It’s a long way. Lightning strikes! Why is the bilge full of water?
Around midday on the 27th October, after refilling with fuel, we headed back out to sea, setting course for Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, with a passage of some 550 miles ahead.
With a good breeze from the NE we made steady progress, sailing at 6.5 knots. The sea was lumpy initially and having been ashore for so long there was a fair bit of queasiness amongst the Double Waters crew. Our new watch system was in place with George and Jack standing longer watches together, and accompanying Bridget and Grum during some night hours. This worked well although after the first 48 hours both B & G were exhausted. It was the sort of sailing where frequent sail changes were required; reefs in, reefs out, bigger jib, smaller jib, mizzen up, mizzen down, engine on, engine off. George and Jack really came through with all the sailing of Double Waters and getting down into the galley to prepare hot meals. Including Jacks’ sausage surprise!
For some hours we had smooth seas, a great breeze, and all felt wonderful. Then the cloud built over the Moroccan coast and out to sea, and the lightning began. We were sailing between some terrific electrical activity.
Now, although seeing fork lightning explode from beneath giant clouds, join with another fork and strike the sea is spectacular, it doesn’t do much for the nerves when you are standing next to 2 large metal masts reaching up into the sky. Bridget was particularly nervous. Sailing wisdom is unclear on the best thing to do, however yachts are struck by lightning, with the result being some severely damaged electrical systems. We hung our extra heavy duty jump cables over the side clamped to the mast back stays, and changed course several times to skirt around the worst of these local storms. Interestingly, of the 2 that we passed the closest, the first seemed to have no increase in wind with it, but the second we found ourselves running before it with 35knots of wind, just our staysail up, and it appeared to chase us for 45 minutes!
This was all a bit exciting, and we were glad to clear this weather and find clearer skies further South.
By the 3rd day at sea, now all feeling well and once again enjoying favourable winds, we could begin to enjoy the ocean. We saw plenty of dolphins of course, and many visiting small birds of several varieties, one of which spent a couple of hours below and settled itself in Jacks’ cabin. We have to assume that these feathered passengers had been blown offshore by the winds; most flew on the next morning after a rest.
During the 3rd and 4th days we saw quite a bit of commercial shipping heading up or down the African coast, plus we saw several other yachts making their way South like ourselves.
The last 24hours of the passage and the wind disappeared entirely and in a calm sea we spent some hours motoring towards Lanzarote, our ‘Perky Perkins’ engine chug, chugging away. On the final night, at the 00.00hrs watch change, Bridget and George woke Grum with the news that our main water tank (550 litres) was empty but our bilge was sloshing! Clearly we had a leak somewhere and although we carry another 250litres of water as spare, this was alarming, even more alarming if we’d been at the beginning of a long passage rather than the end. This repair we’d have to undertake once safely in Lanzarote.
On the afternoon of the 4th day out from Vilamoura (31st October) a shout of ‘Land Ahoy’ went up and we enjoyed a brisk sail down the East coast of Lanzarote, gazing at the moonscape of volcanic peaks and the rugged, dry terrain. Shortly we entered the marina at Puerto Calero, immediately appreciating the 28 degrees warmth, and that evening celebrated the 2000 mile mark since leaving the UK.