Normally we like to set off on multi-day passages in the morning, giving us plenty of time to navigate away from land, get into clean air, and get the sails set before dark. Leaving Tenerife we only got started at 5pm, and motored south in the windshadow of Mount Teide. The current and the swell collide around the bottom of the island. Add in very local southerly winds, then the NE trades a little further on, and conditions were uncomfortable to say the least. Wild rolling, short steep waves from different directions, wind and waves in opposition at times – seasickness conditions par excellence, although with the help of Dramamine this time fortunately neither of us became ill. It took us about 3 hours to get to relatively orderly waters and more stable winds, by which time it was twilight, so only the genoa went up. By midnight the sea conditions were normal, and we were into trade wind sailing. We were both extremely tired though, and getting through each watch was hard work – straight into the starboard passage bunk the minute the other had vacated it.
|The anchorage at Palmeira|
The smaller jib seems to materially reduce induced roll, as well as giving us an extra half knot or so. The idea with this set up is also that we can reduce sail quite easily if the wind pipes up – just roller-reef the genoa to reduce sail area. The jib would be fine in a lot of wind … I think 45kts, maybe more … so if we were caught in a nasty squall by rolling the genoa all the way in we have a manageable amount of sail area.
3 ½ days into our passage we passed 20N, for me the mental delimiter of the tropics. At 4.30am it didn´t feel tropical, with an air temperature of about 20C, although the humidity in the cabin notched up from 72% to 80% and cushions felt slightly wet to the touch. The old sailing directions for crossing the Atlantic to the Caribbean are to sail south until the butter melts, then turn right. The butter is still solid, and shorts-and-t-shirt night watches haven´t arrived yet, but they are not far away.
We saw almost no traffic. Just one freighter and one large passenger liner, and nothing else showed up on AIS at 48nm range the whole time. We became a bit lazier in our watchkeeping, setting the radar on a 20 minute schedule scanning an 8nm radius from us. We still kept our 100% live watch regime (of course) but the quick scan of radar every time it beeps to life was the norm, with occasional visual lookouts. There was just nothing out there. Quite different from the last time I was in this approximate area, crossing the Atlantic as part of the ARC, when I knew there were another 250 or so pleasure boats reasonably close by.
|Late night music in the salt pans|
Talking of anchorages, a big step forwards in comfort in the Canaries was the use of flopper stoppers. These are devices that reduce rolling at anchor considerably by providing resistance in one direction only. We started experimenting with the standard minimum, a bucket filled with water suspended from the boom just at sea level. When the boat heels away from the bucket, the bucket and water are lifted out, providing say 10kg of weight, whereas when the boat heels towards the bucket, the bucket is submerged and is almost neutral in weight. Even this has a good effect on rolling. There are a few designs of flopper stoppers that build on this concept, including a triangle weighted at the tip that dives down, an ingenious proprietary metal folding device, a milk crate with a plastic flap on the bottom, and a metal grid with a plastic flap on top. After building and testing several options we settled on getting two quite large metal grids fabricated, and covered them with mesh and plastic fabric with two slits. The result is remarkable. Untenably swelly anchorages suddenly become acceptable – not just tolerable, but acceptable. I don’t know how we survived for so long without them.
|The view of the fish dock from our favourite bar|
There’s a feeling of welcome here. The sea and sky welcome us, the stars shine more brightly in the nighttime tropical sky. It’s good to be in the tropics again!
- Clean the fish, cut incisions into the flesh diagonally, rub with salt. Place ginger and salt in the stomach cavity.
- Lay the fish on top of spring onions and coriander stalks. Steam to a core temperature of 45C.
- Remove the fish and glaze with hot vegetable oil.
- Make a sauce of rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar and white pepper. Heat to just boiling then pour over the fish.
- Garnish with julienne ginger, coriander leaves, finely sliced spring onion, julienne chilli.