Monday, 19 November 2018

Preparing Tintin for the Atlantic

We have a week to prepare Tintin for the Atlantic crossing, and at times it feels as though we are creating lists faster than crossing things off them! But we welcomed Fred (aka David, my brother) and Ben back on board yesterday so now we have many hands on deck.

We have inspected our rig at deck level and up the mast - looking to make sure that any things that should be able to move, can do so, and checking that things that shouldn't move, don't. We feel the shrouds (the guy lines that hold up the mast) to find if any wires have snapped (all good so far) and we check that no cracks can be seen on the mast or boom. We check that shackles are done up tightly and that ropes are not showing signs of chafe. This is something we will need to check for on a daily basis when we sail, trying to make sure that ropes don't constantly rub on things that will make them wear out.

At the top of the mast it was quite windy but at least the boat wasn't moving much. It is s different story entirely at sea, and we hope to avoid the need to climb the mast then. 

Today's tasks were to scrub the bottom of the boat and to service the engine. Both achieved - scuba divers Rob and James did a great job getting rid of the build up of slimey green stuff on the antifouling on the underwater part of the hull.  We've also had a visit from Bob the SSB expert, (single side band radio) to check our set, which we will be using to keep in touch with other boats over a "radio net" during the crossing. 

We continue to meet other crews from all over, and we're enjoying getting to know some of them. On our pontoon we have Irish Kurt and English Neil on one side (greetings to Stevie in Salcombe form Neil!), Germans on the other, then Jens and his family from Norway, then a Finnish women's crew. At yesterday's opening ceremony we volunteered to carry the European Union flag and hope it might not be the last chance to do so.

Tomorrow, 3 days of optional seminars start - with subjects ranging from the Atlantic Night Sky to Provisioning, First Aid at Sea to Emergency Navigation. We will start to plan our stores (how much pasta for a crew of 5 for 21 days at sea and then emergency reserves? how much loo roll? and importantly, how much beer?) 

We have brought with us a wonderful array of treats given to us before we left home and they have been hidden away, to be brought out when required. Thank you all!

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Las Palmas

On Thursday evening we had a great meal at a Tapas bar in Santa Cruz.  Run by a couple of old(ish) men, it was as Spanish in atmosphere as could be.  It specialised in ham with several dozen legs of Bellota Iberico ham hanging behind the bar - we had several delicious dishes and too much red wine before staggering back to the boat.  

We had decided to leave a day early as the winds looked slightly more favourable to sail on Friday rather than Saturday, so we'll have to leave our exploration on the interior of Tenerife and cycling up the volcano for another time.  The wind started off well, and we had several hours going downwind towards Gran Canaria.  It then died a little and whilst we could sail, we wouldn' t have reached Las Palmas before dark - so we put the engine on.  James and I (Rob) both felt slightly queasy in the rolling sea - could be just 1st day at sea, too much red win or the effects of a jab the day before.
Hauling up the mainsail - James v concerned

Downwind to Gran Canaria
 We rounded the north end of Gran Canaria and then motored past miles of docks and big ships.  I think West Africa is growing as an area for oil exploration and the Canaries are a stable base from which to operate - certainly there is masses of very expensive drilling and production infrastructure here

Checking in at the marina took a while - they do like their bureaucracy here - but we managed to complete formalities and moor up in time for the 1st ARC party.  Very good food and wine until the band started.  To our curmudgeonly ears they were much too loud and out of tune (humbug!) so we retired to our bunks

Yesterday, we settled in and dealt with our safety inspection.  A couple of minor points but generally all good.  We're gradually meeting more of the neighbouring crews and boats - there is such a wide variety of boats taking part from a 34ft hallberg Rassy to an 80ft (51ton!) Oyster.

Today is the "opening ceremony" - trooping round the marina grouped into countries behind a band.  Think the Olympic Opening Ceremony but 1/1000 of the scale.

When we did the ARC last time, we had a Serrano ham ( called "Babe") that fed us most of the way across.  It was greatly loved & appreciated.  After our evening in Santa Cruz, we've educated ourselves to understand that Babe was just the "entry-level" ham, and there are many grades of slightly nicer and much more expensive hams that we could get. Which sort of ham to choose?  Advice gratefully received. 

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Back onboard

We're now back onboard in Tenerife, having had a tremendous send-off. Everybody seemed very happy to see us finally set off for the longest stretch of our trip. It was slightly strange leaving the house at 4:00am yesterday- dark, deserted and shut-up. Our plan is not to be back until July although there will be people coming and going and looking after the place fairly frequently.

We (Rob, Jo & James) will have a couple of days here in Tenerife before heading across to Gran Canaria where David and Ben will be joining us on Sunday. The ARC people have started sending our emails every evening telling us of all the events we're missing out on by no being in Las Palmas already - which mostly seems to be drinks parties. Apparently, "almost everybody" had arrived by yesterday. We'll just be fashionably late.

Our routine has started already - James is currently leading the "Bums and Tums" session at the end of the pontoon for everybody who is keen (which is Jo). They're doing deep squats at the moment, facing out to sea - which means they can't see the quizzical looks from people walking along the pontoon.

Friday, 9 November 2018

Reminder of Last Year's Trip

We're currently getting ready to return to Tintin next week, prior to setting off across the Atlantic.

As a reminder of last year's trip to Norway via Scotland, and also to try my skills at video-editing and vlogging, here's a brief compilation of drone footage from 2017:

Viewers should be aware that the weather was not always like this!

Monday, 22 October 2018

End of Stage 2..

We arrived in Marina Santa Cruz at about 5:00am this morning, having motored almost all of the previous day.  In all, the trip from Madeira was a pleasant contrast from the passage from Cascais.  The sun shone, the waves were gentle and we could relax on board.  Whilst it's really important to know that the boat, equipment and people can cope in a blow, it's really nice not to have to do it very often!

So, it's a slow day today - doing washing and domestic chores to get the boat ready for leaving for 3 weeks.  We're returning to the UK - returning in mid-November.
Washing day in marina Santa Cruz

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Towards Tenerife

Having said goodbye to David and Ben in Madeira, we set off from Quinta
Do Lorde yesterday morning for the 260Nm south to Tenerife. The
position of the marina - at the base of a 100m vertical cliff at the
very narrow eastern end of the island - means that alarming katabatic
winds form in the marina as the wind climbs over the ridge before
plunging vertically downwards. Although not violent, the noise of
these gust running through the rigging was enough to give the skipper a
fretful night wondering how to extricate ourselves from our berth
safely. When the moment came, RYA training worked and it absolutely
fine and we motored out to a flat sea and lovely northerly wind.

Yesterday, we bowled along either goose-winged our broad reaching
making good time in great conditions. The wind died in the evening and
the engine went on at 10pm. We're still puttering along now with
barely a breath of wind - hope to be in Tenerife tonight - probably 4am
or similar again1

Friday, 19 October 2018


We arrived in Madeira at at about 4:00am yesterday morning.  David is claiming  victory in the arrival time sweepstake because his guess was almost spot on.  However, James is also claiming victory because we didn't actually arrive in Funchal, we stopped just up the coast at Quinta do Lorde.  Having said the latest time, he reasoned, he was therefore closest.  We stopped at Quinta Do Lorde because, as we picked up phone signal nearing the islands, an email arrived saying that Funchal marina had, as of that day, stopped taking non-local boats.  Really not helpful to get that at midnight after a 500Nm sail.  Anyway, it was fortunate that we could go to Quinta Do Lorde easily - it was nearer and has plenty of room.
Safely arrived

The last few hours of the passage we pretty memorable. As night started to fall, the wind picked from Force 4/5 to Force 7 gusting 8. We went from full sail to 2nd reef main and no genoa in 15mins and started a moonlit sleigh-ride past the island of Porto Santo and towards Madeira. David, Ben and James added the accompaniment of Pink Floyd to complete the surreal picture.  As we approached Madeira, the seas were rising and about 3Nm off the eastern end of the islands we met some particularly gnarly waves.  I (Rob) was on the helm and could hear a roar behind before a wave rolled the boat to an alarming angle and then landing on the stern.  It filled the cockpit (and my boots) with water.  It was bad enough that Jo swore.   A few more minutes like this and another rolling drenching before the seas started to flatten nearer the point.  On subsequent closer inspection of the chart, it turns out that if you have a gale forcing the sea over a seabed that rises from 4km depth to less than 80 m in 1/2 Nm or so, then you get some big seas!
pre sleigh-ride

Behind the island, the sea flattened and we motored the last few miles into the marina.  Dark and quiet, we bumbled around trying to find a spot before drifting gently sideways into a large empty berth.  ......And breathe.......

We were a bit sluggish yesterday morning, but by the afternoon we had perked up to explore the island - which is more spectacular than I could have imagined.  The geology of the place is stunning, and luckily we had James the geologist to explain it all to us. We walked out to the eastern tip and looked out over the patch of sea that got me so wet.

It was rough out there!

David and Ben have just left to fly home and we have another day here before continuing south to Tenerife.

and here are a few action photos

Bums and tums class