The weather for the last few days has been 'interesting'. Strong winds (it is a good F7 here at the moment) and 'seas of Iron'?
I have finally decoded the spanish phrases for sea state in the shipping forecast.
Mar Llana - Calm (Smooth) 0m 0
Mar Rizada - Calm (rippled) <0.1m F1
Marejadilla - Smooth 0.1m - 0.5m F2
Marejada - Slight 0.5m – 1.25m F3+
Fuerte Marejada - Moderate 1.25m – 2.5m F4-5
Mar Gruesa - Rough 2.5m – 4m F5-6
Mar Muy Gruesa - Very Rough 4m – 6m F7+
Mar Arbolada - High 6m – 9m F8-9
Mar Montanosa - Very High 9m – 14m F10-11
Mar Enorme - Phenominal >14m F
My spanish is definitely improving! Today we have Mar Gruesa = rough seas, on top of 2-3metre swells ugh! And I thought 'iron' was flat!! Indoor jobs today, we are planning our passage foods and menus for the Atlantic crossing. Not a day for the beach or a walk. Still I cannot complain, 22 deg and sunny intervals at the end of November. Roll on the Caribbean!
The French boat moored next to us left the day before yesterday and returned last night, talking of waves as high as the lower spreaders and struggling to go to windward. They wanted to get to Graciosa on the North of Lanzarote but abandoned the idea at Arrecife (about half way) and turned back.
We will stay here until the winds and seas moderate.
Wednesday, 28 November 2012
We are back in Pto. Calero so we can have our hatches re-glazed along with our side windows. It seemed strange sailing back into a port we had left previously. So far we have only done this twice on this trip. (Oiras and Albufeira) It is nice to know where you are going when entering the harbour
|Wildlife in Paradise!|
Over the years the effects of the sun has caused the polycarbonate glazing to craze and crack. We had always considered getting this work done but as it wasn’t considered critical we didn’t get around to doing it before we left. However speaking to other people who had had hatches crack completely and on advice from Henning who previously had worked as a plastics expert for Airbus we are having this work done. The last thing we want is a broken hatch or side window and sea water inside the boat!
Because Lanzarote is an island with hardly any rainfall, replacing the windows here should give us one less thing to worry about. Ironically it has rained almost every day we have been here! Not a lot normally, just a light shower, with the exception of Wednesday, when a heavy downpour meant we lost the day completely to the weather.
Weather delays and hard work kept us in Pto. Calero all week, but we now have beautiful side windows and hatches. Our hatches have a reflective coating to reflect the sun and help keep the cabins cool, as well as protecting the glazing. As to the new side windows, so much more light and you can see through them! A big thank you to Henning from Waterline Yacht Services, who did an excellent job.
We finally finished as it was getting dark on the Friday evening. Having been in Calero a week we wanted a change of scenery. The forecast was not looking good for the weekend with strong winds from the SW and heavy rain. (The only way to go from here is South or West!) if we are going we had better go! We left at midday Saturday with a gentle easterly breeze. We are heading for the Southern tip of the Island to Playa Blanca and Marina Rubicon. The wind is slowly veering (anticlockwise) and by the time we arrive at about 15.00 we have our predicted SW. We have arrived just in time.
|Arrival at Marina Rubicon|
Marina Rubicon is another tourist development, 2Km around the bay from the town of Playa Blanca with its fishing boats and ferry terminal, an easy cycle ride away. The marina is well sheltered with a long breakwater, we will wait out the bad weather here. The plan is to go to either to Tenerife or Gran Canaria when the weather improves. We have heard that the cruising division of the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) has been delayed due to the weather. (Almost unknown!)
|Says it all!|
The Spanish Met. Office has weather warnings (wind and sea) for the Canaries until Wednesday so we will wait and see what develops.
|Blackpool? No, Marina Rubicon!|
The forecast until Friday mentions winds of up to F6 or F7! And a sea state that literally translates to ‘seas of iron!’ I am not sure how that corresponds to the UK sea state forecast, but it doesn’t sound too gentle to me. There are plenty of things to do around here besides working on the boat! We have bars with live music, places to eat, coastal walks, beaches, outdoor swimming pool, (if only the weather was a bit warmer and sunnier). I got totally soaked cycling back from town on Monday afternoon - so much for no rain.The Marina is pleasant enough, although the showers are never warm, so we have taken to showering on the boat. We also have the perennial poor marina WiFi. It is all a bit disappointing when you are paying €30 a night.
We met up again with Jeff on ‘Horizons’ who told us of his nightmare trip from Madeira. Un-forecast F8 winds and his autohelm broken en route. He is marooned here while the unit is repaired back in the UK.
|Playa Blanca - looking towards the Marina|
Still the social life continues with new friends Brian & Dorothy on ‘Caitlin of Argyll’ and Jeff the remaining member of the ‘Porto Santo set’. We met Sidney and crew on another Westerly Corsair. Sid is heading back to his native Australia with various crew helping him along the way. Good luck and fair winds to you.
We will wait until the ‘seas of iron’ are no longer with us and then head off for Gran Canaria.
Friday, 23 November 2012
The marina has water and electricity on the pontoons but the showers were not great. For internet we had to walk into town but it was only about 10 minutes and the wifi cafe was on the front so we could sit outside, drink coffee or beer and watch the world go by. Fishlife in the marina is good and the water clear enough to see the bottom. Apart from mullet we have red parrot fish which sometimes we can hear chomping on the weed on the boats, ornate wrasse, black seaperch, seabream and schools of fry. We think we saw a small school of baby barracuda!
Gran Tarajal does not seem to have many old buildings to make it very interesting, but we all liked it very much – just an ordinary little town with a lovely dark sandy beach. One day there was a swimming competition, all different ages swimming from buoy to buoy. We watched a heat of about 13 year olds, boys and girls, who swam 400m! The distance seemed to vary according to age but it was all in the open sea. All locals, it seemed –this is definitely not a holiday resort.
|Gran Tarajal Beach as we walk from the Marina|
There are good supermarkets and a small Tourist Info kiosk and buses to the rest of the island, but as we discovered, the timetable is very flexible.
Saturday 10th was the Fiesta of San Diego. A procession gathered on the quay next to the marina. Everyone was in traditional dress and most people had a guitar, mandolin or another stringed instrument. We all wandered over to see what was happening. There were several different groups who eventually set off towards town, singing and playing. Some were handing out little cups of wine and homemade cakes and they all seemed to have a cart or something. An old fashioned red tractor towing a cart with several people on was driven by a 12 year old boy. There was a motorcycle cop in the front and one behind and that was the total of the traffic control. No closed streets or anything. Imagine this happening in England!
|Donkey cart at the fiesta|
Eventually we all arrived in town and they all placed whatever they had in the carts on the steps of the church, it must be a sort of Harvest Festival, but no produce – things like cooking oil, flour and toilet rolls were some of the things we saw! Strange. There was a stage outside the church and groups played all evening, all traditional music. There were stall selling food and drinks and they all carried on long after we left. Seems we are still on the fiesta trail!
The following morning the lifeboat towed in an Oyster 39.
The mainsail had been torn off at the mast, the forestay bent off and one of
his windows was missing! Equinox had planned on leaving the previous evening
but changed their mind as the wind kept on increasing. This really vindicated
their decision. Later we found out that he had been knocked down, but we did
not speak to him, so do not know the exact circumstances. He was still there,
where he had been put, when we left.
|The fiesta moves on|
Richard got to work on our forestay. The clevis pin had moved across the bowroller, meaning the anchor stock was hitting it when the anchor was hauled on board. A simple task to loosen the forestay, move the pin out and put in a couple of packing washers so it won’t happen again. Easier said than done as we couldn’t get the split pins out of the forestay bottle screw! We slackened the backstay so we could detach the forestay, extract the split pins, slacken the bottle screw, extract the clevis pin, put in the packing washers, tighten the forestay, tighten the backstays and tune the rig, phew! It turned into a full days work for what should have been a very simple job.
We had a BBQ on the boat, inviting Equinox, Jack Tar and Mike on the other Corsair. A meeting of the Gran Tarajal branch of the Westerley Corsair Owners Association! A great evening with everyone bringing something, making entertaining very easy.
On Tuesday we decided to take the bus to Antigua to find the windmill museum which sounded interesting having a craft centre and a cactus garden as well. This was straight up the centre of the island for about 1/2 hour. It is a very bleak landscape with dry brown earth, palm trees, wind pumps and hills in the distance. The fields are all rectangular and have low walls of earth graded up around them, either windbreaks or to catch the water when it rains. Very little was growing but I think its just the time of year. Fuertaventura historically was the granary of the Canaries! Its hard to believe.
We arrived in Antigua and found the town centre. The old church and police station are now surrounded by an architect designed modern square with seating and gardens.
|Nuestra Senora de Antigua founded in C16th|
The Tourist Information kiosk was closed, so we wandered round looking for the windmill – would be easy enough to spot, you would think. Then we saw one, a little way off down the hill. How many windmill museums can one small town have? After about a 2k walk we found the answer –two! This one is just a restored windmill, nothing else. So 2k’s back up the hot dry hill to town.
|Who would expect snails in such a dry landscape. There were hundreds of shells everywhere.|
|Some of the wild flowers we saw on our walk|
We restored ourselves with a very nice bocadillo and drink in THE pub on the square and went back to TI. Still not open. Just then a policeman came out the police station so I asked him what time TI opens. Apparently, it doesn’t! But if I want information I can ask in the police station. Of course, the windmill museum I wanted is about 3k’s in the other direction up another hill.
It was worth the walk though. It is surrounded by a lovely cactus garden – dare I say – better than Manriques. The 200 year old windmill is nicely restored, but the best part was the museum. It tells part of the story of the the original inhabitants of Fuertaventura. There was an exhibition of replica bones with injuries and the weapons that had caused them. Some had signs of surgery as well!
Another exhibition is of an ongoing dig with photographs and artefacts showing their way of life. They had grain and goats – the island is still well known for goats cheese –and were good fishermen, but strangely there is no evidence of them having boats.
Some of what is known about them is from the writings of Pliny. The Romans visited in the first century AD! There are some Roman artefacts in the museum as well.
|Seen in a farmyard as we walked to the first windmill|
Some of what is known about them is from the writings of Pliny. The Romans visited in the first century AD! There are some Roman artefacts in the museum as well.
The craft centre was very interesting selling both traditional and modern items and some copies of the Gaunche pottery and games. If we weren't living on the boat I could have spent a fortune there.
|Traditional Island Architecture - there are disused lime kilns all over the island - this must be what it was all used for, although they exported it as well.|
Broken wind pump Repairing one
The bus trip had works well, so we decided on another excursion the next day. Off to the bus station again. There was supposed to be a general strike, but the post office was open, the park keepers were working and everything looked normal. We decided to go to Moro Jable and waited quite a while. A bus came but he was going to Rosario, so we thought, well lets go there then and off we went.
An hour later we were dropped at the top of the town. We
walked down to the harbour to look at anchoring possibilities as we thought we
might overnight there on the way back to Lanzarote. It did not look very yacht
friendly at all, as the anchorage is given as between the ferry and the cruise
liner dock. There was one of each in and we did not fancy being in the middle.
The bay either side seems to be solid rock like a lava flow, so no good either.
We had an excellent lunch at an Italian restaurant on the front and walked back
up to get the 3 o’clock bus. A few minutes to 3 we saw it drive away!
|More strange roadside sculptures|
|Old buildings at the harbour in Rosario|
Never mind, there is one at 3:15 and at 3:30, so we sat and waited in the swish new bus station with TV screens giving arrivals and departures, just like on our timetable. Only thing is there were no swish new buses to match! Eventually we got a bus at 4pm, not really a problem, but we had been invited to Jack Tar for drinks at 5:30 and we had planned to go food shopping first. So we had to prioritise and rushed straight back to the boat and over to Jack Tar where we spent a very pleasant evening with Stand by Me as well, also part of the Quinta do Lorde set.
So that was a very pleasant end to our stay in Gran Tarjal. Next morning we were at Eurospar at 9:00 am for a quick shop, knowing that there is not much at Puerto Calero. We left at 11:30 aiming for Isla do Lobos at the top of Fuertventura, a nature reserve and given as a good anchorage in settled weather. There was no wind so we motored all the way up, boring.
Quite near the top of the island I saw a fin! A big black body and a big sickle fin porpoising slowly south. Too far away to see much more, but by the size it must be a whale. Then it just disappeared – no blow, no tail, no more clues. Very exciting! I got the little book I bought at the whale talk and the closest seemed to be a Sei whale. We looked on the internet when we got to the marina and now think it was probably a Brydes whale.
A bit later we saw lots of bottlenose dolphins fishing just off the shelf on the edge if the island, showing tails quite a few times.
|Near where we saw the dolphins|
It was nearly dark when we reached the anchorage. There was a yacht and a ketch there already, so we thought this must be all right. We dropped the anchor to the sound of breaking waves which was not very comforting, but we were in 10m and the chartplotter showed we were okay. We put the anchor alarm on, because there was nothing really to use as transits except all the light we could see in Corralajo across the channel.
It was good to switch off the engine, but the boat was rolling as much as if we were at sea. Well, we weren’t going to move in the dark, so had supper and went to bed. The anchor alarm went off just as we had got settled, but we had actually only moved 10m. It went off twice more in the night, but it was also just us swinging on the anchor. Not that it woke us up – it was so rolly and kept changing direction that we just could not sleep. At first light we were up and away without even a cup of tea. The other ketch, however, had beaten us to it and was motoring south already.
We had yummy bacon and scrambled egg wraps for breakfast and arrived at Puerto Calero at 11:00, thinking we would just check in and go to sleep. From the marina office we could see Waimangu, so went over to say hello. They were off later. On the way back we bumped into Dolittles crew taking the dogs for a walk. The Quinta do Lorde crowd do seem to keep meeting up!Now we are settled for the weekend just waiting for Henning to arrive on Monday to do the hatches.
Monday, 19 November 2012
The plan is to leave 1st light on the Wednesday morning, the best laid plans etc..... we finally got away at 08.30 bound for Gran Tarajal on the south coast of Fuerteventura. At 5kts it is a 10 hour sail so it will be dark when we get there so we need to get a move on!
Out of the harbour into a very gentle WSW F2! So we motor for the 1st hour, as the breeze picks up we can sail, 6kts towards our destination on a fine reach with the Main and Genoa. As we get to the end of Lanzarote the wind veers to the west and strengthens, even better as we are heading south, mizzen up and off we go at nearly 7kts!
Too good to last, as we get in the lee of Fuerteventura the wind drops and we are forced to motor sail to keep our speed up. All is not lost as the wind veers to the NE and we hoist the cruising chute. At about 1430 we see dolphins on our port side about 150m away heading north. On closer inspection through the binoculars we can see that they have white heads and one has a definite whitish dorsal fin with scratch marks - Rissos dolphins from the book, wow!
No time to relax as the wind has changed again! We now have a NE F5, a bit too much for the chute so we take it and the mizzen down and run with the main and a poled out Genoa. No sooner than we have relaxed with a cuppa then the wind died and we are back to motor sailing again. At this point we can honestly say that our modifications to the Genoa are working well as this sail has been unfurled and furled several times with no problem.
We are not finished with sail changes just yet! As we round Pta de Lantaila the wind strengthens and backs to the north! We are now sailing SE so we gibed and out comes the Genoa again and we sail towards Gran Tarajal.
Dusk over Pta de Lantaila
In the morning we motored into the harbour to find a large marina with plenty of space to manoeuvre. We called the harbour on the radio but got no reply so we just parked up with boats of similar size, including another Westerly Corsair crewed by Mike who was over wintering there. We duly reported to the office and explained in poor Spanish that we had a reservation. The Port Captain could find no record of this but as the harbour was not full it was no problem!
|Morning rainbow over Gran Tarajal|
The harbour was full of boats we had seen before, Dick and Moira on ‘Equinox’, Pete and Carol on ‘Jack Tar’, Martin and Sophie on ‘Stand by Me’, plus many others, all keeping out of the way of the ARC and planning their passages south to the Cape Verdes, or continuing their cruising of the Canaries. We were joined by Steve and Chris on ‘Chewsy’ at the weekend that had sailed back from Tenerife and told us of their ‘run in’ with the authorities who would not allow them to anchor! It seems all the rumours are true, which may spoil our plans as we wanted to anchor for a while in Tenerife. We hope the Canarian authorities sort this out soon.
So now we have another island to explore and it looks like our social life is back in full swing.
Monday, 12 November 2012
Lanzarote : Monday 29th October – Wednesday 6thNovember 2012
We had a really pleasant stay at Puerto Calera. The marina is purpose built and there is a 5 star hotel and a holiday resort as well, but nicely designed. There are quite a few shops with not only souvenirs but also Paseo de la Moda where you can get brands like Hugo Boss, Helly Hansen etc. Lots of restaurants and bars and we sampled a few.
One night we had really good Mexican, another a local prate del dia and Halloween we went to the Irish bar, complete with Guiness and waitresses in ghoulish dress!
Beach at Puerto del Carmen
There is a rather nice craft market on Tuesdays and Fridays with the usual T shirts and caps but also more interesting clothes and jewellery, some made with lava stone and Olivine which is found on the island.
On Wednesday evening there was a talk by Colin Speedie of the Wise Foundation on identifying cetaceans which was very interesting. He is just sailing in the area and offered to do the talk. I also got a nice little booklet from him. Afterwards a few of us were given a tour of the whale museum which is in the marina. When we had arrived, I was very disappointed to find it had closed due to lack of funding, so this was great. The curator asked us to be careful where we stood as there are many whale bones on the floor waiting to be displayed or stored. They have the largest collection of whale bones in Europe and we got to hold the skull of a beaked whale. Very heavy – the forehead is solid bone and used in their sonar. I do hope they manage to reopen. It is really interesting how many are found around the Canaries. All the skeletons are from found whales, none are hunted.
We shared a car for two days with Dick and Moira on Equinox so got to see a good bit of the island. The most impressive part was Timanfaya Volcano Park. The volcano erupted for six years from 1760 and covered about ¼ of the island in lava. The area is protected so you drive in to a visitor centre and then are driven around in a bus, which unfortunately does not let you out, so all my photos had to be taken through the window.
The scenery is spectacular - volcano cones, solid lava rivers, ash and debris spewed out by the volcano combine to create an alien landscape that is awe inspiring. You feel as though you are in some science fiction film set. At the visitor centre they can cook your lunch on the heat coming up from the volcano and there are various vents where they pour water which immediately explodes into steam, or drop dry bushes which ignite almost at once. In this demonstration area the ground is warm, even hot in places. All over the island are volcanic areas so we did get to walk on the lava and see it up close. One of the most amazing places I have been.
The farms use the porous lava stone as a mulch and plant each plant in its own hollow and build a windbreak of stone around it. We saw mostly grape vines and fig trees grown this way but all the farms had the walls around the crops. The plants survive on dew and the tiny bit of rain the island normally has, although we had at least a small shower nearly every day. They also use drip irrigation now. It is so dry that even the prickly pear farms used the same system.
|Vinyards - Lanzarote style|
The islands other main influence is an artist Ceasar Manrique, who was born there. He saw the effects of mass tourism on the other Canary Islands and used his influence to put in place some strict rules. No building may be more than 5 stories high, they all have to be white and doors and windows green or brown, or at the sea they can be blue! In some ways it is quite nice because the ground almost everywhere is black so makes a nice contrast, but can be quite blinding in the sun and a bit boring at times.
Entrance to Manriques house
|Mural at Manriques|
He also seems to have designed most visitor attractions and had a hand in the restoration of many buildings. Almost every roundabout has a sculpture and most of them are Manriques.
We went to his house which is beautifully designed. It is on a lava flow and to make the lower floor he joined up huge lava bubbles to create rooms. His work is displayed throughout – a very versatile artist.
In The Garden
Manrique also designed a cactus garden using an old quarry – quite a strange place. There were not as many varieties as I had expected and could only find one that was indigenous only to Lanzarote and a few more to Lanzarote and Fuertaventura. There were a few from South Africa, which were nice to see but most were from Mexico.
|Prickly pear farm|
The majority were different prickly pears – I had no idea there were so many. The cactus garden is appropriately in the prickly pear farming area – they use them to breed cochineal beetles. Aloes are also farmed and you can buy aloe vera products everywhere.
A Manrique in the cactus garden
Terraced gardens - Puerto del Carmen
The greener north
Tequise - The old capital
A lazy afternoon!
Rigger up the mast
There is a good sailmaker here and he did a good job on our stakpak and an engineering works who drilled out the pin on the cheek block for the genoa so that Richard could fit the new sheave.
Gradually all the Quinta do Lorde crowd had left, some to different islands and some off to join the ARC so our last two days we were all alone! Apart from all the other boats! We decided to go for a swim one day and found a nice rocky beach with a small rock built pier with a ladder into the deeper water, but decided it was too cold! Amazing how the water temperature varies.
Swimming area next to the marina
Finally on Wednesday we were able to leave for Fuertaventura – and try out our improved rigging.