Captains Log - 2010
I flew out to Moleoba in Fuerteventura on May 29th, a day after my contract finished.
It took me a couple of days to get Moleoba dressed again i.e. re-hang the boom, re-thread all the sheets, furling line and jack stays, pull on the main sail and Genoa, de-bag all 14 winches which had been wrapped up all winter to protect them from the dust and one strenuous task which we asked our good friend Bev to help with was to winch myself to the top of the mast so I could fix a loose spring that was jamming the furling gear.
The engine started first time, without a stutter and the anchor winch wound the chain up and down so by Wednesday I set off for a quick circumnavigation of the island of Lobos.
We had a gentle 15kt wind and enjoyed a calm sail around the island, when we were back on the south side of Lobos we dropped the hook close to shore and enjoyed an afternoon dip in the turquoise waters just off the small ferry pier.
I sailed Moleoba up to Puerto Calero on the East side of Lanzarote just south of Puerto Del Carmen and met Isabel and her friend Anna to take them out for a day sail.
We enjoyed a relaxing sail down to Papagayo Beach.
Not to bore you non-boaty people, the maintenance work can be read about in the technical sub log at the end of this narrative.
To cut it short I repainted the underside of the hull and I had my keel repaired due to the damage I had done last year running aground in Portugal.
This took 7 days and by Thursday 17th June Moleoba was afloat again and we, Moleoba and I, headed North towards Arrieta on the NE coast of Lanzarote where I thought there might be some surfing waves to be had.
The trade winds at this time of year are at their strongest, with 15/25kts of wind blowing day and night from the North to North East, and it’s quite hard going beating into this wind.
I sailed Moleoba with just the No.3 Genoa as I was single handed and without an auto-helm. I found the she would sail in a straight line without me having to steer as long as I put her hard into the wind at about 30 degrees.
She was very stable on one tack and not so on the other, maybe due to the angle of the waves I'm not sure, but at one point I went down below to the heads, when I felt the heel of the boat level off and the genoa start to flap.
"Bugger" I thought she is tacking, by the time I got up to the cockpit she had tacked and was now bearing off with the genoa backed on the wrong side of the boat.
I started to undo the sheet to let the sail through to the correct side of the boat but by the time I had done that she had gibed and the sail was now back on the right side of the boat, so I just winched her back in and carried back along on the original tack.
Moleoba had just pulled off a 360 turn all by herself.
We headed up the coast for a couple more hours until we were off the small anchorage of Arrecife, here I stopped for the night.
The end of Arrecife quay, constantly manned by several fishermen.
This wasn't quite so straight forward as when I had chosen my spot between the other yachts and had headed up into wind under the close scrutiny of the other captains, my anchor chain had got itself tangled and refused to pay out.
When you winch a long length of chain back into its locker it tends to form a pyramid shape as the chain falls on top of itself. When the boat then heels over hard as you are sailing this pyramid falls over on itself and can trap the leading edge under its coils. This then has to be manually untangle before you can re-deploy the anchor and chain.
So I headed back out to deep water and left the boat drifting whilst I climbed into the forepeak and started to untangle 60m of 10mm chain.
Every 5 minutes I would dash back out to the cockpit look around and winch out and other 5 or 10m of chain until I came across another tangle.
Luckily the water is very deep just of this coast so I had no problems in fouling the sea bed as I drifted with 40m of chain dangling from my bow. In fact I drifted right through the middle of a dinghy race, but they didn't seem to mind too much.
On my second attempt I dropped anchor and settled down for the night.
This yacht has already crossed the Atlantic, nonstop from St Martinique to Portsmouth and in December the owner intends on sailing her back, he has sworn never to do another winter in England. She looks a worse state up close!
My few hours spent sailing up to Arrecife made me realise that the boat was not ready for rough sea conditions.
I spent the next day securing my belongings and threading on the Jack stays and making all my wet weather and safety gear more accessible.
I cooked myself a red bean curry with strange dehydrated mushrooms that I brought back to life in the pressure cooker with the beans.
There was plenty left over for lunch the next day as I planned to continue up the coast and I knew I would want a decent meal along the way.
Saturday 19th June
I weighed anchor soon after 10am and motored out of the harbour, and when I was in deep water I unfurled the jenny.
Moleoba held a good line by herself tight into the wind without me having to hold the wheel.
I realised that it was the amount of jenny that was behind then mast that was driving the boat into the wind and eventually to make her tack so I eased the jenny forward until she was at 30 degrees to the wind but she didn't have enough sail to push her through the wind.
This way I could sit and relax whilst Moleoba pounded away at 6kts without any auto-helm or help from me.
The wind and waves were too much to make my intended port of Arrieta a safe anchorage so I headed on to Graciosa, it was just another 18 miles further north but tacking into the wind it was another 50 sea miles and would take me the rest of the daylight to reach.
It was great to have Moleoba pounding into the seas again, she comes alive in those conditions, 12 tonnes of fierce determination with a knife edged prow hacking her way through through the swells, its a privilege to ride along with her.
Exhausted I arrived at a sheltered anchorage behind Graciosa about 8pm.
I'll let the video above do the talking.
The next day was spent chilling out and organising the boat.
Early morning I moved the boat to the small bay in front of Yellow Mountain, which turned out to be a mistake as the wind howled all day and night and I barely slept for the sound of the anchor chain dragging across the lava rocks on the sea bed.
Being my first night that year in an exposed anchorage, late at night lying in bed, my mind started worrying if the anchor might drag and allow Moleoba to be washed against the reef or the side of the volcano which was just 20 meters on our port side.
My rational mind kept going through the numbers, 8 meters of water depth and 40 meters of 10mm chain and anchor down in flat water with no tide running, well above the recommended length for chain even if there were 25kt gusts of wind making Moleoba yaw from side to side.
Still my irrational mind kept nagging at me. The first thing I would know would be the keel grinding against a lava reef and all the new repair work I had done last week would need to be done again, if I managed to get her off the reef before being holed.
So I lay there listening to the wind and the chain drag across the rocks. Soon after first light I upped anchor and motored back to my first anchorage close to the village of Graciosa and set a new anchor in a position where if I did drag it wouldn't be towards a reef. I ate breakfast and went back to bed, now I could relax.
Isabel was working on the island that afternoon and I had asked her if she would like to go for a sail, she said she would and asked if her friends an German and Spanish couple she knew could join us, I agreed and we decided to meet up around 2pm.
It was blowing 24kts and I almost didn't attempt docking into the marina at all, as own my own with that much wind, not knowing the marina and with no one to help me it would be rather tricky.
I didn't want to damage my yacht or anybody else's.
As it happened as I slowly approached an empty slot, all fenders at the ready and a spare one for emergencies in the cockpit a German lady and her husband came running down the pontoon to help me.
Once secured I did a quick recky into town to speak to the harbour master. At 8e a night it is one of the cheapest marina's I have been into, no electric on the pontoons but lots of water, and wanting to have a good nights sleep I decided to pay up and stay the night.
Shortly afterwards, Isabel plus her dog Stella arrived, plus the couple with a 6 year old daughter.
A little more than I had bargained for, I tried to put them off saying with it being so windy they were likely to get quite wet, but No there were very excited to go sailing and didn't mind getting wet.
So with 4 adults, 1 child and one large dog we set off for a sail around the bay between Graciosa and Lanzarote.
I unfurled just half of the number 3 Genoa and with no mainsail at all we had a fun time taking up and down for the afternoon.
Tuesday 22nd June
I left Graciosa about 11am and motored up wind slowly whilst I pulled up the full main sail, and then let out the full Genoa.
This was going to be a 35mile downwind sail, along the West Atlantic coast of Lanzarote.
With 24kts of wind behind me, the current and the waves going with me I aimed to do the full run back to Corralejo before night fall.
Video of sailing west coast south
Apart from something biting through my steel trace on the fishing line and having to hand steer the whole time it was a pleasant sail and I arrived back in Corralejo around 6pm.
From experience I knew that the wind would blow me across my berth onto my neighbours boat Florence, so I fully fendered the downwind side of Moleoba and arranged my ropes amid ships so I could jump off onto the pontoon and attempt to tie Moleoba in position before she blew onto Florence.
Well it wasn't pretty.
There were no helping hands when I arrived and I still had too much momentum when I left the wheel and made a dash over the guard rails to the pontoon.
Great timing as well, as the large tourist catamaran had followed me in and was discharging its sunburnt cargo along the same pontoon that I was being dragged along like some stable boy trying to control a feisty mare.
By the time I had arrested her forward motion her stern was being blown into Florence.
Florence was fendered and I was fendered so there was no damage caused but it was messy.
Thinking back there was little else I could have done. If I had come in slower the bow would have been blown over, I might had given her a stronger kick in reverse, but the prop walk would have then turned my bow away from the pontoon.
No harm done and safely tied up at the end of the day.
Since then I have carried on with small DIY jobs, some of which are detailed below.
I did enjoy another day sail around Los Lobos.
Wolf Island, actually Sea wolf, as in Sea Lion island, but the locals ate them all a long time ago.
On this occasion I was with a Swedish friend on his modified Shipman 28 and his young Swedish opaire, with my neighbour Sam aboard Florence with his Italian friend Mirko.The video is above.
My friend Colin and his daughters arrive on Wednesday for a week’s holiday, and after that I will set off across the islands again to meet friends down in La Palma in August and I hope to anchor just outside of the race area in Sotavento south Fuerteventura for the World Championships Kite Surfing competition, should make for some good video footage and they have some great parties in the evenings.
My 6 year old anchor winch was badly in need of a new coat of paint, so for hours I took and electric drill and several different shaped wires brushes to bring it back to bare metal.
Shortly after that I arranged to be craned out of the water in Puerto Calero in Lanzarote.
This was necessary to repair the damage I had done to the keel when running aground in Portugal last year and to give Moleoba a new coat of antifouling.
The front edge of the Keel as you can just see here is made of lead but the trailing edge is constructed from wood and fibreglass and it had taken a real beating on the rocks.
I spent four hours with and angle grinder brutally cutting back all the rotten wood and cracked fibreglass.
This was the easy part, when I was finished I realised it would take a professional to re-build the shape and strength I had just cut away.
A local Argentinean bare foot surfer called Danny started the next day by covering the whole area in plastic sheeting and injecting expanding foam into the cavity.
This was later sanded back to the correct shape and then layer after layer of very heavy fibreglass matting was added.
It was a slow progress building up the layers, letting it set and then sanding it back into shape.
It had been 5 years since I had last anti-fouled Moleoba, when we were in Corfu in 2005.
I had used the hard type of antifouling usually used on speed boats, this is longer lasting but after 3500 miles it was wearing pretty thin.
I spent two days with an electric sander rubbing away the thin area's back to clean fibreglass, then another two days using epoxy primer to paint over these bald patches, it might have been quicker to just re-paint the whole hull but the price of this paint doesn't really allow for that.
After a couple of days I noticed some damp patches on the rudder and investigated with my electric drill!
The two lower holes had water in them and need to dry before the glass man could fill them, the highest hole was just a crack but it didn't know that until I had opened it up.
The last part of the keel had to be glassed whilst we were suspended in the slings of the travel lift and was anti fouled the night before we were dropped back into the water.
The boat actually swung gently in the slings due to the wind on the mast and it felt as if we were back in the water.
Moleoba and I spent the night gentle swinging 3ft above the yard floor.
Moleoba's mast rests directly on top of the keel, a very strong arrangement. This is called having a Keel Stepped Mast.
In the photo to the right you can see the clay floor moulded around the mast and just make out the metal track in which the halyards run up inside mast and exit inside the toilet to run under the deck to the cockpit. This needed to be tapeed up to stop the liquid rubber from moulding itself around the ropes!
It does however introduce the problem of having a large hole in the deck in which water can easily gain access into the boat and in this case end up showering down across my wardrobe.
Rule number one in yachting: Keep the water out of the boat!
So, a very time consuming task was to remove the rubber skirt, unscrew the metal collar from the deck, slacken off all the rigging and remove the wedges that hold the mast in position within the hole.
The wooden wedges were going to be replaced with a new two part rubber solution that sets almost to a ridged rubber making a water tight seal around the mast and up to the Partners( the deck and metal collar ).
The collar was wire brushed back to clean metal and then painted with epoxy primer. The screw holes were filled with epoxy primer and re drilled, and large screws put back into the new holes to give them a better purchase.
Closed cell foam rubber tubing was pushed up in between the mast and the deck and then a thin clay floor was finger moulded on top of the foam in the gap to create a water tight floor.
Then this strange two part dark blue rubber compound was mixed and carefully pouring into the gap.
This was then left for two days to set hard before any tension was put back on the rig.
Well it looks like a great seal, time will tell when we have Moleoba pushed hard into the wind and the foredeck is washed with waves for several hours.
Just recently I have sanded back and scoured out all the rotten wood from the base of the spray deck surrounding the cockpit. I also sanded the boarding plank and boat hook.
For the past two months I have been enjoying myself aboard Moleoba, going out for frequent day sails over to Lanzarote and around the island of Los Lobos with various friends.
Colin and his two daughters spent a week with me in early July and we enjoyed some fun days out and one very memorable evening in town when Spain won the World Football cup
The whole town went bananas.
When they won, the police closed the main road and next to a parked car that was blasting out dance music, a spontaneous street party occurred.
It was like midnight on New Years Eve but the shouting, screaming, waving of flags, dancing and blasting of air horns went on for three hours.
That was July and its now early September.
The weeks sailing, single handed around Lanzarote demonstrated how demanding it was sailing long passages on my own without an auto helm.
Since then I have been mostly surfing and going out for short day sails.
A young Dutch man of about 24 years asked me if I would take him and his girlfriend sailing for a few hours and then somewhere pretty to anchor and do some snorkelling. He said once we had anchored he was going to propose to his girlfriend, and asked that I could have some good champagne chilled in the event that her answer was positive.
Well we had a good sail around Los Lobos, saw several flying fish and we dropped anchor in the turquoise waters off Lobos. I had said to the guy that I would go for a swim when we arrived and he could then have some privacy to ask his question. But almost immediately after we dropped anchor he took his very pretty girlfriend to the bow of the boat, dropped down onto one knee and proposed!
It was quite an emotional moment, they kissed and hugged and he then came back to me saying that she had accepted. So I bobbed below decks and popped of the cork of a chilled Moet for them. I offered my congratulations and went for a long snorkel to give them some alone time.
During the 3 week festival of Carmen the Canarian Come Dancing finals were staged just behind the port. Great fun, the under 10's Rock N Roll was hilarious.
So not much sailing this year, but getting to know the local area well and doing many small DIY jobs on the boat that I have never had time to get done with the previous years travelling.
I made an attempt to sail to Morocco a few weeks ago but 3 hours into 12 hour passage my crew was so sea sick I had to turn back. For me it was still a beautiful 6 hours of night sailing with the spray and sails illuminated from the light of a half moon.
I am going to try again later this week with different crew, someone who already sails so we might make it this time.
My auto helm should be back with me next week and Tim is joining me in October for ten days so I hope we will get a few more miles under Moleoba's keel.
Wednesday August 27th
My good friend Sharron joins me for a weeks sailing and have a great first night in town eating Tapas and then drinking Mojitas and dancing salsa in a local bar. We were the only people on the dance floor and the music was mostly reggae but we didn't care.
The next day we enjoyed a gentle sail over to the beach at Papagayo on Lanzarote, where the above photo was taken and we anchored just outside Rubicon marina for the night.
Our plan was to sail up to the island of Graciosa off the north tip of Lanzarote so the next day we headed towards Arrecife. We struggled to sail in the light winds and had to use the engine once or twice to take us up to Puerto Del Carmen. At this point a strong wind rushed around the corner, we unfurled the genoa and suddenly Moleoba leapt forward and we enjoyed a good couple of hours sailing in 20kts of wind.
Unfortunately in didn't stop there and the wind increased to 32kts right on the nose.
Sharron and I were still in just shorts and a Bikini and were quite soaked with the constant spray coming over the deck, but the sun was out and we were warm.
We were closing fast on our anchorage for the night and just sat there stubbornly getting washed with warm sea water for the next hour, until our faces and sunglasses were crusted with sea salt.
The mooring buoy I was advised to pick up in the crowded anchorage didn't have sufficient weight to hold Moleoba in the strong wind that was still scouring across the bay. So as well as the mooring I dropped down my anchor with a length of chain and with my snorkel duck dived in seven meters of water, picked up my anchor and walked it across the sea floor, tucking it behind a large rock that I found!
It felt strange to be walking on the sea floor, the weight of the anchor pinning me down.
So the wind blew all that night and most of the next day. It was blowing from exactly where we wanted to sail to, so we decided just to chill out and relax on the boat for the day.
The next passage describes a quite gruesome accident that occurred in the evening.
Even if you are not squeamish it makes quite difficult reading.
Sharron and I had enjoyed a good meal, drank 2 bottles of wine between us, watched the sun set, and after dancing in the cockpit were sat quietly listening to music and talking.
It was a calm night and we were at anchor in the large harbour in front of Arecifee.
It was about 2am when Sharron stood up from the seat in the cockpit. Somehow she lost her footing, slipped and fell backwards to the cockpit floor, catching her head against one of the rope cleats.
I cannot move, cries Sharron.
What do you mean, are you hurt?
My head is stuck on something
Something is stuck in my head and I cannot move.
I am by her side now and there is a lot of blood flowing down her neck and shoulder.
This is Sharron's cleat.
It speared the side of her neck, just below the ear and drove upwards, fracturing her skull and entering the base of the brain.
All the cleats now wear short pieces of garden hose over them.
I'll get you up, I say.
No, don't move me
I held her by her shoulders and lifted her straight up freeing her from the cleat.
By now we were both covered in blood.
Sharron has clamped her hand over the hole in her neck and very calmly explained that she used to be a nurse and that she needed to get to hospital quickly.
We were at anchor some 200m from the harbour wall and my dinghy was still in its bag deflated in the cabin.
I told Sharron I would swim to one of the other boats and borrow a dinghy to take her to shore.
I swam to the closest boat some 50m away and explained the situation, the German man told me to take the dinghy.
Unfortunately it was one of the flat pack canoe style craft and not an inflatable so as soon as I tried to climb into it from the sea my weight capsized it and it began to sink.
I had been gone from Sharron for some minutes and felt I couldn't leave her alone any longer, I asked the German man to sort out the dinghy and bring it over to me and swam back to Sharron.
When I get back to Sharron she is sat on the cockpit floor and starting to sway from side to side.
"Get me to a hospital or I am going to die here, James"
I start to call out on the VHF radio but get no response, I then phone my friend Ben in Fuerteventura and ask him for the emergency telephone number.
If you ever need to know the Pan European emergency number it is 112 and they speak English.
I explained our predicament and where we were they said they would send a life boat.
"If I die James, tell me parents and children that I love them very much"
The life boat arrived very promptly as it was launched only 2 miles away. Sharron received some first aid, was laid on a stretcher and carried onto the life boat. After just a ten minute trip we were docked and Sharron was transferred to an ambulance.
I went with her to the hospital where she was whisked away and I slept on the waiting room floor until about 8am when a nurse woke me to say I could go and see Sharron.
Sharron was sat up in bed, hooked up to various pieces of monitoring equipment, and we spoke for a while. They wanted another doctor to look at her in case she had a fractured skull and said for me to come back later.
I went back to the harbour and swam back to the boat. I got a little more sleep and then inflated my dinghy. I called the hospital and they told me I could come and collect Sharron at 1pm, so I collected some fresh clothes and shoes for her and went back.
By the time I arrived the situation had changed, they now believed she had a fractured skull, and her brain was bleeding.
She was to be taken by helicopter to Grand Canaria for brain scans and further treatment.
I took another taxi back to the boat and made him wait for me as a rowed back to the boat to collect Sharron's things and only just made it back to her bedside before she was taken to the airport.
By this time I was very worried. I had thought she had just a small flesh wound which had been stitched and would be returning to the boat with me, now her life was very much hanging on by a thread.
I then made a very difficult telephone call to Sharron's parents who also live in the Canary Islands and explained the situation. Rex, her farther said he would fly out to meet her immediately and he would keep me posted with any developments.
So now there was nothing else for me to do but sit, wait and worry.
I had done all I could which was the easy bit, but the next 24hrs the hard part, and I didn't handle it particularly well. I went back to the boat and drank rum until I passed out, when I woke up about 3am I drank again until I passed out again.
It must have been much worse for Sharon's family.
Rex phoned me some time the following day and said that Sharron have been moved from Critical condition to Grave.
I didn't know there was a condition worse than critical.
She had a fractured skull, the bottom part of her brain was still bleeding and there was air inside the wound. They were also worried about infection around her brain from the cleat.
I hoped that because the whole cockpit had been doused with salt water for several hours the previous day that the cleat would be quite sterile, still little hope to cling to.
I decided there was nothing else for me to do in Lanzarote and set sail back to Fuerteventura to my berth in the marina. I was joined by a pod of dolphins that day which lifted my spirits for a while.
Sharron improved slowly day by day, much to the doctor’s amazement.
I talked to Sharron most days while she slowly regained her strength.
The brain scans revealed nothing to worry about and we all started to hope she would recover fully, which apart from still getting tired easily and some bad headaches she has.
Congratulations to the Spanish health care system, they did a first class job and well done to Sharron for beating the odds, the doctors when they released her expressed how very serious her injury had been.
Lessons learnt? Boats can be dangerous places, accidents can happen anywhere but out to sea they are more difficult to deal with.
The cleats now wear their protective lengths of garden hose, but short of wrapping the whole boat in bubble wrap there are a hundred other places you could fall on any boat and seriously hurt yourself.
I didn't sail for a while after that but when I did it was all sunshine and smiles again.
My friend Isabel was coming to do some sailing with me for a few days and my boat neighbor Sam, his girlfriend Marlen, her sister Polly and their friend Helena were also planning on making a few days passage so we decided we would all go together.
Helena rowed over to me from the Catamaran at 7.30am to help me take Moleoba over to Lanzarote where Isabel was to join us.
It was a blue sky day with a very small swell running and just enough wind that we could make good progress with the sails over to Lanzarote.
We arrived around 11am and changed the head sail for the larger number two genoa.
It was going to be a downwind run and we were in company with Sol, so I was keen to give Moleoba all the sail area I dare to be able to keep up with the catamaran.
Isabel arrived, and after having to rub sun block into both of my new crew members, the captain gets all the worst jobs!, we set sail heading south down the
We sailed around Los Lobos and met Sol heading out of the Lobos channel.
A big thank you to Myleen who took some splendid shots of Moleoba under sail.
We had a fantastic sail, both boats being very well matched in boat speed as it was almost a dead run down the coast. In fact we hand sailed at 120 degrees off the wind, gibing every few hours. This is a difficult point of sailing and as the auto helm was out of order we all gained quite a bit of wheel experience.
The two boats swapped positions a few times through the day and we managed to take a lot of photos.
By late afternoon the wind picked up and the Catamaran took off, Sam jibed into the coast and soon disappeared as the cat accelerated to 12 and 14kts.
We held on sailing further out to sea before making our jibe soon before the sun set.
The wind had risen to 12kts and we were now overpowered so we furled away half of the genoa and ran in towards Grand Tarajal.
The sun set in front of us and the moon lifted itself out of the sea directly behind us.
As the night set in we were sailing along the moon path, the corridor of light the moon casts onto the sea. For Helena it was her first time sailing at night and she sat staring behind us, mesmerized by the scene. We saw two shooting stars before we made port, just to add to the magic.
Helena commented that she had watched the sun rise and then the sun set and the moon rise and sailed for 14hrs, a day she would not forget.
It was gone 10pm by the time we had tied up next to Sol in the marina and exhausted we all walked along to the nearest restaurant and sat down for beer and pizza.
The next day we all had a leisurely start and then walked to the boat yard to look at a yacht one of our friends had just bought.
It was gone one o'clock before we untied and left the marina, heading north back to Peurto De Rossario, where Helena would catch her flight back to Belgium.
Moleoba with her stay sail set, performed well tight hauled into the sea and wind, but poor Sol was rapidly disappearing behind us into the horizon as she tried hopelessly to tack into the wind. Eventually we lost sight of the cat altogether until some hours later they gave up trying to sail and motored into the wind.
Again we sailed all day, watched the sun set and the moon rise, it was gone 9pm when we dropped anchor and pulled back to tie alongside Sol who had motored past us in the darkness to arrive first.
We rafted the two yachts together and pooled our galley resources to produce a great meal for all six of us.
Helena left us early the next morning and Isabel and I sailed and motored in the light winds back up to Lanzarote.
I then made my way back to Corralejo to arrive just before dark, exhausted but very content.
October 14th - 16th
My uncle Tim and new crew member Susan from Canada had joined me for 10 days sailing.
We had hoped to sail to Morocco, but yet again the conditions were wrong, very light winds blowing from the East so we pointed the boat north and were contemplating a trip up to Graciosa.
Susan had heard that Puerto Calero marina were holding a three day racing regatta, which was rumored to be free to enter so we tacked into the coast and docked Moleoba into the marina for the night whilst we inquired.
It took several hours of form filling the next morning and the purchase of some required safety equipment that needed to be on the boat anyway, such as a fog horn and some flares.
Then after the head honcho had dismissed the fact that my third party liability insurance was too low, we were signed up and given our racing crew bracelets which gave us access to the regatta village, for free booze, food and entertainment plus our very chic regatta T-shirts.
As the captain I had a VIP bracelet, which gave me access to the Captains/Owners lounge! More about that later....
So the next day we walked to the regatta village for our free racing breakfast.
Tim and I weren't happy about it being a continental style breakfast instead of our expected full English, still we suffered through.
I then duly congregated with the other captains for our 10am race briefing, telling us where and what shape the course was, the expected wind conditions, how many laps we were to do etc.
In true Canarian style this meeting was cancelled and we were all left to try and guess where and when the race may start.
We consulted with another English boat that had raced the year before and he advised us the start line would probably be up the coast about an hour’s motor North towards Arrecife.
We set of early to get in some team practice on the finer points of racing, such as how to tack the boat. Although Tim had been aboard Moleoba a year ago and was familiar with her winches and sheets, Susan had never actually tacked or jibed the boat.
Sailing up the coast tacking at least four times before the race.
As there was very little wind I decided to fly the stay sail and rig Moleoba as a cutter, giving us extra sail area and better pointing ability, although this did complicate tacking as we then needed to furl the large No.1 jenny in each time to get it around the foredeck in front of the stay sail.
When we arrived in the start area it was all rather confusing.
There were three classes of boat racing around the same course.
The full on dedicated race machines of 40ft-60ft, then the certified racing yachts that had been professional measured, etc, and then our class of un-certified yachts.
In all there were about 80 yachts milling around in a small area waiting for the start guns.
I decided to keep out of the way, waiting for all the commotion to calm down before crossing the start line toward the back of the fleet.
Moleoba is my home for half the year and not some racing toy like a few of the other yachts out there.
Unfortunately without any briefing or useful diagrams of the course, we were guessing as to where the start line might be.
The gun fired for the first fleet to be underway and we were given some idea of where the line was.
Then the second race was underway.
There were just 25 yachts left milling around in front of the committee boat that was anchored at one end of the line, flying the race code flags and firing the start guns.
Our 5 minute gun fired and we all turned off our engines. The keener yachts then started to jostle for position tacking in front of the line.
I had positioned Moleoba at the back of the pack and when the start gun fired we slowly sailed for the line.
Ahead of us was a bottle neck of boats trying to squeeze across the line next to the committee boat. There were so many boats I couldn't see water between them.
In the light wind we were all only moving at 2 or 3 knot's, but you have to remember there are no brakes on a boat.
I was now committed and sailing for the start which was somewhere ahead of the solid wall of boats in front of me.
Behind me and moving faster the us was a Spanish boat who were shouting and waving vigorously for us to move out of the way and let them through, they were going to overtake us on the port side. Then just half a boat length in front of Moleoba a boat tacked across our bows.
The Spanish boat was overtaking me to the left and the other boat had cut off any forward sea room I had so I swung the wheel fully locked over to starboard where there was a gap.
Moleoba slowly started her turn and my heart rate rapidly increased.
"Turn Moleoba Turn," I whispered to her.
We missed the first yacht by several meters but were now bearing down on the committee boat.
"That boat is anchored!" says Susan.
"I know" I replied.
"Release the Genoa sheet" I cried and started to furl away the sail to be able to put us through the next tack if we didn't sink the start boat.
The four occupants of the committee boat moved to the other side of their small motor launch, one of them fumbling with the rope of a fender as our bows came closer to their stern and then ran along their side.
Our bow had cleared them by less than a meter but now my stern was threatening to scrap their hull as we went through the tack.
We were less than one meter from them and looking over I spotted the head Honcho guy who had waved my lack of third party insurance to allow us to take part.
Our eyes met for a second and I wondered what he was thinking just then.
We came about onto the other tack and hardened up to make for the start line again.
We were the last yacht to cross the line and after doing an impromptu 360 degree turn had next to no boat speed.
All the fleet was ahead of us so at least we could see where we were supposed to be going. Moleoba gradually gained momentum and started to gain on the closest two yachts, we were sailing higher and quicker then our first two rivals and before I could get trapped between them I tacked off out into clear wind and water.
By the time we came to the first mark we had at least 10 boats behind us, but as we closed the mark the wind shifted against us and instead of tacking I luffed up hoping to edge around the buoy. My tactic didn't work and we touched the buoy as we passed so we had to jibe and tack and round the buoy a second time.
A previous yacht had made the same mistake and seeing us touch the buoy, started shouting and waving red protest flags in the air, in case we did not take our penalty.
The next yacht to round the mark was about to make the same mistake, until a crew member came up from below deck with a high powered water jet and blasted the inflatable buoy pushing it out of the way of their boat!
We inquired later and this is defiantly cheating and would have disqualified them from the race if we had complained with evidence.
Anyway, as we made our second attempt on the buoy four other yachts were coming up behind us, we tacked directly in front of them and made a successful rounding of the mark.
The second buoy was just some 50m away and we could round it on the same tack.
Behind us one of the full on racing machines was making its second lap of the race and was coming up behind us, shouting for us to get out of the way and let it through. Although technically I didn't have to, I sailed higher and gave them room to overtake us on the inside of the mark.
This was another heart stopping moment as they glided past us just a meter or so to our port side and then turned through 90 degrees around the mark with us on their stern.
By the time we rounded the mark and were gently making our downwind run, all three of us were literally shaking from nerves and adrenalin.
In 6 years of sailing Moleoba I have never been that anxious; running aground, catching fire, large waves and strong winds in the night have nothing compared to the stress levels of this first 40 minutes of racing.
The conditions in the video don't express how stressed out we all were aboard Moleoba, I am just thankful we didn't hit anyone and that the winds were very light.
So we completed the race without further incident and although we made ground on each of the up wind legs we lost it again downwind from not using the spinnaker.
All of these crews had been out practising for days before the race, most had at least 6 if not 10 crew per boat, Susan had only just learned to tack the boat that morning, so we were in no way prepared to fly the spinnaker. In fact it needs at least six crew to launch and retrieve it swiftly.
We finished third from last and were so mentally exhausted that we decided that we wouldn't race at all the next day. In fact it took a quite some time to persuade Susan that she wanted to race again at all.
The next day as seen on the video we sailed miles out into open water and tried out the spinnaker. We realised that there was no way the three of us were going to be able to launch and retrieve it on the comparatively short downwind leg of the race.
That night we arrived back early at the marina and went to the regatta village on the understanding that we would have a quiet night and be ready for the last race the next day.
But Mr Calero had other ideas and we walked into a wall of Mojito's.
To add variety to the free wine and beer bars that were there the previous night he had added a free Mojito bar serviced by three Spanish lovelies in matching tight T-shirts.
Susan being Canadian managed to restrain herself to two small ones, whilst Tim and I drank three large ones before dinner and another three after dinner.
Late on in the evening the Mojito bar had run dry and there were just the beer and wine bars still serving, but inside the captains lounge there was a fully stocked spirits bar and champagne in an ice bucket.
So feeling very smug I walked in and ordered whiskey, rum and champagne, but when I tried to walk out with the drinks the very polite Spanish lady informed me that the drinks had to be drunk inside and my crew had to stay outside.
What a dilemma.
Of course I made apologies to my crew, told them I might be a few minutes and went back into the lounge and drank all three drinks myself.
It’s lonely at the top.
Saturday October 16th
So slightly worse for wear we motor sailed our way up to the line for the start of the third and final race.
We were informed by a friendly boat the the race was a straight line from the start back to the marina. Great we thought, cross the line, set the sails, switch on the auto helm and let Moleoba do all the work, that would suit us just fine in our fragile state.
Again we got caught up in some tight manoeuvring in front of the start line which had our hearts racing, then the gun sounded and we were off.
Moleoba was bent over nicely in the 12kts of breeze and we were starting to gain on our nearest competitor.
Then about three minutes into the race, BANG... the Genoa ripped in half.
My big beautiful No. 1 Genoa had torn across the clew and was now thrashing in the wind.
A real shame, but if we wanted to continue with the race we needed to drop it to the deck and hoist the number 2.
This took us about 20 minutes as it is a very large sail and the number 2 was stowed away under the bunk in the forepeak.
Tim and I changed the sails as Susan steered the boat into the wind then set of in pursuit of the pack, except they had disappeared.
They were not as we had been informed racing in a straight line down the coast but had rounded a buoy a few miles away and had now got mixed up in the mass of other sails.
Again there had been no briefing before the race, and without the pack to follow we had no idea what the course was.
As we approached what seemed to be our next buoy, but unsure which way around it to pass or where to go after that, 3 of the big racing yachts were also heading towards it and shouting for us to get out of the way.
We were in fact not in their way but I suppose they just wanted to make sure it stayed like that.
We sailed in front of them by maybe 30 meters and then tacked out to sea our nerves in tatters and not wanting to get in the way of the serious racers we re-tired from the race.
Most yachts had 6 to 10 crew
That night was the end of regatta party, and Mr Calero can put on quite a spread.
600 people sat down for a three course dinner in a very posh restaurant, waiter service and a never ending supply of wine.
At midnight there were fireworks and a 30 piece African drumming band which played for 20 minutes before walking/dancing all of us along the water front and into the regatta village where they played until the sweat was dripping off them, then a DJ took over until 5am.
Some time before then I collapsed onto the deck of Moleoba and had to be carried into bed by Tim and Susan. 1000 people, 6 free bars and an all night open air music party, it was lucky I made it back to the boat at all.
Not at my best sailing back the next morning.
In the next Log, Moleoba arrives in southern Morocco town of Laayoune only to be turned away from the harbour because of rioting and some necessary "back breaking" as the local policeman put it...
By mid November my sailing season was nearly over. I had twice tried to make it across to Morocco and had yet to get there, once due to crew sickness and the second time having no wind and my reluctance to use the motor.
Susan who had crewed for me in the regatta on Lanzarote was also very keen to see Morocco and together we made one last attempt to sail the short 50 miles over to the African continent.
The wind conditions were bad, very light or no wind at all so we sailed our way slowly down the East side of Fuerteventua, stopping at Puerto Del Rossario and then Grand Tarahal.
Sailing from Grand Tarahal over to Tarfaya is the shortest hop to Morocco being just 50 miles but still the very light winds prevented us from making the passage so we carried on further south and anchored off the very pretty beaches at Morro Jable.
We dropped anchor mid afternoon and enjoyed swimming in the clear waters and a very calm evening eating dinner in the cockpit.
The next morning after breakfast we swam ashore and walked for a mile or more along the white sands right through the German nudist beach to the light house and back again. Quite and experience.
We had been on anchor now for 3 nights and were running dangerously low on the staples such as smoked salmon, sun dried tomatoes and Serrano ham. Not wanting to suffer too much we moved Moleoba into the marina just a mile further down the coast and walked into town to re-provision.
From the marina it was a 15 minute walk back to the beach that we had just been anchored off to eat lunch in a shaded restaurant before trying to find a supermarket that was open during siesta on a Sunday.
After such a grueling day we were both ready for a siesta and settled down for a couple of hours sleep.
As it happened a fly had found its way into the cabin and insisted on using my face for a landing pad, unable to sleep I got up and checked the weather forecast.
It was predicting a northerly wind of 10 to 16kts blowing from early evening until just after dawn, our weather window had finally appeared. Unfortunately a night passage but still enough wind to take us to North Africa without using the engine.
I woke Susan and explained the situation, we were ready to go apart from needing to fill the water tanks, even if fresh water might be available in Morocco I didn't want to have gamble on how clean it might be.
It was sunset by the time we motored out of the marina and set a course of South East toward El Aauin. This was a longer crossing of nearly 70 miles but El Aauin is one of only two Moroccan ports that lie across from Fuerteventua.
The Pilot book says very little about either El Aauin or Tarfaya but we were curious to see for ourselves.
We set full sail for the first hour and then put the first reef into the main as the gusts were little too strong to be comfortable on a night crossing. There were just the two of us and Susan was still very new to the boat and it was going to be her first ever solo night watch.
The conditions were perfect, a clear starry night and a small half meter swell that Moleoba was happily slicing through.
At night it can feel like your sitting under a giant colander, with the tiny pin pricks of star light shining through the holes.
The stars define where the sea stops and the sky starts as they populate the night from horizon to horizon.
Moleoba was heeled over gently, the auto helm doing a fine job steering us at just over 90 degrees to the wind, our boat speed was between 7.5 and 8.5kts, this is fast for a sailing boat and at night you have an exaggerated feeling of speed.
The darkness shrinks your apparent world to a small sphere around the yacht, you are acutely aware of your surroundings, just half a meter from the black sea rushing past the hull, the smell of the spray from the bow wave as it falls back into the sea, and black encompassing night, it all engages your senses, to make it an exhilarating ride.
Moleoba surges forward regardless of what might lay ahead of her, the sails are balanced the auto helm is keeping her trim and your job is to look out for other boats that might be on an intersecting course with you.
On a solo night watch the yacht and her crew are depending on you to keep them safe as she barrels across the dark wastes.
The lights of Fuerteventua disappearing in the background.
Sun Rise over the Western Sahara, El Aauin
Susan took the first watch from 10pm to 2am whilst I slept in the saloon berth. When I woke we were still cruising along at 8kts, at this rate we would reach the Moroccan coast before dawn, not ideal as I like to arrive in a new port with light to see what we are doing.
There were a couple of lights off to our starboard side and when I switched on the AIS system, the vessel was identified as a cargo ship heading for Cairo and would miss us by over a mile. Its very difficult to judge distances at sea even in the day time, so the AIS system is very re-assuring for night crossings.
Susan put her head down and Moleoba ploughed on through the night.
6 miles off the Moroccan coast line were a dozen or more lights, the fishing fleet I presumed out of El Aauin.
I tried to pick my way through the fleet but was persuaded by some strong search lights to go around the fleet.
By dawn the wind had dropped to nothing and I switched the engine on.
Susan was up again now.
This is always the exciting part, making land fall after a nights sail.
Especially onto a new continent.
We followed one of the old battered fishing boats into the harbour.
Unfortunately when we arrived in the harbour there was nowhere for us to tie up. Half the wall was taken up by military, cargo and tug boats and the other side was 10 deep with ancient fishing boats. The water was filthy, dead fish, animal guts and human faeces. We were waved away by one sailor in uniform on a naval vessel and told to move on when we tied alongside a derelict customs boat. There was not a single pleasure craft in the harbour and although a few fishermen indicated we could tie alongside their craft we declined and dropped anchor out in the bay.
We found out a couple of days later that there had been some violent rioting in the town due to the refugee camps. El Aauin is on a disputed border since the French left in 1976 when Moroccans moved in and claimed it for themselves.
We spent the day re-cooperating from the night’s passage and left early the next morning, heading North to Tarfaya.
This was a long 10hr motor across a flat calm sea. I took the time to take out all the bedding and cabin cushions, airing them in the strong sunshine.
A couple of small open fishing boats motored across to us as we passed and held up fish and octopus for us to presumably buy if we wanted, we shook our heads and which point they all asked us for cigarettes, which we didn't have.
We arrived in the large harbour of Tarfaya early afternoon and over the next couple of hours we attracted a growing number of port officials.
A dozen or more uniforms slowly appeared on the quay side and took down our passport and boat details onto various scraps of paper and one overweight customs man came aboard and searched through all the boats lockers.
He was a sweating mess by the time he was satisfied we weren't keeping any contraband or weapons in any of the very obvious storage compartments on the boat.
Now we were in Muslim Morocco we were obliged to dress appropriately, novel for a couple of days but during the heat of the day it was very tiresome. Even out on anchor within the harbour I was stared at if I came above decks without a T-shirt on.
I made the mistake of informing the young harbour official, dressed in jeans and a T-shirt that I fixed computers for a living, I knew I had made a mistake as soon as the words left my mouth.
Susan and I were just about to leave the boat to explore town when he arrived back with his broken laptop.
Very briefly I explained that as he had poured a can of coke over the keyboard there was nothing I could do for him.
I suggested he looks for a new keyboard on the internet.
He then very unabashedly asked for a bottle of whisky.
I had bought a half bottle for just such an occasion and passed it onto him.
Poor Susan had to be covered from head to toe!
He then walked Susan and I into town, pointed us down the main street and said there it is, our town is your town, you will have no problems here, if you need anything ask for me, everybody knows me here!
He was quite right and indeed that street was "It". We walked up one side of the street and back down the other side.
With Susan wearing her Arabian disguise we were paid little or no attention.
Town was busy and noisy, donkeys pulling carts that were made out of adapted half car chassis, old trucks and older Land Rovers. It was just after dusk and most of the male inhabitants of town seemed to be milling around in the street.
We stopped at one of the two street cafes serving food, there was fish to eat, fried or grilled, no menu.
Squares of old news paper were provided for serviettes and my plastic seat had been stitched back together with twine where the back rest had snapped.
The table was filthy, covered in black grime and rubbing it with a piece of damp newspaper did little except spread the greasy muck into swirling patterns.
The fried fish on the other hand, served with some sort of tomatoes relish and small flat breads was delicious.
The pot of tea that was ordered from the next door tea house was almost undrinkable. It was served on a tray with small cups and a tea pot with a bowl of small rocks of sugar. Even with the sugar heaped high in the cup the taste was still very bitter.
Susan adopted the technique of holding a sugar rock between her teeth and sucking the tea into her mouth through the sugar, it did little to improve the evil brew and we left most of our pot un-drunk.
For the Fish supper and pot of tea we paid under 3e.
I had been keen to arrive in Tarfaya by today as there had been a 4.5m northerly swell predicted, and it was due to reach our coast tonight.
By the time we came back from exploring the town the boat was surging forward and back along the quay wall quite unpleasantly.
I decided that we would be safer anchoring in the middle of the harbour away from the wall and enlisted the help of the two armed army men to untie us and throw down the ropes as we pushed off the wall.
At around 4am I awoke to the sound of breaking waves and roused myself to the cockpit. Across the harbour wall I could just make out the white shape of rolling breakers.
Little of the swell was making its way into the harbour and we were sitting quite comfortably, but I was awake now and sat up watching the conditions. Amazingly a fishing boat came in whilst it was still dark running the gauntlet between the breaking waves that were blocking the harbour entrance, again they buzzed by the boat holding up Octopus for me to buy, impressed with their courage or stupidity to be out at sea in those swells in such as small boat I waved them over and threw them each a cold beer.
By dawn the waves were bigger, two meter walls of spitting white water regularly breaking across the harbour entrance.
The swell had peaked and we were quite safe in our position so when Susan came on deck for breakfast I went back to sleep for a few hours.
Later that morning we blew up the dinghy and rowed to shore, to explore the town more thoroughly and also see why there was a small crowd of people some in uniform standing on top of the harbour wall looking out to sea.
I presumed that they were watching the huge surf breaking on the sandbanks just outside of the harbour.
"If you look carefully from 2.22mins to 2.38mins into the clip as I pan across the wave’s in-front of the harbour, at the far left of the screen you can see a small black dot, that is a 25ft open fishing boat and it gives you some scale as to the size of the waves."
Despite the large swell being predicted for over a week, several of the small fishing boats had gone out and were now trapped by the surf outside of the Harbour.
The harbour master was watching out to sea, looking at the set waves as they rolled in towards the shore and when he thought there was a break in the waves he would wave to the small boat sitting out in deep water to make their run in-between the waves and back into the harbour.
It was a pretty tense minute as he waved them in and then all the bystanders stared waving too, encouraging the little boat to go faster, as if the little outboard engine that was on the back of the boat wasn't running flat out all ready.
We watched with bated breath as the giant wave tipped up and broke some 200m out to sea and produced a 3m wall of white water that was running down onto the little open fishing boat.
The fishing boat seem to be stuck in glue, its progress looking too slow to make it behind the harbour wall before the wave caught it broadside and rolled it and her crew into the sea.
The wave broke against the outside edge of the harbour wall and we could feel the concrete shudder beneath our feet.
All the crowd were waving frantically now as if they could influence the boat to move more swiftly through the water, there heads switching from side to side as if watching a game of tennis. At one point looking at the boat, the next out to sea to the oncoming wave, judging the distances and speed of the two.
Eventually it became apparent that the small boat would make it through with some seconds to spare but it was a tense time for us spectators let alone the poor men in the boat.
We spent two more days in Tarfaya waiting for the swell to die down enough for us to escape from the harbour.
This was a very different Morocco than the one I had seen further north last year.
Susan had traveled extensively around Indonesia and had never seen anywhere quite as poor as this town.
This is the main road in Tarfaya and the only one that has tarmac, the rest are dirt streets.
By day three we were itching to leave Tarfaya. The customs and port officials took an eternity to sign us back out of the country but eventually we had our passport stamped and we were free to leave.
It was a blue sky day with a brisk breeze, Moleoba was gently heeled over and sailing at 7kts towards Grand Tarahal back on Fuerteventura.
It was an easy crossing with the added excitement of catching the biggest fish I have ever caught, just as we crossed over into the deep water trench off the Moroccan coast line, we had so much fish I needed to distribute it around the other yachts in the marina when we arrived.
From here we sailed back to our home port of Correlejo and slowly decommissioned Moleoba for another season.
So quite an eventful season, I am now back at work in England saving my pennies for next years adventures.