After two false starts we stowed Lilly ready for our longest passage so far, 600 odd miles to The Canaries. Heading South adjacent to The Moroccan coast felt like the first step towards lands truly exotic. The prospect of sailing to a volcanic archipelago far away where bananas, mangoes and avocados grow aplenty struck a romantic internal chord. What will it feel like to not see land for five days plus? Portugal had begun to feel cold as Autumnal weather had turned wintery for the third stopover of the trip.
The forecast wasn’t ideal but with light winds expected rather than anything too strong so thoughts were towards whether it might be a long frustrating passage as opposed to an uncomfortable or overly boisterous one.
As it was, Lilly did well to slowly move us roughly in the right direction most of the time. With different auxiliary sail arrangements Lilly was most fabulously decorated with the square sail, up for the first time since leaving Wales. She was a picture gently tickling down wind climbing and descending majestic, massive slow swell from the north west; distant echoes from a storm at that moment thumping UK shores.
One hiccup from the gods were some headwinds for an afternoon that pushed us onto a bad course such that a ferry bound for The Canaries crossed our course at a perfect 90 degree angle. Time to heave to and have tea.
The sparse passing wildlife was evidence of warmer waters with turtles and flying fish the latest to delight the crew lucky enough to be on deck at the time. Dolphins remain regular visitors, most enchantingly at night when leaving a trail of phosphorescent sparkles behind them as they dart round the boat. Who screams louder on these occasions, Rowena or the girls?
Twice we were completely becalmed. No wind, no movement in any direction just magic. Beautiful oily contoured water undulating and pitting in the swell. Nothing to do but appreciate the beauty, then swim, then chat and laugh and eat. The tranquility changes only when a breath of wind returns and Lilly begins to glide again. On both occasions it felt too early to leave this suspended reality where thoughts of reaching our destination or moving towards the ‘goal’ dissolve. Concerns of a long passage don’t exist in this state and all the meditative qualities of sailing are present just without the need to actually sail. Truly memorable moments.
On the fifth day, when becalmed, we no longer had a long range wind forecast. so we entered a different mode. One where the barometer is scrutinised more carefully and senses are heightened towards changes in the winds and clouds. An interesting mental exercise in letting go of expectations and allowing things to unfold as they will. A tiny insight into the more fatalistic experience of sailing before the days of accessible forecasts and passageweather.com!
As it was that evening, 100 miles from Graciosa, an increasingly firm wind had us heading 7 knots in the right direction by sunrise. All was well until the wind strengthened and we begun to get headed. Momentary concern. Would we be prevented from making landfall a teasing 30 miles off shore? Fortunately not and Lilly, well heeled, thrust us in to the lee of Lanzarote where we anchored and dived into the noticeably warmer waters. Time to start processing arriving in this humbling dramatic landscape. The hypnotic spell of the 3 hours on and 6 hours off watch rota broken.