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Friday, 29 March 2013

CHRISTMAS IN THE CANARY ISLANDS ON "ORYX"




On the 27th of November we soared through the channel between Lanzarote and Graciosa. This is where I ended our last blog. This is also where Pete started with cold like symptoms and I hurt my right shoulder. These two factors unfortunately shaped our time in the Canary Islands, as life has a habit of doing. Before I continue I would like to thank those of you who sent suggestions and comments. They are always helpful and I’m hoping to include some sidebars and some further information as requested.



One of the many ferries


Reefed right down with only the starboard sail up

GRACIOSA

We anchored off the beach at Playa Francesca on Graciosa, an anchorage that in the autumn is so popular that there have been as many as forty boats in the small bay. It is a beautiful place, with the towering slopes of Lanzarote sculpting and shaping the near and far horizons with green and purple shapes, while Graciosa herself sports volcanic outcrops with intriguing fingerprint like whorls. The beaches are golden and the ocean is clear with water the same turquoise as “Oryx’s” hulls. The small town is a pleasant stroll across two more beaches and some scrubby dunes, past a campsite and rocky shoals. Most of the houses are simple, white structures with a deep blue trim, although a few daring souls have green trim.

"Oryx" anchored off Playa Francesca
Hazy Lanzarote abaft the beam


There are some fairly small supermarkets, more like convenience stores. They stock the basic necessities, but are pricey. Graciosa is a tiny island four miles by two, and it is mostly desert so everything is brought in by ferry from Lanzarote. The small harbour has the ferry dock on one side and a small marina on the other. There are several restaurants and a shop selling touristy tat as well as beachwear, fine wines and local delicacies.

Typical street scene


 We had arrived on a brisk north easterly, but the marina had filled on the preceding days as a result of the force seven southeasterly, which made our anchorage untenable. This is how we lucked out and had the anchorage to ourselves for the first couple of days. The marina has limited facilities. There is water and electricity, but little else. Hauled out in the harbour we found a Prout 37’ with her bottom torn out and all her fittings removed, obviously an insurance write off. Pete experienced a yearning to restore her, but fortunately there were places to go and things to see.

Popular marina

Volcanic fingerprint

Colourful local boats


The forecast predicted favourable winds for the 2nd of December and we set off after breakfast. The wind strength between the islands was much more than predicted as the area between Graciosa and Lanzarote acts as an acceleration zone. We also had to tack back up the channel, the way we had come which took about two hours. Several squalls had us reefing up and down. Pete, as usual was doing most of the work, especially so that I didn’t strain my arm again. I glanced back towards our anchorage and saw two large waterspouts and was about to alert Pete, when I remembered we were pounding to windward, so they were spinning away from us. We were both relieved to turn the corner and sail downwind to Arrecife.



  Sailing along the coast of Lanzarote was splendid. The greenery and foliage of the northern peaks soon gave way to stark volcanic shale and desert like topography. All along the coast white clusters of houses, resorts and huge hotels lined the magnificent beaches. Lanzarote, you will come to see, also has a prevalence of white houses, some with the same blue trim. The architectural style reflects Spain and Morocco in almost equal proportions. Volcanic craters and peaks form the backdrop to most of Lanzarote.


Turning the corner


LAS PALMAS


ARRECIFE


Wind surfers from a resort surfed way out to greet us and welcome us as they admired “Oryx”. We arrived at the harbour in Arrecife around four in the afternoon and after motoring around a crowded anchorage found the perfect spot, just below the remains of a fort and a salt mining windmill.



We met a lovely Dutch couple called Riens and Ineke on board a 46’ fibreglass boat called “Zeezwalluw” and invited them across for sundowners. She is a palliative nurse practitioner and Riens is an engineer.


"Oryx" anchored in Arrecife with "Zeezwalluw" in background

We stayed in Arrecife for about two weeks. Water is a problem in the Canary Islands and the tap that Pete had used on previous visits had disappeared and it seemed that water was only available at the marina. Pete rowed across on a Saturday, only to find that the person manning the marina couldn’t take money on the weekend, which meant Pete had to row back on the Monday. We were anchored on the far side of the harbour. The row was a couple of miles each way, which set Pete’s ‘cold’ back a few days. The water, you’ll be relieved to hear, was a mere 3c a litre. We had been nursing Pete’s cold with rum and rest, but it wasn’t doing the trick, so I rowed ashore and bought some ‘Lemsip’ or ‘Medlemon’ type medication, which helped a little.

Naturally not all the time was spent recuperating. We had a long walk around the town. There is a beautiful promenade all along the seafront from the cruise ship terminal right into the town and the beachfront. Just beyond the anchorage, which lies between the cruise ship terminal and the town, is an old fort, which is now a modern art museum. All around is evidence of Lanzarote’s salt panning past in the form of wind driven salt water mills, both in skeletal and restored states.



Small inner harbour in central Arrecife
  We found a supermarket and loaded ourselves up with fresh fruit and vegetables and various other supplies. Our first picnic was along a shady passeo, lined with trees and flowerbeds, but paved with volcanic cobbles. This was alongside Arrecife’s inner harbour with many small fishing boats dry out between tides.  This served as a welcome break. Later Riens and Ineke told us about a closer Lidl supermarket, which made shopping much easier. Living on board a boat without refrigeration means frequent excursions for fresh supplies. Pete usually weighs himself down with a backpack and two large shopping bags, whilst I shoulder two lighter bags. We can carry about 30kg at a time.
In January they were having a regatta for local children in these boats made from drums.



We walked in the opposite direction of the town, twice. Past the industrial area with its power station and desalination plant, and then took a secondary road through a small fishing village and along the coast through more volcanic shale, which opens up to new housing developments and then onto beautiful beaches.


Seafront property with Moorish features


Houses in small fishing village en route


TEGUISE


White roofs and volcanic shale
 Along the waters edge are some spectacular beach houses near Teguise. Some are designed and constructed with volcanic rock, blending into the rocky shoreline, whilst others are starkly white against the shale. Teguise, itself has several glorious, sandy beaches, with walled picnic areas on the grassy verge. The passeo resumes and there are open-air fitness centres, gaily painted in yellow. Most beaches are converted into sheltered tidal pools, by extending the natural reefs to provide protection from the north Atlantic swell.






Picnic with Pete


Hotels line seafront at Teguise




Even industry looks good at sunset

We enjoyed the walk so much that we returned a second time. Pete cannot resist a bargain and we dined at an all you can eat Chinese buffet which cost a princely sum of €4.00 per person.



Repairing the wind generator tabernacle


We watched the preparation for the Lanzarote marathon and then had front row seats to the actual event with close ups when we walked to Lidl. Pete had been struggling with a solution for our wind generator pole, which has not strong enough support and is not sited well, but in the end has left the pole on the port stern for the moment. He re inforced the tabernacle and soon we were ready to move on. Pete was much better, although he still had rhinitis and watery eyes. My shoulder was almost back to normal. Cruise ships came in and out on an almost daily basis and the day we left we had the pleasure of sailing past the “Queen Elizabeth”.


 The sail to Playa Papagayo was idyllic. The wind was abaft the beam and “Oryx” sailed through the sunshine.  The winter weather in the Canaries is glorious with daytime temperatures into the twenties and sometimes as warm as 27C, dropping to 18C at night.  We anchored off Playa Papagayo, where the beach was teaming with people swimming and tanning.



PLAYA PAPAGAYO


The cliffs near Playa Papagayo

The landing at Playa Papagayo seemed precarious with the surf and we weren’t sure if we could take the dinghy ashore amongst the bathers, as the bathing area was cordoned off. Instead we watched a magnificent sunset with our first ‘green flash’ from the cockpit of “Oryx”. After sunset Pete called me to show me an erupting volcano towards Playa Blanca! I was speechless! I think I literally wiped my eyes, then I realised that it was something man made, bedecked with luminous lighting. It was unfortunately too far to take a night shot, but it was certainly effective and must be quite a sight from the many aircraft landing nearby.




Just before the green flash!
PLAYA BLANCA
 The next morning after breakfast we had a short sail to an anchorage off Playa Blanca. They have built a new marina called Marina Rubicon, which has only been open for about a year. We anchored off the passeo, just beyond the swimming platforms and out of the ferries’ way. After morning coffee, we changed, packed our picnic lunch and we were about to set off, when I did something weird getting into “Crake” and to my surprise, embarrassment and horror found myself swimming! Pete managed to stabilise the dinghy, so that he didn’t join me, but he had to bail the dinghy out, as I had done my best to rock the boat! While I was treading water, my first reaction was one of relief – the water was pleasantly warm, but this was soon replaced by dismay, because I had wrenched my arm again, so I behaved badly until I was back on board. I dried off and changed and off we set again.


The 'volcanic' hotel that lights up at night!





Marina Rubicon




Looking back toward Playa Blanca
Once ashore, the arm was forgotten. Playa Blanca is a tourist haven with many souvenir shops and restaurants and wall-to-wall accommodation. The marina is lovely and has its own restaurants, wifi and all the usual facilities. There were many boats lining the pontoons. We walked along the passeo, stopping to picnic on one of the benches with views of the stunning cliffs and an old fort, with the town in the background. We continued along the passeo walking towards Playa Papagayo until we reached the volcanic wasteland. Pete recalls visiting Playa Blanco in 1975 when there was a tiny village with some Scandinavian development. Now there are new developments everywhere. There are well-tended flowerbeds, palm trees and many varieties of succulents. The prices of property in the Canary Islands seem cheaper than in Europe.




Wall to wall hotels


Volcanic wasteland towards Playa Papagayo










Marina village




Christmas in the Canaries





ISLA LOBOS


On the 18th of December we sailed over to Isla Lobos, where we anchored off the point, watching surfers who arrive by yacht or RIB’s from neighbouring Fuertaventura to meet the challenge of waves, which seem comparable with the big surf spots of the world. I was reluctant to go ashore as there was surf on the beach and I didn’t want to embarrass myself or strain the arm again, so instead Pete and I sat on the trampolines, drinking beer and watching the surfers perform.

Approaching Isla Lobos


Surfing

We set out to sail down the east coast of Fuertaventura. The wind was very light and from the southeast, so we abandoned our plans and set sail for Las Palmas on Gran Canaria. The wind was variable, but when there was any it was abaft the beam and the sailing was glorious, just the way I like it. Gran Canaria beckoned at first light, but the wind toyed with us and although we were getting closer, we put the engine on for the last ten miles, so that we could enter the harbour at Las Palmas in daylight.


Skipper relaxing
GRAN CANARIA

LAS PALMAS
 We anchored off the Muelle de Portivo, between the marina and the yacht club. There were several other boats in the anchorage.



Las Palmas Harbour




With five days to Christmas there was a lot to do. We cleared into the port; one has to pay a nominal amount for anchoring off the marina. It is calculated by square metre and “Oryx” had to pay €3.00 per day, but that included use of the dinghy dock, water, shower facilities and wifi. Within the marina complex there are several restaurants, bars, well-stocked chandleries and an expensive laundromat.


Entrance to marina... don't you love the sky?


Wharram "Captain Cook" or Pahi

Las Palmas also has a beautiful passeo, or promenade for pedestrians and cyclists, which seems to stretch from one end of the city to the other. Las Palmas is very different to Lanzarote and Graciosa, as all the buildings are brightly coloured. Just beyond the promenade is the main dual carriageway into the city, which is extremely busy. Just beyond the carriageway there are several supermarkets and a traditional vegetable and fish market.





Las Palmas is built on an isthmus with the port on the east side and on the west side is a beautiful beach. Surfers, body boarders, kayakers, paddle boarders and bathers all have designated areas. At the far end of the promenade was a structure, which from a distance looked like a huge sandcastle and on closer inspection turned out to be an auditorium. Beyond the auditorium were more surfers, seemingly more experienced and we spent some time watching their antics. We noticed some advertising poster of forthcoming events and discovered that the Canary Island’s Symphony 
Orchestra were performing popular classics on Sunday the 30th for €5.00. We promptly booked a couple of tickets and were lucky enough to get choice seats as the bookings had just opened up.


Graffiti based on Canary Islander Nestor de la Torre


Surfing etiquette




Atlantis?


We met up with Riens and Ineke on “Zeezwaluw” again. They were now in the marina and had sundowners on there boat. They are spending the winter in Las Palmas refurbishing their boat, as it is fairly easy and relatively inexpensive to get parts locally or have them sent from Spain.


Sunset at the marina

Christmas was a quiet affair for us; we had found a Christmas cake in the Las Palmas Marks & Spencer’s and barbequed a leg of lamb in the cockpit on our Swanniebraai, which is behaving much better now that we are not using damp charcoal. Unfortunately the smoke irritated Pete’s eyes again and we stayed on board on Boxing Day. After realising that Pete couldn’t still have a cold, we bought some anti histamines and I started instilling teargel, but with little or no improvement.


Sunset at anchor


Saturday regattas with Optimists in bay 

A helpful pharmacist then suggested blocked tear ducts so Pete spent a few days massaging the bridge of his nose and I applied warm compresses to unblock them, to no avail. By this time Pete was looking like a battered husband and it took threats of battering to get him to a doctor who diagnosed ‘dry eye syndrome’ and prescribed stronger anti histamines, better eye drops and camomile tea compresses. Pete’s eyes are much improved. Thanks for the supportive messages and he now has some highly specialised sailing sunglasses. The healthcare in the Canaries is readily available and the British consulate provides a list of clinics where English is spoken. The one we attended is right in the tourist area on the isthmus, although there are many other facilities closer to the port. Pete’s consultation cost €40.00. The medication was about €10.00. Another handy tip for stocking up, prior to crossing the Atlantic is the fact that generic medication is sold liberally at pharmacies, without prescription and very cheaply.


The Nestor De La Torre gallery is in this historic building



Near the art museum is my favourite hotel, the ‘Santa Catalina’. It is situated in beautiful gardens. It is built of wood and is typically colonial and apparently Prince Charles and Churchill have been guests. The art museum is devoted to the work of Nestor de la Torre and he and his architect brother, Miguel, shaped much of the Las Palmas of the early twentieth century. The city still celebrates Nestor’s art by having graffiti copies along the passeo.



Our favourite hotel the Santa Catalina



On the weekends the yacht club held J80 match races and we seemed to be one of the turning marks. It was interesting to watch, but hairy to row to and from the marina. The evening of the concert we watched the sunset sipping Cava on the passeo before the performance, which was fabulous.


En route to the concert we explored some parks and opulent suburbs




Panorama of the harbour from the hilltop




Historical opulence




Surfing at sunset on 30 December 2012, whilst we sipped Cava on shore


Auditorium
Look at view through window of auditorium


The Canary Island Philharmonic Orchestra



 New years eve we awaited midnight, which arrived with a blaring of ships sirens, followed by fireworks and then the yacht club party started. We slept to the music, which only stopped after dawn.




The old part of Las Palmas is well worth a visit as is the small Nestor art gallery. The passeo extends all the way to the colourful collection of fishermen’s cottages. There is a fine cathedral virtually adjacent, or backing on to a home of Christopher Columbus’.


Pete reading plaque


Christopher Columbus home on Gran Canaria




Door to Columbus home


Street Cafes



 The streets are narrow and most of the houses have been beautifully restored. The penalty for defacing a historic building doesn’t include the option of a fine and the jail time varies from 6 months to 6 years! Driving violations are also rigorously penalised, implementing the point system and frequent warnings are displayed on electronic billboards.Unfortunately, they don’t penalise the ships for spilling oil in the harbour though. A spill that occurred just before our arrival left several RIB’s tainted and the second has left “Oryx” with an ugly tidal mark.



More graffiti based on Nestor De La Torre's Poem of the sea












Three Kings Celebration in harbour
 Christmas day in the Canaries is essentially a religious holiday, celebrated with friends and family. Our Boxing day is a working day, New Years eve is celebrated with much revelry, as described and around the 6th of January the islanders celebrate the “Three King’s Day”, which is yet another holiday and this is when the gift exchange takes place! What a wonderful idea. Imagine all the bargains you could get on sales in England and South Africa?



Real Club Nautico

Just before Christmas a gentleman called Juan Pereira Duran, the RCC representative motored out to introduce himself to us. He was very obliging and was keen to offer any help. Juan invited us for lunch at the Real Yacht Club that has over a ten thousand members. The facilities are outstanding and their sailing achievements include two-storey high competition honour roll. The club hosts sailors from the colder climates, allowing them to practise in a suitable climate, during the winter months.
Juan is an air traffic controller and says that on Saturdays the flights are as little as three minutes apart. When he and Marina joined us for lunch on board, he went through the suitable anchorages on the south of the island. Marina is an English teacher and told us that English is started in infant school and a compulsory subject all through school.


"Oryx" as seen from Real Club Nautico



The Monday after the three king’s celebration was a holiday, so we did our final stock up of fresh food and veggies on the Tuesday, said our goodbyes and set sail on the Wednesday morning for the south of the island. The passage to Amfi del Mar was pleasant but fairly slow. We averaged about 4nm per hour and were becalmed around sunset, so we motored into the crowded anchorage. The cliffs are covered with hotels and resorts. The anchorage is sandy bottomed and sheltered and by day water sports abound – Jet Ski’s, parasailing, pedaloes, banana ski boat rides.


Old town and cathedral from the sea
South coast Gran Canaria






Amfi del Mar






Fun and games off Amfi del Mar
Amfi del mar monster!

 We rowed ashore to the distant harbour of Arguineguin, explored the ferraterias (hardware stores) and local shops. The southern island of Gran Canaria seems to abound with Scandinavian expatriates and we found many inexpensive tours running to various parts of the island, but the wind picked up and the anchorage at Amfi del Mar wasn’t secure enough to leave the boat unattended, so we spent our final day in Gran Canaria relaxing on board.



Arguineguin Harbour




Street in Arguineguin


Another picnic off another sheltered/enhanced beach


So long from Gran Canaria

Cape Verde escapade to follow soon... thanks for your patience.


And a few pics just for fun-



Oil skin hook - new addition


Storing peppers for the crossing


Ships pet - Tommy