Dolphins in Scotland

Homeward Bound

Throughout March, Bessie Ellen & her voyage crew, journeyed 1300 NM from Tenerife to Fowey and Nikki offers a brief insight into the voyage.

Departing from the main city of Santa Cruz with a good quartering breeze, our brave little ketch handled the huge swells with relative ease, eating up the miles leaving the snow covered peak of Mount Teide far astern. We knew we were in for a fast passage with SW winds pushing us on towards the Portuguese coast. Also in our minds was the fact that our sunny days with sparkling blue oceans would soon be far behind with only colder and grey covered skies as we journeyed onwards.

Canary Islands sunshine header

Arrival in Cascais one evening gave us some concern when we were denied a berth in any of the ports surrounding Lisbon, all due to the expected gale over the next days. In desperation, Nikki contacted an agent who soon secured a place in the very comfortable Cascais Marina. Always a delight, Cascais is one of our favourite ports, with her quiet narrow streets and sandy beaches on the seafront, it’s not hard to be stuck here to wait out a gale. Our second leg would take us from the Mouth of the Tagus following the coast up to Finisterre, and then across the dreaded Biscay. This leg we had a bit of a motor sail as light winds to start with the forecast of a coming gale from the North made us hurry on a bit.

Rough Seas in the canaries

A brief stop was made in La Coruna where it poured with rain for a day, and then onwards across the Continental Shelf. We started off with an uncomfortable sea close inshore that soon dissipated into flat calm for a few days. Some stunning encounters with dolphins elated the voyage crew for hours as they raced under the bow in spuming foam. And yes, the skies were grey and it was so cold, night watches passed slowly but at least for the most we were dry. An overnight stay in Camaret was most welcome before our final night passage across the channel – it could not have been more perfect with such clear skies and a good breeze, voyage crew, happy in their work looking back over the last weeks together as Bessie Ellen stormed into Fowey under all canvas, happy to be home.

We are now looking forward to our Scottish voyages, which start in a couple of weeks – we make our way to Oban on the 28th of April, with our first Hebrides tour beginning on the 12th May (there are still two berths remaining on this trip if you fancy a last minute adventure). We do only have a few voyages with spaces remaining, so head over to our voyage schedule to find out which ones.

View of Scottish isles from Bessie Ellen

Christmas in the Canaries

I see you are all having a pretty cold winter in Northern Europe! Here in the south of Tenerife, the sun continues to shine daily and temperatures rarely drop below 19 degrees. Warm, dry weather for us means maintenance, and one of the reasons for journeying to this part of the world is to spend hours varnishing and painting without the threat of rain or damp getting in to our hard work.

collage of maintenance work done on board bessie ellen

For the last three weeks, Karena, Niels and myself have been sanding and scraping back hatches, bulwarks bowsprits and winches and I must say Bessie Ellen looks gleaming. Well done guys. Sailing starts again on Saturday and we have a new crew, Felix from France who sailed with Bel Espoir and Etoile Polaire. He joins for a few months before heading for Belem.

Three weeks have disappeared since Christmas and New Year holidays – which were fabulous, both voyages. The Christmas voyage took us over to La Palma to explore Taburente volcano, a hard walk of around 3 hours cresting the top of the island, magical and clear – you feel on top of the world. Christmas was night swimming with stars in the sky and below, the dark nights illuminate not only the skies but the bio-luminescence too. It glows extraordinarily bright, so to dive into the dark waters and create explosions of stardust is just one of those things you have to do.

Christmas in Tenerife

The Crew welcomed New Year in San Sebastian – as usual the Gomeran sprit was ready to party. After a super dinner on board and plenty of party games and Cava, the hour came to leave and join the crowds ashore. The first to arrive, Niels proceeded to hand out mojitos to get the party started. The live band kicked off with some funky salsa and the new year was brought in with a fantastic firework display over the bay. Dancing continued most of the night with some of our stalwart crew coming home around 4. However, the rest of the week was pretty relaxing in the bays of Gomera, swimming and sailing in 38 knots of wind!

Canaries houses

I am looking at the calendar and realising it’s not so long before we begin the journey home to Fowey. Time has passed so fast here, but we are excited to see our home shores again.
Ocean voyages are the reason for sailing – each voyage becoming a unique experience on the blue wandering sea. Days pass along with the rhythm of the swell that rolls by and Bessie Ellen’s routine of watches, maintenance, food and sleep takes effect and carries off all the threat of the modern busy world. Bessie Ellen will leave the islands in early March to cover 1200NM, heading for a short stop in Madeira, before turning towards Cascais for a crew change. From Cascais, the ship will sail as the weather allows, heading out into the ocean to tack agains the prevailing North wind before reaching the Westerlies of Biscay and onwards towards the channel. Of course at this time of year the winds can be changeable, but the crew are young, strong and willing, and the ship’s satellite communications give regular updates of weather. If you have never experienced life aboard a ketch at sea but think you may like to join us, do please give me a call to discuss if the voyage is suitable, as we do have places available to join.