Barbados 50 Rally
Sep. 12, 2016
Meeting Jimmy Cornell and the Rally Organizers and Registrants
We arrived mid afternoon on Sunday, September 11th at Marina Lanzarote after a short sail from our anchorage at the north end of the island. After med-mooring and tying our lines, we were welcomed by Jimmy Cornell himself. For those of our readers who may not know, Jimmy Cornell is well known in the sailing community having authored several books including the World Cruising Routes, a book that most of us would be world cruisers will have in our limited library on board.
After registering with the marina office and the rally event organizers, we were given our registration package which included the scheule of the upcoming week of events. Jimmy and his crew of organizers planned a week of seminars that were open to all registrants. Interesting stuff like Energy Conservation, Downwind Sailing, Making Money While Cruising, and much more. Jimmy’s daughter, Doina, did a special seminar on what it was like for her growing up on a sailboat. Later in the week, Jimmy talked about his sail through the North West Passage, which was quite interesting.
The week also encompassed a trip to a nearby volcano (inactive, of course). According to the information sign at the site, La Caldera de Los Cuervos, was the first volcano to emerge from the eruption of Timanfaya (1730-1736). The organized tour took us up a path and right into the middle of the volcano. Next we visited a local artists market before returning to the marina.
Most evenings were spent socializing and getting to know the other rally participants, who we would surely become fast friends with after spending so much time together. On the following Saturday after our arrival in Lanzarote, we were given a private demonstration of a helicopter rescue by the local coast guard. We were then able to do a walk through of the rescue helicopter.
Our friends from S/Y Bella Luna, Roland and Vicky, had arrived in the marina for a short stay on their way to the south end of the island. We were able to spend some unexpected social time with them as well.
On Sunday, all the rally participants boarded a bus to the south end of the island where we then boarded a ferry to the neighboring island of Futureventura. This island does not have large enough marinas or anchorages to accommodate a rally of our size, so rather than miss it altogether, a land tour was organized for a small additional cost. We visited sand dunes and learned a little about the island. We were back in Lanzarote before dusk and in time to meet our friend Shawn Hughes who would join us aboard BnG for the first few Canary island hops. A departure party was planned for this evening and we all felt very excited about the beginning of our Atlantic passage.
We rented a car the following day to give Shawn a small taste of the island of Lanzarote before we depart. We visited the home of the local artist, Cesar Manrique, as well as tour some local wineries. We enjoyed a nice dinner that evening then headed back to the boat to get an early nights rest. Best laid plans and all.
Wednesday, Sept. 21st, the rally boats were scheduled to depart just after noon, so we made a quick trip to the local market to get some last minute provisions with Shawn. Our day started later than planned, due to a cruiser drinking event the night before aboard catamaran La Mischief, with new friends Steve and Dee. Those Austrailians sure know how to throw a party! Other new friends Kim and Simon on S/Y AURA were also unable to leave on schedule due to an issue with their sail drive which meant they would need a last minute haul out. Fortunately, they were still able to leave later that same day. Other than AURA, we were the last rally boat to leave the marina. Once our provisions were all on board, we would stow them underway, we released our lines and set off by 14:30. We quickly met up with the other yachts on the 150 nautical mile passage to Gran Canaria. Then we proceeded to pass them all and arrive first at our destination, just in time for lunch the next day, much to the chagrin of some of the other boats who thought they were faster than our “heavy" boat!
We spent two and a half days in Gran Canaria touring on foot as well as by rental car. We found a Harley store where Shawn had some fun picking out a new t-shirt. I got a kick out of the symbols on the bathroom doors! You will have to check out our pictures to see what I mean! We checked out the beaches and the shops in Las Palmas, and drove along the curvy roads of the island. We checked out the small town of Santa Lucia before heading back to the marina. We departed Grand Canaria just after breakfast with a heading for Tenerife. The marina in Tenerife was very nice, with imacculately groomed hedges along the walkway. We raised our flags to dress up the boat, as did many of the other boats in the rally. It was quite a sight! We asked about any organized tours with the rally committee, and they indicated that nothing specific was planned and we were on our own. So we walked into town and found the Hop On Hop Off Tour bus and purchased 3 tickets for $21/each to see Santa Cruz de Tenerife. We saw some interesting names of hotels, a variety of cactus, interresting architecture, a very modern opera house or outdoor theatre which had similarities to the opera house in Sydney Australia.
Since our friend Shawn would be leaving us here to fly back to Canada, we decided to rent a car and extend our touring to other parts of the island as well. We learned about the Grafitational Landslide Theory referring to the volcanoes that no longer exist on the island due to a landslide that happenned more than 500,000 years ago. The layers of earth and varieties of rock are very evident as we drove into the Teide National Park. We took a gondola ride to just below the peak of Mount Teide. Finding parking here was a feat of its own! Once at the top, the view was breathtaking. You could hike even further to the top, but we didn’t have the best shoes for the journey, so we opted out. The ride itself was a lot of fun. Everyone would make oohing and yiping noises as we approached the dips in the gondola line. Later we had a wonderful lunch at La Tasquita de Mami on the north east side of the island before dropping Shawn off at the airport for his 5pm flight. Robert and I hit the Lidl grocery store and stocked up with a few more provisions.
Since we had a few days booked in Tenerife, one of the other cruisers in the rally offered to do a sushi class for everyone where we learned how to cut the fish for sushi rolls, and prepare the rice. Afterward everyone feasted, even Jimmy.
Prior to leaving Tenerife, the captains of each of the boats got together to discuss weather tactics and sail trim. Robert led much of the discussion, but as expected, everyone had their own ideas of how to trim their sails. The next day this would all be put to the test as we all sailed to the next Canary Island, La Gomera.
A bus tour was organized for us on La Gomera where we learned about how the farming is done in tiers over the island. We stopped at a restaurant with a glass section that jutted out over the cliffside, with a glass floor. Made my knees knock a little to walk out over it. While there we discovered that the older generations of farmers living on the island had a way to communicate by whistling. This was demonstrated to us by having one of the employees leave the room while we hid a couple of personal items (wallet, sunglasses) in view of the other employee. The first guy then game out of hiding and was directed through this whistling language on where to find the hidden items. It was pretty impressive. Next we enjoyed a nature walk through a rainforest and then bussed up to one of the steepest points which had us inside the cloud line. The roads were so narrow that at one point an oncoming bus had to reverse back down a way in order to make room for our bus to pass. We had just joked about the possibility of this happenning right before it did. Be careful what you wish for!
On to the next island, we sailed to La Palma. I was not aware of it at the time, but one of the couples from another boat in the rally had flown home for a few days while we were in Tenerife, and had returned bringing with them a nasty flu bug. Unfortunately for me, I cought it and would be out of commission for the next three days. Robert was left on his own to tour the island of La Palma.
Our last Canary island was El Hierro. It was here that we picked up our crew member, Steve, who would join us for the remainder of the Atlantic crossing passage. We had met Steve and his wife Sue while in Turkey during the Eastern Mediterranean Yacht Rally (EMYR), and he had expressed an interest in having an Atlantic passage checked off his bucket list. Having a third person aboard would mean easier shift schedules, not to mention the added safety. We had hoped that both Steve and Sue would have joined us for the passage, but Sue had no interest in that many days at sea. Regardless, we were happy to have Steve join the boat.
Sailing the Cape Verdes Islands
We departed earlier than planned from El Hierro due to an impending storm heading our way. The marina in El Hierro, Puerto Deportivo, was at the south end and completely open for a storm coming up from the south. A few other captains followed our lead and headed out to face whatever was coming our way at sea rather than in the port. Our plan was to head south east and that should get us out of the main path of the blow if we could make good time. The only problem with this plan was that it would take us closer to the African coast than we would like. Conditions are not too stable in the region and a prize like a cruising boat would be a good find. Fortunately, a safe passage was experienced by all Barbados 50 fleet.
It only took a day and a half out to lose all our good sailing wind, so the iron sail (our motor) took over once again. A lot of fishing and great sunsets made the passage south very enjoyable, other than the drum of the engine. When we were one day out from Mindelo, Cape Verde we hooked up with a huge pod of dolphins. From calves to full adults, they dazzled us with shows of flips and jumps that would put a smile on anyone’s face. They stayed with us all the way to our first site of land. We have never had dolphins stay with us for such a long time! There was one brief moment when they seemed to disappear. We thought, as with most dolphin sightings, that the show must be over. Then, all of a sudden the fishing rod sounded zzzzzzz. We asked Steve to take the rod while Robert would slow the boat. With great disparity he said he could not hold it. Robert then took over and tried to do what he has done many times before, but the line was running like mad! Then, all at once, it slowed. He was realing like mad when we noticed the line was now in front of the boat and whatever we had hooked started to run again! It as like a bad movie! "CUT THE LINE!”, Robert yelled, "CUT THE $%^%#%^ LINE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”. I ran for the scissors and cut the line. Then it was quiet. It was actually a great relief, even if we lost our best lure. "Never thought it would feel good to say goodbye to a $40 lure!”, Robert sighed. "What the hell was that?!????”, I asked. Then, after a couple of conflicting and confused minutes, the dolphins were back. We figured it must have been a sailfish or something like it. It was big and fast. Not something we would ever want on the boat.
We sailed into Mindelo just before 16:00 (4pm) on the 18th of October. Just over 5 days for the 946 nautical mile trip. The marina had a spot for us as the Rally Control had organized placement of the boats before our arrival. The part they failed to tell us was that only 4 of the 10 days we would be in Mindelo were covered by the rally fee. Big boats can be costly in Marinas. We considered taking the boat out to anchor, but were asked by the Rally Control not to start changing things. Robert cursed them later when we discovered that there was sooooooo much surge in the Marina making it a real challenge to get on and off the boat. Lines squealing and fenders squeaking made for a less than comfortable stay. The tour of the island was very interesting and we learned a lot of history about this “ Dry" Island. So called because the explorers found that it was a very hard place to survive without fresh water. It was soon abandoned in search for better lands to settle. With minimal fresh water and food, a lot of slaves were kicked off the ships to fend for themselves. Today it is still difficult and they are always facing the issue that there is not enough fresh water. They capture as much water as they can and ship in the rest. The town where the marina is, appeared to be quite poor. It was recommended that you go out at night only in groups. The predominant trade was definitely prostitution. A crew member from one of the rally boats experienced this first hand, and lost his wallet, watch, cell phone and shoes. To make matters worse, he hadn't turned on the location services on his iPhone 6 or we might have stood a chance to recover it.
The manager of the Marina put on a wonderful welcome party with drumming and dancing by some very talented dancers. Robert thought they were pretty, I was told they were pretty. The costumes, or lack thereof, surely had his attention! Oh, and the drinks were a little more than a punch, if you know what I mean. One was enough.
We were all very eager to get the Cape Verdes islands tour started. After the captains meeting and review Robert felt that a couple of the planned stops were bad ideas. Another rally boat planned to follow our lead on the choice of island stops, so off we sailed on our own version of the Cape Verde tour. The first anchorage at St. Antao just outside Tarafal had us on a lea shore (winds blowing inland) with huge rolling waves which made landfall with the dinghy too dangerous in our opinion. Some boats had dry bags and swam ashore to be able to walk down to the town. Note to self.....need to get some dry bags on BnG. Local fisherman offered a lobster dinner and transportation which rivalled the price of a 5 star restaurant. We took a pass. One night was long enough, so the next day we set sail for Tarafal Santiago. Other boats headed to the second island on the planned tour, Bravo, but we decided to skip that island for our safety, and our boats safety. Later reports from those yachts told us we had made the right decision. Because of the way they had to tie the boats up against a cement wall, and raft off each other, many boats incurred damage. SY Aura and BnG headed directly to Santiago.
The anchorage at Santiago was fairly well protected and has good holding. Most of the Cape Verde islands are very poor, and Santiago is no exception. It is screaming for tourists, but has little to offer. As a tourist we felt somewhat taken advantage of for our dollars. You feel like you have a target on your wallet and you have to do everything you can to protect it. We had an energetic guy come along side the boat and offer us an island tour. We thought, here is someone really trying to make a business for himself. So we negotiated what it was we wanted to see, and for the number of people in our group (our boat and Aura). It was to include a pick up and drop off at the boats. We shook hands and the deal was made for first thing the next day. Sure enough at 8:00 the next morning they came to pick us up on our boat and then headed over to the other boat, AURA, which was included in our arrangement. The surge was incredible and we were surely glad we did not have to make a dingy landing. Now, picture five of us in the back of a caged pick up truck. Better yet, check out our pictures! We kind of felt like livestock heading for slaughter. An open air market revealed the poverty on this island. Away from tourist traps we saw the real island. We watched as a lady killed and plucked and then butchered chickens. A bit disturbing to watch. Two hours later when we stopped for lunch, we seemed to block those memories out as we all enjoyed fresh bbq chicken.
Visiting the capital was a real eye opener. We all prayed the truck we were in would not break down. All valuables were stowed in well zipped backpacks that we basically hid from sight. Unfortunately this meant that there are not many pictures of what we experienced. Upon our return to the pickup point, we were told that in order for a boat to take us back out to our boats, the cost would be an extra $40. Robert lost it and told the guy that what we had negotiated with him had included the boat ride back. We then reminded him that we were the first two boats in a fleet of yachts that would be arriving the next day and unless he honoured our original deal, we would not be recommending his tour to the newly arriving rally boats. Needless to say, we were taken back out to our boats at no extra cost.
It was good to see the real way of life on this tiny island, but very nice to leave unscathed.
We pulled up anchor and departed Santiago late in the day on Nov 1st to sail through the night and arrive the next morning at Sao Nicolau. Our plan was to stay at anchor here for a few extra days, rather than return to Mindelo and pay marina fees. Sao Nicolau has a beautiful beach, although landing there with a dinghy was a bit of a challenge. We watched as many of the other Rally participants attempted this beach landing with great difficulty and one flip over. It definitely took some talent to land well. One afternoon, when most of the fleet had made the effort to come to the beach for a bonfire and happy hour, we took a big goup photo on one of the large sand hills.
The remiander of our time in Sao Nicolau we spend doing some boat maintenance, cleaning the bottom, waxing the sides, and general organization of the boat for a long crossing.
Back in Mindelo by the 7th of November to do some final provisioning and get ready for the start of our Atlantic crossing. The next day a diner was planned with some acrobatic dancers to entertain us. Many were anxious for our departure the next morning, so it was not a late night. We would leave the confines of the marina before noon on the Nov. 9th, and sail out into the open Atlantic Ocean.
Where is BnG now?
We cannot direct the wind, we can only adjust our sails