Archive for Fuerteventura

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.

400 days to get there 400 minutes to get back

Posted in Cooking, Fun, Photographs with tags , on December 30, 2010 by maidofmettle

Sand castles in Gran Tarajal

As someone once said, it’s the end of an era…but the beginning of a new one, or in fact two new ones.

Chris and I made it back to Bristol airport and once again managed to avoid the cancelled flights because of snow or erupting volcanoes, arriving back in England in time for Christmas.  The cold air hit us hard on our arrival, having been used to temperatures around 25 degrees it was a bit of a shock being reminded how cold England can be in winter.   Thank you Mat for picking us up, we had fun entertaining the masses in Bristol on our arrival before you got there.

Chris brings 'Mad World' to Bristol

We spent some time packing in the lead up to our departure and thanks to a bit of cunning, a set of scales and some very big pockets in our sailing jackets we managed to get almost everything we needed from the boat and onto the plane.

So all of this needs to go back?

But seeing as packing is quite stressful, we decided a bit of luxury was needed before we flew so we took the oportunity to stay in a lovely all inclusive hotel for a couple of days.  This was also good because it meant we didn’t spend up to the last minute packing and weighing…and then weighing some more.  Once we’d left the boat that was it…more or less.

Some luxury before leaving

Two nervous travellers before the weigh-in

Ok, I've got a many books will fit in my jacket?

A word of warning about Easy Jet (who incidentally I am generally very impressed with).  We thought we’d found a loophole in their baggage allowances.  In a way we had, though it’s not quite as magical as we thought.  We found out that you can buy sports baggage allowance for about £18 which gives you an extra 12kgs of weight as long as you travel with some sports equipment.  This enabled us to take the inflatable kayak, bodyboards and various other bits and bobs back.  We bought one lot of sports baggage each (total 24kg much cheaper than paying for excess baggage in advance) and because of the confusing nature of EasyJet’s website we thought it was possible to buy as many of these sports allowances as you need.  To cut a long story short, you can only buy an extra 12kgs worth of sports allowance per person so buying the third one didn’t get us any extra weight.  Luckily we found this out before arriving at the airport.
Anyway (mini rant over) now we’re all back and starting to get a bit more time after Christmas I thought I’d finish up with this, my final blog post (before handing it over to Pete) as a reflection on our experience.

So, it took us 400 days to get to the Canaries by boat and amazingly only about 400 minutes to return by plane.  Those 400 days have given us plenty of adventure, interesting sights and relatively few unfortunate events.  It will be strange going back to the real world where jobs and houses seem to dominate our thoughts but it is also where our family friends are so that is nice.
Below are some thoughts from Chris and I on what we’ll miss and what we won’t from our extended trip…

Chris’ Lists:

Things I’ll miss:
Seeing Caroline 10 hours a day
The nice bits of sailing, when there’s not too much wind and not too little, and the sea is calm
Arriving in places
The sun!
Not having to work 9-5
Seeing dolphins
Being on holiday
Things I won’t miss:
Emptying the loo (its a composting toilet for anyone who’s wondering about what that means)
Worrying about salt getting into everything and mould growing in things
Lugging of food back to the boat
Fixing the cooker
Sail changes – more annoying than I imagined they’d be when the wind increases and decreases
Filling up the water tanks by dinghy
Windy nights when the boat rocks and the ropes bang against the mast
Caroline’s Lists:

 Things I’ll miss
Seeing wildlife like dolphins etc
Exploring on land
Spending so much time with Chris
Being off work on a long holiday
Beach BBQs
The clear night sky
Watching a lot of Red Dwarf on DVD (Rather too much perhaps)
Reading a lot – I have read more this past year than in my life pre-boat.
Having so much time to learn mandolin 
Things I won’t miss:
That toilet – indescribable
Rolling boat (especially when trying to do anything like using the toilet above)
Sea sickness
Not having running water -many times I wished for a sink despite Chris’ protests that it would have been much more scary and annoying with one because it would have meant having a hole in the boat.
Walking/rowing to toilets and showers ashore
Being woken up to do night shifts
The sound of a big wave crashing against the boat waking me up with a start
Looking for and staying connected to WIFI – It feels like far far far too many hours have been spent trying to do this.  It took us a long while to work out that if you can’t get internet access at the start, you are not all that likely to have any after trying for an hour.

So as you can see we both had some similar thoughts.  Overall though we both enjoyed what we have achieved, even though it wasn’t entirely what we were expecting to have done.  All three of us have learned a lot about many things, including ourselves.

Final group shot

So it’s goodbye from me and good luck to Pete as he continues his voyage, wherever that takes him.  Thanks for following our adventures on this blog…I’ve really enjoyed writing it and I will leave you in Pete’s capable hands as he takes over writing.

"A toast to onward voyages on land and sea"

Now all we have to do is start the job hunting…

P.S. Here’s the final Bolo do Caco (Mark II, slightly more complicated but infinately better) recipe

Boil 200g of sweet potato until soft

Reserve the water from boiling and mash the potatoes

Then mix:
300g plain flour
7g yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
The mashed potato

Gradually stir in up to 130ml of the water from boiling the potatoes until you get a soft dough

Knead for 10 minutes (yes, actually 10 minutes…this is the workout bit for you so don’t cheat)Flour a frying pan then flatten dough into it.

Add a little flour to top of dough.

Leave to rise for 1 hour in a warm place.

Heat on a low heat for around 15-20 minutes until it looks golden and then flip over and cook for a further 5-10 minutes.

Remove from pan and leave to cool or eat straight away with garlic butter for that authentic Madeiran taste…

Fuerteventura Road Trips

Posted in Fun, Photographs with tags , on December 16, 2010 by maidofmettle

Road Trip…

We have been enjoying our time on Fuerteventura before Chris and I fly back in about a week. We have the freedom of a car so have been making the most of fast and fabulous transport…well as fast as a ford ka can go anyway.

Amongst the places we have visited are Betancuria and the surrounding area. We were surprised to see some chipmunks…yes, actual chipmunks at one of the viewing points in the mountains.

Is that Alvin, Simon or Theodore?

The bodyboards had another trip out, this time to La Pared. A lovely meal followed this trip out where Pete had a giant fish for dinner. It was a local canarian Fula Rojo. In hindsight, we hadn’t really needed the starters. We were stuffed by the end of the meal.

La Pared

Pete and his giant fish

As has become traditional, we celebrated the official boat Christmas Day with a pie and some Christmas cake – not to mention various other nice food as a practice for December 25th.

Christmas Tree

This isn’t just a Christmas cake…this is a farm assured, brandy soaked
Maid of Mettle Christmas Cake


Even though no-one could claim that it is an essential need, one of the challenges of boat life is finding internet access. We use the internet quite regularly and when it is not available at the marina or at an anchorage we need to take the laptop for a walk. Puerto del Rosario was an example of one of those places we have walked (and driven) around for quite a while looking for wifi signal. Unfortunately the laptop’s battery only lasts about forty minutes so it can be a race against time to find the internet and then have enough battery-life to do everything we need to. I can see why people might be tempted by a six hour battery life netbook but at least our way, you can focus on exactly what you want to do and then hope you have time to finish it, whilst keeping your heart healthy! I think we should call our new high adrenalin sport Extreme Wifi and market it in time for the new year as a way to get fit after Christmas.

Extreme Wifi’s Pioneer…Chris

Yesterday Chris and I almost entirely filled the hire car with sand after we took a small kayaking trip from Correlejo to the Isla de Lobos, about three and a half kilometres both ways. The kayak did well even with the sea swell and going more or less into the wind. The sea was an amazing aqua marine colour and the island was well worth the paddle to. The way back was much quicker and involved some fun surfing along the swell closer in to shore.

Chris on the Isla de Lobos

View from the island looking back towards Fuerteventura

I shall miss the kayaking trips, as I’m sure there won’t be as many for a few months at least in England. Unless of course we decide to break through ice first.
The epic packing has begun and, fingers crossed, it looks like it might not be that bad. However, as with essays, I suspect I may start well then relax thinking that I’ve nearly finished only to leave finishing it until the last minute. It will be weird leaving I think but also exciting to start new things too.

To Fuerteventura…and some even stranger developments

Posted in Cooking, Fun, Photographs, Sailing, Unfortunate events with tags , , on December 10, 2010 by maidofmettle

Journey from Gran Canaria to Fuerteventura

I spent most of yesterday afternoon asleep having travelled over from Gran Canaria to Fuerteventura the afternoon and night before. We were all pretty tired when we arrived after about twenty hours at sea. The journey itself was generally good, with quite a lot of wind but no huge waves which was a relief. We didn’t entirely escape sea sickness unfortunately so once again it was a case of going into survival mode a bit and seeing how little you can do in the cabin.

However we did see a whale of some kind (outside, not in the cabin luckily) so that was very exciting. I imagine it’s a bit like trying to see the big five in Africa on safari, you hope to see all the exciting animals before your journeying is over…now I’ve seen a whale I can go home! It was amazing even though it was quite far away you could tell it was big and we were sure it was a whale when it blew water out into the air.

Now feeling much more awake I intend to have a look around Gran Tarajal, the second largest town in Fuerteventura and highly recommended by a few people we have met. Chris and Pete managed to leave the boat yesterday so have had a head start on me. The marina itself is quite small and lacks showers and toilets for some reason (despite there apparently being a building for them) so we’ll be back to solar showers again. I guess that’s how it can be so cheap here, but at least there is electricity and running water.

We are quite glad to have left Gran Canaria in a way. The day we left we discovered the rudder to the wind vane had been moved from where it had been stored on the side deck of the boat and was dangled over the other side into the water with a piece of thin rope. In fact it hadn’t just been moved but the ropes that were tying it on to the boat had been cut and it looked like it had been hidden just under the water near our pontoon. We don’t know how long it had been there or when it had been moved but it all seemed a bit suspicious, especially given that these rudders are worth quite a lot of money. Whether someone had tried to steal it then got interrupted so left it there to come back for we don’t know but it was a bit worrying.

Weird…cut ropes

In other news, there has been no more signs of our little cockroach friend though I did see another one trying to smuggle on board yesterday from the water.
Also we used the last tin of beans the other day.

Chris distraught over the last tin of Tesco beans

Despite his shock over using the last tin of beans, Chris has surpassed himself by making a Christmas cake too, which we will eat on our boat Christmas not long from now.

It has been a week of culinary surprises. We went to a Lebanese restaurant in Las Palmas just before we left. Unsure of exactly what to order we opted for a set menu that was a sort of buffet between the three of us. It was really good. Fresh salad, bread, fried meats, kebabs, pasty-type things etc. Below is the recipe for the Lebanese salad that I decided to try and recreate with a little bit of help from Google. Dad, you will like this one because it has parsley in it!

Lebanese Salad

Parsley (finely chopped)
Mint (finely chopped)
Tomato chopped into small pieces
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
dash of lemon juice (optional- I forgot to put any in)

Mix all of the ingredients then eat