We arrived in Lanzarote almost exactly 5 days and zero minutes after leaving the Bay of Gibraltar.
Setting off from La Linea in darkness at Sparrow fart, we wove our way through all the anchored ships. We tried to avoid being run down by the fast Cats to Morocco, that sneak up on you at 20 knots. It seems as though they would happily run you down if you were not paying attention. We headed to the North African side of the Straits to get the best advantage of the currents, though Africa was still hiding in the early morning mist as we approached.
As soon as we left the bay of Gibraltar and headed west, we had the wind behind us and we were cruising along at a lovely speed. As we approached the North West corner of Africa the wind had picked up and the swell had kicked up a fair bit too. This was the first test of Erik’s sea legs. Never having sailed before we had filled him full of Stugeron and breakfast, and although he was looking a little bit pasty, he was doing fine.
Erik is the young lad we took pity on in La Linea and gave him a lift to the Canaries as his ride had fallen through. We only met him on the pontoon the morning before. We pondered on the merits of taking him, but we figured this leg of the trip was still a bit of a shakedown for our ‘Pearl’ and if anything did go wrong, an extra pair of hands wouldn’t go a miss. So on-board he came.
Actually we were just heading out for fuel when he approached us so we told him to run round to the supermarket to get some provisions and we would pick him up in an hour. When we returned he came staggering up the dock, laden down with 12kgs of water, two bags of shopping, a huge backpack on his back and a small one on his front. Having run most of the way from the supermarket, he was a puddle of sweat. We headed for the anchorage as it was much easier to slip away from there, early in the morning and Erik went in for a swim to cool off.
Back to the trip, We had good wind to start us off and we were powering through the swell nicely, then all of a sudden, mid- afternoon, as if we had gone over a trip wire the wind died. It wasn’t the usual gradual petering out and fading to nothing, we crossed a line and suddenly it was gone. In all our sailing careers I don’t think we’ve ever had it stop dead like that, from one second to the next. All through the trip, the wind came and went. When it was there, we sailed and when it died out, we motored. Much more diesel was consumed than we’d have liked but hey- ho, that’s how it goes sometimes. The motoring was also giving our mysterious shortage of electricity a little boost from time to time. We had installed brand new batteries just before leaving and couldn’t really explain this little niggle.
When we set off the grib files showed good wind for our trip, but Ophelia was obviously still messing with the weather men, as none of their predictions were correct. Each time we were able to download new grib files via the SSB (single Side Band Radio) they had changed their minds about what the weather was doing.
As night time approached on day one of the trip we were about 100 miles off the Moroccan coast. With no moon it was really dark and the night sky without any light pollution was awesome. The Milkyway right above our heads and all the millions of stars were so bright and clear. As if looking in a mirror the sea all around us was glittering too. It was far too rough to reflect the night sky, but the phosphorescence in the water as we splashed along was like another set of little stars all around us. The magic you feel when you are surrounded by stars never gets old.
Then all of a sudden we were surrounded by loads of other little white lights flashing all around us. It was reminiscent of the boat scene in Phantom of the Opera where they sail their boat through a sea of tiny little lights.
Click to see the clip from Phantom of the Opera on our Just Bella Vista Facebook page
There were literally hundreds of them as far as the eye could see. Scary as we didn’t know what they were and they don’t appear on any of our charts. We couldn’t work out whether they were little fishing boats or markers for nets that we shouldn’t run into, whether they were joined together, or not, or what? Trying to navigate through them while sailing so close hauled without going through the wind was a complete nightmare and we took one or two of them, rather close. The silver lining to those couple of close calls was that we were able to establish that they are not linked together but simply lines of hooks with weights and lights on, not connected to anything, as we were in very deep water. We think they just float with the current catching fish as they go and the fishing boats come and collect the catches from them.
For three nights they plagued our passage but on the fourth day the wind freed up a bit and we were able to sail west away from the Moroccan coast. To be continued…
Next episode – disaster strikes! ….