Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Against the grain

Having kept a close eye on the forecast for our opportunity to get north and east to Fuerteventura and Lanzarote, we were ready to leave within four hours when it finally came, even though it meant missing the Friday night social. On our way out of the harbour at Las Palmas we were sternly admonished by the port police not to sail across the commercial harbour, which seemed a bit odd but we followed their directions and detoured south. It came on a beautiful night, with a spectacular moon rise, and initially light winds. Playful dolphins appeared as soon as it got dark; they seem to be busy with other things during the day here. The passage would have been near perfect if Sonja had not poo-pooed skipper's orders to take an anti-seasickness pill before setting off. The forecast conditions were very mild, but the sea state here doesn't necessarily bear any relation to local wind conditions and it was rather lumpy until we were under the lee of Fuerteventura.

There was a lot of shipping about but we kept first to the north and then south of the direct line between the islands and so avoided any conflict. The breeze freshened up nicely, but also died off completely at times, and we had the pleasure of completely out-sailing a Moody 346 that appeared from the south during the latter part of the night. Sunrise over the Atlas mountains in Morocco was a spectacular sight. It was as well we saw it then because once the sun was up, the African coast was lost in haze and that was the nearest point.

Gran Tarajal, with classic Fuerteventuran brown hill.

Gran Tarajal was a pleasant, cheap, no-frills, convenient stopping point. The marina provides water and electricity but no shower or toilet. It is cheap however (€5.37 per night for Fettler) and shelter is good, though there is a surprising amount of surge. We particularly enjoyed the company of a French ship's cat, Sikaflex, who visited us several times and who was always on hand when help might be needed to deal with fresh fish. A friendly fisherman came by with a load of still-flapping mackerel-type fish one evening, a delicious meal for us and Sikaflex, though we cooked our share.

Sikaflex, demonstrating how suitable the vessel is for cats.
After a fish snack, he condescended to come below.
Fuerteventuran coast by morning.
Fuerteventura looked interesting in profile, being rugged and mountainous, but it is desperately parched and brown. The weather continuing fair for heading north (a rare condition here) we moved on after a brief stop of two days. The anchorage at Isla Los Lobos, at the north end of Fuerteventura, is beautiful if rather exposed and made another convenient stage on the way to Lanzarote.

Sunset over Fuerte, from Isla los Lobos.
Isla los Lobos
We are now on a mooring in Arrecife, kindly provided free of charge by the local yacht club, but nevertheless inspected on arrival by diving on it despite the slightly chilly water temperature of 17.5 C. The plan is to spend the next days exploring Lanzarote and watching for a fair wind to take us on to Graciosa.

The harbour at Arrecife. That's the shelter we like.
Clear water: the view over the side at breakfast.

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