Trip on Lagoon starting 2017-12-02 in BSAFeb18
Canary Islands, Dec 2 – 9: report by Alan Howells, Ian Collins and Don Hirst
Boat: Lagoon 380 catamaran from Nautilus, at Santa Cruz Marina, Tenerife.
Ian begins: The Canaries, so be it in their low season, is a similar weather experience to a good British Summer. As a sailing venue, it offers some obvious attractions not available to those of us who know the "Channel in Winter". On this occasion, it also offered the opportunity to sail a catamaran. This report is a compilation of Alan's covering the sailing, ports etc. and Don’s insights into the lessons learnt all supported by Richards’s photographs, stitched together by my ramblings. We flew out on the 30th November and stayed in Golf Sur Mer till 2nd December when we took possession of the boat. The link to Richard’s photographs is. The picture of the mountain with 2 zebra crossing signs at the bottom is the La Gomera extinct volcano. On the top left corner of the mountain is a tree. Looks like a spec on the lens. This is the tree Alan didn’t quite reach (see below).
Generally, I like cats. The upright stable platform-- no rolling, space, the ease of moving around, the speed etc. All of this the Lagoon380 did not disappoint and it would have been impossible to meet the requirements of some of the crew on this trip in a monohull. The accommodation was palatial in yachting terms with its huge cockpit and saloon complete with an enormous water-cooled fridge an excellent galley, two spacious heads, two reasonable double berths, two kingsize double cabins and on the last day we found two additional single berths accessible only through deck hatches so completely unusable except in harbour. The domestic battery capacity was such that it was possible to go 24 hours with no engine or shore power even when running the fridge continuously. The electronics would have been brilliant had I spent hours learning them. There was radar, AIS (the type that broadcasts) and an EPIRB. By way of contrast, the harnesses supplied were of a type that I haven’t seen for 20years with separate solid lifejackets!
The cockpit had a separate "roof" which was higher than that of the saloon and the boom was above that. All lines were controlled by two winches, one electric, and jammers next to the helm. I have absolutely no idea why anyone thought such an arrangement was suitable on any yacht but especially on a cat where there is a requirement to release sheets quickly if overpowered by a gust. Despite the proclaimed advantage of all lines led aft it was still necessary to go to the mast and step up onto the coachroof to secure and release the main halyard. This was so high that you needed to disconnect the harness line and wrap it around the mast. There were no jackstays and even had there been some it still would have left a large exposed gap to the mast.
The high and largely inaccessible boom meant that the integral sail bag and lazyjacks were essential as there was no other credible way of catching the sail when lowering. However, the combination of lazyjacks and a fully battened main made raising it a nightmare with the battens catching over and over again.
On one occasion I had one batten caught to port and another to starboard-- accompanied by many strong oaths. A google search shows that this problem has been noted by many owners, one saying that he could only raise the mainsail by standing on the cockpit roof. Standing that high on a curved roof with no credible means of attachment and in serious danger of being swept off by the boom held no appeal to me. Effectively it was well-nigh impossible to raise the main at night in any sea-- a serious failing.
We left Santa Cruz on Saturday afternoon motoring down the coast of Tenerife with no wind. A breeze came up later and on that occasion, I did manage to raise the mainsail and we sailed nicely as the breeze strengthened even reefing for a short while. We eventually lost the remaining breeze south of Isla Gomera and motored to anchor off Puerto Vueltos. For reasons I could not work out the motor would not drive the rib faster than one knot so we moored against the wall instead and found it not as bad as the description in the pilot book.
Ian: Allow me to digress from Alan's critique and offer an insight into the ascent of man and its attendant pain. I have not sailed with my daughter Mandy for years and one memory stays with me. A wonderful day sailing across Weymouth Bay, calm sea, gentle breeze, adults engaged increasing the sail area; and Mandy marking our passage by dropping individual items of crockery overboard. Those with children will commiserate.
At Puerto Vueltos the harbour is hemmed in by amazing cliffs rising hundreds of feet almost vertically (see photos). At the top of the highest near the very edge, a tree. Mandy, an enthusiastic volcano scrambler mentioned she had visited the tree on a previous trip to La Gomera. Alan suggested they make the climb. Mandy demurred as she wished to visit some rock pools just along the coast but volunteered to go with him through the village and point out the right track to take.
So Alan went up and Mandy went along while the rest of us sat, lay, strolled etc. Eventually, Alan returned having achieved the summit if not quite the tree. But this was a far more piratical skipper. Scarred of face and bloodied of limb, the result of engaging in a totally unfair fight with a dead volcano while descending. The lesson must surely be whilst coming down do not assume gravity is on your side. The saving grace was surely had we been attacked by pirates one flash of the skipper's war-torn visage would have sent them scurrying for shore.
I return you to Alan's narrative.
Leaving there in the morning we mainly motored to La Resting on El Hierro and moored against the wall. This wall had fenders designed to deal with large commercial vessels. These were widely spaced and made of very hard rubber which made mooring difficult especially when dealing with a tide range of 2.5 metres. This caused difficulties during the night with horizontally rigged fenders and an improvised fender board. Two proper fender boards would have transformed the experience. Overnight the easterly wind called a Calima-- hot and dusty blowing off the Sahara had set in and was with us for the rest of the trip. The following night the wind made the wall mooring untenable and we left in the dark. It was remarked that we left the harbour at some speed. The exit required a tight 90-degree turn and the enormous windage was blowing us past it very quickly. The strength of the wind and the sea conditions made it impossible to raise the mainsail until daylight after which the sailing was excellent.
Ian: I felt that Alan, though clear on the sailing gave La Resting and the island of El Hierro something less than it's due so with the aid of Richards photos I will endeavour to offer some enlightenment.
EL Hierro was known in that period of maritime history beloved of flat-earthers and charts warned "Here be Dragons" this island was known to seafarers as "Worlds End”. Imagine if you will a subtropical version of Steep Holm, but on steroids. An insignificant harbour backed by a town, smaller than Pill, with a massive, beautifully decorated harbour wall and acres of concrete hardstand courtesy of the EU Development fund but backed by virtually no infrastructure but featuring a single storey cement-rendered building which attracted Don's attention. I quote---
The facilities at El Hierro consisted of the largest, single seat shithouse I have visited, indeed the largest building in the harbour, however, that was the full extent of the facilities. Showers were allegedly available at the guest house at the start of the volcano for the cost of 4 euros. The guest house was closed for the winter and rather than wait another 6 months for a shower we had a swim in the harbour and used the beach shower. There was also neither fuel nor water available
From El Hierro, we headed back to Tenerife, so back to Alan.
Though ten miles downwind of Tenerife, its wind shadow was like an off switch leaving us to motor to Garachico which we entered in the dark against all advice. Given the vast amount of European money spent on construction of this new marina why they would leave it with an entrance like that is a mystery as is the total absence of fuel. However, the pontoons are excellent. If you go there I suggest staying close to the port buoys rather than the breakwater as recommended. We were very grateful for 30 litres of fuel being brought to us as one of our tanks was very low. The fuel gauge gave levels for tank 1 and tank2 and there followed a lengthy search to determine which was port and which was starboard. We found the engines; which we had not been shown; underneath the swim platform. The fuel tanks were well forward under the cabin soles. We had access to the sensor on one of the tanks and by disconnecting that and watching the gauge we confirmed it was the port tank that was low. Locating the engines explained why a little cat handling trick had failed to work. On previous cats, it had been possible by a combination of full helm whilst ahead on one engine, astern on the other to make them go sideways. On this cat the engines were astern of the rudders, so it did not work.
Ian: As noted by Alan the beneficence of the EU had been visited on Garachico. Another massive harbour wall this time decorated with cement Cartouches of Neptune protecting sufficient concrete hardstand to accommodate the entire Bristol bus fleet with space to spare. The available facilities consisted of two, one F, one M, each offering two toilets and two showers contained within ancient portacabins.
The town of Garachico, however, is glorious. Old, reasonably unspoilt, incredible location beneath high cliffs, fascinating. For sailors, the ancient harbour is well worth spending time at. Once the largest port on the island whose main trade was with the ports of Devon. Studying the approach and entrance you begin to realize why the awkward, and in fact with a less than charming wind and a bilious sea, dodgy entrance to the new marina would be considered more than adequate," a stroll in the park" for the locals.
So back to Alan to take us back to Santa Cruz
There had been no wind all day and this was so when we left just before sunset, so we motored. The islands have zones where the winds are stronger and known as acceleration zones. These are charted but only when the prevailing winds are from the Northeast. The wind strength is supposed to increase by 10 to 15 knots in these zones, but not the 30knots we experienced which appeared suddenly accompanied by sufficient sea to make it dangerous to raise the mainsail. We actually motored 13.5 miles north of the island to smooth the passage. With sufficient daylight we raised the main with considerable difficulty then had some excellent sailing into Santa Cruz.
There was a requirement to return by 1600 (to allow for a non-existent diver to examine below the waterline) with a 150 euros for being late. The effectively makes the charter period 6 days which is not enough, given the distances between the islands and various other constraints such as limited availability of fuel and the recommendations to avoid entering ports at night.
If I were to charter again I would do so for two weeks and insist on, or take proper harnesses and rig a system for pulling the lazyjacks down to the boom for raising the sail; and a couple of fenderboards.
I will leave you with a few words of wisdom from Don
Some learning points.
However we feel about the facilities in our home waters of Britain and France they are considerably superior and more frequent than the Canary Islands and this was more or less the case for all our ports of call.
Check port facilities prior to setting off. The Canaries sailing books fall far short of Reeds.
Check the capacity of water and fuel so they can be included in the budgeting, similar to wine.
When making passage and encountering a moderate headwind remember that when plotting a course for a catamaran, bear in mind that in moderate winds they cannot be steered directly head to wind even under bare poles, but require a close hauled point of sail for a comfortable passage.
It was a great trip and allowed us to visit islands and places which would be extremely difficult if not impossible to visit any other way and we received a warm welcome each place we visited.