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Tag Archives: Loggerhead turtle
The hot sun of the tropics has been roasting our skin into a slightly alarming shade of brown since we arrived in Senegal. Meanwhile the same sun has been taking its toll on our equipment. In the last passage we had a rather heavy casualty rate! Not only did we have a torn mizzen sail, but out tiller arm (the bit you steer with) broke, the pole that we use to hold out our genoa sail snapped, our mainsail broke loose, one of the cupboards caved in after I collapsed rather too enthusiastically after a long watch, and our fridge has turned into a heady soup of rotten meat juices thanks to some stray steaks from Morocco. On top of that, my computer took one too many falls and the wires connecting the screen to the computer were severed, rendering the computer useless.
Thus our past few days have been spent in repair mode. Leonie has stitched and repaired the mizzen sail while I have tinkered with various bits of equipment and with the help of a borrowed soldering iron convinced them to work. However, while our own ingenuity is enough to solve most problems, in some instances you have to turn to the locals for help.
In this instance we had a fantastic experience with Sow – a local carver camped in the empty shell of a building just down the road from where we are moored. We came to Sow bearing the battered remnants of our broken tiller arm and asked him (in broken French) if he could knock together a replacement. Two days later we were holding a beautifully carved piece of African hardwood embellished with crocodiles, turtles and hippopotamus. Our tiller now stands in pride of place as the most fancy part of our aging yacht and we couldn’t be happier.
We have sailed many miles in the past ten months. We have surged blindly through fog-shrouded seas in the high arctic; dodged through ice-scattered water off Greenland; surfed upon white water off the coast of Iceland; wended our way through the dark secret waters off the Hebrides islands; and coasted through thick red seas off the Saharan coast of Africa. But the past few days of sailing has been the first time I really understood the term “blue water” sailing. As we left the coast of Africa behind and hit the deep clear waters of the Atlantic we have found that the sea is unlike any that has ever lain beneath our keel. The water here is a deep blue like no other colour I have ever seen. In me at least, it evokes a feeling of another world – as we glide over this silken sea with cyan skies above and the indigo Atlantic beneath I seem transported to a different time. Here it seems that the square top-sails of a clipper trader could poke above the horizon at any time, or a sighting of distant land could be an uncharted island. It is a timeless world where the bustle of modern life seems to fade into insignificance.
The sea also teems with a life that has long been lost from the crowded African shores behind us. Loggerhead turtles commonly poke their nose through the water as we pass by, and teams of dolphin seen to stay in relay to keep pace with us. First Atlantic spotted dolphins, then bottle nose dolphins, then striped dolphins and then short-beaked common dolphins. Amidst he playful mammals, an occasional flying fish clatters across the surface and bonito tuna team in shoals around the islands (occasionally providing a meal for passing sailors!). Above us ganets soar and plunge and shearwaters glide gracefully in our wake. In this vast ocean we rarely seem alone.
The past few days found us exploring the waters around Lanzarote and Fuerto Ventura and Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands. Though this was never one of the places we dreamed of visiting we have discovered a marine life here that has seemed absent since we left the vibrant shores of the Arctic. Conversely, the land is barren and dry with a few hardy birds and lizards stirring torpidly in the sun. Scattered over the island are the ruins of the lost civilization that perished upon the arrival of the Spanish which clash violently with the condominiums and tourist orientated sprawl crowding the shoreline. It is a land of contrasts but definitely a land worth exploring.
When our propeller finally arrived with more than a month delay, it almost took us by surprise, having waited for so long. Even more astonishing was the quick installation: after having a good thought about it, it took Pat only half an hour under water to exchange our one bladed woe for a three bladed bliss. And suddenly nothing kept us from moving on! Well, except for roaring sea which had built up to five-meter waves outside our sheltered harbour. Then again, we had been locked down for so long, another few days really didn’t matter so much …
Soon the sea calmed down and we found ourselves on the road again! Our next destination lay 250 nautical miles to the south-west: Rubicon, a small town on Lanzarote, one of the Canary Islands. As usual, we divided the sailing between the two of us in four-hour shifts, one person on watch, the other cooking or sleeping. That is, if Sparrow allowed any rest! She was not happy at all to leave Agadir behind – after all, she’s never been at any other single place for longer. To sooth her sulky mood she was allowed to sleep on the berth with us – at the foot end, of course. Which worked fine, until one awoke from a paw poking into one’s neck. Apparently the little rascal could only sleep with her head on the pillow …
Otherwise it was all smooth sailing. The winds were moderate and from behind, the sea was calm, and the sun hot on our backs. What a difference to sailing in the Arctic! No more down jackets, big mittens, beanies and winter boots, just shorts and t-shirts and, best of all, no shoes! The sea warmed to
over 20°C, shearwaters and terns soared overhead, and the occasional loggerhead turtle told tales of the tropics. At night, no moon lit the clouded sky, and the only light came from below as the breaking waves on Widdershins’ hull stirred the plankton to emit their otherworldly fluorescent glows. To add to our own shimmering wake, the sea was suddenly illuminated by converging streams of light. As our eyes struggled to comprehend these sudden comets of light a pod of dolphins broke the surface, racing briefly along our boat only to disappear into the blackness of the sea again.
As the second night came to an end, the horizon was finally illuminated by an additional glow: Lanzarote lay ahead! As we approached the island in the early morning, bleak volcanic hills devoid of any vegetation greeted us. A few hours later we pulled into the harbour of Rubicon, and here we are, back in Europe again! No more mosques, veils, men in long robes or donkeys pulling carts, instead the place is bustling with tourists, bars and bowling clubs – quite a change of scenery. Tomorrow we’ll hopefully head on to Gran Canaria, to sort out further African visas … and to finally leave Europe behind for good!