03/30/2013, Las Palmas
Flowers of all shapes, sizes and colours have flooded the countryside on the hills and gorges behind Las Palmas. There have been a couple of short downpours which have kept the Northern side of the island green. On one traverse of the peaks, Mount Teide on Tenerife was clearly seen covered in snow down to a low level after one particularly violent storm which killed a tourist on La Gomera.
Our plans for the American trip have firmed. We have booked flights to New York on 15th May from London and will stop off at Alison's brother's village in French Provence for a few days before we leave. He is the last of the British relatives to be seen in the flesh before we depart from this side of the Atlantic.
We will be three whole months in the U.S. By coincidence, Alison's aunt lives near a convenient part of the Appalachian Trail in Bethesda. We join the trail at Harper's Ferry on the Maryland / West Virginia border and amble through 450 km of the Virginian Appalachians before a long bus journey over to the West (Pacific) Coast. Here we will probably spend nearly two months walking along the crest of the Cascade Mountains, either mostly in Oregon or Washington and then return to Las Palmas via New York mid August. This western mountain route will see us walk some 800 km or so. There are many Americans, mostly young, who set off early in the year to "thru walk" one of America's great long distance paths, but we don't have the time, money and probably stamina to do any of them in their entirety.
It might seem a rather odd way of seeing such a diverse and huge country like the United States, but we need the opportunity to get out in the bush and see a bit of nature after so long in relatively urbanized Europe, as well as get a lot more regular exercise. Walking and camping will probably mean we meet a lot of interesting Americans - probably a lot more than if we did the conventional thing and tiki toured around in a rent a car, which incidentally seems to be exorbitantly expensive, anyway.
03/22/2013, Gran Canaria, Las Palmas Marina
North American Black Bear Observing Basic Table Manners. The photo is not our own!!!
Thanks, Allan, (comment on last blog entry) for your bear advice. It's sad to hear that you encountered someone who had been attacked by a bear. We do know of the bear risk and have, since your note, looked through bear casualty statistics in the U.S. and Canada. We found that somebody is killed every 2 years by a bear. Probably, we are more at risk from a careering 18 wheeler or a gun toting nutter. However, bears certainly do inhabit the places where we intend to go.
Your concern is reminiscent of our 5 week trip to South Africa last September, seeking out the Big 5. A good friend, South African born, pleaded with us not to go, not because of the threat of the Big 5, but the possible human threat. We subsequently booked all our 5 weeks of accommodation in advance (mostly campsites) to avoid carrying too much cash. We also took out additional car insurance, just in case we got car jacked!
In the end, apart from backing away from an approaching elephant, coming within arm's reach of a lioness and having an egg or 2 stolen off the back seat of our car by a cheeky monkey at an official lookout and parking spot in Kruger National Park, our only real loss was 50 dollars. This was in our emergency wallet designed to be offered to any would be thief, but left on the roof of the car by mistake when we drove off - never to be found again!
Of course, it is illegal to view wildlife in African national parks while outside of a vehicle and that is probably the best place to see them as their behaviour is more natural. We remember from our Chitwan and Bardia experience in Nepal how different a large predator seems when you are on foot!
The bear info below is from an extract from an AT website
"Is that the North Star or the camera's flash reflected off the eye of a 65 foot tall bear? You decide.
In the dark, bears can appear to be 50 feet tall with 15″ teeth and 20″ claws; however, they rarely grow that large, according to most sources.
The most effective way to discover how large bears can grow is to leave food around your campsite.
U.S. Forest Service Blue Ridge District Ranger Andy Baker says, "Any bear that associates people with food is a dangerous bear because it's going to be aggressive." For the reading-challenged, the key words in that sentence are: people, food, aggressive and dangerous bear.
You do not have to listen to Ranger Baker. You do not have to take his advice. If you choose to ignore his suggestions, however, please let your survivors know if you want to donate any organs not ingested by the bears. Thank you.
In 2012, the USDA Forest Service mandated the use of bear-resistant canisters to store personal garbage, toiletries, odoriferous herbs and foods along the five-mile stretch of the AT from Jarrard Gap to Neels Gap. That requirement will again be enforced from March 1st through the end of May.
Bears, it is believed, frequently forget such things as dates and basic table manners. Therefore, you might want to consider applying the wisdom of using bear-resistant containers before or after that mandatory season in order to avoid duking it out with a hungry bear trying to rip off your stash. Seasoned hikers report little success in politely reminding bears that they are stealing food "out of season."
As Ranger Baker says, "By removing the lure of foods and other odors, we stop giving bears a reason to approach a campsite."
Forest officials say black bear encounters have increased significantly in recent years in the Blood Mountain Wilderness. Bears become more active as the seasons and weather change. They are particularly attracted to human food brought into wilderness in the early spring when natural food sources are not yet plentiful. This is also the peak season for northbound Appalachian Trail hikers to begin their journeys.
Bear-resistant canisters trap odors inside, eliminating the lure of food, and they are designed to be tamper-resistant against extreme force. The regulation requires that the canisters used must be solid and non-pliable. These canisters can be purchased or rented at most retail stores and online sellers that stock camping gear".
03/10/2013, Las Palmas, Gran Canaria
Summer seems to have arrived in the Canaries. It is now quite hot in the middle of the day. We have decided to leave the boat here during the summer to take advantage of the extraordinarily cheap marina fees while we hot foot it to the United States.
Our great cycle ride across America to find out if any Americans exist that aren't actually bonkers has now ended up in the great walk across America, especially when we discovered we could camp for free on a series of four long distance paths. We will fly to New York and start somewhere on the Appalachian Trail, finally ending up in Seattle on Washington's Pacific Coast. Somewhere in between we also want to find some grizzly bears to find out if they still exist. Preferably wild ones.
Our bank account still needs every help it can get after having to unexpectedly raid it due to the purchase of the engine. In our case this means more tapping away on the little electronic boxes, while we intermittently ponder what bits of Saraoni we can make improvements to. Most important is updating the rigging after the constant pressure on it after 7 ocean crossings and half a planet. Apart from that, just some minor tidying up to do before heading off to the US in May.
The boat will be here until we return in late August. Then we will have to await the near ending of the summer hurricane season before we slip out onto the hectic Atlantic amid the constant swells and intermittent infamous squalls.
Meanwhile, we have adjusted to the largest city we have lived in, temporarily at least, since Auckland. Las Palmas is a vibrant, crowded, modern Spanish / Canarian city of a third of a million people that gets on with its business at full speed. We have discovered that you can get just about anything you like here in a huge diversity of stores and shopping centres and we have learned to get around the city making use of the cycle way system, which is a bit strange, but seems to work most of the time.
The Canaries, as has been mentioned before on this blog, have wonderful interiors full of weird volcanic landscapes, ranging from fertile valleys to landscapes scarred by volcanic lava flows and dry cactus (not native) clad barrancos. After the conquistadores arrived and annihilated all resistance by the previous inhabitants in conditions of total brutality characteristic of the era, the islands were crisscrossed by a series of caminos reales or "royal roads". These were mule paths that allowed the new colonial population to communicate and trade. Gran Canaria still has about 1300 km of these paths intact and, now in peaceful times, these paths provide potential for great walking.
We are making best use of the footpaths to do as much walking as possible and hope to visit as many of the other islands as well while we are still here. La Palma has reputedly lots of walking opportunities.
The photo shows the new pope (?) at the carnival in Arrecife
As usual for Lanzarote, dawn brought clear skies but this time light winds, so off we went to check the engine on our way to Gran Canaria. Looking at the weather for the next two days, extremely light winds for 48 hours, then back to 25+knots again. Too much or too little as usual.
The engine was fine. 5 knots at 1300 revs, 7 knots at 1800 revs, generally a lot quieter and smoother than the old engine as one might expect. The mechanical gearbox sounds a bit noisy, however, when it goes in and out of gear, compared to our old hydraulic one. The alignment is OK, so maybe we have to tinker with something else.
Met a large pod of Risso's dolphins just off the North West corner of Fuerteventura. They seemed mildly interested in our red hull.
The rest of the passage was very pleasant and we arrived at the anchorage in Puerto de La Luz at Las Palmas at 9 am today. Hardly any swell, with the Atlantic doing a Med at its calmest.
We will be making the middle of March the deadline to decide whether we leave the Canaries to cross the Atlantic before this year's hurricane season or after. We won't arrive in Trinidad after the end of April, so that won't give us long before our anticipated Great Cycle Ride Across America - the main focus of this year.
The marina here in Las Palmas is offering a berth until the end of September for less than 5 euros a day, which is a lot cheaper than Grenada, Trinidad or Curacao, but then we would have to fly to and from the US from here, which would be more expensive. Decisions decisions!
Pic shows the Nanni engine just put in place by Miguel's crane in Puerto Calero
Leaving Puerto Calero and Lanzarote tomorrow for Las Palmas in Gran Canaria after 6 weeks on the island. The new engine has taken two weeks to install and we are now ready to see how it runs. We ended up doing nearly all the installation ourselves with only a few hiccoughs. We roped ourselves just round the corner into the travelift slip at high water twice to get the old engine out, then put the new one in a week later, with the help of Miguel, the grua (crane) man.
We got Gregorio, a local mechanic, to help make up some new metal bearers and do the alignment. Because the new engine is smaller and lighter than the Yamaha, it was fairly easy to give it a shove one way or another until the feeler gauge showed that it was all lined up vertically and horizontally.
Canarian tradesmen don't speak a word of English, so communicating about the finer points of engine installation has been an interesting and challenging learning curve. Long ago, we spent a whole year wandering through South and Central America from Venezuela to the Rio Grande in Mexico and by the time we left the area, we were able to have a reasonable conversation about just about anything, from the Sandinista Revolution in Nicaragua to the antics of armadillos and the Mexican economy. However, we never spoke a word of Spanish until we arrived in Menorca last year, so the dictionary has been in constant use these last few weeks!
The rest of the bag of engine tricks was relatively easy, although there were a few oddities that revealed themselves as we went along. The engine wouldn't start, just as Gregorio turned up for a final inspection to see what a mess we'd made of everything, and he gave us a withering look after finding the fuel tank was empty. The same thing happened a couple of days later, even after pumping up the fuel to fill our 40 litre top tank. We discovered that the Nanni's injection system is a "common rail" system, which meant that the diesel kept flowing from the tank round the injectors and back into our main keel tank via the return pipe. This meant that the top tank just drained into the bottom one, even when the engine was shut down through a siphon effect! We solved it by teeing the return into the top tank.
We got to the last part of the Arrecife Carnival, though we missed the Grand Parade. This was the rather bizarre ceremony known as the "Burial of the Sardine". Most of the island seemed to be in town for the event, which saw some rather amazing costumes, drummers and we even saw the next Pope - at least that was what a message said around his neck!.
The sardine was buried on the town beach, but we never got to see the poor piece of plastic fish being burned as we were too busy scurrying around trying to find the bus back to Puerto Calero in the dark surrounded by odd looking fake cars, shiny, metallic bulls and weird looking butterfly things with big feet!
The weather looks fantastic over the next few days and we should have a good passage to Gran Canaria.
02/05/2013, Puerto Calero, Lanzarote
We are putting our new blue engine in tomorrow under the careful watch of several pairs of eyes. Then we have to link up the electrics, the water, exhaust, fuel, control cables and somehow put the floor back. It never rains on Lanzarote, which is a great boost.
Update: Engine now in place after a lot of heaving and shoving, screwing and bolting. Should be ready to fire up at the weekend.
01/31/2013, Marina Puerto Calero Lanzarote
Pic shows the old diesel on its way up and out at Puerto Calero
We certainly chose a beautiful day to remove the 26 year old Yamaha diesel from Saraoni. It might still have had more life left in it, but constant blown out gaskets, poor starting and intermittent and mysterious water in the sump was just getting a bit too much. Any raw water cooled engine is slowly and insidiously corroding away in its internal passage ways without any way to be properly repaired.
As if to say "help", the engine started well on its last day and we managed to motor without a glitch into a berth at the far end of the Puerto Calero marina. And then, on dis-assembly, we noticed sea water in the exhaust manifold again - maybe a worn gasket from being used too many times, but it could have been a symptom of a crack in one of the cylinder heads or the manifold itself. We've seen it all before in our first engine, and now have no patience for old, unreliable motors.
No one had any interest in taking it off our hands in the rather somnolent varadero here. Perhaps they are more used to millionaires than ordinary cruisers. Maybe, a long wait for spare parts and a total rebuild might have prolonged its life some what. But every time we switched it on we always felt it was going to suddenly die on us at the wrong time.
The weather is just perfect here. It hardly rains in Lanzarote and at this time of year it's not too hot to stop work. With sales tax at only 7%, we probably couldn't do much better on engine cost and weather conditions.
Now we have a rather grubby hole where the old engine was situated so no doubt we will spend longer deciding who is going to clean up all the gunge than the job would realistically actually take to complete.
As so often before in our boating lives, we have learned to do as much of the work as we can by ourselves. The boatyard here doesn't really sell its services and we are wary of the "labour charges" so easily added to the bill just about anywhere in the world. Before we came here we asked about cutting a 1m by 50 cm hole on our fibreglass cockpit floor to be met by rolled eyes and a murmured "Que fea" (sounds nasty), followed by a phone call to a "specialist". In the end. we just used our 25 dollar jigsaw and cut the hole out ourselves, in under forty minutes, on the same day we came onto the marina pen that had been allocated us near the boatyard.
We've done about as much with a diesel engine as any amateur can ever have done in our boating lives - changed the pistons, rings, cylinder liners, valves, injectors and main bearings. We even carried a whole cylinder head in a back pack on a plane from Cairns to Port Moresby and installed it anchored in one of the world's most beautiful anchorages, sheltered by Saraoni island in PNGs Milne Bay.
In the Torres Strait we tacked across from Horn Island to Thursday Island to escape a monsoon storm with our 2 cylinder Kubota actually sitting in the cockpit!
But we've never installed a new engine, so the next few days should prove a new challenge, albeit an expensive one - 7800 euros for the engine plus whatever else we have to pay for!
The new Nanni diesel engine should arrive tomorrow, so we can then do the final measurements aligning it to the propeller shaft and fixing the whole thing down properly next week.
Pic shows Spain's highest mountain - Mt Teide - in the middle of Tenerife.
We are back in Arrecife on the island of Lanzarote after a brief, but fruitful trip to Tenerife.
We are glad we made the long ferry trip. Tenerife is worth seeing in its own right and like a lot of the Canaries the best bits are well away from the coast. The Canaries are not a great cruising ground for yachts - no natural anchorages and the coastline has been ruthlessly exploited for the tourism industry, but there are many beautiful areas inland with plenty of walking and cycling opportunities.
We were very impressed by Tenerife's Teide National Park - Spain's biggest, with its highest mountain - Mt Teide, still actively volcanic. The huge mountain dominates most of the island and itself sits in a massive collapsed caldera with some amazing lava flows.
Also lovely was the Anaga mountain area in the North East with its misty laurasilva forests.
Tenerife was a mas island - more mountains, more frighteningly narrow, twisting, hairpin roads clinging to the sides of hills, greener, cloudier, sunner, more crowded, more traffic, quieter and more spacious - just mas!
We had one of Spain's best public transport trips to and from Santa Cruz - €28 each way on the very comfortable ferry with plenty of leg room and uncrowded decks and free wifi. On the outward route we were able to coast along Lanzarote and then Fuerteventura on the way to Las Palmas where we swapped ships. We also were able to rent an apartment for less than €30 a night on the island while we were there - brand spanking new and all in white - not our best colour as we have a tendency of dropping stuff everywhere.
The Nanni agent at Playa San Juan, Gilberto, was at the ready with a friend who had lived in London and could speak pretty good English. Even though we have some Spanish between us, understanding engine lingo ends up in charades but having the English speaker helped emphasise the do's and don'ts which probably between us we will remember.
They can get the engine over to us within a day, so we only have to get Saraoni 10 miles down the coast to Puerto Calero, where we can get the boatyard to haul the old Yamaha out, we clean up the mess underneath, do the final measurements and adjustments for the new engine and hopefully install the new one. Quite a bit of thinking and Googling involved and now we are up to the gear lever stage wondering whether the old one will work with the new mechanical gearbox.
01/15/2013, Arrecife, Lanzarote, Canaries
We are off to Tenerife (by ferry) in search of an elusive new engine. A strange tale. We didn't intend coming anywhere near the Canaries when we left Gibraltar, but our Yamaha has gasped its last breath right here in Arrecife, or at least will not be revived without major open heart surgery. We soon realized that with the plethora of marine services and a low tax rate, the Canaries might very well be just the place where we put our hands deep into our metaphorical pockets and replace the ailing iron mainsail, which has done such gallant service up to now.
Lanzarote seemed the least likely island at first sight to make the change, but that's where we were. We soon dismissed the Yanmar and the Volvo (too pricey), the Spanish Sole (too fat), the Dutch Vetus (too long), but no sign of the two Kubota add ons : the French Nanni (about right) and the British Beta (but it wasn't better!)
The Nanni was in Tenerife, the Beta in Malaga - not in Arrecife. Blow!
The recession has hit the Canaries almost as much as the mainland. It wasn't quite so obvious when we first arrived in this strange place of barren lava fields, volcanos, whitewashed houses and even more whitewashed Northern European tourists, but after a while the same pattern of closed businesses, a somewhat melancholy air and perception that not everybody is benefiting from Lanzarote Inc. is noticeable
We are lucky to be better off than usual, precisely when Europe is plodding economically. Work orders pour in to our little cyber office:from faceless men and women around the world who want their websites revamped. We can hardly cope with demand, which is just as well as our bank account will be emptying faster than we can fill it soon.
While we contemplate the changeover, the most expensive project we've had since leaving NZ 6 years ago, at least the weather has been fantastic. Not a drop of rain since leaving Gibraltar and mostly blue skies and just the right temperature. Since removing the old engine and inserting the new one will mean physically sawing a great hole in our fibreglass cockpit, that is good news!
Arrecife might have an air of depression about it but not so far along the coast are Playa Blanca and Honda bursting at the seams with the not so young European sunseekers cycling, walking, zimmer framing and the like and sitting supping cheap Spanish wine. Definitely a place to steer away from but it does have a good 10 km bike track which is how we caught up with the other side of Lanzarote. Meanwhile, Lanzarote Marina, right inside Puerto Naos is surely going to be one of the best marinas for shelter and services when it's complete very soon judging by the effort going into putting in the pontoon installation.
There are still anchoring opportunities available in the inner harbour beside the container port which is well sheltered from all but southerlies winds and with good access to town via a sandy beach and a walking/cycling track. Virtually everything can be bought in Arrecife, except a diesel engine that will fit Saraoni! There is a Lidl, Hyperdino and Spar supermarkets plus a couple of well stocked hardware shops with plenty of marine accessories.
12/31/2012, Lanzarote, Canaries
Arrived in Arrecife, the small capital of Lanzarote in the Canaries from Agadir. We departed Agadir after the policeman stamped our passports; however we had to wait until he finally woke from his slumber in the port office. We clattered and clanged for the first 5 hours using our weary motor, - no wind of any significance in Africa's lee. Then, with true ocean predictability the wind came with a bang and we galloped along with reefed sails at between 5.5 and 6.5 knots and 18-25 knots of wind, at first on the beam, then slightly abaft on the starboard quarter. Good, fast sailing at last!
Buoyweather predicted the stronger winds quite accurately. but the rolling and tossing, jolting and jerking meant that neither of us could sleep for more than 30 minutes at a time.
We arrived outside the port of Arrecife in the dead of night and managed with a lot of verbal abuse to swerve across big swells and then negotiate the lights and make our way into the peace and quiet of the container port anchorage.
We are in the Canaries to replace the dodgy diesel after much soul searching. The engine - a raw water cooled Yamaha, installed in Australia - needs substantial rebuilding after 7000 hours and 26 years of life. Yamaha no longer makes diesel engines and parts are hard to get and expensive, making a replacement with another, more modern engine the more realistic alternative. Whether we have time to source what we need, get the installation done and still get across to the Caribbean before the 2013 hurricane season kicks in is not certain yet.
12/24/2012, Agadir marina
Arrived safely in Agadir marina. Beautiful warm, sunny weather. As the area was destroyed by an earthquake in the 1960's, the city seems more Mediterranean than African with its relatively new white washed apartments and hotel complexes. The marina is situated within a man made apartment complex but the continuous swell outside, even though certainly no worse than Finike in Turkey and Aghios Nikolaos in Greece, manages to invade the area but only so much that the mooring ropes creak and groan. There are very few transient yachts here and certainly none that are Caribbean bound like ourselves. We have decided that we will leave when we are ready and unless we feel we have a pressing need to do any more preparations for the Atlantic we will go down the coast of Africa and then sidle off towards Sal in the Cabo Verde Islands and not go to the Canaries.
12/22/2012, Off the Moroccan Coast
Just 10 miles from Agadir on a warmish, sunny morning. The wind has disappeared and, now in the lee of Cape Ghir, the big swell of yesterday has almost gone too. Dry, scrubby hills line the coast - quite different from the flat, built up agricultural and industrial landscape between Rabat and Casablanca.
The SailMail saga was solved when it was discovered that the new serial port to usb cable we had bought in Gibraltar was faulty. Luckily we had two old but still serviceable cables bought in Auckland 10 years ago which still work well. Now we have discovered that connection is good at almost all times of the day - this might seem trivial, but it is our only way of weather forecasting when on the longer ocean trips to come.
The only radio net we know of - (there might be more), which has so often served the trans Atlantic cruising community was suspended early this year when the few people using it arrived in the Caribbean, so we have no other communication with the outside world.