Saturday, May 10, 2008

Las Palmas to Gomera

(As told by Sim)

For several days before we left Las Palmas we had a southerly wind, which made our anchorage a lee shore, and oil was being blown into the corner of the harbour used by the yacht club. Our new paint was covered in it to about 6 inches above the water line, and every time we went ashore we got ourselves plastered in it, so we were glad to leave.

On the Saturday night in the club, we said goodbye to all the friends we had made, and on Sunday morning about 8 am Adolfo (Penny’s Spanish boyfriend who we were taking to Tenerife) came aboard, and as there was little wind we dropped our mooring and motored out to the entrance, putting up our sails as we went. As we did so all the other yachts started blowing their fog horns and waving us goodbye.

When we got to the end of the mole we stopped our motor, expecting to sail out, but the wind barely moved us, and we just stuck there for about an hour, blocking the fairway. The damned engine wouldn’t start again. It was most embarrassing after our moving send off. The only thing that wasn’t moved was the boat. When we did get the engine started we made out to sea and eventually picked up a light breeze. It was gone noon when we rounded the Isletta (about 6 miles) and were able to set a straight course for Santa Cruz de Tenerife, about 60 miles away.

Until darkness fell and we had about 20 miles to go, we were plagued with variable force 2 winds, but shortly after dark, the wind came swooping down on us. We took in two slabs of our main and tore along, taking it white over our bows. With about a mile to go, it went dead flat again, and we then motored on and into the harbour, where, in the dark, the only vacant place we could find was alongside a water barge. It was 10.30 pm and too late for Adolfo to find his brother, who was to guide him to his new digs so we hauled a load of gear out of the forecastle and settled him in a pipe cot for the night.

We were awakened in the morning by the crew of the water barge, who wanted us to move, so they could get out to water a ship. Eventually little Stella Mira was squeezed into a row of large yachts moored bow on to the quay.

Of these our immediate neighbours were Moby Dick, a German ketch of about 20 tons, and Waltzing Matilda, a world cruiser written up in Hiscock’s book, and now owned by a colonel of yank marines.

We had the usual trouble finding gas etc, and the oil here was nearly as bad as in Las Palmas but we could step ashore instead of rowing. Instead of the two days we had expected, we were here ten. In this time we met several other boats which included Allen II (australian) Rozinante (yank) Narua (english) Encantada (yank) Edala (yank) Ard Chaun (welsh).

I have written you about our passage to Gomera so will tell you what happened after our arrival there.

We entered Gomera harbour about 10pm and after a near miss on the wall at the entrance, due to poor harbour light, we found ‘Rondelay’ and ‘She’ inside. We had last seen them at Las Palmas. They showed us a good spot to anchor and we turned in for the night. We found Gomera the most pleasant place we had been to so far, except for a permanent swell.

The port is small, and only ships of less than 500 tons seem to call there, but mostly small inter island fishing vessels, converted to motor and trade call at the rate of about 2 a day. The populace seemed very pleasant to us. There is a yacht club, with, as far as we could gather, only 5 members and no yachts. The president is the local chemist and the secretary the local notary. They have had a grant of 200, 000 pesetas from the government and plan to make Gomera the best centre in the Canaries for visiting yachts. We think this will ruin the place. They organized a trip for us all (8 of us) and took us into the interior to see the local beauty spots, standing us a very good meal in one of the villages. During the meal the president entertained us with an impromptu demonstration of sleight of hand with cards and coins. He was very good.

When leaving the harbour, he drove us up into the mountains, round hairpin bends with sheer drops on one side. We shot round blind corners, with the horn tooting all the time. We were all green with fright. The sea was never so frightening. Coming down was even worse. He would accelerate to 50 on a straight stretch and then enter a 180 degree turn with a screeching of tires, the centrifugal force throwing us all toward a thousand foot drop. The roads were all banked the wrong way and how we didn’t slide over I’ll never know.

‘Rozinante’, ‘Allen II’, ‘Barracuda’ and ‘Encantada’, all old friends, arrived and we met ‘Silhouette’ (yank) with a very nice couple called Marta and Joe aboard. They had us all in stitches, recounting their experiences on the nudist island of Levant in the Mediterranean.

Most of the boats I mention are going our way so we shall meet some of them again. Ours was the smallest boat in Gomera at this time. The Flemings, in “SHE” left on Sat Oct 26th for Barbados and as we were now ready, we decided to leave the next day. The wind was too strong in the morning, but by 2pm it had eased, so we raised sail and headed out, with the others waving goodbye. It’s hard to describe one’s feelings when we depart like this, knowing that we may never meet again. It seems so much more dramatic than parting ever seems on land, perhaps because we are going into the unknown, we feel so small and lonely. When we leave the companionship of a group of people, all with the same interests as ourselves, who in a very short while have become as old friends as some landlubbers we have known for years.

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