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[ THE WIRE ] Skipper’s Report

9th January 2017
Time: 1831z
Position: 27°44N 15°47W
COG: Bar
SOG: 2 beers and increasing.
Wind: E 5/6
Swell: E 2-3ft
Sky: 0/8
Weather: Sunshine!

I left you with a Force 6 blowing through our rather packed anchorage, a man stuck ashore (sorry Henry), and me feeling like the day hadn’t gone very well. If only I knew what was in store…

The last two days have been a bit exciting, and not quite to plan.

By morning of the 7th, the Force 6 had turned into a very solid Force 7, with an actual sea state running through the anchorage, no space to let any more anchor chain out, and 35 kts of apparent wind blowing across the deck. Not great… Paul had swum ashore at first light in the drysuit and fins to follow up marina options, and returned late morning with the news that it was a non-starter, booking or not. While Paul might be related to a man that swam an ocean and is shortly to swim another, swimming through that anchorage was a hell of thing. Another impressive move by Mr. Lecomte!

Henry was furiously following up options to get back to the boat, but by 1300 had been told that there was zero mechanism for getting people on or off boats anchored there. No solution forthcoming, I had reached my tolerance for risk with the anchor situation (assisted by watching another boat go sideways past us dragging theirs) and had to get out of there. The manoeuvre was discussed, briefed, Plan a/b/c/d/e formulated, and we went for it. Nothing ever goes as planned, and when Plan a/b/c/d/e immediately went out the window Plan F was carried out. Plan F required 100% commitment with zero hesitation, and I’m pleased to say it was a resounding success in leaving the anchorage, however it is an experience I would never want to repeat again!

We had arranged another marina on the south of the island, so we began making tracks that way, chucking minimal sail up in the fairly considerable wind. However, just as the mainsail had gone up there was a huge bang from underneath the boat, and some very concerning vibrations. Engine off and some quick damage assessment, we ascertained that the boat was safe, however something had hit our propeller. We managed to get a GoPro under the boat for some footage, and Paul went to bring it up on the laptop while I focused on getting the boat sailing properly. He called me down, and brought up a still-frame from the footage. Our beautiful Penelope, commendable and widely admired for having three beautifully sculpted blades, now only had two. I was genuinely shocked, as our prop is a heavy-duty affair, and while I’d been expecting to see some form of fishing gear hanging off it, I certainly didn’t anticipate that it had so comprehensively lost a blade. Not good.

We had decided to sail around the back of the island to seek some shelter from the worst of the weather, and this gave us a chance to mentally regroup and work through some options. However, our progress was so slow in the lee of the Gran Canaria without proper additional propulsion from Penelope that our ability to make a daylight arrival in the new marina disappeared. Rather than attempt to berth a boat with zero ability to go in astern, in the dark, in what was a fully exposed marina entrance to the Force 7, we made the call to anchor up in a sheltered spot, and deal with tomorrow tomorrow. Seb sorted out a top meal for all, and the first half-decent nights sleep in 2 weeks was had for most.

Seb and I got up at 5am the next morning, stealthily weighed anchor in our still dark and unknown little stretch of coast, and began ghosting our way South along the coast. We were soon joined by Joe, and had a really quite civilised morning with lots of coffee and the last of the Christmas cake for breakfast.

That didn’t last long as we rounded the corner of Gran Canaria and got hit by full wind again! Joe proved his colours as a true hooligan behind the wheel, driving Disco fully powered up and hard on the wind, making life incredibly uncomfortable for everyone down below, but incredibly fun (albeit wet) for all on deck! A fast but indirect morning was spent tacking towards our final destination. The shore team were already there, having arranged for us to go straight alongside the tidal wall by the fuel dock right in the marina entrance. The best of a bad lot, but a very big concrete wall dead downwind of 30kts, so far from easy. Lots of fenders, lots of lines, lots of briefing, and we made our approach. We slowed the boat as much as possible with no real astern ability, but it definitely matched the anchorage manoeuvre in terms of stress levels! The team did great getting the lines on first time and stopping the boat on the wall, which was much better than the alternative of wiping out the whole marina. Finally, alongside somewhere!

Well, almost… The fully exposed tidal wall wasn’t a great place to be, and the swell and wind created a very difficult situation trying to secure the boat. We ended up using pretty much every trick we knew, cutting guard-wires off so lines could run straight to winches, the kedge anchor made an appearance, distributing the loads between cleats and winches, all sorts. Lines were breaking under the forces being exerted on poor Disco, and when the heavyweight mooring lines are exploding under load you know it’s not a good place to be!

Things started to settle down overnight, and by morning all the winches and cleats were miraculously still attached to the deck. We arranged to move to the other side of the marina entrance, which would afford us more shelter and a better working space to sort the boat out. Once again, the team played a blinder getting the boat turned around with lines alone on the entrance wall, a good 20kts still blowing through. We then managed to half ferry-glide, half move on lines across the marina entrance to our new home. The really good news is that we’re now right next to the bar, where I am having a moment of decompression and several beers after a rather challenging few days. The cleaning has begun, and tomorrow we will properly address our jobs list and formulate a strategy to deal with propeller situation, so we can be on our way across the Atlantic without delay.

Apologies for the lack of update while all this was going on, but all resources were diverted to dealing with the situations as they unfolded. We’ll have the boat ready to go in no time, and both the team and myself can’t wait to head out across ‘The Pond’, hopefully in sunshine with the wind behind us, just for a change!

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