Letter from the edge – Canary Islands
October 9, 1997
It would be difficult to exaggerate the tensions of this day. It began uneventfully with breakfast in Los Gigantos. There we spoke with a French reporter representing "La Liberation." Louise's French came in handy. Before we finished the interview, Kenneth Crutchlow and Tom Lynch of the Ocean Rowing Society came over singing the Star Spangled Banner. We had a good chat with Kenneth who had some good advice for us. I said I was considering cutting about 50 pounds out of our food rations. Kenneth advised us to take all the food. He seemed to think we are all underestimating the time it will take to cross the Atlantic.
After breakfast we arranged for hotel rooms in Los Gigantos for Friday and Saturday evening. The drive from where we are in Los Americanas to Los Gigantos is over a half an hour. Our time will be at a premium over the
course of the next few days. Noreen Powers went with Juan Damian Plasencia Jorge (Damian) to attempt to move the boat through customs. James, Louise and I went back to Los Americanas with Tom Lynch to run errands. I worked on college recommendations for some teenagers. Louise, James and Tom went in search of the internet café that Tom was sure is in Los Americanas. After an hour of searching James and Louise gave up and dropped Tom off in the middle of town. (We have not seen him since.)
Our stress began when we drove to the San Juan marina where we were to meet Noreen and Damian with the boat around 3:00 PM. We waited. And waited 4:00 PM. And waited 5:00 PM. And waited 6:00 PM. We drank water. We ate ice cream. We wrote in our journals and we paced the sidewalk. About half past 6:00 we heard a rumor that there was a truck with a huge crate on it just around the corner and up the hill. I walked up to the truck. The crate read "Neal Brothers North America." I was ecstatic. I ran down the hill to tell Louise and James, but they were already with Noreen who was filling them in on the events of her day.
Then the exercise in terrorism began. The crate rested on the back one of the three largest trucks in Tenerife. There was not a crane in San Juan big enough to lift the crate off the back of the truck. The first problem
was to remove the boat from the crate. Our hearts entered our throats when the chainsaw appeared. Before we could protest, a young man drove the chainsaw into the back of the crate. With reckless abandon, he cut a
square hole out of the crate. When the carpenter removed the square of wood we all gasped. The chainsaw could not have missed the boat by more than a few inches.
The men who were working dropped one side of the crate. Had it not been for Noreen the roof of the crate would have collapsed onto the boat crushing our solar panels. Then the swarm of men decided to use the crane to push
the backside of the crate off the truck. When they did this, a board under the boat snapped taking a chunk out of the boat's hull. At this point, I couldn't take it anymore. I left to purchase ice cream. Louise paced.
Noreen did her best to bring order to the scene and James stared in disbelief.
Within minutes I returned with ice cream for Louise and myself. Neither of us tasted the treat, we inhaled the small cones. With the crate removed, the fiasco of lifting the boat off the back of the truck began. A small crane with mismatched cables went after our little boat. No. No. No. No. All we could do was watch. They tried to lift the boat almost dropping it on its stern. They gave up on that attempt and made a feeble effort to balance the length of the cables. Three more attempts were made. On the forth attempt the boat rose off the back of the truck perhaps two
feet. To our horror one of the cables broke and the boat crashed down onto the truck. At this point, Louise left in search of the "loo." I left to phone home.
When we returned the first crane driver was packing up to go home. The driver of the truck was swearing at Damian in several languages. The crane driver drove off in disgust. It was now almost 9:00 PM. We had all but given up, but Damian was still hard at work. He was on the phone attempting to recruit another crane and another driver. We waited for perhaps a half and hour. James brought us dinner, yet ANOTHER meal of bread and cheese.
Damian returned with proper freight straps and a real crane with a competent operator. Soon our boat was hoisted high in the air. After a few tenuous moments it floated safely to the ground. All of us let out cheers of relief and excitement. The eagle has landed.
Ta ta for now,
The American Pearls