Sister's Journal

Date: 14.November.1999
Location: Las Palmas de la Gran Canaria, Canary Islands, Spain
Position: 28 degrees 08 minutes North, 15 degrees 25 minutes West
Madeira to the Canaries and Getting ready to go

We've been in Las Palmas two weeks now. The crossing from Funchal, Madeira took something less than two days. We sailed some eight hours and motored the rest. There were two distinct highlights of the crossing.

First, about an hour out of Funchal, we crossed paths with a pod of whales. They were leisurely cruising in the calm water and gentle breeze in the lee of Madeira. We first saw them blow and realized that our courses were going to cross. There were lots and lots of whales and they weren't particularly worried by our presence. On the other hand they weren't particularly interested in us either. As our course converged with that of a particular whale she would show her flukes and disappear. This happened two or three times. Andy got a couple of pretty cool pictures although we haven't seen them yet. We were in their presence for 30 minutes or so.

On the second day we were motoring along on a nearly glass smooth sea. Andy was on watch in the cockpit by herself when she decided to troll our fish line. We had trolled it only once before but had no success. Understand that the line is just that … a hand held line. We have no pole or reel. The bait is a plastic squid-sort-of-thing with a pretty good sized hook in it. One unwinds the line from the spool that we keep it on and ties it to something in the cockpit. We move along at about 6 knots and that, plus the fact that we have no sinkers or other gear on the line to get it to sink below the surface means that the squid skips along the surface 50 to 100 meters behind the boat. We don't watch the line closely so we don't know exactly when a fish strikes. On this occasion however, Andy had just let the line out so she was monitoring it pretty closely. Within a few minutes she was sure she had a strike.

I came up from below, stopped the boat and watched the classic struggle to the death between fish and fisherperson. In this case the fisherperson was never really sure she had a fish hooked. Sure enough, though, as the end of the line approached the stern you could see the monster tuna in its final throes. With swift and expert motion Andy swept the noble fish up on deck.

The "cruiser's way" to subdue a fish once he's on deck is to spray rum or other suitable alcoholic beverage into it's gills. The fish is supposed to pass on quickly and happily. Having little confidence that our fishing would actually produce a fish I hadn't bothered to arm a spray bottle appropriately. We decided that a more expeditious method was called for so we whacked him on the snout a couple of times. He made the most of his final moments. Struggling valiantly to get off the hook (and to not get whacked again). He tried so hard that we felt rotten to be trying to kill him in the first place. Unfortunately by this time it was too late for the unfortunate fish. He was a goner. I went below and pretended to be doing something important so Andy wouldn't ask me to clean him. Like the trooper she is, Andy cleaned him and, not having the heart to eat him just then, we dropped him in the freezer. A few days later we feasted on, relatively fresh, tuna.

Our crew, Marilyn Dreher, Dave Hamilton and Cristofer Carroll have joined us.

Marilyn has more boat experience that the rest of us combined. She has crossed the Pacific on sailboats 6 times and has sailed to Hawaii twice. She has crewed on and skippered a host of working boats including pilot boats and fish boats in Alaska. She has a Coast Guard "100 ton" skipper's license.

Dave is the next most experience. He has raced sailboats a lot in Puget Sound and has a couple of long range cruises under his belt.

Cristofer has less experience than the skipper and first mate but he is ever so willing and ready to go.

Las Palmas may be my least favorite of all the places we've been. To be fair, the city (and island of Gran Canaria) are pretty ok. But we've been stuck here for two weeks and most of our time has been spent getting ready for the crossing. Andy has spent hour upon hour upon hour planning menus and buying groceries. It has been a real trial. By now we have everything on board except for meats and produce. Food is stowed in virtually every nook and cranny that we know about. Marilyn has been a huge help with this project since she arrived last week.

I've spent my time buying lots of miscellaneous stuff that we hadn't bothered putting on the boat prior to this. This includes spare line, minor rigging parts, fishing gear and so on.

This afternoon we're changing the oil and oil filter on the engine. One extracts the old oil from a boat engine by pumping it up through a small tube inserted in the dipstick hole. Pumping room temperature oil up through the tiny tube is virtually impossible because the oil is too viscous. Therefore we have to run our engine for an hour or so to thoroughly heat the oil and thin it out. Then the oil change engineer has to stretch across the top of the hot engine to insert the tube then sit half in the engine room, half out, and pump the hot oil into the container. It's one of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon.


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