Friday 19th, mooring in Gran Canaria
Awakened by a loud knocking on the hull of Sea Dreams, we all leapt out of our beds and, from our much needed deep slumber. Each of us scrambled onto the cockpit to be met by the marina attendant looking rather harassed at having to start work immediately he arrived. Lee gathered the paperwork and Larry appeased the marina man with his request for refueling, which luckily (as we had sailed virtually the whole passage), wasn't too expensive. Lorraine, Kevin and I retied our ropes into slip lines from their previous more sturdy, securing lines knowing that the next step was to motor into a berth for our two night stay here in Last Palmas.
Once back on board Lee explains that we must move onto a pontoon not too far away, the engine is fired up and in the usual confusion, we await our instructions as to how this maneouver will take place. Don't get me wrong, we are all used to untying and setting off from docks/ quays and moorings (we do all have our own boats) however, what normally happens is that the captain will direct the maneouver, for example.... stern line off first, bow line last. Unfortunately, as with each of our moorings, the team kind of had to assume, guess and therefore hope that what we did, was what was expected.
We are piloted towards our new mooring by the marinero, a helpful young marina man in very nice rubber dinghy, he directs us towards a slot which looked a little narrow, fortunately after a brief radio conversation with his peers, we were then directed into another space opposite. This one seemed rather more our size, our boat was put into reverse, however the turning space being a little tight for a 50 foot boat, meant that it was still somewhat snug! As we pulled into the space, our stern swung too far to port and scraped a little on a beautiful Oyster yacht next door, leaving some of Sea Dreams paintwork damaged too. At this point Kevin was on the port mid ship and Lorraine was on the port stern defending the paintwork.
Lee and myself both rushed over to the imminent trauma presenting itself on our starboard bow. Fenders and hands outstretched to protect the rather nice Amel yacht on this side from our chrome work and bow, at this moment a rather harassed looking German gentleman bounded out of his cockpit to scan for damage. Immediately he asked us to alter our fenders to ensure no damage occurred, and of course as soon as we could we did without question.
During this confusion, our Captain left the helm to assist with damage limitation, which is when Lorraine realised that the helm was unmanned and that the engine was still in reverse, she therefore leapt into position ensuring that no further issues could arise.
Now wedged nicely between our neighbouring yachts, our ropes and lazy lines could be secured, with a sigh of relief we adjusted fenders appropriately before finally attaching the gangplank. (passerelle).
I think we need lunch!
We washed, changed into 'normal' clothing and immediately felt ready to see a little bit of Las Palmas. The marina is pretty full, mostly boats wintering on the island, some appear to have been here for quite some time! Some had young couples living aboard, some of these appear to have very young children too, this seems incredible in such a cramped environment. I cannot imagine how they cope especially from a safety point of view, clearly they manage very well and I applaud their abilities.
Following the main walkway from our mooring we find ourselves on the edge of the very busy motorway which separates the marina and port from the city. This city is huge, sprawling and not what any of us expected of Gran Canaria, and such a remote group of Islands. The port itself is enormous, massive cargo vessels queue outside to entrance for loading/unloading. Containers piled perhaps ten high span the whole dock near the marina, I guess as these Islands sit strategically near the African coast, their location is perfect for Europe, Africa and perhaps America. 11262 ships passed through this port in the year 2007, it additionally welcomed almost 1000000 cruise liner passengers in 2007, incredible statistics.
Lunch was enjoyed in a traditional Spanish restaurant where a buffet style selection of great food had our taste buds well and truly tickled. (Except for the tripe, which we accidentally ordered without realising 😱)
Exhausted from both the rolling seas, no sleep and full tummies, we all decided to head back for rest.
Kevin and I took a stroll around the marina and found what appeared to be a fabulous fishing tackle shop, gleaming reels, shiny sturdy rods and a massive array of hooks, lures and fishy bits, he was in heaven. Unfortunately this little goldmine was closed until tomorrow. High on Kevin's list of life goals is to catch a massive fish in these famous Atlantic waters, but the only fishing rods we seem to have found, have been cheap, easily broken pieces of rubbish...... Until now !!
Tomorrow, once tasks have been completed, he will be in his exciting little fishing heaven.
An evening of film watching and relaxing followed. With only one free day left before our intended departure across the Atlantic, we must rest. Tomorrow is provisioning, cooking and boat preparation for departure, not much time I fear!
Provisioning had started, and our fears were building for this huge undertaking. Due to depart the following morning, we as crew, had reservations about our lack of time for final preparations and some of the decisions left us feeling uncomfortable.
The water issue has highlighted a huge difference in our planning and safety ideas, together with the lack of communication between us all, our expectations were clearly quite different with regards to the organisation. we found that nothing had been formally planned and everything that was done, seemed ad-hoc.
It seems trivial however, as in any team, there are always decisions and organisation, if nothing else, to keep everyone happy and abreast of what requires attention, including any changes that we need to be aware of. In essence, it felt as if we were all drifting on our own little piece of Sea Dreams, in a disconnected, disjointed unhinged way.
There was equally no planning with regards to boat maintenance, cooking or cleaning, which meant us continuously asking or suggesting,
This lack of teamwork left us feeling a little inadequate and not pulling our weight. We did of course tidy, sweep, prepare food and drinks whilst keeping our respective cabins in order.
So, all in all, the team was not a good solid one.
Earlier in the day provisions had been sourced, yet more were required, also there had been some harsh words spoken regarding the water stocks. When we arrived back on board with our food delivery following us soon afterwards, we set about storing everything in cupboards, under floorboards, behind seating and, well, into any gap we could find. Lee disappeared leaving us to complete the job, on her return her demeanour was........ Uncommunicative, our suggestions for cooking were unheeded and disregarded.
Hmmm what do we do now as this was becoming awkward.
There was in addition to every thing else, the issue of checking out of Europe allowing us all to head to the Caribbean. As far as we're are aware, we should all take our passports to the Port authority where, if needed, they will be stamped ready for our departure. Being Saturday today and departure planned for Sunday when the offices are closed, this task must be completed now. We all take to the shore once again and by this time Kevin is annoyed, we are rushing around completing important tasks with very little time left. This thought had been mentioned on previous discussions during the last three days, shouldn't we take more time to ensure that everything is finished, stocked and actually ready, before we leave. We hadn't even started cooking meals yet and we would only have this evening left. None of us had assisted with final boat preparation either which should be everyone's responsibility. Kevin didn't have his longed for fishing rod, which was now impossible as we had too much else to do in the short time frame left.
At this point Larry, realising that we were not 100% happy to leave yet, decided to ask us what were our reservations.
When we stated that everything is being rushed, no real organisation was taking place and that provisions had not yet been fully addressed, he disagreed. Lee when asked her opinion stated that the plan was to set off early January, this had not happened due to our slow progress reaching Gran Canaria. She wanted to get going to ensure a good weather window, the trade winds are in a good position for a good few weeks and we shouldn't push for a date. A vote was taken, should we check out now or wait a few days more, the majority agreed a few more days should be sufficient to complete our preparation.
The mood was awkward......Kevin and I decided to go ashore to eat as no one else seemed interested, Lorraine joined us for the walk and we ate at a local cafe. On our return, a discussion questioning our feelings and thoughts began, various points were highlighted regarding leadership, planning, our roles and responsibilities. Some of the points mentioned were becoming rather more personal and uncomfortable for each of us, therefore the discussion was drawn to a close as soon as possible
Everyone said goodnight and the evening was complete.
Saturday 20th January, one day until departure!
Feeling a little more refreshed, we woke with busy brains......
Today is departure day, minus one!
Shopping, cooking and storing of meals, buy additional fuel canisters which also require filling plus boat preparation, have all been decided for today.
Lorraine, Kevin and I wake early-ish, Lee is still snuggled under bedding, possibly awake and on the internet and Larry is checking the weather for that optimal opportunity to break free from land and head out to sea. He confirms much to our fears, that yes we will leave on Sunday, tomorrow.
When this whole Atlantic adventure discussion began with Lee and Larry, the original idea was to go in perhaps November with the famous ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers), this professional group annually organise a Transatlantic crossing for sailors in yachts.
In order to comply with the ARC regulations, which as you can probably imagine are extremely tight and essential for a safe passage, Sea Dreams must fulfil certain requirements.
Due to the huge cost of the ARC registration, together with the timing, it was decided to cross independently in early January. However the same safety equipment and boat checks would still apply.
At the marina in Almerimar, Sea Dreams had various maintenance checks carried out over the winter period. Whilst Lee and Larry were back in New Zealand, the engine had been serviced, the generator checked and the rigging had been surveyed, despite no detailed record. Apparently the confirmation for the rigging check said simply "yes it is all ok", (not sure how an insurance company would react to "yes it is all ok"). As the team onboard, we must rely on these checks and trust their workmanship for this major journey, as crew members, we need to have this trust and security conveyed via our Captain and we need to share his confidence. Having not made any water since their arrival in Almeriamar, we asked the question, "has the water maker been checked" to this Larry replied, "yes it has" and he was happy with it as with all other equipment onboard. He also impressed that we will also have 500 litres of water in the tanks, should the water maker fail.
As Lee was still in bed Kevin, Larry and I grabbed the opportunity to find the marina shower facilities. Mine was clean, warm and no problem, even with the cockroach trying to join me!
Larry's on the other hand was a little more interesting, as he entered the male shower block which has a key for entry, he was met by some hobo type characters drying their newly showered selves with rolls of toilet paper. The female shower cubicles had a very helpful outer section to leave any clothing and valuable items which therefore couldn't be soaked from the awkward random sprays from the partially blocked shower heads.
The men's, so Larry found, had no outer 'safe' place for belongings, therefore having to leave his door open, and himself rather exposed to the hobo toilet tissue brigade, he had to keep one eye on his clothing and towel while trying to enjoy his shower!
Now we are clean, dressed and ready to shop, we all wandered into this vast city in search of the supermarket. Lee had already begun a list for provisions however, as she was still in bed, Lorraine and I discussed what we might need. On my return Lorraine had begun a good detailed record of what was already onboard, and therefore what additional stock was required. I then assisted with the final amounts and items, Larry and Kevin also chipped in with their ideas too, toilet rolls, "we must have plenty, wouldn't want to run out of those during the crossing" yells Larry from the cockpit.
We all head out towards one of the larger supermarkets in town, which in fact had a great range of items we required, fresh, packaged and tinned. Unfortunately we did not find some things which meant a further shopping expedition would be necessary later, wasting yet more valuable time! Our list essentially had to contain enough food and fluid for three weeks, bearing in mind that fresh goods would not last too long. Tins of vegetables and fruit would become alternatives, while crackers, pitta style wraps and part baked rolls were easy to store where bread was not. Freezer space is also limited on a boat, therefore foods which can be cooked in advance and frozen are great, but they must be tightly packed to save space. Long life milk is fabulous for these journeys, and they are a good shape for packing neatly away. Snacks, well as you can imagine, these need to be stocked in huge quantities. When the sea is rough, creating gourmet evening meals can become somewhat tricky, eating meals of any sort is a challenge, snacks are an invaluable short term substitute. Short term, in that you could not rely on these as an alternative to good nutrition on a long, perhaps difficult passage.
Fluids, as everyone knows, water is essential to good body function, cells, kidneys, circulation and every organ requires an adequate intake on a daily basis. Average intake for most adults should be 1.5-2 litres per day, should your metabolism increase, your fluid consumption should equally increase. When hot, the figures clearly also increase, urine output is a fabulous measurement to help guide us! (I am a nurse and could write a short book on this topic, I will of course spare you any more of these details)
For this passage Lorraine and I had worked out that 2 litres per day for five people would equate to around 200 litres for the entire journey, should the water maker fail and should any contamination or damage occur with tanks. (Only last season, our own yacht boiler feed pipe blew off under pressure, which emptied the tank completely into the bilges, we became aware pretty quickly by the water pump running continuously)
Back in the supermarket we noticed that one of our bulging trolleys had a few packs of water, around 27 litres, to which both Lorraine and I said, "so we need more water, around 200 litres it total". "What for" said Larry, "we have a water maker and a 500 litres in the tanks!"
We both said, "what if the water maker fails, and there is an issue with the tanks", surly we should prepare for any eventuality. "Is the water maker actually working", as we have not made water yet since putting Sea Dreams back into the water this year. To which Larry replied "that's a stupid question!"
To save a further uncomfortable discussion, we concluded our shopping episode and left the delivery staff packing our goods.
Sunday 21st January....We should be excited.....
Having slept poorly following our previous evenings very awkward discussion , Kevin and I woke early. Something had to be done to bring the team back together, just not sure how that will actually happen!
We had a plan to begin the cooking frenzy, with provisioning complete, everything was ready and waiting to be grated, peeled, chopped and mixed. If we could show initiative and that we had not given up hope of this fantastic adventure, perhaps the rest of our team would follow suit. Kevin was struggling with the whole idea of pulling the team forward, he felt it was almost beyond repair. Lorraine, we could see that she was torn between staying and tolerating her unrecognised skills and our apparent lack of 'puling our weight' mentioned in the fiery talk last night. I personally felt hurt and offended that our efforts and hard work when we were feeling so unwell and during rough seas, went unnoticed.
It was pointed out that the AIS and radar equipment was overused, when we should be using our eyes during a nightsail. A pretty harsh statement from one who has their mobile phone glued to their palm for at least 20 hours per day! I did smile at the comment and was questioned as to my grin!
So, today I feel ready for the challenge of either pulling this group of sailors back together or ......... Well, who knows.
Larry was awake, fiddling with tools and ready to start afresh with the mission ahead, Lee was still in bed while Lorraine had scrambled out and heading for the shower, she seemed chatty as we four discussed what we had planned for the morning. Larry was toying with the idea of fitting their new wind generator, Kevin offered his help. By the time we had completed our cooking stint, Larry had decided to leave the generator until tomorrow.
Lee was......Still in bed. This was my first moment of realisation that each of us were trying so hard to communicate and rebuild bridges, yet Lee clearly felt unable to join us. I even made coffee for her and Larry took it into her cabin, not the team spirit that I felt was desperately needed at this delicate, awkward time.
Larry was contemplating his own cooking masterpiece, as we completed ours, while Lorraine had her head firmly in the cavernous fridge gathering raw ingredients and preparing hers. Lee had not emerged, it was now almost lunchtime, even Larry seemed embarrassed and opened the cabin door shouting "it's lunchtime".
Kevin had checked that there were no other tasks or jobs that were outstanding, still nothing was highlighted regarding the function of necessary equipment ie the watermaker!
Kevin and I then, after yet another check of the tasks, decided to go and explore the town a little. Lorraine had actually finished her meal preparation and also headed out into the warm sunshine, none of us had spoken to Lee at all yet today.
On our return, Lee was sitting at the map table in the salon, we tried to chat, however, she was focused on her phone. Larry had begun to assemble his wind generator, even though he had planned to leave the job until the following morning. Kevin felt totally deflated, this would have been a perfect opportunity to build bridges and a little teamwork between them both, yet Larry waited until Kevin had gone before tackling it himself. He did use Kevin's help, as Kevin was agile enough to scramble onto the chromework at the stern, and strong enough to take the weight of the generator as Larry connected the cabling, but the feeling of "I can do this on my own" lingered in Kevin's mind.
Even moreso when the fresh water pump had been fitted earlier in the day, without Kevin's help, despite him offering yet again.
I sat down below with Lorraine and Lee, again trying to "talk" Lorraine was reading and chatting, yet Lee seemed uncomfortable with the effort of even trying. After about an hour of pure frustration, I came out into the cockpit, this was becoming a pointless exercise. Poor Lorraine was determined to behave normally, however, I am afraid I could not, I decided to go for a paddle in the freezing sea (it was January) Kevin joined me in my irritated state. What was the point of us all trying pretty hard to make amends when one of the already fragile team, would not even attempt to try.
Kevin and I talked it through, over and over again....... is this going to work, can we try any harder? What were our options at this point? I personally did not want to walk away from this massive, exciting challenge, however, would I want to be completing this adventure with this team in this broken state? Kevin had had enough of the lack of leadership, poor communication between us and the haste at which everything was being pushed along.
Lorraine looked completely fed up, it seemed that she was never included in the boat decisions. Being a female yet despite her vast knowledge and experience, she seemed to be omitted from the more ' male dominated' roles on a boat. We had been led to believe that we were on board as crew, not just friends, and if we were crew, our roles should be defined and yet interchangeable. We are each capable of pulling in and out sails, adjusting for the wind speed and direction, throwing ropes, tying fenders and all of the skills crew need, yet when we had shown initiative or adjusted anything, we were questioned or told "we don't normally do it that way". Larry even leapt into the cockpit during an early morning sail adjustment, much to my and Lorraine's surprise. "What's going on, something is not right, one of the ropes are under strain, it is far too tight"! It concluded that we had made no errors and that he had just had a moment of .........Well, who knows!
Anyway, now that my feet were well and truly freezing, we had to get back to the fun, after all it was mealtime. We had decided to eat out in one of the little marina restaurants, a short stroll took us around the concrete breakwater, past the groups of locals attempting to catch the ever elusive fish. The evening turned out ok, tension in the air, yet we even Lee, were trying to be a unit, a little bonding session had begun.
As we navigated our way back to Sea Dreams, our thoughts were much as they had been through the afternoons freezing feet period. Can we do this, will it work, what if there was a boat crisis perhaps two weeks from land, would we work together or would it break us!
We decided to open a bottle of wine, as I rummaged under the flooring in our cabin to retrieve the red stuff, Lee and Larry both said they were off to bed, an early night.
We poured and chatted between us, of nothing in particular, all with our own thoughts of this forthcoming journey, gradually we began to ask each other, how we felt. Between us, the feeling was mutual, how was this ever going to work? We all for our own personal reasons wanted this enormous challenge, and the achievement afterwards if successful. Yet we all wished it could happen in a happier and more comfortable team. We wanted to be a part of this fabulous team, not just spectators or participants of the ceremony. We also wanted to be quality team members who bonded well, who felt valued and trusted, not visitors or helpful bystanders. By the time we allowed sleep to become our only thought, we had made up our minds.
Monday 22nd January 2018 Giving and sharing.......
Kevin and I had made up our minds, today would be decision day. Larry had woken early and was above our cabin in the cockpit, Kevin having dressed earlier climbed up the companionway to find Larry but, he had disappeared, gone ashore for a walk. The opportunity for discussion had gone.....
Lorraine was awake, she clearly aware of our imminent conversation, was dressing, and organizing.
Lee was still in bed, probably awake but door closed, I now dressed, was tidying our cabin, and preparing.
Funny things go through your head at probably the most inconvenient times.......
'we have more toilet rolls than bottled water on board. I know which one I could manage without!'
The previous evening had made us decide our fate, therefore our conversation with Lorraine had been worthwhile, none of us wanted to leave, yet we all had huge reservations with regards to the whole journey. Firstly our route had changed, our initial plan was to be in Last Palmas within 10 days of setting off from Almerimar, clearly the sea state and winds had altered that plan, we had been on board for almost four weeks. This of course added extra nights which were spent within safe marinas which of course led to added costs for marina fees, water and electricity.
On leaving Gibraltar we headed towards Last Palmas, but ended up in Lanzarote instead, which for us was great a lovely stopping point, however, the reason for the detour was a potential lack of fuel, there had been a miscalculation in our fuel use meaning that we had to make this stopover, that is not a small issue, that scared me!
Of course at this time Lorraine was pretty unwell, therefore she did benefit from seeing a Doctor at the time, so in fact it worked out for the better.
The handling of Sea Dreams was a constant concern, four occasions saw us scratch either our boat or someone elses beautiful, expensive vessel, this just added to our other worries.
On mooring, we only once contacted and spoke to marina personnel before our entry, two of those occasions were in the dark of night, Kevin and I were taught to plan the journey backwards to ensure you arrive in daylight for a safe anchorage or mooring. The most scary port was Last Palmas, I have never seen so many massive cargo vessels at anchor and to make matters worse there were moving ships too! To add to the stress, we had been informed that AIS and radar should not be left switched on and monitored constantly "our eyes should do the searching and checking".
Poor communication regarding our roles left us feeling unsure, hesitant and irritated, we should know the role inside and out, yet we had minimal leadership or direction, and any instructions given were in vague conversation rather than a direct approach.
Throughout our journey both Kevin, Lorraine and myself found ourselves highlighting the perfect wind strength and direction, therefore, should we be sailing rather than motoring? Motoring however, seemed to be Larry's preferred method of travel, until of course the fuel reserves became an issue.
I felt for Lorraine, feeling poorly and on her own, that must have been extremely hard, I am not that brave or hardy, yet she coped brilliantly. Worryingly, only Kevin and I spent quality time with her, giving the impression that we were always "the three of us together" not how it should have been at all.
So all in all something had to be done!
On Larry's return Kevin hesitantly made his way to meet him in the cockpit, Lee still in bed was oblivious to the next few minutes of conversation.
A good morning greeting was shared by both Larry and Kevin, before Kevin said "remember that we had agreed right back at the beginning of this journey, that if any of us chose not to continue, for whatever reason, we would just need to say, ......... well unfortunately for us, and with deep regret, that time has arrived".
With that Larry said "ah good" I was hoping you would make that decision, and Lorraine what about her?", Kevin hesitated, not wanting to speak out of turn, "I think you may want to ask her that question".
Larry bounded down into the salon, straight towards his cabin where Lee had been tucked away. I could hear an exchange of words so left them some privacy by heading outside with some of our belongings..
Our bags had been quietly and hurriedly packed in the early hours, Lorraine was completing her final check around when Larry emerged, to assist us with the bags.
If tensions were high yesterday, they were kind of unprecedented now!
I could feel my heart pounding, no-one likes confrontation or dispute. I think we just needed to go as soon as possible, pity the bags were so damned heavy and cumbersome!
Kevin took the larger bags out onto the roadside nearby while I walked back to collect more luggage, Lorraine was also just leaving Sea Dreams at this point. Lee leapt up into the cockpit visibly shaking..........With fury, and in an angry tone (which was perfectly understandable) she told us that we were to pay €80 each for food and other things. I happily paid this amount with no question at all as did Lorraine. Lee disappeared again whilst we continued to move our luggage.
Within seconds Lee reappeared flapping her notepad, "sorry I miscalculated, I need another €80 each from you, here look" I vaguely gazed at her calculations which she then carefully explained were for fuel and marina fees for the entire journey!
The only marina fees that we were anticipating paying, were for those extra two days in Gran Canaria, as it had been our decision to stay those additional few nights and, we had stated that we would pay for the inconvenience.
So a total bill for €160 per person was handed to each of us.
We knew that €50 per person covered the shopping expedition in these last two days and that Gran Canaria marina for those additional two night was €28 per night between 5 of us!
Therefore we had just handed them €480, Larry looked rather embarrassed, I did point out that at our original planning of this journey, Lee & Larry had stated we would only be expected to pay for food and any personal expenses. We would not have undertaken this journey otherwise. In answer to my question I was informed, "it is a privilege to use marinas and they must be paid for". As for the fuel.....We had no choice as to the quantity used throughout this voyage, sails were used only at Larry's discretion, therefore this cost was completely unfair.
At this point we had all offloaded our belongings and were ready to leave, we each said thank you for the opportunity and wished them well on their journey. Both of them explained that New Zealand and British people are very different, New Zealanders are "giving and sharing" where the British are not. Their example to clarify this behaviour was that, on the previous evening, we had not offered them a glass of wine. Even though both of them had already stated that they were going to bed and having an early night.
We took our leave on this bright sunny day with heavy hearts, the last thing we wanted to do was dissolve our friendship, yet these final words and actions sealed its fate.
As we dragged our heavy luggage away and the distance between our fractured 'team' grew, our feelings of disappointment, anger and sadness probably held a few threads of bond between us for the next few days.....