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Isla Graciosa, the Canary Islands 🇮🇨

At the northwest top of Lanzarote lies this charming island and we were delighted to finally arrive and anchor off Playa Francesca, an expanse of white sand beach and crystal clear aquamarine water.

With the boys happily playing in the sand, Russell and I took turns to nap, totally exhausted by our journey. But what a stunning beach to rest on! We were all in bed by 7pm!

The repair…whilst sailing

Once daylight broke we knew we needed to act fast to ease the motion of the boat and pick up speed. All the crew were feeling/being very ill by this stage. Russell scrambled around in the depth of the boat for our storm jib and lines (not an easy task in the swell and whilst ill) and gradually set up an inner forestay and running backstay to be able to use it. I’ve lost count of hours since we’ve had anything resembling sleep. It’s like trying to move in a thick fog when you are this exhausted. And the kids still need entertaining and feeding etc. It’s a new level of human endurance is all I can say!!!

The storm jib, albeit a tiny sail, balanced the yacht and added a valuable knot to our speed.

We tried to get some rest (we’ve been awake for over 30 straight hours now and starting to move in a zombie like state). By lunchtime we knew that we needed to get the fallen jib back up, the storm sail wasn’t the answer. I dreaded this knowing that meant one of us would have to climb and be hoisted up our mast to retrieve the halyard (because the top fitting of the sail was broken and still at the top of the mast). The mast sits 20m above sea level which was a roller coaster of waves (photos never do big waves any justice!).

Russell kindly voted to go up the mast whilst I balanced or rather wedged myself on a rolling deck by the mast to hoist him up. It’s hard work hoisting your husband 20m in the air whilst the floor you are standing in is moving in an unpredictable fashion. My muscles ached and I was scared of either of us falling but I didn’t dare slow down or rest. Russell retrieved the broken parts, halyard and swivel and I started to lower him back down. Equally terrifying. An extra large wave surprised us both and sent Russell flying off the mast crashing into forestays and the main sail. His leg was gashed and his arm took the brunt of the steel stay, I could see the pain etched into his face. “Please don’t let his arm be broken” I silently prayed as I gradually lowered the injured Russell down to deck level. Luckily it was a nasty sprain but nothing broken. After resting again Russell fashioned a new shackle made of dyneema and we then started the slow process of attaching the sail gradually, threading through the slot whilst ensuring the sail didn’t billow away in the high winds whilst standing on the bow as the yacht lurched up and down over the waves. We had to take the storm jib down to do this repair, so the boat motion was back on full washing machine spin mode.

Finally I winched the last hard few feet of sail and the jib was up. Hurrah! I’ve never been so delighted to see a sail in my life. You take for granted the bolts and shackles that hold these things in place.

Instantly our speed picked up and the boat motion returned to ‘normal’ Atlantic 2m swell blowing from the Spanish storm.

We still had 230 nautical miles sailing to land in the Canaries, (turning around and sailing back to the Desertas Islands would be into the wind in Force 6 and not a pleasant option) so it was a tiring next night and day. Everything was crossed for no more disasters!

The boys were great throughout, addicted to their audible books and now on book 18 out of 21 in the Famous Five epic, they remained oblivious to our troubles and enchanted by the adventure stories, despite the one unraveling around them! Thank goodness for Enid Blyton (again). I never thought I’d be saying that!!

Night watch disaster…

The wind and swell were increasing so we set sail from the Desertas Islands late evening heading directly for the Canaries. We were going to have to miss the Savage Islands with the huge Atlantic swell arriving from the storms off Spain. This meant two long nights at sea.

I settled into my night watch, another pitch black night, cloudy with no moon, and I heard the jib sail rattle. The wind was gusting 20kts, we were making 7-8kts with a reef in but it suddenly dropped to 4kts. I looked up trying to see in the pitch darkness what was happening and I couldn’t see the jib (front sail). It was gone, totally gone. What had happened? I clipped in my harness and leaned out to see more. To my horror I could see we were dragging the jib in the water, trailing 55ft in the water behind us. With my heart and adrenaline pumping I went below deck to wake Russell, calling him from a deep sleep to be on deck immediately.

A long painful night ensued as Russell carefully dragged the heavy sail out of the water and lashed it down as the wind and waves broke over him on the foredeck. Without the front sail the boat is not balanced in high swell and wind, so we were instantly heaving all over the place in a stomach churning roll. It was terrifying, not helped being in the pitch black of night too. Eventually over an hour later Russell retrieved the incredibly heavy wet sail and we decided it was too dangerous to do any more both at night and in the current conditions. Russell attempted to get some rest as I continued my night watch in a roller coaster motion we were now set in. Sleep was impossible for anyone (except the boys who miraculously sleep through just!)

The Desertas Islands

Time to lose our land legs and get onto the high seas again. We decided to break up the long sail to the Canaries by visiting the Desertas Islands and the Savage (Selvagens) Islands, if the weather allowed. With our permits in place for the national park we were on a keen look out for whales and monk seals.

The islands are stark volcanic rocks with amazing geology with only a warden in a hut keeping watch. As evening approached we were treated with a rare monk seal sighting (one of only 26 seals in the Madeiran archipelago) playing in the shallows behind our yacht. We were all delighted.

Warrior Felix

The boys loved exploring the palace botanical gardens and the Japanese garden. Felix and Hugo were impressed with the warriors and also the huge gem collection.

Well worth a meander through in between our school lessons. The boys have started their new “school year” in 1M and 3M (aka Mummy). They have made lots of friends from so many nationalities, playing together doesn’t seem to need any translation.

The amazing swimmer

Whilst relaxing in the lovely Quinta do Lorde Marina we noticed that flags were being put up and a crowd was gathering playing music and looking very smart (we’ve not seen suits for awhile!). It turns out that an amazing woman was swimming all the way from Porto Santo to Madeira (over 50km in very rough and tidal water)! We duly cheered her on as she swam right past our yacht in the marina.

Nicola – you will be pleased to know this has inspired the boys swimming no end and Felix is determined to be the first to swim the Atlantic!!😂 We will start with the marina resort lovely pools first!!