Life in Santa Cruz

Sep-Dec 2017

Once in a blue moon, it is necessary to do some boat maintenance. A blue moon occurs whenever an expletive is heard.

We had found a Yanmar agent to do the 300 hour engine service, but it took a second visit, emails and phone calls to actually get the work done. However when manãna finally came around, the service was completed, the only issue a suspicion of dirty fuel in one of the tanks (to be investigated).

Meanwhile J embarked on a project to repair our cloth hatch covers, which were worn to tatters, and make new covers for two other hatches. Cloth and tape were procured, and the sewing machine set up on the saloon table.


Refurbished and new-made hatch covers

As we had been out of the UK for over 60 days, EU normal rate data roaming ran out of time, so we bought a 4G SIM card for our pocket wifi device, and used that for internet access. Unfortunately J’s laptop chose this moment to do windows updates, using 2Gb in one session, so we had to go find a better deal. The marina wifi signal only worked right next to the office, and was slow when busy. It cost us around £13 per month for a 7Gb SIM card, which worked well in the boat. Our small invertor is always busy charging one of our phones and other devices! We probably spend about £50 per month in total for communication subscriptions (phones, wifi device, Garmin satellite tracker).

Clothes for hot weather were to be found in the local Chinese quarter, and we located several chandleries and “Ferreterias” (literally ironmongers, but also good places to ferret around in). The nearest supermarket was the Spar shop, with a good paneria nearby, and it was a short walk uphill was the large Dino supermarket. The Carrefour was further away but even larger. Best of all was the covered market, a maze of stalls on two levels, with a very good fish section, and lots of local meat, vegetable and fruit produce. On Sundays this spreads to a huge flea-market occupying the neighbouring streets for half a mile.

Gas was a problem. We have 13Kg Calor Gas propane cylinders, and though these are not available for exchange in Spain we had hoped to be able to get ours refilled. However, since a fatal accident involving a ‘foreign’ cylinder, this has become near impossible to get done. Also the regulations for propane are tighter, so you need a locally recognised gas system certificate in order to buy a propane cylinder. So, after several dead-end searches, we ended up buying 3Kg butane “Gaz” bottles, plus a regulator, and using this to conserve our remaining propane.

Cockroaches were reported (and indeed seen regularly on the dock), so extra precautions were taken to keep them out of Ambition II. All the hatches and side windows have fly-screens, so these were fitted. Some extra mosquito netting was found at a chandlery, an R made up a screen to replace the wash-boards (so that the main companion-way can be shut leaving some essential ventilation). But the main safeguard is general hygiene: keep surfaces clean, avoid leaving dirty dishes or waste food about, check anything coming into the boat (packaging, shoes etc). We also procured some borax, an essential ingredient in cockroach traps, just in case! The reason for their presence on the dock was explained by the arrival of grain ships, unloaded using a grab into lorries on the quay opposite. At the end of the day an old guy was seen with a wheeled shopping bag, filling it with spilled wheat.

IMG_1082_GrainUnloadingUnloading wheat from bulk carrier “Kelly C” of Cowes

Other items on the To Do list included:

  • Hull and deck painting to remove rust or scuff marks
  • Standing rigging checks
  • Check and grease the foresail furlers
  • Fix leaking seal on water tank gauge
  • Test electric bilge pumps, and replace filter
  • Sand and varnish cockpit sides and dorade boxes
  • Grease steering cables
  • Dismantle and service all (10) Lewmar winches
  • Ensure all removable floorboards and seat lockers can be locked down in rough seas
  • Remove Hydrovane rudder for cleaning, and lubricate moving parts.
  • More hull and deck painting…

To find out which tank had dirty fuel, R inspected and changed the primary filters: it was the port tank. It looked like an accumulation of sludge had risen to the level of the output pipe. Furthermore the tank was full to the brim (over 350 litres) so it was necessary to pump some out before removing the main inspection hatch. R made up a cleaning jig with a 12V pump plus a 10 micron filter. Via a small inspection hatch at the highest point in the tank, 150 litres was pumped and filtered into the starboard tank, using a 25 litre can (this took the best part of a day). Then the main inspection hatch was removed (24 bolts and old, hard mastic), and the worst of the sludge sucked out into a can for disposal, using just the pump. Next, the diesel in the bottom was hoovered up through the filter and recycled back to the tank. Perhaps because of the high temperature and fortunately a bit of sea breeze, the diesel smell in the boat soon dissipated once the hatches were re-fitted and sealed, and the splashes cleaned up. Not a fun job though!

One day in late October we took the bus, with A from SV Fortino,  along the coast to a small volcanic cone called Malpais de Guimar. Here we followed the marked paths across the lava field by the sea, and around the base of the cone. As always the geology was interesting, and also the irrigation channels that had once collected water from the cone and distributed to terraces of volcanic sand, long since abandoned. The lava often formed cavities, and down by the sea these had been adapted as fishermen’s huts and even dwellings, still in use in spite of the surf at the front door!

IMG_1256_guimar_lavatubeLava tube at Guimar

IMG_2900_guimar_Ant_richA & R at Malpais de Guimar

Weeks of living aboard in harbour was testing our solar panels and battery capacity. Voltage was just about keeping up with the fridge turned off at night, but we had to plug in to shore power when the diesel pumping operation started. It looked as if our three 105AH domestic batteries, over 8 years old, would not take the strain much longer. We could only find 95 AH batteries without ordering in (which could take several weeks), and though slightly cheaper at Carrefour we bought our replacements from the nearest chandlery, as they could deliver and supply new terminals too.

IMG_1076_DomesticChoresJ making hatch covers while R reviews the stores

Having completed the hatch covers, J’s next project was winch covers. These were made using fabric from an old garden umbrella, lined with PVC table-cloth! We were glad to have these in place for our trip to Lanzarote, when an overnight shower covered the boat in Sahara sand.

IMG_2014_SantaCruz_WinchCoversHand-made winch covers


In early October we flew home for almost 2 months, to spend time with our family (to which was added one baby granddaughter, Indi). We spent many enjoyable days with them in London and Gloucestershire. At home we got to know our lodgers S & A (and their delightful dogs and cat), who had moved in since we left in May. There was also work to do on our house and it was a welcome opportunity to meet up with friends from our sailing club, the Roach Sailing Assn., as well as catching up with former work colleagues and other friends.

Back on the boat in early December it was time prepare for the next leg, to Cape Verde and onward to the Caribbean. After a marathon 3-hour shop at the local Carrefour, two trolley loads were dispatched for delivery to the boat. They arrived next morning just as we were moving to another pontoon for fuel (300 litres delivered by a small tanker). It was a challenge to organise and stow it all safely! Fresh food came aboard from the market and further supermarket raids; it was likely to be our last chance for a while to access well-stocked shops at affordable prices.


IMG_1996_SantaCruz_BigShopA delivery from Carrefour

One last project was to make a scramble-net to hang over the side in the event of anyone going overboard. The first prototype failed but the second (constructed from lengths from an old halyard lashed together into a horizontal mesh) worked well.

IMG_2009_SantaCruz_ScrambleNetTesting the boarding-net

In Santa Cruz, the early December weather was cool and pleasant, though windy at times, and we had one night of heavy rain. T & G of SV Liloe were our neighbours and had kindly kept an eye on Ambition II while we were away, We had a couple of drinks with them too! Many boats had already sailed South, and others were fitting out including some families whose children ran up and down the pontoons. It was fun to meet up with G & A aboard SV Alicea (our 3rd encounter).  A  few days before our planned departure from Santa Cruz, G reported having exchanged a propane cylinder at the local Disa gas depot. He kindly drove R there with our cylinders, but we had to wait through a bank holiday weekend to get them back. We were to be disappointed again – no propane refills available for Calor cylinders. We had a couple more days to wait for the weather before setting off for Cape Verde islands, some 850 miles to the SSW…

IMG_1818_LiloeThe crew of SV Liloe, with dog Mason

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