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
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
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
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.