Over the past few months we have been sailing Islands in the Azores, Madeira, Canaries, and Cape Verde. In the Azores we experienced variable summer winds, and from Madeira southward were the Northeast Tradewinds. All in all, the sailing was quite lovely. Next, we’ll be crossing the Atlantic to South America.
Monday-November 28, 2016-Sao Vicente, Cape Verde
Before expiring visas forced us to leave the Canaries, we crammed in as much hiking, swimming, and birthday party-ing as possible. Much of it was nostalgic as we remembered the same anchorages and walks from 2 years prior. It was then that Deb flew to meet me aboard Dawn Treader and assess what exactly she might be getting herself into. It was fun retracing our steps and we felt we were leaving a bit too soon, but there is no negotiating with immigration officials.
The Sail to Sao Vicente from La Gomera was fast by Dawn Treader’s standards. The wind started out light but filled in during the night and pushed us 113 miles the first day. The Northeasterly wind steadied at 20 knots the rest of the way and we saw daily runs of 141, 131, 128, 134, and 126 nautical miles.
The seas continuously grew and a handful of 15 footers rolled under our keel toward the end of the passage. We measure seas by standing in the cockpit and while in the trough we stare out to where the horizon should be. If the horizon barely disappears below the wave crest, we figure that’s about a 7 footer (I am 6 foot and standing 1 foot above sea level). If we stare out and only see halfway up the wave, then that’s about a 13 footer. We had a couple waves splash into the cockpit and fill the footwell with seawater. One wave even found its way into the cabin through the small hatch under the dinghy. That night I made a note to find a way to better shield the hatch from waves in Mindelo, as if I was going to forget the waterfall cascading onto my bunk.
The sailing was fantastically easy. Two weeks ago we arrived in Cape Verde and I can still clearly recall each time we made a sail or course adjustment on the entire passage. We set the Jib deeply furled on a pole to starboard and did not touch it until arrival. We jibed the triple reefed main only twice which is super easy with our dual boom vangs to port and starboard. As far a course changes go, there weren’t any. The windvane auto pilot course control gearing broke early in the voyage making it somewhat inconvenient to adjust course. So we left it as it was, and it steered us straight to Mindelo.
Once in Cape Verde, we were immediately taken by the vibrant people and their unique and beautiful music. Then I became ill with a stomach virus and Debbie cared for me aboard the Dawn Treader for 4 days. Slowly we are venturing out again and also squeezing in some chores and projects. Debbie cooked a wonderful and bountiful Thanksgiving dinner which we shared with friends Matt and Amy from SY Florence. Next we have our sights on Santiago to obtain our Brazilian visas.
Monday-October 31, 2016-La Palma and La Gomera, Canary Islands
Early in the week it rained as a weakening low pressure system slowly made its way over the area. We used the time to organize the Nav Station and get caught up on some cleaning. When we had breaks in the rain we walked around town. Santa Cruz de La Palma looks very different depending on the time of day and day of the week. During siesta it is quiet with hardly anyone about. On mornings a cruise ship is in port, the town almost feels like a tidy theme park. During the evenings most tourists are gone, and the cafes buzz with conversant locals and musicians. All of Santa Cruz’s aspects are pleasant and I do like the town.
Despite the attractiveness of La Palma, we felt quite ready to leave. We wanted to go somewhere we could anchor out and enjoy some quiet. Valle Gran Rey in La Gomera is that place. Friday, the lingering low had dissipated and the Southerly wind shifted slightly to the Southwest, just enough to give us a favorable tack. We left before the predicted calms settled the area Saturday.
We departed La Palma and had an exciting few hours close hauled in a Canary Island wind acceleration zone. These are areas where the gradient wind can be greatly increased do to the Islands’ topography. Many times these zones flank an island’s wind shadow making an obvious border between an area of calm and a zone of near gale force conditions.
A few hours out of La Palma we had transited the acceleration zone and were making good course in diminishing South Westerlies. It was an awesome starry night of sailing with La Palma dead astern, Tenerife fine on our Port bow, El Hierro broad to starboard, and La Gomera dead ahead. Though the sky was apparently clear of any clouds, heat lightning awed us throughout the night, first above Tenerife then La Gomera.
Saturday morning Dawn Treader was ghosting in light air and La Gomera stood 5 miles ahead. Through the morning our speed steadily dropped. 4 knots, then 3, then 2, 1, and finally we were becalmed, drifting half a knot in the South setting Canary Islands current. We tried to be patient with the wind, but after a few hours we decided to use our outboard engine to motor up to what appeared to be a patch of wind around La Gomera’s western promontory. I am still impressed with how well the 6hp engine pushes us along. At half throttle we made 5 knots. The patch of wind was the slightest of air and from astern, so not good for sailing. We continued to motor for an hour, and then the wind eventually filled in from the port quarter. We secured the engine and sailed the remaining 5 miles to Valle Gran Rey, first at 3 knots then 4, then 5.
The anchorage is wide open, and the conditions were about perfect for anchoring under sail. We approached on a port tack beam reach under reduced sail. When we reached the spot just downwind of where we wanted to anchor, we rounded up to stop the boat, and furled the headsail. I walked forward and took a sounding with the lead line while Debbie doused the Main. I sounded 25 feet of water, then let go the anchor and paid out 110 feet of chain. This all happened during the course of one exciting minute.
Now we are settled into La Gomera. We love it here and look forward exploring this beautiful island.