Monday, 24 August 2015

"Like a Bat out of Hell...."

In the zone at 7k
Well that's what the first two thirds of the passage felt like at times. Probably the most exciting sailing I've had to date.

The Canaries are well known in sailing circles for their "Acceleration Zones", areas where the wind is funnelled and compressed by the islands to cause significant increases in wind strength. The Pilot book provides diagrams of where the acceleration zones are likely to be. The one off the SW end of Gran Canaria was the one we had to deal with. The diagram suggested that running NW to SE, the zone started in a narrow strip by hugging the coast about half way down the island and then widened and moved off-shore. I therefore plotted a course to cross the zone just after it moved off shore. 

The forecast was a little challenging, NE 4-5 locally 6 between the islands. I figured the zone might take that up to gale force. However, the wind would be on the beam/quarter so I figured it was doable. In the event my guess as to where the zone would be was well out. Excerpts from the ship's log summarises thus:

"Put two reefs in before departure and prepared the third.

0600 Engine on

0700 Engine off

0714 Sailing at 6k+ with wind on Port beam. A bit rolly!

0722 40 miles to the zone, with an eta of 1320

Think we may have a bit of an acceleration zone here (off Santa Cruz) - behind us looks pretty wild while in front is calmer.

Exhilarating sailing at 6.5-7 knots. AS loves this. Hope I can find the brakes at the other end.

1030 3rd reef in (we took a large wave in the cockpit). In strong winds getting the right amount amount of weather helm on Angus is crucial. Too much and the boat runs off down wind and Angus cannot cope.

1051 Wave down the companion way! 17 miles to go to zone! Eta 1340.

1150 Still 12 miles to go (to estimated to zone boundary) but I think we are now in it. Wind F7 I reckon (my wind speed indicator broke some time ago). Having to hand steer some of the time, Angus cannot cope with the extreme gusts - nor can I really).

1330 Alarm for approaching the zone goes off. 5 minutes later we're in a flat calm. (Bedlam behind us and out to sea, but here a flat calm). Engine on, Bimini up, lunch. Also discovered that the ensign was fouling one of Angus's blocks so that would not have helped.

1530 Sailing again (it took me about half an hour to re-set the reefing pennants for two reefs rather than three), 8 miles to go, 4k.

1640 Wind died again, engine one, 3 miles to go.

1740 Moored up and met Augustin, the Ocean Cruising Club's local representative who was most helpful and friendly