One circumnavigation done, one to go

Toasting Mark’s sailing circumnavigation. Laura’s is not yet completed.

About 15 years ago, in November 2003, Mark left the Canaries heading west aboard Sabbatical III. On August 16th, he arrived in the Canaries from the east, closing the circle of a sailing circumnavigation. Very cool. My (Laura) completion of a sailing circumnavigation will have to wait until late December, when we arrive in Martinique after crossing the Atlantic from the Canary Islands.

We left Marina Alcaidesa on the Mediterranean side of the Gibraltar at first light of August 12. This was the best time to leave in order to have the least adverse current through the Straits. The trip west through the Straits is literally uphill. The Atlantic side of the Straits of Gibraltar is as much as 10 feet higher than the Mediterranean side. Consequently, the current almost always runs from west to east. We left when there was an especially high tidal variation due to the phase of the moon. That means the high tide in the Atlantic is higher than on most days, but also that the low tide is lower than on most days. Mark used detailed current predictions generated by David Gal of Israel and available from to time our departure and course. They were very accurate.

Shipping in the Straits of Gibraltar partially obscured by fog

Our passage through the Straits also benefited from strong easterlies. There was a lot of ship traffic as expected, but with AIS it was not a problem even with patchy fog. You certainly have to stay on guard throughout, especially when crossing to the Moroccan side of the Straits. By about noon we were officially in the Atlantic and were sailing smoothly with speeds up to 9 knots.

The next morning we encountered a serious westerly swell and confused seas that was quite uncomfortable. I got very sea-sick (and threw up for the first time I can remember on the boat). It was not a good day for me as my sea-sickness was pretty debilitating. The hours dragged on, and my only respite was when I could sleep (which was quite often). Mark took extra long watches that allowed me to rest.

By the morning of the third day things were much better as northerly winds and seas came up. We put our big genoa on a pole and set the mizzen with a preventer and stayed with that sail configuration the rest of the passage. The wind increased to 25 knots but it was comfortable and we made such good speed that we had to slow down by triple reefing our sails on the fourth day so as not to arrive in the dark. Even with a triple reefed genoa and mizzen it was hard to go slower than about 5.5 to 6 knots.

The anchorage at Francesa Bay, Graciosa Island (Canary Islands)
Happy sailors smile after their four day passage

There was no moon so we were very glad that we had timed our arrival for first light  so that we could navigate through the channel with good visibility before dropping anchor in Francesa Bay in Graciosa Island. Graciosa Island lies at the northern end of Lanzarote Island and its waters are a marine preserve. Only one or two other sailboats were at anchor for the three nights that we were there. We were surprised by how barren these volcanic islands are, and how cool the temperatures are. On the fourth day in the Canaries we proceeded to the southern end of Lanzarote Island and anchored for the night at Playa Papagayo. The wind shifted 180 degrees a few times in the evening and our anchor chain wrapped around some volcanic rocks. A British sailor in a nearby boat spent 45 minutes in the water with a snorkel mask giving us directions to unwind our chain from the rocks.

Lanzarote Island as seen from Francesa Bay, Graciosa Island
Lanzarote Island as seen from Francesa Bay, Graciosa Island
View from anchorage at Francesa Bay

The next morning (yesterday) we entered the nearby Marina Rubicon where we will be based for the next few months. This looks like a lovely place to spend time. I am particularly happy with the swimming pool. More on Lanzarote later.


Marina Rubicon, Lanzarote
Marina Rubicon, Lanzarote
Sunset from the breakwater at Marina Rubicon, Lanzarote