The sail to the Canary Islands is roughly 600nm south west of Gibraltar, so we have been checking the weather daily to find a good window. Our batteries were due to arrive on 29th, which meant we could fit and test them easily before setting off around the 2nd Nov, but on arrival we discovered only one had been delivered. We checked the website again and saw that the other 3 were not due until 4th – another delay but not too serious. Trifecta arrived and Bilby came in a couple of days later so there are now 4 cats all waiting to cross. Sisu are already in Lanzarote waiting for us and the next good window is 9th November.
Why is it so important we catch this window? Well, unfortunately Europe has gone into another lockdown. France is completely shut, Spain have shut their internal borders and other countries are all making decisions about whether to stay open. They opened for the summer season but now with winter here, cases have started to rise dramatically. We are all a bit worried about whether the Canary islands will stay open for us, but if we get there and they are shut we will all have to just keep going. The issue then will be whether the Caribbean remains open – all a bit of a worry but nothing we can do about it.
We are all prepped, stocked up with months worth of food, and have each other for company. The main problem has been lack of clarity around the regulations… none of us even checked into Spain because the authorities really don’t know what is happening. Do we need a COVID test, or quarantine – where have we come from and does our nationality count against us? (definitely with the Americans it does). With no charter boats and very few cruisers, most went home and got stuck there, the few international boats here are a bit of a problem for them. As a result, none of us are ‘officially’ legal but not illegal either…. things are changing daily and so we are all itching to leave and get back to sea before we are locked in. It’s all just a waiting game……….
Meanwhile Ian has been working furiously to put the new lithium batteries in. It is a big job as we have very little room to run more cables but after a week of blood, sweat and tears they were finally in and our power capacity doubled and the charging rate is now much faster. Another bonus is that we have taken off the old lead acid batteries removing over 50kg of weight from the boat.
Proud Cat, Trifecta and us celebrated Proud’s birthday at a Brazilian restaurant which was a meat festival… every kind of meat was presented barbequed on a skewer and you took as many slices as you wanted.
Eventually, nearly a month later we all set sail for the Canaries. Our first stop across the Atlantic en route for Suriname. The four cats, Indian Summer Proud Cat, Trifecta and Bilby all decided to stay the final night in the anchorage outside the marina and leave at first light but the coast guard came round at 5pm and told us all we were upsetting the fish (!!) and that we had to all go back to the marina. We were not impressed, having spent 2 weeks in that anchorage the month before but we had no option, so we upped anchor and spent the night in a small anchorage 5nm south. The next day we started the 600nm sail to Lanzarote.
It started well with a lovely beam reach. Code 0 flying beautifully and consistent speeds of 10+ knots but the joy was short-lived as the winds just died and we found ourselves sitting on our regular cruising speed of 5.7kts again. Sail changes, goose-winging, main up, main down.. .. we still couldn’t get back up to any good speeds again but it was comfortable and we were actually sailing.
By day 4 things started breaking. Ian discovered the bracket that the engine mount sits on in the starboard side had completed broken which meant no starboard engine. Then a catamaran about 5nm away suddenly dropped all their sails and turned round. It looked like someone may have fallen overboard so we changed course and went to assist. We were surprised to see our spinnaker suddenly go up on their boat and realised they were just doing a sail change. We had sold them our spinnaker in Spain and now we were watching them sail over the horizon with it flying beautifully. We also had started smelling gas which is very nerve-wracking on a small yacht out in the Atlantic. Again we stopped everything and went on a ‘sniff patrol’. We couldn’t find the source but discovered our gas tank was completely empty. With no wind, we didn’t dare use the engine until all the fumes were gone so we just bobbed about for a while. Eventually we got underway and arrived in Lanzarote in the middle of the night, dropped anchor and went to bed.
The next day we went into the Lanzarote marina. Arrecife is a delightful town and we found one of the best chandlers there. Ian was able to get the bracket welded up, new pipes for the gas bottle (We think that’s where they were leaking from), new bilge pumps, and two new engine mounts. Our friends Frick and Petro from Sisu were in the marina so we spent a few days wining and dining with them and running around town on our scooters.
We have decided that Suriname can wait until July and be visited during the Caribbean hurricane season, so the four of us are going to try and do a South American Amazon trip later. This means that our plans change again and we are now sailing to Antigua. I dutifully contacted our insurers to advise them of our change of plan and they told us we needed a full out of water survey before they would even consider insuring us for the Carribean. This was a bit of a problem as we were due to leave in couple of days. Lanzarote marina were great and organised for us to be lifted at a marina only 10nm away and a surveyor to be waiting for us at 9am the next day, so at 6am we left one marina, motored down to their sister marina who did a great job of lifting us out. True to their word the surveyor was waiting for us, and after only a couple of hours we were back in the water with the promise that the survey would be in our inbox by nightfall. This is going too well……
With the survey emailed back that night, we thought all was good until we realised we had to get it translated. Back to Arricife the next day to source a translator and have lunch with Sisu, but they told us the police were chasing people out of the anchorage so we went back to the dinghy to find a police car on the dock, waving their arms at us, full lights on even the siren!! We raced back to the boat and hauled anchor -, they were jumping up and down on the dock but didn’t think to send a boat out. It was funny to look back on but we were worried we would cop a fine.
We started to make our way south to Grand Canaria as the weather was playing games with us. We eventually arrived at the marina where Proud Cat and Trifecta were and all got together for a drink.
As I have not been well, we took the decision to have crew to cross. A young Spaniard took our lines when we arrived and after a short interview, we decided he would be a great crew. Angel is Spanish but speaks perfect English as he now lives in Australia. It will be so good to have an extra pair of hands, especially for night watches, so we spent our last few days finalising everything for the journey, getting our horrid COVID tests and stocking up on our provisions.
One thing we have loved about Europe is there attitude towards bikes, scooters, wheelchairs and pedestrians. Even in these really old towns they have dedicated safe bike lanes everywhere. You need literally never go on the road. They are well used, well maintained and paved in a colour so you can spot them easily on Google maps. We have loved our scooters and seen so much more than we could have on foot. Perth council – please take note and put them into our city. One cycle lane down the side of our one freeway doesn’t count- we need them on all the major highways, which will encourage many more people to use them. Being a new city, surely we could put them in instead of grasses median strips everywhere?
So tomorrow we set sail for Antigua- another adventure awaits … au revoir Europe.