Thursday, 29 November 2012

La Graciosa

We were faced with the choice of leaving Madeira with a good northerly wind, but the probability of a 3-4m swell, or waiting until the seas calmed down to a reasonable level but risking a windless passage.  We chose the latter, delaying another day.  We’d enjoyed getting to know Ed and his daughter Heather on Aardvarc, an Arcona 40 they were basing in Madeira for a while, and he kindly gave me a lift to the local garage where I invested in two extra jerry cans of diesel, which were to prove invaluable.

Sunset, last night out
We’d thought about sailing straight to Tenerife (the western Canaries are greener and sound more interesting), but Cain and April emailed us from Graciosa and it sounded wonderful – particularly as we wanted to spend some time at anchor. Graciosa is a tiny island across a narrow strait separating it from Lanzarote, and is meant to be one of the best anchorages in the whole of the Canaries. We’d been slightly put off by permit requirements: you’re meant to apply for an anchoring permit at least ten working days in advance of arrival, with exact dates, and the process for booking a berth in the nearby marina was just as unworkable, involving faxing through several documents with apparently little chance of hearing whether you’d been successful. Fortunately, it sounded as if no-one was checking!

We had a following wind of force 5 when we left Quinta do Lorde, Christian giving us a blast of Alina’s deafening foghorn to send us off. The breeze lasted all day as we sailed the length of the Ilhas Desertas, a long, narrow chain of stark rocky islands running southwards from the east end of Madeira.  As predicted, the wind ran out that evening and we were soon under power.  We have to hand steer when motoring, which makes things quite tedious, but Limbo likes heading in a straight line so at least it doesn’t take a great deal of concentration.

There wasn’t much moon, and the nights were long and cool (we wore full waterproofs, making getting dressed for watches quite a chore).  Still feeling quite jumpy about passage-making after our Porto Santo trip, neither of us especially enjoyed being out there again. We both felt sick, Limbo’s motion without sails to steady her being quite rolly, but – as predicted – the sea grew calmer and by the third day was fairly flat.  It was overcast, we were tired, and we couldn’t wait to arrive.

Approaching Graciosa, dawn
We slowed down even more on the third day out so as to arrive in daylight the following morning.   I was worried about fuel, but by reducing the revs to give us about 3.5 knots we used little over a litre an hour.  In the end we ran the engine for about 60 hours, almost certainly the longest it’s ever gone for, and made it with 10 litres to spare.  We approached Graciosa at dawn, the offlying islands standing out blackly against the lightening sky to the east.  The sun rose to show dry, reddish cliffs rising steeply from the sea , the hills of Lanzarote visible a few miles away to starboard.  We rounded the tip of Graciosa and dropped anchor off Playa Francesca.

Morning at anchor, looking south across the strait to Lanzarote
We knew three of the five boats already at anchor: we were pleased to see that Spirit of Argo was still there, as was Selkie (sailed by Justin, Trish, and their two young children) and Sparrow, both known to us from Madeira.  The contrast to the chilly night watches was striking: Limbo floated calmly off a sandy beach overlooked by a volcanic hill, the water the clearest we’d yet seen it, the anchor visible 6 metres down.  The air felt warmer and milder, the sky was blue and the sun hot.  Clearly the first thing to do was to have a swim, after which Cain and April invited us over for a serious breakfast.  This was much more like it.

Limbo, Spirit of Argo, Selkie

What we came for!

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