Archive for January 9, 2011

I saw three ships come sailing in, on Christmas Eve, on Christmas Eve

Posted in Fun, Photographs, Sailing, the Atlantic Ocean with tags , on January 9, 2011 by maidofmettle

It was pretty strange being in Gran Tarajal after Caroline and Chris had gone back to England. It’s a nice small town, with a great holiday atmosphere coming up to Christmas, and I had a nice evening with Thomas from a boat moored a couple of spaces along from us, but there was the definite feeling that it’s easier to leave than to be left behind.

Gran Tarajal Christmas festivities – a concert by the island’s school of music

Happily I had been invited to join friends moored in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria for Christmas day, and the forecast looked good for leaving on the 23rd. Thomas and I started meeting most often criss-crossing back and forth from the town getting supplies etc, though I was only thinking about shops being shut over Christmas – he was hoping to be a few hundred miles away from the nearest shops on his way to the Caribbean by then. Probably a bit of a stretch even for a reindeer-powered food drop.

So, on the 23rd he helped me cast off and I motored out. The initial fiddling around with sails phase took a long time. The sails I’d got ready based on the forecast and the wind I felt in the marina on departure proved to be rather too small to make the boat actually move, not a good start…. So I got bigger sails, put them up and started idling very slowly down the coast, about half a mile away from Thomas. It was feeling very slow… probably more so for me than him, as my passage plan was based on hours (hopefully around 36) rather than weeks!

Normally photos of the sea make it look flatter than it felt. This one is probably about right though.

Still, we eventually made it down to the bottom of Fuerteventura. I considered going in to the port of Morro Jable for the evening, but it would have required a lot of motoring, entering a new place in the dark, and probably ending up entering Las Palmas in the dark the next day as well. It didn’t seem worth it, since even though I was going slowly it was very calm. I just hoped I wouldn’t encounter much in the way of waves once I got clear of Fuerteventura, since there was so little wind the boat would probably have stopped nearly dead (rigor mortis would probably be preferable to rolling) in the water.

But…..the wind came up a little more – as you may of course have guessed from the title. And the swell was certainly there – but really no waves, just long, very gently rolling seas. And so we sailed – or rather Horace did. I made sure he stayed south of the shipping route between Las Palmas and Morro Jable, and largely let him get on with it, getting out of bed to check up on him every half hour or so. This seemed to work pretty well – there were a couple of ‘watches’ in the night when I felt fairly exhausted, but otherwise I felt pretty good..

It was beautiful sailing though – just up and down and over the waves, with only barely noticeable noise and motion below. It felt a shame not to have shared it with the others, as it was easily the most beautifully peaceful whole voyage that any of us have made on the trip outside of the River Guadiana. Probably a perfect introduction to solo sailing overnight, but I might enjoy it even more in the future when I’m a bit more used to it – the isolation was still feeling a bit strange.

The sunrise was a nice bonus – I’ve usually been off-watch for that when we’ve been sailing (and in bed if not!)

The next morning (Christmas Eve) was much the same, and by the afternoon the coast of Gran Canaria was becoming clear, and the sails of two other boats closing in from the north. Horace just made it into the harbour without making me tack (he’d been steering basically the same direction relative to the wind direction since 0300), and then I followed the other boats onto the waiting pontoon, as the marina office was shut for Christmas. It was quite nice knowing I’d be able to just stay there for the night actually. The boat in front was a big catamaran, so there were plenty of people to help take my lines – in fact enough of a surplus that it felt more like an audience! – but berthing did go fine. It definitely felt good to have made the trip overnight without any real difficulties, and in about the time frame I’d planned. The conditions were so smooth it probably wasn’t much of a test of my enjoyment of longish trips single-handed, but definitely a nice start.

I decided to leave putting the Smurf flags up till Christmas morning though.

Christmas morning on Las Palmas

I’ll hopefully have some more photos of Christmas Day in time to do the next post.