Life in the Canaries meant waking up (almost) every day to sunshine, blue sky and temperatures in the 20s. Starting each of our week long trips from San Miguel in the south of Tenerife, we roamed to La Gomera, La Palma, Gran Canaria and finally El Hierro.
Famous for having good wind conditions, the Canaries disappointed us in that respect. We found the wind to be extremely variable around these islands, often ranging from 5 to 25knots in less than 5 minutes! There were plenty of areas with no wind between the islands, where lumpy seas made the motion onboard very uncomfortable. These were sandwiched between wind acceleration zones in which the wind was funnelled between the islands, accelerating rapidly. This gave us plenty of exercise furling the sails in and out and hoisting them up and down!
On most of the islands we rented a car for a day and drove around to see more of the country, winding our way around volcanic mountains until we were driving through the clouds. The climate 1500m up was often really cold and moist, so much so that we had to dig our wet weather gear back out! We explored volcanic national parks, enjoyed a day trip canyoning down a valley and wandered through rain forests.
We were not alone on the ocean here, almost every day we were joined by pilot whales or dolphins. We caught the odd fish, and ate plenty onshore in the local tavernas. Here we were also introduced to our new favourite drink, the Barriquito, a coffee liqueur composed of 4 layers; condensed milk, expresso, orange liqueur, foamed milk.
My mood during these weeks mirrored the wind patterns, shifting and changeable. I often thought to myself, how can anyone be stressed when the sun shines every day and the water is such a clear blue?… But somehow we managed… It has now been 6 months of changing crews every week or so, without even a single day alone together onboard since June. At times the constant flux of people and the dozen half finished jobs all taking place at the same time, along with the necessary tools, bits of wood, rope, lights, etc still strewn about the boat made me feel unsettled. We have so much stuff onboard which we’ve prepared for the long journey; scuba tanks, a compressor, snorkels, wet suits, flippers, goggles, spare parts for everything, tools to fix anything anywhere, spare ropes, a complete set of spare sails, epoxy, paint, antifouling, spare batteries, 2 dinghies, 3 outboard motors, 20 sets of bedding, fishing stuff, a sextant, 6 musical instruments, 2 hoovers, even replacement parts for each gas hob, all the necessary equipment to make 100 x sushi, plus 12 living breathing humans! Do we need it all? We often can’t see our bed by the end of the day for the stuff piled upon it. Sometimes I get under the covers at the end of the day to find I’m sharing with some new planks of wood or snorkelling equipment. Half way through the night I might roll over and find I’ve got electronic items or instruction manuals stuck to my back or legs. One day we spent 2 hours just searching for the oil filter tool. It is these moments when I must remember to go and watch the waves and the sun sparkling off the clear turquoise water for a while to let the fresh air refresh my mind
Despite the chaos, we are moving forward. As each week passes more jobs get ticked off the list and we learn one more lesson about how to manage the situation and ourselves. Having made so many miles in the right direction in the last few weeks from Scotland we should allow ourselves some time to feel relaxed and even proud of our progress.
Finally our crew diminished to just one other couple who would remain with us for the next 10 weeks. It felt totally different to have the boat so much for ourselves. It felt more like a real home. Having so much time with the same crew also gave a completely different feel to our schedule. With no deadlines or flights to catch, we were now able to be more relaxed and spontaneous with our planning. This gave us the time and place we’d been needing to put things in order, including our relationship! I felt myself start to relax, to play the violin again, to go running and get back into my writing.
On our last day in Tenerife we did a massive food shop, and filled the boat up with enough food to keep us going for a couple of months! It’s a good feeling to set sail in these conditions, you feel totally self sufficient. I’m now looking forward to some time out on the big ocean as a small crew, to get some distance to the land, and some more time watching the waves.