Fairwinds Goes South . . .
Adventures in a small boat on a big sea

Albin Vega 27
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Thurs 16th Nov - Depart for the Canaries

It is 265 miles to Santa Cruz de Tenerife on a bearing of 172T. This course misses the Islas Selvagem (Salvage Islands) by about eight miles, and the pilot warns that the lights are unreliable and the charted positions not to be absolutely trusted - they are a regular ships graveyard apparently, lying very close to the direct route between Madeira and Tenerife. We put in an intermediate waypoint 8 miles due E of Selvagem Pequena and set off on our last short ocean passage for a while.

Charlie looking serious
Charlie looking serious

It was blowing a hooligan in the marina when we left, with the wind gusting up to 25 knots from all round the clock, so departure was interesting. Our marina 'helper' pulled the bow round but forgot to let go of the line, so a second attempt was made. We reached one of those critical points when speed is pof the essence to get the bow through the wind, so it was full throttle and try to ignore the look of panic on Debbie's face as we apparently headed for Kephri's windvane gear at six knots. We made it, and left the marina with a gusty F6 blowing us away from Madeira.

The wind and seas continuesd to build, and by dark we were running in a solid F7 with the genoa heavily reefed and no main, still making over six knots. The Navik seemed to be coping, which is more than could be saild for the rest of the crew. Charlie was seasick, and even Kathy was not entirely 100%, which meant the skipper had to heat up the tin of Cassoulet instead of the crew tucking in to the planned steak dinner. Reassuring the crew and trying to make supper stopped me worrying about the deteriorating conditions, which were considerably stronger than forecast. (Again!)

It took the rest of the night for the lights of Madeira to disappear from view - the island is so high, and it is apparently the most densely populated rural area in the world, a great heap of orange lights long after most places have disappeared over the horizon.

Fri 17th November - At Sea

The wind began to moderate just before midnight, but I didn't trust it and we continued to run with just the headsail until dawn, when we raised the full main and began broad reaching in about ten knots of wind. The 3m swell began to go down gradually and the sailing became very pleasant.

Noon Position
N: 31deg 19'.2 W: 016deg 27'.8 91nm from Quinta do Lorde
80 miles io Islas Selvagem waypoint 180 miles (approx) to Santa Cruz de Tenerife

At about three o' clock in the afternoon Kathy spotted what she thought was a small fishing boat - the first vessel we had seen all day. Looking through the binoculars it appeared to be a yacht with no mast, so we turned to investigate. It was indeed a drifting, dismasted yacht. There was a small sail hanging over the bow, the stern fittings looked a bit mangled and it was pretty obvious that she had been rolled and lost her mast. The washboards were out and the hatch open, but no sign of anyone on board. We circled round as close as practical - there was still a three metre swell running. The name was clearly visible, but the SSR number was hidden by two large fenders hanging over the port quarter, and it was only on the third or fourth time around that they rolled out of the way enough for us to get the number.

We sounded the foghorn a few times to rouse anyone who might be on board, then phoned Falmouth MRCC on the Satphone. We also phoned Quinta de Lorde and asked Katya to get in touch with the Madeiran authorities as we had been unable to reach the number given in the pilot. Trying to put Charlie on board was a last option in those seas, only to be considered if it was a recent disaster and there might be crew on board.

The Hercules
The Hercules - still afloat six weeks after being abandoned
The Hercules
A 2m+ swell made salvage a difficult proposition

The yacht was the Hercules, SSR41232. Falmouth phoned us back to let us know that she had been successfully abandoned by her crew after the dismasting six weeks previously. I phoned Katya back and she told us that the Portuguese authorities had confirmed the yacht as abandoned and that she was ours if we wanted her. It was so tempting . . . but the dismasted boat was rolling and pitching rapidly and there was no way to board her safely in the prevailing swell conditions without risking serious damage to Fairwinds, so reluctantly we put aside any thoughts of salvage and left the eerie vessel to continue drifting. The fact that she was still afloat after six weeks with the washboards out was remarkable, but somewhat worrying - a close encounter at night would not be good. Discussion as to whether or not we should have attempted salvage continued into the night, but I think we did the right thing. Had she been a more valuable prize we might have risked it, but 180 miles is a long tow with a small yacht in big seas. remarkable.

Charlie had made a full recovery by this time - in spite of his brave but essentially unwise attempt to breakfast on cold cassoulet straight from the saucepan. It was really good to have a third crew member for this trip - allowing up to six hours in ones bunk.

Progress slowed a little and it began to look as though it might be Sunday morning before we got into Santa Cruz.

Sat 18th November - At Sea

We passed the Islas Selvagem at dawn, hoping to get into Santa Cruz tomorrow morning. The wind increased again giving us a gusty F5 on the beam. We put two reefs in the main, then a couple of rolls in the genny as well. We had to hand steer for a while as the Navik seemed to be having some difficulty with the beam seas and the gusts, falling away in the lulls to thirty degrees off course.

By mid afternoon we could see Tenerife, still over 50 miles away, and as night fell the lights rose over the horizon. Plotted the NE wind acceleration zone on the chart and increased our Easting to free our wind a bit on the approach to the N. of the island.

Dawn over the Selvagem
Dawn over the Islas Selvagem

Sun 19th November - Santa Cruz de Tenerife

We made an easy night entry into Marina Atlantico, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, at six o'clock in the morning after a couple of narrow misses with shipping not far offshore. One supply / tug type vessel suddenly appeared from nowhere - we were crossing his bows and he was threatening to run us down at high speed. The throttle was opened wide and a few flashes of our new 3.5 million candlepower megabeam were aimed straight at the bridge. This eventually got his attention, and he altered course to pass 100 metres from our stern. Too exciting!

We called on Channel 9 and someone appeared to show us to a berth. A beer and a dram and so to sleep, perchance to dream.

Marina Atlantico
Marina Atlantico

We got up after lunch and had a wander round Santa Cruz - Sunday afternoon siesta time was very quiet, and we had trouble finding somewhere open to have a beer. Later in the evening one or two places opened and we found a restaurant. We sat talking with a young Bosnian tram driver while we waited to be served. The food was somewhat basic - I ordered Chorico for starters and got a huge dish of sliced spicy sausage served hot in olive oil - nothing else with it. For main course I had calamari romana - and that is what I got, a big plate of deep fried squid rings, again completely unaccompanied. It was an enjoyable protein overload, though somewhat thirst-making. A couple more beers on the way back to the marina soon fixed that problem, and we rounded off our first evening in the Canaries with a couple of drams of the Macallan cask strength Charlie had brought with him.

Mon 20th November - Santa Cruz de Tenerife

After braving the horrors of the Marina Atlantico 'facilities' (a flooded portacabin with seatless and doorless loos and open to the full gaze of the car park, full of naked frenchmen performing elaborate cleansing rituals as calmly as if in the comfort of their own bathrooms) we prepared to leave for San Miguel. I went to the office to pay and stood in a queue for half an hour but was waved away when I said we were about to leave - apparently we were being given a free night in the marina. We untied and made a smooth departure from the pontoon, but as we approached the outer harbour the marina launch came after us with its two crew gesticulating wildly. It appeared that there had been some miscommunication and they thought we were doing a runner.

Charlie and Nick in Santa Cruz
Charlie and Nick in Santa Cruz

I suppose technically we were. I went on board the marina launch and they took me back into the office while Charlie and Kathy jilled around in circles just outside the marina (but still in the harbour).

When I got back the wind was blowing about 20 knots right in the harbour entrance - a Southerly - and getting back on board Fairwinds was not as easy as disembarking had been. Visibility was poor due to the Kalifa, the local sirocco wind which brings dust from the Sahara. We raised the main double reefed and headed out for a look. Within a hundred metres of the harbour entrance we had 25 knots right on the nose with horrible steep seas and spray everywhere . . . where had this come from? We turned back into the harbour to collect our thoughts and I phoned Dave. Still blowing NE down in San Miguel. We swithered around for a bit then went out for another look - just the same. Eventually we decided to abandon the passage for the day and headed back into the marina, where we tied up in our old berth - much to the amusement of the two marina guys who had 'arrested' me.

We had lunch then spent the early afternoon relaxing and mending a few things on the boat, in particular the companionway step which had given way on the passage from Madeira. Charlie made an excellent job of fixing it, making it stronger than before. The cove locker in the starboard cockpit coaming had also come loose and was resecured. Dave phoned to say he had booked a flight to Glasgow for Charlie, and very kindly arranged to come up and pick him up in the morning and take him to the airport to save him having to get a taxi.

The ochre haze from the Saharan sand in the air deepened and the mountains to the North of the city faded from view. There was a dry heat and you could feel the dust in your throat. The temperature was nearly 30 degrees, and you could tell you were not in the NE of Scotland. In the evening we went up the town and wandered around on a sort of tapas crawl, having beer and tapas in various establishments. Santa Cruz was quite lively, much busier than on yesterday's Sunday afternoon perambulation.

Tues 21st November - Santa Cruz to San Miguel

Dave arrived about half past eight to pick Charlie up and we had a blether and a cup of coffee before they left for the airport. An hour later we were ready to leave . . . with only a very light North easterly it looked as though we would have to motor. As we approached Punta Abona though the Kalifa began to lift and the wind picked up to 20 knots. From here on we had a brilliant downwind sail to Marina St Miguel, about 35 miles South of Santa Cruz and beside the airport. With full main and the genoa poled out we were surfing along at up to eight knots. In the marina we rafted up beside our friends Dave and Nora's Colvic Victor 40, 'Knotts Gypsy'. We will probably spend a couple of weeks here getting the boat ready for the next leg to the Cape Verdes.

Alongside Knotts Gypsy
Alongside Knotts Gypsy

Weds 22nd - Sat 25th November - Tenerife

Spent a few days relaxing, lots of eating and drinking with Dave and Nora - we have already been to an all you can eat Chinese buffet and an all you can eat Indian buffet. Moved the boat to a pontoon after the marina say they couldn't give us any discount for lying alongside Knotts Gypsy. The facilities here are excellent, brand new - quite a contrast with Marina Atlantico and Quinta do Lorde. Dave took us to the chandlers in Los Christianos where they made us up a new kicking strap and I bought a new stern light and some 8mm rope as a replacement for the roller furling line should it break. There are excellent supermarkets near here, so provisioning for the next leg should be no problem.

Nora aboard Knotts Gypsy
Nora aboard Knotts Gypsy

Sun 26th - Mon 27th November - Tenerife

Spent quite a lot of time working on a couple of updates to clients' websites and sending out hosting invoices. I have been plugged into an unprotected wireless network using the Repeatit WiFi booster . . . last week was fine, but this week I have had to go to internet cafes to upload files as the network has been busy. Never mind - it was good while it lasted. So long Bob and Mandy, and thanks for all the bandwidth.

Tuesday 28th November - Tenerife

We borrowed Dave and Nora's car today and bought and stowed 135 litres of bottled water. With three 10 litre containers and the 14 gallon bow tank this gives us about 225 litres in total, 2.25 litres a day per person for 50 days or 3 litres per person per day for 36 days. We would also hope to be able to catch water in squalls occasionally. We then drove into Los Christianos to the chandlers to get a length of wire made up as a tender and outboard lock . . . although we are hoping ours will look so tatty that the average dinghy thief wouldn't be seen dead with it. It's not a bad chandlers, although apparently there is a better one in Santa Cruz. On the way back we went to the big Mercadona supermarket in Las Chiffiras and bought the rest of the provisioning for main meals - sufficient for 40 days, although of course we will have to replace what we use on the way to the Cape Verdes when we get there. We still need to stock up on a few more lunches and breakfasts . . . although we are hoping for a 3 week passage from Mindelo to Barbados, an average of just under 100 miles per day or 4 knots.

Wednesday 29th November - Tenerife

More web work, then off to an internet cafe with Dave in the afternoon to upload stuff. I also blew up the dinghy and checked it and the outboard out and fitted the locking wire.

This evening we finally had a conversation with Chiffon from Light Blue, an interesting looking steel yacht a few berths along the pontoon. We had said hello before, but that was all. Chiffon is Irish and knows Declan and Debbie on Kephri. She is sailing with husband Laurie, whose son is joining them for the atlantic crossing. They had sixty knot winds in the marina at Portosin in Galicia, when the pontoon broke away from the shore and it was too dangerous to leave the boat. They took six days to get form Portugal to Porto Santo, losing their inner forestay on the way and having to motor-sail in a gale or near gale for three days. Having fixed their forestay they set off for the Canaries and dragged their anchor in Graciosa in 56 knots of wind - so I figure we have got off lightly so far. Anyway, they are heading for La Gomera on Friday. Chiffon told us there is an excellent market there on Saturdays and Wednesdays, so we have decided to head off for La Gomera ourselves on Saturday with a view to having a look at the island, stocking up at the Wednesday market and then heading off on the Thursday if the omens are good.

Thurs 30th November - Tenerife

Went up the mast this morning early before the wind got up again - no less than four times. I changed the bulb in the anchor light for an LED version - a simple enough job until I had to retighten the lamp cover, but I got it done in the end. Spotted that the nylon fitting on the top of the forestay was slack, so tightened it. I also inspected all swages, toggles etc. for wear or cracks - although I am no metalurgist . . .

Went for a barbecue at Alan and Andrea's (friends of Dave and Nora) in the afternoon. Alan generously allowed me to plug into his network to get the last of the work I have been doing uploaded.

Climbing the mast using the mast ladder
Using the mast ladder

Had a drink at Mina's bar at the marina later - chatting with Ray and Doug, two of the ClubSail instructors (it's an RYA school based in the marina). When I told Doug I was a cruising instructor he said I could probably get a week's work in a week's time, but I politely declined and said we must get on. However, in the immortal words of Mr. Schwarzennerger, I'll be back.

Fri 1st December - Tenerife

First thing in the morning I walked up the hill and got a haircut. It was quite a strange experience. The barber was a dapper little Ecuadorian in a neckscarf who told me he was really a singer but Brits kept coming over on holiday and singing for beer and so undermining the whole local music economy. He trimmed my nose hairs, shaved my neck, cut my eyebrows and generally gave me the works. He must have used at least a dozen different fluids, creams and unguents on me - altogether quite an exotic experience, although it did cost 13 Euros. Not a bad haircut though.

When I got back to the boat we packed the dinghy away and generally got the boat ready to go to sea again. The dinghy now has a new bag. It's actually the old mainsail bag, which has been lying in the locker since we got the boat. Walked up to Amarilla Golf to check out another supermarket Nora had told us about. This caters to expats and had all sorts of goodies like marmalade and peanut butter, plus lots of sauces and spices to make boat food more interesting. We also got a new bucket for E1.50 to replace the one lost on the way over from Madeira.

Marina San Miguel from the golf course
Marina from the golf course

Today was the first day for ages with very little wind, and I took the opportunity to go snorkelling in the little bay to the North of the marina. No flora, but lots of interesting fish - hundreds of flourescent blue ones, plus some small trigger fish and pastel coloured clownfish-looking things. I also saw an amazing sea slug of some sort. Water still a bit chilly compared to the Caribbean though - about 22 degress, OK for twenty minutes then a hot shower is welcome.

Went out for another All You Can Eat Chinese buffet in the evening with Dave, Nora, Shaun and Susan and the grandchildren. Kathy managed to do it justice this time - she has finally recovered from a bit of a tummy bug she picked up in Madeira. Had a last drink at the marina bar and early to bed.

Next: - La Gomera