Volcanic Landfall

A new resort is built upon the lava plain of the inactive Caldera Riscada in Lanzarote, Canary Islands. Photograph: © Jeffrey Cardenas

Puerto Calero, Lanzarote, Canary Islands — The first impression of this landfall is at once welcoming and foreboding.

I am thankful for a safe passage, and I am in a secure place. Still, I cannot help but think of the volcanic disaster occurring on the island of La Palma, 200 miles to the west. Today, three weeks into the eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano in La Palma, portions of the cone collapsed and blocks of molten lava the size of three-story buildings rolled down the hillside into an industrial park.

I cannot imagine what it must be like to have the land under your feet tremble, and then watch the mountain above your village explode into molten rock.

On Lanzarote, the Las Montañas del Fuego erupted for six years beginning in 1730, and then again in 100 years later, resulting in the Parque Nacional de Timanfaya. From the deck of Flying Fish, I look at the Caldera Riscada looming over my landfall. All is quiet for now, gracias a Dios.

A solitary fisherman navigates his panga in the early morning light along the volcanic coastline of Lanzarote. Photograph: © Jeffrey Cardenas

Sailing is not just about the wind and the sea; equally important are the places where Flying Fish carries me.

Please click “Follow” at the bottom of this page so that you don’t miss a new update, and please consider sharing this post with others who might enjoy following the voyage of Flying Fish. I welcome your comments, and I will always respond when I have an Internet connection. I will never share your personal information.

You can follow the daily progress of Flying Fish, boat speed (or lack thereof), and current weather as I sail into the Atlantic by clicking this satellite uplink: https://forecast.predictwind.com/tracking/display/Flyingfish. A Bonus: Click the “Legends and Blogs” box on the right side of the tracking page for passage notes while I am sailing offshore. 

To see where Flying Fish has sailed since leaving Key West in 2017, click here: https://cruisersat.net/track/Flying%20Fish.

Instagram: FlyingFishSail
Facebook: Jeffrey Cardenas

Text and Photography © Jeffrey Cardenas 2021

Let this be a time of grace and peace in our lives   – Fr. John Baker

¡Vamos! Islas Canarias

Flying Fish charging into open water. The challenge, risk, and pure joy of being underway on another ocean passage. Photograph: © Jeffrey Cardenas

Into the blue again, into the silent water
Once in a Lifetime / David Byrne, Brian Eno

Thousands of sea miles have passed under the keel of Flying Fish since I set sail from Key West nearly four years ago. Still, the expectation of a new ocean passage remains as exhilarating as it was on the first day. The next leg of my journey begins soon, from Gibraltar to the Canary Islands, some 700 nautical miles southwest and five days en route.

There will be challenges; I will be 66 years old in a few months. I don’t move as quickly onboard, and I have lost some mobility and balance. These are ordinary issues associated with aging, but they are extraordinary when put into the context of a solo offshore passage.

There will also be risk; the passage along the West African coast is unforgiving and mostly without shelter. I will be traveling on a dark moon. Small Moroccan fishing boats setting nets must be avoided — as well as other boats emerging from the African coastline that may have more sinister intentions. And, in a bizarre twist of nature, there is an issue with aggressive killer whales intentionally colliding with sailing vessels just outside of the Straits of Gibraltar. Since March of this year, there have been more than 50 verified reports of orcas ramming sailboats. Biologists don’t understand why, but half of these encounters have been serious enough to disable boats and require towing to repair facilities ashore.[1]

Regardless of the risk, the pure and absolute joy of setting out on an open ocean passage cannot be overstated. In a world of rapidly diminishing nature, ocean voyaging allows access to one of the few unaltered places remaining on this planet. It is a world of silence and isolation. There can be long periods with no organic sound, generated light, or evidence of other human beings. The ocean provides a sense of timelessness. This is why I go.

I have been landbound for the past month in Gibraltar, but the time ashore has provided a much-needed health and wellness stop for both boat and captain. The sails went to a sailmaker in Tarifa for re-stitching. The captain went into a gym to address added kilos of body weight accumulated from epicurean excesses while cruising Sardinia, the Balearics, and the Costa del Sol. A Hungarian physical trainer in Gibraltar named Rita worked me back into shape.

The passage to the Canary Islands will be one of the final legs of this COVID-interrupted trip around the world aboard Flying Fish. The pandemic took hold of my itinerary two years ago. Now, I am slowly moving again as I anticipate the end of the Atlantic hurricane season. It is an above-average year for tropical cyclone activity. Rapidly warming sea temperatures are spawning stronger and more frequent storms.[2] Most late-season tropical cyclones form over Western Africa, south of the Canary Islands. I will monitor the weather (and the recent volcanic activity) carefully. My favorite sailing partner, Ginny, will join me on the passage from the Canaries to the Caribbean when the hurricane season ends in December. I hope to return home to Florida with Flying Fish in 2022.

Ironically, it is the return home that causes me the most uncertainty. As I sail toward the end of this journey, I wonder how difficult it will be to reckon with life after Flying Fish. In these four years, I floated in a bubble of unreality, immersed in the rarefied air of freedom and privilege while many others around the world could barely hold their heads above the water. I think of the anthem of entitlement, Once in a Lifetime, by songwriters David Byrne and Brian Eno:

“And you may ask yourself, ‘Well, how did I get here?‘”

While I may not fully understand “how I got here,” I am grateful for this time at sea. At the end of this journey, the transition from water to land will be my choice. There will be new challenges ashore during this time of uncertainty; re-socialization, commitment to faith, family, home, and community, and prioritizing my personal health. For me, a greater risk than any danger at sea would be spending the rest of my days in a chair in front of a TV with a cocktail in one hand and a bag of chips in the other. I will not succumb to that life of mediocrity.

I’m getting ahead of myself… For now, it is time to focus on the immediate passage forward. The boat is ready, and I am ready. The weather to Lanzarote looks good. I have route planning to avoid Moroccan nets, and contingencies in place for potential collision with whales. I will keep a sharp mind and maintain situational awareness. And I must stay onboard.

These are days that will sustain me.


Goodbye Gibraltar. The Rock is dissolving into the fog. Photography: © Jeffrey Cardenas

References:

[1] Iberian Orca, Atlantic Orca Working Group, www.orcaiberica.org

[2] NOAA National Hurricane Center

[3] Once in a Lifetime, David Byrne and Brian Eno, https://youtu.be/5IsSpAOD6K8


Sailing is not just about the wind and the sea; equally important are the places where Flying Fish carries me.

Please click “Follow” at the bottom of this page so that you don’t miss a new update, and please consider sharing this post with others who might enjoy following the voyage of Flying Fish. I welcome your comments, and I will always respond when I have an Internet connection. I will never share your personal information.

You can follow the daily progress of Flying Fish, boat speed (or lack thereof), and current weather as I sail into the Atlantic by clicking this satellite uplink: https://forecast.predictwind.com/tracking/display/Flyingfish. A Bonus: Click the “Legends and Blogs” box on the right side of the tracking page for Passage Notes once I am en route to the Canaries. 

To see where Flying Fish has sailed since leaving Key West in 2017, click here: https://cruisersat.net/track/Flying%20Fish.

Instagram: FlyingFishSail
Facebook: Jeffrey Cardenas

Text and Photography © Jeffrey Cardenas 2021

Let this be a time of grace and peace in our lives   – Fr. John Baker

Flamingos of Las Salinas

The earth’s Prime Meridian transits the salt flats of Calpe, where Flying Fish lays at rest after a passage from Ibiza. In a sense, this line of longitude is where time begins and ends each day. Time modifies and reorders the natural world: adaptation or extinction. These random thoughts occupy my mind as I share space on the salt flats with one of the world’s most iconic bird species. The greater flamingo has adapted and survived thousands of years of extraordinary change along Spain’s Costa Blanca.

The salt flats of Las Salinas were first utilized during the great Roman era of the 2nd century AD. Now, a busy marina and a European holiday center surround the edges of these ancient alluvial deposits. The greater flamingo continues to thrive here despite the high-rise apartments, Jet Skis, and música electrónica that have changed the shadow and sound of its environment. These flamingos are wild birds. Their wings are not clipped. They are not fenced in or fed. That they choose to return to Las Salinas, in the middle of this urban setting, is a testament to how nature adapts.

The salt flats and the city of Calpe are at the base of the massive rock Peñón de Ifach, a 1,000-foot massif of limestone rising from the Mediterranean Sea. Ifach is an important homing beacon for birds. Some 173 species, both nesting and migrating, have been recorded here, including black-winged stilts, avocets, the black wheatear, and the white wagtail. There is some ornithological tourism in Calpe, but most tourists come instead for a different variety of wagtail, and to get sunburned and drink sangria.

Tourists sharing Calpe with the birds date back at least two millennia. Across the sandbar delineating the salt flats and the edge of the sea, archeologists excavated the “Baños de la Reina.” Ancient Roman engineers designed a thermal complex including pools of different temperatures, a sophisticated heating system, and a piscinae for sunken gardens and the farming of live fish. But for whom this ultimate vacation villa was constructed is still unknown. Archeologists know that hidden tunnels allowed private access to the Baths of the Queen, but they do not know who the queen was. Whoever merited this elaborate architecture of marble and mosaics was most certainly “a person with a high purchasing power.”[1] Marcus Aurelius is famously quoted saying, “Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart.” Perhaps Marcus Aurelius kept a mistress at the salt flats of Calpe.

The history that has shaped the landscape of Las Salinas has also helped maintain its natural habit and biodiversity. Salt was a necessity for fish preservation, which Calpe used to market its catch. Eventually, salt from these lagoons supplied fishing industries in over 40 Spanish municipalities. At the end of the 18th century, Salt production declined when Las Salinas was thought to harbor yellow fever. In 1993, Spain declared Las Salinas a protected maritime-terrestrial zone.

While many species make up the Las Salinas habitat, the population of flamingos generates the most attention. The coloration of all flamingos comes from the carotenoid pigments in the organisms that live in their feeding grounds. The greater flamingo, one of four distinct species, is less flashy than some of its genetic relatives like the hot-pink American flamingo. That doesn’t prevent them from wanting to look good. Secretions of their uropygial “preening” gland contain carotenoids–red pigments. During the breeding season, greater flamingos preen to spread these uropygial secretions over their feathers, enhancing their color. Ornithologists have described this cosmetic use of uropygial secretions by greater flamingos as “applying make-up.”[2]

The greater flamingo is an enthusiastic eater. It feeds with its head down; its upper jaw is movable and not rigidly fixed to its skull.[3] Using its feet, the bird stirs up mud, then sucks the slurry through its bill to filter small shrimp, seeds, blue-green algae, microscopic organisms, and mollusks. It is a healthy diet. Wild greater flamingos have an average lifespan of 30 – 40 years. The oldest known greater flamingo, named Greater, (duh) lived in an Adelaide, Australia zoo for between 85-93 years.[4] The bird’s exact age is unknown; he was already a mature adult when he arrived in Adelaide in 1933. Greater was euthanized in January 2014 due to “complications of old age.”

It is zero hundred hours, at zero degrees longitude. A full moon has risen in direct alignment with Jupiter and Saturn. Flying Fish is secure nearby at her mooring. Somewhere in the ruins of a partially submerged palace, the legacy of an unknown queen waits to be discovered. And on the salt flats of Las Salinas, flamingos secrete pigment over their feathers. Some days I, too, feel the complications of aging, but I’m not ready to be euthanized yet. There is still so much to see and so much to know.

###


References:

[1] “The Baths of the Queen, a Roman Palace,” The World (2012)

2] “Greater flamingos Phoenicopterus roseus use uropygial secretions as make-up,” . Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, J.A., Rendón, J Garrido-Fernández, A Garrido, M, Rendón-Martos, and A Pérez-Gálvez. (2011).

[3] Flamingo, Wikipedia

[4] “Flamingos at Adelaide Zoo,”  Vaughan Wilson; at Conservation Ark / Zoos South Australia 2008

Ornithologists have described the cosmetic use of secretions on the feathers of greater flamingos as “applying make-up.” Photograph: © Jeffrey Cardenas

Sailing is not just about the wind and the sea; equally important are the places to which Flying Fish carries me.

Please click Follow at the bottom of this page so that you don’t miss a new update, and please consider sharing this post with others who might enjoy following the voyage of Flying Fish. I welcome your comments. I will always respond to your comment when I have an Internet connection. And I will never share your personal information.

You can follow the daily progress of Flying Fish, boat speed (or lack thereof), and current weather as I sail into the Mediterranean by clicking this satellite uplink: https://forecast.predictwind.com/tracking/display/FlyingfishClick the “Legends and Blogs” box on the right side of the tracking page for en route Passage Notes. 

To see where Flying Fish has sailed since leaving Key West in 2017, click here: https://cruisersat.net/track/Flying%20Fish.

Instagram: FlyingFishSail
Facebook: Jeffrey Cardenas

Text and Photography © Jeffrey Cardenas 2021

Let this be a time of grace and peace in our lives   –Fr. John Baker

Posidonia

The lush carpet of a Posidonia prairie in Spain’s Balearic Islands. Photograph: Jeffrey Cardenas

The Spanish Posidonia Police came calling on Flying Fish today. I was happy to see them.

Posidonia is a seagrass species that is endemic to the Mediterranean Sea. Like the turtlegrass of the subtropic Americas and the Caribbean, Posidonia forms large underwater meadows vital to the ecosystem. The aquatic grass has a high carbon absorption capacity. It is said to soak up 15 times more carbon dioxide every year than a similar-sized piece of the Amazon rainforest.1 In 2006, a vast colony of Posidonia was discovered south of Ibiza and is estimated at around 100,000 years old. It may be one of the largest and oldest clonal colonies on Earth.2

Posidonia grows best in clean waters, and its presence is a marker for lack of pollution. It is found only in the Mediterranean Sea, where it is in decline. The UNESCO world heritage site around the Balearic Islands includes about 140,000 acres of Posidonia, which has global significance because of the amount of carbon dioxide it absorbs. The meadows are being threatened by rising temperatures, slowing its growth, as well as damage from anchors.3 The Posidonia meadows of Ibiza are fiercely protected. Drop an anchor on Posidonia, and you are breaking the law.

This is why it astonished me when I watched the superyacht Chuck Taylor drop its anchor in a bed of Posidonia at an anchorage on Mallorca that we were sharing. (I don’t know that it was the shoe guy Chuck Taylor; who would name a boat after themselves?) Nonetheless, I wish the Posidonia Police had been in the bay that day. When Chuck Taylor departed, an entire square yard of the living colony was impaled on the tines of its anchor. 

Granted, anchoring in the Balearic Islands in July and August–especially during this post-lockdown year–is a challenge. Nowhere in the world have I seen so many boats, and so many inconsiderate boat operators, as I have here during the past two months. Because anchorage space is limited, boats battle for every square foot of sea bottom available without Posidonia. Many boats anchor regardless of the protected areas. Bays are so tightly packed that adequate anchor scope for holding is frequently compromised. Two nights ago, at 03:00, katabatic winds ripped through my anchorage at Benirràs, Ibiza, and tore the fleet apart. One sailboat dragging an anchor collided with two other sailboats, pulling their anchors from the bottom and sending them adrift. A boat ended up against a ragged rock wall. Two large powerboats also dragged and collided in the wind. In the darkness, shouts and curses in foreign languages echoed across the anchorage. Flying Fish somehow escaped the carnage, but the Posidonia meadow at Benirràs was most certainly plowed into oblivion by the dragging anchors.

The Posidonia Police encounter a repeat offender in the Illa Sa Conillera marine park who insisted that it was his “right” to drop an anchor anywhere he wanted. Photograph: © Jeffrey Cardenas

The Posidonia meadows are carefully identified on every chart. This morning over coffee, in the lovely anchorage of the Illa Sa Conillera marine park, I was startled by a heated argument coming from two boats. The Posidonia Police had arrived and warned a visiting sailboat owner (for the second time) that he anchored on the protected grass. His anchor was crushing the habitat of plants, fish, and juvenile crustaceans. The sailboat captain maintained it was his “right” to anchor where he wanted. The park ranger explained otherwise. The argument increased in volume and acrimony, and continued for 30 minutes. Then the guilty sailor pointed at me. I was anchored nearby.

The Posidonia Police motored up to Flying Fish with an underwater viewing scope. I passed the inspection; my anchor was embedded in a pocket of sand, where I had carefully placed it when I arrived.

“May I take your photograph,” I asked?

“¿Por qué?” was the reply.

“Because,” I said, “I think what you are doing is important.”

###

Park rangers inspect the placement of the anchor of Flying Fish at Illa Sa Conillera, Ibiza. Photograph: © Jeffrey Cardenas

References:

  1. Ibiza’s Monster Marine Plant, Ibiza Spotlight, 28 May 2006
  2. Oldest living thing on earth’ discovered, Jonathan Pearlman, The Telegraph. 7 February 2012
  3. Posidonia oceanica, Wikipedia

Sailing is not just about the wind and the sea; equally important are the places to which this boat takes me.

Please click Follow at the bottom of this page so that you don’t miss a new update, and please consider sharing this post with others who might enjoy following the voyage of Flying Fish. I welcome your comments. I will always respond to your comment when I have an Internet connection. And I will never share your personal information.

You can follow the daily progress of Flying Fish, boat speed (or lack thereof), and current weather as I sail into the Mediterranean by clicking this satellite uplink: https://forecast.predictwind.com/tracking/display/FlyingfishClick the “Legends and Blogs” box on the right side of the tracking page for en route Passage Notes. 

To see where Flying Fish has sailed since leaving Key West in 2017, click here: https://cruisersat.net/track/Flying%20Fish.

Instagram: FlyingFishSail
Facebook: Jeffrey Cardenas

Text and Photography © Jeffrey Cardenas 2021

Let this be a time of grace and peace in our lives   –Fr. John Baker

Octopus’s Garden

An octopus has the highest brain-to-body mass ratio of all invertebrates and a camera-like eye that can distinguish the color and polarization of light. The eye follows me as I swim past. Photograph: © Jeffrey Cardenas

I’d like to be 
Under the sea 
In an octopus’ garden 
In the shade
…”

It seems you can’t swing a cat in the Mediterranean this summer without hitting a movie star. Meet my new neighbor, the Oscar-winning Octopus Teacher. Actually, I’m the new neighbor; the octopus lives here. And this isn’t really the Octopus Teacher (that famous cephalopod lived in South Africa). But here in the Mediterranean, during the summer, everybody is whoever they want to be. No questions asked.

I am who I want to be, and in the summer where I want to be is under the sea. My tropical island blood has finally acclimated to the ambient water temperature at latitude 40° north. In about six weeks, the Mediterranean Sea begins getting cold again. Today is my first dive of the year. “Dive” is an exaggeration. I float in the shallows with a mask and snorkel, and camera. It is otherworldly. There are shrimp and crabs and anemones. The variety of life that lives among the rocks and Poseidon grass in the Mediterranean is astounding. To see these shallows come to life it is only necessary to move slowly and pass over the sea bottom like the shadow of a cloud.

Life underwater is always a surprise. Today I am swimming along part of the Menorca shoreline supported by an antique seawall. Giant blocks were laid here in 1793 to build the Llatzeret, a sanatorium to quarantine patients during the Bubonic Plague. It seems ironic with a history of so much death above at Llatzeret that these rocks in the water below the fortress would support such a thriving community of sea life. It is here I meet my octopus friend.

I am enchanted. From the depth of her cave, she holds her ground by siphoning bursts of water at me and never breaking eye contact. (A note on gender reference: It takes more skill than I have to determine the sex of an octopus but, for personal reasons, I’ll reference this amazing creature as female.) She is confident and beautiful. Her body pulsates and changes color with emotion as we meet eye-to-eye. Nonetheless, it is clear that this is a creature that will not suffer fools gladly. In a Live Science article titled, “Animal Sex: How Octopuses Do It,” writer Joseph Castro says females are the dominant gender. If a male displeases her, she may show her disappointment by eating him alive. He writes, “Mating for males is a dangerous game due to the female’s penchant for cannibalism.”

I’m not here to mate. I’m just as curious as she is.

Friend or foe? With eyes blazing, the octopus leaves her lair to investigate a curious intruder in her territory. Photo: © Jeffrey Cardenas

Much of the circumnavigation of Flying Fish has been along the equator in warm water rich in sea life. The Mediterranean Sea has been less inviting. There were freezing temperatures (literally) in Turkey this past winter. In my boat cabin without heat, I would sleep under quilts and blankets, and a zipped-up down jacket to stay warm. For much of the year, swimming was out of the question. I remember dropping an essential ratchet wrench overboard at a mooring one February morning. The water was only three meters deep. I looked at that wrench under the boat every day for a month, but I could not bear the thought of diving into 57-degree water to retrieve it.

Now it is mid-July. I can swim again. The pleasure of the summer sun warms my skin. The water caresses me as I float with the tide. Below the surface of the water, a new world awaits.

“We would be so happy, you and me
No one there to tell us what to do
I’d like to be under the sea
In an octopus’s garden with you…”

–Octopus’s Garden / The Beatles 1969


Sailing is not just about the wind and the sea; equally important are the places to which this boat takes me.

Please click Follow at the bottom of this page so that you don’t miss a new update, and please consider sharing this post with others who might enjoy following the voyage of Flying Fish. I welcome your comments. I will always respond to your comment when I have an Internet connection. And I will never share your personal information.

You can follow the daily progress of Flying Fish, boat speed (or lack thereof), and current weather as I sail into the Mediterranean by clicking this satellite uplink: https://forecast.predictwind.com/tracking/display/FlyingfishClick the “Legends and Blogs” box on the right side of the tracking page for en route Passage Notes. 

To see where Flying Fish has sailed since leaving Key West in 2017, click here: https://cruisersat.net/track/Flying%20Fish.

Instagram: FlyingFishSail
Facebook: Jeffrey Cardenas

Text and Photography © Jeffrey Cardenas 2021

Let this be a time of grace and peace in our lives   –Fr. John Baker