Atlantic Ocean Departure...For Real: December 22 2010


The morning Rum Runner's Net has extended from roughly 20 minutes to 60 minutes in order to check-in all boats; 30+ boats underway and a dozen or more still in the Canaries...lots of traffic out there with conditions as expected...light winds followed by winds on the nose that encourage a fuel stop in the Cape Verdes.  We check weather gribs daily for our own weather window but any sort of certainty continues to be elusive...Christmas in the Canaries...holy cow?!  Following the Net we generally head off the boat to enjoy the beautiful sunny days.  The benefit of calm conditions for us was an idyllic walk along the ocean cliffs of San Sebastian (Dec 13).  We watched as sea gulls flew on air currents BELOW our trail and marveled at the rugged beauty of the southeastern shoreline.  


Continued good weather meant another stellar hike (Dec 14).  We headed out with Kimberly (weather guru/humorist, s/v Swanya) and Deb & Terry (s/v Wings) on the 9.30am bus to the village of Agulo.  We did the Agulo circuit hike #42 which climbed a vertical cliff face trail invisible from street level.  This inability to spot the trails until we are on them is hard to get our heads around...especially because most of the trail for hike #42 was paved in cobblestones.  The hike began with a steep ascent on rock "stairs."  Every step provided picturesque views of Agulo in the foreground and spectacular Mt Teide in the distance...but it's important to stay focused.  A missed step would be a doosey of a fall.  Here and there was the odd palm tree or eucalyptus but banana plantations and terraced agriculture dominated the area.  We enjoyed partly cloudy skies that were perfect for our four hour hike with 3000 foot grade change.  At one point the red dirt resembled sand...a result of erosion...with countless seedling plantings attempting to stabilize the ground.  The finale of the hike was just as steep...and the beginning.  So much for Erin's belief that it would be relatively flat.  Back down to where we began in the charming town of Agulo with its narrow cobblestone streets and colorfully painted and wooden shuttered was time for lunch.  We lingered at Lila's Bar before taking the 4.30pm bus back to San Sebastian.  We arrived at Lila's close to siesta closing which meant the bar's sole proprietor delivered our orders, tallied our bill and locked up...but told us we were welcome to stay as long as we liked.  Before he left he gave us a demonstration of the island's whistling language called Silbo.  No joke...his whistles echoed loudly and clearly through the hills.  The Silbo language contains four vowels and four consonants that are whistled across the ravines and valleys of La Gomera.  Our hikes have shown us the lengthy process involved in getting from point A to point B...even in a bus on paved roads.  Silbo was, and is, their version of cell phones...passing messages across the island over inaccessible terrain.  Historically, Silbo is believed to have originated with the island's Berber ancestors of the Atlas Mountains of Morocco.  The language almost died out until the local government introduced the technique to children in elementary school.  As a matter of fact, the current Silbo champion is eight year old Carlo.  Too cool!  


We woke up this morning for the third straight day with weather gribs showing a December 23 departure (eight days away).  We are skeptical about getting too excited but we cannot help being hopeful.  However, a sobering reminder to "be patient" arrived via email from a fellow cruiser we have known since Gib.  They arrived in Antigua (today) after a 30 day passage from La Gomera with many periods of calm and several 50 or 60 mile days...eeek...not the passage we are hoping for (Dec 16).  Another morning, another grib and the 23rd is still intact as a departure date (Dec 18).  We are starting to become jolly and built upon the feeling with a dinner in town followed by a holiday concert performed by musical groups from all over the island.  Dinner was another great meal at Tasca Salamandra.  It was our third visit and still not a disappointed taste bud in sight.  Pig knuckle was the big winner for Erin...meat so tender that it literally fell off of the bone and fat so soft that it melts in your mouth...but Chris' banana chicken curry or steak with roquefort sauce were pretty good, too.  The evening felt Christmas-y with plenty of decorations around town.  'Tis the season!  The mood continued to be festive at the outdoor concert which was kicked off by a fireworks show.  Concert performers wore traditional costumes and the audience wore stylish modern finery.  We did not know any of the songs but the night felt nice.  


With our eyes now fully focused on a departure date we began last minute tasks; Chris scrubbed the bottom of the boat (it looked pretty good but we want all the speed we can possibly get), Erin did a bit more provisioning (yes of course another bag of coffee, roll of TP, block of butter and bottle of pasta sauce can be added) well as general boat policing to reduce topples at sea (Dec 19).  But it was not all work as we ended the day with Kimberly and Mark for dinner aboard s/v Swanya.  We arrived with homemade egg nog as Christmas tunes were playing in the salon.  It was warm and cozy inside as periodic and chilly rain showers fell outside.  The next morning we planned on laundry...but dock water was "off."  Hhhmmm, that's a first and rescheduled our day a bit (Dec 20).  There is a definite buzz of energy in the marina with extra smiles and laughter as Mother Nature exhibits some longed for consistency.  We made a preliminary call to Commander's Weather who concurred with our departure on Thursday, December 23 (  It was a final run to the fresh fruit and vegetable stand, speedo inserted back into the hull, engines and generator turned over for good measure and we were ready to go.  Yes, being greeted by and queued up like locals by the fresh grocer and butcher means we have been here...too long?! 

There are a few jitters but mostly we are excited to begin the Atlantic passage and arrive in the Caribbean.  The distance from La Gomera to Antigua is 2800 miles...and we have been staring at it solidly for over a month.  It's time to go and Mother Nature agrees...December 23 it is.  We will follow a well worn path; head south until the butter melts then take a right.  Specifically, our plan is to motor and/or sail south to approx 200 miles north of the Cape Verdes, take a right and continue west to Antigua. The beginning is expected to be light winds but filling in on or after day no.2.  There will be a cross current swell due to a large low pressure system way north which may make it an uncomfortable ride...but the swell seems to be the price to pay this year for the passage.  We will check in daily with the Rum Runner's net at 0900 at 6516.0 on the SSB as well as update daily our position on this website.  Fair winds, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!  Tomorrow we leave for Antigua and hope to arrive January 12-ish.

Egg Nog (from Alton Brown): 4 eggs, separated; 1/3 cup and 1 Tablespoon sugar; 1 pint whole milk; 1 cup heavy cream; 1 teaspoon nutmeg; bourbon (Jim Beam or Jack Daniel's if you've got it).  1) Place  egg yolks into mixer until lighten in color.  Gradually add 1/3 cup sugar and beat until completely dissolved.  Set aside.  2) Combine milk, cream and nutmeg in medium saucepan.  Bring just to boil, stirring occasionally.  3) Remove from heat and gradually add hot mix into egg mixture.  Return all back into saucepan and cook to 160 degrees F.  4) Place in the refrigerator to chill.  5) Whisk egg whites to soft peaks.  With mixer running add 1 Tablespoon sugar and continue whisking until stiff peaks are formed.  6) Whisk egg whites into chilled mixture.  7) Ladle into cups and top with a touch of nutmeg.  Note: add bourbon to taste when mixing egg whites and chilled mixture or on a glass by glass basis.


Twas two nights before Christmas, when all through Gomera
Not a cruiser was stirring, the trade winds were late.
The sails were hung on the rigging with care
In the hopes that the zephyr soon would be there.

The cruisers were nestled all snug in their beds.
While visions of mahi and wahoo danced in their heads.
The admiral in her socks and me dreaming of weather,
Had just settled down for our last night together.

When out on the ocean there arose such a clatter,
I sprang to the deck to see what was the matter.
Away to the cockpit I flew in the buff,
Tore open the hatch, my neighbors saw enough.

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny crabs.
With a strong old driver so lively and blue,
I knew in a moment it must be Neptune.
More rapid than eagles his crustaceans they came,
And he whistled and shouted and called them by name.

Now Naya! Now Wings! Now Barefeet and Swanya!
On Alexina, on Canace, on Allegra and Liberte!
To the top of the swell! To the top of the wave!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the dodger
The prancing and scratching of each little claw.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around
Down the rigging came Neptune on the deck in a bound.

He was dressed all in salt spray, from his head to his foot,
And his body was gleaming with dew drops and kelp.
A bundle of weather he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes how they twinkled! His jaw set with purpose.
His cheeks were like oysters, his nose like a pearl.
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bowline,
And the beard of his chin was as white as a squall line.

The staff of his trident held tight in his fist,
And the mist, it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and six pack abs,
That flexed when he laughed like a line under load.

He was strong and secure, a right god of the sea,
And I shuddered when I saw him, in spite of my fleece.
A wink of his eye, and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work.
He filled all the sails, then turned with a jerk.
And giving a nod, up the rigging he rose.

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all swam without leaving a ripple.
But I heard him exclaim, as he turned with a wink,
"Merry Christmas to all and please don't sink!"