The sand off the Sahara

We are now about four hundred miles south wesr of the Canary Islands, off the coast of Western Sahara, following the coast of Africa southwards. We are staying well away from the coast as the Internet tells of hobby pirates, terrorists and crazy fishermen in this part of the world. In the last three days all we have seen are a handful of birds, the lights of one boat and one aeroplane condense trail.

The wind has been behind us and we were enjoying downwind sailing under a clear blue sky but today the wind turned from the east and therefore off the Sahara. We are now sailing under a blanket of wind borne sand. The sun barely reached us and in the night there was neither moon or stars to be seen. We were sailing across a black ocean that fades into a black sky. Beyond Artemis there was absolutely nothing to be seen. The compass pointed the way and the instruments claimed we were making good speed as we sailed from darkness into darkness. Occasionally we took a wave on the port bow and it broke across us but other than that we only heard the wind generator and water passing under the keel.

The next morning it was obvious that we had passed through the tail end of a sand storm. Everything was dusted with fine sand, the teak hand rails had been sand blasted and every rope is impregnated with finest sand. What we need now is a tropical rain storm to wash Artemis clean of salt and sand.

Update: we didn’t wait for the rain. On Christmas Day we began cleaning everything. The pilot tells us that the sand carrying wind is called the Harmattan and can carry its load a distance of 600 miles offshore.

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