Brest,France to Las Palmas, Canaries

November 2-November 15 2021

I spent 3 wet days in Brest with Fabian waiting out the weather for our sail south to the Canaries. Finally with Daniela back from Berlin and provisioning for 10 days on board we had weather that would give us a 20+ knot following wind mixed with ”moderate seas”; which is sailor talk for ”take your Dramamine ”. Tuesday afternoon we leave Brest hoping to sail across the Bay of Biscay and straight down to Las Palmas over 1500 miles south .

With squalls all around we left Brest; the heavens opened up to show us the way. We followed…

It took 2 days to cross Biscay. The seas were lively with numerous squalls but the crossing was uneventful except for a late night encounter with a tanker not using AIS or initially responding to VHF calls requesting he change course… Finally a man with a heavy Russian accent, slurred speech, groggy and somewhat confused comes on the radio; clearly not understanding that we were on a collision course with him less than a mile away.

We would have to quickly alter course to avoid a collision, which we did ; as the tanker disappeared into a squall . Lesson learned :there are irresponsible drivers at sea as well as on land.

Approaching Cape Finestere we took a westerly course bringing us 100 miles off shore as we rounded the NW tip of Spain. Most yachts choose to keep close to shore along this coast but lately there have been an aggressive pod of killer whales attacking and disabling the rudders of sail boats. Infinity likes her rudder the way it is so we stayed out of their way.

Sailing south of Finestere the weather started to warm and the seas become more friendly. We were truely heading to warmer climes. Only 1000 miles to Las Palmas.

I should take time to properly introduce INFINITY , our home for the next 2 years .

Infinity is an Oyster 565 hull 8. For those interested here is a YouTube link.

She is a center cockpit sloop. Her sail plan consists of an inmast hydraulic roller furling main and hydraulic furling genoa complemented by a twin head sail setup for downwind sailing; a movable inner forestay with a hanked on staysail that can be reefed to a storm jib if needed. An asymmetric spinnaker rounds out her sails. Electric Lewmar winches make sail handling much easier.

She is 59 ft in length with 52ft waterline a beam of 17 ft and a draft of 8’2”.

Bow and stern thrusters for close quarter handling.

A hydro generator, permanently installed behind the keel, produces up to 18 amps at 9-10 knots to charge her Li batteries ; no solar panels. She is well equiped with electronics; AIS, doppler radar with echomax to boost her radar signal, Raymarine , SSB and Sat phone communication ; Time Zero and Raymarine Navionics for weather, route planning and navigation.

Most importantly she handles beautifully in light air and comfortably in strong seas. For a 28 ton sailboat she moves quickly through the water easily reaching her hull speed of 9.8 knots. In short she is a joy to sail.

I often wondered what it would be like to be out of site of land for days on end .

Surprisingly, after leaving land behind for a few days, it is wonderfully relaxing with only the sky, sea and boat . On a clear sunny day there is a razor sharp demarcation between sea and sky. It is easy to see why the early sailors thought the earth was flat and they would fall off if they went over the edge.

Razor sharp line between sea and sky

A total of 8 days at sea from Brest to Las Palmas; the weather continued to warm and the seas settled into a combination of uneven swells and waves.

The 3 hour watches, initially as onerous as night call during internship, were not fun for someone no longer 20. Half way through the trip they became routine. Our watch schedule lets us be on a different watch every day, with 3 of us rotating watch, one day you might see the sunrise and the next you catch the sunset. Always a little bit different.

A welcome Sunrise

Day 8 and I’m looking forward to seeing land . The northeast Canary islands begin to dot the distant horizon and shortly we enter Las Palmas harbor. Ruled by Spain the Canary Islands are a favorite vacation spot for many Europeans, warm , friendly and reasonably priced . A visit to a superb grocery store, complete with the best meats ,seafood, fresh and organic produce, costs around 20% of a similar trip to Whole Foods. In addition to tourism Las Palmas has developed expertise in refurbishing oil rigs. There is a never ending supply arriving from Africa’s west coast.

Specialized freighters bring oil rigs to Las Palmas from western Africa for restoration. Providing work for some of the 2 million residents.

The ARC is an annual race across the atlantic to St Lucia in the Caribbean. COVID prevented last year’s race so there is pent up excitement for this ARC. This race is the first ocean crossing for many of the participants and the ARC committee provides extensive training and boat inspection to help make it as safe as possible. We are not entering the ARC but enjoy a berth in the marina with some beautiful big boats. Great eye candy for boat enthusiasts.

ARC training helicopter sea rescue
Dress Flags- 26 flags on the mast represent a prior era when each flag was a letter of the alphbet with some like the yellow Quarantine flag having special meaning

We are spending a week in Las Palmas then off for a week exploring Tenerife and several of the smaller Canary islands in search of Columbus’s jumping off point. Then we follow him on our atlantic crossing.

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