Canaries

 
 

Canaries

 

Finally, on 19 April we sailed out of Safi, with a steadily increasing wind getting up to 30 kts towards the middle the night before settling to around 15 kts off the aft quarter for most of the 300 mile sail to the first, northern, Canary island of La Graciosa where we dropped anchor just past Caleta de Sebo. Les and Glor's first night at anchor was a little rolly but after suitable beverages it seemed quite calm.

The next morning I took the dingy into the small marina to see if they could accommodate us but being Sunday the office was closed, come back tomorrow. So I did and we checked into the marina for a couple of days on this barron volcanic island with no sealed roads, almost true island type of life, apart from being in a marina. Quite a small marina but friendly, the port captain recognized our previous Moroccan port and said we could complete Canaries check procedures when we went to the next island, Lanzarote. The pontoons had water (desalinated and piped from neighbouring Lanzarote) but while there were power boxes and outlets no power was connected. Les and Glor hired a scenic, guided, island tour so we all piled into a landrover to check out the sights. Not a huge amour to see but we were lucky enough to see a Sea Eagle dive and pick up a fish in its talends before checking out volcanic ravines into the ocean and the one yellow sand beach.

From La Graciosa we sailed down the West coast of Lanzarote, around the Southern tip and into Rubicon marina where the immigration police came from the airport to stamp our passports. Rubicon is a full service, large marina surrounded by tourist shops, restaurants and, of interest to us, supermarkets and hire car joints. Although Sasha had made a preliminary booking at the airport it turned out just as cheap, and a lot more convenient, to hire from the marina when taking into account travel to and from the nearby airport. We hired the car for the few days it would take to explore the island and take Les and Glorto the airport for their flight back to Oz. Almost all of Lanzarote is baron with a significant part covered by lava and rocks that spewed out in eruptions just a few hundred years ago, what a landscape, never seen anything like it anywhere, what a treat.

 Many of the man made "attractions" follow the theme of the famous local artist, Cezar Manrique , that features contrasting white against the dark natural raw rock backgrounds.

The Northern end of the island, opposite La Graciosa, at over 500m, is high enough to create clouds by forcing up the NE trade winds although not enough to generate significant rainfall. On our "Northern tour" we stopped for lunch at a small oceanside restaurant recommended by our hire car guy, what wonderful Canary Island cousine, beautiful outlook, fantastic service and all at the right price, a rare occasion we eat out as good as on board.

 In all to little time it was off to the airport to bid our visitors farewell. We called in at one of the larger supermarkets to stock up with bulky items before returning the car. A couple of days later, we sailed the 6 nm South to Fuertoventura.

Just North of Fuertoventura is the tiny rock islet of Los Lobos with a stone jetty, large enough to take small tourist ferries and, on shore, a single small building. We anchored with a view to seeing how rolly it was and then decide whether to stay the night or continue on to some other cove on the East coast of Fuertoventura. It passed the test, we just hung on one of the mooring buoys used by charter vessels. In the morning we sailed South towards Port Rosajio and anchored just South of it for the night. Then three more short day sails to the very South Western tip of the island, encountering many 180 degree wind shifts on the way, anyone would think we were still in the med!

On the 6th of May we had an early, dawn, start for the 70 mile run to Maspalomas on Gran Canaria island. Sailing half the distance with the genaker up, we were at anchor by 6:30 just outside Pasito Blanco marina on a lovely sunny evening.

Two years before, while on the East Mediterranean Yacht Rally we had met a lady from Gran Canaria at a winery in Lebanon. Anette had given us her phone number and said we should call of we made it to the Canaries, so we did. Poor lady got quite so surprise, but did vaguely remember our meeting. We made a plan to meet in the marina the next day. Anette bought a lot of info on Gran Canaria, places to see, things to do. The marina was just a few kilometres from the shopping precinct and tourist centre of Maspalomas and the largest sand dune reserve in the Canaries. Out came the bikes and off we went on a lovely sunny morning. The esplanade walk and cycle way along the cliff rock waters edge was very well done with lawn and palm trees to provide a buffer to the myriad of bars, restaurants and souvenir shops.

Of more interest to us was the streets of the city centre where we found one of our favourite supermarkets, Mercadona. Best to come back another day by bus, stock up and get a taxi back, which we did. Anette called and invited us for dinner at her house on Friday night, with some of her friends. Anette's husband, Manolo picked us up from the marina and we spend a truly wonderful evening with six people dinning five start plus. Anette had spent the best part of two days preparing, just fantastic.

On Sunday we were sailing along the Southern coast getting ready to cross to the next Westward island Tenerefe. A few days later we sailed from Morgan heading for San Miguel marina, the South Eastern side of Tenerife. Another lovely 50 mile, hoisting the genaker as the wind started to die. Every hour there was a weather warning, thick fog, visibility down to 50 metres, right where we were heading. Thankfully, by the time we got there the fog had lifted. Tenerefe was to be one of our highlights, planning to hire a car to go camping on the national park that surrounds the highest peak in Spain, the volcanic peak of Mount Teide, at 3,700 metres. Another hire car from the nearby airport, apparently still off season, rate €11 per day for a Peugeot 207, we took 4 days, one to do some errands, 3 for camping and hiking. Our reserve "camping gas" bottle on board was due to run out soon, time to fill our two main aluminium gas bottles. As we had the fitting to decant from a Spanish domestic bottle that we had used in Almerimar, we thought, no problem. Well yes it was as our fitting was for a Repsol bottle, in Canaries no Repsol gas only Disa, and of course a different adapter fitting. Found the fitting at a hardware shop, paid the €70 deposit for two 6kg Disa gas bottles, connected the adapter to our decanting house and, filled our two 4.5kg bottles and returned the Disa bottles for deposit return. Phew.

Back on board we dug down deep to retrieve our camping gear, last used in the USA 6 years ago. Surprisingly all was in usable shape! We packed up, spare 20 ltr jerry can of water, small one burner strove, booze, food (the bare essentials, enough for about a month!) etc etc, and off we went. Fortunately not a big km island so within an hour we were on pine forrest at 2,000 metres, fantastic stop at one of the many view points to look down over the forrest to the sea and have a beer. Another 15 minutes and we were at our first camp site, Los Lojos.

 A few people were having bbqs, 20 or so, stone built with folding grills, wood supplied and adjacent wooden tables and bench seats most shaded by big pine trees. To top out off native bright blue large finch like birds frequented. We set up the tent on a bed of pine needles and set off for a short hour hike up the hill to test out Sasha's foot, no problem, as, thankfully was the case for all of the rest of the hiking we did. Back at camp bbq dinner, red wine, coffee, chocolates and into the sleeping bag. At 2,000m it was a little cooler but still a comfortable night. The only hicup was trying to find our tent after dinner!

After breakfast off to check out the mountain peak which is only accessible via cable car from the 2,500m level. We had no desire to take the cable car, it was closed anyway due to high winds. At the visitors centre a little further down the road we picked another trail up through barron mountain (400m up and down over the 7km walk) mostly over volcanic pumice. At the start of the decent, right on the edge of the mountain, it blew like hell, had to be 50 knots or more, could barely stand up, quite disconcerting to say the least. Time for more forrest so off to the North East side of the national park. Here was real rain forest, we set the tent up in the clouds with visibility down to less than 100 metres, a few hundred metres along a dirt track. Close by, another picnic site much the same as the first, so well organised. We used a little of our 20 litres of water for an open air shower to wash off the dust from our walk, beautiful. In the morning wonderful walk along one of the forrest trails before setting off for the Northern coast and a seaside camp. When we got there the camp site was virtually non existent so we opted for another rain forrest site and loved it. All in all a great 3 days.

From Tenerefe, a short sail to San Sabastion on La Gomera about 22 miles West. We started with a forecast of 10 to 15 kts NE, the wind started as a Southerly the SW to West then died completely until we had about 5 miles to go when it came on from North at 25. Half a mile out I started the engine to motor into the marina. Small problem, the gear shift locked in reverse, oh bugger! Quickly down below to disconnect the gear linkage at the gearbox and into forward, at least we could easily get to the marina. Sasha got on the vhf and told the marina pilot that we had a problem, when she took over as the gear shifter down below as I yelled forward or reverse. We made in and tied up with the help of the very understanding pilot. Next to us was 28ft game fishing boat, two 225hp outboards, Peter, the Danish owner had one of the outboards in pieces waiting for spare parts. Peter had great music taste and an equally good stereo system, we enjoyed his almost non stop Queen, Bob Dillon etc. I asked him if there was anywhere I could by skirts for my lure heads, he promptly handed over a big bag of skirts and said I should take anything that would be helpful, incredible! In the mean time he did a little sport fishing from his boat in the marina! Berlied up and put the line in, the quarry, a big stingray, and he hooked one but it broke the line, not that it was his intention to land one.

La Gomera provided another opportunity to go camping and hiking in rain forrest. We hired a car from the ferry terminal right next to the marina and set off for the only camping site, El Cedro. At first El Cedro seemed a disappointment after Tenerefe camping as it was far more organised like roofed shelters to put your tent under! But, the bbq and bench seat, table was right next to the tent and out had hot outdoor showers with the best view you could ever have from a shower, from 800m up, right down through the forrest to the ocean, unbelievable.

 

Several walk trails left from El Cedro some going up to the island's peak at 1,460m. The longest we took during our two night stay was 16kms, via the peak. On the North West slope, which is almost continually engulfed in cloud mist the fern and moss growth was just incredible.

We throughly enjoyed the up and down trails through the forrest, peppered with view points to take in the breath taking mountain scenery. Upon our return to the marina Peter was putting his outboard back together, the spare part having been hand carried by a friend from Denmark. Just coming on dark I hear some clicks if ignition but no engine turning over. An electrical problem? Yes he would like me to take a look. Batteries here, voltage a bit low, not enough to turn the engine over, but the boat was connected to shore power. The battery charger, it's over here, why no lights on it? The 220v panel, what is this switch marked "battery charger" for, wonder what happens if we turn it on? Fifteen minutes later both engines purring beautifully!

It would not be long before our next big trip, the 700 plus mile sail South the the Cape Verde islands so some checks do on board, rigging hardware, engine, generator, safety equipment etc. We carry two Epirbs, the main ships Epirb and a personal Epirb, worn by the person on shift when sailing. Pulled out the main Epirb to test it and discovered that the battery was out of date. We had changed the battery in the personal Epirb when it came up in our maintenance schedule but, for some unknown reason, not the main Epirb. Probably the reminder said change Epirb battery and as we had changed one of them, probably dismissed it! So, now we must change the main Epirb battery. Found that the big chandlery, Rolnautic, on Gran Canaria were agents and could change the battery. Sasha had also seen a new piece of safety gear called Safelink R10. Known as a Survivor Recovery System it is basically a portable AIS worn as you would a personal Epirb. If the wearer goes overboard the AIS triggers and sets off a mob (man overboard) alarm on the vessel chart plotter. The person still on board then has the position of the other in the water, an added backup for rescue. We ordered one from Juan Carlos at Rolnautic, delivery to La Gomera, 10 days, had to send our Epirb to him for battery change anyway so it fitted in. In the mean time we thought we might explore some of the La Gomera Southern coast anchorages, all five miles of it and completely open to the South. Essentially a week of warm weather, relatively little wind, for swimming, relaxing and doing a few boat jobs in preparation for the Verde sail. Most notable was bay about a mile East of Santiago. Anchored in the lee of 200m high sheer volcanic cliffs we were entertained by cave dwelling backpackers by day and noisy cave dwelling bats by night.

Enough fish caught for a meal about every second night, let the town of Santiago for fresh fruit and veg, and even a limited email connection. The bottom was black volcanic sand, not special for swimming over but great holding for the anchor. Sure it was a bit rolly but a most enjoyable week.

 

 We docked in much the same spot as for our first visit, unfortunately stern to the wind which was gusting down the valley behind the town, so much so that we took down our bimini cover. Our package, from Rolnautic on Gran Canary had not arrived as promised by owner Juan Carlos, spoke very good English. Attempts to contact him by phone to office, mobile and email were fruitless. Luckily one of the marina office staff was kind enough to call the company and explain, in Spanish, our problem. Another check the next day revealed it still had not been sent. We decided to return to the Santiago anchorage after arranging with the lovely marina office to call or email is when the package arrived. Although the anchorage, upon our return was a little rolly it was far better than being stuck on a marina. We hung out with the cave dwellers and bats until Friday when we finally received advice that our package had arrived. On a calm afternoon we took the dingy for the 5 mile run to the marina the pick up our package and do a little food shopping. Early Saturday morning we set sail, 48 miles to La Restinga on El Hierro the most South Western of the Canary islands, for our take off to the Cape Verde islands. The first 24 miles, no wind but the roughest no wind sea we have experienced, waves from all directions crashing into each other causing Ednbal to roll all over the place. Then the wind came up, in no time 25 kts, a brisk second half sail. Part way we suddenly realised that with all the parcel frustration we had forgotten to check out of the Canaries as La Restinga was not a port of entry. We would likely have to go the ferry terminal at Puerto de la Estaca to check out. La Restinga is a tiny port mainly for local sport boats and a couple of yachts. There were two other foreign cruising yachts and only two spare berths. We tied up to a broken finger pontoon next to a 8.5 m wooden yacht with Chris and Nicole on board. They had just sailed up from the Cape Verdes and gave us a lot of information and help. At the end of the jetty was a Norwegian yacht that had also sailed up from the Verdes, en route back to Norway after a sail to Antarctica! After taking the bus to Pinjar another to capital city of Valverde and final to Puerto de la Estaca -total of about 20 km we were able to finally complete clearing out formalities. We left at 3:30 pm on Monday 18 June for the 705 mile sail South to the nearest Cape Verde island, Sal.