It seems that the prevailing winds are likely to give us a constant 15-20knts on our stern /quarter. This means we should make very good time. However I don't like the idea of getting to Gran Canaria with 5 days to kill, so instead, if the forecast is good we will probably sail via Madeira, probably stopping for a day or two at Funchal. These winds should make for some exhilarating sailing
The overall route will look like this , My original plans to go straight to Las Palmas are here
The waypoint table with speed and times is listed below
Hopefully we will arrive at Funchal by midnight on Saturday 26th, We should be able to average closer to 5 knots with the help of the prevailing currents.
The waypoints are on the following chart samples
The Reality ....
Well we motored out of Lagos at 0800 on Wednesday 23rd August, It was bright and a good fresh northerly wind pushed us south nicely. As we left the land behind us we found ourselves heading in the direction of the big catamarans that do frequent dolphin watching trips, The dolphins seemed bored and came to join us, Max finally got a decent sighting of them, but when the cats came over to us the dolphins departed. Later on we saw a shark fin moving ominously at our stern. This looked like it could be a fun trip
As night drew close the wind speed picked up and the skies grew grey, By the middle of the night we had winds gusting to 35knts on our stern and big waves, at least they seemed that was, 15-20feet (5-7m) hitting us on the beam and the stern. The cockpit filled with water on one occasion and the boat was constantly rolling. This seemed like the worst weather we had had so far. We had made good progress having covered 120Nm by 8am the following morning but we still had another 350 miles to go, perhaps 3 more days. As it turned out we arrived very early on Sunday morning and were very relieved to tie up alongside a French boat in Funchal. Along the way we had constant rough weather and all of the crew were thrown around a lot, I nearly split my head open when I flew through the air breaking my fall with the top of my head on a wooden beam which I split in two (the beam that is). Kathy almost broke her nose when thrown across the cabin. She also had her shoulder wrenched trying to hold on in a rather bad bash from a wave. decent cooking was out of the question and we lived on snacks and sandwiches. Praise to Kathy and Max for their heroic galley work.
Along the way we had had a potentially serious incident with the self steering, we noticed the wind vane was not secured properly, leaning over the stern of the boat I could see that the bottom of the Hydrovane was not attached anymore. It used to be, with 6 massive steel bolts. I couldn't see the bolts or the bracket as we were belting along at 6.5knts with a big wake and the stern down in the water but my first thought was that the bracket must have ripped off the boat leaving a largish hole in the hull below the water line and that in fact we were probably sinking, all this and only 250nm to the nearest land. As I stared into the water in disbelief, I looked up a bit and saw a large turtle right behind us, I couldn't help looking at him and wondering if he had anything to do with this!. Very quickly I retrieved the life raft from the lazaret, this was necessary to gain access to the inside of the stern, but also seemed like a jolly good idea to have it handy. we formed a human chain so I could pass the scores of items stored in the locker to Kathy who passed them to Max who stored them in the V Berth. This allowed me to get inside the hull but also moved the weight forward. All the time I was going through the procedure I needed to follow if the flow of water couldn't be stopped, basically, DSC - mayday, launch raft, stow water, food, flares in raft, activate EPIRB etc etc. on reaching the stern I found it to be just fine, further inspection over the back of the boat showed the thick stainless bracket that held the Hydrovane to the hull had ripped apart and the hull side was intact. Phew that was a relief. We had to hand steer most of the rest of the way, but that seemed a small price to pay. Pictures of the bracket are here. It was fun having it welded up in Funchal, I had to communicate in sign language to a welder i found who had a decent workshop in Funchal.
Funchal was gorgeous, perhaps anywhere was going to seem so after that trip. I have a separate page with pictures of Funchal
We left the following Thursday evening for the Canaries. I had told the crew that the forecast promised lighter winds and seas, and for a while it seemed like that, but as darkness fell, the wind rose to the mid 20s and the waves returned. I think all of our spirits sunk a bit as we contemplated another 3 days of this. However the next day brought relief, some sunshine, a steady 18knots of wind and calmer seas. As the journey progressed it got hotter until we were finally for the first time in just t shirts and shorts, about bloody time too. At one point we slowed the boat right down, I tied some rope around me and climbed into the sea. That was great, I couldn't stay as the boat kept pushing on, even with no sails up. Later It was calm enough for me to have a shower on deck with the solar showers. I was pleased to prove they work well even in a rocking boat. It looks like I might get a wash mid Atlantic after all ;-) I also caught my first tuna, at least I think it was, it had a yellow fin and tasted like tuna, but was very small. Some pictures of the trip are here.
We arrived at Las Palmas Gran Canaria at about 0600 on Sunday morning, I had decided to save a few shillings by not buying an electronic chart for the Canaries, I mean how difficult can it be to find the harbour! Kathy kept pointing out that the chart had a note saying do not try to enter in the dark as the lights are not reliable and change all the time. I just pooh-poohed her and said after 2000 Miles we could do anything and it would be a doddle. So anyway, one hour later we are still going around in circles looking for a green flash every 5 (Which no longer exists) to mark the end of the breakwater. Also the other helpful lights were useless as they either didn't work, had the wrong sequence or were lined up directly in front of traffic lights on the shore. Kathy was convinced that a coke-a-cola sign flashing onb and off on top of a large hotel was the marina entrance. I wasn't having any of it. Finally I saw a small boat following a large boat towards the land, the small boat had a white over red light which either makes him a pilot boat or a fisherman in big trouble. Following him got us inside the breakwater after that we carefully motored up to the marina and got a berth inside on the new arrivals pontoon. The next day I also spotted an unlit rather large metallic buoy right in the centre of the entrance (unlit and unmarked on the chart of course), I wonder how close to that we were?
If there is one thing I should have learnt by now is not to arrive in a new country on a Sunday morning, no marina staff, no Immigration/customs, no keys for the toilet block and the constant drone of people telling you that 'big boats usually tie up there and we should move to the bit that is all locked up'. Anyway, eventually we got some keys and moved the boat to it's last stop before we cross the big pond. We had the customary beers, cleaned up, and headed off into town to check the place out and get a big breakfast.
We had a great time in Las Palmas on Sunday and Monday, Pictures of Las Palmas are here. We flew back on Monday night. I can't wait to get back and get the final leg of this adventure started.
Our Actual route we took as logged on the Navman plotter, Click on the image to enlarge