19 December 2023
Having studied the weather carefully, we had picked a weather window where we expected light winds for the first part of this 24 hour journey, with the wind picking up to a useful sailing wind in the late afternoon and overnight and strengthening further in the next morning. It was forecast to be a north easterly wind which is perfect for sailing with twin gibs (goose wings) and makessailing at night easier as there's no need for me to go on deck.
I spent the day prior to us leaving setting up the line and poles, so once at sea we would be good to go!
After saying our goodbyes to Leslie and Peter and getting the marina to shift a couple of superyachts so that we could get to the fuel dock to fill our tanks (with the crew of the superyachts looking down on us) we cleared the port entrance at 1150 and set a course for the channel between Lanzarote and Fuerteventura.
About a mile out of the marina, the first problem became apparent; the rudder on Kirsten, our windvane ( see the Rabat to Lanzarote blog) popped up out of the water. Something had gone wrong with the hinge. After a few minutes hanging over the back of the boat I could see the problem - a stainless steel catch had straightened out under the loads coming down from Rabat. I could also see the solution - a couple of holes in the hinge fitting to bolt it all together. Sounds simple, eh? Well it took me 50 minutes and a great deal of increasingly vehement swearing to get those two bolts and nuts in place. But we got back under way eventually, and my mood got back to its ordinary resting grumpiness pretty quickly.
As we approached the channel between the islands, we saw a huge mass of sails. Two, maybe three regattas were under way. But as we turned westwards, they seemed to melt away, leaving plenty of space for us to chug along under engine. The wind and waves were pretty kind in the lee of the two islands, so I took the opportunity to rig the two heavy poles that we would be using when, according to the forecast, the wind would veer from northerly towards eastery and increase. And, sure enough, by 1640 the wind got up and we ware able to unfurl our lovely twin Yankee sails.
As we got further away from the islands, the waves got bigger and, coming at us from the side, made Offbeat roll uncomfortably. I adjusted the sails and Kirsten, the self-steering gear, and turned with a ‘taa-daa” to Teresa. She had seen the hours that I had put in refurbishing Kirsten, had endured all my offloading of problems about it and the mess of tools that cluttered up the boat for days on end, and had the grace to appear to be impressed at my little victories. And now she was seeing the result for the first time. “ Well done sweetie. Very nice. Shall I get the tea on, now?” Hmph.
We bowled on through the evening and with darkness approaching, I reefed the sails to make controlling the boat a bit easier in the dark. By 2200 we started to see the navigation lights of ships ahead of us and we prepared to cross a fairly busy shipping lane between Fuerteventura and Gran Canaria. It took three hours before we were clear of the ships and could take turns getting some sleep.
During the early hours of the morning the wind started to drop. The problem with the wind dropping was the waves didn't reduce at all, and its the sails that keep the boat stable in rolly seas. So by the time the wind failed us completely and we reverted to the engine, the boat's motion was very uncomfortable.
After an hour of motoring, the wind came back quite strong from the same side as the waves (islands do funny things to the wind. And to waves, for that matter, as they reflect off cliffs and can cause odd cross-wave patterns and confused seas that we were experiencing tens of miles from land. Ancient navigators - the Polynesians, most famously of all - could see such patterns in the waves and divine the location of islands days before arriving.) Then the wind dropped again. Then picked up a bit. Unfortunately with all the rolling, Teresa lost her footing, slid off the seat in the cockpit and straight onto the mainsail traveller, which is a thick heavy metal bar. There were a few expletives and tears, but luckily nothing broken.
As we were approaching another shipping lane and could make out our destination, Tenerife, I put the motor back on and we motorsailed the next five hours, sometimes the sails giving us good speed, sometimes the motor making up for the wind dropping.
As we started to be able to make out details on Tenerife, the sun started to break through the clouds that marred the second half of the journey and our spirits rose after a tough 16 hours. The wind gave us one last blast as we sailed by the huge harbour complex of Santa Cruz towards the marina entrance. We tied up in the marina at 1500 and by 1515 were eating beer, wine and crisps to celebrate a short but challenging sail, marvelling at the city laid out in front of us.