Gibraltar to Canary Islands
Day One Friday 13th November 2015
Well the start of our Atlantic crossing was a cock up. The Captain Gaz called it a catastrophe which it wasn’t but it was a cockup, this is true. There was only a few things I could do to delay our departure from Gibraltar to the Atlantic but I somehow managed. The Captain was installing the Gennaker sail for the journey and had the sheet untied from the self-furling spindle just as I happened to pull the connected rope. I was in tidy up mode.
It took two and a half hours to re thread the Gennaker sheet back through to the front as all ropes are hidden and sandwiched between two skins of the fiberglass. Each of us had a different approach to the solution. Mine was to outsource, the others tried threading a power cord cable, thin wire and taping chopsticks onto the offending sheet and electrician’s mouse (thin cable to treat new electrical cable in a tight spot).
Outsourcing won the day, in the form of some borrowed thin plumber’s pipe, however victory felt hollow as we were now way behind what was already a delayed departure while we waited hours for a repaired sail to be returned to us. We were disappointed as the delays meant we would cross one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes in the dark. They tell me worse things happen at sea.
As we joined the shipping lane highway the view of ships was staggering. I have never seen so many shipping containers in one place. Truly extraordinary. I kept thinking of my boat watching friend Walter Pless, he would be in boat watching heaven.
A Cracking First Night
Gael who we have taken to calling Force 7 had never night sailed so crossing the Gibraltar Strait at night was going to be a treat for him. Not only did we cross a busy shipping highway we had 30 knots plus of wind pushing us out the door. Even reefed down (main sail made smaller) Miss Catana was cruising along at a zippy 9 to 10 knots and at times surfing waves at 14 knots. It was a case of hold on and enjoy the ride.
Highlight was getting across the shipping lane, no easy task I might say. Against the tide because of our late leap through the gates. We sailed well out into the Atlantic before we made a sharp left hand turn down and across the lane. The closest ship entered our one nautical mile range zone and we were looking at it front on, seeing both starboard and portside lights. Not close in hitting terms but close enough to make my bladder feel the need to pee.
Other highlights of the night was going to bed. Sailing with the wind directly behind you when the wind was over 30 knots is tricky business, so the Captain got to do my shift of three hours whilst I stood alongside. Then as the wind died down a little I finished his shift. 3 am and I was 100% stuffed.
Let the ocean move underneath me I was unconscious before my head hit the pillow.
The mood has been set.
Dinner was left overs. We were all too busy watching ships, sail configurations and the speedometer to worry too much about the standard of fare entering our tummies. Poor Gael had a touch of seasickness but the rest of us were fine.
Day Two Saturday 14th November 2015 & Day Three Sunday 15th November 2015
The rhythm that is sea life was starting to emerge. Watches dominate, sailing safely as fast as we can to the wind conditions is first. Sleep. Food. Being part of a team on a 42ft boat moving across a big ocean with a couple we have only meet a few days prior.
There is quite a deal of adjustment to it all and my most prominent feeling at the moment is gratitude. Thank God our crew are seemingly perfect for us and not crazy psychopaths and drug carrying mules as my mother worried about. The irony is that the Swiss mothers had similar worries. I know what a bad crew feels like so today I feel like a winner.
Some day to day observations.
Watches: We have decided as a boat family that we will divide the day in shifts of three hours on and then nine hours off. For one week we keep the same time slot then it rotates forward in the second week. It was a treat to climb into bed on night one and have the Captain to snuggle up to, or should I say put my cold feet on. Never happened before on a night sail. Nice.
Food: We will not go hungry. Add to the Captains already stela cooking we now have Carole adding culinary deliciousness to the mix. I’ve baked and the pantry is overflowing. Food I have discovered makes the sailing experience remain positive. We are all taking turns at cooking and time is punctuated by what the wind is doing and what are we going to eat next.
Music: Carole, Force 7 and I all seem to have similar music tastes. Phew one of my biggest worries put to rest. Of course we are sharing new music with each other, but this is as great as having similar tunes. Well most of the time great, not great when the Beatles came on the random iPod. I detest the Beatles so had to press next.
Safety: Wearing a lifejacket and harness hooked in is a mandatory nighttime procedure. Each jacket has a personal AIS or Epirb device. We have a new safety line around the boat which has made hooking in at the back as standard practice much easier the moment you walk out the door.
Then we all have to keep the first rule.
The first rule of life aboard Miss Catana is: stay in the boat. The second rule is follow number one.
Fishing: The rod has been slow in coming out but now we are hopeful to have a fresh fish aboard soon. No killing caught fish softly with alcohol as the Americans tend to do, we can drink the booze and slice the fish’s throat for a quick death. Still waiting though for that first tuna.
Time: So far there has not been a moment of boredom. In fact not enough time to do all the things we thought we might. All tasks continue to take longer on a boat but at least there is no more shopping. Sweet hallelujah.
Power: Our little home is currently running two freezers, one fridge, an occasional autopilot, countless electronic devices and a small TV screen that has played one extended version of Fellowship of the Ring. What is making this all work is our Watt and Sea water generator and solar panels. IMPRESSIVE, really impressive. Also impressive was to watch a movie with the Captain while our Swiss two looked after the boat. 6 hours on and 6 hours off as a couple is really working.
I Forgot: As we sail along we have been greeted by African flies that we first met in Tunisia. Like a common Australian fly, but these buggers bite. Revenge is easy though, once they latch onto you smack them in the head reaction time for these flies was slow. My best strike was three at once as they had a shared banquet on my foot.
Colour: The world on the Atlantic is very blue and grey and white and blue and more blue.
The Colour of Vanity: I have decided not to dye my hair while I cross the Sea, and hair colour has not been applied since I left Australia. When I look in the mirror I can’t believe how grey I have become. I think it is total grey at the front now or at least 95%. The idea of going grey gracefully fills me with dread. I may be in denial but when I look at the other women with short grey hair around the marina’s I hate the prospect that could be me… they look so old. AND For frigs sake I am still in my forties I am too young to be grey. Dam it.
Tea: Our crew happen to be all tea drinkers, though I remain tea champion by a country mile. I like it when I offer the Force a cup of tea and he says “it would be with pleasure”. My already high consumption of tea goes up when we sail as does my trips to the toilet. Our new electric toilet continues to impress. No more pumping for this sailing princess!!
Saturday night dinner was a Chinese dish cooked by the Captain. I gave it 7/10 as it wasn’t his best but it was still bloody delicious. The Swiss gave it a 10/11 each of them. Where do you go to when the Chinese dish is perfect?
Sunday night dinner was homemade pizza, made by Carole 8/10. The pizza base was sensational.
Fact – I am no longer worried about drowning just being two sizes heavier by the the time I get to the other side of the Atlantic.
Captain’s highlight for the day was killing the flies – who said revenge is sweet?
This night the Force 7 won the night speed race at 8.5, I was second place at 8.1. Tonight we didn’t get winds higher than 14 knots and it felt kinda perfect for me. Also perfect is being able to download the weather forecasts and send emails and text anytime we want via our Iridium Go – this device is gobsmacking incredible.
Day Four Monday 16th November 2015
This afternoon after waking from a siesta my first thought was I would like to go for a walk. Second thought not today little lady, not today…
As I reflect on this night watch I recall how naive I was when I thought about how sleep would be whilst living on a boat. I had this romantic notion that sleep would be a peaceful process of gentle rocking and restful noise. People kept telling me how wonderful sleep is on a boat.
Truth is sleep depends on so many things and when you are on route to a destination the noise levels on the boat changes dramatically. What matters is how fast the boat is travelling, if sail changes need to happen, what is the strength of wind and wave actions and where you are on the boat. There is less noise in the main cabin than in the hulls. Our bed lies directly below the winches, so when sails are adjusted or sheets / ropes pulled tight by the wind I hear it. It’s hard not to hear the loud cracks and groans of the ropes. The Captain on the other hand hears nothing. OK hears nothing unless the wind happens to change or the sails aren’t set right, then he is a like an alert ninja. Carole appears to be a sleep ninja as well. I live in hope that a good sleep will come my way soon.
As well as contemplating my navel and matters of the boat on this watch I spend the best part of my three hours outside watching for small unmarked fishing vessels. Near the Morocco coast the ocean is lined with countless miles of fishing nets that have small LED lights to mark their paths. The lines reach like huge tentacles across the ocean in both directions making escape if you happen to be going in the wrong way impossible. I feel sorry for the fish. As well as fishing lines the night sky holds my attention. The stars and Milky Way seemed to pop and sparkle without the competition of the moon.
Night watches do give you the luxury of time to think, including thinking about our new crew.
We are starting to discover the nature and personalities of Carole and her Force 7 man. Carole claps her hands spontaneously often and breaks into a smile like a Cheshire cat. She loves, loves sailing and is delighted constantly by what is going on around her. Not only is she a happy but she is a good sailor and a life of sailing shows. Gael at first appeared more serious but he too has a playful nature with a wicked sharp humor. His wit is all the more impressive as it is shared via a second language. I like them both immensely.
The fact that we all seem to have a similar taste in music and movies helps, but most important is that they seem to enjoy the fun if not quirky nature of the Captain. When discussing some of our favourite movies I was mortified that Forest Gump was in their top ten best ever movies. SERIOUSLY Forest Gump one of my worst ever movie experiences. Whilst watching Forest Gump I contemplated poking my eyes out instead of having to suffer the movie horror longer. I have since been encouraged to re watch the movie to see what I am missing out on, to which I responded pigs fly. It appears I am the odd one out as Gael tells me that the movie won six academy awards.
Goes to show how we are all different.
Highlight of the day has to be raising the spinnaker for the first time. Ooh La La. She was beautiful. A soft grey trim, white centre and our cat as the logo 2 metres high to the right. Seeing our cat’s image 2 meters high made me extremely homesick. Not only do I miss my children, my family and friends, my home I miss my cat, and my dog. OK time to stop.
Food: Monday night meal was burritos cooked by yours truly. Our Swiss crew gave it a 10/10 but let us be honest that is a ridiculous score I will settle for 7 as it was one of my better creations. In other matters related to food I agreed to a trade with “may the force be with you”. I exchange for two full biscuit barrels that Gael will fix some of my electronic issues on my computer and Gopro when we get into port next. Seems fair to me as I would have made the biscuits anyhow.
Wind, Sleep and Cooking seem to be the major drivers of this boat….
Day Five Tuesday 17th November 2015
The nautical miles have seemed to slip away easily and today we have moved under the one hundred nautical miles before we reach our anchor down destination. The wind and weather overall have assisted our passage and it is nice not to be beating into the wind for a change.
Picture this. Opera was playing loud in the background and I sat in the sun and watched the world move on by. It was one of those perfect moments. The Captain was managing to impress as he sailed with the main and genoa goose winged, front sails opposite to each other. As I looked at my husband I didn’t think at this moment I could love him anymore or be any more content. It was a moment of bliss.
Moments of complete bliss are rare but today I managed to soak in one such moment.
At the end of the day I had a moment of pure joy when the Dolphins came to visit. It was right on sunset when the large pod came to the front of Miss Catana and played with us for about 30 minutes. Play being the right word. The more we clapped, cheered and encouraged them the higher they jumped, twisted and turned to check us out as we did them. Their speed and grace was thrilling to watch. They never fail to impress. I would love to be able to lower myself down into the water to fly along with them. I wonder is this possible? Maybe the Captain would have to do it first…
Day Six Wednesday 18h November 2015
I am now in the Canary islands and it did not involve one step inside an airport to get here. I find this fact strangely satisfying. We actually arrived in the Canaries at the beginning of last night but opted to sail through the night for a morning arrival and anchorage at the small island of Los Lobos. I did the watch from 9 to 3 am so wasn’t interested in getting out of bed to see the new surrounds we now call home.
When I eventually dragged my bones out of bed I had enjoyed two cups of tea, watched the final half of an Outlander episode to then only choose to go back to sleep again. It was a 10.30 am bedroom exit. Whoohoo!
When I did bother to go on deck, what I saw was both impressive and disappointing. There are so many people in Europe I was hoping for some respite from the constant lines of lights, buildings and bodies. Our anchorage revealed that there appears to be a great number of person living in the Canary paradise. The island we have anchored at is uninhabited our tiny island of Los Lobos but across the way is the larger island of Lanzarote and all around us tourist boats have buzzed and zipped in to drop off a constant stream of people coming and going.
On the up the water was an amazing blue, the sun was shining and hot and we had crossed safely (and quickly) the first leg of the Atlantic Crossing.
On the down it appears whilst we were in transit the world continues to have gone mad with news of bombs and horror in Paris. Horrible and shocking.
I continue to count myself as one of the lucky ones.
PS I have been told we averaged 7.2 knots for the entire journey. Gotta be happy with that.
PPS Must remember to purchase some of that plumbers pipe next time I am near town so if I ever pull a sheet through in error I can fix it straight away.