last week in Lagos was quite tense, broken only by the occasional walk down
the beautiful coast. We had delayed our departure several times through bad
weather and we began to believe we would never leave.
retrospect we planned our passage very well - we developed a good system for
tracking and analysing the forecasts, we gathered information on alternative
ports, we carried extra diesel and our departure time and date gave us a
better passage than many others - but at the time, as we watched other boats
come and go, we started to believe that the weather was ok and we had lost
eventually departed in company with “Blue Iguana” and “Belmore” on Thursday
20th October at 1230ut into a north-westerly wind and a lumpy confused sea.
Given that the wind was forecast to back to the southwest for a time before
settling to a favourable north-easterly we headed out west in the hope of
gaining enough room to be able to sail this headwind when it arrived. Not
unlike our departure from
to cross Biscay the awkward cross sea and overcast sky mixed with our
apprehension at this long passage soon challenged our stomachs. Nat was
unwell and I limited my queasy visits to the chart table and galley as much
as possible. It would be difficult to make a cheese sandwich any faster than
I did on that first day! Around
we had some anxious moments as we tried to cross a 20 mile long convoy of
large ships heading for
Gibraltar – after an hour we finally found a gap in the traffic and raced
Friday was spent either motoring or sailing in reduced wind and although the
sea remained confused we settled into the routine of the boat and felt much
Saturday the headwind arrived and we found ourselves sailing slowly in the
wrong direction - towards Africa.
Around this time we noticed that the propeller shaft was rattling and
letting in water, and we got a weather forecast detailing a storm due to hit
the Canaries in only four days time. For a short while, the problems seemed
insurmountable and we dreamed of a little house in
with a fire and a bath. But then, just as the things seemed at their worst,
the sails filled, the boat stiffened, and the wind veered allowing us to
make a better course. We started to smile. Before long the wind was behind
us and we worked hard to spread out a large area of sail. Free Spirit
accelerated pushing through the waves with determination. Our new speed
promised an arrival before the storm and closer inspection of the prop shaft
suggested, with regular observation, it could wait. As the hours passed, and
we realised that this fair wind was here to stay, we left our doubts and
worries behind and looked ahead to the horizon and to our next landfall.
remainder of the trip we settled into a pleasant routine. Our watch system
split the night into two parts with me covering 2200-0200 and Nat awake
0200-0600. During the day I watched from 0700-1300 and Nat from 1400-2000.
Between these periods were times for us to enjoy meals together.
Since the second day we had spoken to Nick and Ellen on “Kika” over the
radio twice daily. They were heading from Gibraltar to the Canaries at the
same time and our chats were always fun. During our night watches I danced
around cockpit while listening to loud music through the headphones of Nat’s
Ipod and gazing at the millions of stars overhead. The shooting stars were
breathtaking as they left a trail from one side of the sky to the other.
During the day we tended the sails, read and watched birds fly past skimming
dawn on the fifth day land appeared out of the haze: the Canaries! The wind
died and we motored the last few hours into the small harbour of Caleta del
Sebo on the island of Graciosa , arriving at 1300ut – exactly five days
after our departure from Portugal.
See below for daily logs
while on passage.