Setting off again to continue our voyage in 2019
Circumnavigation Page 7 - From the Netherlands to the Canaries in 2019
Bruinisse to the Canary Islands via the U.K.:
After what seemed like a far too short two months of being back in the water and sailing and testing the boat around Bruinisse, it was time to "weigh anchor" again and set off on the "continuation" (or "completion") of our circumnavigation. Deciding on the route to start us off on was a little complicated: should we risk sailing down the U.K. coast (as usual)? Were we welcome there (administratively speaking: customs clearance etc.), with all the negative Brexit discussions going on in the U.K.? Or should we sail down the Belgo-French coast which was still safely part of the European Union? As we needed to renew our medical stores with MSOS in Southampton, and get Maricom in Swanwick marina to sort out a couple of electronic & communication niggles, and Brexit was still on hold until end October 21019 anyway, we ventured into the U.K.... It was a relief to see that the indigenous population weren't waving any Union Jacks shields or axes, or hurling spears at our Dutch flag. The natives appeared to behave quite normally actually, despite certain of their political classes fulminating against that monster that lives in the same town as us (to wit the EU); they were happy to exchange services in return for our hard cash!
In total we had been away from our circumnavigation "project" (a much-used word in "Brussels") for 11 months: working on the boat, sorting out administrative issues at home, visiting family and friends, and so on and so forth. We thought that we'd have loads of time on our hands, and indeed during the deep winter months it certainly felt that way. But as June had turned to July, and the "current" day was on the same Outlook page as the "planned departure day", there was a slightly panicky feeling that we might not have everything under control. So many things still to do. Fortunately this was our second departure; with our previous experience in mind, we should literally only just have to press a few buttons and do some final shopping. And in any event, we were returning to Brussels and the Open Yard venue in Ellös (Sweden) for a short trip end of August. So we could always pick up anything we had forgotten then...
When travelling West, you always expect a certain amount of motoring against the prevailing Westerly winds. This re-start of our circumnavigation was no exception. The 1st August saw us weaving our way through the inland Dutch waterways, passing through locks and motoring under opened bridges (they need to open them owing to out mast height of some 23 meters). . The sand banks in the Westerschelde had moved since our charts had been last updated, and at one stage we were suddenly in less than 3 meters of water (of which the Plotter and Charts were quite oblivious. With so little depth under the boat and so many other boats in the nearest vicinity, this felt very unlike ocean sailing. Our first stop was Eastbourne (§for provisioning), reached after 33 hours, and the second stop was Swanwick marina at the top of Hamble River. Here our friends from Maricom spent a day on board sorting out our Victron battery charger, the ICOM SSB & Pactor modem, 230V connections to the watermaker, and our rebellious WiFi booster. All these were just little things that needed putting right - but it took a whole day nevertheless to work through our list of issues. MSOS, our medical services provider, had meanwhile picked up our medical cases to renew their contents (see photo). We could admire their new and much-improved offices when we picked up our cases, which immediately showed their value when I tripped and skidded over 7m of Southampton pavement!! Swanwick marina put us between two huge motorboats - even though we weigh more than at least one of our two neighbours, we look ever so small (see photo). A series of gales coming in from the Atlantic messed up our plans to quietly sail down the South coats of England, so we headed for Plymouth as our next port of call...
Here, we stumbled across the latest Imoco-60 design racong yacht that was to take Greta Thunberg to the US in her carbon-neutral trip across the Atlantic. Needless to say, there was a lot of media attention on our pontoon. Again a series of gales delayed our departure and only at the very last moment could we make a dash for La Coruna in Spain. The Bay of Biscay was a lot bumpier than 2 years ago. We had our fair share of strong winds and water over the boat; but also smiling dolphins on a couple of occasions and periods with wind on the nose - long live our Volvo-Penta! From La Coruna we travelled back to Brussels in order to drive up to Ellös for the 2019 Open Yard boat show! Here some pictures of our boating in the U.K., showing how small a relatively large HR53 is when sandwiched between two motorboats...
The trip by car from Brussels to Ellös was relatively uneventful: predictably lots of roaring traffic on the German Autobahns, far too many work sites and certainly on the way back a lot of traffic jams! On the (very) positive side, the Open Yard itself was great fun and we hope to have given an interesting lecture for the approx. 100 attendees to the Saturday dinner. Being polite Vikings, they kept their double bladed axes and spears well hidden, and we were thanked with appreciative banging of long-swords on shields!! Hopefully all the good feedback and compliments we got were not from people being polite to us... We collected some final essential spares from Mellie Rassy at HR Parts (Shop Hallberg-Rassy) and found a couple of interesting bargains in the HR Parts Outlet... Our boat is beginning to sink under the weight of all these extra bits and pieces.
Once back in La Coruna, we sorted ourselves out, did some essential maintenance on the boat and installed the various 'toys' we had brought back from Sweden. Laura hired a car, a boxy little FIAT 500X, and this allowed us to go not only food-shopping, but to see some of the historical sights of Galicia. By train we visited Santiago de Compostela and by car we visited Lugo, Pontodeume on the Galician coast, and Al Campo (the Spanish version of Auchan) for more food-shopping, after which the boat sank an extra couple millimeters deeper into the water. Here some pictures of Ngahue IV in La Coruna; a pretty local boat on our pontoon, and Karsten and his wife arriving on HR36 Vagabond in La Coruna. They'd also been in Ellös for the Open Yard and had heard us speak there!!! What a small and friendly universe our Hallberg-Rassy world is, as beside us is HR46 Mathida with Richard, Seraina and their children, doing an Atlantic circuit this season!!!
From La Coruna, our trip continued to Muxia, Vilagarcia and Bouzas. Muxia is where Saint Jack (San Tiago) of Compostela set foot on land, and when we arrived (swept onto a near empty marina hammerhead pontoon in 27 knots of wind, a novena celebrating an important issue in the liturgic calendar was well under way. Hundreds of worshippers kept arriving by bus at the little church, which was taken by assault. We really seem to be following the pilgrimage routes for the Compostela route. Vilagarcia was a lot more quiet, and we only found one convent. However, as we moored our boat, we spotted another Hallberg-Rassy in the marina. She turned out to be HR53 number 27 - Monray. Bouzas is the fishing side of Vigo, and we suffered a Swanwick revival, i.e. Ngahue IV dwarfed between two motorboats... HR46 Mathilda caught up with us in Bouzas as they needed to carry out some motor repairs, and Davila marina in Bouzas is a good place to get things done. The old town in Bouzas is small, but has a wonderful little church; we attend the last mass here before it closes for maintenance and repairs. We like the fishermen holding on to their nets: at least these nets won't get into our propeller (like 2 years ago around Finisterre)! And very handy is that the market is opposite and continues for another hour after the last mass. Prices are stunningly low too! So we stocked up on some essential fruit and vegetables. Also the first time we saw purple beans!!! Not to be confused with Purple Rain by Prince ;-)...
We left Bouzas marina having first taken on some 300 litres of diesel, and knowing that the trip down to Cascais was going to be done using our trusted Volvo-Penta: reason, there was no to very little wind, and unfortunately the wind direction was southerly... Galician waters are known for their chaotic pots, nets and other fishing paraphernalia floating on or near the surface of the sea. So on our first day our strategy was to get to deeper water before nightfall, so that we could at least motor through the night without too many worries for our propeller... To add to our anxieties, visibility was and remained poor: usually some 2-300m. The radar was on all the time to see whether there were any other obstacles on our path. The fishermen here seem to be able to invest in 1 or even 2 radars; but their AIS systems seem to be stubbornly broken down, or permanently turned off. The Doris Day song "Qué sera" comes to mind when motoring through these waters at night; in our case fortunately nothing sera-ed, which left us in one piece to navigate the Portuguese coast on day 2. Regular surprises in the form of invisible buoys popped up as we headed for Cascais, getting there ahead of schedule (by 1 hour) at the end of our second day. The last couple of miles to the marina were like a minefield, dodging highly invisible semi-submerged obstacles as we threaded our way to the reception pontoon in Cascais marina. We met up again with our HR friends in Fredrika and Mathilda in Cascais, as well as our fellow co-sailors on the 2020 World ARC in Accomplice.
Below some picture of our sightseeing in Cascais and Lisbon, as well as an amusing wine-bottle label we saw in the local Auchan hypermarket.
It took us four days at sea to take us from Cascais to Madeira, where our target was the marina at Quinta do Lobre. Even now the wind wasn't always as
helpful as the Grib files had suggested, and we needed to include a period of 26 hours of motoring to get to Madeira in time for our appointment at the
marina. Though just to make things interesting, on our last night at sea the wind suddenly picked - well, in truth not THAT much, but enough to put our
ETA in the middle of the night. We needed to slow down the boat!! So we ended up putting enough rolls in our genoa to make it a triple-reefed sail... Thus,
at day-break we made it to our destination... We spent about a week on Madeira, driving around the island which has a wonderful infrastructure of roads
and tunnels to reach your various destinations.
Then we put in another two days of seatravel to get us to Marina Lanzarote in Arrecife, where we had spent an interesting 3 months in 2017. Our ETA for Lanzarote was daybreak, meaning we had an interesting night sail around the north of the island, staying away from the rocks and bigger obstacles that you encounter there. During our travels around the island, on one of the carparks, I saw this (see above) what looked like a petrol pump with an "L" on it. It looked like a mock-up petrol station pump where student drivers could learn how to fill up their tank. But upon closer inspection, it turned out to be a charging point for electric cars! It was an immense pleasure to meet, now in a nautical environment, the former Vice President Communication of the EESC (my former employer) Anna Maria Darmanin. We could chat about boats, navigation, and Brussels, in all peace and quiet - with no pressure from our former work environment.
After a longish week in Arrecife, we sailed south - all of 10 miles - to Puerto Calero, the sister marina of Marina Lanzarote, to prepare our boat for her Atlantic crossing. The watermaker finally got seen to; an oil change in the Volvo Penta was carried out, and we arranged our possessions in the boat in an orderly and seaman-like manner so that everything would stay in place during an Atlantic crossing. Our watermaker (pictured) now produces excellent Chateau Aquatec water... It hadn't worked before for two simple reasons: a) the wiring inside the boat and around the watermaker had been in versed, so the pumps shorted out each time we tried to switch them on; and b) quite foolishly I had forgotten to remove two protective cups in the feed-pump when installing the system, whereby no water reached the next stage of the watermaker. Simply removing the cups (they were quite visible on the replacement pump we have on board) solved all our issues. By doing this work in Puerto Caller, we hoped to have more free time in Las Palmas, so that we could actually visit the island, something we hadn't been able to do in 2017 through lack of time as a result of repairing our boat all the time! Puerto Caller "parked" us between an Oyster 82 and a 100 foot plus Swan. Needless to say our humble HR53 was pretty invisible... For the night photo, the Oyster had just conveniently left, offering a freer view of our floating home!
An uneventful trip from Puerto Caller on Lanzarote took us to the mueller deport of Las Palmas, the marina from where the ARC leaves. Yet it was on this leg that we experienced the first and only "breakage" on the first part of our trip: the AIS system stopped functioning and was so broken that it needed to be replaced in Las Palmas. Fortunately with the ARC, there are enough specialists around to do this job quickly and efficiently. Once in Las Palmas there are lots of things to be done for your ARC: safety checks, administrative documents to complete, prepare customs clearance papers, radio & communication checks with the ARC organisation and so on and so forth. For many years now, Hallberg-Rassy has organised a targeted support for their boats participating in the ARC or ARC Plus (see also our story from 2017 on this)... Now it was the turn of Christer and Viktor to check out our boat. After the work done on the boat by Yachtservice Van Swaay, there wasn't really much to do for Christer and Viktor. They did spot a dirty pre-filter for the waterpump, a part I didn't even know we had in our water system. It just goes to show that you learn every day. The filter was quickly cleaned and we've now included this in the regular maintenance schedule of the boat. To our great surprise, there was a knock on the boat and we had Magnus Rassy on board for a friendly visit and a nautical chat: about Hallberg-Rassy boats of course!! A really wonderful surprise. Later on, the whole HR Team (Christer, Viktor and Magnus) have organised a coktail with tapas for the HR boats in the ARC Plus; interestingly enough, there are very few HR boats in this year's ARC as we're all in the ARC - and currently HR is the best-represented brand in the 2020 World ARC!! This information certainly put a big smile on Magnus' face!
Part of the ARC attraction is its lively social programme and this time we arrived early enough to participate in everything. We participated in the ARC plant-a-tree excursion; this is one way of doing something useful for the island and helps reduce our carbon footprint (see above re our experience with Greta Thumber!). In total, Laura and I planted 4 trees. When we arrived in Las Palmas, there were some open spaces on our pontoon, but predictably these soon filled up. Our ARC Plus number is 404, like the well-known computer problem code. Hopefully this is not an omen!!! Better pay extra attention during the (safety) seminars...
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