Friday, October 31, 2008

Isla Graciosa, Canary Islands

October 30, 2008
Isla Graciosa, Canary Islands
coordinates 29 13.144N,013 31.621W

A decent crossing from Gibraltar, we had a mixed bag of wind and weather. As we departed the rock we had light winds against us, which then led to two days of motoring, no wind and then two days of 20 knots from behind. Bits of rain and lightning accompanied the trip but all went well. We arrived at the southern end of the little island of Isla Graciosa, Canary Islands at sunrise on the 23rd and tucked ourselves in tight on the southern end of the island with about a dozen other boats. Realizing
that we are at the same latitude as Baja California, that would certainly help you picture our surroundings. The islands are low lying, dry wind blown areas covered with the occasional shrub and sand dunes with the exception of 4 old volcano cones that are left over from long ago. The colors of the dirt that make them up are quite colorful though with swirls of various browns, golds and yellows. The tiny town that survives here looks a bit like a cross between Greece and Baja. Low lying pueblos,
white washed with bright blue shutters. The people ashore aren't quite as warm and welcoming here though. The native language is Spanish but they do speak English as well. There is a slight hint of tourism here as a daily glass bottom boat delivers people to the beach each day to play despite what the weather might say.

The weather here is a mixed bag as well, unable to make up it's mind sometimes minute to minute. 30 knots of wind to nothing, torrential down pour to sunny blue skies with fluffy blue clouds. The water is about 68 degrees but with the wind can chill you to the bone quickly. The boys are enjoying the beach time and the hikes to town or up the volcano crater are providing some good exercise and shore time. We have met a few new boats as well from Australia with children aboard which is great fun
for Tristan and Matthew. You forget just how little "kid" time they have and with such few children lately. Mom and Dad are great fun but I don't think we quite qualify to fill that "kid" position.

Though we don't have the internet that we fast became attached to in Gibraltar, we have reunited with our BBC and Voice of America radio programs that broadcast daily on our Ham radio. They will even be doing a live broadcast on November 4th at 22:00 UTC (or 10:00pm here in the Canaries), approximately 2pm Pacific time so we will be able to track the election results with the nation. It's an amazing time to be alive around this PLANET, and maybe, just maybe, we'll all begin to realize just how
connected we all are.

Out of the Med

Sunday October 19,2008
Atlantic Ocean
coordinates 34 40.863N,007 26.748E

All is well on Ohana Kai and we have finally broke free of the Mediterranean Sea and have crept/beat our way out the Straight of Gibraltar and into the Atlantic Ocean en route to the Canary Islands. It has been an amazing month since we last wrote to you. We covered two more countries, and most importantly had a spectacular visit with Lisa's parents.
The quick recap...
Departed Italy end of August with a two day stop over in Porto Pollo, Sardinia for some windsurfing and skim boarding.
3 overnights to reach Barcelona Spain, find the heaven of a marina in Port Forum. First week we spent preparing for our company. Lisa's parents were coming for a good long visit and the boat needed some loving before their arrival. The main sail, the dodger and biminy made their way to the sail repair shop for a pricey but much needed and well done overhaul. New zippers, new seams and patches all around. Lisa's parents, Nonnie and Nonno to the boys, have had the opportunity to visit Ohana Kai
in ports of Mexico, New Zealand and Thailand but this time they wanted to become a part of the crew and do some real sailing. So we broke them in right away. We had them doing sewing repair jobs on the dock, and hiking it with their backpacks on to the market and back for provisioning runs. Our smallest crew member Matthew did hit double digits and celebrated his 10th birthday the same week. So we took time out to see a bit of Barcelona, the aquarium and Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia. The Sagrada
Familia is a fascinating and wondrous cathedral dreamt up and designed by Gaudi. He had an amazing ability to incorporate nature as he saw it into every curve and point, copula and pillar he created.

Our goal with our new crew members on board was to reach Gibraltar. In the Mediterranean you are truly at the mercy of the wind gods and you may or may not find the right weather windows to get where you want in time. They can get angry at a moments notice, sending fierce winds and stay angry as long as they feel like it. So when you see a weather window you take it and run. We took Nonnie and Nonno for their first day off the docks and gave them an exuberant sail with 20+ knot winds and square
seas and an overnight sail. We tucked them each into a corner of the boat and they did great. We made our way out to the Balaeras Islands to see what we could see. A quick stop at Menorca and Mallorca let us all stretch our legs, view some lovely piazzas, cave formations and taste some more pizza. With their sea legs a little stronger we decided to make the big push back toward the mainland. The winds were perfect so we blew right past Ibiza and in the middle of the night very unceremoniously
crossed back into the Western Hemisphere. Our new crew members braved a double overnighter this time and we sailed for Cartagena, arriving at the Yacht Port Marina, just in time for the Romano y Cartagenian festival. Tribes of men dressed in costume and walking the street performing mock battles, was great fun to see. We walked a beautiful esplanade, designed for foot traffic only, each evening. It was always graced with young and old and while you strolled sights, sounds and tastes filled your
every sense. We really began to get the hang of tapas bars, or snacky dinners as the boys call them. Small plates of tasty morsels you point and order, consume and converse with your companions.

The next four days were a succession of long day hops, motoring and sailing, stopping at an anchorage or marina in this order: Ensenada de Terreros, a rolly but protected from the wind anchorage;
Club de Mar in Almeria, a nice port side tie for us, showers, dinner and some internet;
Puerto de Motril, another port side tie to a very high sided concrete public quay, they unfortunately charge for the days you touch the quay not the 24 hour period and though we are actually there for less than 12 hours we have to pay for 2 days, no amenities to speak of, we're not happy;
Maribella Marina, we believe we have entered the smaller and less official of the two marina's available here, hopefully for a smaller price, they squeeze us in and we end up staying for two days and having the gin rummy marathon of the year while we wait for a storm to pass. Whew!

Though we are told we are traveling in the driest part of Spain we had seen only rain and grey skies for days. We made the final push for the Rock of Gibraltar in rain and thunder,lumpy and large square seas with lots of wind behind us. Our new crew was earning their stripes on this trip. We wove our way through massive container ships that anchor due east of the Rock as they await their turn to round the point and refuel. Rounding Europa Point, we are thankful to be out of the fray and made our
way to the Spanish Anchorage in the north of the bay. The border between Spain and Gibraltar is just next to a fully functioning and (noisy) official airport runway that you get to walk across any time you need to cross the border. The next day we found a place in Marina Bay Marina and planned our inland trip to see the Rock and Seville, Spain. We visited the macaque apes, the WWII tunnels and the St. Michaels Cathedral built into caves within the Rock of Gibraltar. In Seville, we had a marvelous
time and we saw everything; Andalucian Horses, flamingo dancers, every piazza, plaza and cathedral. We viewed the points where some of the greatest navigators in Magellan and Columbus likely departed for their journeys and meandered our own daily treks through cobble stone streets. Best of all we enjoyed every minute possible with our Nonnie and Nonno and we salute them for their over 650 nautical mile journey on the s/v Ohana Kai.

I hope to expand upon each of these parts of the trip on the blog soon. The web site is updated through Greece so enjoy. and our true position is updated daily on the tracker link. We were able to ride out the storm in Gibraltar fairly well. Only minor bumps and bruises for Bruce to repair. It was a force 11, which on the Beaufort Wind scale is one step below a hurricane. The worst storm Gibraltar has ever seen, depending on whom you speak to. Many boats didn't fair so well and it's heart breaking
to only be able to sit by and watch destruction happen. I can only describe it like riding one of those mechanical bulls while tied to a concrete pier. No sleep that night but much to be thankful for. We enjoyed our time but we are ready to be done with the Med for the season. Looking forward to making landfall in the Canary Islands in just a few days.