sailed all night. Several fishing vessels came too close and we both had to take avoiding action to avoid a collision. By morning the wind had settled down to NNE direction and rose from 5-22 knots. Jeremy took the mainsail down and poled out the genoa. The wind blew stronger and the swell grew larger and breaking waves showered water into the cockpit. During one violent gust the inner forestay came loose and swung about like a pendulum threatening to smash our windows. It caught on the safety rail and I grabbed it. Jeremy secured it and tied it down. No damage was done.

Panache decided to make for the port of Essouira. We decided it was too risky to approach an unknown harbour in the dark in a near gale and headed away from the coast into open waters. We had an uncomfortable night with six knots on the log and 33 knots of wind from behind. Rough seas and breaking waves came rushing past like express trains. We rounded Cape Sim, the gale blew itself out and by 0500 hours the engine came on as we had only 3 knots of wind. 
Agadir Mosque
It was a delight to motor into a “proper” marina close to the beach at Agadir, where a staff member greeted us, spoke good English and helped us tie up. The sun shone brightly and the sky was blue. All was hunky dory until we saw the shower and toilet facilities – ‘nuff said!

The marina is very sheltered with non-drinking water and electricity at every berth. Apartments and shops surround the marina, but a breeze blows through from the hills nearby. In the daytime it is hot and sunny, but cools off quickly in the evening. Marium, in the marina office, gave us a map and good information about Agadir. She recommended a place to eat at the fish harbour – Abdel Krim number 7. We were glad to have this recommendation because the stalls selling food went into the hundreds. We shared a fish dinner, which included calamari, several small fish each and dozens of prawns, with a tomato salad starter and a plate of bread for 82 dirhams (approx. 8.20 euros). It was the freshest fish I’d tasted in a long time.
Being smoked alive at the Souk
Another day we caught the bus to the Souk and ate there for even less, but the food was not as good. We wandered round the Souk for two hours and didn’t see all of it. It had 15 entrances and there was much for sale and many stalls to take in. Almost everything you can think of was for sale from carpets and furniture to herbs and spices. The colours and the smells were overwhelming. One stallholder asked for help writing a postcard in English to a friend and took us behind his stall. In return for our help, he put the kettle on and left us with his fellow stallholder to share a glass of mint and citron tea. We felt like honoured guests until the big sell started. Would we like some herbs or spices? Look at these lipsticks? You like? We thanked him and walked away.
Stand Up Paddle board across the Atlantic
One day a strange craft was lowered into the marina. Some thought it was a submersible and others thought it was an ocean rowing boat but there were no oars or rowlocks. The craft became Sal Darago’s neighbour and we learned that it was an SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard) which South African surfer, Chris Bertish is going to paddle across the Atlantic. This will be the first time that anyone has attempted this. Chris and his team already have impressive sponsorship, but more would be welcome as they want to raise as much money as they can for needy children in Africa. Check out Chris’s website and if you would like to donate you’ll find the details there.
This shows the relative sizes
As we left our berth at Agadir Marina, bound for Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, we looked at Chris’s little craft and remembered the wind, waves and swell that we’d experienced in our 36 foot yacht. There is no way that we would swap. Good luck, Chris.