Our Christmas Marathon!

playa dorada2Playa Dorada – a great place to spend Christmas in the sunshine

We’ve just waved goodbye to a fabulous group of people who spent Christmas week with us.  5 individuals who very quickly melded together as a great team.

The forecast for the week was south easterly winds at the beginning – easterly winds on christmas day and then north easterly on boxing day.  All looked great for a circumnavigation of Lanzarote and christmas day in Graciosa.  We had some great sailing on the first 3 days of the week and then set off on Christmas Eve  towards Graciosa.  We made great time and were heading towards the anchorage just  before 4 in the afternoon.  Then it started, the sky darkened, the wind shifted and the sea filled with white horses.  30 – 40 knots of wind blowing straight in to the anchorage.  There was no way we were going to be anchoring in that.  What do you do in a  situation like this – keep the boat safe – which meant keep going and  look for a more sheltered anchorage.  With the gusts of wind reaching 47 knots this meant a bonus night sail back to Papagayo.  We eventually dropped the anchor at 11.30pm.  We have since found out that the Cunard cruise ship Queen Victoria was meant to be visiting Lanzarote on Christmas Eve and considered it too unsafe to try and berth in Arrecife so they too stayed at sea!

Christmas morning after breakfast we decided we were all too tired to go sailing and so headed into Marina Rubicon to spend a quiet day on the beach at Playa Dorada.  After a couple of beers at the local bar it was back to Velvet Lady for Aperitifs and presents at 7pm followed by a full traditional Christmas dinner.  To make washing up easier for this – the messiest meal of the year – we line all of our cooking tins with foil trays so they can be put straight into the bin. Then on with the party  – we were still singing and dancing in the cockpit at 2am, trying to keep the noise down and not disturb the neighbours.  Good job it is only once a year.

A bit of a late start on boxing day – some strong coffee and then a quick sail to blast the cobwebs away.  The log at the end of this trip read 170nm.

Late afternoon in Marina Rubicon, just winding down from our sail, we thought we were seeing double, or even treble as the local band marched past us, all dressed as Santas.   What a great end to a great week.

santa band

150 miles real ocean sailing

bow wide angle sailing

If you take a look at Lanzarote on a map of the whole Atlantic Ocean it appears as no more than a pebble in a pond!  So when we go out sailing we are not in sheltered waters like the Solent or the Clyde, but right out into the waves of the Atlantic Ocean.  For the most part of this week we experienced Force 6 winds and a 2 -3 metre swell, perfect sailing conditions for Velvet Lady and certainly some ‘proper sailing’ for the guests.  Unfortunately the wind direction meant that we could not go to La Graciosa – but we did more miles by not going there! 150 mile logged in the log book.

Jose, our Portuguese guest had brought with him a camera with a wide angled lens and I thank him for the photos – and also the videos.  The sun shone every day – even if we did have a few real equatorial rain squalls!

anchor at sunsey wide angle sailing sailing

Lanzarote – at last

our gardenThe view from our berth in Rubicon

After delaying our arrival in Lanzarote (see previous blog which I have also just published) our guests flew home from Faro.  There was only Richard and I on board for the passage south.  It doesn’t happen often and we quite enjoy a chance to sail the boat on our own – it reminds us of the very first ever trip we did on Velvet Lady when we sailed her from Majorca to UK on our own.

We set off from Portugal at first light on the 30th November motoring  and quickly settled into our watch pattern, the same sixes and fours we use with guests. The wind was a bit fluky for the first 24 hours, we would sail for a couple of hours then motor then sail again. Finally the wind steadied and the rest of the trip was some great downwind sailing. We had a lovely large moon, getting larger every night and plenty of stars.

We made great time and arrived in Lanzarote 92 hours later at 4am and decided to anchor at Papagayo to get some sleep. We are now safely ensconced in our berth in Marina Rubicon, the same one as last year and it feels just like home. We especially like the view from our front window.

The weather is back to its usual self with blue sky and sunshine and a bit of breeze from the North East. We’ve been doing our cleaning and tidying and are now looking forward to seeing our first guests here on Sunday.

We base ourselves here in Lanzarote to escape from the UK winter cold and as usual will be offering 7 night sailing holidays up until the middle of March. There are still a few places left if you fancy joining us and even three at New Year.

Lanzarote – delayed

centre of the rainbowAfter the rain!

Oops – sorry, as a lot of you have noticed this blog is a bit overdue. The reason – we had to delay our arrival date in Lanzarote due to more bad weather.

After diverting to Vilamoura last week there was quite a lot of organising to do – most especially to get in touch with the new guests who expected to join us in Madeira and let them know that they would have to fly to Faro instead although the joining date and time would not change. Once aboard we would set sail for Lanzarote a distance of 560 miles.

We studied the weather and headed off south towards Lanzarote in flat calm and sunshine. The long range forecast implied that we would have to do a fair bit of motoring and then we might have SW force 6 winds for a time later. Nothing out of the ordinary.

Forecasts are in effect guesses – and the longer range they are the more chance for the best guess to change. Once on passage it is our habit to keep getting up to date forecasts right up to just before we arrive. Lucky for us this week that we did – after 36 hours the forecast changed and instead of 25knot winds it showed that just as we would be approaching Lanzarote we might get 80knot winds. This seemed very unusual, unlikely even but what if it was correct! The only sensible thing to do was to have a change of plan – and with the nearest harbour of refuge being behind us, we tacked and headed back to Portugal – Portimao this time which is safer in a southerly wind than Vilamoura.

just look at the barometer

Boy are we glad that we did, look what happened to our barometer 1005 down to 993 – by the time we arrived in Portimao the wind was already blowing 30 knots and it increased to 40 during the night. Who knows what it must have been like out at sea. We were definitely staying put until it improved. We regularly monitored the weather on the internet – especially the reports about the actual weather in Lanzarote which confirmed that our decision to delay our arrival was the correct one.

As always with gales, they blow themselves out eventually. Now our barometer has started to rise this one should peter out and we should be ready to have a second attempt soon!  Watch this space.