We arrived in Barbados just before midnight on 22nd of December 2021, from Cape Verde. Our journey to get here started from Leros in Greece on the 29th of July and took us through the Aegean into the Ionian sea, across the boot of Italy, through the Aeolian Islands, to Sardinia and the Madalennas, then to Spain, briefly revisiting the Balearics before schlepping along the Costa Del Sol and the Costa Blanca and into Gibraltar, for some major electrical work. Then it was back to Spain and to The Canary Islands before our unplanned side trip to Cape Verde, and then our Atlantic crossing to Barbados, our 6th country in 2021 and just 5 months! We have travelled over 6,641 nautical miles in that time. And so here we are - ITIKI and crew are a little worse for wear, but we made it and now it’s time to s…l…o…w d…o…w…n……
We are in the Caribbean islands, we are on island time, and even though we have things to do and problems to fix we have to go with the flow and accept that this is going to take time. Also it Christmas and there are public holidays to work around, and unlike Australia everything closes for these and on Sundays. Slow down, breathe, relax, accept the pace…
Barbados lies 80nm to windward of the rest of the Lesser Antilles, and hence missed out on a visit from Columbus & Co. Instead it was “discovered” by the Portugese in 1536, on their way to Brazil – they were impressed by the bearded fig trees on the island and named it Isla de los Barbados (the island of beards!) – and the name has stuck. The English set up a colony in 1627 and the island remains strongly attached to its English traditions, including language, the police uniforms and Anglican churches. Sugar was the main source of income and wealth generation through the 1800s and of course this relied heavily on the slave trade of course - the Islands current inhabitants being descendants of these African slaves.
So here we are in Bridgetown, Barbados, anchored off a long and beautiful white sand beach of Carlisle Bay with the most spectacular turquoise and crystal clear water. Before we can relax completely though, we need to complete some formalities.
There are a couple of cruise ships approaching the port so we head around to the customs dock inside the port at around 9am. As described in the pilot book, the dock is a high concrete one with huge fenders, better suited to cruise ships than small yachts. We do our best to position ITIKI so that she is not banging up against these monsters and end up mooring in front of some fellow Aussies on SV Tuleta, who have been circumnavigating for several years. They have been waiting on the dock since arriving from Madeira the previous evening. We wait on the boat until the officials come to us with paper forms to fill out. One of these forms is required in duplicate so carbon paper is provided – when was the last time you saw that stuff? Of course, I put it around the wrong way so had to fill the 2nd form out by hand! It took about 3.5 hrs to get cleared. We could get free WiFi on the dock and download our Covid PCR test from Mindelo. These along with our time at sea and vaccination status meant that we did not have to undergo further quarantine. We can go back to our anchorage now and continue catching up on sleep.
Bridgetown is a busy and bustling place. People are wearing masks in the street and everyone is militant about temperature checks, hand sanitising and crowd management indoors. It’s very busy in the supermarkets and shops. English is the official language here and everyone seems friendly, happy and helpful. Cruise ships have returned and the tourist hoards are everywhere. Christmas is around the corner and perhaps it’s the festive spirit. There are people wearing santa hats and reindeer horns, which seems so out of place in 30C heat – but then again we do it in Australia! There are some really spectacular hairdos as well, mostly on the women but some of the men too! Braids, dreadlocks and cornrows interlaced with colours and beads, no two styles alike. The hairdressers here must be real artists!
I am inspired to get a haircut while I am here, too short for dreadlocks or braids so I opted for a very short and practical cut! We also found a few street vendors selling some fresh produce and bought a few things, but it’s quite expensive – did I just pay A$14 for 1 pineapple?!
Christmas day was celebrated in the usual way, (well apart from spending a couple of hours cleaning the boat). We had the oven on most of the day making it even hotter! I made bread and then we went ashore and had a walk along the beach and swim in the surf. Did I mention the water colour here is amazing! It’s pretty warm too, about 26C! Christmas lunch is roast chicken, roast potatoes and pumpkin, Moroccan carrot salad. Oh and some French Champagne! The obligatory after lunch nap was followed by swimming off the back of the boat and then Christmas pudding with homemade custard around 5pm - and we are completely stuffed and exhausted – well we are still catching up on sleep after an Atlantic crossing!
Boxing day morning and Team Cushla (that we met in Mindelo) arrived late last night and swung by to say hi! It was lovely to see them.
We are slowly getting ITIKI back in order after the crossing, mainly cleaning and fixing a few small bumps and bruises. We got the spinnaker out to take a look at the damage. It’s fairly extensive but actually not as bad as we thought. Mainly the bottom half. The wing seems fine fortunately, but it will probably have to wait until we get to Martinique, where there are more experienced sailmakers.
With public holidays over Christmas and new year it is difficult to get much done, we spent quite a bit of time on the phone to Garmin, who were fantastic, trying to diagnose our autopilot problems. We would then go out of the anchorage to try to recalibrate according to their suggestions and report back to them on our next call – unfortunately nothing worked though and Garmin kindly agreed to replace the Reactor 40 under extended warranty (thanks Covid!) - so we just need to figure out how to get it to us!
Conscious that it has been 6 months since our last Covid vaccinations, we did a bit of Googling and managed to get a Pfizer booster shot courtesy of the Barbadan government. A very straightforward and easy process and no cost! How good is that.
We also found the local produce markets at Cheapside, which does seem a little cheaper but still expensive compared to Europe. Pretty much everything is imported, and any local produce is also expensive because of the effort and chemicals it takes to grow anything.
We tried to hire a car but it seems everything is booked out over the Christmas period so we mainly explored around Bridgetown. Of course, Barbados is a former British colony so Cricket is a thing here. We tried to visit the Legends of Cricket Museum but it was closed, a victim of Covid. Walking on a little further we were able to visit and do a short tour of Kensington Oval which is the international cricket stadium in Barbados. It has an interesting history as it used to be a sugar plantation. Cricket was segregated along racial lines until the ‘70s. Sir Garfield Sobers and Joel Garner are two of the legends of West Indian cricket and both are from Barbados. The English cricket team are playing here on the 20th of January, but we will definitely not be here for that one.
As we sit in the same spot in our anchorage each day we have been watching the tourist boats coming and going, depositing their clients in the water briefly before moving on to their next stop. We took the RIB over to investigate and found there is a small wreck not far from us, which has a lot of coral growth and plenty of fish. We snorkelled over that for a bit and then moved to an area where there are turtles and swam with them, as well as the hoards from the day tripper boats.
We saw in the New Year with a cocktail and tuna steaks on the BBQ. Didn’t quite make it to midnight but did wake briefly to see the fireworks.
The celebrations just keep on coming as before you can blink, its Keith’s birthday. Its also a Sunday so we weren’t expecting much to be open. We walked along the beach as far as we could, cut through the Yacht club and around past the fort and racecourse and then back down towards to beach. There are reefs and a fair bit of surf on this point. We came across a resort with a beach bar and stopped for a rum punch and Mai Tais and ended up staying for the buffet lunch, which was good value and very nice. They even brought out a cake and sparklers for Keith and sang happy birthday! We had a couple more rum punches just to make sure they were ok, then a swim before a “white knuckle” bus ride back to town. The celebration continued the next day as we had Andy and Julie (from team Cushla) over for dinner for Keith’s birthday. They are a lovely couple and looking at getting married in Barbados. Julie made a chocolate cake for Keith.
Finally our thoughts are turning to leaving Barbados and heading to St Lucia to meet Debs and Martin, who will bring our all important autopilot component. Any movement between countries these days means one thing – yes the dreaded “brain tickle”. We got a taxi to the Covid testing place which we thought opened at 9:30, but there was already a huge crowd. Waited 2.5 hrs to pay for the test with only one person handling payment. Then we wait to register and get a tube, then we wait to get the test. 3 hrs in total and B$100 each for PCR tests. We were exhausted after that and the day is half gone, so we abandoned our plans to head to the east coast by bus. The results will be emailed to us so we head up to Port St Charles in the north of the island. Its only 10nm further north, but as we will be hand steering to St Lucia we want to make the trip as short as possible. We hand steered under gennaker and main and as the boat was well balanced it wasn’t too bad. Went and spoke to the Port Police and organised our check out tomorrow, then walked in to Speightstown which is about 2kms south. It’s much less developed than Bridgetown but quite a few tourists at the beach bars along here. We stopped for a rum punch.
The next morning we checked out of Barbados as we will be leaving at 4am the following day. We upped anchor and moved a couple of miles down the coast to anchor off The “Just Chillin” beach bar in Speightstown. The café is run by a lovely English lady called Linda! After sampling their warm hospitality and yummy rum punches yesterday we decided to take the dinghy ashore and have lunch there - lobster linguine, absolutely delicious! Oh and of course we had a couple of rum punches. We bought some rum from the supermarket and had a lazy afternoon on the boat. A few weeks later we discovered that anchoring is not allowed in this area… Ooops!
Speightsown, Barbados to Vieux Fort, St Lucia; 84nm
Today’s challenge: Get up at 4am, hand steer 84nm to St Lucia. Keep speeds above 7kts VMG so we arrive in daylight, do 2 loads of washing and fill the water tanks. Well apart from the 7kts VMG we managed all of the objectives, arriving just on sunset at the anchorage. Started just after 4am, motoring for a short while until the breeze was settled. We took a punt on a 2 headsail goosewing but it proved difficult to steer in the dark and not quite the right angles. Furled the genoa and then continued with the just the gennaker until daylight, and the put the main up (1 reef) and reached with that before goose-winging. Seas were very confused again with 3 different swells, breeze shifting from 75 to 110 degrees and at times a northbound set of 3kts which felt like we were going sideways to St Lucia. At one stage on the chart-plotter the boat was pointing at St Vincent. We thought it was because of the issues with the heading sensor, but actually it was probably correct as we were fighting the current. We saw a cruise ship on the horizon and on the chartplotter - Celebrity Reflection. We were monitoring them as we were under sail, hand steering to shifty winds and they were just on the edge of our 1nm separation comfort zone. They called us on the radio and said they were altering course by 5degrees to avoid us and asked us to hold our course (?!). We thanked them as this gave us a 1.5nm separation when we finally did cross them. The breeze was up and down, dropping to as little as 10kts at stages, although fortunately not for long as we completely forgot we had 1 reef in the main. We could finally see land about 25nm out, as it was very hazy. As we got closer to St Lucia the breeze started to fill in again and we could gybe the headsail and reach in to our destination – the anchorage at Vieux Fort on the southern tip of the island. We dropped anchor in the middle of the wide bay, opposite the breakwater, about 5 minutes before sunset. We have made it to St Lucia! What a relief. Friday night cocktails were in order!
The Cape Verde islands are a volcanic Archipelago around 400nm off the westernmost point of the Atlantic coast of Africa (which is also called Cap Verte). Colonised in the 15th century by the Portuguese, the islands have played a major part in the slave trade and have also been an important stopover on key Atlantic shipping routes. Cape Verde was incorporated as an overseas department of Portugal, but its inhabitants continued to campaign for independence, which they achieved in 1975. The official language is still Portugese, there is a local Creole, and English and French are also widely spoken.
What we saw of the Sao Vincente island was quite beautiful and the people were incredibly friendly and helpful. The atmosphere was laid back and it seemed reasonably safe in terms of security (of course with the usual travel precautions). We did manage to take a day tour of the island of Sao Vincente, which was really lovely. We skirted around the coast as well as up through the mountains.
We can also verify that the is a reasonable medical centre here, although Google Translate will come in handy if you need their services. The officials at the port were also very helpful and efficient.
Here is a short slide show of our time in Sao Vincent
The second part of our journey takes us to the islands of Gran Canaria and Tenerife, as well as a side trip by ferry and hire car to La Gomera.
From our anchorage at the southern end of Fuertaventura we had to motor all 47nm across to the the capital of the island of Gran Canaria, Las Palmas, as the breeze was too light to sail. The anchorage is a strange one inside the port, between two busy marinas (full of ARC boats). We are overlooking a container terminal and facing a beach. It’s an odd spot, noisy but very sheltered and calm which makes a nice change. It will be a good base for exploring and the ongoing task of provisioning. The marina manages the anchorage so we have to go in, check in and pay a small fee but we are able to use some of the facilities including the dinghy dock.
We spend a couple of days exploring the town of Las Palmas and topping up provisions. We head downtown to the shopping area and have morning tea, then have a hair raising, high speed bus ride Centro Historico (or old town) and end up having lunch there. I visited the Cathedral whilst Keith visited the Columbus museum. Had a lovely 3 course Menu Dia at a small café before a massive supermarket shop to keep filling our pantry and fridges for our crossing and beyond.
The following morning we left early to head 33nm south to Plasito Blanco, on the south coast of the island. We had light conditions at first but the breeze picked up later as we and we could sail under main and gennaker, mostly goose-winged and up to 20kts TWS (that acceleration zone again). As we approached the SE corner of the island we could see the famous sand dunes of Maspalomas. These are quite extensive, over 400 hectares, and quite important ecologically. There is one large peak on the northern end and there are walking trails throughout the dunes. We pass reasonably close to these to take a look before turning the corner and finding a spot for the night. We anchored between the marina entrance and a 1980s beach resort, (reminiscent of Maroubra) and overlooked by a golf course, an oasis of green amongst the lunar volcanic landscape.
The next day Keith and I went for a walk to find some lunch. Made the mistake of walking up to the top of the cliffs and trying to skirt along the edge of the golf course to get to the 80s resort at the beach, but it was all fenced off so we had to double back and walk along the rocks. Saw Martin and Soni in the RIB, they were looking for Martin’s flip flop which fell off the boat. We had tapas at the ‘80s beach resort and wandered along to Maspalomas (near the sand dunes) where there are more restaurants and resorts and had afternoon tea. On the way back we were walking along the beach and amazingly found Martin’s lost flip flop half buried in the sand. Who would have thought! Fortunately he had not thrown the other one out yet!
We managed to organise a car, which is no mean feat with so many boats and people around. Picked up the car at Playa Ingleses and headed into the hills. The scenery is quite spectacular, roads are windy and there are heaps of mad people riding bicycles up hill and down on the narrow winding roads. There is a big event coming up so I guess they are practicing. We had morning tea at Fataga on a terrace overlooking the volcanic hills. It’s still very dry in this area, although there are a few more trees than other islands. We head further north along the winding roads, stopping at a few viewing points for photos of the breathtaking scenery. Next stop is Roque Nublo, the second highest peaks on the island, which is a 20min walk up to a plateau to see these amazing vertical rock formations. The view is fantastic and we can see all the way across to Tenerife and its highest peak, La Tiede. The winding roads continue and we stop for lunch at Tejeda. Again fantastic views of peaks and rocks, looking back to Roque Nublo where we have just been. From here we start heading towards the coast, with a quick detour via Pico las Nieves which is the highest point on the island. There is an observatory here, or maybe a military installation and again spectacular views. We continue to wind our way downhill and can see Las Palmas and the airport in the distance. We finally get to the freeway and decide to head straight back to the boat.
The following day is an easier one on the road as we just head along the coast. There are some really heavily developed areas with some very ordinary looking resorts. We finally get to Mogan after a detour/double back thanks to a road closure, and stop for coffee and cake. This area is well and truly over developed for mass tourism, with resorts lining the hills around even the tiniest of bays. Most of them are not particularly upmarket or attractive. After a supermarket stop we head to Maspalomas for lunch, intending to have a walk through the dunes but the wind direction has changed and strengthened so Keith and I head back to the boat while Soni and Martin take the car back. It’s a very bouncy RIB ride back for all of us!
We spent the time here ticking of our list of jobs to prepare for the crossing, a lot had already been done but there always seems to be more to do. The provisioning frenzy continued as well. That said we still had time for a little bit of sightseeing. There is not much happening around the marina area, which is part of a big resort complex with golf course and numerous apartment complexes, but you can walk along the coastal boardwalk to the nearby town of . We did manage to find a café run by a British lady that served an excellent Sunday Roast (oh how we miss lamb) with Yorkies!
Tour of La Gomera.
This small circular island is a mere 17nm from Tenerife at its closest point. It is only 22km in diameter and its highest peak (Alto de Garajonay) is a mere 1,487m. It is the greenest of the islands we have visited so far, with thick forests which are often shrouded in mist. We took a taxi to Los Christianos, and from there ferry to La Gomera, picked up a hire car and headed off along the narrow, windy roads. Had a traditional Canarian lunch via Google translate. It was fairly heavy, starchy and frankly a little weird. The visitor’s centre in the National Park was well worth a stop to and we learned about the Gomeran whistling language (Silbo) which was used to communicate in the hills between villages. It helped to find missing goats or communicate local news. We could also see how villagers used a long pole to travel on foot through rough and rocky terrain. From the north coast we could see views of La Palma, the island with recent volcanic eruptions and evacuations. This is as close as we will get. Then its back to San Sebastion for a look around the town before catching the ferry and taxi back to ITIKI.
Tour of Tenerife
Picked up a hire car from the airport and did a tour of Tenerife. First stop Mount La Teide. At 3,715m above sea level it is the highest point in Spain and the highest of the Atlantic islands. We drove up towards the peak, had lovely morning tea and cake at a small village along the way. The road then takes us down into and through the main crater with numerous photo stops along the way. It’s an incredible and quite diverse landscape, not completely devoid of vegetation but pretty dry. There are areas of lava flows, lunar landscape and vertical rocks, once molten outflows but now left behind after erosion of the surrounding soil. It was very chilly up top with clouds often descending to cover the peaks and descending down into the crater. It wasn’t possible to go to the peak of La Tiede as the cable car was not operating due to high winds, which is a regular occurrence. Then down to Santa Cruz, the capital of Tenerife, for lunch and a wander round.
And so our time in the Canary islands has come to an end. Whilst the main reason for coming here was to use it as a staging point for our Atlantic crossing, it has been well worth a visit and we could have easily spent more time here. Given the time of year it was sometimes cool at night, and the water was also a little cool for swimming, but certainly clear, clean and refreshing. It was a good place to provision, although the fruit and veg was not always the freshest and a lot of it is obviously imported. It was busy with patrons of the ARC which at times was frustrating. Apparently, it does get less busy closer to Christmas as the ARC boats depart, emptying the marinas and returning their hire cars, however there is now a January rally so perhaps that doesn’t last too long. Don’t forget you can read about our Atlantic Crossing – first attempt and second attempt – in my previous blog posts.
Arrival, Lanzarote and Fuertaventura
The Canary Islands
In the 1400s the Spanish laid hands on the group of islands, which sit off the South West coast of Morocco, and have kept them ever since. Initially they used them as a bunkering station for their expeditions around Africa and to the Americas. Christopher Columbus launched numerous expeditions from here. The origins of the name of the islands is not clear but it seems to have nothing to do with the bird. Possibly related to the ferocious dogs (Canis in Latin) kept by the early inhabitants, The Guanches. It may also be related to the name of the Berber tribe (Canarii) that the Romans sent to the islands as slaves. Those Romans sure get around!
Cooled by constant NE winds the climate is fairly mild and the water is a cool 23C when we arrive. The winds make for interesting sailing and do rather dictate your itinerary through the islands. Acceleration zones around the southern corners of the islands are common and windspeeds build significantly in these areas. Anchorages protected from the N quadrant are a must, but may still get the swell wrapping around the land!
The islands are volcanic in origin and a matter of weeks before we arrive in the area the island of La Palma, in the NW of the group has suffered serious eruptions leading to evacuations and loss of homes. We decide to give that one a miss.
The Canary Islands are the main staging point for the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) for pleasure boats to cross the Atlantic to the Caribbean in company and with some shore support. After a couple of quiet years and cancellations due to Covid, the rally is proving very popular again and despite offering several departure dates is booked out well in advance. While we won’t be joining them they certainly make their presence felt - all of the boats and crews involved fill the marinas and bars, keep the workshops busy, book out the rental cars and generally boost the local economy before heading off mid-November.
Getting there - 28 October to 1 November
The journey south from La Linea in Spain (just across the border from Gibraltar) will be our longest crossing in ITIKI so far at 584nm! The crossing of the Bay of Biscay from La Rochelle (FR) to A Coruna (ES) was “only” 361nm and took us 2.5 days. We are expecting 4-5 days although winds are going to be lighter than we would like, but after almost 2 weeks in a marina (getting our new batteries fitted) we are keen to get going. Landfall and first anchorage will be Playa Francesca, on the small island of La Graciosa, which sits at the northern end of the Canary island group, just off the coast of Lanzarote.
We are ready to depart a bit before noon after a final shore run, but we are not off to a good start. Initially the starboard engine MDI (electronic engine starter) would not switch on – we just had a blank screen so it looked like it had failed, which has been a common problem for some time with the Volvo engines. There have been a significant number of recalls under warranty with some FP owners going through multiple failures. Fortunately with some jiggling of the wires and a dose of electrical spray we got it to light up and could start the engine. Phew.
We came out of the straits of Gibraltar under full main and Gennaker goosewinged. The wind and swell stayed mostly behind us with gusts of up to 28kts (TWS), but averaging 18s. We were making good time and sailing well, although there were lots of ships to dodge coming out of Gibraltar, but we are soon past the worst of it and on our own. Over the last 3 years this area that has been increasingly “plagued” by Orca “interactions” with smaller vessels, including yachts. The animals have been ramming the rudders and causing extensive damage, often disabling steering and we were concerned about having a confrontation*. Fortunately though they seem to have migrated further north over the last few weeks and we see nothing. It’s not long before we are out of sight of land and feel like we are well into our journey. There are four of us so we are doing 3-hour watches, with a couples’ shared watch in the middle of the day. This leads to a changeover so we do not do the same watch times on consecutive days. With 4 people it is a luxury to have 3 hours on and 9 hours off! I can even sleep down in our cabin, despite the noise of the autopilot and creaking windows.
* If you are interested in knowing more about the Orca “interactions” check out this article in Yachting Monthly by Andy Pag. We met Andy and his partner in Mindelo and again in Barbados.
We lost the breeze during the night as forecast so motored some, sailing when we could. The starboard engine MDI has gone dark again, hopefully just a loose wire after all of the activity in the engine bay recently, however it needs investigation during daylight. The fuel gauge also showing empty, despite being full of duty free fuel… Water temperature is already up to 22oC.
We mostly motored during the day with the breeze light and on the nose. We were eventually able to sail but it’s still a bit choppy. We got the starboard motor going with the bypass switch (the one we fitted in Hammamet), and then the MDI came alive. Also got the fuel gauge working, that was just a case of a loose wire at the nav station. Now just need to get this fishing rod into gear!
We motored into light headwinds through the night. At least it drowned out the whine of the autopilot so sleep was possible. Heady unfurled at 06h45, not breaking any speed records but at least not burning fossil fuels. There is a nasty chop which we don’t quite have enough speed to power through. Everything is damp and clammy but we are otherwise fairly comfortable.
We had the main and the genoa up all day with windspeeds of up to 15kts true. Our boat speed was constantly being knocked off by the short chop on top of the groundswell. We even put in a tack which must be the 4th one we have ever done! Had some dolphins visit us before sunset and play in front of the boat for a while. Breeze (and chop) eased in the early evening and we changed to a 2 Volvo reach chasing, some more breeze.
We motored again through much of the night with very low windspeeds. Dropped the main which started flogging and driving us nuts. Dimly lit and unlit fishing buoys appear without warning and sometimes too late to dodge them. We are off the coast of Essouira, a fishing port in Morroco that we visited back in 2019. The lack of wind is very frustrating. We appear to be just on the edge of some new breeze though so hopefully it will fill in. Fortunately the swell is not too uncomfortable.
Later in the day we finally found some breeze and the kite went up around 3pm. So good to have the engines off. The fishing rod is set up but apparently we are missing a stainless steel tracer to stop the fish with sharp teeth (?!) from taking our expensive lures. Hmmm not sure Tuna is going to be on the menu this trip! We dropped the kite at the midnight watch change as the watch crew are not yet night certified in the Parasailor, having only seen it for the first time today! We changed to gennaker and came up a bit.
Shifty winds during the night so sails were goosewinged by our morning watch change. Light conditions continued during the day but we are still sailing. A good opportunity to see what the solar panels can pump into the new batteries today without the engine running, although it is looking a bit cloudy.
We sighted land at 13h24 local time at 35nm to go to our anchorage. Sunset is fairly early here though and there is no twilight to speak of so its dusk as we anchor and Google Earth is helpful in picking a sandy spot to drop the pick in the dark.
We thought that this was a great shakedown cruise in preparation for our upcoming Atlantic crossing, although in hindsight it was actually a bit too easy. Still it was a good introduction to ITIKI for our crew. The watch system worked well and we used a whole range of sail configurations in a variety of wind conditions. The IridiumGo and PredictWind weather forecasts proved useful and easy to use and relatively accurate. We did not have really strong winds so no reefing was necessary, and we hope that the swell across the Atlantic will be at a better angle and longer period than the short chop that we have had. It was a good way to ensure everyone has their sea legs, getting sorted with sea-sickness management and nerves as well as getting familiar with the boat and how things work.
We spent a couple of nights in the anchorage just recovering on the boat, no one felt like going ashore initially. The boys tried to fit the port prop anode, which we lost in the marina in Spain, but no luck. Seems it needs some modifications as it is not quite the right shape. The water is not that warm here so there is a limit to how much time they can spend in it. It’s exhausting trying to work underwater with a mask and snorkel, and getting covered in anti-foul in the process.
We went for a short walk ashore the next morning to check out the volcano and coastal caves then headed to Lanzarote. We intended to anchor outside the marina but the anchorage looked a bit dodgy and very industrial. Further south we went to our second choice but we were waved away by an enthusiastic police woman. It turns out this port area is now being used to process the many refugees that are making the journey from Morocco and Western Sahara to the Canaries. Hmm, running out of options we consult Navily and go a little further south and anchor of the beach at Playa Concha, 23nm from our initial anchorage. It’s a reasonable spot and fortunately a calm night.
We tried to rent a car to do some touring but it seems there is just nothing available, with all of the ARC boats in town. Soni and Martin have rented a motor bike to tour the island though so we head to the fuel dock at Marina Lanzorote to refuel and check in. Keith stays on board while we go and check in at the passport office. This involves a taxi ride around to the other side of the port. Meanwhile the fuel pump breaks down so Keith also jumps in a taxi and comes over to the passport control. That was handy, very quick and no dramas at all, even with my obvious Schengen visa overstay (I have 2 stamps in my brand new passport!). The fuel pump is still not fixed when we get back so I walk up to the supermarket and buy way too much stuff, struggling to carry it back. By the time I get back the pump is fixed and Keith has been booted off the dock so we do a radical "touch and go" on the end of one of the marina arms, helped by a friendly local without a word of English! We head south under gennaker to a protected bay to wait for the intrepid travellers who will take a bus south to meet us. The weather is quite unsettled and we get some rain squalls along the way. We also experience the infamous“ acceleration zone” at the SE corner of Lanzarote (or exhilaration zone as one sailor has put it…). These acceleration zones are areas known for localised, higher windspeeds and are often popular with kite surfers. We good boat speeds before turning the corner into a more protected area. The Rubicon anchorage is just outside the marina and is quite popular.
The next morning we take a short trip ashore at Marina Rubicon for cake and coffee as well as a few provisions and then we head east away from the noisy town anchorage to a beach anchorage called Playa del Pozo. We are expecting some stronger northerlies over the next few days so need to plan carefully for those. It’s definitely winter weather now, cloudy and cool. Water temperature is 23C although it's not that tempting to go in as it is pretty cool when you get out.
Keith drops us on the beach, which is challenging as there is a bit of surf running. The 3 of us take a walk ashore along the beach and over the headland to one of the most famous beaches in The Canary Islands - Playa de Papagayo. The cliffs around it are quite high and spectacular, the water crystal clear. There is a large vein of volcanic rock running through the beach which almost looks like a steel plate. The beach is very crowded and the landscape is seriously dry - not a blade of grass to be had anywhere!
A strong N’Easter is now blowing, but it’s just a short distance (7nm to be exact) to go to our next destination of Caleta de la Rasca on Lobos, a small island off the NE corner of Fuertaventura. It’s a secure anchorage but it’s very bouncy and quite exposed. We try to go to visit the lagoon area on the south east corner of this tiny island but it’s too exposed and dangerous to go in the RIB, so we cross the bar of a smaller bay on the NW corner and bring the RIB up onto the beach. From here we can walk around the southern end of the island, which has a volcanic crater at the south west corner. Otherwise it is rocks, rocks and more rocks, it’s almost as if someone has come along with a bulldozer, created a path of rocks and made piles of more rocks either side. Still not a sliver of greenery in sight. There is a small restaurant and “beach” here but not much else, although we can visit the lagoon area more safely by foot than in the RIB.
We left our anchorage early after a very rolly night, and its 57nm to our next stop. We were able to sail under Gennaker initially before changing to the kite. The winds are certainly very consistent in this area with 15-20kts TWS NE most of the way. The northern part of Fuertaventura’s coast has a large area of sand dunes, quite the dessert scene, with a dramatic volcanic backdrop. The rest of the landscape is volcanic, much as we have seen before. We were wondering if the sand that has accumulated has blown in from the Sahara. We anchor off the town of Morro Jabel, north east of the marina and again it is very rolly and gets worse as the breeze drops overnight. There certainly is a dearth of protected anchorages in these islands so we are getting used to being rocked to sleep!
Lynda is slowly getting used to the transition from working to not working and racing to cruising.