Friday, 23 November 2012

Fuertaventura 8 – 15 November 2012

Gran Tarajal 

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 fiesta moves on
 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.

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.

                                                     Even prickly pears struggle to survive     

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.

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.

More strange roadside sculptures
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!

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.



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