On the morning of 5th Sept we awoke with anticipation, looking forward to taking a stroll rather longer than just around the cockpit having, as you will remember, just spent five days and nights at sea – but it was not to be. There were already 2ft waves and winds of 20k upwards and, looking around, most other boats had their tenders firmly in place on stern arches or decks. So, we just accepted it and stayed put. We spent the day reading and discussing the merits of purchasing a new “pig” – probably slightly larger and with an inflatable base as well as larger tubes. As Mike has said a few times – we were right in not buying loads of stuff before leaving Liverpool because it is probable we would have prioritised and/or bought the wrong things. Having a stable, reliable tender is a definite must have whereas we had thought the one we have was good enough for a year in the Clyde so, no problem. We now know! The two crews who went ashore on this day had a drier ride than we manage in flat calm.
We also sat contemplating the weird weather which affects the northern edges of most of the Canary Islands.
It looks to us like a ‘Heaton Cooper’ painting – and probably depicting Wastwater. But it is actually the cliff on the north west of Lanzerote as seen from La Graciosa. So sitting on one side of the cockpit gave that view – whilst sitting on the other gave us a sunny beach, blue skies and folk, who could get ashore or who had arrived by ferry from the mainland, enjoying themselves romping in the sea. Weird as there is only a mile stretch of water between them.
And so it was that we had a meal on board which included a claret. I have to say “a claret” – because we don’t know which claret, though we know it was a claret because of the shape of the bottle. You may be asking Why? [You may not of course – but I am going to tell you anyway]. The last posting told you of the very rolling seas we had on our trip down from Portugal. Well, Mike’s store of good wine, which he has had for years and cared for lovingly, has been kept separate from the general run of the mill wine, so that we don’t just glup it.
Unfortunately, where it was stored suffered water ingress – along with a bit of oil [not sure where it came from so we will leave that for another day’s worry] – and all the labels washed off. I am, however, very happy to report that there appeared to be no ill effects at all to the contents of the bottle and, for good or ill, all the other bottles have now been moved to the dry wine store.
Anyway back to getting ashore and I am delighted to say that our patience was rewarded the following day with calm waters and we happily took the pig to shore about mid morning. The beach is about a 40 minute walk from the village along a dirt track but we took the leisurely stroll along the shore option so, having a beer on arrival at the bar didn’t feel indulgent as it was well past “beer o’clock’ by then. Actually – I’ve just remembered – I had a coffee.
The village is a bit difficult to describe as there are odd shops and the occasional café interspersed with what are probably weekend or rental properties and then the port area which has about two bars and two restaurants and some wonderful “hippy” type people selling crafts and arty clothes on the small waterfront. Oh – and when I say weekend/rental properties, please do not imagine beautifully proportioned villas inside their own gardens with flowers kept alive by water sprinklers. No, this is really laid back, take it as it comes, sand/dust up to the doorstep, higgledepiggledy world – brilliant. We had a fabulous meal of cazuela [seafood casserole], house salad [which would have fed four people], canary potatoes, bread and a litre of wine for €30. We also found a fish shop which provided us with two dorado type fish for €5 which we took home for tea. This is more like it. We had a fab time in Portugal but, so far, Mike and I both prefer the Spanish influence – though of course we haven’t sampled the Cape Verde Islands yet!!!
The following day it was goodbye to La Graciosa – which, in case my description hasn’t tempted you has to be recorded as a Must Visit if you ever go to Lanzerote [Anne P – that’s you] – and hello to Playa Blanca.
Now why have we not been here before? As aficionados of Lanzarote will know, Playa Blanca lies at its southern tip and, in very calm, but cloudy, conditions we set out on the 30 mile journey south at about 09.00 on 7th Sept. As a result we had to motor for the first half of the journey but it was then fair sailing from noon onwards, and the sun came out and we rounded the point to see the bay laid out before us. The marina [Rubicon] lies at the eastern end of the bay and gets some of the cross winds, especially it seems when we want to berth. The reception/fuel pontoon was not too much of a problem as we were able to turn into wind, but the rather short finger pontoon we were allocated in the cross wind was slightly more interesting – though we made it without mishap. Steve and Jill and Malc and Nikki will recall that when we first arrived in Ardrossan we needed some assistance with such matters – but we have learned a little since then. Not that there is ever room for complacency and we would never profess to being expert.
Those who may be thinking about sailing in the Canaries, on a holiday or as part of a greater venture, would be foolish to miss out on Marina Rubicon. And actually, those who prefer the dry land option could also do worse than take one of the available apartments there for a week or two. It was excellent. We were being charged upwards of €50 – €55 per night in Portugal with Lagos hitting the top price of just over €60. We spent 7 nights in Rubicon for €165 which works out at about €23 per night, including water and electricity, good and plentiful shower facilities and use of the swimming pool free [Lagos was charging about €13 additional per person – we didn’t go to the pool there!]
Like other marinas there are lots of shops and bars/restaurants but other than a slightly expensive bottle of wine with a meal one night we found the drinks/food to be no more than an average meal in the rest of the resort. On our last three nights one of the restaurants had live entertainment which we could hear whilst sat on deck and we supped wine to the sounds of mellow jazz on one evening and a couple of capable female vocalists on the other two. We think this was because of the anticipated influx of boats for the annual Rubicon Marlin fishing competition. Certainly we had been given the impression that we would not be able to stay longer than we had intended and that the short finger pontoon we had been given was because of the marina being booked to full capacity. However, other than seeing some of the long stay boats being moved around by the Marineros we saw little to convince us that all the anticipated boats would arrive. They certainly hadn’t when we left on the Wednesday morning and the competition was Thursday to Saturday. The fact that I overheard someone say that no Marlin at all had been caught in the previous two years might have put the fishing fraternity off a bit?
Playa Blanca itself was also very pleasant with an old town/port area, all the shops/supermarkets etc one needs and good public transport to Arrecife and to Playa del Carmen should a venture out be required.
Initially our stay was frustrated by what had been our only really working form of communication [Mike’s phone] breaking down. We don’t quite know what happened and the phone has had to be returned to the UK for a factory reset. We tried his sim card in my very old “it makes calls and sends texts” phone and got a very strange set of symbols, only being able to use some of the buttons and no way of turning calls off once made – except by removing the battery. So, we bought a cheap phone and pay as you go, which is all you can do with no permanent address in Spain. We then found that when we changed over to our new email address and therefore effectively stopped Mike’s sim card from sending/receiving, the sim card started working again? It may be we had scrambled my phone by it trying to receive emails [and no, we didn’t try to send any – but that didn’t mean it didn’t try to receive]? It may be that a breakdown of Becketts email at about the same time caused some malfunction as Mike’s email was connected to Becketts? Who knows, but we now have two phones working and our new email seemingly up and running and working well [Yes James, there probably is a “Na na ni na na” – we know we should have used it right from the time you set it up for us]. So, for those of you who haven’t heard our email address is now:
[email protected]. “Simples”, as Alexander would say.
We spent one day visiting Arrecife – the capital. Perhaps its best description is “a working town”, though it has got a pleasant promenade, from which it is possible to watch the locals leaping into the sea from an old tower, and the Charco de San Gines which is an old and very small harbour with access under very low bridges for just tiny wooden fishing boats. A very pleasant place for lunch. Oh – and “working town” is rather a misnomer during the siesta period!
A 30 minute walk from the main town [approx] is the Castillo de San Jose. This was a small fort for repelling pirates [like Francis Drake!] but is one of the buildings which Cesar Manrique – to whom Lanzerote owes considerable thanks for ensuring that the island developers did not create the hotel and apartment block monstrosities of elsewhere – remodelled.
One evening, having used our bikes mainly for shopping, we decided it was time they had an excursion. It was only a small one but it got us from the marina to the base of the small volcano – the Montana Roja – right out of the opposite end of the town. This would have been approximately 1 hours walk in each direction and, since the object of the trip out was to walk up the volcano for an evening leg stretcher it seemed silly to spend 2 hours on pavements getting there and back. The mountain is only 425 feet high but it did give us good views. It was also very, very windy so standing near the edge at the top felt slightly unnerving, especially for Mike who doesn’t like heights.
So, all in all Playa Blanca was a brilliant stop off point though it is with some sadness that I report texts and ensuing phone calls on our next to last night there which told of the untimely death of a friend from Germany. Heino will remain in our memories of good times spent, stories swapped and jokes shared.
On 14th September we left Lanzerote behind and made our way to one of two stops on Fuerteventura. As Corralejo [top of Fuerte] can be seen from Playa Blanca we were never out of sight of land but our destination was half way down at a place called Las Playitas. We had visited the village on both our previous stays on Fuerte and knew it to be attractive so two nights at anchor there were something we looked forward to. The journey followed the same pattern of motor in the morning and sail once the sea breezes have taken hold and we arrived at around 3.30 pm. On approach we had thought that it may not be sufficiently sheltered because we were taking the genoa down in 24/25k of wind and there were pretty handy sized waves. Although it wasn’t going to be particularly dangerous, it had the potential of a rather uncomfortable anchorage. However, once fully behind the Punta Lantailla and into the small bay specific to Las Playitas we were fine. The only thing we did find was that, having initially anchored at high tide we needed to move about 50m further from the shoreline as the tide receded because of some rocks which began to emerge. We knew the rocks were there because the water was clear and we could see them [our anchor had held well in sand]. However, it is hard to judge whether the rocks actually stick up – or whether its just a flattish bit of shoreline as often it is. In this case there was at least one sticky up bit, as our anchor chain started to catch on it, and so we decided discretion was the better part of valour.
And thus passed two peaceful nights, before our move to Morro Jable at the southern end of the island. One of our favourite places on Fuerteventura is “the lighthouse at the end of the world”, thus called by ourselves because there is practically nothing there except a very small one street village, the lighthouse and a 20k drive across a barren landscape to get to it from Morro Jable. The pilot tells us that in calm northern sector wind conditions it is possible to anchor off this village which was very tempting because we have had two great lunchtime meals at the small establishment there. But, having had, as reported regularly in this blog, the wind turn on us at the most inopportune moments we agreed that the harbour at Morro Jable was probably the better choice.
Morro Jable is a small “German” resort. The guide to the Canaries says that there is little nightlife and that’s exactly what we found and which was fine by us. We ate on board one night and had a very pleasant night in the old town on the second night. What was perhaps the most surprising [and entertaining] part of the evening was a drunken lady who resembled a german “Edina” [think Ab Fab]. I don’t think the restaurant owner was impressed but she wasn’t causing any harm – it was just a bit worrying that she was on her own – though several caring german folk kept buying her water and then seemed to work out where she was staying and took her to her bed. She appeared none the worse for wear the following morning when we passed her sitting in a café at around 10.45 with a beer! But not many of us can actually start throwing stones can we……..
In terms of a place to berth it was the cheapest yet – just €12.50 per night. There were no showers but there were toilets available in the ferry terminal [2 mins walk] and water and electricity were included. On arrival there we had intended to anchor in the harbour as the pilot suggested we could. However, there has been a re-arrangement of pontoons and we were moved out of the local boat pontoon area where we thought we could anchor, by a very nice and helpful security man, into the main part of the harbour – still 99% local boats but of the fishing and tourist trip variety. We appeared to be the only visiting foreign yacht.
Having reported several times on the football it is a bit depressing that I can’t say the same for the Rugby World cup. It is much harder to find on the televisions and, as we have been spending more nights on board for one reason and another this lack of viewing shouldn’t be a surprise to me – but it would be nice to see it particularly as I am much more a Rugby fan than a football fan and Mike actually likes Rugby as well. We did see the second half of the England v Argentina game and for a while I thought back to a conversation I had had with John in Portugal about Argentina possibly providing some surprises. Phew – what a way to start a Saturday morning that was. We missed the Wales v South Africa match which from the scoreline sounds as if it was worth watching and we saw about 25 minutes of Ireland beating Australia. But I am afraid that’s it. So not only am I not seeing it I haven’t got a clue what is happening either. Ah well – I haven’t got a clue what is happening about other things either – like the riots completely passed us by until we were told by Chris and John. So there are some good things about being that bit out of touch.
So there you have the quick guide to Lanzerote and Fuerteventura as seen on our journey down through the Canaries with Gran Canaria next and then Tenerife before we arrive at the destination [La Gomera] chosen for leaving the boat as we return to the UK for two weeks and from whence we intend to leave in early November for the Cape Verdes.
What is exciting is that James is joining us in La Gomera on 27 September for a week – and we are sure that, as with other visitors, a fine time will be had by all