Part 3 (Jim)
Selvagem Grande, 30'08N 15'52W
This small Island group and restricted bird sanctuary lies a day and night sail south of Madeira. It belongs to Portugal. We received permission to land when we were in Madeira. We are the only boat here. Yesterday, we took the dinghy to shore where Maria and Jacques, the total population, met us at the ramp. Marina, brown haired with hazel eyes and Jacques, a weathered sun browned muscled middle aged 'Vigilante' invited us to join them on their daily round of the island.
She is a graduate student researching the Bulwer's Petrels that breed here. According to Maria this is the only island where they breed. There are no predators other than the seagulls and the lizards that attack the eggs and fledglings.
The four of us climbed two hundred meters up the rocky switchbacks to a plateau above the wide blue sea. The island is arid. There were just four days of rain last year but that was enough to fill the large cistern that is used for washing. We checked nests-small caves in the cliffs and rock piles on the plateau. The nests are floored with pebbles that the parents collect and carefully place. Maria's work involves monitoring the fledglings which are hidden one to a nest every ten meters or so. Her sample started with 88 two months ago but just fifty remain alive. Cory Shearwaters and Madeiran Storm Petrels also breed here, but, as they also breed elsewhere, are of lesser interest.
For the past thirty years Jacques has rotated three weeks here and three weeks home in Madeira. In response to my question he answered that the Portuguese government has a strategic interest in keeping a presence. Spain wants the islands but Portugal extends its rights over the seabed by keeping them.
Marina is looking forward to the Navy ship due tomorrow that will take her back to Funchal where she will catch a flight to her Austrian boyfriend in Lisbon. Her English was quite good. 'It is because my boyfriend does not speak Portuguese and I am just learning German. We use English.'
She counts herself lucky to be here. Marine Biology is her field but, she reports, "With the economic problems, grants have been cut. I did not intend to study birds but the chance to do field work is a rare opportunity. I never thought I would find birds so fascinating. "
We invited them to Onora for lunch today. After the boat tour we sat at the table in the pilot house and ate quiche and fruit salad. I imagine that Jacques might have preferred meat. The tour of the Island started with the asado (barbeque) that is in a shallow cave fronted by a large patio with sweeping views into the afternoon sun including deck chairs. He refused seconds on food but accepted the second beer cold beer.
Both of our guests approved of Onora. Jeannie mentioned that "She has been good to us", which Maria laughed at.
"Boats are 'hes' in Portugese. Everything is either a he or a she. Cars are 'hes', but, trucks are 'shes'. It makes no sense."
She went on naming things that were 'hes' and 'shes' in a way that was amusing to her and to us. Jacques, who speaks no English, just smiled. She translated occasionally, keeping him in the loop and I asked questions about the islands. At 2:00 they excused themselves to make one of three a day scheduled radio contacts with Funchal.
Communications are mostly by SSB radio but they also have a satellite phone. Maria keeps in touch with her boyfriend by phone but calls are expensive and short.
En route to the Canary Islands.29' 22N 013' 55 W
Jeannie sleeps while I take the morning watch. The sun is up and puffy cumulus clouds cover half of our deep blue sky on the last of our long sails for this summer. Onora jogs along at 7.5 knots in 11 knots of wind. The flat seas make it perfect. Bigger seas cause the boat to pitch. When the wind is light it knocks this causes the sails to flap and lose drive. Onora's 35 tons give her the momentum to keep pushing ahead until the sails catch the wind again but the jerking slows us and it is hard on the stomachs.
But today is pleasant. I can just make out the low smudge of Lanzarote where we will leave Onora for a few months.
It is seventeen miles to go to our anchorage on Ilsa Graciosa. Our twenty three year old copy of "Atlantic Islands" a cruising guide says that "Providing that development can pass it by, Isla Graciosa will remain an island of dreams." It will be interesting to see what has happened.
lsa Graciosa, Canary Islands 29' 13N 013'31W
We are in a lovely bay with a sandy beach with half a dozen other boats. Across the mile and a half wide channel the escarpment rises like a sculpted tsunami giving drama to our peaceful existence. A few rental apartments have been added along with a small marina but otherwise the island is undeveloped and charming. We will anchor here for three days before heading to Lanzarote.
Puerto del Calero Lanzarote Canary Islands 28' 55N 13' 42W
It is very dry here. The African coast of the Western Sahara lies just eighty-five miles to the south east. It has not rained for four years. Yet, amazingly there is agriculture. Grapes and a small amount of vegetables grow in black volcanic steps that have been carved out of sides of the dormant volcanoes. All of the water comes from the sea and a bankrupt desalination plant distributes it through a leaky pipes. The receivers need to raise the rates by 40 % to plug the leaks and change the filter membranes but the politicians will not allow it. Meanwhile the building boom has flooded the coast with hotels and holiday rentals. One hundred and thirty thousand thirsty tourists are here, arrived by charter flights from Dublin, Manchester, Zurich and other northern cities.
We are working on our boat projects. The generator is over heating and a new 12 volt electrical wire is needed in the engine room. Some lines show wear on the covers which we will fix. The dinghy needs a patch. The SSB radio antenna is not tuning distant stations and then there is the usual topping up of the batteries, fuel, soaking the lines in fresh water, tending to the sails and cleaning out the fridge and stores that might attract pests while we are gone for four months.
Iberia Airlines in route to Chicago via Madrid
Another summer is gone and Chicago lies ahead. We are tired after our projects. Not all of them are completed. An autopilot is in the luggage to send to the manufacturer on Bainbridge Island and the generator issue has not been resolved but this is normal. There are always projects.
This summer was a revisit of the same waters that we sailed in 1995. There are more marinas and more boats. On our earlier trip we were in our forties looking for adventure. We traveled in a three boat flotilla in company with a young French couple heading to the Caribbean to find work and a French single hander who was fleeing to avoid paying taxes on his boat.
Now we are in our sixties. The boaters we meet are closer to our age like Wolfgang and Ute, our German neighbors in Puerto Calero, who will cross to St. Lucia with the ARC rally fleet of 260 boats.
The money that Europe over borrowed is evident in the new museums and waterfront improvements. Mel, the marina manager, says everyone knows that something has to happen to pay back the money but that seems to be for tomorrow and Europe is still enjoying itself. No one wants to give up the great benefits they receive.
We enjoy the warm days and the long swims after the cold blue Baltic but we miss the fine anchorages of that great body of water. Each area we sail has its beauty. We are so lucky to be able to experience it all.