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Ending with a flourish!

Another lovely sunrise and we’ve had such a good sailing day – passing Madeira and with Tenerife on the horizon. Speeds of 8.6 knots which, when rounded up to 9 knots means the captain has lost his bet and ice cream has to be provided for everyone on board. First mate Jenny leads our watch

The Oosterschelde has 890 square meters of sail – more than four times the floor plan of a really good sized family house in Chiswick! We are close hauled - and feel the speed the sails give us.

We also see a halo – or circular rainbow around the sun – which might mean a change of weather? I put both pictures in because you can see the rainbow well in the first and the circular nature in the second. It feels quite special to see this, because it doesn't happen every day.

We wash the deck and get all the salt off the woodwork and railings – in part to make Oosterschelde look super smart and lovely when we land in Tenerife.

The mood is calm and wonderful ....

And then the most astonishing thing happens and there is a frisson of excitement. Nadia, one of the scientists, goes to take a shower and finds a bird has dropped into the shower room, overnight, through one of the hatches, perhaps attracted to the light? It seems to be the bird Sheila had seen on deck in the night watch but assumed it had flown away. Tom, the bird specialist gathered it safely and took it through for identification and release. It turns out to be a white faced storm petrel - a really beautiful bird. This little petrel was the 50th sea bird species we have identified on this leg. Look at the amazement on Rhodri's face in this first video.

Thankfully Grant is experienced at bird handling and knows how to keep the storm petrel calm and happy. It’s about 8 inches long and quite beautiful. It will have come from breeding grounds in the canaries – but we think it is probably still a teenager – it has some new covert feathers coming through which are a different colour. These are birds who will stay at sea for 3 years once they fly the nest and before they land back at the breeding ground to have chicks of their own. The most amazing feature is their great webbed feet and when they fly low to the water they look as if they are running across the surface of the sea

After a quick and careful look – it was released to fly away when it was ready and you can see it swooping towards the waves in the last shot

Such an exhilarating end to the sea bird tracking Grant has led in the first leg of the Darwin 200 expedition - and great material for Tom and Rhodri's lunchtime show, or preview, of the photos and films which will make up the record of the first leg of the expedition.

As we approach Tenerife, the clouds darken and it begins to rain, so I retreat to my quiet spot under the flags and crests where I can pop up another blog. (Or, more accurately, prepare another blog. I can only upload when on land with wifi 😊)

If we've translated it properly, the crest seems to mean "stand fast", which makes me smile because at sea you are always standing loose, to roll with the swell 😊

We've travelled 1,601 nautical miles - which is further than the anticipated 1,428 because of the detour around the gales in the Bay of Biscay. So it's quite a moment when Sheila takes down the jib for the last time and Christian plays the Spanish national anthem as we hoist the Spanish flag, ready to dock in Tenerife.

There are proud memorials around the quayside of all the famous explorers who have landed in Tenerife before us - and there are two that make me smile. It seems that Darwin was never allowed onshore for fear of the British crew passing on Cholera - so he moored in the bay. But who would have guessed that Oscar Wilde's dad - a pioneering surgeon asnd scientist - had also arrived here in 1837. He felt the climate of Tenerife would help with respiratory problems!

One last, still and carefree night on the beautiful Oosterschelde, to celebrate our voyage

And then the sun sets on stage one of the epic Darwin 200 expedition. I hope all the other legs are as memorable and I can't wait to rejoin the Oosterschelde in the Galapagos next year.

😊 😊 😊

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