Dispatches from the Atlantic: The Snark is Ready to Set Sail

With the last day's prep-work under our belts, the excitement builds for tomorrow's departure.

I've been wondering why the sun rises so late and sets so late here in Las Palmas ever since I arrived. I figured it was some geographical trick that I should know, a lunar or solar movement that I learned about in high school and forgot. But this morning, I showed up for the 9:00 rendezvous with Ben and Dugald at the mercado and-after walking around wondering where they were and hoping I hadn't missed them-I saw a clock that said 8:05. No way, I thought. I walked up to a gentleman on the street, "Senor, que hora es? Este tiempo es verdad?" I asked, trying not to seem like a disoriented and possibly insane American. "Son las ocho y cinco" the man said, pointing to the clock. Three days in Las Palmas and I didn't even realize my watch was set an hour fast. I day-light saved myself. So, with nothing to do for an hour, I went to the cafeteria and had some churros and coffee for breakfast while I waited for the boys. When it was really 9:00 and I hadn't seen Ben or Dugald yet I pulled out my trusty Iridium 9555 and gave them a ring. They were right around the corner having coffee, but I had sent a signal to a satellite, that then beamed it to a call center in Arizona, which bounced it back across the Atlantic connected me to a British cell phone in Spain. Pretty amazing when you consider I could have shouted loudly and gotten my answer. Then again, I'm still trying not to seem like a disoriented and possibly insane American

Ben and Dugald finished their coffee and then we hit the market and loaded up on fruits and vegetables, and I mean loaded up-we've got half a Stop and Shop produce aisle on board. "You'll eat well," Ben said, handing me another bag full of something. The shopkeeper kept trying to entice us with fresh fruits as samples (the mangoes… are out of this world.) After that, we headed to El Corte Ingles to pick up our meat for the trip. It is funny to be in Las Palmas right before the race, because everywhere you look are fairly confused looking people in crew shirts that don't know why they keep getting handed lemons when they ask for limes. But I translated and we sped through that place like it was on fire. Ben headed back to the boat with the meat while Dugald and I picked up some last minute supplies, and then we all rendezvoused at the skippers' meeting. The hall was packed to the gills; they were actually turning people away who didn't have tickets! Thank you, press pass.

The meeting was informative, covering essentials like departure time and the best routes. The entire port of Las Palmas is going to be closed to all shipping (this is a very busy commercial port) for four hours at the start of the race. We will head south, keeping the island of Gran Canaria to our starboard, and then come around the bottom of the island and head west. To miss the low fronts, it is suggested we head south, but not too far south, because there's an outbreak of dengue fever in the Cape Verde islands. Nasty stuff. Weather-wise, there are cold fronts brewing over the Atlantic that look like they could make things interesting by the time we're eight to ten days out. After the meeting we caught a quick lunch at Sailor's Bar and made it back to the boat just in time to meet the delivery of our fruits and vegetables and, to everyone's joy, Charlie the sailmaker, with his arms full of mended beauties. We rigged the sails and unpacked and stowed the fruit, then Ben settled in for a quick snooze while Dugald and I headed to the sea wall. It's a tradition that departing ARC mariners add a painting to it, and the sea wall is covered with hundreds of boat names from the last decade or so. People had donned smocks and were standing with full sets of paintbrushes, doing their best Bob Ross impersonations as they painted happy boats. Dugald and I had a can of spray paint and a permanent marker, and I think we did a damn good job (whether it's still there after the next rainstorm is another question). Afterwards, it was off to dinner for Ben and Dugald and off to the hotel for me, to pack up my gear (way too much of it) and trundle it down to the boat. The Snark is now fully packed and ready to go, and we plan on heading out tomorrow around 11:00 to watch the racing class take off- then, at 1:00, its next stop St. Lucia.