ARC + 2018: Gibraltar to Gran Canaria.
Well, we are finally off, departing Alcadeisa Marina around 19:00 and heading for Gran Canaria. The passage is around 700nm and should take about 5 days. My initial ETA was 02.11.18 but now it might be 31.10.18. I'll need to inform the Las Palmas marina of my (anticipated) earlier arrival once I get a phone signal. The crew arrived at different times, Wally arrived the previous night, flight delayed by an hour. Cedric, who was staying in Nerja, arrived around 11:00, while Wally and I were doing the last minute provisioning, and Gershon at 14:30. We had checked the weather forecast and it looked like Sunday was going to blow up, 25+ kts, so it was essential that we made our way as soon as possible. However, my man Eric, who was fitting the Hydrovane and water maker, was working at his normal Spanish pace. The Hydrovane was finally finished the previous day, all save the removal of the Sikaflex epoxy resin masking tape. The water maker was a different matter. He had found a good place for the Water maker unit itself, fitting a shelf above the engine for it to sit on, and had put the pump where I had suggested, in the port aft cabin in front of the water tank. Some of the pipe work had been completed but there was till much to do. Too much in fact, and I had to tell him that we would be leaving by 17:00 with or without a working water maker. We left at 19:00 without a working water maker. At least all of the runs of pipe work are finished and sealed. I will finish off the rest when we get into Gran Canaria. Having settled the bill at the marina, we headed out into the channel at a sedate speed of 4kts. The sea state was calm but currents running against. Once in the straits of Gibraltar and through the other side, into the Atlantic, the winds picked up and the headsail was set, it was too dark to contemplate using the parasailor sail, and I was the only one who had used it before...... once! Wally had cooked a lovely lasagne and there was sufficient for the following evening. Shifts arranged, Gershon and I would pair up and take the first off watch, a four hour break before relieving Wally and Cedric at 02:00.
The winds had dropped, picked up again, and dropped once more. By midday we had both main and head sails out but with light winds we still had the engine ticking over to maintain around the five knot speed. Recording our progress every change of watch it was evident that something was amiss with our odometer reading. It was showing a large difference between what we had covered and what the chart plotter was showing. Same problem as I had a couple of seasons ago. That time Garmin changed the plotter as it was under warranty. Not sure whether they will do that this time. Quite a lot of commercial traffic has passed us, mainly heading towards Gibraltar. It's good to know that the AIS system is working.By the end of the day, there was lightning flashing all astound and just as I was going off watch at 22:00, the rain that had been in the area began to fall.
Back on watch at 02:00 and the Lightning was still around. Thankfully, that's all it was. The first of our problems raised its head. The auto pilot that I had repaired failed. Thankfully I knew what the fault might be, a lose grub screw, and it was. Not a lovely job lying in the stern of the yacht removing the autopilot whilst the boat is being knocked from side to side and someone at the helm is hand steering! Assembly removed, grub screw reset with what I thought was lock tight and replaced, only to fail again. It appears that the lock tight that I used was silicone sealant, although the tube called it lock tight! This time it was super glued in. I've left it off at the moment for the glue to harden before reassembling it again. Luckily the Hydrovane that I had fitted has been put to good use and it currently doing a sterling job. By evening the weather had worsened and it was blowing 25 kts gusting to 30, with big seas. Main sail taken down fully (as second reef was not fully set) and headsail reduced to a minimum. As I was tying the sail down I asked Gershon to catch my baseball cap and keep it in the cockpit. As I threw it towards him he let it go by, Cedric tried to save it but, being harnessed, couldn't reach it before it sailed out off the stern. Sorry Graham. That's the second cap I've lost in the last two days. Not a good rate. Weather calming down, only 20+ kts now, but mighty difficult to stand in the galley and cook!
Oh what a day. We knew Sunday was going to be bad from the forecast received before we left Gibraltar. We were expecting somewhere in the region of 25 - 30 knots.
When I took over at 02:00 Cedric told me that the wind speed was already in the low twenties and increasing. Within an hour it was up to 30+ and we reefed the headsail further. On my next watch at 10:00 I was told that the wind speed had risen to 48 kts at one point and remained in the high 30's. Headsail taken in and running bare poles. During my watch I saw 43 kts and it stayed in the 30's all the time. Slow progress is being made and the likelihood of getting to Gran Canaria on the 2nd. November looks remote, despite leaving two days early! Got a weather forecast from one commercial vessel telling us that the winds would drop from 35 kts today and tomorrow will be 15 - 20 kts from the north. That will help but the seas need to calm down too. First breakage today, two wine glasses. Not sure how they managed to jump the fiddle rail and out of the box but they did!
The higher winds have abated and now they are at a more manageable 15 - 20 kts and from the north. Seas are still confused and therefore not always easy to keep a good course. Full heads sail being used and we are making slow progress and unlikely to get to either Gran Canaria or Lanzarote before the fuel runs out. As the Watt and Sea generator has yet to be installed the new batteries are not sufficient under sail alone despite the solar panels and wind generator. Fridge switched off until batteries are back to full charge. Lunch today will be sandwiches (again) but supper will be a pork casserole already made in the new Mr D's cooker that Helen bought for my birthday. It's important to ensure that everything is cut up into small pieces to guarantee being cooked, as we found out when Wally made the first meal in it. Have seen one other sailing vessel today and no commercial traffic. Wind direction has changed and is now a north easterly / easterly. Might have to get the parasailor out because the head sail is just flapping uselessly at the moment. Parasailor deployed, after an hour of setting the rigging in place. With every minute lost the winds that are needed to fly the sail had changed from dead astern to between 90 and 120 degrees. This, unfortunately, is the no fly zone and as good as we could get it, it kept collapsing and flogging. The alternative was to change course in order to use it, but as time is running out we decided to bring it down and return to head and main sail. Another 30 minutes lost setting these and speed is less than 5 kts. Still 322nm to Gran Canaria. Oh dear........
On watch at 02:00 and the winds are 10 - 15 kts from the north with flatter seas. This is helpful but we are still not making over 5 kts/hr. Later in the day we noticed that the vane from the Hydrovane was lying prostrate on top of the solar panel gantry. Not where it should be. Climbing up the gantry to retrieve the vane it became clear that things were not looking good. It appears that one of the pins holding the weighted pendulum that the vane connects to had fallen out, thus resulting in the vane not sitting bolt upright in its holder. I did purchase a 'spares kit' and hunted down where I had stowed it, finding it eventually in my cabin cupboard! Back up the gantry to fit the pin, I was not sure, when I put it in position, whether it would hold or not, so I decided to leave things as they were until we get to Gran Canaria, when I could speak to an expert from Hydrovane. Hand steering or replace the troublesome autopilot? Replace the autopilot. First installation was round the wrong way, second installation, the blessed unit fell off the steering quadrant where I was resting it and hit me just above the eye. First injury of the trip. However, one back in operation it works, and saves a lot of crew having to hand steer. Winds now rising, constantly in the 20's and gusting to 30's, with squalls every now and again. At least we are making better progress on a beam reach, and can see the Canary Islands on the chart plotter. Just over 200nm to go.
Back on watch at 02:00 and the winds continue around the 20kt mark. Speed is good and sea state calming down. We are to expect both to deteriorate, as the forecast from a passing ship gave F7, from the north, as we approach the islands. Time will tell.
14:00, the first of the Canary Islands is in sight! Land seen for the first time in six days. We are still some 160nm away from Gran Canaria and decisions have to be made as to stop in Lanzarote or continue to Gran Canaria. As we could only make Lanzarote at some silly hour in the morning we would head straight for Gran Canaria. In order to get there before 22:00 the engine was switched on to ensure we made five knots per hour, giving us an arrival time of 20:30. Phone reception later that evening meant we could make contact with home and delete the hundreds of emails accumulated over the last six days. At 20:00 the main was dropped to second reefing point as the weather forecast predicted high winds around midnight.
02:00. High winds which were expected to arrive have not, thankfully, and we are still on for our 20:30 arrival. Seas are much flatter and the engine is still on. We should have enough fuel to get to our destination, having topped up the tank with my reserve. As we pass between the islands the phone signal drops off, social media is no longer available, crew can get back to chatting! Sailing for the last two days has been perfect and, with the change in time zones, we get to the marina just after 16:00. Contact with the office and we have to delay entry for at least 1 hour as there are too many yachts at the reception pontoon. Finally, three hours later, we are moored up and ready to find our land legs again. A shower, meal and plenty of drink rounds off the third leg of this epic journey. (Preveza, Greece to Valencia, Spain, Valencia to La Linea, Spain and now La Linea to Gran Canaria.) In 10 days time it will be off to Cape Verde. Can't wait.