February 2019 – El Hierro

To Madeleine

 

We were supposed to stay only a few days in El Hierro. But as always, when we try to plan something…

February 4th – La Estaca

Coming from La Gomera with a very shitty weather, we decide to stop at the first harbour we see, La Estaca. Big mistake! The marina is new, nothing to say on the facilities, but it is completely and utterly empty… In the middle of nowhere, not a single shop or bar or restaurant around, it is just a ferry terminal with a few buses a day going to the nearest town. We hitchhike to said town, but since it is Sunday and 4 o’clock in the afternoon, everything is closed.

 

Still, it is good to rest. A few rental boats arrive, one of which sailed by Russian people who look in trouble.

  • them – Do you know where we can find a sailmaker here?
  • Us – Ahem, on Tenerife maybe?
  • Them – Our Genoa is torn, the rental company said they wouldn’t do anything, but it is really dangerous to bring the boat back like this…
  • Us – Marion did a bit of sail repair training, maybe she could take a look? We may have enough material to repair it!

3 hours later, their genoa is as good as new! They thank me with 2 bottles of wine and a nice crispy note, a thousand thanks to them and safe travels!

 

February 6th – La Restinga

Chloé and Julien go for a hike around the island, we decide to sail to the other port on the south coast, La Restinga. We hope to find a bit more life there, dive spots, and maybe meet Jules who arrived a few days before.

Getting there is not so easy: night trip, 25-knots wind and a big swell. We moor as best we can at the ferry dock, really not ideal for sailing boats, and decide we’ll wait the next day to find a better spot.

When we wake up, we finally discover the small, remote and preserved town of La Restinga. It’s love at first sight! There is half a dozen boats in the marina, and contact is as natural as it is friendly. Coffee in the morning aboard Venus II, lunch on Aukena, a kefir on Maïna and a big BBQ all together on the beach at night. Days go smoothly and nights sometimes drunkenly. Mousse gets to have her first feline encounter, ends up taking a few blows, but in the end I’m sure Fatima and her loved each other.

Diving-wise, the place is incredible. The island being volcanic, the rock formations are mesmerizing, the fish crazy-coloured, all of this with 50-meters visibility. The Green Shark is a 5-star PADI centre run by a very nice Swiss guy, Alexis. When he tells me that he also offers the Divemaster internship deal, I kind of regret not having done it here, not because of the training (the one we had in GC was the best we could have asked for), but because the dive spots are so incredible here!

We are not really sure we are allowed to dive in the harbour (all the coast is a natural reserve and we cannot get a straight answer), but we decide to do it anyways. It is the perfect opportunity to do a first dive with Julien and Chloé, whose underwater experience is basically putting on a mask and tuba once in a lake.

We put our fresh training to good use, and even inside the port, we manage to see a few rays and a turtle!

 

February 9th – Back to France, again

My grandmother Madeleine passed away earlier this week. At 96 years old, she was a fierce and remarkably clever woman, Antoine an I will miss her dearly.

I hop on a plane to spend some time with my family. Meanwhile, Antoine stays on Aukena with Chloé, Julien and Mousse, they work so that everything is ready to leave Europe.

 

February 19th – Crossing to Senegal

We leave Europe behind with heavy hearts. We are not about to it again… There are 800 Nm between El Hierro and Dakar, we have to go a bit further offshore around Mauritania because of pirates.

The sailing is very smooth, the wind is steady if not very strong for the first five days. Spinnaker, one night with the engine on, it is nice.

The full moon is with us from 9pm on the first days, illuminating everything like it’s a bloody hospital, I hate it.

Fishing-wise, it is a catastrophe: the reel rings at least once a day, but each and every time the line breaks, no matter what type of lure. At some point, we fight 20 min with a huge tuna of at least 20kg, that breaks free 2 meters away from the boat. We even come across a dolphin more stupid than usual, who leaves with 200 meters of line and our best lure… It is only on the 6th day that we finally catch a small but nice tuna, about 2.5kg!

At least we still have dolphins…

 

February 27th – Dakar

Nothing on earth is more frustrating than having to slow down your boat to avoid arriving at night somewhere. But that is exactly what we have to do here on the last 24 hours: the harmattan wind is rising, we fly at 7-knot speed towards Dakar, with an ETA at 2am. Knowing the bay is filled with nets and fishermen, none of which have lights, it really isn’t a good idea. We reef almost all the main and ¾ of the genoa, and continue at 4 knots.

The sand wind harmattan is a great wind to pick up speed, but apart from that, it is the worst thing ever. It carries a very thin orange sand dust from the desert that goes absolutely EVERYWHERE in the boat: clothes, cupboards, sheets, panties, you get my meaning. It’s a nightmare, especially since we are not about to see rain in this part of the globe…

Next article: Dakar, Sine Saloum and Casamance!

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