Yacht Fathom - Setting off from England in May 2016 on a single-handed voyage somewhere a bit warmer

Archive for October, 2016


It has been a fun couple of weeks exploring the island with friends and catching up with other boats. After leaving Graciosa for the first time Fathom was moored in Marina Lanzarote, Arrecife. There are not so many places to anchor in the Canaries but the marina was cheap at around EURO 8.50 a day so not too painful on the wallet.

Papagayo at sunset

Highlights of Lanzarote have been:-

The César Manrique Foundation – Built in 1968 on top of a volcanic trail from a volcanic eruption that occurred in 1730-36. It uses in the lower level, the natural formation of five volcanic bubbles to make an unusual living space within a natural space. The outside of the house and upper level is an inspiration from the traditional architecture of Lanzarote.

Timanfaya National Park – Most of the volcanic activity here happened between 1730 and 1736 but there  is still some volcanic activity with temperatures up to 600 degrees a few metres below the surface. We saw this demonstrated by a chef cooking chicken using the volcanic heat and water being poured into the ground creating a geyser of steam. On the way up to the park we stopped and said hello to some camels who sit around waiting for the next bunch of tourists to get a ride on their backs.

Playa de Papagayo – picturesque white sandy beaches. Visited these by land and sea but when anchored off the swell and resulting waves were too high to take the dinghy ashore (see photo).

Jameos Del Agua – Amazing location where caverns and partially collapsed volcanic tubes have been transformed into a unique entertainment venue by the architect Cesar Manrique. The cavern includes a salt water lake and looks pretty special when illuminated at night.

Famara Beach – great beach and fun swimming in the big surf.

A quick visit was made to Isla de Lobos, a small uninhabited island just off the north coast of Fueteventura. The anchorage was calm and swimming from the beach and off the boat in the crystal clear warm water was top notch.

Fathom is now moored in Marina Rubicon on the south tip of Lanzarote. There is some bad weather coming over the next days with strong south winds forecast and big swell so going to hide here before heading down to Fueteventura. I will take the opportunity to catch up on a growing list of boat jobs and go over the boat carefully in preparation for heading south on the 800 mile trip to the Cape Verde islands in early November.

Posted on 23 Oct in: Canary Islands

La Graciosa

It turns out the yacht I sailed in close proximity with from Funchal was called ‘Sturmschwalbe’ and owned by German couple Jule and Jan. Got chatting with them on the beach at Graciosa and realised I had seen them before at the anchorage in Cascais. Apparently they were racing me here too! I ended up spending that day with them and went back to their boat for drinks and dinner in the evening.


Graciosa – anchorage on the right, Caleta del Sebo centre top

The island of Graciosa is only 6.5km long and 3km wide and is mainly flat and sandy with four low volcanic cones. I walked up one of these on Saturday and it gave a nice view down onto the anchorage with the sheer cliffs of Lanzarote in the background. In the town on Saturday night was a music concert on the beach so I stuck around for that and was pleasantly surprised how good the Spanish Bob Marley was.

The anchorage at Graciosa is fairly busy and on average there have been between 15 and 20 yachts anchored. For the first time since Portugal there are more British boats around. Nearly all seem to include a crew of young children and dogs. It is a nice calm anchorage with no rolling which makes a change. The dinghy is left on the sandy beach and then it is a 30 minute walk along the dunes to the small town and harbour of Caleta del Sebo. This comprises of a handful of low white washed buildings, one shop and a few restaurants.  There are only 500 permanent inhabitants on the island but regular ferries from Lanzarote bring the tourists.

Aurélie and Olivier on Courlement are anchored alongside once again and together with another French couple I met yesterday and Jule and Jan there is a nice group of us between ages of 25 and 33 doing a similar route.  Leaving the anchorage later this morning for a cheap marina at Arrecife, Lanzarote for a few days. Time to do some laundry and also have a shower!

Posted on 10 Oct in: Canary Islands

Madeira to La Graciosa

Fathom departed the anchorage at Funchal late morning on Tuesday and was soon sailing directly for Graciosa, 270 miles to the south east in a moderate north easterly breeze.  I decided to try my luck with the fishing line and sure enough an hour later pulled in a Bonito which provided a tasty dinner that evening. After making a mess of my shorts and most of the cockpit when trying to kill the last fish by knocking it on the head several times with the bilge pump handle my new technique is to squirt some cheap vodka from an old washing up bottle onto the gills. This seems to work nicely and quickly without creating a mess.

That afternoon I took the opportunity to try the towed generator for the first time. This was purchased from Ebay a year or so ago and although I had wired it up had never tried it. A metal propeller shaft is attached to 30m of rope towed behind the boat which when spinning powers a generator in a gimbaled ring mounted to the pulpit. I was pleasantly surprised how well it worked generating about 1 amp per knot of boat speed and not noticeably slowing the boat. Satisfying to be able to create all the electrical power I need with a combination of solar and wind energy.

As Tuesday progressed the wind began to increase and by evening it was quite uncomfortable on board with a considerable swell running and a confused sea. Occasionally a large wave would cause Fathom to round up slightly into the wind which would then unbalance the self steering and she would struggle to bear away again back on course. A 2nd reef in the main before dark did the trick and we made good progress towards the Canaries at speeds between 5 and 6.5 knots. I had noticed another yacht leaving Funchal at the same time on Tuesday morning and throughout the day had been keeping a close eye on them via the AIS which indicated they were 33 feet. Both yachts were doing near identical speeds and remained within a couple miles of each other. It was obvious we had the same destination so my competitive streak made a reappearance and a race was on!

It proved quite difficult to sleep during the first night but I snatched some 25 minute naps. With the other yacht so close I didn’t feel comfortable sleeping longer and I had to turn the AIS alarm off as it was constantly triggered by the other boat. By 3am the wind had increased to over 20 knots and I went into the cockpit to make an adjustment to the self steering. At exactly that moment a large wave decided to deposit itself right on top of me and although I was clipped on I was only in my boxers so I received an unwelcome salt water wash! I hadn’t felt comfortable trying to pull in the towed generator the previous afternoon in that sea state but there was now a danger of overcharging the batteries. I was forced to turn on every electrical appliance I could in order to neutralise the power being generated by the towgen. Not only did I have the fridge on full blast the radar was on constantly and both my laptop and ipad were on charge and the chart plotter on full brightness!

By first light on Wednesday the conditions were beginning to moderate but the sea was fairly messy still. The other yacht were alongside and I managed to take some photos in between them disappearing behind the waves. Progress was good and Fathom charged on to the south east. 133 miles in the first 24 hours. I gave considerable thought to how to get the towgen back in. One option was to stop the boat to stop the rope spinning but instead I decided to cut a slit in a plastic funnel and placed this over the rope. Once it had slid down to the propeller it stopped the rope spinning and I was able to pull it in fairly easily. A problem with the electrics then appeared whereby every few minutes all power would go off then instantly turn back on again. This caused the VHF and chartplotter to turn off and restart each time. Thankfully I managed to find the cause which was a loose nut on the back of the battery isolator switch. Fathom began to make some miles on the the other boat and by evening were 5 miles ahead which was very satisfying :).  Cooked steak for dinner with potatoes and vegetables.

Sleep was easier to come by on Wednesday night as I was far enough ahead of the other yacht to turn the AIS alarm back on and the sea was calmer. I woke from one nap at 5am to find the wind had veered and we were sailing south west. The next hours were then spent sailing upwind in a dying breeze. By lunchtime on Thursday there was only 4 to 5 knots of wind coming directly from the south east so reluctantly the motor was used for the remaining few miles to Graciosa. On arriving at the anchorage it was nice to see Jan and Corrie on ‘Livingstone’ and a few other familiar boats from previous places. Overall the trip from Madeira had taken 51.5 hours which was good going and Fathom had beaten a larger boat (more on them later..). Well done old girl!

Posted on 08 Oct in: Logs 2016

Madeira – Funchal

Relaxed few days at anchor in Funchal. Spent some time walking round the town but have been a little disappointed in it. Too many tourists and tacky souvenir shops geared to the cruise ship passengers which visit frequently. A highlight was taking the gondola up the hill overlooking the town and walking back to the harbour front through all the backstreets.

On the plus side this year the port authority has stopped charging boats at anchor and it is even possible to get a key for the shower block with a 10 euro deposit and no extra charge. The only downside with the anchorage is that it a little rolly and a relatively long half mile dinghy ride into the marina where the tender is left. A pretty sight by night looking at the lights of the town.

Funchal by night

I have been surprised not to see more cruising yachts here. There were six in the anchorage when I arrived on Wednesday but only two now. In the marina are just a handful of visitors. Only seen one other British yacht since leaving Portugal several weeks ago. The majority continue to be Norwegian, Dutch and French. Nice to see Aurelie and Olivier again on ‘Courement’ they anchored next to me for a few days and I had them over to dinner on Saturday night. Yesterday at anchor I poked my head out of the hatch to see a large pair of red lips only a few metres away and bearing down on Fathom. Thankfully the cruise ship was only turning round before berthing but was slightly disconcerting looking up at the the bow only a few metres away.

Leaving Funchal later this morning bound for La Graciosa, a small island and reportedly nice anchorage just north of Lanzarote. The distance from here is around 270 miles so should arrive within three days if the wind holds up. Looking forward to getting sailing again.

Posted on 04 Oct in: Madeira Islands

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