Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Tropical Storm Delta

The storm hit us and Tenerife last night around 8pm.
The strength of the wind was incredible, with the gusts filling the air with debris. The deafening noise of the wind was frightening. I wasn't watching the wind speed indicator but other people clocked 65-75knots of wind in the harbour. We survived with only the loss of the barbeque lid - we stupidly forgot to take it in, despite spending most of the day preparing Kika. Other people haven't fared as well, with many of the finger pontoons breaking away and boats bashing against each other during the night. The prefab shower block was blown 10m; so cockpit showers from now on. We feel really lucky that we picked a pontoon that didn't significantly break up.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Storm bound in Tenerife

We've been working hard provisioning and completing boat preparations in anticipation that we'd leave for the Caribbean as soon as we could. On Wednesday when the canvas work was well underway, it looked as though everything would be ready to leave by today (Sunday). The good news is that we're ready to leave - the bad news is that weather isn't. Tropical storm Delta is heading our way, meaning that even if we decided to leave now, we'd be suffering from strong, if not gale force, head-winds in a couple of days as we sail south down the coast of Africa towards the Cape Verdes.

Storm Delta
Storm Delta

So we've decided to stay put, along with the majority of the yachts here, until trade winds re-establish themselves - probably towards the end of next week. As we're leaving later than we'd planned, we're considering heading straight for Martinique rather than stopping in the Cape Verdes.

Atlantic preparations

Kika now has a bimini (a cockpit sun shade). Despite our bimini maker, Miguel's, lack of English and my infamous Spench, we somehow managed to communicate successfully and we're pleased with the final result. Completing the bimini means we've ticked-off all the major items on the to-do list, which is a great weight off my mind - now I can concentrate on studying the weather for the crossing to the Caribbean.

Bimini in place
Bimini in place

Originally we'd planned to complete everything before leaving Southampton, then before we headed across Biscay, then before we headed to the Canaries... In the event we left Southampton with most of the new equipment only partially installed and a couple of the instruments which were working well when we bought Kika, waiting to be reconnected. It didn´t help that I read A Voyage for Madmen soon after we set off and felt a little like Donald Crowhurst setting off with cable runs everywhere, but nothing connected. Talking to other boats it appears to be a common theme - there comes a time when you have to leave and providing the boat is sea-worthy, all other jobs are postponed until the next opportunity.

Here's a record of what we've been up-to:
What?Completed where?
New stoveSouthampton
Detachable inner-forestay for storm jibSouthampton
Inserted insulators in the backstay for the SSBSouthampton
Additional batteries with a series regulator for the engine start batterySouthampton
New high-output (140A) alternator with 'smart' regulatorSouthampton
Battery monitor, and the rewiring required for the battery monitor shuntSouthampton
New circuit breaker panel covering radar, heater, VHF & radio, SSB, Sea-me and inverterFalmouth
Duogen wind/water generatorDartmouth
SSB radio and modemFalmouth
Wind-vane self-steeringCorme
Cockpit archGibraltar
Solar panelGraciosa
Twin head-sail, trade-wind rigTenerife

Thanks to all those who have helped out along the way.

Re-wired battery compartment
Re-wired battery compartment

On-going maintenance

Before we left Gibraltar I noticed that the sea-cocks under the sink were leaking - not significantly - in fact more of a weep than a leak, but still something to be concerned about. So not having time to fully investigate I tightened them and the leak stopped. When I finally got round to inspecting the sea-cocks again in Lanzarote I discovered my lack of experience had meant I'd overtightened them and now they wouldn't budge. They were stuck open. I had visions of requiring the boat to be hauled out of the water or at the minimum spending many hours diving under the boat trying to free them. Fortunately Mark regularly services his sea-cocks and and helped me out. A days work resulted in two smoothly running, leak-free sea-cocks, without a trip under or out of the the water.

As a friend of Mark's said, cruising is about fixing your boat in exotic locations - we're looking forward to the exotic locations.

Winch overhaul
Winch overhaul

As well as boat maintenance, Ellen has been busy working out how much pasta, cans of tomatoes and plasters we need to sustain us, before we arrive to sample to the delicacies on offer in the Caribbean. Apart from a final trip to the market for fresh fruit and veg, we're ready to go and Ellen´s confident we won´t have to resort to some of my more desparate concoctions.

Small proportion of Quartermaster Ellen´s stores
Small proportion of Quartermaster Ellen´s stores

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


We had become quite comfortable at Marina Rubicon in Lanzarote having got to know the bar staff in Cafe del Mar, enjoyed the extensive laundry facilities and the range of decent restaurants just a stone´s throw away from the boat. We appreciated the friendly, secure atmosphere. It was really 'nice', so nice that we were disinclined to leave if the weather was less than perfect. Well, as you know, it's never perfect, so for a while it looked like that was our new address: Pontoon 10E, Marina Rubicon, Rubicon Street, Lanzagrotty! Our near neighbours, Free Spirit however, were due to reconnoitre with their fellow Arc-ists in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria and we were due.....well nowhere really, but had decided to avoid the crowds and head to Santa Cruz, Tenerife, which looked interesting and a likely place for provisioning and last minute preps before the big leap south. We arrived on Tuesday after a difficult 24 hour passage from Lanzarote during which both of us had felt, and been, sick. We had set off into a big sea, and we never got chance to acclimatise. I had planned to practise some ideas for passing the time during the Atlantic crossing, but found myself once again incapacitated by nausea which could only be alleviated by lying horizontally somewhere (anywhere) on the boat. Not conducive to star-gazing or practising my French (just 2 of the many things in store for us on the crossing.) So once again Neptune pooped on my plans - not too encouraging for the passage to come but I have faith that the sea-leg fairy shall visit before day 3 of the big passage is over, just like she did over Biscay.

First sight of Tenerife

So, we reached landfall and suddenly realised how thirsty we had both been to see greenery! We drank in the view of the green jagged mountains whose misty summits suggested a level of moisture we had really missed. I had no idea Tenerife was so beautiful! Did you know Spain's highest mountain is on Tenerife? Pico Del Teide (3,718m) It's snow-capped and we have discussed climbing (or something) to the summit just to get some feeling of festive spirit as I seem to be perpetually stuck in July! Santa Cruz is not 'nice' but I like it. It's hard to say why because it's busy ( the Arc rally may not be leaving from here but unbeknown to us, 2 other large rallies are), its not cheap, the facilities are pretty awful (3 washers though - top loaders!), we have no finger pontoon (ie we have to climb onto the pulpit to get aboard), and we are about 10m away from the ferry terminal BUT we are fitting into life in Santa Cruz. In Marina Rubicon, life was fitted around us. Its existence relied on and was governed by people like us, whereas you get the feeling that, despite the hordes of cruisers, this is what life is really like in Sta Cruz. It's the Real McCoy, and here, the Real McCoy happens to be pretty pleasant. As we had hoped, there are some serious chandleries and sailmakers where we can get our sails and bimini sorted.

Explaining bimini requirements in fluent ´Spench´

There are also plenty of independent cruisers like us who are eager to swap ideas and knowledge, so, it should be a good departure point for the next leg - Canaries to the Cape Verdes (about 1000 nautical miles).

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Guest Entry: Jenny and Brian in Lanzarote (3rd-10th Nov)

When Nick and Ellen reported that they were heading for Isla Graciosa off the northern end of Lanzarote we decided it was time to book a trip out. At that stage somewhere near the middle of the east coast seemed the best spot. There was a hint that they would be going down to Arrecife so we booked for a week in Costa Teguise.

Before we left the UK Kika had gone down to Marina Rubicon at Playa Blanca, right at the Southern tip of the island! Thanks to a regular bus service and Nick's hire car we were able to visit them on three separate occasions. The first, by bus, laden with two rucksacs containing all the numerous items brought out for boat and crew. The photo hardly gives credit to the luggage we carried that day!
The hats were part of the luggage

Nick and Ellen were very good at ensuring we didn't suffer from boredom while aboard. A special treat was the premier viewing of the unique video "Adventures in Kika - Spain to Canaries" presented to Jenny for her birthday. Not everyone is given a dedicated video and great amusement was had by all.
Enjoying the video
Enjoying the video

Other tasks awaited us. Jenny checked over the medical kit and helped inspect and repair a spare foresail. Brian learnt how to dismantle a winch among other jobs including supplying Nick with a range of items as he worked up the mast. We were able to sample the cuisine on board and even without a steamed puddding it was delicious.

We met Ian and Liz, who were both on a flying visit from the UK, and whose stay on Kika overlapped by a few hours. Ellen, Ian and Nick drove up to Costa Teguise and we all had dinner at Restaurante Acatife, a memorable restaurant in a beautiful old house in Teguise, the town inland from the resort, and the former capital of Lanzarote.

On other days we had a trip to the Sunday market at Teguise and joined vast crowds milling round the stalls and watching a display of folk dancing, the participants in national costume. Sunday market dancers
Folk dancers in Teguise

We also went on the grand tour of both the north and south of the island seeing many sights, the green lagoon, camel riders, volcanos and caves and vast fields of lava solidified into many weird and wonderful shapes. We had the opportunity to hold warm lava in our hands, observe a bush burning from heat coming up from below, and watch a bucket of water turned rapidly into a steam fountain. We were intrigued by the black cultivated fields and the little walls to protect the grape vines. We also experienced the amazing achitecture of the influential artist and planner Cesar Manrique and visited the volcanic grotto of Jameos del Agua, where we saw the tiny albino crabs in their subterranean lake and saw how the volcanic activity in the area is being monitored. Apparently the Canary islands are overdue for some more eruptions.
Lanzarote landscape
Parque Nacional de Timanfaya

It was our first visit to Lanzarote so could not visualize the volcanic nature of the landscape. Had we been expecting a green and pleasant land there would have been some disappointment but the amazing views of lava fields with the occasional 'oasis' provided a memorable experience. The sun shone, most of the time, and temperatures reached 32 deg C. Manchester was cold and wet on both departure and arrival back.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Guest entry: Ian in Lanzarote (2nd-6th Nov)

When I last saw Nick & Ellen during Kika sea trials in Dartmouth harbour back in August they made encouraging noises about visiting them enroute and ever since then I’ve been conjuring up images of island hopping in a tropical paradise, diving into crystal clear waters to swim ashore to that pure white sandy beach where you can rest in the shade of its palm fringes whilst being served fresh local cocktails by happy smiling locals…ah what it is to dream. Do dreams come true I wonder? Not for me, it seems, as here I am arriving in package holiday heaven - LANZAROTE. In all honesty, of the wonderful places I’ve read about in the blog during the first 3 months of this trip Lanzagrotty would be my last choice as a place to visit. I’m sorry to all those Lanzarote fans out there. My taste is not everyone’s taste – and if you like volcanic ash, sprawling resorts of white holiday apartments, speaking English, tattoos, chips and other British people on holiday then it’s perfect. Clearly Nick and Ellen thought it important to go there! We’ll give them the benefit of the doubt that they knew flights were cheap and that it would be easy to welcome family and friends aboard. They had at least changed out of their shell-suits by the time I arrived!!

I know it’s not my kind of place because every time I tell anyone who knows me where I’m going they give me an odd look and ask why! Well we know why… it’s a last chance to catch up with Nick and Ellen, our intrepid adventurers, before they skip European shores for distant tropical lands with crystal clear waters, palm-fringed white sandy beaches, and potent rum cocktails!! Bah humbug…

Anyway with Kika berthed in the very upmarket Marina Rubicon on the south of the island it was surreal to wander up to the harbour edge and spot Nick waving from the deck. This is 3 months, and several thousand miles since I was last aboard, and yet it doesn’t seem that long. I’m sure for Nick and Ellen it seems like they have crammed loads in during that time, but for us normal people those months have just flown by with not much more than our routines…it is refreshing and hopefully inspiring to see friends making better use of their time!!

On board I am honoured by boat turmoil as efforts have been focused on clearing the stern of the boat so I can have my very own cabin. This leaves the main cabin free for extensive partying, frequent meals, and the now extensive Kika library of books about how to plan, navigate, survive, drink, cook, eat, vomit, sleep, wake, talk, fish, nurse, operate, wash, toilet and clean whilst at sea. Add to this the collection of 1st hand accounts of others doing all these things, and several ‘weather’ forecasting manuals and it begins to look like they’ll have no time for sailing and I haven’t even mentioned the front cabin crammed with the non-nautical books either. Lucky for Nick and Ellen I’ve bought a couple more to add to the collection.

We toasted my arrival (Wednesday) with cold beer on deck and spent the evening catching up – firstly over cocktails at ‘Café del Mar’ and then over steaks at Lani’s, pleasant settings overlooking the marina. No Spanish was necessary – English or German essential though! Easily led astray by hosts that seem to have learned how to mix their drinks, I was plied with beer, then rum cocktail, and finally red wine before slotting into my tube-like bunk in the stern that night.

Thursday was a beautiful morning – blue sky, nice breeze, and warm – so Nick and I headed along the coast on foot to Playa Blanca, the local beach resort in search of decent provisions whilst Ellen tended to general boat maintenance! Finding fresh food of any description on the island though is not easy. Not a lot can grow on the sides of volcanoes. The supermarkets invariably have 2 or 3 aisles of alcohol and slightly less for food. Once you eliminate the crisps and biscuits there is about 6ft of shelf space devoted to cans of fish and olive oil and not much else. After extensive reconnaissance we eventually located the only Fruiteria in town – and satisfied our cravings by buying some of most green things they had.

Back on Kika the ‘Boat Maintenance Manual’ lay open on the plumbing page as Ellen had spent the morning dismantling the heads at my end of the boat. Everyone need be reassured that the problem was not of my making! Apparently there was already a leak from the pump, honest guv! Emerging from the stern with beads of sweat on her forehead and sporting a pair of rubber gloves was a very satisfied Ellen. ‘I think I’ve done it’ she said. And I can indeed confirm the improvement in pump action from then on!

Pimientos de padron for lunch and then a relaxing afternoon on deck reading whilst Nick figured out how to connect the gas barbecue fitted to the back of the boat so we could christen it that evening. We were joined by those other salty seadogs, Mark and Nat from Free Spirit, who just happened to be moored on the next pontoon along. What a pleasant evening it was – the BBQ was a treat whilst it was alight…the only trouble being that it kept going out! The ensuing BBQ faff to relight it could so easily have ended with our sausages, ribs and veggie kebabs in the marina - but we managed to serve them, and great they tasted too, washed down with plenty of a surprisingly drinkable Vino de Lanzarote!

With Nick’s parents – Jenny and Brian - due on the boat on Friday we spent a hilarious Friday morning editing a short video that Nick and Ellen had made over the weeks for Jenny’s birthday. From making toast, to navigating, to dolphin watching, to trumpeting and fridge cleaning, there are a lot of choice comic moments, most of them unplanned by the presenters. I’m told there are many more episodes to come and given the editing skills acquired that morning we can all eagerly await our own personalised video to land on the doormat!!

We met Jenny and Brian on the path to Playa Blanca and relieved them of some very heavy bags – which it turned out contained several more essential books. I thought I also glimpsed a boxed set of Desperate Housewives DVD’s too but I suspect that was just my mind playing tricks…one wonders whether our sea farers will have their own homemade Desperado DVD collection by the time they reach the other side of the Atlantic anyway – episodes including Desperado for water, Desperado for sleep, Desperado for decent conversation, Desperado for Nick to stop practicing the bl***y trumpet…the collection should be extensive.

Friday night was curry night on Kika. It’s one thing to cook a curry at home and stink the kitchen out for a day or so. It’s another thing to cook one on board knowing you’ll have to live with the smell for days to come in all quarters. Never the less it was my hosts’ enthusiastic request and who am I but a menial galley slave to argue. Later on, stuffed full, and reeking of garlic, Nick and I headed out to see if we’d be cool enough to get into Mojitos – the local salsa joint – whilst Ellen relaxed onboard. Yep you guessed it…we didn’t get in! Yeah ok don’t be so smug, it was actually closed - so we ended up back at our usual haunt of Café del Mar drinking large measures of Cuban rum and coke and watching a very drunk blonde trying to flaunt her way into a job.Keep still: First haircut of trip
Keep still: First haircut of trip

With the weather practically blowing a gale, and with Jenny and Brian staying in the north of the island, we’d decided to hire a car for a couple of days. Saturday, our local island specialist and tour guide Ellen, presented a programme of sights that included a volcano park, a substantial lunch (quel surprise), and some caves with a secret twist. Volcano park promised more than it delivered – a couple of geysers on top of a windswept hill, a restaurant with a BBQ pit that cooks on the open earth’s crust, and thousands of people. The showman poured a bucket of water down a drain hole, the crowd counts “1, 2, 3” in their native tongue and the earth obliges with a huge spurt of hot water to a collective gasp and the sound of hundreds of cameras clicking. It would be magical if it were less of a circus and more of geology. The views here in the west of the island are amazing though – brown and barren for as far as you can see, with the earth itself made up of huge lumps of larva.

Next stop was lunch of course. Tapas at the highly-recommended ‘El Chopadero’, a vineyard in the centre of the island. Pimientos de padron, tortilla, dates wrapped in bacon, local cheese, albondigas and prawns in garlic. Delicious and washed down with some more great wine. I won’t mention the garlic Ellen!

Then onwards and northwards to the much anticipated ‘Cuevas de los Verdes’. These spectacular caves are underground tubes carved out of the earth by molten lava flows. They are huge and it was much more interesting than any of us sceptics expected! Our guide was a happy chap dressed in a ridiculous stripey green suit, who spoke pretty good English and spent much of his time singing ‘cuidado la cabeza’ to the group as we stepped our way under some very low ceilings. It was an entertaining tour and the last stop had the crowd gasping as the secret of the caves was revealed. We could tell you – but we pledged our loyalty there and then in front of a hundred witnesses. SSShhhhh…you’ll have to go there!!

Final stop of the day was dinner in the old town Teguise after collecting Jenny and Brian from their apartment at Costa Teguise. At last some semblance of history, dinner was great in an old converted house in the centre of the town. It seemed we were the only people eating, but then it was well away from the resorts of the coast and the weather was pretty chilly. The food was plentiful, the setting picturesque and we amused ourselves by trying to extract dirt on Nick from his parents to his embarrassment. meal out
meal out

Back in Marina Rubicon all of us were too full to sit comfortably below deck so we made one last ditch effort at Mojitos – still closed – and ended up at Mollie’s Taverna, the Irish bar round the corner where a terrible pub singer was banging out very poor versions of Dire Straits, Bruce Springsteen and similar. We tolerated him long enough to down a rum and coke (with a hint of onion – yuk!) and then wandered back to our favourite watering hole – Café del Mar – for a nightcap.

Sunday was changeover day on Kika – I was giving up my bunk to Liz who was arriving lunchtime. As seems to be our habit we threw together a sumptuous lunch - mango tabouleh, Cuban black beans, green salad, chicken curry, and rice – and ate too much one last time. And then it was time to say goodbye. I can highly recommend a trip on Kika if you ever get the chance. We never stopped laughing (nor eating!) those few days and it was a very entertaining and relaxing. We even warmed to Lanzarote! I hope it was the same for my hosts and I wish them safe passage to those distant tropical lands with crystal clear waters, palm-fringed white sandy beaches, and potent rum cocktails!! Perhaps I’ll see them there…!!

Friday, November 11, 2005


Met up with the another Rival 38; Veto, who we first met in La Coruna.

We exchanged photos we took of each other off Finisterre:
Kika off Finisterre
Kika off Finisterre


After Graciosa, where the proprietor of one of the restaurants is also the diesel pump attendant and assistant in the only hardware shop, the relative sophistication of Marina Rubicon in Lanzarote came as a bit of a shock. For example, on entry, the marina provides a guide to the extensive facilities and a list of 'rules' including no washing lines on boats. Fortunately most boats ignore the resistrictions. As Ellen pointed out they can't expect much else if they only provide one washing machine to 500 boats. It's surprising how easy it is to adjust though and we've been enjoying relaxing in the cafes and restaurants surrounding the marina, particularly the Mojitos at Cafe del Mar.

It's been a fun guest week with visits by Ian, Liz and my parents, so there should be some guest blog entries soon...