Our First Shark

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Amongst the questions on the first day this week was ‘What kind of wildlife will we see’. 

It is very difficult to predict this and we certainly can’t promise but we do usually see dolphins.  During the week we were very excited to see  loads of dolphins leaping and playing, a large group of pilot whales and most especially our first shark which was most unexpected.  It behaved very differently to the dolphins and pilot whales and its fin was definitely different.  After many hours scouring the whales and dolphins book we finally found a matching picture in our Oceans book.  I have since been on line and learnt that there are indeed quite a few different varieties of shark in the Canary Islands.  As ever it was very difficult to take a photograph – there one minute gone the next.

We were joined for Xmas week by Graham, Sue, Christine and Philip and sailed 157 nm in varied conditions.  We had some  fantastic sailing in winds from Force 3 right up to Force 8 – and so did not really follow the itinerary plan but sailed where was most prudent for the wind direction.  The wind was mainly from the South East which is unusual for the Canary Islands but it gave us the chance to visit the tiny village of El Cotillo in Fuerteventura. 

We spent Xmas day sailing from Marina Rubicon to Puerto Calero and then enjoyed a full traditional Xmas Dinner.  Boxing Day we sailed to Papagayo beach and relaxed for the afternoon in the fantastic sunshine before heading into the marina at sunset – a perfect day to end the week. 

Our turn around is short here with the Xmas guests leaving on 27th December and New Year guests arriving 29th December so I’ll keep this short – look out for our newsletter and end of December competition winner next week!

Have a great New Years Eve and we’ll be back in 2009!

Glistening in the sunshine

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At the end of Sunday  Rich and I were exhausted.  After cleaning, Y10 to remove the rust stains, acetone to remove the Y10, filler in all the scuffs, new paint, a rubbing compound and finally polish Velvet Lady at last stood glistening in the late afternoon sun ready to go splash on Monday morning.

There was a big surge running on Monday morning, and it almost looked like we would have to put the launch off.  The boat before us surged into the harbour wall while the travel hoist was adjusting the straps and we were worried about doing the same.  Luckily it died down a bit for our lift, and with help from all the great people in the boatyard we were in the water and out of the lifting bay before we had time to blink.

Once back on the berth the work was not over.  10 days on the hard meant we hadn’t been able to wash down the decks, and as you wash down the decks, the dirty water runs over the nice new polish!!  Once again out with the hose, polish cloths etc and finally, after a lot of water Velvet Lady lies ready alongside the pontoon. 

Ever since we bought her our aim has always been not only to keep on top of the maintenance but to constantly improve.  We think she looks better now than when we launched her after our big winter refit 2006/7, mainly because then we ran out of time before we could thoroughly polish her. 

Today the sun is shining and although it is a little bit windy the weather forecast looks great for our Xmas week.  The tree is up, along with a few decorations, we wrapped our Xmas presents last night and the Xmas CD is playing softly in the background, so we are now feeling really christmassy. 

Merry Xmas to you all from Lin, Rich and Velvet Lady

Life at the top of a Ladder!

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Climbing stairs is something we don’t often do on Velvet Lady.  There are four steps from the main cabin to the deck, and an additional one step down to the galley.  This week living on board in the boatyard, deck level is 5m above the ground and reached by climbing a rickety ladder. 

We lifted Velvet Lady out of the water in Lanzarote to work on the bits below the waterline that we can’t often get to and polish the topsides.  The boatyard in Marina Rubicon is great because you can live onboard and also do all your own work on the boat.  Out of the water we can’t use the boats loos or showers – so there is a shower block, we also can’t use the boats sink for washing up or cleaning, so each time we need to do any of those things it’s down and up the ladder.  On top of that, all of the work on the hull is done from a scaffold so it’s up and down that too.  I asked Richard how many metres he climbs a day and he gave up trying to work it out!

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Richard’s brother Dan sailed with us from Madeira to Lanzarote, and then stayed for a week to help us out in the boatyard.  The three of us have been scrubbing, sanding, filling and painting all week.  We have also serviced and greased all the seacocks, the propeller, replaced the anodes and added two coats of antifouling.  Velvet Lady is starting to look like a new woman but unfortunately Dan had to fly back yesterday before we got to the polishing stage and a little early to see the finished look!  Thanks Dan for all your hard work.  See more photos of us working here

It’s been a week now and we can really see the difference as we are nearly finished.  A bit more polishing and then a lot of cleaning and tidying up.  The clothes we have been wearing are only fit for the bin now and I have numerous streaks of different coloured paint in my hair and on my arms and legs. I am often asked what I miss most about living on board a boat and the answer is usually ‘a hot bath’.  How I could do with one of those now!

We’re due to ‘splash’ Velvet Lady back in the water on Monday and then get ready for a busy time over Christmas (1 space left) and New Year (now fully booked). 

When an orange is not simply an orange!

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We have been running our on line competition for nearly 2 years now.  When you register and sign up for our newsletter you automatically enter a draw to win £200 off any sailing adventure.  We draw this quarterly, at the end of March, June, September and December. 

Our March 2008 winner Mike used his prize to join us last week on the passage from Madeira to Lanzarote.  We had a full complement of 6 on board with the numbers being made up by Mike’s son Darren, John who had recently recinded his place on the Clipper round the world race, Richards brother Dan and of course Richard and Lin.

The distance from Madeira to Lanzarote is 270 nm providing an ideal opportunity to get a taste of ocean and overnight sailing – but not for too long.  We spent two nights at sea, and were about to enter the third as we anchored off a deserted beach in La Graciosa just when the sun went down.

For our first day we sailed along the coastline of Madeira from Quinto da Lorde marina in the east to the vibrant capital Funchal.  We had plenty of wind for this first sail and amongst the ocean spray spotted a whale spout.  We sailed in company with a blue whale for about an hour before he disappeared.  What a great start!

The passage was just long enough to cover the basics of astro navigation and get the sextant out.  Although the sun was often covered by a layer of cloud we still managed a noon sight and a few stars and planets in the evenings.  Using the sextant is the easy bit it is the ‘complicated maths’ which are often the most puzzling.  Although the sums for a noon sight are the easiest, it is often difficult to figure out why it works.  Not being a genius with paper, pencil and 3 D diagrams I find it easier to explain by drawing diagrams on an orange – or more than one.  Our fruit bowl is now full of celestial spheres not oranges!!

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Ocean passages no matter how long,  are tiring, as the body gets used to a disrupted sleep pattern.  As soon as you stop, the adrenaline stops and the body asks for a rest.  We decided to land on the deserted beach and walk amongst the sand dunes to the tiny town of La Sociedad on Graciosa – a shop, a ferry terminal and a pub, just what we needed.  Relaxing with a beer in the sunshine is a pleasure to look forward to after any passage. We spent the last day surfing down waves as we sailed from Graciosa to our base in Marina Rubicon at speeds up to 10 knots.  We were joined by a huge school of dolphins.  All too soon it was over, time to pack away the sails and prepare the mooring lines.

Velvet Lady was due to come out of the water and in preparation for that we needed to drop the headsails in  a conventional manner instead of furling them up.  The sails were dropped on to the deck smartly but with 20 knots of wind gusting they proved quite difficult to ‘stuff’ into their bags.

I’m a little bit late in posting this blog, as soon as we arrived in Marina Rubicon we hurtled straight into the jobs we needed to do to have the boat lifted
Velvet Lady was lifted out of the water at 1400 today Friday, and this is our first night living on board on ‘the hard’.  There is lots of scrubbing, polishing and painting to do in the next week as we get on with the annual out of the water jobs and prepare for Christmas and New Year weeks. 

Mike – our competition winner – says in our guest book

Well thought out cruise, excellent in every way!  Many thanks for a brilliant week, special thanks to Lin and Richard for taking the time to teach me the fundamentals of Astro Navigation, I will never look at an orange again in the same light!  Will recommend Velvet Sailing to all and hope to return soon

Why not sign up for our newsletter now – and you could be sailing with us as our next prize winner soon.  The next draw will be end of December and as we are at sea then, the winner will be announced on the 6 January.