Funchal to Canaries

24th Sept
Madeira to the Canaries is around 300M in a roughly southerly direction and with the trade winds from the NE a fairly easy passage can be expected. But for now the winds were in the west and forecast to back into the south west with a return to the trades at least a week away. Westerly would be good, but south west not so good. Our original desired destination had been La Palma, the most westerly of the Canaries which would be a course of 190 degrees. But the most easterly would be Lanzarote which is south easterly or 135 degrees. So we decided to be flexible about our destination. We'd set off heading as far west as we could and then change course to the south and east as the wind backed. Our target was a wide one.............. nearly 250M on an east west axis between La Palma and Lanzarote. It was quite interesting leaving and not being sure where we'd end up.

We were in the lee of the island and had to motor out for half an hour before we found wind. When we found it, it was a nice and steady F3 from the west north west and we were able to make a course of 220 degrees under all lowers and tops'l, and so work our way a bit out to the west. By sunset at around 8 o'clock as we started the night watches the wind was going lighter. It was variable during the night but we managed to average over 5K and a light wind is usually better for sleeping.

Dolphins visited us early in the morning which is not as common as it was a few weeks ago, but is always a welcome and inspirational sight. With the winds still light we hoisted the jib tops'l and managed to keep above 5K still, and as predicted, during the morning the wind slowly started to back. By 1000 our course was 200 degrees and by midday it was 180, but the strength was picking up and we were now maintaining a steady 6K.

We handed the jib tops'l before nightfall, and after another uneventful night, John was on watch at first light and was the first to spot El Teide, the volcanic mountain on Tenerife. We had covered about 225M and we estimated the mountain, which is Spain's highest, was still 70 or 80 M off. I'm sure we would have been able to see it from even further, maybe even 100M had we had daylight earlier.

Throughout the night the wind had continued to back, and by daybreak our course was 145 degrees, but as we had made some early westing and were now further south we were pretty confident that we'd make Tenerife. The wind strengthened during the morning from the SW to a good F5, maybe 6, and with tops'l still up we were overpressed. It's interesting that when the sun is shining and the spray that is soaking us, from time to time, is warm
the feeling is of exhilaration. If the sky had been full of heavy clouds and the sea cold I'd have been more anxious. Having said that it was definitely time to hand the tops'l and put a couple of reefs in the main.

Progress was now pretty fast, we covered 28M in the first four hours of the afternoon., and Tenerife was now a certainty. But as we closed the island we were entering its wind shadow and slowing down. By 1740 the wind was light and with a considerable swell still running the boom started crashing around again. With that grating on the nerves, and the limited hours of daylight we resorted to the motor for the last few hours. We rounded the north east corner of the island admiring its jagged volcanic features, and as we motored the last 10M down the coast to Santa Cruz I saw my first flying fish ! It flew for 2 or 3 hundred yards. A fish that flies like a bird. Even though I'd heard all about them, my first sighting was still weird. I tried to imagine how it was for the early explorers who had no books or television, no David Attenborough, when they first spotted the sight. No wonder they believed in sea monsters !!!