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Iridium GO! – Internet connectivity from Pole to Pole

Compact satellite access point and router

Compact satellite access point and router

Two years ago I (Peter) got my amateur radio certificate with the intention to install a High Frequency Radio equipment on our yacht to be able to communicate beyond the reach of VHF and also with a analogue/digital modem being  able to download weather forecasts. For different reasons this project never started. Last year we saw an ad about Iridium GO, the first satellite network wifi hot spot solution, with affordable costs for data (and voice, sms, and even web connectivity). The installation is very easy (especially compared to HF radio). Communication services are either prepaid (a number of minutes satellite access) or monthly fixed cost contract. As we are testing it out we have a prepaid service, but are likely to switch to an “unlimited” service, meaning unlimited data access, 150 minutes of voice calls, unlimited SMS per month. With an weather forecasting / routing app (such as Sail Grib) it is really easy to get reliable weather data. The weather app, phone and sms works well but we have yet to test the Web browser. As the bandwidth is only 2.4 kbps we expect only text based emails, grib (weather forecast files) and sms / voice to be viable. The mail app does optimise speed very effectively so it seems a 20 kB file only require about 30 sec download time. We will update this blog (Our Boat) section) with satellite contact details, but be warned, we have 150 minutes of voice calls per month for free, calling us costs about USD 7 per minute. Once again – text messages are free (excluding any operator charges).

As HF Radio does deliver additional value such as radio nets we will check for potential used equipment to install. We have an isolated backstay and earth plate so should be relatively straightforward install of radio, antenna tuner and modem.

Over and out from Las Palmas /Peter

Las Palmas again, and some planning

Hola, Buenas, Que tal

Since a little more than a week we are now tightly moored in Las Palmas. Tightly meaning we still wonder how we got in without fouling the mooring lines and no more than 15 meters between pontoons. Adding to the fun was our bow thrusters breaking down. Thanks to settled winds and helpful neighbors we made it without any scars to boat or mind. Comparing to when we were here in early June, there are much more boats arriving from mainland Europe, some early ARC entries, but mostly “self organized” sailors (as us) heading for Brazil or the Caribbean Nov/Dec.
One major, painful project is now complete. In a few blog posts we have alluded to activities fixing “the Diesel Engine knocking sound”. I am a mechanical engineer by education and to some extent experience (35 years ago) – and what I have learnt about diesel engines was two things; a) don’t “fix a problem” if you don’t have to, b) if you hear a strange, new noise from the engine, start to worry and examine the reason behind.  Clearly after our last regular service we heard a high pitched, knocking noise, increasing with the engine revs. After a) valves clearance adjustments (minor adjustments, no effect), injector pressure tests (no problem), we have now identified the noise coming from a defect exhaust manifold gasket. Gasket replaced, Noise gone, money gone (4 hours Yanmar certified technician work). We hope to be able to recover costs through 2 year guarantee since these gaskets have an expected lifetime of at least 10,000 h (rather than 400 hours).

Other work includes getting our weather forecasts (GRIB) downloads to work.  We are using an Inmarsat Satellite Phone with some software to be able to get this essential service to work. Still a bit of “magic touch” needed but we are hopeful to sort it.  In addition we are adding (and ticking of the check box) to our endless list of “to do´s”.  Our near term planning is to some extent dictated by the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers). ALL non ARC sailors except locals and long terms mooring holders are “thrown out” from the LP marina by end of Sept. Reason being about 250 Yachts arriving with unclear ETA’s and as ARC is a really big revenue for Las Palmas Marina and Town clearly these are prioritized. One option is to anchor close north of the Marina. When we are kindly asked to “get lost”, our plan is to leave for Fuerteventure / Lanzarote using different anchorages. For October we have a reserved berth at Marina Lanzarote / Arrecife. This will be our last storing / bunkering harbor before we around early Nov head off to Cape Verde, ca 800 nm to sw from Canaries. From there – at the moment we are checking out some fluid facts re Brazil Visa regulations. Clearly some EU Policies have negatively affected Visa rules which seem to be 3 months only, meaning 3 months in Brazil, 3 months outside Brazil. With Brazil having a very long coast line, 3 months means more or less constant sailing so right now we keep our options open, meaning we might join the ARC fleet rout from  Cape Verde to the Caribbean Islands.Anyone having up to date new info re Brazil Visa rules re EU citizens, let us know!

Sailing Letter July 2015

Teide mountain in the background. Photo shot taken at 2200 meter

When we were heading for the Canary Islands we thought about nice sailing areas with day sailing distances between the different harbors. Lot of anchorages and nice weather.

We now understand why many people coming to the Canary Islands stay in one harbor until it is time to leave for the Caribbean islands or Cape Verde. Anchorages without swell are scarce, going from west to east,  south to north is not without difficulties, due to the wind, acceleration zones and swell. The acceleration zone is where the prevailing northeasterly trade wind compresses between two islands with high mountains. Most islands here have mountains exceeding 1000 meters, Tenerife’s mount Teide is 3700 meters.

We have, during July, visited La Gomera. La Palma and Tenerife. All passages have been made with good wind forecast, but still with the addition of 20 knots of wind between the islands. Starting with the passage between Gran Canaria and La Gomera, our intention was to stop in San Miguel (south coast of Tenerife) on the way, but the wind and sea picked up so we did not want to go close to shore during those premises. Instead we took another 23 nM directly to San Sebastian on La Gomera, which we believed would be a more sheltered approach. As soon as we were free from the south shelter of Tenerife, we picked up high seas and heavy wind. Up to 40 knots before entering the harbour.  A week later we took the step to La Palma, approx.. 60 nM rounding Gomera, going across and then up the west coast of La Palma.  Nice and easy going south, awful waves and wind (+35 knots) crossing to La Palma and then again almost calm conditions the last 15 nM to Tazacorte, the harbor on the west coast. Next week coming back to La Gomera we experienced the same conditions. Not sure anymore to be able to anchor outside the harbor of Valle Gran Rey, we were surprised by the calm waters 3 nM outside the harbor. The trip to Tenerife (San Miguel) was the same. Seasick and shaken (“not stirred”) we entered the harbor of San Miguel for a couple of days stay. Wiser we waited for a forecast of less wind before going to Santa Cruz (Tenerife). Prognosis said 5-10 knots. We got 40, before we finally entered the harbor of Santa Cruz, not really believing we would reach there since our boat (24 tons) practically stopped in some of the steep and short waves. After a week here we will now go to Gran Canaria (Las Palmas) and stay there until we are thrown out by the ARC rally beginning October. Then we will decide where to go. Another reason for us to go back to Las Palmas is that the harbor is good, the town is nice, the harbor fees a third of everywhere else, and you can easily take care of the boat and stock up with food for the next trip.

PHU. This sounds like it is all bad, but that is not the case. Having the luxury to sail in the “right direction” makes a fantastic sail! We have had beautiful times on all islands, seen a lot, walked a lot and met nice people. All islands are different! Starting with:

La Gomera

A beautiful round, green, island with a lot of mountains. The harbor in San Sebastian is friendly, easy to access and the town is small and nice. Playas for snorkeling is close by. Not many tourists. We took the bus to Valle Gran Rey in the south, through forests of Laurel trees, small villages and winding roads that makes you ask for a big beer to settle the nerves when you are at the destination. We did another tour going north to Vallehermoso and the roads were as winding and the cliffs as deep as going south. Coming back from La Palma we anchored for 2 days at Valle Gran Rey, in crystal clear water with good holding and perfect weather. Very sheltered. Seeing the anchor at 11 meters is not what we are used to in Swedish environments.

In San Sebastian we also met the crew of Pusan, a Swedish boat on the move for 5 years now. It is always interesting to share experiences and learn from others. They have been in the marina for close to 8 months now and we think we know why – read the first part of this letter…

La Palma

La Isla Bonita (the beautiful island). Coming round the west corner, out of the acceleration zone and in to calm water, the island gave a very green impression. It is a major banana growing area. You will see bananas everywhere, also in the small cities/villages. The harbor, Tazacorte, is fairly new, very sheltered with huge piers and lots of restaurants, with a touch of Spanish tourism. No swell reached in when we were there. Pleasant marina and a nice village (Puerto Tazacorte) close by.  In La Palma everything is uphill. Cash machine is in the Villa Tazacorte, the “main” village 2 km away from the harbor, but all uphill. We took a hike one day to El Paso (famous for cigars). It was only 9 km away but on an altitude of 700 meters. It was about +30 degrees in the shadows so we were really dehydrated (despite 2l water bottle) when we finally got there. After some rest we ended up going all the way down again J

In La Palma we experienced the celebration of Virgin del Carmen, the fishermen’s saint. (Peter put some nice pictures on the blog, see July 16.) We also took the bus to Santa Cruz La Palma. A nice old town, but the harbor was awful. Swell, wind and waves despite a 1 km long pier. Not a place for us.

Tenerife

The harbor in San Miguel is a bit tricky to see. It is also a bit shallow, which we did not know until we were already in the marina. The water is crystal clear so 10 meters depth gives you the shivers passing all rocks you see from deck. We had the possibility to do nice walks north and south of the harbor. An area mixed with golf courses, tourist areas and a fishing village (Los Abrigos). The fishing village was known for its fish restaurants. We also did some jogging. However, at +30 degrees the jogging has to take place early in the morning.

Tenerife

Last days of July was spent in the harbor of Santa Cruz, Tenerife. Big new harbor with finger pontoons and good shelter for all winds, except southerly. The city is feeling small and cozy even though it has about 400.000 inhabitants. Lots of buildings from late 19- early 20- century. Today (Aug 4th) we took a guided tour to the highest top of Spain, “Pico de Teide”. It was fantastic looking at all old craters and geological remains. We took the cable car to 3500 meters above sea levels.

We will now wait here for the wind to give us a possibility to go to Las Palmas on Gran Canaria.

Nature

  • Sharks: one with no upright tail fin might be a “Smooth-hound” shark. Rather small (1,5 meters), the other had a very high fin with a brown body. We checked our books and think it could be a “Hammerhead” which we know is to be found close to La Gomera
  • Lots of lizards. Some endemic to the Canary islands.
  • Spotted dolphin
  • Sea turtle
  • We finally got a good book for identifying the fish we see during snorkeling and in the clear waters in the harbors. The trumpet fish is a favorite.
  • Our Greek Basil got sick and had to be thrown away. Maybe some seeds that we saved and some leaves/branches can give us a new fresh start.

 Gastronomy

  • Almogrotes (new green variant of goats chees, herbs and olive oil). We managed to find a small Spanish cook book with the recipe.
  • Almejas in marinade. A fantastic dish we got in the small fishing village close to San Miguel. We also had some very good fish marinated the same way in a warm sauce made of olive oil, spices, tomatoes, onions, chorizo (we guess due to color).
  • Tuna carpaccio: also in San Miguel. It seems that San Miguel/Los Abrigos is the Tenerife mecca for fish and shellfish.

Until next time,

BR, Eva &Peter

Santa Cruz de Tenerife

Sardines lining up, we can hear the nibbling sound from inside the yacht

Hola,

As always we left our quiet marina this morning with a nice forecast. In fact the wind was actually southwest for a while. We where heading for Santa Cruz de Tenerife, 40 nm north of San Miguel Marina. Heading north/northwest this time of the year is almost guaranteeing heading against the trade winds. Well, we enjoyed the two hours of downwind sailing. After turning around the south tip of Tenerife we got the “standard treat”. In addition to 30-40 knots winds against the nose we had a 1-2 knot current against the wind creating a chaotic wave pattern. We confess – we motored against this nightmare of waves. Honestly we are actually very grateful having a traditional full keel / skeg / rudder design in addition to an 160 hp engine. Making 6 knots on average speed over ground in these conditions is actually very impressive.

We are now safely moored at Santa Cruz Marina, looking forward to sightseeing tomorrow.

Tenerife – one Canary island left to go …

Los Abrigos, fishing harbor also used for water sport

We left San Sebastian, La Gomera yesterday morning after carefully studying the weather reports, current state of acceleration zones, wave and swell heights, etc. Three met sources all gave the green light. Two days before we left, weather forecasts warned about “fenómeno costero”, eng “coastal warnings”, which was explained to be warning for large waves. This warning was lifted the day before we left. Well, the “fenómeno” was still very active when we rounded the long breakwater of Gomera. Short, steep waves, between 2-3 meter, on the beam. Before we managed to steer down wind / waves we got plenty of water in to our centre cockpit. Good news was that we cleaned the drains just a couple of days ago so no water came inside the boat. Wind forecast was 10 knots. Actual wind (gusts) became 40 knots. After 1/2 hour, the wind decided to follow the weather forecast so we got a nice reach allowing fishing – but no luck. San Miguel Marina at the southern coast of Tenerife turned out to be a very nice and protected marina. Surroundings a bit touristy, two golf resorts as close neighbours and the usual, gated community style apartment hotels with restaurants in abundance. Having passed by Playa Americas, Los Gigantes on our way here we have a feeling San Miguel is far less exploited than the south west coast. We will stay here until Friday, amongst other things we need to make some serious bunkering of food and drinks.

Fight against the heat

Prototyping windshield cover

We know many friends from Scandinavia complain about the cold summer – so we hope this post doesn’t offend you. Equally, the Canaries, where we are right now, has not very extreme heat compared to mainland Spain and the Caribbean. Still, we don’t enjoy temp below deck that is 30 C or more, especially not during the night. Right now we are experimenting with sun shields, normally used to cover the front windshield of cars, to cover the windows of our pilothouse. So far it looks promising! We have also invested in a standard ventilation fan only requiring 50 W on the highest rpm.

Otherwise, we are now back in San Sebastian, La Gomera, yesterday taking a bus to Vallehermoso in the north. A scary trip on winding roads, but the scenery was fantastic, this part of the island being famous for vineyards. The north east part of La Gomera has much more rainfall compared to southeast, south and west, meaning more green colours. The last couple of days we have also got the spinackerboom bracket repaired. We tried to get information from a large Swedish rigging company since 16 days so fallback was to have a local mechanic to make a new bracket replacing the fragile, aluminium with stainless steel. No doubt for a fraction of what xxx would charge, excluding freight and customs costs. Also got the engine valves adjusted to get rid of a annoying noise and some abnormal exhaust smoke.

Prototyping windshield cover

Prototyping windshield cover

Fan - making a difference below deck

Fan – making a difference below deck

Anchored @ Valle Gran Rey, La Gomera

On our way back to San Sebastian, la Gomera, where our repaired spinnaker boom bracket is waiting, we stopped by Valle Gran Rey for a couple of days anchoring and snorkeling. Water is crystal clear at 12 m depth so no problem to see chain and anchor from deck. Water temp according to our Raymarine log/depth sensor reads 29.5 C but it seems correct readings should be 25 C. Nevertheless refreshing and we are probably having 10 dives / swims per day. Our stopover coincided with a live music festival, as always ending around 5 am but the music was really good. It must be an age thing – we are less positive towards disco music (even louder) playing to 7-8 in the morning.

Valle Gran Rey

Valle Gran Rey

Virgen del Carmen – Tazacorte, La Palma

034A couple of days, several fishing boats in the Tazacorte marina have played extremely loud latino music and tested microphones. Today and in particular this evening we understood the reason why. Today is the local holiday of Virgen del Carmen, a religious festivity devoted to the safety of seamen. The celebrations included a lot of people diving in to the harbour water, a madonna (Carmen) carried from a nearby church to a fishing vessel, and as mentioned a lot of music. Attached is a video clip of the procession passing by our boat on their way out on the bay.

La Palma, muchas bananas

Banana fields surrounding the Port of Tazacorte

Banana fields surrounding the Port of Tazacorte

We have now arrived at the northwestern part of the Canaries, La Palma and the village of Tazacorte. This small town/village on the west coast of La Palma is known for the enormous fields of Banana plantation. We are surrounded everywhere by Banana trees, even small houses uses spare ground to grow bananas. At the moment we are trying to cope with hot and very humid weather so our makeshift Bimini (sun cover) is on. The water temp is close to 30 C and the water is unfortunately not very clear, we think it is because of the agriculture drainage. On our 65 nm sail yesterday from San Sebastian, La Gomera, we saw a couple of large shoals of Dolphins, both large Bottlenose and Atlantic Spotted Dolphins. The sail was again a “performance sail”, we had max reefed sails and still averaged 9+ knots for more than an hour, with max speed 11.7 knots. A big reason was a 1-2.5 knot northerly current so we shouldn’t brag too much about it. We are planning to stay a week here and explore the island by bus and hikes. Hiking is a big attraction on this island with more than 1000 km well marked trails. The island has the second highest mountain in the Canaries of ca 2500 meters. Close to the peak are a number of astronomy installations, built and operated by different European countries, including Sweden. Apparently, as a contrast to the humidity at sea level, the environment at these sites is very well suited for astronomical purposes.

La Gomera

Mirador / Parador La Gomera. Teide, the 3700 m high peak of Tenerife visible in the horizon to the left

Since end of last week we are at San Sebastian Marina, La Gomera. We had a long day sail from Puerto de Mogán, Gran Canarias, experiencing two acceleration zones, with x-beam winds gusts of 40 knots. Good news was that the seas didn’t build corresponding waves so the sail was fast but not very uncomfortable with 30 degree healing at times but no breaking waves. La Gomera is a very different treat comparing to Gran Canarias. Small village atmosphere, all people you meet greet you, very few non Spanish tourists (at least here in San Sebastian).  Beaches here are made from volcanic sand, i.e. black sand and visibility in the water has not been very good as compared to Puerto Mogán. The island is definitely of volcanic origin with the highest peak of close to 1500 meters but due to topology, all roads go through a hub at the center of the island, meaning driving to a sea town, 10 nm from our marina takes close to two hours. Yesterday we took such a bus ride to Valle Gran Rey. We are both used to sheer heights, but this trip was something extraordinary. Roads very narrow, standard length bus, driving on roads that would be rated bicycle standard in northern Europe – wow! Anyway, a fantastic treat costing us 5 Euro each, and memory for life. Driving around Grand Madeira two months ago, we thought Madeira was a Europe record of greenhouse feeling. Yesterday´s bus trip crossing part of “Parque Nacional Garajonay” raised the bar. The luscious, intense greenery consists of a variety of trees and plants, which grow there because of the high percentage of humidity and mist together with a constant temp all year round. The National Park is an ecological treasure which was declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986. Valle Gran Rey turned out to be a nice village with a lot of German tourists and permanent residents.
Yesterday we met with Richard, the owner of  a British flagged daycruiser rigged with game fish equipment. Richard was very happy and explained the two flags at the top of the fishing gear rods, one white and one red, both with Blue Marlin logos. Yesterday they caught a 550 pound (250 kg) Blue Marlin. The red flag indicated they were able to release the big fish alive after one hour fight, which by the way is law in the Canaries from a certain size/weight. Just before this huge catch they had a much larger Blue Marlin on the hook, estimated to 1000 pounds or more, that slipped away in the end. Richard explained these huge fish can become very dangerous as they can jump in to the boat and with a couple of hundred kilos of muscles. We were offered to join him next week, just sharing the fuel costs. We would love to but if we do, there is a risk we have to stay one more week due to stronger winds and swell coming in the next couple of days.

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