Canary Islands...the return

September 30 thru November 3, 2008

We arrived back on board DoodleBug on the evening of September 30th. and found her floating gently at the dock. Everything on board looks to be in good shape. We had the usual negotiation with the airline in Albuquerque insisting that, yes, we really did want our luggage sent all the way to our destination in Lanzarote. The airlines retaliated by making ours the last three bags to come off the conveyor. This is so entertaining as by now all of the other passengers have left and they are beginning to turn off the lights in the terminal. You stand there, mentally estimating the cost of courtesy flags, cruising guides, engine, windlass, lighting and toilet pump parts, DVD movies, iPods, backup prescription sunglasses, reading materials for the long night watches, underwear, shirts, flip-flops ... Of course at the same time you also begin to wonder just how difficult it will be to replace all of this junk and suddenly the errant bags appear. Ta daa!!!

 

Back aboard with the bags unpacked and the contents at least partially stowed, we have begun the check-out dance. As usual we make up lists. Lists of things to fix (only a few small items this time), lists of items to test to make sure that they work smoothly and lists of groceries and supplies. We are beginning to recover from our jet lag, the six hours time difference and most of all, beginning to decompress from watching too much election coverage on US television. We have found no locally transmitted TV channels on Lanzarote and the total absence of moronic and repetitive political advertising has been a huge relief. In a couple of days time, you too back in the USA will feel the wash of redemption, knowing that the next Presidential campaign will not begin for another twelve months...

 

DoodleBug is coming back to life and the excitement of this next leg of the adventure is beginning to build. We will not sail for another three weeks or so but are already studying the weather patterns and wind forecasts. The next leg will be approximately 3,000 miles. We need to make sure that the beer supply will last and that the fishing lures are sharp and ready. The crew has begun practicing Caribbean chants of..."Put de lime in de coconut an' drink him all up, Put de lime in de coconut an' drink him all up, Put de lime in de coconut an' drink him all up....."    

 

November 4 and 5, 2008
We have made two runs to the supermarket with our rental car and each time, DoodleBug settled lower into the water as we loaded our groceries. I always feel a huge sigh of relief when our credit card is accepted at the
supermarket checkout. After you have scanned and bagged two shopping cart loads of groceries, it would be a real bummer to have your plastic rejected by some credit card company computer in Philadelphia, or wherever they live. Fortunately this has never happened anywhere on the trip. There must be a special bypass in the credit card auto-rejection programs when it comes to buying food and beer. We have also charged all of the battery powered devices on board. There are so many of these that I both use and need a computerized list! The other rainy day task was to update our document files with the latest relevant numbers. Every country you enter has different regulations and information requirements and we try to have everything computerized. This is so that we can simply hand over one or more printed sheets of paper when clearing into a destination country. For example, some countries want the serial numbers of every piece of electronics that you have on board, whereas others are satisfied if you have a passport. I have observed that the former have never checked to see if the pages of model numbers and serial numbers actually match what is on the boat. They just like lots of paper and go away happy if you present them with reams of useless information.

The other major job was to dive and inspect the hull of DoodleBug. Although the sea was not particularly cold, I wore a full wetsuit, plus scuba tank and spent an hour cleaning the propeller. We had paid for the propeller to
be painted with a two layer anti-foul system in Marmaris but the paint was slopped on at the last minute before DoodleBug was launched and before the paint was properly dried. Now the expensive paint is almost completely
washed away and even though the application was performed last April, there was heavy marine growth on the prop.  Much scraping and scouring of the prop was necessary but at least the hull was relatively clean.

November 6, 2008
We have spent a week getting DoodleBug ready for sea and decided it was time for a "touristing" break. Our new friends Paul and Beth of Amel Super Maramu, "SV Krow", gave us an early morning ride in their rental car to the port of Arricefe, where we caught the ferry to Gran Canaria. This was a six hour sea passage, during which we discovered that ferry boat seats are as uncomfortable as aircraft seats during a six hour ride and also that ferry-boat food is perhaps not as good as aircraft food. You can only live on beer and potato chips for so long before you need real food and we were delighted to set foot on dry land at the port of Las Palmas. We wandered out of the port and through the town before finding a hotel for the next two nights. For many years the town and port of Las Palmas had a reputation of being a somewhat seedy and run down commercial center, with some level of local crime. This was our first visit to the Canary Islands and we have concluded that the town must have cleaned up it's act. There were several pleasant thoroughfares dedicated to pedestrians only and these were intersected by narrow alleys. The traffic is a diabolical one way system, with automobiles jammed into the most unlikely parking spaces. Why anyone would own a vehicle is incomprehensible, as once you have moved it, you can never find another place to park and must circle endlessly. At least that is the way it looked to us passing tourists.

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At the hotel we asked for recommendations of a good restaurant and were directed about three blocks away. Of course the restaurant in question was locked up tighter than a drum and darkened throughout. Restaurants here do not open before 8 p.m. which is about an hour before "cruiser bedtime". Our stomachs were still complaining about their diet of ferry boat sandwich and we were not about to hang for another ninety minutes. In the middle of a cross alley from the main drag, two transparent screens had been set up delineating a restaurant and between these were a number of plastic tables and chairs. The proprietor and chef, Maria, invited us to sit and we began our meal of local cuisine with an appetizer of hard goat cheese and three different sauces. One of the sauces was honey based and went surprising well with the tangy cheese. Annette just had to order a supper of "pigs ears", whilst I ordered the pork shank, or at least I though I had. While I was laughing at Annette's attempts to make a dent in her pigs ears, I discovered that my dish was actually sausage and tripe. Maria had apparently missed a line when transferring my order from the "English" menu to the "Spanish" version. This meal was a lot of fun but we were not exactly sated. I can unequivocally state that Annette is unlikely to order "pigs ears" again and I am definitely not a tripe person myself.

November 7, 2008

This morning we phoned a car rental company and about fifteen minutes later, the proprietor showed up in the hotel lobby. He asked us to follow him and after weaving through a few alleys on foot, we arrived at a barred gate at a multi-storey building. He let us in with a key but showed us the hidden switch on the inside wall, that allowed us to open the gate for ourselves. We crossed the interior lobby of what was some kind of apartment building and arrived at an obscure elevator. Just as in the 007 Bond movies, we pressed the down button for level "minus 4" and sank into the bowels of the earth. The basement of this building was of unfinished rock, with some water seeping through the walls. The cars were parked below sea- level and we were to return our rental car to this same location. Our guide drove the car up a single car width ramp, rising in a spiral for the four floors to the street level. He then parked across the sidewalk on a single car-width lane, between the buildings, whilst he demonstrated the magnetic key that opened the sliding metal door and pointed out such landmarks as a green dumpster on the opposite sidewalk. Wow! If we ever found this place again it would be a miracle! Our goal was to visit the "Casa de Colon" museum, followed by a drive through the Gran Canarian countryside. We followed the recommended route through the maze of one way streets in the form of, "left at the stop sign, right past the taxi rank, under the tunnel......". So far this was working, as we drove across town to the "old section". We had been advised to use a public parking lot and then walk to the museum, as parking nearby would be impossible. Unfortunately it was not obvious as to which was the designated car-park and once launched into the maze of one narrow way streets, there seemed no return possible. Each intersection led us inexorably away from where we wanted to be and we weaved between parked vehicles with centimeters between the mirrors, while alternatively climbing or plummeting down steep cobblestone streets that would have given pause to a donkey. After perhaps 15 minutes of this entertainment, we decided to reverse the order of the days adventures. We would seek the open highway first and have another shot at the museum later.

So it was that we found sunshine beyond the deep and dark canyons of the old town and headed into the high country. Gran Canaria is quite different from Lanzarote in that there is thick vegetation, with lots of small plots of cultivated land. Around lunch time we found ourselves at a restaurant in the mountains, with a spectacular overlook. This was one of the few establishments with vehicles in the parking lot and we mistakenly judged that phenomenon to indicate good food. Annette had the sardine plate, while I decided to stick with a reliable standby of pork chops. The pork chops were OK but not great, whereas Annette's "sardinera" plate was too salty for her. By now I was beginning to become concerned that my wife's calorie intake was insufficient to sustain life and was thinking of force feeding her some of my French fries.

Back on the road we made our second attempt to visit the Casa de Colon. This time was like magic. Even Columbus would have been proud of the navigation; even though he didn't know where he was when he arrived, nor where he had been when he got home. We slid into a multi-storey parking lot and were suitably astonished to be told that the long anticipated museum lay just a few blocks away. The museum is in a building constructed around 1478 and Columbus stayed here in 1492 when he put into Gran Canaria for repairs, on one of his subsequent voyages. The museum was a bit light on exhibits but what was really inspirational was that the man himself had been here. Probably had less problem parking than we did. One exhibit that impressed us was a reproduction of a globe of the earth, produced just before the Columbus voyages. It was unique in that the earth was represented as a sphere but without the American continent. Subsequent editions obviously had some extra land added.

Thus buoyed with our exploratory prowess, we not only rediscovered the parking lot where we had left the rental but found the tiny street where we to return it. There was a vehicle parked on the sidewalk blocking access to the metal door into the building but Annette was able to negotiate with the driver of the offending vehicle to move out of the way. We were so impressed that we managed to return the car as instructed and even found our way back through the maze of the building and onto the street.


All gastronomic experiments were placed on hold, as I needed to find something to feed my wife that was recognizable as food. We in fact found a very pleasant steak restaurant and toasted the man, who never discovered the US mainland, with several beers.

November 8, 2008

This morning we walked through the darkened streets of Las Palmas at 0600 hours, heading for the ferry port. There were plenty of the younger crowd on the streets and their dress and staggering mode of ambulation indicated that they were still celebrating Friday night. As we walked through the squares, the plinths of the monuments seemed to be knee deep in empty booze bottles and plastic "go cups". Tenerife party time. Within a few minutes we had found the ferry boat office and were concerned that the dock was devoid of ferry boat. The young lady at the ticket desk informed us that we were at the wrong port but that a free bus would be provided to transport us, some thirty minutes before sailing time. We settled in to wait and noted that ferry terminals in the small hours of the morning look a lot like Greyhound Bus stations in the USA.

The shuttle bus did show up as promised and a few hours later the ferry docked in Santa Cruz, Tenerife, discharging DoodleBug's crew into the down-town area. It was now approaching lunchtime and we had ignored the soggy offerings aboard the ferry, holding out for superior gastronomic treats. It was then we spotted the Burger King, Annette's second most favorite restaurant. We scurried inside, moving the pigeons out our way with deft sweeping motions of our feet and ordered two "Whoppers". "Sorry, we only have chicken", the girl announced, "our burger cooking machine is broken". We retired in disgust. Two blocks away was a McDonalds and here we bought the second worst "quarter pounder" we have ever eaten. (The worst was at a McDonalds on an Indian reservation in Arizona). I suppose the clue was the pigeons walking amongst the tables. A general rule is that if pigeons are roosting in the restaurant, or if you see skeletons on the floor, it's probably not a really great restaurant.

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We rented a car and headed over to the resort town of Puerto de la Cruz. We discovered the hard way that you really need to be careful when reading road-signs at freeway speeds as "Puerto de la Cruz" is on the north side of the island and the puerto we had just left of "Santa Cruz" is on the south side. Nevertheless we found a hotel that would allow us to stay for a single night as they were otherwise fully booked. We set out to explore the town and in particular to find a store called "Tenerife Pearl". We had been told by the information office girl that pearls were cultured on Tenerife and we were puzzled by this. Pearl oysters need warm, shallow lagoons and the Canary Islands are volcanic islands rising steeply from the cool Atlantic. Sure enough, we found the store and confirmed that these were not a new specie of cold water oyster. There are no pearl oysters extant in these parts and the store imports all goods.

November 9, 2008

Today was volcano day. The volcano "Teide" can be seen for many miles and looks like what I had always imagined a volcano to look like. It is a tall, steep sided cone, with the summit near 12,200 feet and with patches of snow on the flanks. By contrast the Lanzarote volcanoes are low bumps in the ground that belched forth a very liquid and easy flowing lava when they erupted. We drove up a steep and narrow road through small farm holdings until we entered a national forest. The dense pine forest finally gave way to open country above the tree line and we traveled along the spine of the island towards the prominent cone of the volcano. Our goal was a cable car that transports  a score of tourists per cable car bite to the summit. For hikers a special permit is needed for "safety reasons" but 50 Euros per head transports the less safety conscious to a fabulous view and with considerably less physical effort. From the summit we could see the island laying out below us, with the various colors of the lava flows from the different eruptions. The last flow was in the middle ages and remains a jumble of twisted lava forms, with no obvious vegetation, despite the 600 years or so since the rocks solidified. The sky was blue, with a few wispy clouds and the blue of the Atlantic in all directions. When we set sail, our last sight of land before the 3,000 mile crossing to the Americas will be of this summit.

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Leaving Teide in our rear view mirror, we headed north and descended to the coast at Playa de las Americas and found another resort type hotel. Again we could stay for "one night only". They were otherwise fully booked and we have been astonished to find that this time of year is "high season". We were persuaded into signing up for the "half board" option, in other words, we bought supper and breakfast at the hotel. I hate buffets as they always remind me of school cafeterias but the hotel buffet was sorta OK. As I looked around at the other guests, I saw a sea of grey hair. The nationalities represented seemed mainly German and Spanish. Do we look that old? I will stay away from mirrors.

November 10, 2008

Yesterday we had attempted to get the hotel folks to make us a reservation, with a cabin, on the overnight ferry returning to Lanzarote. The girl we spoke to looked at us in horror and insisted that no ferries ran to Lanzarote and we must take a plane. This morning I telephoned the ferry company, "Armas" on Tenerife. They had no one in the office who could speak English and my Spanish was apparently not good enough to get across the concept that we wanted to reserve a cabin. I next tried the Armas reservation center and confirmed that our ship was leaving as scheduled. The man I spoke with explained that all cabins for couples were already fully booked but what were available were cabins for "four people". We would just have to mix in with strangers. OK. No problema. "Could we make a reservation please?" He suddenly lost all ability to speak or understand English. We tried getting the current hotel's receptionist to call him back but the telephone was no longer answered. Our helpful hotel receptionist pointed out that there was an Armas ticket office in the nearby port and we followed his directions to this facility. Here the ticket agent informed us that the run from Tenerife to Lanzarote had been cancelled but that there would be another ship later in the week. We decided to reverse our course and return via Gran Canaria. Could we get a cabin on these legs? No cabins available, we were told. We did walk out of the office with tickets for an evening run to Las Palmas, followed an hour later by an overnighter to Lanzarote, "on the same ship". Miserable but doable.

The remainder of the day was spent touring along the rural highway that parallels the south coast, some 7 kilometers inland from the sea. The road traverses the flanks of the volcano and joins tiny farming communities, as it snakes around drainages, rock spurs and the occasional farm. As we passed through each minuscule village, we would scour the store fronts looking for hardware stores. Often these would contain little in the way of goods for sale, other than a few bags of seeds and irrigation plumbing parts. Annette was on a mission to buy a ceramic pot for storing chestnuts. Admittedly everyone she spoke with insisted that they used theirs for storing onions, rather than chestnuts but you get the idea. Finally we found a store in the village of Viejo Arico that not only had a chestnut pot but a selection of wooden tongs for picking cactus apples. Annette was in heaven! We added a three liter wine skin made from a hairy goat hide to the purchases and could now safely continue our journey.

Back at Las Palmas we checked in with the Armas ferry office. The ferry to Gran Canaria was running late. The connecting ferry departed from a different port but there was free shuttle bus and yes, we could book a cabin on the overnighter. The four person cabins were segregated by sex, females in one and males in another. The agent reissued our tickets to reflect the changes. At Gran Canaria the passenger boarding ramp refused to function and after watching an

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official balance on a deck chair, five stories above the dock, whilst fruitlessly pounding an armored switch box with his fist, it was decided that the passengers would exit from the vehicle ramp - once all of the vehicles had exited. Wow, this was going to get close! In fact we easily caught the ferry to Lanzarote as it too was running late and when we checked in with the boat's onboard "reception", the girl swiftly overlooked the fact that the reissued tickets were now for the wrong day and reassigned us to one of the non-existent cabins for couples only; where we peacefully slept away the voyage.

November 11, 2008

At dawn the ferry from Gran Canaria deposited us back at the port of Arricefe on Lanzarote. The next time we leave by sea will be aboard DoodleBug. The latter was still bobbing peacefully at the dock but with a formal looking letter from the marina authorities attached to the cockpit door. Instead of an eviction notice, it was an invitation to a reception to be held that very evening at a nearby hotel. The reception was to welcome visiting cruisers and there is nothing that grabs the attention of boaters faster than the prospect of free booze. As it was, our major accomplishments of the day were feeding ourselves, catching up on a deficit of winks due to our busy travel schedule and attending the reception. The reception was a very elegant affair and we were surprised at the number of other cruisers who have been hidden away amongst the local boats that throng the docks. A pleasant break before work begins again tomorrow, as we begin our final departure preparation checklist.

November 12, 2008

 This morning we rented a car at the nearby local hotel and made our second major grocery buy. Back aboard, I have been chafing with impatience as we need to check DoodleBug's sails. Unfortunately the wind has been blowing too strongly to do this safely at the dock. Instead my task today was to check all of our emergency gear. This entails testing the Emergency distress beacon (EPIRB) that beams our predicament to satellites. You don't do this by turning it on of course, as this really pisses off the authorities like the US Coast Guard (yes, I know they are "Homeland Security" now, or whatever). It has some kind of internal test sequence that flashes lights at you. I had to find all of our fire extinguishers and check the state of their gauges. We have two sets of course. The French made ones that are European compliant and the USA made ones that comply with US laws. I don't think fires are that particular, so would probably grab the first one we find. We have collision  blankets for holes in the hull and epoxy patches that cure underwater; emergency pumps and when all else fails there is the life raft and flares. For storms there is a parachute that is rigged off the bow and a drogue that is rigged off the stern, plus a storm sail that installs over the furled Genoa on the forestay. Then of course there are "Man Overboard" recovery systems, emergency water makers, emergency rations, emergency radios, life raft emergency fishing equipment; the list of equipment to be checked seems endless. The reason for all this activity is that we will making our third ocean crossing and although the Mediterranean and the Red sea presented their own challenges, hurricanes and disasters remote from possible help, were not included amongst the hazards.

While I played with all of the emergency gear, Annette was preparing a barbequed supper for Paul and Beth from "SV Krow" (read backwards for derivation). Dinner was great, although Annette went into gourmet meltdown, as she had determined her steak was too tough. I thought mine was superb.

 

November 13, 2008

The wind was still blowing hard today and it was overcast and cold to add to the mix. Annette worked on inventorying her supplies and building a spreadsheet. Then she had to accumulate her daily menus that are divided into categories of, "will keep you alive in bad weather", "can be fixed in roughish weather" and finally, "can be cooked for a treat in calmer conditions". Her final step was to cross reference the ingredients and quantities back to her inventory spreadsheet. Whew! What an effort. Of course if she screws up we will probably not starve but a three week diet of oatmeal, liquorice and sardines can be a little daunting.

Meanwhile I tackled the Single Side Band (SSB) high frequency radio. This had refused to function since our return, although it did turn on and made all sorts of crackling noises. I had checked the wiring and although I did repair a major groundstrap that had broken, the performance was unchanged. I then tested the capability of "talking" to Dave on "SV Daq Attack", a vessel that is moored about 50 yards away and this experiment worked. I then checked the operating frequencies of the various radio base stations around the world and realized that I had not updated these since 2006. Ah, the miracles of Wifi internet access! I soon had the latest frequencies downloaded and although I never could raise a "Ham" station, I was able to obtain a marginal connection to a commercial marine station in Belgium some 1,550 nautical miles away.

We have been using the radio as an emergency backup for our satellite telephone connection. When we traveled across the Pacific in 2004, we relied upon the SSB for our primary communication until we reached Papeete. The radio is hooked up to a laptop and the laptop program sets the frequencies and radio settings, driving a special German built "modem". The combination allows you to send and receive e-mails. The radio signal is received by a shore station, perhaps thousands of miles away and then the shore station decodes the message and forwards it over the internet to the chosen destination. This allows vessels such as ours to not only communicate with friends around the world but also to request and download weather forecast information. Beyond Papeete, the radio reception became worse and worse and we began to rely more and more upon a satellite telephone to perform the function of the radio. The sat phone isn't free of course but has been far more reliable than the SSB as far as making connections.

November 14, 2008

This morning the wind finally dropped and I grabbed the opportunity to adjust the sails and set the tension on the luffs, as well as making sure that they furled and deployed correctly. Next I climbed the masts in order to check the condition of the fixed rigging. "Fixed rigging" on a yacht refers to the system of steel cables and fittings that hold the masts in position. Although they are made from stainless steel, the parts are still subject to corrosion and mechanical fatigue. It is prudent to check for tiny cracks in the metal fittings where the steel cables terminate, as well as for breaks in the individual wires that make up the cables. I have had DoodleBug professionally inspected on several occasions but the only time that damaged rigging was discovered, was when I found it myself, the day following the "professional's" inspection. This time everything looks fine and since I was already dangling from a rope, high above the decks, I used the opportunity to install "tell-tales" on the sails. These are tiny strips of colored sailcloth that indicate the flow of wind over the sails and facilitate trimming the sails for the best sailing performance.

Annette then used her master spreadsheet to direct her in her third major grocery run. Since most of the brands of food are of unknown quality and taste, she had earlier purchased small quantities of various products and was now wandering the supermarket shelves, clutching saved labels and trying to remember where the "approved" item was originally located. This system has it's flaws, as often you locate the spot to find the shelf empty of your perfect "biscuit" or the best tasting lactose free milk. Of course I prefer the list / label system of shopping, as I can actually participate. Give me a label and an instruction like "fetch", I too can contribute to the shopping effort.

My own list of chores to accomplish is now down from 52 items to 8. We are getting close to departure readiness.

November 15 thru 18, 2008

A large low pressure system has been stationary in the Atlantic at around N 30 W 40 and has effectively killed off the trade winds. In other words, this was not a great week to sail and although we weren't planning on sailing anyway, we can derive some comfort in the fact that we are not sitting in the middle of the Atlantic, waiting for the winds to blow. Our proposed route takes us west-southwest for a week or so from the Canaries, passing within 300 miles of the Cape Verde Islands, before turning west for the run to the Caribbean. This is where we hope we will pick up the warm trade winds that will effortlessly waft us towards white sand beaches, coconut palms and Pina Coladas. We are still puttering with boat chores but are now reduced to just the ones we don't want to do. After near six years usage, the propane tank we use for the barbeque began to feel threateningly light. We made the pilgrimage to the propane plant, just west of the port of Arricefe and bought 2.5 kilos of propane for 2.75 euros. What a difference a few months makes in the price of hydrocarbons! The best part of the trip was that on our return to DoodleBug, we stopped again at an obscure cafe called "Ginory", near the fishing port, for a pair of "tapacitos pescado"  - the most delicious fish sandwiches I have eaten anywhere on the planet. Went perfectly with cerveza of course.

 

November 19, 2008

Today's highlight was taking a noon-sight of the sun to determine the latitude of the Marina. The marina is enclosed by a huge sea-wall so the needed measurement involved climbing the stairs of the harbor master's observation tower, in order to simultaneously observe both the sun and the horizon. Of course it was cloudy but we were nevertheless able to grab a quick measurement with a sextant, before the clouds rolled in. I had to estimate the height of the tower, as well as getting the exact time from the GPS, rather than being able confirm this from a radio signal.

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In spite of these problems, our latitude calculated to within 1 and 2/10ths miles of the satellite version! I was stunned that it was within even 20 nautical miles of the correct value! (equivalent to 20 minutes of latitude) We have carried a sextant and the latest astronomical almanac for the past five years and have yet to take a fix at sea, even though I have promised myself to do so on each and every sailing season. This time! This passage! At least one sun fix and one star fix at twilight! You read it here!

 

November 20, 2008

Today DoodleBug put to sea. OK, it was just a test run to clean and check the water maker but it was under sail and was at sea. We sailed from the marina and headed close hauled for Africa under light winds. Our water maker should not be run within the confines of the marina, as pollution, such as machine oil, will swiftly destroy the sensitive membrane. The water maker works by using a pair of hydraulic pumps in tandem, to raise the pressure of seawater to something around 800 pounds per square inch. The high pressure sea water is forced through a hi-tech membrane that has "holes" in it. The holes are large enough to allow passage of water molecules but too small to allow the much larger molecules of sodium chloride - otherwise known as "salt". The water that is passed through the membrane is near salt free and tastes, well, "fresh". It takes a lot of energy to pressurize the sea-water and anything that uses high pressure hoses is prone to failure; thus we needed to run the device to both test it's functionality, as well as to allow the normal operating process to scour impurities from the membrane. Our water maker produces up to 40 gallons per hour and allows Doodlebug to be independent of fresh water sources for as long as we have diesel fuel to run the generator.

After about an hour's sailing, we tacked DoodleBug and headed on a reach, back to Puerto Calero. Yesterday as we had been fooling around with pre-maritime sextant on the balcony of the harbor master's tower, Annette had noticed a white power boat that was wandering aimlessly around near the outer seawall of the marina. She had also noticed a white buoy nearby that she maintained was drifting. I had just assumed that the boat operator was crabbing or something and one of his pots had gone for a swim. Well that was yesterday. Today the same boat was there, while we were approaching the marina entrance and after we had received some sort of radio clearance to enter. Annette pointed out that there was another white buoy drifting across our path. We joined the drift and slowed to a halt as we watched. Perhaps there was someone in the water? Annette had suggested that the buoy was a marker for the tourist submarine we had seen in the

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harbor. I did not think that this was likely, due to the casual way the white boat was behaving. Surely if he was guarding a submarine, he would have given us some kind of signal to indicate we shouldn't run it over! The puzzle was resolved as the "school-bus yellow" submarine surfaced, a couple of boat lengths in front of us! We continued to drift while the white boat took the submarine in tow and we followed the pair inside. I don't think I will book a ride with this outfit!

November 21 thru 22, 2008

Yesterday we fiddled around with the final stowage items and Annette repaired the USA flag that flies from the stern. I reminded her of what happened to Mel Brook's son after he repaired the flag in the movie "Patriot" but it made no difference to her. This is the fourth flag we have flown in five years. It should now be good for several more months.

This evening we pick up our "crew" from the airport. My brother-in-law Chris Brooks and fellow sailor Joyce Moon, also of the Broadwater Sailing Club ( www.broadwatersc.org.uk ), will be joining us for the Atlantic passage. Chris sailed with us when we picked up DoodleBug from Ft. Lauderdale and transited the Gulf of Mexico to Corpus Christi, Texas. At that time we were being chased by hurricane "Claudette". We are hoping that this upcoming Atlantic crossing will be a less exciting experience for him.

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I looked at Noonsite's website today ( www.noonsite.com ) and noticed a link to the 2008 "ARC" or "Atlantic Rally for Cruisers". I read that this is the world's largest Transocean event and some 218 yachts with 1,100 crew participants leave from Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, enroute to St Lucia. They leave in a mass start tomorrow morning. I had understood that they were to leave next Tuesday and we would be ahead of the them. Now it seems that we will pass Las Palmas two days behind the ARC. I wish them "Fair Winds" and hope they will stay out of our way. Container ships and tankers are easy to spot on radar but plastic boats like ours are harder to see in any kind of seaway. We have not faced a passage before with this number of sailing vessels loose on the ocean at the same time and we will need to keep careful watch.