As we sailed on in to Las Palmas we saw 5 oil rigs stacked in the outer harbour. It was like déjà vu. In 1978 Lesley and I were based at Playa del Hombre on Gran Canaria for 15 months while I worked in the Red Sea and off the Congo River mouth on the drilling rig “Discoverer Seven Seas”. At that time we set a world record drilling a well in 4,371 feet of water to a total depth of 16,000ft. It was frontier land and at one stage our drill ship was in Las Palmas for 10 days on repairs.
Bryan and Dorothy Collins on a yacht called “Caitlin of Argyll” had advised us to stay on the windward side of the Canary archipelago, to avoid wind shadow. Mt. Teide is Spain’s highest mountain on Tenerife and is 3700 metres high! All of the islands have an impressive mountain spine.
We were told on arrival at Marina de Las Palmas that the maximum we could stay was 2 nights because of a tall ship regatta that was due from Funchal, Madeira. After docking and refueling I went off and rented a car. That evening I went back to Melenara, a little fishing village that Lesley and I would walk to from Playa del Hombre. It was about 1 km from our house at the time, along a dusty unsealed road, but the fish restaurant always had fresh fish and not a tourist in sight. The traditional open wooden boats would be strewn along the beach often with fishermen sleeping on the shady side. The fishermen would go to sea for 2-3 days catching a load of sardines plus tuna. When they arrived home other locals would help them drag the heavy boats up out of the surf and then their wives would weigh the catch and divide it up for sale. Meantime, the men would head for the nearest bar and once they had drunk their fill would wander down the beach and go to sleep. Eventually the women would chase them back out to sea to catch more fish. We were told that this routine had been happening for nearly 400 years! Sadly those open wooden boats were no longer on the beach and nor were the fishermen – time had passed them by. We did however have an excellent seafood meal surrounded by locals.
Las Palmas was all about provisioning and making final preparations for our transatlantic crossing. Violeta and I focused on the big grocery shop. Bryan and Dorothy had also suggested that we go to El Corte Ingles (a department store like Marks and Spencer) for our meat as they would vacuum pack it for us. Perhaps my Spanish was not so good but it was a shaking of the heads and it was all off boys and girls! However, they did have rather a good selection of vacuum packed meats on the shelf. Also, their chorizo sausage was fantastic and we only wish that we had bought a lot more of it.
For the rest of the items we went to a very large supermarket called Hyperdino, but because of the one way system and the fact that extra streets were closed off for an international car rally we had to park in an underground car park 400 metres away! With two large trolleys loaded to the gunnels (around 100Kgs) we spotted a notice that said trolleys were not allowed to leave the immediate area outside the supermarket! I left Violeta guarding the groceries and liquor outside the lift shaft in a multi-storey car park while I went back for the vehicle. It was a medium-sized Seat and we only just managed to squeeze it all in – over Euros 1,000 but enough food to last 4 pax for 30 days.
We managed to get the vehicle within 30 metres of Roaring Meg and with the help of the two Sherpas, Radar and Squelch, we soon had everything on board. Stowing the provisions is the Quartermaster’s job and Radar has a black belt in packology! Because he was not going to voyage end he deputised Violeta as the junior Quartermaster. Between them they know exactly where everything has been stowed.
Meg was sitting lower in the water than normal but this was inevitable. We could not fill our two alloy gas bottles with the American fittings so we bought yet another gas bottle (this time Spanish) as back up with the appropriate crossovers.
The only other nagging event was that the Go Iridium marine package that I had purchased in the States for around NZD 2,000 had packed a sad and would no longer connect to the Iridium satellite system. It had been working perfectly and using my smart phone I could “call anywhere from anywhere” but more importantly for us we would be able to download weather information while deep sea. Squelch is a communications expert and even he was unable to sort the problem despite going back to factory settings and speaking with a help desk in the States. We would have to sail without the satphone system.
We still had our ICOM 802 SSB radio with a Pactor 4 high frequency modem which was also able to send and receive emails/data. Little did we know that 6 days after leaving Las Palmas the radio also would malfunction whereby we could receive a signal but not transmit. Squelch put it down to the voice modulation card.
On the morning of 7 May we all presented ourselves at the Customs/Immigration office in the commercial section of the port, and were duly stamped out of the EU. We were leaving by sea and, like any airport, it must all be official with a crew list, passports etc., otherwise it creates big problems when reaching the next destination – in our case Bermuda. Once completed you must leave the country within hours. I paid the marina, thanked them for their hospitality, and we were off into the Big Blue with nearly 3,000Nm in front of us. As we steamed out of the harbour I tried to think of anything that we may have forgotten. Half an hour down the track I suddenly remembered the seven post cards I had written and stamped that were still on board – shit!!
Thinking outside the box I saw a catamaran approaching, travelling in the direction of Las Palmas. We hailed him on the radio and asked if he would kindly take the mail on a ship to ship transfer and post it in Las Palmas and he agreed. There were 5 persons on board and they were English. The postcards went into a waterproof bag along with a fist full of discount vouchers that we had obtained from El Corte Ingles. Radar brought Meg alongside and in an instant the mail was transferred without scraping the finish on either vessel. The catamaran had a young couple on board that were about to marry in Las Palmas and they said they would definitely use the vouchers.