After a laborious solo sailing journey down to Lisbon, I met up with Raquel, who had had to leave for work for a bit. Let’s look back on the 4 months of modest adventures from Portugal to the Canaries, which included collecting our belongings, big work on the boatyard and a 5-day crossing.
Meeting again in Caiscais
We left Caiscais on the 14th of July on a one night crossing aboard Menyr towards Lagos. We were lucky to see a fin whale and its calf, a moonfish, dolphins… But thankfully no killer whales! We had just missed them and they were in Galicia now!
Once darkness had set, so had a thick fog, which gave us a chance to test the radar in real conditions. It worked very well as we managed to see the boats in the same positions as on the AIS, which was great! When the radar broke down an hour later, thankfully the fog had lifted and we recognised that the issue of obsolescence had become a real concern aboard.
In the mornign we passed the mythical Cape Sao Vicente and then, after two or three anchorages in front of the beaches where we used to surf, we anchored just in front of Lagos.
As our bow thruster was malfunctioning, I asked for a berth needing the simplest manoeuvre as possible. The pontoon of honour was allocated to us, so we could very easily moor along side the pontoon, and we finally arrived safely in port – easy peazy!
There, we had good conditions to work, get our things out of storage and sort it.
So our first major goal has been achieved, and we’re back where we were with Øya: in Lagos!
We hired a car and while I worked Raquel managed to empty 3/4 of the storage space. I finished the job the next day while she worked.
We returned the keys to the storage unit and all we have to do now is to sort out our belongings, which are lying in a heap on the pontoon.
Noise and collision at the pontoon of honour
During the summer, the Portuguese trade winds blow steadily. While in the morning there’s not a wisp of air, from midday to 6-7pm there are 20 knots well established.
The pontoon of honour is nice in name only, because in practice we’re just in the harbour passage, by the bridge that opens and closes all day to let dozens of tourist boats and other yachtsmen pass.
The noise here is maddening, and it’s impossible for me to concentrate on the computer. To fix that situation I decided to invest in a quality pair of noise-cancelling headphones. Back from my purchase and with the headphones barely configured, I was ready to test them during a meeting I’d organised myself. That’s when I saw an old sailboat of around 14m coming straight towards us bow first, crosswind and obviously menacing. I threw myself off the computer, shouted “reverse” and pushed the bow of the Irishman to cushion the impact.
Inevitably, the boat scraped against the rubbing strake of Menyr’s cleat and twisted the stainless steel stanchion next to it like butter. The stars have aligned so that the collision was made on a part that was designed to take a beating (the rubbing strake) and I also don’t understand how the ‘attacker’ s’ anchor didn’t get caught on the railing. If that had been the case, the repairs needed would have been on another level.
In short, the crazy boat fought against the wind, one way and then the other, hitting a pontoon and another boat before managing to dock at the quayside. The person on board was very friendly and naturally paid up for the damage. Twenty minutes later, a 50-foot boat almost passed under the bridge, also pushed by the wind…. Here you have the honour of being in the way!
Note: the repair was finally completed two months later, with shipping costs twice as high as the part. Clearly Beneteau is remarkably good at building and selling boats but particularly mediocre at sending parts to travelling customers. That’s just the way it is.
Lack of confidence following the Nazaré trauma and damage to the bow thruster. I should have asked my friends for help and worked up the courage to put the boat in a ‘normal’ place, in a calm place, away from the passage and sheltered from the wind. The result was that I had to change a stanchion, I didn’t sleep well and we had trouble concentrating to work.Analysis
On a good note, we managed to sell the dinghy that came with Menyr, a few trinkets and gave away most of the other things we had in duplicate. We’ve lost a lot of money here!
The main thing is done: we’ve got our stuff back! But when will we get some rest?
Makeshift repairs before the boatyard
On the 30th of July, we finally left the pontoon of honour and set off for Portimao. We anchored in the dirty water of the river and returned to a relative calm.
During the previous weeks, I had been able to carry out my technical survey and read up on the bow thruster. I found a way to diagnose the fault and found the wires to connect together to make it work without going through the buttons. I then deduced that the control panel was the cause of the fault and ordered a new one. As ours is obviously obsolete and is no longer manufactured, I had no choice but to order one that ‘should do it’.
I take advantage of the calm of the river to study the wiring of the new thruster controller with my multimeter. I quickly realised that it wasn’t compatible with our thruster, so I’d have to adapt it. That’s when I met OndaNautica, the Volvo Penta mechanic who was going to drain my pockets for the next two months. That said, he was able to supply me with two electrical relays that enabled me to change the logic of the new controller and get the bow thruster working again!
We did the operation as best we could, but in the end our makeshift repair worked!
Portimão: very expensive work
The next morning, we took Menyr to the shipyard crane to put her out to dry. OndaNautica came to see our leaks: the gasket in the middle of the engine had to be changed, so the engine had to be taken out. A 5-figure estimate, of course.
I ask for the antifouling to be redone, with the option of polishing the gel coats and stainless steel; and off we go on a family holiday. Finally some real rest!
Three days into the holiday, my herniated disc flares up for the first time in 8 years.
Now cut the crap, don’t move!The message from my body
Back from holiday at the beginning of September, with my back still in knots, we’re living aboard, two metres above the ground. I’m confident in the quality delivered by OndaNautica, which seems to be up to the Volvo Penta standard, unlike Nautic Kim. There are still a few details to sort out, such as the liferaft, which needs to be overhauled and moved. The wiring on the bow thruster needs to be redone, as I’d done it at anchor and didn’t have the electrical power to do any proper soldering.
I’d like to get a welder to build a chainplate for the forestay, but no one is responding to my requests for quotes. In fact, the boat market is so saturated that the professionals have too many customers, they just don’t care. I’m more than fed up with giving out money in Portugal, we’re talking thousands and the service is the same as if we were talking hundreds or dozens. Portimao’s infrastructure is fine, there’s the Portuguese boatyard and ours (basically the one dedicated to the tourists). On our boatyard there’s a list of professionals authorised to work and their rates are of course much higher than the ‘normal Portuguese rate’. I accept my position as a tourist, but in the long run it’s tiring. I’ve been there three times, twice with Øya and once with Menyr!
In September I took another plane to meet my client, and 10 days later we welcomed our crew.
Crossing to the Canaries
Three crew members, Raquel and myself. We welcomed them happily and cast off the next day. They arrived with the on-board pharmacy that I had ordered from Dr Vincent Délire. A very expensive pharmacy, but essential for our programme. We filled up with water and diesel and ate our last restaurant meal in Portugal. This was on the 10th of October 2023.
The weather forecast is average: we’re going to miss out on the wind. It’s a good opportunity to test the just renewed engine! We set off with a bit of wind all the same, which is good for morale: I watch the Portuguese coastline recede into the distance with satisfaction. We made headway until we left the orcas territory, i.e. when we had left the continental shelf, where we were having around 3,000 metres under the keel.
The road to Morocco
To get to the Canaries from Portugal, the situation is simple: either there is wind on the Madeira side, or on the Moroccan side. So there are two possible routes. In our case, there wasn’t much wind forecast either in Madeira or in Morocco… So I decided to take the Moroccan route; at best we had an onshore breeze, at worst we ate a tajine while waiting for the wind. In any case, as we sailed along Morocco, we were able to pick up a weather report from the telephone network and see how the forecast was evolving.
We spent two and a half days motoring… The first night we had a breakdown that was quickly sorted out. The alternator was no longer charging because a terminal had not been tightened properly. The next day a mainsail traveller came undone.
But, caught two bonitos which we enjoyed as sashimi! We hardly came across any boats.
Along the coast of Morocco, at night, we passed a constellation of small fishermen’s boats. They all have a small light that they switch on when a ship approaches them. We understand that a “flagship” follows the fleet and is equipped with the proper running lights. I’m sure they use it as a guide in the dark, on their little boats out to sea, and I think they’re pretty brave.
New weather report
As we approached the coast, nearly all of us paid 60 euros for accessing 10Mb of data on our phones. Except for me, who got charged 270 euros on my Orange Pro package plus 60 on my personal Bouygues Telecom package. I should have thought of that: 330 euros for 30MB! We came within two nautical miles of the coast and the depth sounder showed 34m, but we never saw the Moroccan coast due to fog!
The weather forecast announced a little wind on the way to Lanzarote, so we set a direct course for it. It’s blowing nicely and Menyr, with her brand new antifouling, is gliding along wonderfully under ideal conditions! We got a fishing net stuck in the keel, and after 45 minutes we managed to get rid of it without even cutting it.
The next night, we saw the lights of Lanzarote for the first time. Surprisingly very few in fact! Usually the light pollution is such that you can see the towns twenty miles away from the coast. In Lanzarote it is not the case; the lights we could see were car headlights and a few houses.
As we were approaching the island, the coast guard called us on the radio to ask us to divert our course and confirm the position of a migrant boat. I decide to accept and we set course for the given position, which was very close to “Roque del Este” – a rock to the north-east of Lanzarote which is also a nature reserve. I wake everyone up to keep a careful watch. However, the coastguard called us back before we reached our objective to demobilise us as they sent a helicopter instead. We were relieved because the migrants were 14 people crammed into a tiny boat and panic can quickly turn into tragedy.
The helicopter waved to us as it passed overhead, and an hour later we dropped anchor in Lanzarote.
I’ve been trying to reach the Canaries for three years, and now it’s done!
A gentle end to the year 2023
We anchored for a few days, a little surprised by the really dry landscape! Cacti replaced the trees and stones replaced scrubland.
Then we moored at the port of Puerto Calero. Here we find the same English people as in Portugal, pubs and fish and chips; they really are everywhere!
The pace of work returned to normal. We visited the island and its volcanoes, and I felt very out of place. I hadn’t really looked at the photos before leaving because I wanted to leave more than arrive, but once we got there the surprise was total: lava fields as far as the eye can see!
The routine soon set in, just like November. We welcome my friends Jojo and Cléa who come to visit us. That’s it, we’re enjoying the benefits of our yacht: we can welcome guests properly!
A week later it’s the friends from Grenoble who come to visit us. We’d given Menyr a thorough clean to make it presentable, but the very morning they came, the water heater decided to turn up the pressure. A hose gave way and, like a pressure cooker whose valve has just been removed, a good part of the 28 litres of the water heater released steam and spread behind all the woodwork. The varnish buckled and the boat, which had been clean and dry, had to be cleaned and dried again.
A welcome break from our struggles, we rented a large villa for the thirteen of us friends and visited the island again. We’ll deal with the water heater later!
A new problem has appeared: cockroaches. Here they’re big and ugly! You can see them wandering around the quay in the evenings, but luckily we’re a long way down our pontoon. Regardless, one day I found one in my wetsuit in the cockpit. Another day I found another on the deck.
War has been declared, there’s no way these bugs can colonise our home! So we’re armed with traps of all kinds and insecticides ready to be drawn.
As a preventive method, we unpack our shopping on the pontoon and disinfect each item with vinegar before putting them on board. The cardboard boxes don’t reach the edge because cockroaches love to lay their eggs there: these boxes then go straight into the bin. We also disinfect our shoes and they are not allowed inside. The housekeeping is even more meticulous.
After a month in Lanzarote, we’re no longer feeling out of place. It’s pretty but it’s still a lifeless rock, so we were ready to change scenery.
Next up is the port of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. There, we’ll do the major work we still have to do: change the rigging, build a stern structure, install a windvane gear, maybe change the teak… But of course we’ll start with the water heater!