October 8 – 12, 2012
Hurricane Nadine and her remnants had churned the waters around Madeira for weeks, and we finally accepted defeat – we would not be able to sail there. We could have left a few weeks earlier if we had been willing to bypass Madeira and sail directly to the Canary Islands, but we held out hope of visiting Madeira. We finally gave up. We were off to the Canary Islands.
On Sunday, October 7, we were checking out systems to confirm we were ready to go, and we started Pinkie – our 7 hp diesel generator. Her exhaust elbow blew out. This was not a minor hole but a major failure that could not be repaired. However, we felt comfortable sailing without the generator for this relatively short trip, and all other systems indicated we were ready.
The Strait of Gibraltar can be difficult to navigate – particularly heading west. There is a constant inflow of water in to the Mediterranean from the Atlantic, and that creates a constant current flowing to the east. The strength of the current changes with the tides, and at times, there is even a slight west flowing current, but it is predominantly east flowing. Winds can be brisk, and they are usually from the east. The easterly wind against the east flowing current can create some choppy seas and opposing current that can be formidable. Timing is important.
We left on Monday, October 8. The wind was not ideal, but it was good enough. We had a quarter moon tide which meant we had less current in both directions (with and against us), and it enabled us to leave during daylight. We left three hours after high tide consistent with Cornell’s advice, but we had tide against us the entire way. It was never more than 2.2 knots, but we never had a neutral tide. We had winds from the east up to 20 knots. This wind against tide created a moderate chop, but overall, it was not too bad. We were through the strait and out of the Med within four hours.
We had to turn to the south and cross the shipping lanes, but that was without incident. We watched the ships on our AIS, and we slid through them with ease. Then we had a nice beam reach for a few hours during the night.
Our second day out was Nita’s 60th birthday. Although being at sea is not everyone’s idea of a perfect birthday, she was so glad to be out of the Med that she was very happy. We had gone only 126 miles in our first 24 hours. On our second day we had lighter winds and a slight westerly swell. We saw pilot whales, dolphins, and turtles. Then it got a bit bumpy and rolly overnight.
Our third day had gradually decreasing seas with winds becoming steadily aft at 10-16 knots. We sailed wing-and-wing comfortably. We had gone 132 miles in the prior 24 hours.
Our fourth day had the swell move further aft so we had even less roll. Also, the winds moved enough forward that we had a fast broad reach. Good sailing. We had gone 139 miles in the prior 24 hours.
Our fifth and final day started as a broad reach and ended up wing-and-wing. We had covered 157 miles in the prior 24 hours. We decided to head to Marina Rubicon near the southeast tip of the island of Lanzarote. We sailed by the island of Graciosa and along the east coast of Lanzarote. The topography is stark volcanic cones with a few small town scattered along the coast. We really enjoyed the crystal clear air.
We arrived well after dark, but we had information on entering the marina at night. We decided to go in and tie up at their customs dock. It was a tricky entrance to find, but we did find it. We were tied up by 2305 local time and ready for some sleep.
This passage was a total of 626 miles, and it took us 107.5 hours – or 4 days 11.5 hours. That is an average of 5.8 knots per hour. Given our slow start moving through the Strait of Gibraltar and a day of light winds and rolly seas, we were pleased overall. Now we were looking forward to enjoying some of the Canary Islands.