Rejoining Anna M - From El Rompido to the Canaries18th Mar 2003 Anna M spent the winter at El Rompido near Huelva in Andalucia, southern Spain. It is on the estuary of the Rio Piedras, that flows for a few miles parrallel to the coast, only separated from the sea by a narrow sandy spit of dunes and scrub that is a nature reserve. While crossing it to walk along the deserted beach, I think I saw a lynx streak away into the undergrowth. So far the touristic development along the mainland shore is low rise and reasonably in keeping with the traditions of that part of the world, and in winter at least there is still an element of remoteness about the dunes and the little pine trees, and the mud-flats with their teeming bird-life, but the cranes looming behind them hardly give one confidence for the future.
We, Tony Whelan with a home team of Fionnuala, Matthew and myself, rejoined the ship on March 4th, finding her restored to health and strength and looking beautiful as she swung to one of Wolfgang Michalsky's moorings. He had done great work in repairing her, and now there remained just the usual litany of small jobs to prepare for sea again. The weather smiled and the conditions could not have been better. By the evening of the 10th we were ready to go down the river, and we threaded our way between the breakers on the sandbanks at the entrance to regain the open sea at last. It was a beautiful moonlit evening, the only trouble being the absence of wind, although there was still a bit of a slop from the Levanter, the easterly gale that whistles out of the Mediterranean at times.
The wind charts that I had looked at before leaving were not good for the voyage to the Canaries, showing a shallow depression to the west displacing the Azores high, so I was thinking of just heading down to Lagos till we would perhaps get a more promising outlook. However a fine south-easterly breeze soon developed so I decided to make the best of it. By the next evening we were about 50 miles south of Cape St Vincent, but the wind was becoming light southerly or variable, with a sloppy sea as the Atlantic swell quarrelled with the wash still coming down from the straights of Gibraltar.
There followed a difficult couple of days, with a fair bit of motor-sailing, and frequent sail-changes, as tantalising puffs of wind came from one direction or another. However the crew held up well in spite of it, and were rewarded on the morning of the 13th when a NNW breeze kicked in. By noon Anna M was stomping along at 7 knots, and we were beginning to hope for a good blast of the famous Portuguese trade wind to speed us south. Such was the event.
The wind pulled round NE, bringing a fine dusting of sand from the Sahara; the sky remained overcast for much of the time, and we were glad of the regular visitations from dolphins and great shearwaters to lift our hearts, it being quite hard to get confortable with the incessant rolling caused by the following wind. Some of the dolphins were a different breed to the usual commons; though not so very unlike, they were duskier and less defined in their stripes, also a little chunkier. By the book we thought them to be maybe spotted dolphins. I'm positive about the great shearwaters, though I thought they were supposed to be in the south Atlantic at this timeof the year.
Eventually the cloud broke up, but the wind became lig