Mad Fish

Mad Fish
On delivery from Scotland

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

ARC - 27th Nov to 14th Dec

The wind was blowing quite hard from behind and it was too much for a spinnaker which was a shame. We didn’t get a bad start with only a few boats ahead of us and good clean air. We trundled off at a steady 7 knots with main and genoa. By the time we had got to the Airport the wind was blowing 40 knots in the wind acceleration zone and we decided it was best to reef and furl in the Genoa. We hit 12.4 knots surfing down a wave and this was entering the breaking things zone. Most people went offshore to avoid the wind acceleration zone and the increased winds it brings but we felt happy with the conditions and it seemed to save us a lot of time as we were able to clear the bottom of Gran Canaria much quicker and start our heading for St Lucia.

It is a little depressing when the miles to go on the plotter read 2700…and you know you are up for 21 days at sea. You also never manage to go in a straight line so the miles sailed are always more. We were fairly fortunate and by taking the straight rhum line route, we sailed 2800 miles in total. The racing boat that got line honours was 40ft in length and sailed 3300 miles in a bid to sail over the top of the low. They averaged 11.4 knots and beat a boat twice their length. Had they sailed a straight line course they would have broken the record for the fastest ARC crossing in 27 years. We were pleased with our 6.7 knot average speed and arrival in 17 days and 10 hours.

The seas were large and confused and not very comfortable. We were hand steering, but spirits were high. There was no seasickness, so the tablets must have been doing there thing and everyone ate chicken casserole for dinner.

We started with a watch system of 3 on 6 off rotating through the 3 adults. We tried the auto pilot which seemed to be coping with the conditions and settled in for our first night at sea. We clocked 177 miles off the distance to go.

The next day we had sunshine and good breeze and all was well until I was woken by a big crash and the sound of many ball bearings clattering on the deck. The spinnaker pole being used to pole of the genoa had decided to come off the bottom of the track. This bent the track and meant we had lost a number of the ball bearings needed for the car that pulls the pole up and down the mast. This was not good news. Then an hour later the bolts on the autopilot attaching it to the rudder stock sheared and left us with no autopilot. We made the decision to keep going and hand steer rather than taking a detour to the Cape Verdes which were a week away. The seas and the wind strength meant returning to the Canary Islands was not an option. The mood was now rather sombre which was a shame as it was Ethan’s 9th Birthday. He declared it a pretty rubbish one as no one was on top form and we had not settled into life at sea. We did manage a birthday cake with sparklers and he had presents, but not quite what he had in mind.

After day 1 things were pretty much the same. A bit like in groundhog day. Our watches were now 2 on and 4 off as 2 hours is the maximum your arms can take steering. The wind continued and we chose the shortest route rather than venturing south in search of the trades. The forecast that we had picked up before we left gave good winds north for the next week. Following the rhum line would take us steadily south and save us precious miles from diving south. This turned out to be a smart move and those who ventured south suffered a 24 hour lull. We avoided this , probably more by luck than judgement but it did mean 24 hours of being hard on the wind, but at least we had some and kept moving all be it in a very bashy and crashy way. This was not what we had signed up for. It should be down wind all the way.

As we ventured further south the flying fish started to appear. They look a little like birds as they hover just above the surface. Russell was attacked by 2 on night watches as they flew into the cockpit and then flapped around waiting to be rescued. No easy feat when you are hand steering.

We heard reports of people seeing whales but none came to see us. We did have a big pod of dolphins come and play which always lifts people spirits.

We tried fishing and within half an hour had caught a dorado. Unfortunately we were unable to land it and the line broke and off it swam complete with our new €12 lure. We had one lure left and we tried again in the afternoon. This was the same time that Russell decided to take the bolts out of the engine lifting crane and see if they would fit in the autopilot. This meant we were not paying attention and did not notice that the rod was lying flat and all the real had gone. As we tried to slow the boat down the line appeared to come undone and again we lost all the line and the lure. Perhaps it is not meant to be. Intrepid bear apparently caught a tuna and another fish too. At least we know there are fish out there and which lures to buy more off. It remains to be seen whether fishing will be economical if we lose lures at €12 constantly. We have spoken to others since arriving and it seems even though we had taken our sails down to land the fish the fact we were doing 4 knots under bare poles meant we were still going too fast to land a big fish.

We celebrated Gary’s Birthday on Monday the 3rd with a glass of Fizzy. It was a double celebration as we had covered 1000 miles by 7pm that night. So 6 and a half days. If  we could continue at this speed then we would get in quicker than our predicted 21 days. We hoped that by Oli’s birthday in 6 days time we would be celebrating another 1000 miles done. We managed it! And at 8pm on Sunday 9th December we had covered 2000 miles and spirits were high. The party on the 15th – 20 days after the original start date looked to be achievable even with the actual start being 2 days later.

The wind kept blowing and the miles kept on tumbling at a steady 160 miles a day. It looked like we were on for an 18 day crossing and would arrive on Friday.

We managed to fix the spinnaker pole and pole out the genoa again giving us good speed. Unfortunately after a couple of days of success I was caught by a wave and a gust which spun me up and backed the genoa. The pressure on the pole fitting was too great and it parted company ripping a bit more track off the mast. This resulted in a couple of days running at less than max sail area, however the wind was sufficient that we motored on regardless. It didn’t seem to dent our daily miles too much but it felt slower none the less.

The weather for the last 36 hours was forecast o go lighter. 12 to 19 knots rather than the 20 to 25 we had been used to. The lighter winds enabled us to set a spinnaker. This part of the track was not broken but the fixing holding it to the mast now had the addition of artist paint brushes rammed in to hold it in place. We just hoped it would hold. It did and we hoisted the kite at 6am on Friday morning and took it down at 5.30am just as we rounded pidgeon island, and the sun set. The finish line was in sight and we knew a warm welcome and a cold rum punch was waiting for us in the marina. We had done it.

Gran Canaria Week 2

We continued to prepare buying more and more provisions and tweaking the boat adding bubble wrap as protection on the shrouds and spreaders to reduce chafe on the main sail. Russ became increasingly concerned about the boat being able to move at all when the time came. The water for 3 weeks for 5 people at 2 litres a day was 210 litres alone. This was stacked by the table and in the bottom of Oliver’s cabin. We added a lee cloth to Oli’s cabin so that it could be divided and half be used as stores of cake and bread mixes. Under the bunks we fitted 21 days of tins and 2 big netting bags were filled with crisps. We took a small amount of fruit which we tried hanging in netting, but found they swung and bashed on the bulkhead regardless. The rock hard pears were reduced to mush in no time at all. Some apples also fell by the way side but we were relatively successful with granny smith apples, bananas and oranges.

As Sunday the 25th drew nearer the weather reports suggested that it would be a beat at the start. So much for the trade winds from behind. Not only would it be a beat but also the swell was due to climb to 5 metres and this would be a punishing start. It was decided that the racing fleet would start as planned and any cruising boat that wanted to could also start, but  a second start would take place on Tuesday the 27th November. All except 6 cruising boats took the option. On Sunday morning as we ate brunch a brass band came down the pontoon playing all manner of songs. It really was a carnival atmosphere and they did this on all the pontoons. They must have been exhausted. We waved off friends in the racing division and out neighbours in the cruising division. We then walked to the start line which was a longer than expected and we just got there in time. The strong winds were getting caught behind the shelter of the island and it was a rather undramatic start as we sat in the hot sunshine all wondering if we should have gone. Some boats even flew kites off the start, so much for a heavy beat.

A few hours later 9 racing boats out of the 30 that started had returned to the marina deciding it was not for them. The conditions were said to be horrible. They were not allowed to leave the boat except for using the facilities ashore ie toilets. Most boats left 24 hours later when the worst of the wind had passed through.

We continued to find jobs to do and I continued to try and shake off a rather nasty cold. I was pretty glad we hadn’t started as I really did not feel on form at all.

Finally Tuesday 27th came and it was time to leave. We didn’t have the band of Sunday or the crowds of people but the hive of activity of boats saying goodbye and wishing everyone luck gave a buzz none the less.

Leaving was made difficult by 200 boats all trying to get through a small marina entrance between 10am 10.45am in order to make the 11am start. This was quite a squeeze and not helped by all of us being heavily laden and not as quick to manoeuvre or respond.

The remaining ARC staff stood on the marina wall and checked us out and waved us off. It was quite emotional.

The wind was blowing quite hard from behind and it was too much for a spinnaker which was a shame. We didn’t get a bad start with only a few boats ahead of us and good clean air. We trundled off at a steady 7 knots with main and genoa. Our 2680 mile journey had just stared….

Gran Canaria Week One

Gran Canaria – Week 1 – 11th Nov to 18th November
Wow what a first week…
Firstly we did not receive a warm welcome and had to endure a very rude marina attendant supposedly helping us to more stern too with no finger pontoon. It was like the parting of the waves to squeeze us in between the 2 boats and then we had the added complication of a pile directly behind us. The meant that we couldn’t physically get off the boat which was rather inconvenient. We were also concerned that we might damage equipment on the stern ie the solar panel and wind generator. The ARC office were unable to help our dispute and fortunately a friend on Salsa came to the rescue by lending us a plank to get ashore. I was not overly happy with the berth but it is on the kids pontoon so the boys overruled me and we have stayed put.
Day one was check in at the ARC office where we were overleoaded with information and booked seminars and times for safety inspection. We were fortunate to pass this the next day first time, so all my reading the rules paid off. We also went to our first sundowners happy hour where a free drink can be enjoyed with a chat with others from 6.30pm to 8pm. We all headed back to Mad Fish afterwards for some crusty bread, cold meats, prawns. This was another enjoyable evening with the bears. Ethan and Harry fell asleep watching a dvd so everyone stayed up later than intended.
Day 2 saw the first ARC party. These start between 8 and 8.30pm. We decided to skip sundowners and enjoy a chilli on Intrepid Bear who were mored next to the party. We wandered up and enjoyed free wine and live music. We then ended back on Intrepid for a nightcap and then stumbled back to Mad Fish at 1am. This obviously resulted in a massive hangover the next day.
Day 3 – Can’t really remember anything important happening, but we did decide to not attend any drinks parties…
Day 4 – went to a seminar on weather routing by Chris Tibbs and told all the different things we could expect. The squalls, tropical storms, hurricans etc… everything to put your mind at ease! Sometimes I am a firm believer that ignorance is bliss. Then I went to the provisioning seminar for more tips and doom and gloom about just how much food we should take and how we should remove labels from tins, wash fruit and double bag pasta for fear of creepy crawlies invading. This is guaranteed to make provisioning an even more painful experience than it already is. We are also convinced that as we haven’t been doing any of this so far that we probably have the creepy crawlies anyway. Apparently cockroaches like cardboard so we wonder if toilet rolls and kitchen rolls are ok or if we have to remove them. Apparently we should also have food that doesn’t need cooking in case we have a gas problem, not sure how tasty M&S tinned chicken curry will be cold and hope I never have to find out. I guess it is good to think about these things, but equally it can scare you to death. Unfortunately in our haste to meet a deadline I fell off the plank and this caused the most massive bruise ever. I still have a massive dent in my leg a month later!
Day 5 was Friday - We went to plant a tree as a volunteer on the ARC forest project. This is a not for profit making organisation that is trying to restore a lot of lost forests. We enjoyed a bus tour up into the mountains and then a very steep 20 minute walk followed by a lot of hard digging. It was definitely a workout. The kids and adults thoroughly enjoyed it and the view was spectacular, we could even see Tidie in Tenerife. Sara and I decided to go and check out Carrefour in the afternoon and I bought all the flour for bread, cakes and biscuits. We enjoyed a well earned beer.