Mogan – in transit

Well we are coming to the end of a fairly long ten days in Mogan, Gran Canaria. Events conspired to not make it worth moving anywhere else, so we settled down in the marina and hired a car.

By Tuesday we had completed pretty much all of the onboard maintainence stuff and in an effort to stay away from the red wine, took off sight seeing. On the first day we took the coastal road up the west coast and it is truly awesome. Sheer cliffs, breaking Atlantic swells, just fantastic. By lunchtime we had reached Las Palmas and stopped for a good look around, as this had been our intended first destination. It was with no small trepidation that we parked the car and went walkabout. Didn’t take long, the volume and noise of the traffic, police cars and ambulances all with blues on and sirens blaring, was overwhelming, as was the smell from the marina. After an hour we could take no more and it was back to the car for a quick escape.

That night to continue our theme of escape from the confines of the boat, we ate ashore. Little restaurant which had been open with the same ownership, decor and menu since 1976. It turned out to be epic! Andreas almost wept with joy as he tackled a steak more reminiscent of the geography of Gibraltor than of any known animal. So good was it, in fact we booked a table for Christmas night and retired home, happy that another job had been ticked off the list.

The following day we struck off inland and very quickly voted one stretch of road among the best in Europe. Incongruous to see pine trees interspersed with palm trees, just beautiful. At this end of the island you have valleys starting near the center and radiating out, like the gaps between spokes on a wheel. As you crest one ridge it all changes from palm trees and prickly pear to massive banana plantations. You get a real feel of being on the outskirts of Europe. At the sea end of each valley, typically you find one of the resorts towns, for which the island is famous. Today saw us end in Peurto Rico.( not to be confused with the Central American country.)The beach and marina are shouldered between two massive hotels, staggered up the side of the ravine, not aesthetic, but nicely done, clean and well thought out. Andre convinced me that some time amongst the throng of half naked humanity sunning itself on the golden sands was needed. In truth I lasted twenty minutes before I stood up, shook the afore mentioned golden shit out of my shorts and went to a beach bar for a late lunch.

Our  final day in the mountains was by far the most spectacular, museums, awesome campsite on the shores of a lake, a drive up to the highest point and a traditional Canarian mountain lunch, made an awesome finale to our exploration of the Gran Canaria hinterland.

Thursday was Christmas Eve and the day of Vicky’s arrival.

The morning was spent cleaning and doing laundry and then on-wards in the afternoon for hyper market shopping for bulk items. A late night drive got me to the airport and Vicky arrived on time, with no hassle. By 12.30 in the wee hours of Christmas morning we were back on board, sitting in the cockpit with a bottle of red catching up on our past month.

Christmas day was bazaar, no spelling mistake, the whole village of Mogan becomes an open market, which is exciting, interesting and ultimately bloody annoying. First order of the day was to locate the hire car as the local police had towed it in the night, to make room for a stall selling African face masks. An hour of trudging around, found it and it cost 40euros to release Percy the polo from prison, Happy Christmas. To escape the hoard thronging the town, we took Vicky on an abbreviated mountain drive, then stopped for lunch at Playa de Ingles. Toilet of a town, but a simply incredible beach with massive dunes. Given the non traditional Christmas we were having, it seemed only correct to have a Chinese for lunch, which as it happened was instantly forgettable. It’s an old adage to never go back and try and relive a great experience, that night was no exception, our fabulous night so looked forward to, was destroyed by different chef, staff and quality, Andre looked so woe begotten that he was not charged for his terrible meal, oh well. We retired to Deneheys Irish pub for gin and tonics and to lick our wounds, for nutrition.

Boxing day dawned and the organisation machine that is Vicky had her day, troops were marched to Percy then directed to a hyper market, as provisions in the Cape Verde are reported limited and expensive, we were shopping for six for a month. Arriving at the check out with a convoy of trollies, we scouted a fresh and strong looking cashier and ruined her day. With Percy’s hull rubbing on the wheels it was back to Lady Sea Breeze to try and fit it all in. To many cooks and all that, so I retired to our cabin to read while Andre and Vicky stowed the lot.

Sunday now and final internet stuff to do, probably a last supper ashore, then all go tomorrow. Have to give back our good friend Percy, pay the marina, fill up with water and diesel, then we are out of here. It’s been a great place, probably too long a stop, but that’s just how it works out. Thanks Mogan and Gran Canaria, I certainly will be back.

Happy New Year.

Leg 1: Part 3

After our evening of the Nets, things settled back to normality onboard, wind was light on the nose, swell was from four 
different directions, but the diesel gauge had slowed its decent. Due to the vast majority of fuel onboard being stored in the hollow 
keel; the boat has a small day tank mounted above the engine, 
every ten hours motoring you have to remember to pump fuel from the main tank up to refill this little tank.
Sounds like a ball ache and I suppose that it is. Normally I sit at the chart table, flick the switch, plot our position, write up the 
log, by which time the tank is full and your good for another ten 
hours. The only problem is when during this period there is a Snafu on deck, you rush up to help out then half an hour later its oil 
skins off and into bed to enjoy the rest of your off watch. Five 
and a half hours later sit down at the chart table to see how Andre
has got on during his six hour watch, and this incessant little 
blinking light reminds you that we have been pumping fuel around in an endless cycle for ages. In its self no big deal, but I always 
think when those extra running hours on the transfer pump are going to come and bite us in this ass again.

Given the headwinds and dwindling diesel situation I decided to 
divert to Lanzarote in stead of the original direct to Las Palmas 
It was on entering Peurto Arrecife at five in the morning with a 
thirty year old Pilot book, and no plotter did the limitations of 
the old adage, sure the rocks don't move, came to light. The chief limitation being whilst the rocks are reasonably stationary, some 
bugger can move the lights around. In theory it was a pretty simple entry, "long outer break water followed by a complicated inner
 buoyed channel, under the harbour lights". 
Mission control back in Vliho graciously accepted an early morning call to google earth the lie of the land, all seemed to correspond with our onboard pilot, so game on.Like all city marinas the street lights are a major 
issue but I could clearly pick out the Group flash 3 every ten 
seconds and steered a cautious course towards it.
Apart from the big onshore swells no issue, we rounded the light no 
problem, well other than the swells stayed the same.
Ever curious I looked more closely at the light tower on the end of the breakwater and to my horror found it was an east cardinal bouy now clearly 
visible as we were on the west side of it looking back out to sea. Hmm not ideal,a glance at the echo sounder showed we were in no 
immediate danger but where the f@?! Where we.
Another call to Vicky and more internet searching identified the 
new break water light as flashing twice every 5 seconds in green.
Ah!, yeah I saw that a mile earlier and reasoned it was one of the inner channel lights. Some time in the interceding years the old 
breakwater designation had been shifted to the other side of the
 harbour entrance to mark the end of a reef there, yep the rocks 
don't move.
Having found out where we were, entering the harbour and channel 
was easy and the marina staff were on the ball and helpful. 
Stayed four days sorting minor problems and resting up, with a couple of visits to view the natives, mostly pink English folk.

Mean while Rob had found a water maker guru on the South West coast of Gran Canaria, so we were on our way again to Mogan to meet up with Mike the Guru.
Nice easy over night passage past Ferteventura and a mid afternoon arrival in a really busy cute little place.
After a slight misunderstanding with marina management, where they thought if they said, no sorry we are full that we would go away, 
we secured a berth.
First thing was to call Mike as it was a busy Friday afternoon.
I did that looking around me like a seagull thing, waiting for the 
call to connect. 
I nodded a greeting to the bloke on the berth next door as he scrabbled about looking for some thing, then looked the other way and said
"Hi Mike, I called earlier about my water maker". 
I have to say that the line was crap, really echoey but unbelievably it transpires were are next door to Mike, happy days!
After an hour on board the water maker was doing its thing again and I now understand how it works.

That's about it for now, eagerly anticipating Vicky's arrival on 
Christmas Eve, for us bit more maintenance and then we will hire a 
car to pick Vick up from her late night arrival, bit of shopping 
and then we are off to the Cape Verde and a rendezvous with Rob and the final members of the crew.

Happy Christmas to all and if you get a chance, watch the ITV 
documentary on the fifth of January. All reports say it's good but
unfortunately we will be at sea and will not get to see it.
Will write again in 2016


Leg 1: Part 2

After 24 hours of welcome to ocean sailing, we caught a break. 
The wind died down and the Simrad fairy came and fixed the auto pilot.
As yet we have still not figured out what the problem was, just as we pass
it subconsciously I see that we both make the sign of the cross on its 
little plastic head and pass no remarks. All of day two was pretty
innocuous, no wind, big sea and a good time to get to grips with 
what we were about.

We have this dinky little satellite doo dah on board which lets us 
communicate with the world. I love it, however the weather forecast site predictions are pure fantasy, falling into the trap of if a machine
tells you something it's got to be true.
We spent the day preparing for easterly 35 knots, imagine the ball ache when mid way through 
your night watch a south west four drifts in. You cannot sail with it as yesterday's swell is still rolling through, you cannot avoid it and go to the pub,
so with 600 miles to go its motor sailing. This is drudgery, for sure we don't have enough diesel to motor the 
whole way,but the alternative is wallowing. All the forecasts, 
bellowed N'easterly, the pilot charts guaranteed north easterly , 
Horatio fki'n Nelson waxed lyrical about the north east trades, and 
here we are motor sailing into light head winds, grrrrrr.

Nothing lasts for ever I guess, so it was no surprise when drizzle set in, however the unanimous feeling on board was better a headwind 
with autopilot than tail wind without.

The plan had been to stay 200 miles or so off the Moroccan coast 
however given the dull conditions we ended up straight lining 
toward Las Palmas, what a mistake that was.
I'm fairly relaxed about watch keeping offshore, stay roughly on 
course,no flapping sails and don't hit metal objects, that's about it.So when in the middle of nowhere, I finished the chapter in my 
book, yawned,scratched some places and wearily stood up to look 
over the spray hood, being confronted with a scene from a motor way accident was a bit of a shock. So go from pitch black to flashing 
lights everywhere, takes the brain a little while to compute,WTF, I could see on radar a fishing boat 7 miles to the north of me,then squat until the 
Moroccan coast 120 miles away.
No way, cannot be a net,can it? In my best Moroccan I asked the nice chap on the 
fishing boat did he know anything about this wall of flashing lights in front of me, needless to say he was non forthcoming. 
So if this is a net and the only other floating object is 7 miles away, how long is the fk'n net. 
Whilst I was with increasing vigor calling my fellow human on the fishing boat, incongruously an Irish voice called on the radio and said they had run into 
the same net half an hour previously and had to go 7 miles north to get around it.
I won't offend you with the narrative of the next half hour,save to say Andreas spent a while learning some new English words.
Over the course of the next 8 hours this happened four times with 
the longest detour being 14 miles, to all fishermen and fish eaters I salute you,b*****ds.

Winter Adventures

Here's the Craic!
A particularly red eye flight brought Andréa (the crew)and I together at 
Madrid airport. In fairness his eyes were attributed to an early flight, 
whereas mine had a history of a wedding week in Ireland.
Rob kindly met us at the airport and within moments we had entered the trip.  
You see, no end of planning goes in to an adventure like this, but for me  
the whole experience is like being a droplet on a bendy funnel. Bit 
profound I know, but lots of sources start at the beginning,from all  
different directions, yet it's only when you reach the narrow bit do you 
really start to concentrate. After that,you follow the highs and lows 
until you get spat out at the end.
For example, board a plane in Dublin and four hours later stand in a 
Chandlery in Madrid trying to decide what you might need for the next  
three months, no easy answer as they didn't even stock grog.
Well we did what we could to break Rob's credit card then we were off to a 
hypermarket to do supermarket sweep. A five hour road trip saw us in La 
Manga Marina, where it was all head scratching trying to remember how   
Lady Sea Breeze worked. Strange place La Manga, 1200 boats in the 
marina summer population of 600000 people and there is more open in  
Nidri at this time of year! Go figure.
Somehow it all got finished. Rob headed off, and Andreas and I had a quiet  
night before catching the 10 o'clock bridge and off to La Caidesa marina  
beside Gib. Truth be told it was an awesome first couple days, sunny 
following wind, kite up, fantastic.
I won't bore you with the to do list that we had when we got to Gibraltar, how ever  
in between the Spanish holidays it was four days of messing around with the 
boat, next stop Las Palmas.
Gotta say I was prejudiced against Gib from a 12 day weather lay over in  
my teens, but this time we had a great few days, and paying €19 a night  
in marina fees certainly was great.
There are miles of advice on how to begin a long offshore trip, for me  
it's simple, untie the boat and go.
Make sure you have the tools and raw materials on board to fix what will  
go wrong, then it's common sense and luck. For instance, when we left Gib 
the autopilot flatly refused to work. Lots of occasional sailors and new sailors  
would say "No problem, I enjoy helming!". However when you extrapolate the  
man hours over the trip and factor in the 12hours of darkness it just  
does not make sense. Given the option, I would of turned back but alas 35 knots 
of wind from behind made the nearest Simrad dealer just a wee bit too far to go. 
My point is, plan for everything and deal with the rest. Tactics in the
Straits of Gibraltar during an easterly gale are pretty much decided for 
you, go with the flow and try to avoid the GDP of China going east, and 
the GDP of the states going west.
Turning the corner at Tangeirs is a big physiological moment, I expected 
a waft of spices a hint of camel dung etc..,  alas we got diesel fumes  
from a high speed ferry and faint personal hygiene issues.
Lady Sea Breeze is a 1970's  Van de Stadt 55 ft family cruising boat, 
not at her best going down wind in thirty five knots! 
I think when we hit 10.5 knots, she developed a nose bleed which took her days to recover  
from. As a first night at sea it was definitely far from perfect. 
I remember standing at the helm, mentally mapping every jar and chinking glass
below certain that we sounded like a winos handbag on a roller coaster. 
Fortunately our course followed the wind direction as anything left or
right of that would have been suicide. I'll mention the autopilot again,
it kept coming up with over voltage alarm, not something common on a 
yacht which has lights ,fridge, freezer, electronics and a gazillion 
other things switched on.So I looked up the fault finder in the hand 
book, first suggestion" check the power leads are connected" these 
idiot fly planes, breed children and are probably in control of a 
vehicle on the motorway! To be ....................