7 days and 7 nights. Wandering by the stars from Vigo to Tenerife.
Highlight – The stars the stars the stars!
Lowlight – Our main rig collapsed after the jaws on the gaff broke….
A week ago today we slipped our lines from Vigo and set our sails for Tenerife on a bearing of South South West. Once agin the sun was shining brightly (I know I know! I say this nearly every post) and the winds were fair and there was a moderate swell.
After leaving the main harbour and cruising past the islands at the mouth of the estuary we had a light lunch of Smorgasboard before getting stuck into some training drills. We went through the routine for ‘Muster’, man over board and fire. The man over board routine was especially important as this was the first time practising the manoeuvre under full sails. After successfully completing the drills we set our course and settled into our watch system. Jamie and I were on watch from 10pm with the Captain Laurance. The sky was almost cloudless with a bright haloed moon. Our initial heading had us sailing in the direction of Orion.
We passed many cargo ships in the night as we sailed through the main shipping lane from Lisbon. Most of the crew went down with seasickness including Jamie who spent most of watch looking either quite green or being sick and poor Kat had to make her bed in the saloon with a bucket next to her head all night.
The following morning I was dragged out of bed before my watch to set the sails, gybe and hoist additional jib sails. We were making max speed of 10 kts with an average of 7-8. The swell was 4-5 metres. Our ship Irene was rolling all over the place which wasn’t helping the members of crew still suffering from sea sickness. On night watch I spent much of the time I was not helming the boat studying Star finder, an app on the iphone that shows you all the star names and constellations if you point it at the sky.
As we changed watch I took over the helm while we prepared to reef the mizzen sail (The sail on the smaller of our masts at the stern of the boat). As the wind was directly behind us and was building in force we were struggling to maintain the course due to the turning force of the mizzen sail pushing Irene up into the wind. It meant steering the boat was like a continual wrestling match. Irene was built as a coastal trading vessel and her hull and rigging are really designed for reaching along the shore taking advantage of onshore and offshore breezes. Not running downwind with the trades. Later in the afternoon our skipper Leslie gave a lecture to the trainee crew on coastal navigation. And the rest of the day I spent nose deep in my books.
This was my galley day so I spent most of it preparing food. We were making excellent progress getting many sea miles under our sails. The winds were still good and there was a big swell. At some points we would look back over the stern and see a big wave approaching and be thinking is that going to break over us before the ship would lurch and surf down it. I set about preparing veggie burgers from scratch including baking fresh burger baps and making hand-cut chips along with Tahini chocolate cookies which I had promised the crew the night before. It turned out to be far more difficult than I expected due to the motion of the ship. At one point I was kneading bread in the saloon and got completely thrown against the side of the ship with the dough landing in my lap. Later I sent all the coleslaw mix across the galley.
There was one particularly big wave which sent all the crates of our vegetable flying. After a while of thinking what the hell is going on deck I went out to check. And was gobsmacked to find that the the main rig had collapsed!
Everyone was on deck wrestling with the main sail trying to restrain the boom and main gaff. In the heavy swell the jaws of the main gaff snapped off leaving the rig flaying widely pulling the boat over.
The crew were very shell shocked over dinner and we sat in silence as we ate. Kat commented that it was one of the most terrifying experience she has had on a boat.
However we managed to get all the sails safely stowed and we rigged up one of the jib sails to function as mizzen stay sail to go some way towards replacing the wind power we lost from the befallen main sail.
Remarkably we are still making good progress without our main sail. Average speed is 6 kts. The swell has settled.
Kat and Jamie made the most incredible lemon meringue pie much to the delight of all the crew – we scrapped over every last crumb.
As the sun set the sea took on a surreal quality of quiksilver with the sun as a perfectly circular molten lead orb.
We listened to The XX by moonlight while helming under the stars with jupiter and venus to starboard and the moon and orion, the striding warrior, to port. I finished reading ‘Unbearably lightness of being’ a book on existensial philosophy and the nature of the soul. A final line from the book:
“Its terrific to realise you are free of all missions”
Dawn watch and by jove it was another incredible sight. Each and every one has been slightly different. This one was marked out by the complete absence of any clouds whatsover. We are skirting the coast of Morocco so its an African sun rising over our heads today. The moon set at 7.47am and the sun rose at 8.10am. Already by 10 am it was baking on deck and we were reaching for the sunglasses and suncream. I made round of melty cheesy cumin and chilli eggy bread for watch breakfast. Martina joined us on deck for her breakfast before taking over the watch with her pimped up cornflakes. As she arrived on deck to sit down near the poop a massive wave broke over the deck and sent her cornflakes flying all over her crotch.
“Oh manno Schiesse. Verdammt Irene!”
Later that day we took turns dosing and cooling off with buckets of cold seawater.
The idle was only broken momentarily when Jamie struggled with a person from Specsavers over the Sat phone while trying to order a new batch of disposable contact lenses.
“What why didn’t you tell me at the beginning of the call that no staff are in yet. I’m calling from a sat phone! Do you have any idea how much this costs?”
Probably not. They were in Slough.
The watch routine and the toll of being at sea for 6 days was starting to take its toll. In the night Antje had a really funny dream where she was being screamed at by Gaddafi (Ramon) to go PORT! then STARBOARD! Back to PORT! Antje was helming in her sleep with my feet! (We share a room and the double bunk top and tail – beats the hell out of the narrow top bunks with no head room!).
Without a doubt this was the most idyllic harmonious day of the week. Some how we all slipped into a mesmerising trance like industriousness on baord. I was back on galley duty and spent most of the day on deck slowly washing, peeling and grating veges for salads and evening dinner
Martina and Antje were making ‘baggy wrinkles’ for the masts (grass skirts from untwinned rope to protect the sails from the rigging). Captain was sanding and painting the gaff. Everywhere you looked on board someone was peacefully at craft. The earlier parts of the week we had been more fragmented due to sea sickness and rougher conditions. The best part of the day was a seawater bucket shower on deck after a delicious dinner of shepherds pie.
We finally cruised into Tenerife on Saturday. First sight was the tip of the Volcano around 10 am just as I came on my watch. Antje woke me at 8am.
“Lucy. You should see the sunrise. It is the best yet!”
Gradually the full form of the island emerged from the morning mist.
We sailed into Santa cruz harbour and were given a mooring in along the sea wall next to the fishing boats and ferry. Another tall ship called Alva is in the harbour. We made fast the lines, jumped into the sea for a quick dip before stepping into Babylon…
What I hadn’t realised when we set from Vigo to Tenerife is that we were sailing through an epic planetary moment with all 5 visible planets in the sky and we saw every single one of them from the Atlantic. Truly truly blessed.
Planetai means ‘Wandering stars’ in Greek