Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Start of the ARC Atlantic Crossing

Wines of the Moment: Faustino VII Rioja 4 euro 40 cents a bottle, Vina Sol 3 euro 50 cents

Beer: San Miguel 4.5% 95 cents per litre, Dorada 1 euro 50 per litre and Mahon 95 cents per litre

Temperature: 30 – 32C

1st – 6th November

The solar panel arch took 2.5 weeks to make rather than the one week as promised but final product was pretty good. Luckily the original guy that we met didn’t actually do much of the work but the local welding teacher did. Our original man turned out to be captain clumsy which is pretty scary when you are wielding big tools and bits of metal.

Solar panel arch

Spent final couple of days cleaning the boat after all the work. Bev had the pleasant task of cleaning off the worms that had accumulated on the bottom of the fenders as we had been there for so long – a truly grotty task !

The people of Santa Cruz turned out in style to celebrate Halloween with many children and adults dressed up.

Thursday 6th

We got up early to day sail to Las Palmas. It took the marineros some time to retrieve our kedge anchor from the bottom of the marina, so we didn’t actually leave until about 09:30. It was sad to leave Santa Cruz, but exciting to be heading for our last port before the Atlantic crossing.

The wind was directly on our nose and quite light so we ended up motoring the whole 50 odd miles to Las Palmas. The boredom of this was only relieved by sailing through a school of smallish whales. We need to get an identification chart so we can figure out what they were.

We arrived just before dark at the Texaco fuel dock in Las Palmas, to be greeted by the legendary “Don Pedro” the mister fixit of Las Palmas.  For this year's Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) all the catamarans are being berthed in the Vela Latina harbour just south of the main marina, so we decamped to there with a definite feeling of being exiled. Despite promises of ample pontoon space the three other cats already at Vela Latina had already takes up all the pontoon so we had to raft up against the wall. Still we were pleased to be in and tucked up so we scoffed two bottles of wine to celebrate. 

Friday 7th

Allan checked us in and was delighted to find it was less than half the weekly cost of Marina Del Atlantico in Tenerife. We got the bikes out for a tour round our new port and almost immediately ran into Ed(wina) who we had last seen in Madeira. She was down to tell the port captain that the electrician who was working on their boat had fused the whole pontoon ~ probably not a good sign.

The marina has lots of good facilities, probably the best we have seen since Lagos, but first impressions are that the town is not as nice as Santa Cruz. Las Palmas seems a bit more “big city” with all the grime and crappy concrete buildings that goes with it. Allan had been to Las Palmas in 1970 on the way to Cape Town onboard the liner “Windsor Castle” but was unable to identify anything of the town. A favourite old picture shows Allan, his Mum and sister Jaci on a hillside overlooking the Las Palmas harbour back then and Allan is determined to find it to recreate the moment.

Uncharacteristically there is very heavy rain, so we resort to feet to check out the bus station for Bev’s trip to London and the web café to find out what is happening with some of the things we have ordered for the boat.

Another cat has arrived. It’s an Outremer 45 called Passion belonging to Pascal and Pascale. We had met them in Tenerife and arranged to claim a refund for them at the Hiperdino supermarket for some shopping that they had been overcharged on. 

Saturday 8th

We get up very early because Bev has to get a bus to the Airport for a flight back to London via Madrid. We were dumbfounded to find that we were locked into the harbour and had no way of getting out. Luckily a security guard came by at 8:00 and Bev was able to get a later bus to the airport.

With Bev on her way, Allan set about his now familiar marathon of all the chandlers and Ferreteria for bits for the boat. This time it was wiring, circuit breakers and a block and tackle for the outboard hoist, and of course tools. A man can’t have too many tools…..

A cursory visit to the web café finds that the morons at Paypal have cancelled the payment I made for the new iridium phone Bev’s is supposed to be picking up in London. …on the grounds that they think it a fraudulent transaction… I’m despairing with all this web ecommerce nonsense. Buying on the web is just a byword for slow delivery, wrong goods shipped, hidden costs and general frustration.

Touring round the pontoons Allan bumped into Dave, from Suerte, who he had previously met on an Offshore Safety course and exchanged a few emails with. Dave invited Allan over for few drinks on his boat as they were having some people over for a weatherfax “tutorial”.  It turned out to be a very jolly evening, with lots of wine consumed, Dave cooked dinner and Allan was introduced to his wife Sue and friends, one of whom John, we had previously met in an anchorage in Portimao, Portugal. It’s a small world….

One comment made round the table resonates – since they started cruising one couple had stopped wearing watches, pretty soon after you begin wondering what day it is…

Sunday 9th

We’ll at least the torrential rain has stopped. A day for a little boat maintenance, and much lounging.

The Spanish have definitely got it right. Saturday is a half day in the shops and practically nothing is open on Sundays. It forces you to relax. When we were working, Monday was not looked forward to, but now the opposite is true. On Mondays we can get things done again.

Another cat has arrived. This time it’s a Prout 39, crewed by Matt Harrop & Mel Hogg from Toronto. We were all maddened to find we were locked in the harbour again – this time in the afternoon!

As evening drew in Allan was invited for beers onto Pascal’s boat. He and his wife speak great English as they had both worked for a US firm in Montpelier. They are also teaching their kids English. Pascal was keen to go for long cruise but he wife was more cautious, preferring only to commit to a sabbatical year of cruising. Their two sons were slightly younger that Callum and James but so similar in terms of the way they interacted. Hopefully they might all meet up in the Caribbean….

Bev rang to say that none of the packages had arrived in London that we were expecting. Apparently there is a postal strike. What was I saying about internet shopping……

Tuesday 11th November

Allan attends ARC opening drinks party hosted by Gran Canaria Tourist Board. Free wine, beer and tapas. His sort of do.

Bev arrives back ladened with goods at 10.55pm and has to negotiate with the security guard to be let into the Marina. She has spent most of her time in the UK shopping for stuff for the boat. Her bag was so heavy she couldn’t even lift it on her own – her friend Francesca had to carry the other end to the airport !.

Wednesday 12th November

Happy hour at Bar La Romana. Bev gets introduced to all the new people Allan has met. Several drinks later we join Dave another Scot from Pinball Wizard for dinner at Pomodoro – a great Italian restaurant he had discovered.  

Thursday 13th

We went to the first of the seminars on Rigging and provisioning. Nothing much new, so we are either very well prepared already or are missing the point.

The local chandleries and shops are doing well out of us. We had our safety inspection and only thing missing was a bigger torch. Some of the other boats have lots to do and we know of some boats which are refusing to carry out changes asked by the inspectors. In the end its all for your own peace of mind so I don’t think they will disqualify anyone who has at least attempted to comply with the regulations.

Friday and Saturday

Shopping and drinking. One week to go.

On Saturday night we made a last minute decision to go to the owners dinner at the Real Club Nautico. In fact we were lucky to get the last two tickets. We had a lovely meal and met some new people.

Sunday 16th

It was the ARC opening ceremony and flag raising. We got to march around the marina behind each nations flag. Allan was disappointed that he had not had the foresight to get a big Scottish saltire, the welsh on the other hand, had abundant flags in their contingent.

Monday 17th

Rita & Don McCallum, Allan’s Mum and Stepfather and Bill and Joyce Stratton, Bevs parents, arrived at the boat for a weeks holiday and to see us off at the start. As usual Bill and Joyce have an extra suitcase full of post and bits Allan has ordered for the boat but had to have delivered to the UK.  

Its quite challenging for Rita and Joyce to get on the boat as there is about 5-6ft tidal range and the boat is tied to a concrete wall. We had been promising pontoon space which would have been much easier for them as, of course, the pontoon floats with the tide and maintains the same position relative to the boat.

We managed to borrow a wheelchair from the red cross for Rita so that will be a great help to her getting around.

Back to La Pomodoro as it had been so good. It didn’t disappoint again.

Tuesday 18th

Having visited the DHL office every day to check on our wind generator, it finally showed up. I don’t think they actually try to deliver it until you pester them. Of course they couldn’t find us in the marina despite very clear instructions and were about to return to base when Allan was able to flag down their van. A lousy service and another 44 euros of “mystery” charges to pay. At least they sent the right unit this time, so Allan was able to wire and fit it in time for the crossing, makes a “lovely” noise too…

In the evening we attended the pontoon suppers at the Real Club Nautico. It was a buffet this time. We sat at a table with Matt & Mel and a chap called John his wife and crew from the Catana La Graciosa. We had a great time. Rita and Don figured out that the club is open to ARC people and as it’s a lovely place with very reasonably priced drinks they have resolved to come back again during the day.

Wednesday 19th

Don has almost killed himself pushing the wheelchair around. It’s very hot during the day and almost none of the very high curbs have been lowered for wheelchairs – its bad enough on a push bike as Allan has found.

The night of the long anticipated ARC fancy dress party. A good number of the boats had made an effort. Allan went as a firework and Bev as an Ice Maiden, Joyce as a Volcano and Bill as the Devil, Rita went as Joe Brand and Don as a sumo wrestler. Don’s outfit was actually inflatable, power by a small fan and it made him look huge.

Mum and Don

Ice maidens

Joyce has been the busiest though as she had made her own, Bev and Allan’s outfit, so everyone was really pleased for her when she one the “Best Dressed Woman” award and 150 euros voucher for a local store. 

Joyce the Volcano

The big prize on the night of a weeks holiday was won by a couple who went as a Baked Alaskan – she as the cake and he as the chef, they even prepared some real cake to hand out to other people at the party.

Thursday 30th

In the morning we watched the sea rescue demonstration. A big sea king helicopter lifted a casualty off a coastguard boat just outside the harbour. Unfortunately Don and Allan were standing too close to the action on a harbour wall and when the copter flew past it blew them both off - fortunately onto dry land and no one was hurt  J

Joyce and Bill had arranged to go round the island with their Spanish friend Peele, so Allan hired a Nissan Terrano and did a tour of the Island with Bev, Don and Rita. It’s a beautiful, mountainous island in the north with lovely views.

Friday 21st

The Terrano was out again and we all went for a tour round the south of the island. We drove down to the very picturesque Puerto de Mogan in the south and stopped for lunch. Its sometimes known as “Little Venice” on account of the bridges linking parts of the town together.

From here we ventured up the coast taking in Puerto Rico and Maspalomas with its miles of huge sand dunes.

In the evening we went to the ARC farewell drinks party at La Romana. It was absolute carnage at the bar as beer and wine was free – except they hadn’t seemed to order any wine. Bill, Don and Allan each queued for a full round of drinks so in no time we had a table full of beers and were able to sit down and enjoy the rest of the evening.


Bev and Allan attended the skippers briefing and were amused by some of the idiotic questions that were asked. We wondered if we had anything to worry about after all…

The day passed quickly, last minute food shopping at the market, take the car back. 

Then horror of horrors. Allan found a slip of paper at the Marina office informing us that the bug screens we had bought for the boat, and had been waiting on for months, were held in customs – for the sake of 2 euros of fees!!!! It’s incredible. Of course the office was now closed until Monday and 30 miles away at the airport. I’d like to think that things would be better in the UK, but of course they wouldn’t….

In the end Joyce had to spend three hours tracking them down on her way back to the UK, then take them back to England (where they had come from) and then carry them all the way to St Lucia in December.

Sunday 23rd – Day of the ARC start

Allan’s Mum and Don spent the Saturday night in a local hotel to allow Bev to prepare the boat and to wash the sheets. The start wasn’t until 12:30 and nobody who wasn’t in the racing division seemed to want to be out too early or risk a collision on a busy start line. Our position in the harbour meant we were one of the last boats to leave and a cautious approach to the start line also meant we were also one of the last boats to cross the start line, but we were in good company – Matt & Mel on Meander were also right at the back of the starting fleet. It was an odd feeling to be leaving knowing we had so far to travel – but we were pleased to be doing it in the company of so many boats. 

Monday 24th November 26.34N 16.13W

Well at last we have left the comfort of the marina.

I was beginning to wonder if we could still remember how to sail.

The first day had it all, too little wind, too much wind, freezing cold and Bev and Bill laid low with sea sickness - at least there is no competition for the chocolate bars yet :)

The night was pitch black with no moon and the sea busier than a solent bank holiday weekend. All the mast lights looked like a hundred stars pulled down from the heavens to the horizon. 

Hurry along the warmer weather of the trade winds.

We have posted a video of our crossing trip on Youtube too !

Wednesday 26th 23.59N 19.43W

A tiny sliver of moonlight last night but we couldn't see hardly anything because of the clouds and squall rain. It is the perfect time to admire the plumes of bio-phosphorecence which stream from the sides of the boat like burning embers from a bonfire, its an amazing sight.. Talked to Tenancious and Jasp last night on the radio, it was reassuring to hear other voices especially when we heard that there are 49 crew on Tenacious!

Bev and Bill still not 100% but looking a little better. Weather has improved no end this morning and we were visited by the largest pod of dolphins we have yet seen, perhaps 20 or more.

Thursday 27th 23.07N 21.24W

Oh what a night - as the song goes.. We had loads of squalls at time reaching 40 knots. With just a bit of jib (front sail) up we were still careering into the blackness at over 8 knots. Bev and I decided to sleep in the cockpit, off watch, in our full weather gear in case the other person needed help in a hurry. 

Daylight finally arrived though and our spirits were lifted by some warmer, clearer weather and some good sailing speed.

Bill still hasn't shaken off his seasickness and is in pretty low spirits. At least he is drinking fluids and holding down some small amounts of food. He has spent most of his time on the boat confined to his cabin. As a contingency we are taking a more southerly route than otherwise to allow us the option to drop him off in the Cape Verde Islands in three/four days time.

Other boats are having some tough time too we hear. I have been talking to Paul on Jasp on the VHF. On the first day out he ripped his jib in a squall and spent the whole day on the sewing machine trying to fix it, being given instructions by his seasick wife on how to operate the machine. On day two his watermaker blew up and filled his lockers with water, another day to clear up.

On the SSB net we hear a boat has hit a whale, and two whales are circling the damaged boat. No doubt we will get more details tomorrow.

Friday 28th 21.27N 22.54W

A new day and a new outlook. Bill has perked up a lot overnight and now looks more likely than not to be able to continue the crossing. We will continue to head for Cape Verde Islands, but will make a decision on whether to go there based on Bills progress over the next 24 hours.

 "Head south until the butter melts then turn right" , the classic advice for sailing from the Med to the Caribbean. Trouble is I don't know whether the low fat spread we have has the same melting point as butter, come to think of it I'm not sure whether I need to take it out of the fridge either...

It’s definitely warmed up a bit now and with a new moon in the evening we can at last see things at night too. 

We have probably been taking it too easy on the sailing front, partly because of the fragile state of the crew, averaging only 122 miles per day. At this rate we will have another 18 days or so at sea. If Bev and Bill are up to it tomorrow I want to hoist a bit more sail and see if we can't make at least 150 miles a day. 

We haven't seen or heard from another boat (on the vhf) for a couple of days, either because we are so far south or just as likely they are all making better progress westwards than us. Hopefully we can claw back some of the gap on them next week.

Saturday 29th 20.44N 24.53W

Bill continues to improve so we have decided to alter course for St Lucia, instead of the Cape Verde islands. 700 miles down, 2100 miles to go.  

After the first really warm day we had an uneventful night with 15kts of wind and stars all the way down to the horizon. I can't remember ever being able to see them so clearly now we don't have all the background light pollution you get in the UK.

Saturday morning we hoist the Gennaker and Jib together "goosewinged" to make the most of the light winds. The forecast for later is up to 50kts of winds in squalls so we will need to be careful.

We also saw some flying fish for the first time. I'm amazed at just how far they can go out of the water, I had only expected them to cover 8-10 feet, but they look more like birds. None have been stranded on the boat ... yet..

Sunday 30th 20.15N 27.00W

The end of our first week at sea and we passed the 900 mile mark. The weather forecast was a bit grim, warning of 70kt winds in squalls, so like a lot of crews we made some anxious preparations today. In our case this meant getting the parachute anchor rigged up. The weather hadn't arrived by 04:00 Monday but we are keeping a vigilant watch.

On a brighter note I can report that personal hygiene standards amongst the crew are definitely improving. We are well ahead on the water rations so tomorrow we are each allowed a shower in 10 litres of water, which will be fantastic. Upto now its been a wet flannel and a cup full of water !

We hadn't seen another boat for three days and today we saw three - "Let Go" a Norwegian boat, Mat and Mel on Meander and a chap called Phillip on an Italian yacht which isn't in the ARC.

Everyone is wellish and getting settled into the routine on board.


© Copyright Allan & Bev Dornan 2016