A Diving Detour and Canary Capers

We felt so smug in the Los Gigantes Diving Centre on the west coast of Tenerife.  We’d caught two buses over the mountains from the marina in Garachico.  Our diving kit was strapped to our backs in two hefty bags and we had a small packed lunch for the day.  We were there to dive Stingray City next to the highest cliffs in Europe!

“How are you getting back after the dives?” asked Dave, the dive guide from Birmingham. “By bus,” we announced (knowing we had the times carefully worked out on a post-it note and the exact change for the fare home).

“Those mountains you came over – they’re nearly 3,000 feet above sea level. You can’t go back that way.  You’re going to have get the blah blah bus, to blah blah and then change at blah blah ……. blah, blah, blah … or maybe blah blah.”

Well known fact: after diving you can’t fly AND you can’t go anywhere at altitude as you put yourself at high risk of getting the bends.

And that is why we spent FIVE hours catching FOUR buses, missing THREE connections, carrying TWO bags of heavy, wet diving kit and sharing ONE mashed up remnants of a small packed lunch.

We had had to circumnavigate the entire circumference of Tenerife to get back to the boat. The only solace being a complete island tour (half of it in darkness) … and bus station bars.

Baggy’s Ten Step Hurricane Hit List

Since our last blog we’ve experienced the after effects of a hurricane, survived dock rot in Madeira and sailed 265 nautical miles to the Canary Islands.

Facebook friends will know we had a nervous night waiting for Tropical Storm Lesley to visit us in Marina Quinta da Lorde in Madeira. We were twitchy for four reasons.

  1. This Tropical Storm had been upgraded to a hurricane and at one point was heading straight for us.
  2. The computer generated storm models couldn’t agree on exactly where it was going.
  3. It was being branded as the first storm of this magnitude to hit Madeira in living history and no-one knew what to expect.
  4. We were moored under a high cliff and there were rumours of landslides and flooding.

So … we prepared for the absolute worse!

  1. Took the genoa off and packed it away
  2. Rigged the inner forestay
  3. Doubled up all the mooring lines and added extra springs
  4. Lashed the mainsail stack pack with sail tie gaskets
  5. Removed the spray hood and lashed the frame
  6. Removed all loose items from the deck
  7. Packed an evacuation dry bag: sleeping bag, change of clothes, important documents, mobiles/chargers/battery packs, fully charged satellite phone, water and NICE SNACKS!
  8. Cased out a sturdy, local hotel to stay in (many boat crews abandoned their boats and went to the hotel anyway)
  9. Called our families
  10. Went to bed fully dressed with rain coats, life-jackets and sailing boots within grab distance

It hit us in the early hours of the morning. We were surrounded by howling banshees and high pressure jet hoses. Flash lights from the marineros (marina staff) shone through the windows as they faced the elements and checked our lines.

Brave Baggy battled the banshees and hardly moved. And once we knew she was keeping us safe it was thrilling to experience.  The only damage the next morning was a very wet galley and chart table from rain coming through the hatch vents and leaking window seals. And we learnt a lot … for next time!

More Madeira Madness

Our friend Phil Luckins (AKA Our Amazon Courier) joined us a new Bagheteer on 11 October to help us sail to the Canary Islands.  He arrived with a packed bag of emergency supplies – Teva sandals, a meths stove pot handle, prescription glasses, printer cartridges and a stash of curry spices and poppadums.

 

But, with strong wind still lingering we weren’t able to leave Madeira as early as planned so we hired a car and had a blast around the island, went trekking and broke the cloud line on Madeira’s highest mountain – Pico Ruivo.

The boys ate meat and ice-creams and I took advantage of the local hotel’s gym and pool.  It was tough, but we’d been in Madeira for 11 days; dock rot was setting in and the clock was ticking because Phil had to catch his flight home from Tenerife.

Swell, stars and sightings

We made our escape bid on 15 October… and then, of course, there was no wind. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. On top of that our auto-helm has broken and we didn’t have the right conditions to set up Mowgli (the self steering wind vane). We had to motor and be on 24-hour steering duties.

Long swell from the storm, engine noise, vibrations and boat movement are particularly vom inducing at 3am in the morning when you haven’t slept a wink.  Thankfully pilot whale sightings and stunning starry skies saw us through to the second day when we could at last sail and the hours then sped by in a blur of snatched sleep, steering, meals, tweaking sails, star gazing and life pondering.

 

The bright lights of Tenerife were a welcome sight in the gloom of early morning 17 October, but we didn’t make landfall at Puerto do Garachico on the north coast until 3.30pm the next day.  Distance is so deceiving at sea.  And reaching the promised land was tough.

The pilot book had said DO NOT approach the narrow marina entrance in swell of 2m or over … but we had little option and literally surfed our way through the precarious entrance in a good 2m of swell … !!

Doradas all round for the three Bagheteers
Doradas all round for the three Bagheteers

That night we painted the sleepy Canary town red, and bundled Phil into a taxi at 8am the next day for his flight home! Just in the nick of time.

Garachico is quaint and barely touched by tourism.  The marina had been built as a ferry terminal, with marked out roads and pedestrian paths, but it was never finished. A ferry wouldn’t have got through that entrance anyway.

Aside from a few moored boats the only activity was local people taking their dogs and children out for walks.  And the jobs worth policeman on his motorbike who had nothing to do other than tell us off every day for not keeping to paths – even though there were no cars!

We had ten play days in the Canaries and so we went where the wind most wanted to take us.  We explored north Tenerife, sailed over to La Gomera and explored the south coast and then headed back to South Tenerife.  As much as we would have loved to visit La Palma and El Hierro, time and wind are our masters now!

Our Seven Coolest Canary Capers

 

1 Volanco hunting:  An ear popping thirteen mile (37000 step), vertigo inducing hike across lava fields, to find Chinyero – the last volcano to erupt in Tenerife in 1909.  We had an impossibly long downhill mountain hike to get home.  Think agonising thighs of bruised steel for two days afterwards.

 

2 Finding a lost world in Parque Nacional de Garajonay:  We walked the longest trail in the park – an eerie, cloud covered UNESCO World Heritage site where you feel your skin absorbing the moss soaked, sub-tropical laurel forest around you

We walked through different ecosystems and saw trees so creature like, ancient and magical that we talked in whispers in case we woke them up. Then it was another vertigo inducing scrabble down a path that time had clearly forgot through lush vegetation in its late summer prime. There was mud, leaf litter, loose rocks, few handholds, plummeting drops and waterfalls … all in a pair of old off road shoes that are well past their prime. Fear can make you feel so alive.

We finished off with a three mile downhill jog to the nearest village in time to catch the bus home.

El Drago, Icod de los Vinos - the worlds oldest and biggest specimen of the yucca-like dragon tree. Seventeen metres high, six metre trunk circumference and at least 500 years old.

3 The Dragon Tree:  finding the oldest and largest Dragon Tree in the world in Icod de los Vinos.  Seventeen metres high, six metre trunk circumference and at least 500 years old.

Even more impressive this tree has its own underground Dragon Tree Car Park, Dragon Tree Hairdressers, Dragon Tree Cafe, Dragon Tree Garage, Dragon Tree Supermarket, Dragon Tree Bus Station, Dragon Tree Florist …. and it’s own extensive souvenir range!

 

4 Diving freedom:  Two dives in Los Gigantes and three independent dives off our dinghy (Baloo). We saw HUGE shoals of bastard grunts (yes, they ARE called this), trumpet fish, barracuda, a large stingray (we kept our distance), common eagle rays, octopus, parrot fish and lots more.

AND we successfully used our diving compressor and underwater camera housing for the first time. (More practise required to improve the underwater photos!)

5 Wild and Free: We anchored in a deserted cove and then spotted a skinny, naked man living in a cave.  So, we moved to the next cove away from the naked man and we were then completely alone. No signs of human activity in any direction and just the company of gulls and an osprey catching birds in its talons. Incidentally, there are A LOT of skinny, naked German hippy cave dwellers in La Gomera around Valle Gran Rey – if that’s your thing!

 

6 The Captains Birthday: We spent the day sailing from Tenerife to La Gomera.  He enjoyed a Gosling rum infused banana birthday cake (flambéd … because the grease proof paper caught dramatically alight).  And the highlight of his day was the skipjack tuna he caught … along with the three part digested sardines in its stomach.

I don’t care if it WAS his birthday we were not having them as a starter!

 

7 Halloween Antics: We stumbled upon a tourist Brit bar for the resorts seasonaires in south Tenerife and had a great free night enjoying a drag act and live band with everyone dressed up.

What now?

We’ve sailed nearly 2000 nautical miles since leaving Gosport, UK and it’s still only three months into the circumnavigation.

Our next quest is an 800 nautical mile sail to the Cape Verde Islands – a volcanic archipelago lying 400 miles of the coast of west Africa. It will be our longest sea passage to-date.

Paul’s brother, Mark, has just joined the band of Bagheteers to help us – delivering another emergency pack of vital supplies (gin, favourite beer, sun cream and Christmas presents!)

We plan to slip our lines on Monday 5 November and it should be a fast, six day passage.  Fingers crossed for fair winds – no motoring – no hurricanes – being able to sleep off watch – a starry sky – no swell –  whales and dolphins.

Provisioning …. we won’t starve!

From Cape Verde we’ll be sailing 2000 nautical miles across the Atlantic to Barbados, Caribbean and then making our way up to Panama, Central America to transit the Panama Canal into the Pacific Ocean.

There are no opportunities to do any more big shops, apart from fresh supply top ups. So – we’ve spent a lot of our time in South Tenerife planning our provisioning and packing Baggy to the gills with healthy food with long ‘best before’ dates. Tins are marked up with permanent marker three layers deep; back up water bottles have been stashed into every available gap; we have tonnes of dried goods, toiletries and more. We reckon we have enough to last us until AT LEAST early 2019 … including lots of ‘creative’ food items ….

… jars of pickled brussel sprouts and red cabbage for Christmas dinner

… dried egg for mid ocean baking when the fresh run out

… yoghurt culture to make fresh flask yoghurt with dried milk powder (hopefully)

… beans and seeds for on board gardening (sprouting)

And finally …

Our current mobile telephone numbers are unlikely to be in operation from now onwards. We’ll be out of range during our passage and once we’re in Cape Verde and out of Europe we’ll move on to local SIM cards and use bar and café WiFi.  Not sure yet if we’ll be able to keep our old numbers.

Blog and Facebook messages and email is still good.  Follow us on Yellow Brick.

See you all off the coast of West Africa!

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