Thursday, 8 December 2011

Gran turismo

Inside the GPS

Our three weeks in Las Palmas passed very quickly. First we did a lot of boat jobs, including changing the display on our GPS (thanks to Dave and Fran for still having one and sending it to us!) and installing a 60W solar panel after the non-marine-grade solar suitcase broke. We don't have space to mount the panel permanently so it is moved around to catch the sun at anchor or in the marina and then fits snugly under the cabin table while under way. Then we did a lot of socialising and a bit of exploring, but only in city limits.

One of Christopher Columbus' old pads.

The cathedral, Santa Ana.

Las Canteras

Highlights of the social life in Las Palmas were a big Thanksgiving party organised by the American sailors in the anchorage (yes, there are boats with ovens large enough to cook turkey), the hospitality by Liz and Terry aboard Mahler and hanging out with some real Northeners, Erik and Solfrid on Fulmar, whose home port is Longyearbyen (80 degrees North).

We elected to stay at anchor for most of the time, partly for fear of acquiring cucarachas on board, something we want to avoid at all costs. During the four days we spent in Las Palmas marina and again in San Sebastian on La Gomera we liberally sprinkled insecticide on our mooring lines to keep the cockroaches out. Certainly something you don't have to think about in the North!

The produce grown on the Canaries is excellent and we've been enjoying the local tropical fruits such as custard apple, mango, persimmon and guava as well as the citrus fruits and bananas. In fact, the scent of the guavas in the hammock permeated the whole cabin, no need for incense.

The Christmas decorations are going up in the islands, but it's hard to feel in the Christmas spirit when the weather is warm and the scenery arid. The palm trees along the Las Palmas harbour front are decked out in blue LEDs, there are nativity scenes sculpted out of the sand on the main beach and baubles in some large cacti. Mahler had a Christmas lighting up party and her strings of coloured dolphins are much more tasteful than the santas climbing up the rigging on a neighbouring boat in the anchorage.

The Christmas sand sculpture

And the anti-capitalist one.

Our passage from Las Palmas to Gomera was a good one. We saw flying fish and a shark and Jim saw lots of dolphins, common and bottlenose, during his night and early morning watches. We went down the east coast of Gran Canaria and got a good look at the barren hill sides. The whole island looks parched. We tried to stop at Pasito Blanco in the south, but the swell was outrageous and it turned out not to be feasible to anchor anywhere along that coast in these conditions. On it was, through the night. This time we experienced the infamous acceleration zones between the islands as we crossed from Gran Canaria to Tenerife. One minute we were motorsailing, the next we had Force 6 from the north and a heavy swell, making for several hours of wild sailing. As soon as we passed the southern tip of Tenerife all calmed down again and it was back on with the engine. We arrived at San Sebastian at lunchtime in brilliant sunshine and are now awaiting the arrival of my parents who will be spending a week on the island.

Barren island: the southeast coast of Gran Canaria

We've been doing some hard thinking about our cruising plans and, as usual, it's all change. We have decided to remain in European waters – quite a hard decision to take while surrounded by hundreds of boats preparing their crossing to the Caribbean or South America, but it feels like the right one for us. Coming this far south, we've realised that we don't want to be away for years and years and that we do want to explore and spend time in the places that interest us closer to home. What we enjoy most about sailing is the pottering about and it makes more sense to do that in Europe than go thousands of miles and spend a lot of time on the ocean and then have a long way back again, with not much help from the prevailing winds. One thing we considered was going to the Caribbean rather than to Brazil, but it doesn't appeal to us that much (one memorable description by an American sailor: 'the best sailing in the world but don't bother going ashore') and you need to really want to get to the other side, otherwise there is not much point in crossing the ocean. We'd rather have nice hills ashore for hiking, secluded anchorages and friendly locals than hot weather, nice as it is.

So the new plan is to winter in the Canaries, toodling around all the islands apart from El Hierro (where there's currently a volcanic eruption going on). In the spring, head for Madeira and northern Portugal, spend a lot of time cruising Galicia and maybe overwinter there (with full use of our paraffin heater). More than once we've heard from people that the best bit of their Atlantic Round was Galicia. Then continue the Celtic cruising and make our way back home via Brittany, Cornwall, Ireland and Scotland. And  instead of Patagonia, one summer we'll go to the Lofoten islands.


Penny said...

Interesting sailing with the usual challenges thrown up at a moments notice! As I read through the blog can't tell you how delighted I was to read about your change of plans (at least as things stand now)....given that we've had our first taste of winter I can really understand why warmer climes seem so tantalising but glad that you have decided to explore closer to home...and that you will, possibly be back in Scotland sooner than previously anticipated!! Have a lovely time with Ulla & Ulle. Lots of love, Mum.

Marc said...

I guess the most important thing in an endeavor like yours is to figure out what you love about what you do, and focus on doing that. Sounds like you've come to a reasonable decision. I have to confess, though, at being pretty disappointed that we won't be welcoming you into our distant harbor in the foreseeable future.

Have a great time with family!

sailfettler said...

Oddly enough, Marc, it may mean we'll see you sooner than we would have otherwise...

ant or kay said...

That is such a cool picture of Jim perusing the GPS. I can just see the great mind at work, assessing all of the inner workings of the machine.