Sailing to Cape Verde
 December 11, 2019    |   read entry >


Dec 11, 2019 (Day 4,577)
Quick Fix: 20° 32.2 N / 21° 39.9 W
Sailing to Cape Verde

Awash with the Sea
Catherine's first logbook entry for this passage reads, "Rolly, rolly, rolly + rolly!" We're now four days, 590 nautical miles into our sail to Cape Verde, and with 30 knots of wind blowing eagerly across the stern, conditions have been lively. Thankfully the wind has eased to a more civilized 20 knots, but the waves are still causing mischief with 8 to 10 foot seas racing to catch us. Some roll under our keel without a bother, but the more determined sets build, bubble and tumble, thumping over our caprail and go cascading around the decks, swishing from one side to the other before gurgling a noisy escape through the scuppers. The Atlantic is having fun with us! We have a salty soggy pile of old towels in the cockpit, but after years of replacing gaskets and seals, our cabin below remains cozy and dry - even when the port lights are entirely awash with the sea.


Dec 6, 2019 (Day 4,572)
Quick Fix: 28° 07.9 N / 15° 25.5 W
Gran Canaria, Canary Islands

Clear For Departure
A record number of boats participating in the ARC Rally, 283 to be exact, departed Grand Canaria last month for the Caribbean. So overwhelming was the fleet's size that it prompted local authorities to warn mariners by broadcasting a PAN-PAN, referring to the fleet as a "navigational hazard", which seemed a little harsh to me. Although maybe they were right? We arrived in Las Palmas the following day, not by coincidence, and have spent the last two weeks leisurely preparing Dream Time for her own Atlantic crossing, which she will begin tomorrow. It's 3,000 nautical miles to the Caribbean from here, but as we're not in a hurry we've decided to make a pit stop on the islands of Cape Verde, an African country 850 miles to our south. The weather forecast is clear, and with the ARC Rally now well over the horizon, navigating our departure will be a cinch.




Day 4,571 - Gran Canaria, Canary Islands
17:48 hrs - December 5, 2019
Safety Upgrade 5.0

"One hand for the boat," pretty much covered my safety strategy back In my twenties and remarkably, with no cruising experience or serious regard for consequences, I sailed from Australia, across the Indian Ocean and up the Red Sea to the Mediterranean without incident.

In my thirties, however, when Catherine and I began cruising offshore on Dream Time, I took our personal safety a little more seriously, investing in Raymarine MOB lifetags - watch-size transmitters that promise to trigger an ear piercing alarm inside the boat to alert a sleeping spouse should the other topple overboard. Truth be told, the motivation to buy this device came not to directly benefit the wearer lounging in the cockpit, but more to assist the off-watch spouse in securing a sound sleep, resting comfortably with the knowledge that their partner was still somewhere on board. The alarm has been triggered once in twelve years of world cruising, whilst sailing from New Zealand to Fiji, when perched on the very end of the bowsprit I recorded some spectacular dolphin footage with my arm extended just beyond the unit's working range. Let's just say the alarm worked marvelously and had Catherine wide awake, in the cockpit within fifteen seconds, and not speaking to me for the remainder of the day.

During my forties we explored the South Pacific, New Zealand, Australia, Southeast Asia and returned to the Mediterranean Sea. Passages were long and remote in the Pacific, so when we reached Australia we added a nifty water-activated strobe light to our lifetag strap which can be seen blinking at a distance of up to three miles. Unobtrusive, both the lifetag and strobe light are worn on the wrist of whoever is on watch, regardless of conditions, day and night, and are small enough not to interfere with movement, line handling or lounging.

And now, as I approach the fifth decade of my life, the accumulation of cruising experiences, observations and available technology have me reassessing our gear once again and introducing another upgrade to help ensure our safety. You could make an excellent case right about now, arguing that we should simply wear life jackets and harnesses all the time. And of course you would be right. But we cruise not just to explore the world, but for our independence and yes, even the calculated recklessness and adventure of the life we choose to live at sea, and wearing a harness, tugging around a leash all day, every day on a passage, is not a realistic solution for us, especially considering on many days even board shorts seem unacceptably constraining. But we're not reckless, when conditions deteriorate we don't hesitate to reach for our life jackets and harnesses, which are stowed next to the grab bag and EPIRB in the companionway, and in sporty seas we clip to jacklines if staggering around the deck is required. But under normal cruising conditions, the less we have to wear the better.

While our lifetag does an impressive job of instantly, and loudly, signalling an MOB situation, it does not provide an active or real-time position fix of the person splashing around in the water. The strobe light will mark the location at night, but in big seas or poor visibility cannot be relied upon. So our most recent upgrade is a personal AIS MOB transponder.

This pocket size unit, when activated, sends a SART icon (Search And Rescue Transponder) via satellite to any AIS-compatible screen within a range of about ten miles to pinpoint the exact position of the device. We've attached ours to an inflatable life vest belt, the unit fits neatly inside the waist bag and if the vest is deployed, the AIS beacon is right where you'll need it.

Technology moves a lot faster than Dream Time and we don't try to keep up with all the changes. But we do adopt upgrades when we recognize they'll improve our lifestyle and safety at sea. In just a few weeks we'll begin our passage across the Atlantic Ocean, and I think it's safe to say that we have never been better prepared. And barring any attempts, by me, to record dolphins playing off the bow, the voyage should be a peaceful one.

Dec 2 , 2019    |  Gran Canaria, Canary Islands - The sun drenched Dunas de Maspalomas.


Dec 2, 2019 (Day 4,568)
Quick Fix: 28° 07.9 N / 15° 25.5 W
Gran Canaria, Canary Islands

A Taste of Gran Canaria
From sea level to cloud line we have toured all of Gran Canaria, and it has been a delight. The serpentine coastal road meandered and flowed perfectly around the island's southwestern shorelines, tracing narrow valleys lined with prickly pears one minute, then clinging to jagged vertical cliffs the next where wild Atlantic surf molested rocky shores 1,000 feet below. We bought fresh oranges and mandarins, the best we've ever tasted, from local farmers at roadside stalls. We passed colorful cyclists on merciless inclines in gears so low their legs looked like running sandpipers. We even met a stranded rollerblader who needed a lift, somehow he had failed to consider the ‘going up’ portion of his day. In the island's center we hiked to Roque Nublo, 5,948 feet above Dream Time and 30 degrees cooler, and were rewarded by an entrepreneurial vendor selling hot chocolate so thick you needed a spoon to drink it.


Dec 2 , 2019    |  Gran Canaria, Canary Islands - Touching the clouds at the island's center, a chilly 5,948 feet above Dream Time.

Dec 1 , 2019    |  Gran Canaria, Canary Islands - No lens distortion used here, and this is considered one of the straighter portions of GC-200.