This is day three of our passage from Rabat, Morocco to the Canary Islands, which will take five days by the time we arrive in Gran Canaria. This is our longest passage yet aboard Tamarisk and even though this is still a relatively short crossing compared to what’s ahead, it’s still proving to be an exercise in patience and mental toughness. The challenges began when we were still in Rabat and planning our exit. We had hoped to leave Rabat on Sunday morning, but when we awoke we were told the port was closed due to big swells left over from the storm offshore. The closure was for good reason. The harbor in Rabat is pathetically shallow (10 feet in parts), so when a swell rolls in, the waves break inside the harbor making passage impossible. Monday morning brought similar conditions, so it was Tuesday before we were finally able to begin our journey to the Canaries, putting us two days behind schedule.
Because the wind forecast showed very light winds near the coast, we headed out about 75 miles offshore where there was a steady 20 knot northerly breeze (a wind is “northerly” when it blows FROM the north), which is just what we need to get down to the Canaries. As we cracked along at a comfortable 8-9 knots yesterday afternoon eating bowl after bowl of Uncle Chris’s delicious beef stew, we looked up at the mainsail and noticed a large rip forming near the very top. We debated the risks and rewards of leaving it up and in about two minutes we were on the deck bringing the sail down as quickly as possible – if we completely destroy the mainsail beyond repair today, our departure across the Atlantic could easily be delayed by a month or more.
Cruising along at 5-6 knots under jib alone with the wind directly aft (behind) was an unpleasant change of pace, or to use a sailing term, “it sucks”. Without the mainsail to stabilize the boat, the swells rock us back and forth relentlessly – if you’ve ever played around on a see-saw for 48 hours straight, you already know that this is the stuff that motion-sickness is made of. As tempting as a second course of Uncle Chris’s stew may sound, we’re still trying to keep it inside our stomachs for now and hope for calmer seas and good motoring conditions tomorrow, which is what the forecast calls for. Our sail repair will probably delay us another couple days in the Canaries, but we’ll be happy to be on solid ground for the last time in this part of the world.