Friday, 27 January 2012


A bridge to nowhere on La Gomera
Traditional costumes in the San Sebastian Day parade

After 45 days and one last fiesta (San Sebastian's name day) we finally managed to tear ourselves away from Gomera. Islanders partying the night through doesn't make for a good night's sleep, but we had to go sometime. We chose to go southabout the island to avoid having to beat through the acceleration zone and had a pleasant sail around to Valle Gran Rey where we anchored for the night in only slightly rolly conditions. At 0430 next morning we hoisted our anchor and motored out from the wind shadow of the island on a beautiful starry night. Destination: Tazacorte, on the west side of La Palma, about 55 NM away. The wind was a brisk Force 5 to begin with but soon moderated. How nice to have good sailing conditions at last! Alas, as soon as we rounded the lighthouse on the southern tip of La Palma the wind was blocked by the high island, like switching off a fan, and we had to motor the rest of the way.
The anchorage at Valle Gran Rey
Tazacorte, with the slightly bizarre slogan 'the last and peaceful European marina', turns out not quite so peaceful after all. A recently built sea wall is being demolished. Drilling starts at 8 am and continues, with seemingly random intermissions, until dusk. Other than that, it's a nice place and quite a few of the gang from Gomera have appeared here as well. Yesterday we escaped the construction noise by hiring a car with Alois and Daniela of Galloper and Ludo of Siddhi and explored the beautiful northwest of La Palma.
It's the almond blossom season
From the banana plantations near Tazacorte, we quickly passed through a wine-growing region and almond orchards just coming into bloom to pine forests at higher altitude. This is when smoke began to pour from the engine of the rental car. Luckily, unlike the rest of us (oops), Daniela had her mobile on her and after a short tea break we were presented with an identical car, albeit with less fuel. We only noticed this halfway up the mountain to the 2400 odd metre Roque de los Muchachos and kept our fingers crossed that the fuel was enough to make it there and back down to the nearest petrol station.

The MAGIC telescope
Roque de los Muchachos is the site of numerous telescopes, including the very cool-looking and impressively acronymed MAGIC telescope, which indirectly detects black holes by observing light emitted when gamma rays collide with particles in the upper atmosphere. La Palma has a special law forbidding the use of upwards-pointing lamps to keep light pollution to a minimum and, on the mountain, use of vehicle headlights is not allowed.

More telescopes
View over Caldeira Taburiente
The mountain top was above the tree line and above the clouds (hence the value of the site for observatories) with stunning views over the caldeira to El Teide on Tenerife and El Hierro to the southeast. A magical place.

Sailors on top of the world
Deluxe caves at Puerto de Puntagorda
On the way down we expended the last of the fuel on the final hill before the closest petrol station and rolled into it, breathing a sigh of relief. We then stopped at the cove of Puerto de Puntagorda where locals have converted caves into summer cabins and hewn a natural swimming pool from the rocks. A bottle of Palmeran white wine on a terrace overlooking the sea at sunset rounded off a super day. The western side of the island is definitely the more beautiful and we are glad we came back for it.

Mystery leak revealed
Burns Supper on board Fettler.
Thanks to Robin for the tinned haggis and whiskey!
On the passage over we again had a little bit of water coming in at the same place as the old mystery leak, thought to have been remedied in the Azores. Jim decided to take the angle grinder to the area and revealed some old damage which had not been repaired properly. Eight layers of glass later, this should not give us any further trouble.