Today I flew to the Canaries for the beginning of the ARC

(well actually I’ve been here for four days)

Hola amigos!

I arrived in the Canaries Wednesday night for the start of the ARC where I joined Oliver, Carlotta and Will. I’ll be doing the crossing to St Lucia with Oliver and Will, and we’ll meet our girlfriends at the other end.

I’m going too loose a few friends by saying this, but the weather in the Canaries is pretty amazing, its not to hot, not to cold and it gets dark around 6.30, a stark contrast to last week when I was in London!

Everyone here is very friendly and at 18:30 each day we have a ‘sun-down’ which involves standing in a boat yard drinking beer and eating nibbles whilst talking to other sailors. There are some amazing characters here, you’ve got the really old salty dogs with pitted characterful faces, there’s the crazy sailor wives who lets be honest have to be a bit crazy, there’s a few hippies and then you’ve got your late 30’s couples with their two little kids tearing around. All age ranges are covered here, but there’s an abundance of fat bellied old men parading around the marina. Oliver, has predictably learn’t nearly everyone’s names here, and is networking like never before. Last night we met the owner of Professional Yacht Deliveries, she gave us a run down on the requirements we’d need to fulfill to be a deck hand, mate or skipper. The idea of crewing on a super yacht sounds pretty appealing…

The marina is a hive of activity, with everyone busying themselves with jobs, calling in the local engineers and electricians. The game here is to talk to everyone, as the abundance of tips and advice is invaluable, and once something invaluable is learn’t it trickles down to everyone else in the marina.

We’re the smallest boat in the ARC for 2012 at 32 feet, our boat number is 255 and it goes in order of boat size. I haven’t seen number 1 but the super yachts are close by so it’s there somewhere. We did an interview with the local spanish rag on Friday and apparently the Spanish version of ITV came knocking when we were out, doh! Today we picked up the paper and we’re there as the main spread. The paper covers all the islands so Oliver’s pretty chuffed to say the least.

The reaction from other sailors is varied, people who know what a Rival 32 is tell us that its a great boat and we’ll be fine (we know this of course), then other people laugh and say rather you than me or, I’m glad we’re not the smallest here, which is a bit insulting but the newer boats are not necessarily the most robust unlike the Rivals.

Oliver and Carlotta have made some little adjustments to Troskala since I left them in Gijon. The boats looking like a long distance cruiser every day. The suns strong UV rays has bleached dan bouys and ensign, and what was a vibrant red flag is now a bleached faded orangey red, a good sign that she’s been places.

All the shackles have now been ‘moused’, a technique that a rigger showed them when he came to inspect the rigging. So now all the shackles have a thing piece of wire that threads through the pin and twisted around the shackle to prevent the pin from working loose, which apparently has done on many of the shackles.

A lot of people here are tying foam around their spars to stop the sails chaffing, chaffing is a big issue, with sails and halyards (ropes) rubbing on things they can quickly deteriorate so we must minimise this as much as possible.

On Friday we we were going to all head out to an anchorage about an hour away. I left Oliver and his dad to go and get more tea bags whilst they replaced the fuel filters. When I got back all hell had broken out, Carlotta had fallen down the hatch in the cockpit, and a bleeding screw had been cross threaded thus putting an end to the day trip and providing poor Oliver with a new challenge. Worst of all the mini supermarket had run out of tea. Two hours later and two Spanish engineers from Beta Marine turned up, they spent about 30/40 minutes down below and fixed the issue in a jiffy. Things breaking are a blessing and a curse, better to have that happen before our departure than en route.

Next to us are a group of Norwegians in what looks like a brand new boat, they’re the second smallest boat. The skipper has been dubbed the baby of the ARC in the local newsletter as the last time he did the ARC he was 6. Apparently back in the day, 32 foot boats were considered quite large so that’s pretty reassuring.

We need to start doing our victualling (food shopping list) today. We need 300 litres of water, 30 litres of UHT milk and enough food for 30 days, though we hope to make it well before then. Apparently the way to do things properly is to get a telephone book and list all the food items in alphabetical order (of course) and document the quantity and location of each item. When something is then used, it is marked off on the list, this way we know whats been used and whats available. Trying to remember where each food item is otherwise, would be impossible and mealtimes would be a game of pot luck to say the least.

I’ve got on order a lovely pair of red trousers which Emma will be bringing over on Wednesday, apparently once you’ve sailed across the Atlantic you’re then ‘allowed’ to wear red trousers (another invaluable tip I picked up). I have so much more respect for all those Hoxton and Shoreditch socialites now I know this, I didn’t realise I’ve been surrounded by so many sailors all these years!

There’s quite a few people looking to bag a free pass to St Lucia, they range from your average dirty hippie to couples looking for a trip of a lifetime. There’s posters all around with amusing writeups and pictures of eager crew looking for that one boat that for one reason or another needs an extra pair of hands. Surprisingly I’ve heard these wandering vagabonds have been pretty successful, with 230+ boats here, its inevitable that spaces come up, and once everyone departs on Sunday, yachts from neighbouring Tenerife will then be able to get into Las Palmas and set off, so there’s a constant influx of yachts coming and going.

One hot topic here are cockroaches, big fast juicy ones. Luckily I haven’t seen any, not alive anyhow. To minimise the risk of taking onboard these nasty little critters we leave all our shoes on the pontoon. Also, when we get delivery of all our food, we’ll have to wash everything in milton baby disinfectant which will kill any cockroach eggs. Egg cartons are the worst apparently, though we can’t take any chances, so we’ll be removing all cardboard packaging, bathing everything in disinfectant and then labeling them with a permanent marker. We missed the provisioning lectures that they put on here for free, but we’ve picked up a few little tips from other boats, such as wrapping carrots in tin foil can prolong their shelf life by a year.

There’s still plenty of work to be done here. Troskala has another safety inspection next week, which she’ll pass once a couple of things have been fixed. We need to replace the mast head lights with LED bulbs to reduce our power consumption along with a million other little jobs that need to be done.

The parties here are pretty lethal,  I had a good dose on Friday night when the Mayor of Las Palmas (or canaries I can’t remember) threw a party with free drinks all night and put on a show. The wine was pretty damn good and I had the feeling of being invincible, which was definitely not the case the following day.

Today saw the ARC parade with all participants grouped by their nationalities waving their flags in procession lead by a brass band. The official opening of the ARC began with speeches from representatives of the ARC, Canaries and St Lucia. Jimmy Cornell the founder of the ARC gave a small speech, and then a flag from each nationality was raised with a firing salute. Like the approach of a hurricane we have to switch up a gear and get ourselves prepared!

We aim to depart on Sunday 25th, though as other people have said here, if you’re not ready then there’s no obligation to leave at the same time. It still doesn’t feel real to be honest, and I half feel like I’ll be catching a flight home next week which is definitely not the case. It will probably hit home on the 3rd day at sea when I realise we have another 22 days to go!

 

Author: Tim Butler

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