We spent a night in Santa Cruz…….a bit like coming home………and went to the African market to stock up on meat and salted cod, ready for the off. Another bike load of supplies was stowed on board and we set off for La Gomera……. As usual our plans were changed by the winds that grew stronger and veered, so that by 0400 we were fighting to stay on course. Plan B swung into action and we put into San Miguel Marina for the remainder of the night, resuming our passage to La Gomera after lunch.

Sunset on our way to La Gomera. Goodbye Tenerife

Sunset on our way to La Gomera. Goodbye Tenerife

We finally arrived in San Sebastian on La Gomera at 2030 and negotiated the ‘yellow brick road’ of buoys leading to our Oz. How long have we been planning on coming here?? The morning brought us sunshine and a day of exploration. San Sebastián is delightful.

The centre of San Sebastián.

The centre of San Sebastián.

The people are friendly and very open. The town is small and unspoilt by tourism, the mountains rise up on all sides and there is a beach we can walk to via a tunnel, just behind the marina.

Looking east from the hill above the beach.

Looking east from the hill above the beach.

On the Beach. Bikini topped Jenni ......... Snow topped Tenerife

On the Beach.
Bikini topped Jenni ……… Snow topped Tenerife

We all enjoyed our stay in La Gomera and wish that we had arrived earlier and could have stayed longer. Jenni had a great idea to take the bus up to the top of the island and walk down, so leaving Marcus at ‘home’ to get on with some jobs, Jenni, Dan and I set off for the bus station and a spectacular bus ride which wound itself round hazardous hair pin bends, into the cloud and up to the national park, where we got off the bus ready for our trek. We stepped off the bus into horizontal drizzle and quickly put on jumpers and rain jackets……it felt just like a summers day in Wales!

The 'Cloud Forest'. Very Tolkienesque.

The ‘Cloud Forest’. Very Tolkienesque.

The walk turned out to be 12 kilometers of constant downhill trekking which wound down through laurel forest and on through palms and down to the terraced fields that step their way to a 220m waterfall.

About half way down.

About half way down.

A bit further down we came across La Gomera's very own Gherkin Tower

A bit further down we came across La Gomera’s very own Gherkin Tower

Terraced fields on the side of the valley.

Terraced fields on the side of the valley.

The going was very tough and our knees were wobbling by the time we got to the bottom of the winding trail.

The 'Long and Winding Road'

The ‘Long and Winding Road’

Stretching out ....... only another 4kms to go to the bus.

Stretching out ……. only another 4kms to go to the bus.

We all found it hard to walk the next day, but decided to take the bus again all the way to Valle Gran Rae. This time we had Marcus with us and there was far less cloud than the day before…….the views were really magnificent.

La Gomera is such an unspoilt island. Tourism has no hold here as only the rugged and resourceful venture this far from the beaten track. In the 70s there was a hippie influx and in Valle Gran Rae and there is a meditation and retreat centre which is tucked round a track under impossibly steep cliffs. After spending the day exploring the town and lazing on the beach, we made our winding way on the bus back to the other side of the island.

Back on the boat in San Sebastián we met up with Kit and Belinda on Quilcene, who we met a month ago in Santa Cruz. We spent the evening with them and dropped by for mince pies and elevenses the next morning, just before we set off on our big adventure to The Cape Verdes.

We left La Gomera at 1600 on Sunday 22nd …..The Swiss Family Hayward setting off into the Atlantic.

Sunset on our first day. The adventure has begun!

Sunset on our first day. The adventure has begun!

Our first sunrise about 60 miles out from the Canaries with 600 to go!

Our first sunrise about 60 miles out from the Canaries with 600 to go!

The first night of watch keeping went well and both Crew managed their stints without a problem. We have a rota printed out so that we know exactly who is cooking, washing up and on watch. The person who’s day it is to cook stands two shorter watches, which means we are able to shunt the schedule forward every day so we all get a day when we can see the sunrise or sunset.

Cooking onboard is tricky ….it’s a bit like trying to live in a washing machine…… we have to strap our selves in to save being thrown across the galley. We have had some very tasty meals, including Spanish omelette, spaghetti bolognaise, lasagna, paella, curry vegetable pie and chicken with roast veg for Christmas dinner.

Jenni's magnificent Spanish omelette

Jenni’s magnificent Spanish omelette

Both Jenni and I have made bread and attempted to make yoghurt.for some reason the yogurt just won’t work…..probably because the motion was more like being in a washing machine and the milk must have been confused and thought it was in a butter churn. So as you can see, we are not going hungry!

Despite the movement of the boat, I have been managing to sleep, whilst the rest of the crew have been struggling. Jenni gets bounced up and down in the forepeak, Marcus can’t sleep in the aft cabin and tries to sleep in the lower saloon, but the cacophony of sounds from the galley wake him and Dan, who has been suffering from sea sickness, decided to open his hatch to get some fresh air, only to have a wave break straight in on top of him. The upshot of this was that he had no dry bunk and was having to try to sleep in the upper saloon, but being disturbed by the person on watch. A school boy error that has meant that there is a lot of mattress rinsing and drying to be done in Mindelo!

Christmas at sea was a first. Father Christmas managed to find his way down the mast and stockings and presents were opened up in the cockpit around the tree lashed to the binnacle. At sunset, a pod of dolphins came to play with us.

image

Very special.

THE CAPE VERDES

We are now in Mindelo on São Vicente. We arrived here at 1300 on Saturday, so the trip took less time than expected…….just under six days.

Force 8s ....... No problem!

Force 8s ……. No problem!

We are delighted to have made it in one piece and to be out of the wild motion caused by the short seas running across the ocean swell. Everyone here has benn saying how un-seasonal the winds and seas have been. We are hoping that the seas settle down before we head on to Brazil.

Entering Mindelo port. A very welcome sight.

Entering Mindelo port. A very welcome sight.

Mindelo is delightful and doesn’t seem at all as threatening as some of the guide books would have us believe. There was live music in the main street when we arrived and it went on until 0500

The main street where the music seems to play non stop.

The main street where the music seems to play non stop.

………needless to say it didn’t disturb us. We were all in bed by nine o’clock and slept through ’til nine on Sunday.

Every arrival brings a day of jobs, so Sunday was spent washing down the boat,

Cleaning down the deck, we found our first flying fish fatality. A bit too small for breakfast for four!

Cleaning down the deck, we found our first flying fish fatality. A bit too small for breakfast for four!

taking the auto pilot to bits (I forgot to mention that the tiller bolt sheered again,), giving clothes a much needed wash, cleaning the galley (great job Jenn!) and getting the crew cabin emptied, dried, aired and it’s matresses rinsed and hung out to dry.

The marina from the floating bar.

The marina from the floating bar.

Looking aft across to our new neighbours and new back garden!

Looking aft across to our new neighbours and new back garden!

In the evening we had six people from neighbouring boats aboard for drinks. It’s lovely the way in which we can make new friends on our way and Dan and Jenni have met up with some of the boat hitch hikers that they met in Las Palmas too.

It is now Monday evening and almost the last day of 2013. We have three of Jenni and Dan’s friends aboard having a ‘jam session’ in the cockpit…….at least they were until just now when a string broke on the guitar!

This has been a lengthy post and no photos to break it up. I will get photos added when wifi allows. Happy New Year.

Another week of waiting for the winds to change and getting those last minute jobs done on the boat. With high spring tides and waves being pushed into the harbour, we have been surging and straining on our mooring. This morning, when we finally got to the point of preparing to leave, we discovered that our passerelle (gang plank) had taken more severe punishment than we realised and it has managed to rip a deck fitting out of the bathing platform……..a glass fibre job for further south! A minor inconvenience compared to one boat that was trying to move to  a more sheltered place in the anchorage and fell foul of the wind and waves on the beach next to the marina.

Just a little too close to the beach for comfort!

Just a little too close to the beach for comfort!

Activities this week included a visit to the market with the bikes…….we have now got most of the fresh fruit and veg bought and stowed in the hammocks above the lower saloon, under the table and strung from the mast. Everything has to be washed in chlorinated water, left to sun dry on the pontoon and then wrapped in aluminium foil and stowed.

The last of the fresh stores washed and drying on the pontoon.

The last of the fresh stores washed and drying on the pontoon.

As far as we can gather, the bleach helps to kill any bugs or eggs on the food and also kills any bacteria that’s already starting to work on outside. Apparently we should still be eating food stored like this for at least a month! and hopefully have no spiders or bugs onboard.

We hired a car for a day out…….

Picturesque.

Picturesque.

……….visiting a rum distillery on the way to the painted caves of Galmar in the north of the island. The rum distillery was a bottling plant with a room of casks which had been decorated and signed by various celebs and dignitaries….. the only one I’d heard of was Julio Inglasis ……

The rum barrels decorated by the rich and famous. They didn't ask us. Don't they know who we are?!

The rum barrels decorated by the rich and famous. They didn’t ask us. Don’t they know who we are?!

There was a very generous rum allowance at the end of tour and needless to say we are now a couple of bottles heavier.

We sometimes worry about our boat being such a small bit of plastic and metal, bobbing about in a vast ocean, but seeing the three french men leaving for the Cape Verdes on Sunday in their 25ft racing boat, made us feel a whole lot more secure.

Three men in a very small boat.

Three men in a very small boat.

On Saturday night there was some music at the local Sailors Bar. The guys playing are in a band that has made it’s way this far by hitch hiking and the occasional plane. They are planning to get a boat to take them to Brazil. They were brilliant. The line up was a banjo, a skiffle type bass with a broom stick on a plastic water container and the drummer played on the water container with chop sticks.

The Bucket Boys in action.

The Bucket Boys in action.

Sunday was Marcus’ 60th and after a croissant breakfast, supplied and prepared by Jenni, presents were opened and played with

The Old Man opening his pressie.....The Old Man of the Sea.

The Old Man opening his pressie…..The Old Man of the Sea.

until it was time to set off in the dinghy for a leisurely birthday lunch in the marina.

Birthday lunch in the Marina

Birthday lunch in the Marina

Our plans to leave for La Gomera have been slightly adjusted and we decided to head for Santa Cruz, in order to break the journey for the crew. After a very choppy half hour or so, getting out of the harbour, the Crew were both feeling the effects and took themselves off for a lie down. About an hour later we were joined by a large pod of dolphins which stayed with us and showed off and posed for the cameras for about an hour…… a record! Who knew that the best cure for sea sickness was dolphins!!

Dolphins playing off the bow. Dan trying to touch one.

Dolphins playing off the bow’s the best sea sickness cure. Dan is trying to touch one…..not throwing up!

It is now Tuesday and we are now going to set off on an overnight voyage down to La Gomera, to arrive at San Sebastian in daylight. It feels really good to be on our way at last.

By the looks of the wind charts for the next week, we are going to be here for a while! The winds are uncommonly blowing in from the south and we need something with a north in it before we can comfortably set off for the Cape Verdes. Friday 13th or Saturday 14th look promising at the moment, but it all might change by then.

The week to date  …………Monday was a wash out ….cold (19*C) and rainy. I did homely things like making yoghurt and bread, Jenni did the scanning, photocopying and laminating of the ships papers, Dan and Marcus did some rewiring and in the afternoon, Jenn and I snuggled up and watched our annual lead up to Christmas film …. Love Actually!

What a difference a day makes! Tuesday dawned sunny and hot. Dan and Jenni walked to the surfers beach with Benoit, a Belgian guy who is looking for a boat to crew on down to the Cape Verdes. Marcus and I took the bikes to explore what we thought was the old town and after many a hill and no hint of any buildings older than the 1960s, we made our way through what turned out to be the industrial centre and on towards the sea…….

The surfers' beach.

The surfers’ beach.

we ended up at the beach with the surfers.
Dan and Jenni hired boards and looked pretty proficient to me!

Jenni riding a wave

Jenni riding a wave

Dan, not looking quite so casual

Dan, not looking quite so casual

I had one go, but the effort of getting the board back out beyond the breakers put me off a second run!

At last we have had a sunny day……the first since the crew arrived……we finished it off with a barbecue on the back of the boat and sat out in the cockpit ’til bedtime……..After another day surfing, both our intrepid crew had ‘sand rash’ on their tummies and Jenni was attacked by her own board, leaving a nasty bruise on her calf.

Thursday was designated a ‘jobs’ day and we were all hard at work for the whole day. We replaced the starboard jib sheet, cleaned and polished all the stainless steel…..a massive job that has needed doing since we got the boat, (Marcus cleaned the Barbeque!) We hoisted both the cruising chute and the gennaker.  We were lucky to have found someone who needed Marcus to  help with their long range radio, who in return was happy to share his expertise with us to help rig the sails. The lighter of the two sails is for use in very light winds, up to 10/12 knots and the older sail is for winds up to 20 knots.

We hadn’t had either out of the bags before and I don’t think they’ve seen the light of day very often in the past, as there is little wear on either of them. At present they are sharing the forepeak berth with Jenni……all very well until they get wet!!
We were surprised to see that the older sail has a Top Hat in the middle of it. Quite distinctive!

The surprise 'top hat' on the heavier gennaker

Captain and crew admiring the surprise ‘top hat’ on the heavier gennaker

More jobs have been completed in preparation for the passage, including fixing a second aerial for the SSB, long distance radio. Jenni hauled Marcus up the rigging and, (although sorely tempted not to), lowered him down again!

Jenni in control of the winches

Jenni in control of the winches

Marcus at her mercy!!

Marcus at her mercy!!

Although rather frustrating to have to delay our departure, we could be stuck in worse places. As Jenni says, some people come here for their annual two weeks holiday, so we should take advantage of the delay.There are a lot of young people here looking for boats to ‘hitch hike’ across to the Caribbean. We have got to know quite a few of them and Dan and Jenni have plenty of company for evening outings.
On Sunday Marcus and I took a bike ride to the real Old Town and got a glimpse of the original Las Palmas, which is built around a large cathedral and is a network of small cobbled streets with tall town houses with balconies on the upper floors.

The streets behind the cathedral

The streets behind the cathedral

The square we stumbled upon

The square we stumbled upon

We found a market where a group of elderly traditional musicians were playing and it was lovely to see people getting up to dance.

A fantastic atmosphere ..... and they sounded good too!

A fantastic atmosphere ….. and they sounded good too!

After a fairly sleepless night ……. the mooring lines are creaking and straining …… we woke to stronger than forecast winds. Dan was on laundry duties and with such strong winds, by the time we had pegged out all the washing, the first sheets were dry. Must be some sort of drying speed record!

Gusts of Force 8 straining the pegs!

Just to give you a glimpse of what life is really like on board. Gusts of Force 8 straining the pegs!

Jenn and I bowled along to the shopping centre on the bikes. There’s a birthday coming up and retail therapy is always a joy! On the way back we passed this sign post, that makes us realise how far we have come and how many possibilities there are out there waiting for us.

Which way shall we go from here?

Which way shall we go from here?

Goodbye Tenerife

Goodbye Tenerife

The ARC leaving Las Palmas ..... making room for us!

The ARC leaving Las Palmas ….. making room for us!

We waved the ARC off and moved into the marina in strong winds.

Piping the crew aboard

Piping the crew aboard

We went by bus to the airport to meet Dan and Jenni. It was lovely to see them, but I think they may have brought a change in the weather with them! It’s the first day in months that we have worn jumpers!

After settling everyone aboard, we had a quiet evening in and checked through the stores, ready for a trip to Lidls to stock up on dry goods and stores in the morning. We hired a car for 3 days and spent Tuesday shopping and tracking down a gas depot where we had been told we could get our non Spanish gas cylinders filled. After much searching we found the depot, but it was closed for the day, so a return trip was planned for Wednesday morning.

Provisions waiting to be stowed

Provisions waiting to be stowed

After stowing all the food in lockers and under the floor boards all over the boat, and making lists, so that we could find it again! we had a safety briefing from the Captain.

On Wednesday, Juan, the refrigeration man came aboard to sort out the freezer that hasn’t worked since we bought the boat and to replace the thermostat on the beer fridge. All seemed to be well until the freezer kept tripping out. Juan returned to try to fix the problem that turned out to be a can of worms…….. it transpired that the water intake was not sufficient to cool the heat exchanger. After a lot of removing pipes and trying to suck and blow water through them, we decided that Marcus and Dan would take a look at the offending pipes and try to clear any blockages and Juan could go home!

A day trip up to the mountains.

A day trip up to the mountains.

On Thursday we took a day off from the frustrations of the refrigeration and took  a trip up into the mountains in the car.  The north of the island is green and fertile and people live in isolated villages on steeply terraced slopes. They either develop incredibly strong hearts and live for ages, or die early from the strain of scaling the hillsides!

Breath takingly high!

Breath takingly high!

At the top of the mountain we stopped to take in the view before heading down to the south and a visit to the beach.

We believe we can fly!

We believe we can fly!

We weren’t really dressed for the chilly mountain top, so we stopped off for a warming hot chocolate and then chatted with some of the stall holders on our way back to the warmth of the car.

An oasis on the way down the mountain

An oasis on the way down the mountain

After winding our way down the mountain, we ended up in Playa Ingles………the epitome of Brits Abroad. We eventually found the beach with its regimented sun loungers and spent an hour or so playing beach tennis. It’s sad to think that an area with so little culture and so much commercialism is named after the English!

On Friday Marcus and Dan set to trying to find the blockage in the refrigeration cooling system. As with any job on the boat, the whole floor was lifted and all pipes were prodded and rodded through and we were stepping over them all morning. After removing various crustaceans and gunk from the hoses, the freezer hummed into life……..success!

The men at work.

The men at work.

While the men were at work, Jenni and I took the dinghy out around the anchorage and then I hoisted Jenn up the mast so she could test out the best place to attach the mount for the GoPro video camera…….not bad for someone who doesn’t like heights! The boat looks incredibly small, looking down from the top of the mast.

Jenny checking out the rigging.

Jenni checking out the rigging.

Saturday, we had a day off and did our own things. Dan and Jenni went off on a bike ride, Marcus read his book and I played my piano and saxophone. It seems like we are constantly doing jobs, so a day off now and again refreshes the batteries.

The weather and winds are not playing cricket! The winds are unseasonably blowing from the south and we have had rain!!! It looks as though we are going to be weather bound here in the Canaries for at least a week. Hopefully the rain will clear and we can get out for some test sails, or even sail over to some of the other islands. Tomorrow, we have heard that there are likely to be winds of up to force 8 blowing through, so we’ll stay put until they blown themselves out!