Several sailors in Mindelo looked at me weary when I told them I wanted to sail back to the Canary Islands. Some told me that one sailor needed 17 days to sail back. Others said not to be surprised if I returned in two days after eight days beating into the wind. None of these remarks really put my at ease. However, Wim was free to join me for the challenge and Ruud was busy looking for the right moment to sail and having all the confidence in a swift return, possibly within 10 days. Ruud’s confidence about the sailing capabilities of Senja had grown during the last months and never ceased to surprise him with the speed of the boat.
When Wim arrived on Wednesday, the time to sail was not right, Ruud warned. Too strong a wind. Better stay until after the weekend leaving Wim and I with the possibility for some sightseeing. Wim was keen to see and hike on Santo Antao, so we did a wonderful two day tour. Rest of the days we spent with studying the weather forecast, enjoying our afternoon swim in the ocean and the restaurants at night.
During our trip with the ferry back from Santo Antao to Sao Vicente we had a north east 6 to 7 Beaufort with a current of at least 1 knot south west going. No favorable conditions to sail away from the two islands since the wind will blow 10 knots harder between them due to the tunneling effect between the two islands. All in all it eat at my confidence. Would we be able to make it?
However, time came to leave. Ruud told us a very convenient weather slot had started with moderate north east wind of 15 to 20 knots, with periods of calm, good for us to recuperate from beating into the wind. The question for me was how close to the wind could we sail with Senja, taking into account the opposite current and the waves, at least one meter high.
Aiming for 10 days at sea but keeping reserve for more we set sail on Tuesday 3 October. The wind was about 15 knots as Ruud had predicted. Sailing away from the two islands proved to be indeed not easy. With the opposite current it took us four hours to get 15 miles made good in north east direction. Not too swift. But then the wind died out and we motored a relaxed 4 miles an hour in the right direction. So we got away from Sao Vicente and when the wind started again, more north than east, we sailed 24 hours in easterly direction above the cape Verde islands. After that we were able to tack to a good northerly course for more than four days. A very good wind ward performance of Senja! With some days of calms we arrived after only eight days at El Hierro! An incredible fast journey, well prepared and well forecasted by Ruud!
But our sail was not only endurance if at all. Wim and I settled in a relaxed rhythm of doing our watches of four hours, having our five a clock treat ( one beer and snacks) and enjoying our diner. Not too complicated but nutritious. The nights I liked to most. The temperatures are good, the scenery great and the general atmosphere on board very peaceful.
After we arrived at El Hierro, I had the boat layed up for the winter and Wim and I took the ferry to Tenerife from where we flew back next day to Holland. We had to stay one night in Tenerife before we could take our plane. In the next morning Wim and I enjoyed a small hike along the coast of Tenerife looking at all the hotels, wondering who on earth would appreciate this kind of mass tourist industry? Probably many, looking at the huge number of hotels. Wim remarked looking at the chairs from one of the many hotels that being stuffed in an airplane to get here to get stuffed in a hotel in the same way. Not our kind of fun.
Anyway, I am back in Holland to enjoy winter with my wife. I will return to El Hierro in March to continue my sail around the Atlantic Islands, possibly among the Azores. For now, thanks for all the nice remarks and attention for my site.