RoRC Report January 2018 - North Atlantic

The latest news and whereabouts [January] of our Club’s Roving Rear Commodores in North Atlantic Waters.

By David Blackburn - 01/02/2018

Julian Berney in Houdalinqua II - May 2017 – 2020

The autumn saw us back in the Canaries for a month long cruise. This time our principal goal was to finally get to La Palma and El Heiro, the two most western islands. La Palma is known as “the beautiful“ island and is reputed to be one of the steepest islands in the world.

The Canary Islands are surprisingly different. Lanzarote, La Grasciosa, and Fuerteventura are pretty close to north Africa; they are dry, semi arid and prone to Calimas - sand and dust laden easterly winds which can cover the rigging and sails with reddish dust and get into the working of winches and other moving parts. Tenerife and Gran Canaria are more populated with large commercial harbours, high mountains, large tourist industry, and numerous marinas. La Gomera, La Palma, and El Heiro are smaller, lusher, and have ragged and beautiful mountain ranges with excellent hill walking.

Sheena and I set off two handed for the 280 nm voyage from Lanzarote to Marina Santa Cruz, La Palma. The famed (sometimes infamous) Acceleration Zones kicked in between the islands. The adage in these parts is to “never lose your northing”; tricky if you are heading for the more southerly islands but something to bear in mind. We had two overnight stops after fairly demanding long day sails with 20, gusting 40, knots across the deck; the latter being closer to the high cliffs as the wind whistles around the corners. The seas build quickly to between one and three metres; fortunately we were going downwind but wondering quite how we were going to get back.

Three lots of friends joined us at La Palma for separate weeks. The Calero group is working hard to finish the barrier to stop the swell coming into the marina and to arrange shore power for the extremely noisy inter islands ferries (the cruise liners are much quieter). All this work should be done now which would make it a great place to visit as it is so close to the town centre. We next sailed round the south end of the island to go to Tazacote, an excellent marina with good hard standing if you wish to come out of the water and a very pleasant small town further up the hill. That side of the island is calm being in the wind shadow and we were fortunate to see a number of whales.Trying to circumnavigate the island we headed north but very strong winds and confused seas saw us turn tail quickly and head south again.

El Heiro is a short but pleasant sail from La Palma. The harbour we visited is only partially developed and suffered from a swell while we were there. This resulted in a short visit only. As the weather turned calm we decide to head for La Gomera, one of our favourite islands. San Sebastián is a lovely town and the marina is excellent. The island is spectacular and the walking wonderful. Unfortunately time was not on our side. After a week of walking high up in the mountain ridges of La Palma trying to forget I had reached (another) milestone birthday it was time to face the headwinds back to Lanzarote.

For the first time we experienced a significant change in the weather pattern. The good news was that the winds were lighter and from the south east. We had some pleasant sailing and finally a spinnaker run northwards up the east coast of Fuerteventura, a wind phenomenon that “hardly ever happens.” Our safe arrival back at Puerto Calero ended another enjoyable and quite demanding cruise.

Canary island cruising requires all boats to be well prepared and a good deal of thought given to the passage planning to get the most out of the variety that is on offer here; there is a lot to do once you scratch below the surface. Houdalinqua is now ashore in the yard at Puerto Calero undergoing a refit for her new owners. After 21 wonderful years with her we are about to turn the page for a fresh start of unknown destination; rather exciting really!

Pamela MacBrayne and Denis Moonan in Glide - Nov 2017 – 2020

Denis & I are currently anchored in Cartagena where we have decent internet. We left Maine on 4th November so, not surprisingly, there were not many Flying Fish negotiating the chilly weather! When we got to Norfolk, VA, however, the dock at Greta & Gary’s had 1/2 dozen boats to greet us. Unfortunately, we did not have time to party as the weather forecast suggested that we needed to head out the following day, headed for Beaufort, NC in order to get around Cape Hatteras (the other alternative being the much longer route through the ICW). Three other boats left Norfolk with the same intention: Torturelle, Aura and Chrystal Blue.

Upon arrival in Beaufort, we anchored in a different place than the other 3 but were in communication with them by radio and through POR Dianne Tetreault who is terrific. In our anchorage, we found OCC members Calico Skies and Loon. Dianne invited us to her condo for a pot-luck cocktail rendezvous (which ended up being dinner)! The following day, we shared Thanksgiving dinner on Glide with Calico Skies and Loon who were anchored very nearby.

We departed Beaufort, bound for the Bahamas, in the company of Aura and Torturelle. Since Glide & Torturelle both have SSB, we set up a twice daily check-in during the 5-day passage. While in Georgetown, Great Exuma, we met Roger & Amy on Shango who saw our burgee and came by to say hello. It turns out that they did much of their circumnavigation with Jack & Zdenka (also from Maine) on Kite.

Sadly, Shango was our last sighting of a Flying Fish burgee. From the Bahamas we went to Ile-a-Vache, Haiti with a boat full of hurricane relief supplies. There were only 3 other boats in the anchorage at Port Morgan when we were there. Then, we sailed to Cartagena where we have not been for 7 years. Lee Mile, POR, has been enormously helpful and a great provider of information. He invited us to breakfast at his beautiful condo, overlooking the anchorage. There have been no other OCC boats in the 10 days we have been here. In fact, there are only about 10 cruising boats in the anchorage compared to 2008, 2009 and 2010 when there were always at least 50 boats here. Lee is already working on the Christmas 2018 Rally & is looking forward to seeing everyone here.

So, that’s it for 2017. Next stop, San Blas Islands, Panama and then to the Canal. Hopefully we’ll see more flying fish on the next leg of our journey.

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