On the nose


Newsletters 2008

Almerimar, Southern Spain - Dakar, Senegal

Winter in Almerimar - again

March 24th 2008


Our winter stay at Almerimar is nearly over, but not quite. This newsletter is being written early with the launching of our website. It’s only taken us four years to get around to doing a website, but it all now fits in very nicely with the completion of the book ‘On the nose’, so it was meant to be.


We overwintered here three years ago and had a fantastic time, and they say never go back because it won’t be the same, but we wanted a place to finish our book and get Yanina ready for the Atlantic crossing. Almerimar seemed ideal - reasonably priced, sunny in winter, and the Mercadona supermarket is just round the corner. We are moored next to Maud, another Warrior, only the third one we have met in three years, (although we know of two others that are around the Med). We've not met the owners yet, they're away for the winter.


There are some people who we know from last time, and a whole lot of new friends. We have picked up where we left off in the community here, held together by the cruisers' network on VHF channel 67, and Ladies' coffee morning. It’s still like a soap opera of characters with events from crime to             Yanina and Maud

romance. Bob’s notebook is filling with ideas for more cartoons.


From September to December, Bob worked at completing the 150 odd cartoons for the book, Liz went to England to visit family and look at furniture, and the only other break we took was to visit to Cartagena and Barcelona with Rob and Brenda whom we met 3 years ago on Paprika. So much more of Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia has been built since we visited 17 years ago and as we looked at this great building project that continues on, we wondered if we would be there again in 17 years time. Thanks to Kay and Pete who offered us a berth on Nearchos, moored in Port Vell.

Barcelona - Rob and Edward Scissorhands, market stall, jazz bar, wooden submarine, Sagrada Familia and Miro foundation


While Bob was drawing, Liz thought she would like to refurbish the woodwork inside Yanina, difficult as Bob’s favourite spot with the best light for working was in the saloon. Jim and Katie heard us discussing this and generously offered us the use of their boat Tenaya while they were away. So for nearly 2 months we lived on 2 boats, Bob drawing cartoons on a new Hallberg-Rassy while Liz sanded Yanina, who got the better deal then? The book was finished on December 29th, the woodwork sometime later in January, both excellent. Thanks to Mary on Kesho for bringing Liz some more Rustin's Danish oil from Gibraltar.

Leading up to Christmas we held a Christmas market and when word got around, we had a steady stream of visitors on Yanina wanting cards and cartoons. Our Christmas day at the Cafe Espigon was a great success, the sun shone and somehow sixty people managed to have turkey with all the trimmings, all cooked on different boats and ferried there in cars, amazing what a bunch of sailors can organise together. Each to their own area, and co-ordinated so well by Amelia,  they also provided decorations, Santa, a disco and live music (us). On New Year's Eve we were invited to a bonfire on the beach and ended up drinking red wine and cooking sausages with people from Germany, Poland and Luxembourg. We played them some music and shared champagne and grapes at midnight.

We are still planning our route at the moment as we think we have plenty of time, ha ha. We have most of the charts and have ordered pilot books. We are looking at cruising the Moroccan coast down to Agadir, then hopping to the Canaries, maybe Senegal then Cape Verdes and across to Brazil, or across to Antigua and Cuba, we will take two seasons in the Caribbean.


Day to day, we are working very hard on both the boat and the publishing empire, dotting from one to the other, so things are coming together slowly. We have had the rigging checked and sent the book to publishers, distributors and Yachting Monthly; we have ordered a new windlass gypsy, SSB receiver, installed a new mast winch, and set up the website. Things are beginning to happen on the publishing front, thanks to help from Rod Heikell who came here to Almerimar in October. Won’t tempt fate by saying more yet, but we’ll keep you posted in our ‘what’s new’ section.

There are regular regattas here and we joined Chris on Drike in January, and although Drike is a stately lady and we didn't stand a chance against the racing boats, we had a good sail in 15 knots of breeze. We have just started playing some music on another Chris’s 20 metre 1940’s RAF rescue launch. Banjo, concertina, trumpet, clarinet and guitar came together and we jammed at a bar, which was very successful. It has been a good winter weatherwise too, a very sunny January, a bit windy in February, now generally sunny again, although it can blow up fiercely for the odd day.  


Almerimar - again

May 15th 2008

The weather is settling, most of the people who have overwintered have already set off, but we are still here, running a publishing house, having just sent the book 'On the nose' to be printed and published on August 1st. See what's new for all the details. We're not in any hurry to go as we don't want to cross the Atlantic till the trade winds are favourable in December. A more imminent deadline is the marina fees that double in June.

We've had a lot of fun in between the work. There's been a series of festivals in El Ejido involving horse displays, a medieval market, San Marco, and lots of drinking, the Spanish people know how to Fiesta.

 Horse/dragon in riding spectacular                 A more traditional display

 Sailors on the bus to El Ejido               Flamenco at Isobel's bar                     In the street

Now we're getting Yanina ready for the Atlantic crossing and installing all the equipment and checking everything we think we will need to be at sea for long stretches. When we cast off in about three weeks time, our propsed itinerary looks something like this:

June, July, August         From Southern Spain to Morocco, round the coast to Agadir

September                    Agadir to Canaries, poss. UK visit

October                        Canaries to Senegal

November                     Senegal to Cape Verdes

December - January      Cape Verdes to Antigua             

February                       Antigua, Barbuda, Montserrat,    

 Nevis, St Martin, Anguilla

March                           Virgin Islands                            

April                              Cuba                                        

May – June                    Cuba – Venezuela                     

July                                Venezuela, boat out of water, travel inland, poss. UK visit


Ambitious, but we need to plan it all now, and the advantage of travelling like this is we can always change our minds if we want.


Asilah harbour Morocco

26th July 2008


It’s just over a month since we finally got away from Almerimar. We’d waited there to get the printer’s proofs of ‘On the nose’ and we still needed to be somewhere to receive the advance printed copy, so we decided to go to La Linea anchorage in Gibraltar bay, a favourite haunt of liveaboards waiting to transit the Straits.


Guardian Spirit was there from Almerimar, chilling out and checking how long the water in their tanks would last; Kiah and Big Sur were both waiting to go to Portugal; and a few other yachts were waiting too. La Linea is a safe, free anchorage, and a cheerful little Spanish town….when you get there. Drawbacks are a west wind that carries the smell of the oil refinery, an east wind that coats the boat in dust and sand from the airport runway and the Rock; and a trip to La Linea town that involves risking dinghy theft on the breakwater and a long walk across the hot concrete of a seldom used ferry port and abandoned park project.


There was excitement when the anchor of a French boat, left unattended, started to drag onto the breakwater in a strong wind. Yachties always look out for each other and almost immediately, six dinghies with outboards appeared from the other yachts, including us, and impressively, an elderly German sailor rowed over and jumped on board. Within minutes he was co-ordinating a rescue, hauling up the anchor as three dinghies either side propelled the yacht forward to safety and to re-anchor. The owner, Christian, had spent 5 years building the yacht himself and was very grateful.


We eventually sailed into Marina bay, Gibraltar to collect the advance book, de-pollute ourselves and Yanina, eat an English breakfast, and stock up on English groceries for the Atlantic crossing. Gibraltar is not so attractive from this end at the moment with lots of building work as the old Marina bay and Sheppards anchorage, which used to be long term home for a lot of liveaboards, are transformed into an Ocean Village – shanty town to tinsel town.


Our weather forecast for crossing the Straits to Ceuta was a West wind force 3-4, but when we sailed out into Gibraltar bay it was obviously far more and we encountered huge seas and force 7-8 off Europa point. Guardian Spirit were employing some sensible tactics, like keeping off the point, so we motored west into headwinds for 2 miles and then turned, and the sea did get better, but we sailed in 7-8’s all the way across with Yanina’s toerail in the water.


Ceuta is a Spanish enclave - they can’t have Gibraltar, so they’ll have a bit of Morocco instead - a pleasant harbour, mainly local boats but room for about 30 visitng yachts. We used this as a base and joined John and Penelope on Sleipnir for an inland trip to Morocco and the nearby town of Tetouan; then into the mountains to Chefchaouen, using local buses and taxis.


At the border, Morocco was instantly dirtier, shabbier, and cheaper. Hotter by day, cooler at night. Morocco is a cold country with a hot sun’. We travelled along the coast past the new holiday developments of Smir and Setur to Tetouan bus station where Agent no.1 materialised and helped us buy tickets and get a taxi to Tetouan. Agent no. 2 was waiting in the Medina and shadowed us until we shook him off. And so it went on, we learned not to look lost, ask for any help, or look at the guide book, or mention the Berber market; or buy the sweet mint tea that attracted wasps.


We made our way through twisted alleys, past squatting Berber women in traditional straw hats with woollen ribs and pompoms selling bunches of herbs and onions; past workshops – a grinning elderly man with a shaggy beard and biblical robes up to his armpits in sawdust; a corner paint shop - the owner grinding pigments out of what looked like blocks of mouldy cheese; live chickens, then a boy plucking (hopefully) dead ones on a rotating wheel and laughing at our faces; tiny hovels; barbers; small shops with closed doors and drums on the wall, full of men. Stalls selling exquisite honeyed sweetmeats, sheep’s heads, and in another, dried blackened goats feet; tortoiseshells for sale in a herb shop; glimpses of an ancient medieval way of life.


Chefchaouen was a 2 hr bus ride (£1) climbing into the hills past a turquoise lake. Crops of corn and barley were being harvested with the odd small machine but mainly by hand, cut with a sickle and threshed with pitchforks. Goatherds were sitting in the sun or shade; the landscape was full of people, unlike England. The bus deposited us at the foot of the town with a climb up a hill to the Medina and a mountain backdrop. We declined agent no.12 who wanted us to come with him to his family hotel, then regretted it – there was a music festival on and every hotel we visited was full. Eventually, by asking and moving off the main alleys of the Medina, we found a very nice one, small rooms round a central courtyard, roof open to the sky (double room £8).


 Chefchaouen is described as a hippy town, with it’s informal and colourful central square and rumours of nearby kif farms. The square is lined with cafes and restaurants and at 6-30pm it was packed with people watching a stage in the centre. Most restaurants do not serve alcohol and we went to the large hotel for a beer, where we met Agent no. 13, dressed in djellabah and pointed slippers, also quaffing a beer. He persuaded us to go to his family restaurant with a rooftop veranda overlooking the stage and the music, a decision we did not regret, and we ate there both nights. (Three courses of Moroccan food £6). At an unhurried breakfast next day in the square, we met David from Australia, a silversmith, visiting his daughter who had married a Moroccan and was here to buy a property. We then explored a Medina more upmarket than Tetouan. In the blue-walled alleys we saw craft shops, watched John and Penelope buy a carpet, then were waylaid into another carpet shop where we experienced more of the black art of bargaining.


Back at Ceuta, the agents stayed on the other side of the border. We were in time for the Fiesta of the Virgin del Carmen and at dusk, her statue travelled on a float from the church to a fishing boat decorated with lights, that then took a tour of the harbour, followed by a fleet of boats. Hope she enjoyed her trip.


There were lots of rumours about Tangier, our next port of call to the west, and our last transit of the Straits. How much space was there for yachts – if any? What was the exclusion zone shown on the Navtex that surrounded it? The weather was not looking good for going west, so we decided to at least clear Yanina into Morocco at Smir 15 miles to the east and then join John and Penelope in an adventure trip to El Jebba, a very small Moroccan harbour. The seas and wind were lumpy and ‘on the nose’ round Ceuta point, and we abandoned the 50 mile trip  to El Jebba halfway, as the seas and wind were… lumpy and ‘on the nose’. Time to get out of the Mediterranean. We had a nice welcome at Smir. There aren’t many boats and we were allowed to moor alongside the harbour wall. Smir was full of wealthy Moroccan families on holiday and they were fascinated with Yanina and often stopped to call greetings and questions.

Yanina actually under sail after turning round on the El Jebba trip


We’d read the Moroccan pilot, and heard a lot of stories from yachties but we had yet to form an opinion about sailing in Morocco. Harbours are small, there are few marinas and it is only starting to cater for cruising yachts, perhaps due to problems with the smuggling of immigrants and drugs, and the port police are extremely vigilant. There are tales of dirty harbours, having to bribe officials, and the pilot warns of Atlantic rollers. But we’d seen Portugal and Madeira, and a lot of nice but bland marinas, and we wanted to see Morocco.


We left Smir at 4am to catch the west flowing tide and finally get through the Straits of Gibraltar. The winds turned out to be West 4, not East as predicted, but despite wind against tide, we were still carried through and apart from patches of swirling water at times, we had no problems. A Moroccan patrol boat came to look at us but we waved and they waved back and sped away.


We could smell Tangier harbour before we got in. The call of the muezzin all over town sounded like a herd of melodious sheep, and as the Comarit ferry left, it joined in on bass. The fishing harbour had a huge fleet and there were just two small pontoons full of local boats. We rafted up on the end and there was only just enough room. Port policeman Rashid came to the boat and took our passports, issuing us with passes to see the town. ‘Anything to declare? No guns? You come in peace?’ he asked, reminding us of our German neighbours in Almerimar who didn’t speak English but mimed imaginary guns everytime we mentioned Morocco. Rashid was polite and helpful, but keen to know exactly how long we’d stay and what time we were going. We spent the afternoon in Tangier old town, an ancient Medina, fascinating but rough - scabby cats with 3 legs, beggars asleep on the pavement, and another Agent with bad teeth and remarkably good English ‘…never been to England mate….learned English off me mates ‘ere’. Then to the newer French town which is never as interesting. In the English church of St Andrew we met caretaker Mustapha (‘Yes please, thank you very much’) made famous in Michael Palin’s TV series and book ‘Sahara’. Back at the port for the night and in the early hours a soft voice whispered ‘Yanina’, but no one was there. Next morning a greasy fishing boat clunked Yanina, but only her anchor.


Despite a forecast of winds from the NE, we motored into light SouthWesterlies (will the wind always be ‘on the nose’) to Asilah, a tiny fishing harbour with just enough depth for Yanina to anchor in the middle. A police launch was with us before we’d even finished our ‘Tom Cunliffe’ technique of digging the anchor in, and he came on board and took copious details, including our mother’s maiden names, perhaps he’s a password breaker.

                                            Police launch  - total 1000 horse power



Asilah is a small resort where mainly Moroccan families come on holiday. Its Medina is clean and whitewashed with a lot of holiday homes and the town is famous for a month long music and art festival in August. Already there are murals being painted on the walls – shall we stay? It’s cooler here on the Atlantic coast.


 On the first day we had coffee, and read an English paper, in the Moroccan Medina that sits within a Portuguese fort, then walked through the newer French town down a boulevard lined with cannon balls, so perfect, it looked like a CAD image, overlaid onto the original field where sheep were still grazing. A wedding procession passed in the street - three bands from regions of Morocco, dressed in costume and all playing different instruments. There was a market hall with fresh produce and we ate grilled sardines cooked on a barbeque, with our fingers. (It seems to be okay to use both hands as long as it’s only the right hand that goes to the mouth).


From Yanina we can watch the people on the beach and they occasionally swim up to us for a chat. The fishing boats are always coming and going. The range of tide is 3.6 metres and we very nearly touch bottom twice a day, but I think we’ll stay a while. There are no facilities for us, (water, electricity), but it’s free. The port police are very friendly and helpful. They turned out in one of their fast ribs, wearing matching red caps and restored order when too many overfriendly children were playing round Yanina; they let us use their washbasins to do some washing; and they don’t seem fazed that we are still here after a week, still the only yacht.







Turtle shells for sale

Morocco to Canaries 

Posted in Tenerife 23rd September 2008


We did stay for the start of the Asilah festival. The medina was decorated with murals, and there was art and music from countries all over the world. Best by far was Mexico who took over a building and turned it into a restaurant serving Mexican food and drinks. In the rooftop bar, a very accomplished band played all evening. It was frequented by holiday makers from France or cosmopolitan Casablanca, but the organisers were charging European prices and this, together with the culture shock of tacos and margaritas, meant it was ignored by a lot of local Moroccans.





We were the only yacht in the anchorage until Wiro and Esther turned up in Zwerver and joined us in our evening expeditions, dinghying over to the harbour wall, clambering over six fishing boats, and climbing a 10 metre ladder at low tide in the dark to enjoy the music. We left our dinghy in the care of Mohammed, a Moroccan Rasta with long dreadlocks. He was the guardian of the dive boat and spoke perfect English and several other languages; he had come back to his home town after years spent living in other countries. Along the harbour wall, fishermen were selling their catch in the dark, with only the street lights to see as they cleaned and gutted huge fish with dangerous looking knives. Further in, there were barrows of steamed snails for sale mmmm. People had stalls selling – anything, oranges, water, coral jewellery.



Wiro and Esther dance to the Mexican music


These contrasts are part of Morocco today. The traditional ways, though often synonymous with dirt and poverty; that are now gradually being overlaid by the modern global-style of the 21st century that money brings; like a veneer that doesn’t quite stick, not yet. Peel it away, and authentic Morocco is still there, managing to shock and fascinate in equal measure. What are we doing here, gawping at the lifestyle of people with less money than us and 80% illiteracy. It’s okay for us, coming from Europe. They need progress and education, and they envy us, enough to put to sea in wooden boats, trying to get there. But will they lose the things that attract us; their traditions; their simple values; the kindness and welcome to a stranger, hand on heart; the hand-made crafts. They are only a few steps behind us in the pursuit of the consumer life that ironically we are escaping by going to sea. We were humbled by a conversation with a fisherman who has a maths degree but cannot get any other work in Asilah, his home town. He is scathing of how Asilah has become ‘Centre of the Arts’. He wants to buy an electronic Fishfinder for his boat but finds it impossible to spend his dirham’s outside Morocco. We have just come from the internet, ordering a flight online with our UK credit card; at least we have that choice.


Most days we dinghied over for coffee in the medina, visiting the internet cafe, (50p an hour, but many viruses); shopping in the atmospheric old market hall with fruit, meat and grocery stalls; lunch in a café outside, then maybe to the Atlantic beach with its rollers, one day to the hammam, or the new library, full of books, but empty of people. Then a stroll in the square in the violet light at dusk when Moroccan families come out and perch on every surface like roosting pigeons. The Medina came alive then as the innocuous double metals doors in lining the walls swung open to reveal shops selling a multitude of local crafts; and the outdoor cafes along the walls were full to bursting with families. As it got dark, the crowd seemed to increase in size and momentum along with the decibels, almost to a dangerous pitch. Along the Atlantic beach there was a fun fair and disco music to add to the noise and confusion. It was good to return to the quiet anchorage. Then suddenly the holiday makers were increasing in number and the swimmers visiting the boat in the afternoon were getting bolder, climbing into the dinghy and swinging on the anchor chain, it was no longer peaceful and time to go.


A good overnight sail with just the right wind on the beam, to Rabat, the capital city at the mouth of a river. It’s a difficult entrance and we slowed down to get there after dawn when a boat from the new marina came out to escort us over the sandbars. Arnd, Bente, Siri, together with David, Valerie, Bastian and Morgan from Almerimar were there to take our lines. On the next pontoon were Wiro and Esther. Rabat marina was on the Sale town side of the river, connected by a bridge to Rabat town and it had only just opened as part of a new development of the Beaubourg valley, funded by King Hassan. There were showers but the laundry, shop and fuel berth were still being put in place. There were bicycles available to use, and there were plenty of marina staff strutting proudly in their new uniforms, but none had a clue how to service them and we often had to swap the wheels to get one useful bike. Sale had a good indoor market, and Rabat had a modern French supermarket, ideal for provisioning. For two weeks we explored the towns and took an inland trip to Fes and Marrakesh. The train line hugs the coast and we travelled in comfort in 1st class air-conditioned coaches, about £10 for a 4 hour trip.


From Rabat Kasbah we had a spectacular view of the estuary with its numerous breakwaters that still failed to stem the Atlantic swell up the river mouth but provided shelter for two large beaches. Crowds on the beaches, and crowded cemeteries nearby created similar patterns from this distance, this life and the next. The Medina was clean and touristy, till the city wall at the far end and every corner was an open air toilet. This didn’t stop people setting up stalls only feet away, or perching on the low walls in groups chatting.


The train was divided into compartments for six and we always asked for a window seat, next to the air-conditioning. The journeys were comfortable and fast with scenery to look at, and travelling companions who wanted to speak English with us so we found out a little about their lives. On one journey, the conductor cleared out everyone except us and ushered in three obviously wealthy Saudi young men, complete with white robes, tea towels, sunglasses and mobile phones. We were a bit quiet for a while, until a young Moroccan woman joined us and conversed with them in Arabic and us in English. Soon one of them went out to get water and sandwiches for everybody. It is traditional to share your food with fellow travellers on trains.


We found a hotel in Fes Villa Nouvelle and having been tipped off by some fellow yachties, took a taxi to the hills first to see the view of the famous old town and Medina. Back down to one of the Medina gates and we dived in. We were told you needed a guide and it’s true, the Medina is huge and we did get lost, but we took a compass and tried to work it out ourselves. Over two days we managed to see craftspeople, a drum shop, a  woodworking museum, the famous tanneries, food and spice stalls, and sample authentic Moroccan cooking on the street. The tanneries have vats full of pigeon shit to clean and soften the hides, then vats of different coloured dyes. The hides are turned and worked by men up to their knees all day in the liquids, then stretched out in the sun to dry; you can view  it, and smell it all from above, usually from a leather shop funnily enough.


We did enlist the services of two six year old guides to find the woodworking museum which was entertaining as they stopped every now and then to ask the way themselves. At the end, we managed to slip them some coins before they were rather unkindly booted out of the square by the proprietors of the museum – it’s tough on the streets.



Guide asks the way 


                                         Butcher in Fes Medina



From Fes we took the train to Marrakesh. It was hot in Fes, but here the heat hit us like a furnace, doubly so after the cooler breezes of Rabat’s Atlantic coast. We had been warned about this, and booked an air-conditioned room at Ali’s, a hotel used by tour groups and back packers, just off the focal point of Marrakesh, Djemaa el-Fna. This is a huge square in the Medina where at dusk you will find acrobats, musicians, snake charmers and fortune tellers; and there are so many open air food stalls they are numbered - ‘come to number 114’ was the cry. 


From here we took a day trip to the Ourika valley in the Atlas mountains and climbed to a waterfall; resisting the guides wanting 200 dirhams, we just followed half of Morocco instead. We then took a walk far enough away from the tagines and soft drinks cooling in mountain streams to peace and quiet further up the valley and a glimpse of some mountain villages. Back in Marrakesh the next day it was cooler and we visited the Palaces and Bert Flint’s museum of West African artefacts. In both Fes and Marrakesh we took taxis in the heat, and learned to barter hard over the fares.

  Ourika Valley Bikewash                                                                             Ourika Valley drinks cooler


Back in Rabat and Marrakesh worked its revenge on our tummies for a few days; apparently it’s the water, even on a washed salad. Then it was time for the four day sail to La Graciosa, the first of the Canary Islands. The Atlantic swell is notoriously huge on this coast and the wind always increases round Essouria, south of us, nicknamed ‘city of the winds’. Although we set off with a fairly good forecast of 20 knot winds behind us, the reality was more like 25 knots. First we had to beat out away from the coast to avoid tuna nets, making Yanina corkscrew in a horrid motion so we didn’t eat very much until we changed course and it became easier. Then the wind increased to 35 knots, the waves were now 3 metres and we were doing 7 knots with just half a genoa, no doubt helped by the current too. Yanina was just brilliant, solid as waves bashed her, lifting her stern as waves passed underneath, with only one or two flicking some water into the cockpit. She may be a pig to handle in a marina but her hull shape means she comes into her own in these conditions. We kept in touch with Jomandy for a while but our SSB needs an HF active aerial, and they being  bigger boat, soon raced ahead, out of VHF range.We spent a fourth night at sea so as to come into La Graciosa in the light but we need not have worried, it is well lit and you can temporarily come in against the harbour wall to starboard. There are only two pontoons to port but we found an empty berth on the outside as the wind picked up to 25 knots and blew - all the time we were there – the wind funnels in the straits between here and Lanzarote. We were lucky to get a berth, no water or electricity, but only 5 euros. Other yachts were told there was no room, and it seems to depend who is on duty at the time. The alternative is an anchorage to the south, but an hour’s walk to the village.


A walk round the harbour to the village and there was a completely different climate as the wind dropped. La Graciosa is a tiny island where there are no roads and the streets are yellow sand, blown there from the Sahara. The one village is populated with fishermen and is also a day trip destination with restaurants lining the front. The only vehicles are landrovers that will take you all round the island, to the volcano or to the beautiful golden beach in the north. There are mountain bikes for hire, but we saw many people walking them on the tracks, deeply rutted by the landrover tyres; neither of these was really necessary for us as we walked across the island in two hours. It’s an idyllic little place but can be cloudy and windy for days and Yanina became filthy with red dust. There were a lot of boats including as wreck that were obviously just left there because of the cheap rates, a couple of liveaboard boats, stranded for their own reasons.




The winds dropped just as we had to move on and we motored overnight to southern Tenerife, but we missed a notorious wind acceleration zone in the process. Our plans were to book into a marina as Bob was flying to the UK to sign books at the Southampton Boat Show, and Liz was staying to meet friends Joan, Shirley and David; then to haul out in Los Cristianos boatyard. We spent two nights at Puerto San Miguel which although is a good safe marina with wifi, is sited in an anonymous holiday complex with apartments, hotels and a golf course and few local shops so a car would be necessary, a noisy digger is also working on the breakwater every morning. We moved 2 miles south to Las Gallettas, a delightful Spanish village with shops, restaurants, a beach and buses. The marina is new but no wifi and not so safe in a southerly swell when the boats and the pontoons dance rather alarmingly. The pontoons have Mediterranean lazy lines rather than the pillars and fingers more associated with tidal waters, so maybe this is a reason why. Fortunately, the weather has been calm for our stay here.

 Las Galletas

La Gomera

Posted 1st December 2008


We’re on La Gomera in the Canary islands, ready to start our long sailing passages to Senegal, (6 days approx), Cape Verdes, (4 days), and the Caribbean, (16 days). We have spent two months getting Yanina ready and promoting ‘On the nose’ in Las Galletas on Tenerife and we are a month later than we had planned but it doesn’t seem to matter, the dry season will be better established in Senegal and the only other restriction is the Caribbean hurricane season in June. We are having a sociable time in the company of other yachties waiting for the ‘right weather’ and San Sebastian is a nice town to wait. There are several boats here from Almerimar 2007-8, ‘Miti’, ‘Caroona’, ‘Tenaya’, Dave and Elaine on another boat, and a lot of new friends. It’s winter here and chilly at night, but the sunshine is still hot during the day.


Bob went back to England for the Southampton Boat Show in September to promote ‘On the nose’ on the Kelvin Hughes stand. He had a great time selling books alongside well known names in the UK yachting world such as sailor/writer/yachtmaster instructor, Tom Cunliffe, Geoff Holt, a quadriplegic sailor who’d just sailed round Britain and Nick Ward who was ‘Left for Dead’ in the ’79 Fastnet race.  He went to a book launch, met up with lots of friends and bought lots of stuff back to Yanina, including 60 books. Liz had a holiday with Joan and Shirley who lives on Tenerife, visiting Teide, Santa Cruz and Las Cristianos. Shirley took us all to visit the pyramids at Guimar and the Thor Heyerdahl museum where there is a full size replica of his reed boat. We also met Shirley's ´hen sitter´ Karen who took us to Masca. Thanks to Shirley, David and Karen for their hospitality during our stay. 

   Bob, Liz, Joan and Shirley at Guimar, the pyramids and the museum


   Masca                                              Teide National  park                           replica reed boat at Guimar


We hauled out in the Los Cristianos boatyard, run by the local fisherman’s fedederation. The fishing harbour and boatyard there have almost been swallowed up by the advancing tourist develoment. Los Cristianos bay, a rare peaceful anchorage in the Canaries, used to be the home of the yachties departing across the Atlantic but now anchoring is prohibited and plans are afoot to turn the whole lot into a marina development. It’s outside money and the fishermen are grimly hanging on to their independence but as the boatyard has lost most of it’s trade it must only be a matter of time.


The haulout involved anti-fouling and replacing 3 seacocks as well as re-fitting others. Apart from that, the preparation list was long, as any yachtman contemplationg blue-water sailing will know. Check Check Check and Batten Everything Down, were two of the themes along with sail preparation for downwind sailing and heavy weather, stowing 1 months food and water, medical supplies, insurance, SSB radio and satellite communications, oh, and researching and planning the route. We want to go to Brazil and Cuba, but looking at the detail of how our route would be affected by currents and wind it isn’t looking possible to sail everywhere in a season. Our plan now is to sail Yanina as far as we can and then combine this with travelling overland.


The book has become quite well known, thanks to the articles in Yachting Monthly. The RYA sea school in Las Galletas Clubsail are stocking it in their library and we have also had it accepted by Waterstones in the UK for their bookstores so that is a major step forward. It has proved popular with our yachting companions too and we have sold most of our stock. We feel it’s an achievement for us to have produced all this from a sailing boat but it has been a big learning curve, and the most important thing we have learned is that publishing a book is the start of a long process.


We just need to finalise the communications and it will be time to go. We are getting to grips with our Iridium phone so we can download weather files, receive short emails, and use it as an emergency back up. If we get off this week then at Christmas we will probably be exploring the Gambia river, and at New Year we hope to be in the Cape Verde islands, so it will be a very different Christmas for us this year. Wherever we are, and wherever you are, we wish you a Happy Christmas.


La Gomera to Senegal

Posted  from Banul, Gambia,19th January 2009

La Gomera


At last we were ready, but the weather for the sail to Dakar remained unsettled. Jenny visited and we toured the island by car. Then the Atlantic rowers were leaving on December 20th, so if they could do it, so could we.


17th – 25th December, Canaries to Dakar, 


After a lumpy first two days, the winds and sea settled down and we flew the cruising chute during the day and poled out the genoa at night. We began to enjoy ocean sailing with flying fish, a whole seascape of dolphins as far as the eye could see, then one night everything as far as the horizon was illuminated by phosphorescence.


 WdFUPbz0Avg Seascape of dolphins



 The wind picked up for our arrival in Dakar on Christmas day after 7 nights at sea and after avoiding two sunken yachts and anchoring, we enjoyed tinned chicken and stuffing, a miniature bottle of bubbly plus Christmas cake of course, then fell asleep.


25th – 31st December, Dakar


The ferry service to shore was ideal in the high winds. To hail it, you had to use a foghorn, and we laughed at the new experience of sharing a wet bumpy ride with the very black grinning ferryman, several yachties in tatty clothes, and an exotically dressed barmaid.


The CVD Yacht Club is laid back and friendly with a community feel. A little compound of buildings houses simple facilities for washing, cooking, showers, toilets; there is an engineering workshop and a sailmaker and you are able to do work on your own boat. There is a bar, patio and pleasant leafy courtyards, protected by a gate and a guard. Shanty shops and cafes outside provide food, and there is La Corvette restaurant along the beach. You could stay a while, and people do. Many of the boats in the anchorage have been left there by their owners but they soon become shabby with red dust and colonised by birds. There is a worrying feeling that if your boat breaks down here, you could be here a long time, fighting a losing battle.


The surroundings are less attractive. The road to Dakar is a run down industrial area that is disappearing under rubbish and sand as Africa claims back the land. Hann beach in the opposite direction is polluted with sewerage, industrial waste, dead fish, goats and rubbish. However in daylight it bustles with local colour. The pirogues land their catch at Hann fish market, and families are living in a shanty village that have sprung up amongst derelict buildings dating back to French colonial times. Despite the poverty, well dressed and polite children are playing on the beach and rush to shake your hand.



There are local people wandering around the courtyards offering their services. The price for everything is negotiable and you can probably do things yourself if you want but we were grateful for Aliou’s help with transporting water and diesel in the heat. Although you can get a bus, there is a confusion of services and routes and it was easier and cheap enough to take taxis into town. If you did not have the correct money you had to make sure the driver had enough change before you set off, then you had to make sure they had the change in their hand before you parted with your money. If you didn’t they just grinned and you were fair game. This seemed to be accepted practice, the excuse being the very real lack of small change. Clearing in, we took a taxi driver who made the most of charging us for each leg of the trip, but with him, we only had to pay 2,000 CFA in ‘presents’ to the Police instead of the customary 5,000, so we made a saving there and with his help the whole thing only took 2 hours.


There were mainly French sailors at the CVD and we enjoyed the company of Guillaume who wanted to practise his English, but we also met English sailors Marcus and Jess on a traditional Cornish Lugger that Marcus built himself, and Aussies Bruce and Cheryle. We all went looking for local Kora music venues in Dakar but on a Saturday there seemed to be more contemporary music - Rock and Roll, Blues and Reggae, at inflated prices. Eventually we found a bar with a live band and had a great evening. Back outside CVD we had a tour of  the Lion Hotel (yes it really is a lion) , run by an art dealer; that also houses a restaurant, art gallery, gymnasium and night club with traditional music!


One day we visited the fabric market at HLM, aiming to get some trousers and a top made for Liz, and this was an entertaining experience. When we started to negotiate with a seller carrying indigo dyed fabric on his head, we were instantly surrounded by several others, all carrying fabric on their heads, it looked like a Monty Python sketch. When we agreed a price (less than half), Lass appeared and took us to his brother’s workshop. The items were cut out and sewn in less than two hours and we were made very welcome at the workshops which were interesting to see. Lass even accompanied us while we went for some lunch, so desperate was he not to lose us. The next pair of trousers we bought were ready-made and we allowed Hassan to ‘pick us up’ and escort us to his factory where we bartered as a double act, and managed to clinch the deal at less than a third of the price. We have heard and read lots of stories of pressure and harassment but we found a lot of good humoured banter. The traders are experts at reading you and you do have to be on your guard all the time. 



Finally we visited Goree Island by ferry from the port. Goree played a part in the slave trade and there are buildings dating back to that period. From being run down, it is experiencing a revival and although a bit touristy it was a welcome and peaceful contrast to the noise and bustle of Dakar. At sunset, we followed the sound of drums to find a band practising in a ruined courtyard.