Morocco to the Canary Islands

We would have liked to spend a bit more time in Morocco, but with a forecast for a few days of fresh northeasterlies, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have tailwinds that would give us a swift passage all the way to the Canary Islands, 450 miles to the southwest.
Our final sendoff from Rabat was from a large German Shepherd with dirty paws who had a sniff around the boat before we left to make sure we were not exporting any contraband from Morocco.
Winds were light as we motored out over the shallow Bouregreg River bar, but filled in within a few hours and by late afternoon the breeze was in the high teens to low 20 knot range and we were moving along quite nicely.
We carried on with the starboard gybe until we were more than 50 miles off the coast of Morocco so as to avoid the poorly marked drift (fishing) nets that some cruisers had reportedly gotten fouled in their props or rudders. The seas kicked up to 2-4 meters and were steepened by a knot of north-setting counter current. It was still a reasonably fast ride but by no means comfortable with the seas on our beam.
We gybed over to port the following evening just before sunset and began heading due south. The winds piped up that night to over 30 knots at times and we had some nice surfs in the 16-17 knot range with just working sails.
We gybed back on to starboard the next morning, hoping to lay the channel between Lanzarote and Graciosa Islands, but the counter current had set us a bit off our ideal gybe angle. The wind backed throughout the day and we nearly laid our landfall waypoint, but at 0330 the next morning we were still a ways off course, closing in on land and had to start the engine to hold a proper course. The barren volcanic islands resembled a moonscape, particularly when viewed through the monochromatic image of the night vision scope. Landfall was straight forward and easy and we arrived at Playa Francesca at 0530 and anchored just on the edge of the fleet of 40-odd boats that had preceded us to the Canary Islands. Although the rhumb line was about 450 miles, our actual log was 525 miles with the gybes, and we averaged 8.2 knots on the course sailed.
After a bit of rest and a bath for Moonshadow, we were ready to take part in the sundowner beach party that had become a daily event for the cruisers. Playa Francesca is a favorite of cruisers as it is a beautiful anchorage in the shadow of a volcano on the southeast side of Graciosa Island. There is provisioning in a nearby town and the protection is good against the prevailing northeasterlies.
It was great to catch up with cruising friends, new and old as we reached the end of our cruising season and began to prepare for the passage across the Atlantic Ocean. In the anchorage was Kurt and Katie Braun’s Deerfoot 74 Interlude and Steve and Linda Dashew on their FPB 83 Wind Horse. Steve took some excellent photos of Moonshadow which can be viewed at SetSail » Blog Archive » Deerfoot 2-62 Moonshadow
The breeze freshened and clocked to the east that night, leaving the fleet on a precarious lee shore. We were fortunate to be on the outer edge so it was easy for us to pick up the anchor and head across the channel to better and safer protection off Playa del Risco. The brown cliffs and blue waters made for some great photo ops.
After a couple of days of R & R and catching up with friends it was time for us to move on. We motored in light air all the way to Porto Calero, on the other side of Lanzarote, where we met our friend and ARC crew Charles, who had sailed down from the UK on a Swan 66 and had been looking after her while he awaited our arrival. We spent five days in Porto Calero waiting out some unsettled weather and doing some land touring before we returned to Playa Francesca for a couple more beach parties with our cruising friends.
A fresh breeze out of the east made Playa Francesca untenable but we found calm and safe anchoring across the channel at Playa del Risco. We had arrived after a no-sleep night at anchor for most of the fleet so we had the beach to ourselves that night. The wind calmed the next evening so we returned to Francesca and caught up with friends one last time before heading out to Las Palmas.
The next morning we had a nice breeze from the north so we decided to check our downwind sails. Steve and Linda on Wind Horse followed us for a bit and Steve got a bunch of nice shots of Moonshadow sailing with her spinnakers. We made it to Punta Papagayo on the south end of Lanzarote in time for happy hour on Wind Horse.
We set off at sunrise the next morning and had an excellent sail down to the bottom of Isla Fuerteventura, covering about 80 miles under sail before sunset where we took anchorage in a bight near the southwest tip, behind a narrow spit of land off the village of Puertito.
We started early the next morning and with a rolly beam sea made it across to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria where we topped off the fuel tanks and moored along the outer quay amongst the largest yachts in the ARC fleet.
We arrived in Las Palmas with nearly two weeks of time up our sleeves to take care of last minute maintenance, repair and preparations, complete our provisioning, attend a series of excellent ARC seminars and, of course, to socialize with other ARC sailors at daily pre-rally happy hours, parties and crew dinners.
The start of the 25th annual ARC Rally from Las Palmas to Rodney Bay, St. Lucia (approximately 2700 nautical miles) is at 1300 GMT on Sunday, 21 November.

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