Line drawing of a trimaran similar to Maya

Any Way the Wind Blows

26th November 1975 - The Canary Islands

3:20pm we have just anchored in Santa Cruz de le Palma.

Mike is going ashore to get our passports stamped and sort out the paperwork. We are all glad to have arrived because it wasn;t a particularly pleasant crossing.

Hopefully Mike will be in time to change some money because the stove has broken again and shows no sign of starting.

I have not returned to The Canary Islands since this visit, but people who have tell me this is now a container port.


27th November 1975 - Coronation day

When you are living and sailing on a boat sometimes you don't keep up with what is going on in the world around. Your world becomes the boat and your companions on it.

It seems we missed a pretty big event. About a week ago the Spanish dictator General Franco died.

He came to power during the Spanish civil war and stayed in power using the methods employed by dictators the world over for the next forty years.

What is especially interesting is his succession plan. He decided that on his death the Spanish monarchy should be restored. Like the world class dictator he was he made sure he chose which of the surviving royal family should become King, effectively skipping a generation and nominating Juan Carlos.

Five days ago Juan Carlos became king of Spain. People seem to think he is going to be reformer so this could be a pivotal moment for Spain and the people of Spain.

Today is his official coronation as King of Spain. A hugely significant day.

From a purely personal of view though, after a rough ocean voyage and with a broken cooker, it is really annoying that all the shops are shut

28th November 1975 - Santa Cruz de la Palma

Santa Cruz de la Palma is the capital of the island of La Palma.

The harbour is very different from Portimao. That was a river, this is a proper sea harbour.

As you sail into the harbour there are rocks on the port side, and a large man made wall on the starboard side protecting the boats and the town. On the quayside there are houses and shops and behind them the town with it's cobbled streets rising up and merging into green, wooded hills.

The mix of boats in the harbour is different too. There are fishing boats, but anchored in the main part of the harbour are ocean going yachts. Waiting

29th November 1975 - Neighbours

We are the only multi-hull anchored in the harbour. We are also the brightest coloured boat in the harbour.

The boats have gathered here ready for the next and longest part of their voyages. The Atlantic.

So far We have met a Swiss solo sailor, a British couple whose boat looks like a palace compared to ours and a German couple who speak no English.

Other Europeans and Americans crew the remaining boats.

No one else has arrived since us, one boat has left. The others are waiting.

What are they waiting for?

The boats need to be ready and provisioned. The right weather needs to be forecast. But that is not really what they are waiting for.

The land is welcoming after a voyage and it needs to be sampled and enjoyed.

After a few days or weeks though the restlessness will start to return. There will come a time that is right. The boat is ready and provisioned. The weather forecast is good. The crew is ready.

Then the waiting is over. It is time to go.

The crew of Maya will not be ready for a while, but the time will come soon enough.

30th November 1975 - Gofio

We have been introduced to a new food. Gofio.

Not sure who mentioned it to us, but we tried it and it is delicious.

It is made from ground, roasted grains, generally wheat or maize but could be other similar plants. Uncooked it has a consistency similar to semolina, and it is used in all sorts of cooking here, apparently the only place it is available.

We are not very adventurous and just use it as breakfast cereal. Hot or cold it is easy to make, filling, and tastes good.

We will be taking supplies with us when we go.

1st December 1975 - Buena Vista Man

We have been here a few days now and Anthony, Andy and I decided it was time to see a bit more of the island, so the three of us headed off for a day out.

We got a bus some of the way and then started walking up the mountain road, hitch-hiking but also keeping an eye open for a bus.

After a few minutes an open backed truck stopped and the cheerful driver invited us to ride in the back.

We started off up the road, pulling out to pass a women walking slowly with a bale of hay balanced on her head. The road wound upwards through hills and trees until we turned one corner and saw a stunning view down the mountain to the sea. The truck braked suddenly to a stop. The driver's door flew open and the driver leapt down to the road and ran back to us calling √ęBuena Vista!√≠ and waving his arms at the view. He mimed taking pictures, so I took out my little 110 camera, and Anthony took out his SLR and we dutifully took pictures. Satisfied, the driver climbed back into his cab and we carried on up the mountain road.

A few minutes passed. Another bend. Another view. We stopped and once more the driver ran back with his cry. 'Buena Vista, Buena Vista'. Again we took pictures to satisfy him and we pulled off again narrowly missing a Palma mountain bus. A bemused goat watched from a cave.

Twice more before we reached the summit we stopped and admired the 'Buena Vista'.

We left the Buena Vista Man at a village near the summit, which we explored for a while and where had lunch. Local people in the shops and the cafes are all interested in why we are here, and the children all gather round in large groups that accompany us everywhere in the towns.

Then we got a bus back down to Maya, our day cheered by our friendly driver.

2nd December 1975 - Tales of a river

Mike and I were talking to the solo Swiss sailor, Giuliano, today. He was trying decide where to go when he left Santa Cruz. Unlike most of the harbour transients he was not set on a transatlantic crossing.

Giuliano mentioned he was seriously considering heading for west Africa, a river called The Gambia.

Neither of us had ever heard of it, but Giuliano said you could sail an ocean going boat about 100 miles upriver, seeing a different face of Africa.

When we returned to Maya Mile looked it up in the Admiralty Pilot. We had heard of Senegal, a large country in west Africa. Right in the middle of Senegal is The Gambia, both a country and a river. The river heads inland from the Atlantic Coast, and the country is just a narrow strip either side of the river, completely surrounded by Senegal.

If that is where he goes next Giuliano will have a journey to remember.

3rd December 1975 - Even better than Gofio

Talking to people on the other boats is a good way to find your way around a new place. That was how we found Gofio.

Someone mentioned a cooperative store, where local producers sell their goods direct, so we tried it out today.

It certainly seemed to be cheaper than the other shops for general shopping.

The best discovery though was a blend of local red wines sold very cheaply in a large 5 litre glass bottle with a plastic wicker-effect cover. We have just tried it and it tastes pretty good.

Cheap and drinkable. Something else to take with us when we leave.

4th December 1975 - Annoying the neighbours

If you ever find yourself in a harbour with a lot of sailing boats and their crews and it is all a bit quiet then try a fog horn contest.

The rules are simple. You either want to have loudest sound, or the longest sound.

I'm not sure who started it, but I think most of the boats that had someone on board joined in.

I think we won!

6th December 1975 - Gained in translation

We all enjoyed our fog horn contest so much that last night the English couple on the palatial mono-hull decided to invite the neighbours on board for a party.

Gradually the crews from the other boats rowed to them, tied up wherever they could, and climbed aboard. There were about fifteen or twenty people and the boat was quite full. There was beer and wine and conversation, with smiles and laughter crossing language barriers.

After a couple of hours the drink started to run low, so the crew of Maya agreed to dedicate our large 5 litre bottle of red wine to the good cause of continuing the party. I either volunteered or was elected, I'm not sure which, to return to Maya and get the wine.

They do say that most boating accidents occur while people are moving around harbour in a dinghy.

I climbed into the inflatable dinghy, rowed to Maya, got the wine, placed it in the bow section of the dinghy, rowed back to the party boat and tied up. Holding on to the guardrail, I picked up the wine by it's handle and started to swing it on board. The dinghy moved away from the boat leaving a large gap which the wine fell into with me hanging on to it. The dinghy had moved as far as the rope would let it and stopped. Everything stopped. There I was, half in the dinghy, half out, one hand on the guardrail, the other holding on to a large, heavy, submerged wine bottle, stuck.

I called for help, but no-one heard me over the noise of the party. If I had let go of the guardrail I would have fallen into the water. If I had let go of the wine, well, that was unthinkable. Gradually I was able to pull the dinghy closer to the boat, which meant I could pull the wine back into the dinghy.

A few minutes to regain my composure, then I successfully got the wine and myself to the party. The cork had held so the wine was fine, and after borrowing a towel so was I. The party continued.

Another hour or so passed. I'm not sure why, but a group of us started singing rugby songs to entertain the others. If you are not familiar with rugby songs they are usually sung by rugby players and supporters a few drinks after the end of a rugby match. They range from rude to offensive, but after a few drinks no-one seems to mind.

We got to a particular favourite known as 'The engineer's song', one that passes by all boundaries of good taste. If you don't know the words please don't look them up. If you do, well, you should be ashamed of yourself.

At the party there was one group who knew the words, and we sang with much gusto and little talent. Another group spoke English but did not know the words. They seemed to enjoy either the song or our rendition of it. Then there was the German couple who spoke no English. Giuliano spotted them and went to help by providing a simultaneous translation.

The earnest look on his face as he struggled to find the best German equivalent for a phrase such as 'two brass balls and a bloody great wheel', followed by belated laughter from the Germans as they understood, all added to the general fun.

Gradually the party came to end. Some rowed back to their boats. Others slept where they were and found their way back this morning.

That was a good party.

7th December 1975 - Detour decided

At the party we talked about The Gambia again. The lure of sailing up an African river appeals to us and to some of the other boat crews.

Ultimately it is Mike's decision because he owns the boat and his livelihood depends on chartering it in the Caribbean, but he is just as tempted as the rest of us.

We think we will be leaving here in a few days. Next destination, Africa.

I think we may well see some of our new friends there too.

8th December 1975 - Volcano

Still quite a bit of this island to see before we go, so Andy, Keith, Giulian and I decided to hire a tiny little Fiat car for the day. Split four ways it was really cheap.

We drove round and saw pretty villages, snow covered mountains, and many buena vistas. Two things stand out from the day.

The Canary Islands are volcanic, and at the top of this island is the San Antonio crater. Did I mention it is an active volcano? Walking across the blackened surface with the smell of sulphur in your nose is worrying enough, but seeing smoke coming from fissures is positively unnerving.

Later we went to the beach. No golden sands here. The beach is quite large and soft underfoot, but black as the volcanic ash from which it is formed. The grey day and the black beach gave a cold, eerie, uncomfortable atmosphere. We walked along the beach and found a dark cave from which we swam for a few minutes.

These two things things seemed so at odds with the green beauty of the rest of the island. We returned to the car and explored a bit more before returning to Maya.

9th December 1975 - A transfer

Giulian wants to take his boat to The Gambia, it was his original idea after all.

One thing that has stopped him deciding to go is concern about navigating in the confined space of a river by himself, so Keith is going to sail with him and rejoin us in The Gambia.

Keith has packed and moved and our crew is now down to four. Tomorrow we will leave for The Gambia. They will follow in a few days.

10th December 1975 - Foghorn farewell

We are on our way again.

We stocked up with Gofio and red wine this morning, plus some other essentials, then set off this afternoon.

We all found the island quite expensive, but we had a really good stay and met some interesting people.

The other boats dug out their foghorns again to give us a rousing send-off.

As usual, the weather is wrong, this time no wind, hopefully because we are on the leeward side of the island, but knowing our luck that is probably not the reason.

11th December 1975 - Hiatus

The winds did pick up last night, but unfortunately from the south, the direction we are headed.

We battled against the wind for a while, but then decided it was pointless trying to carry on like that.

We have stopped in San Sebastian on Gomera until things improve. Our shortest trip to date, less than ninety miles.

According to the Admiralty Pilot winds only blow from this direction for about five percent of the time, so hopefully we will not be here too long.

The harbour is smaller and quieter than Santa Cruz but seems very pretty. There is another yacht anchored here. A beautiful wooden boat.

12th December 1975 - The lone sailor

We met the man off the other boat today. A quiet American.

Giuliano did sail alone, but I always got the impression it was a temporary choice. Temporarily he has Keith.

If you asked me to describe my image of a solo-sailor it would be this quiet American. Eyes focused past you to the horizon beyond. Speech, slow, deliberate, considered, concerning weather portents such as mare's tails in the sky. A cloud formation I believe.

Like us he is waiting for the wind to change. We will sail when it has changed. He will sail when he knows it is about to change.

14th December 1975 - A lesson in seamanship

The quiet American checked the sky and the clouds this morning and decided it was time to go.

We watched with admiration as he left. I don't know if his boat has an engine or not, but he didn't use it.

He took time to make sure everything was in its correct place. Then he raised the anchor.

Once the boat was no longer attached to the seabed it started to drift towards the rocks on the far side of the harbour. He was obviously aware of this, but still worked steadily and thoroughly, making sure things were done properly.

Once the anchor was secured he strolled back to the cockpit and started to hoist the sails.

First the jib went up and the boat started to make way. Then the mainsail went up and she gathered speed. Finally the quiet American hoisted the staysail and with his boat under full sail and looking gorgeous he left the harbour and sailed off.

We think we will leave tomorrow. Probably using the engine.

< Portugal to Canaries Canaries to Africa >