Gran Canaria to Madeira part 1

Day 1: Thursday 26/05

In the end leaving Las Palmas proved surprisingly easy. I’d actually considered going on Wednesday evening. The forecast suggested that would give me the best chance of getting north enough to catch the edge of a low pressure system and moderate fair winds up to Madeira, which is very unusual. However, I was feeling fairly tired, and it looked as though the wind might die overnight – I didn’t fancy spending the first night rocking around going nowhere still near land and shipping.

But on Thursday morning it still looked pretty good. After all the time deciding not to go – and if debates about when to leave can seem like they take an excruciatingly long time when there’s three of you, when there’s just one the freedom to second-guess yourself sometimes means they actually do – deciding to go was very simple indeed.

My goodbye committee made sure that I cast off:

I stopped briefly on the reception pontoon to give my keys back to the office and then headed out. The wind was a bit less strong than it had been earlier in the morning and gave excellent conditions for sailing once I’d motored clear of the port to get away from ships.

The wind held nicely until I’d got clear of La Isleta, the very north-eastern tip of Gran Canaria which protrudes from the end of Las Palmas, and then went very light and swung round to behind. I was just about to change all the sails round to see if I could make some use of it when I spotted a turtle swimming along behind.

It looked like it was gaining….

Until I think Maid got rather offended and splashed a bit, scaring it into diving. And handily at this point, the wind swung round another 90 degrees and became a nice light westerly breeze, so I was very glad it had distracted me and saved a fair bit of work.

With things settled down nicely it was time for dinner – pasta, mushrooms, courgette and olives with a sauce made from cream cheese, milk and parsley.

And a shower. Some things at least are actually simpler when you’re sailing on your own!

In light conditions, sleeping could possibly even be included in that. It was so calm I didn’t need to bother using the leecloth, and with very little traffic around, Horace steering and the AIS keeping an eye out for big ships I didn’t have much trouble taking 30-60 minute naps between having a look around.

Day 2: Friday 27/05

The second day was lovely – steady wind from the same side, and still reasonably fast but gentle progress. Lots of time for relaxing as well as keeping an eye on the boat and looking out for ships. Dinner was rather nice too.

Day 3: Saturday 28/05

The third day started similarly, but with the wind getting slightly lighter again. The morning was interrupted by a loud wailing (I wired the AIS ship monitoring device up to the burglar alarm) signalling some company, which came past fairly close on one side, but clearly not coming too near.

There were very light spells though: . The boat’s movement in the periods of little wind was a bit unpleasant at times though – I was sick once, though the feeling went away very fast after that, and luckily we were moving fast enough that Maid wasn’t left sloshing around in it!

Otherwise it was another nice day – very slow progress off and on, but still comfortable, and nice weather. It did get a bit hard to keep track of time – the main reason for putting the dates and days in this entry was to make sure I didn’t get too confused.

Day 4: Sunday 29/05

Today brought even more visitors. First some dolphins arrived – probably the nicest conditions I’ve ever seen them in (they usually like plunging in and out of big waves), but they still seemed to have a good time playing under the bow.

It was quite late before getting round to making breakfast after spending a while watching the dolphins, so I decided to have something a bit more substantial as a change from cereal, and improvised some very Canarian banana-and-gofio cakes.

The recipe is very simple indeed – just mix 2 very ripe bananas and 1/2 cup of gofio together and work till you get a very soft dough, then form into flat discs and fry. That probably serves a couple of people – I ended up saving two of them for later.

The wind was rather fitful though – but it was calm enough I could be quite philosophical about it:

It was often tricky to decide which way to sail, with neither tack making much ground to the north. Sailing westish would make some progress towards the Azores but possibly make it harder work, and quite likely make it harder to call at Madeira. Sailing eastish would make the trip to either longer but probably easier in the long term, but in the short-term the forecast suggested it might lead into even less wind. I tried to strike a balance…

The second arrival, who I’m fairly certain was a red-rumped swallow, was a nice distraction.

It was good to have someone around to judge my little steering competition with Horace (the hydrovane self-steering gear):

Though he didn’t actually seem to be paying that much attention, and at times didn’t seem that responsible – careful with those claws on that tube, we don’t want petrol everywhere do we? As a bird I’d think you’d know that petrochemical spills are undesirable.

Then again, maybe he wasn’t that clever. Most stowaways would realise that sitting on the captain’s head while he’s eating dinner would generally be looked on as insubordination, if not actually defined as mutiny. He was very uninterested in offerings of fresh water and food as well, though I admit I was a bit short on insects.

He got named Cheepcheep, as that was all he ever say, whether meaning ‘hello’, ‘okay, I’ll sit on your shoulder instead, though doing the washing up isn’t that piratical you know’, or ‘I’m going to top myself if you don’t get somewhere soon’. Unfortunately that last translation was only worked out with the benefit of hindsight.

The conditions were still pleasant that night, except for the slight worry that Cheepcheep might come and sit on my face while I was getting some sleep, but the wind’s direction kept changing inconveniently, meaning we weren’t making very much progress overall. The dot on the screen is my GPS position at the time and the line my past track.

When I went to bed I’d been heading NNE, towards the top right of the screen. Unfortunately, this had changed rather significantly within the hour or half hour, curving off to the right, which wasn’t really where I wanted to go. The big change in angle is then me tacking, to sail with the wind on the either side so I was heading vaguely north again.

Day 5: Monday 30/05

That happened several times in the course of that night. Not great fun..

Sadly it did prove too much for Cheepcheep. Glad he wasn’t an albatross, though the wind did definitely pick up after the funeral.

After the peace and quiet of the first few days, and a night without much sleep, it came as a bit of a shock, though on other days I’d definitely have said it was beautiful sailing.

Happily I did start to feel slightly differently: .

We were certainly making good progress, and it was a beautiful day as well. It was a slightly tricky decision to make on whether to keep heading for Madeira or not. It would have given the boat a much easier motion to turn away from the wind a bit more and head for the Azores, but would have made the trip quite a few days longer, and made it fairly impossible to change my mind and shorten the trip by calling at Madeira.

I wanted to keep that option open as long as I could in case the forecast started to suggest getting to the Azores would be a problem, so I decided it was worth carrying on for now.

Getting some rest was definitely becoming a theme in videos recorded that day: .

I’m not sure that last bit is something I’d normally say. It was certainly a bit optimistic.

To be continued..

(shortly I hope, videos are all processed and just need slotting in).

 

4 Responses to “Gran Canaria to Madeira part 1”

  1. Chris Hibbert Says:

    Wow! Cheepcheep is brilliant, can’t believe he sat on your head! 😀

    I also can’t believe you left us hanging….. bring on the rest of the trip blog!

    • maidofmettle Says:

      You like it really 😛

      That took me pretty much all morning yesterday, and I’d already done all the text and most of the pictures, got all the videos into a format I could edit and chucked out the rubbish ones!
      Definitely the most time I’ve ever spent on a single blog entry..

      Yeah, he was quite cool, much more heartwarming when you get to feed and water them and send them on their way again.

      Though I did read another blog where a bird hitched a lift on a boat going north just beyond Lanzarote, and on arriving at Madeira clearly realised it had just made a 300 mile mistake and flew south again…

  2. Carolyn Says:

    Liking the haircut Pete!

    • maidofmettle Says:

      Thanks, I think it’s got better having grown out a bit.
      I borrowed Dave and Taryna’s clippers and did it myself just before the fancy dress party on Pax (couple of posts back if you missed the pictures, well worth a laugh) – before getting changed people were asking if I was going to be a killer monk..
      Well done to Mike and Joe on the return passage.

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