robbieflow

Sailing to LA GRACIOSA - Canary Islands

It's now 2002 ..

We arrived outside the village of Caleta de Sebo; (LA GRACIOSA) an old pirate village before the Spanish government had paid people to settle here two hundred years ago, with a wind that had strengthened to force-six.

It struck me as odd when we did not go directly into the port but continued south and dropped anchor over one mile past the end of our journey. When we had secured Elvire with the maximum of chain and two anchors, Ian informed me that he was going to find the harbour master with Didou and that I should wait on board until they returned. I had plenty to sort out as I was taking the flight from Arrecife on the island of Lanzarote to the mainland in a few days time, so I disappeared into my cabin and started to write a few words ..

Ian and Didou returned after dark, unable to locate the harbour master in spite of looking for over 3 hours. They had been informed he had gone fishing with his friends…

While on the quay looking for the invisible master, they had struck up conversation with a local fisherman who said that their best option was to bring Elvire into the port and sort out the problems later. So with this information we settled down to our last night at anchor and to the tempo of the sea.

The next morning, Ian and myself went again looking for the “mystic master” in the Zodiac. We left Didou on board to sort out his bags for his departure the next day and made our way to the quay. After drinking a coffee at the local cafe we waited for one hour outside his closed office before we came to the conclusion that he’d gone fishing again and decided that it would be a better course, to follow the fisherman’s advice from the day before.

Earlier that morning we had spotted three free moorings on the quay, so using the Zodiac we did a trial run checking below the water level for hidden traps. Not to our surprise, below the surface was a pit of old ropes and wire cables that gave only one option open to us. All the other entrances would be impossible, due to the objects, which could snag our keel and send us uncontrolled into one of the many boats moored up across the harbour. So after doing a trial run with the zodiac Ian headed back to Elvire, leaving to me to guard the wall and count the sea birds.

I waited for over five hours on the quay with the wind increasing by the hour. Finally I saw the ketch making her way from our nights mooring to the safety of the port. The reason for the delay (I found out later) was that the second anchor’s chain had snapped and Ian had to dive to over fifteen metres to recover it. When he was underwater recovering the lost pieces, the main anchor had also broken. Luckily Didou had got the motor running and had saved Elvire from a nasty experience without cutting Ian’s head off. Now I can understand why I had to stay on board Elvire when we arrived!

A force-eight wind was now driving through the village and across the water. It had turned into a “classic western” sandstorm. Pieces of desert bush were rolling down the roads and the village was deserted except for a few “die hard” that were watching with interest the yacht that was now trying to enter the harbour in these conditions. It was a recipe to disaster as one mistake by Ian and she would be blown up against the sea wall or into one of the fishing boats that had now pulled tighter on their static lines so closing off the only passage to the quay. If only we had radio contact, it would be so easy… I ran down to the entrance of the harbour and using hand signals and my best acrobatic moves I was luckily able to get their attention to the new riddle.

Watching from the sea wall I felt useless, we had made it this far with out a scratch to Elvire and in the last hour of our journey things seemed to be getting completely out of hand! Quick thinking from Didou saved the day (and our pride) as he jumped into the Zodiac and accelerated across the harbour in front of Elvire. A murmur of approval drifted through the now growing crowd as he started to push the moored boats apart using the soft hull of the inflatable. The power from the fifteen-horse power Marina making the openings for Ian, as he slotted Elvire through the rapidly closing gaps, the rope-infested water had given us one chance. Elvire was at last home.

When I settled myself into the seat for the ferry crossing a few days later; I felt that this adventure must have ended so the next one must just be starting ..