Grenada for a Family Christmas
17 January 2020
Lorraine and Chris Marchant
Our pigeon pair Harriet and Peter have flown home from St Lucia back to West Sussex, UK from where Peter quickly returned to China. We had a wonderful month together including Christmas and New Year when we explored Grenada and sailed on to Carriacou, the Grenadines and Tobago Cays, St Vincent and St Lucia.
The month passed too quickly, no time for writing blogs and diaries, we were just too busy enjoying the Caribbean.
Following our arrival in Grenada at St David's Bay we moved north to the capital St Georges where there was much we wanted to do. First we checked in with Customs and Immigration then regrouped after our Atlantic crossing to get everything organised for a for a month of family sailing and activity. All the boring stuff was done: plenty of laundry from our 17 day crossing, cleaning inside and out with an emphasis on desalting everything on deck and rather less boring was reprovisioning in Grenadian shops and markets which included specials for the festive weeks although in this heat eating out held particular attractions.
From St Georges we dropped south to anchor in Prickly Bay for a few days then to Hog Island to renew our acquaintance with Roger and his al fresco, ad hoc, come and go as you please beach bar. It hadn't changed and neither had he very much. We anchored enjoying some rest and recuperation after the Atlantic before returning to Prickly Bay and suddenly it was time to start stowing luggage following the arrival of our much awaited visitors.
We had already decided to move to True Blue Bay just a hop up the coast so that we would could start with a little luxury for our new crew. We struck lucky in discovering the True Blue Marina ten years ago when they were last in Grenada. It is well worth looking up their web site at www.truebluebay.com to see what a super place this is. There were 2 fresh water pools we could use, a small marina with very helpful staff and an excellent restaurant overlooking the water.
Needless to say when we arrived we all quickly deposited ourselves in the nearest pool and enjoyed our few days before moving up to Camper and Nicholson's well appointed Port Louis Marina at St Georges for Christmas. Good facilities and plenty of good restaurants made for a happy stay before continuing our journey north via Tyrell Bay at Carriacou. Sandy island was our target for the snorkelling and sheer delight of a very small uninhabited island.
Crossing the Atlantic- The Second Half
05 December 2019
Lorraine and Chris Marchant
After 2,190 miles and our hoped for 17 days at sea we arrived at the beautiful St David’s Harbour and picked up a mooring.
10:00 Yippee we have just passed the half way mark, 1090 miles sailed and the same left to go. Cup of tea obviously!
Happily we've managed to have satellite calls with both Hattie and Peter since we started this crossing. Peter is providing us with on the spot weather forecasts from the weather forecasting package that we use when we have internet and are not out in the deeper ocean. He understands exactly what we need and gets the data for us when we ring him about every two days, so far it has been spot on. He's providing us with an excellent service that makes life so much easier and keeps us in close touch with home which is really great.
Had a text by satellite phone from Dveke the Danish boat that left Mindelo with us. They gave us their position and the latest weather forecast they had just received and let us know that they are all good. They are 100 miles behind and north of us. We are a bit perplexed as they headed off further north than us nine days ago and we thought they had well overtaken us as at 45ft they are 7ft longer than us and they have six on board. Anyway they have said all is good and they know where we are now, will text them in a couple of days.
03:20 a.m. As Sod's Law will have it the wind has dropped to 12-14 knots which is less than we want and makes us rock about a bit in a following wind. Okay, yachtsmen are never satisfied with the wind for long.
A cargo ship Desert Victory is approaching us; currently 10 miles away it should pass on our starboard side at about 3 miles in half an hour so it should be visible. And it was, it is a 193 metre ship bound for Lagos, Nigeria but the signal doesn't say from where. A fairly large yacht also passed behind us earlier, little information but it must have been big as it was travelling at 8 knots on a course that will take it to one of the Guyanas. No boats for days then two within 8 hours of each other!
A funny if not irritating sort of day in the northeast trades. There is plenty of big cloud in the sky with a few showers, these are quite refreshing as they cool things down and it is quite hot now. The wind has been poor for hours, down to 9 and 10 knots at times which has us trickling along at 3.5 knots, then under one of these clouds we speed up only to slow down again when it passes. Frustrating for us and wearing on the sails and ropes, everything in fact as the boat heaves about. We put on some loud music and had a good old stomp, felt better after that!
Days like this make power generation difficult, the solar panels don't get the sun they need and the towed generator doesn't get the speed for maximum efficiency. Cloud all day and prolonged light wind is bad news so we have to keep a careful eye on our battery monitors. The barometer has dropped 3 bars so we wait to see what tomorrow brings.
It is 03:38 now. There has been a complete change to 18-20 knot winds, too dark to see any clouds and we are shifting some at 6.5-7.5 knots.
A Chinese cargo ship appeared on our AIS passing us about 10 miles off so we didn't see it. Coming from New Orleans it was routed for the Cape of Good Hope so will most probably cross the Indian Ocean then head north over the top of Sumatra into the South China Sea. Probably quicker than the Silk Road but surely not so much fun.
Another very mixed day with the winds and the sea staying in any one state for no more than 3 hours at a time. We have reefed in the genoa a little to stop it flapping in the lighter winds, still flying it goose winged with the large jib.
We have sun so the panels are busy for us. Within this mixed bag of wind has been some very strong stuff same as last night. When it's like this the towed generator is pulled so fast that sometimes its propeller jumps out of the water at the top of a wave and the tow rope wraps around its long shaft. We had a really bad dose of this earlier and it had to be pulled in to sort it out. Pulling it all in at 7 knots can't be done; the velocity combined with the rotation is enough to dislocate the shoulders. We overcame this by my reversing under engine to bring our speed down to 1.5 knots whilst Chris controlled and pulled in the rope and its errant propeller, not something we want to do often with a rope in the water behind us but it worked a treat making the job easy - tangle sorted!
Spoken to Hattie and Peter on the Sat phone this afternoon which was good, they will be joining us in Grenada in less than 2 weeks now and say they can't wait to get there - neither can we! Peter gave us the weather forecast for the next four days: winds at 17 knots for two days rising to 20 knots for a couple of days. We shall get an update in 2 days; we hope to arrive in Prickly Bay in 4-5 days depending, of course, on the reliability of the winds which are so fickle at the moment.
We heard again via Sat phone from Dveke, they had just under 600 miles to go for their destination of Barbados and are all fine. Grenada, further south and west, is another day on from there. We stopped in Barbados both previous times we crossed, it was the first Caribbean landfall we ever had, it is coral rather than volcanic so quite low and set slightly east out of the chain of windwards making it a welcome first port of call for many. Well, some very special memories for us there but no time this year.
The wind has settled at 13.8 knots tonight and we are running at a tad over 5 knots, peaceful sailing but a bit slow as we would like 4 more days rather than 5. However, the sea is wonderful at the moment following us with smooth, slow swells which sound so soothing they could be a recording for getting you off to sleep.
A new month, indeed the Christmas month when much will be happening for us as our children will be joining us in Grenada very soon now. Various light winds have kept us busy with sail changes trying to get the most speed as we don't want take longer that the 17 days we had predicted if we can possibly avoid it. If we can achieve the 17 we will be really pleased.
We've had the cruising chute out for 3 days but a sudden heavy squall put paid to that and when it moved on the wind went with it so we had to motor for a while. Wind returned but sky uncertain. No coloured sails overnight, seems to be a change in the air although not forecast but these localized squalls rarely are. Barometer has only dropped one bar but there was lightening far to the north, not used to that.
A shock of a day with dawn breaking in the company of squalls, 25+ knots of wind reaching a crescendo of 35.6 knots and torrential rain. Well it is the rainy season in Grenada but this is a bit much. Unfortunately this went on all day and we sailed with just a poled out genoa reefed to a ¼ of its size. Tiring, the game became spot the next one and bets on how long before it arrived. The only compensations were a full desalting of the boat and open air showers for us courtesy of some very black clouds indeed!
The best sailing day of the whole voyage albeit a rather short one. The squalls fizzled out during the night and left us with a perfect morning. Grenada sighted at 11:30 hours.
After 2,190 miles and our hoped for 17 days at sea we arrived at the beautiful St David's Harbour and picked up a mooring.
Crossing the Atlantic - The First Half
25 November 2019
Lorraine and Chris Marchant
Here we are at the start of our Atlantic crossing. The Cape Verdes are at the elbow of our route line opposite Senegal. Our voyage to the Verdes from the Canary Islands was 804 miles, this current journey to Grenada is the whopper at 2180 miles. On the screen shot of the chart you can see a red circular marker which is Jobiska, the blue diamond markers are our waypoints showing quarter, half and three quarter distances to be achieved along the way, far to go at the moment.
Sailing goose winged under our genoa and biggest jib started us off well particularly as the wind dropped later into the 10-12 knots band which is not much use for downwind sailing, 15-18 knots would be grand. Despite the drop in the wind the sea is even more rough and lumpy, perhaps a spin off from foul weather elsewhere or from previous days, we did have some strong winds in harbour. By nightfall the wind was steadily increasing and by midnight it started rounding up to 24 - 26 knots so we had to reduce sail. We dropped the jib and reefed in the genoa, this took the strain off the rig, gave a slightly better ride but still kept us going fast through the night in these strong winds. Never keen to make this kind of sail change in the dark but needs must. With life jackets, personal GPS transponder and a harness hooked onto deck safety lines under a good deck light it works pretty well.
We had started out in the company of Dveke, a 13 metre Danish yacht and Moroia, Swiss 11 metres. They were both gybing down the wind as they were using their mainsails which doesn't work that well for downwind sailing as they keep pulling the boat round trying to turn up into the wind. We were with them for most of the last 24 hours but they are further north than we want to be now and have disappeared from our AIS. The sea swell is really high with rushing white horses, we'd like it to calm down, it's quite wearing.
The wind has dropped a bit and settled at 19 - 21 knots which is quite strong enough for us. We have the goose wing rig in operation again but with a smaller jib poled out on the main boom and the well reefed genoa on the spinnaker pole. This is working very nicely as the boat is well balanced and giving us an average speed of 5.8 knots. There has been some sun but more often cloud cover, not the trade wind puffy polls but great grey spreads moving with us and sending rain showers occasionally. Ah but it's warm.
Well it seems that the wind is tending to speed up at night as we had another increase up to 24/25 knots last night and had to drop the small jib. Jobiska is still careering along at 6.5 sometimes 7 knots with a heavily reefed genoa on the spinnaker pole and nothing else. Our last day's run was 143 miles which is not bad for a 38ft yacht, average speed has crept up to 5.9 knots so we are making up for the slow patch we had on day one. It's sunny today and the solar panels are making lots of power together with the towed generator which is working frantically at these speeds.
Unfortunately the Atlantic is not being too kindly. There are very big cross swells which one expects here but they are also very steep causing a good old jerk as the boat almost falls diagonally off the top of the wave instead of sliding sedately down. Thankfully apart from attending the rig there is not a great deal to do but every task needs extra concentration because of the sea state. Hot meal preparation feels dangerous at times when the cooker has a wild swing on its gimbals. Foods such as pasta involving straining off boiling water have gone on the back burner (forgive the pun) until the sea settles down - soon hopefully. So it's keep calm and carry on, strap on the galley bum strap and stay alert.
We've just had 30.5 knots (see gallery for a shot of this) dropping to 26 and now 25, it's not easy to move around and difficult to sleep when it's like this, normal necessities become a chore. A jar of mayonnaise becomes a lethal weapon hence at lunch times it is strapped to the mast support post which goes through the table. It is too rough and wet to eat outside as there is plenty of splash into the cockpit.
Another sunny day. The wind has hardened off and we are getting it in 2 blocks of about equal amounts both of which are keeping the sea quite rough, lots of high swell and white horses still. The 20-23 knots we would like to drop down to 15-18 but it is still totally preferable to the 23-25+ knots that are very tiring. Of course, when running before the wind as we are the effects are much less dramatic than if we were on a reach or tacking which would be a very unpleasant kettle of fish. At least we're getting the speed although with less wind we would have smoother seas and could also get more sail out so it would probably make little difference to the speed.
A Japanese fishing boat, 58 metres, showed up on AIS but too far away for us to see it in the flesh as it were. Strange to see a Japanese fishing boat here, we think it is too small to be after whales, probably a tuna boat as they are having trouble with levels of mercury in tuna in home waters. Apart from the two yachts we left Mindelo with this is the only other vessel we have seen.
Chris did his usual round of inspections this morning, checking for chafe, making sure we haven't lost any split pins, checking pulley blocks and the rig in general. He took down the Cape Verdes courtesy flag as we are now coming out of the Cape Verdes basin. He found three flying fish on deck and a medium sized squid on the cockpit floor which must have been thrown in by a wave. He arranged burials at sea. At these speeds in this rough sea we don't want to do any fishing as the idea of dealing with a large thrashing fish and having to prepare it for the fridge in these conditions just doesn't appeal. Making bread, cole slaw and hummus is difficult enough at the moment!
We've had three pods of dolphin visit, racing at the stern, leaping and diving at the bow. One pod were small, brown with pinkish speckled bellies. The other two pods were the large almost black dolphins with big dorsal fins, more athletic than the little brown guys. We also passed through a school of tuna that were jumping high out of the water. Not sure what was after them, we don't think dolphin as we understand that dolphin and tuna often hunt together. Our other visitors are two shearwaters which are following in the vicinity of the boat and come in closer at night, another reason we don't want to fish as we know shearwaters will dive for the lure having accidentally caught one in the past - extremely upsetting for both parties. We've seen about 6 petrels which are such tiny birds looking fragile in these big seas but they are supremely agile and fast, not at all phased by crashing waves. Beautiful creatures all.
It is 02:30, 50 miles to our first quarter waypoint marker. That will leave 1635 miles to go. Must be time for a cup of tea.
The morning has brought a bit of a wind change and at last we are getting the 15 to 19 knots we have been hoping for with the occasional spike up to 20/21. The sea is starting to calm down but it will take a while as the strong winds have been so sustained. Our shearwaters are still with us and petrels are still about but we have seen little else other than flying fish. Flying fish are such a good colour when flying but dull when found on deck, we also do not like their odour.
The better wind continues, seas have slackened, white horses infrequent now and as predicted this has made little difference to our speed. It is starting to feel like proper trade wind sailing, altogether a more peaceful life on board, able to move about more easily and deck work such as sail changes and inspections much less intimidating. We can haul water on board properly now so we're able to have full sea water baths and hair washes rinsed off in fresh with the deck shower which has been wonderful. No water maker on this boat so we can't afford to use up our valuable fresh water supply on cleaning out things like coffee pots but today we made some real coffee as we're now able to deal with the spent grounds easily, just the smell has been a treat let alone the drinking of it.
Shearwaters are still with us but not sure if it is the same pair. We are nearing half way, should make that by morning but for now goodnight.
A Final Goodbye to Mindelo and the Cape Verdes
16 November 2019
Lorraine and Chris Marchant
16th November 2019
Today we pulled Jobiska's anchor up and left the harbour at Mindelo, Sao Vincente for the third time, it is exactly 10 years less one day since the last time. So including return voyages back to UK this will be our 5th crossing of this great Atlantic ocean and we hope it is going to be kind to us.
We had a sense of deja vu in the anchorage on finding the prominent wreck of a smallish upturned ship. Most of the wrecks have been cleared but this one, which you can see in the gallery, is still to go. Some yachts have anchored around it but we have kept well away in case of related wreckage around it that could foul the anchor.
When we first sailed into Mindelo in 1981 aboard the first Jobiska there were only six or seven yachts including ours and many fellow sailors would not venture near the islands with their reputation for wrecks and sharks. There were wrecks but we saw nothing scary, just some local guys keen to sell their fish catch, lads touting us for their mums to do our laundry and smiling people, many with the distinctive red hair of the west African coast.
The first Jobiska was a 27 foot Albin Vega with her distinctive Aries wind pilot on the stern. See gallery.
The place then was extremely poor with plenty of health issues evident such as eye, skin and foot complaints. There were scant food supplies other than fish and food aid was much in evidence being carried about on carts and by ass. Today as we left the harbour dozens of boats including super yachts were arriving, all part of the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers who finish the first leg of their rally here and hopefully spend lots of money in the town.
There was a mass departure yesterday as all the boats in the French rally Isles de Soleil left to start the next leg of their adventure.
Yachties come here in great numbers now and we are so pleased for Sao Vincente and the Cape Verdes in general that boats are contributing to their economy in some small way: sustaining jobs at the port and marina, buying from the local fishermen, we bought two small lobsters which were excellent, and filling the cafes & restaurants of which there are now plenty serving delicious food.
One of the best experiences for us this time was finding the man who 10 years ago worked on our mainsail to provide us with large anti-chafe patches which lasted successfully throughout our circumnavigation and beyond. It was such a pleasure to be able to report back, thank him in person and then to discover that he is now the Port Captain for Mindelo.
Moving out of the harbour was interesting as the ARC boats poured in to take their marina berths. Once out we got the sails up quickly. Our biggest jib and the genoa were flown goose winged, one set out on the spinnaker pole and the other set out using the main boom for a classic downwind rig. We had a smooth sail through the protected Canal de Sao Vincente between the very different islands of Sao Vincente and the giant Santo Antao which is reminiscent of Madeira. Once in the lee of the islands the winds were rather unpredictable at first and there was cloud cover thick enough to give us some rain to start with. However, we're now sailing fast in a rather lumpy sea with a good Force 5 wind. We would prefer something a bit lighter as, though we might go a bit slower, it would be a lot more comfortable. We shall see.....
We love this place and big brother island Santo Antao next door so starting off from this special anchorage has been a happy occasion.
South to the Cape Verdes
15 November 2019
Lorraine and Chris Marchant
The anchorage at Mindelo with the marina in the background and local fishing boats ashore.
We left Gomera with high hopes for a pleasant sail down to the Cape Verdes Islands.
Our expectations were shattered after the first three days when the wind gradually increased to a steady Force 7 that continued for over 40 hours. This made for invigorating and uncomfortable sailing testing the strength of the boat and the mettle of the crew. We reduced sail to a tiny bit of jib and we still continued at 6 knots lifting to the increasingly large waves that chased us from astern.
However, eventually the wind abated, the sun started to come out a bit and we were able to spread a bit more sail. We had bought a small genoa at the boat jumble in Ipswich at Easter and this proved to be the ideal sail to fly alongside a semi-rolled genoa. With 2 headsails set like this the boat is well balanced and the autopilot does not have to work too hard. We didn't unroll the mainsail for the whole 800 miles.
The trip took us 6.5 days and annoyingly we were just unable to make Mindelo before nightfall. We have in the past waited off for daylight to enter new harbours but we made the easy decision to get in and get our heads down as soon as possible. As in Spain and Portugal the marina has a marinero on duty 24 hours and sure enough someone was there to direct us in and take our lines efficently. We had a celebratory drink and retired early to a relatively flat bed.
We first visited Mindelo in 1981 in the original Jobiska and again in 2009 in Gryphon 2. Needless to say the place had changed dramatically since our earlier visits and we were keen to see what the town was like now.
The Cape Verdes are in many ways a model African nation that has managed its development so effectively that it is now one of the wealthiest of the continent despite very limited natural resources. Schooling and health care are provided by the state and although there is poverty it is nothing like that which we saw in 1981 when there were people breaking coconut shells in the street for firewood and the local street vendors expressed surprise when we asked to buy more than a single orange.
We find the people just charming and although the native language is a creole of some sort and the official language is Portuguese most people speak good French and enough English to better our French.
The town is an attractive mixture of old buildings, most of which are well preserved, and busy streets. We had some old photos we took in 1981 and had the pleasure of showing them to a few Cape Verdeans. The Policia Maritima lady official was so pleased that she insisted that I have my photo taken with her but she did ask if I could stretch the photo to make her look thinner! See the gallery.
The architecture in the town has echoes of Portuguese towns as the Cape Verdes were a colony of Portugal for a long time. The town is kept in excellent condition with the colour washed buildings brightening the centre. Only when venturing further out is it apparent that this is still quite a poor country. The local people face up to this with great fortitude and enviable good humour.
Once again we have really enjoyed our stay in Mindelo and wished we had had longer to explore more here and in the other islands.
Gomera Our Favourite Canary Island
06 November 2019
Lorraine and Chris Marchant
The current Iglesia de la Virgen de la Ascuncion, the town centre church of San Sebastian which has been rebuilt and renovated a few times.
It was in Gomera at the start of our first Atlantic crossing that we felt we were following in the steps of Chrisopher Columbus albeit with a different Christopher on board our little 27 foot Albin Vega, the first Jobiska. We have been with the children since then by ferry, back in the days when the shepherds still communicated by whistling from hillside to hillside. It is a special place for us since it was from San Sebastian, the capital of Gomera, that we set off in 1981 to the Cape Verde Islands and Barbados,
History has it that Columbus came here to fill the water casks of his small ships, take on some provisions and to have his voyage to the Americas blessed in the town's church, Iglesia de la Virgen de la Ascuncion, where he and his crew prayed together before they set off. Always open for everyone we went inside and although we didn't pray or ask for blessings it felt calm and peaceful being there.
Whilst I was busy with previous blogs Chris walked up to the Parador which looks out over the town. This is a very beautiful historic building that has been converted into a luxury hotel and is managed as are other Spanish Paradors by a state run company that was established in the early 20th century to encourage tourism in Spain. Going there was a bit of a trip down memory lane as it was here in 1981 that we met a lovely man called Earnest from Martinique who spoke with enthusiasm about the French Caribbean islands but also gave us both a mango, the first either of us had ever tasted. He described it as, 'cream in the neck', as indeed it was and it is a phrase we always use if we have a particularly delicious mango to eat. The Parador was as beautiful as ever with its silk sheen marble floors and airy balconies giving wonderful views of the town and its surrounds.
The town square is lovely with its ring of very mature trees, smooth stone pavings and old fashioned black lamp standards that give an old world feel to the surrounding cafes and restaurants. Then himself, Christopher Columbus, one of the fathers of navigation sculpted in stone.
Further on is the semi tropical park with the Torre del Conde - Count's Tower, the remains of a 15th Century fort built to aid in the defence of the island against various invaders and an important example of military architecture in the Canaries.
Like Christopher C we took on water, filled our boat with fresh stores which took some time sourcing and enjoyed the local cuisine whilst we could. It would be nice to come back here some day but there are so many places we say that about. Perhaps we will but not in the same way.
Tenerife to Gomera
04 November 2019
Lorraine and Chris Marchant
Teide sees us on our way.
Following Peter's departure back to Sussex which left the boat and us feeling rather empty, our final few days in Tenerife were spent shopping, laundering and cleaning. The shopping was for the dry provisioning we would need for the weeks ahead travelling to the Cape Verde Islands and on to the Caribbean. To our amusement we found a Lidl in the shopping complexes West of San Miguel and that together with a larger Spanish Supermercado provided what we wanted. We topped up on fresh food although we still had a small supply of garlic and onions with carrots and courgettes that we had bought in Madeira still behaving themselves well wrapped down in the fridge. Wouldn't be allowed to take in produce like that to New Zealand.
Before we left San Miguel we met up with Paul and Sally Kember whom we had invited for a meal as they were in Tenerife and had been trying to catch us up at various stages having left UK later than us. They also have a Moody 38 and are one of the few other British boats we know of (apart from those involved in the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) that are crossing to the Caribbean this year. It is their first crossing so we caught up a bit on some of their experiences so far.
We left San Miguel early on Halloween. We started with 18 knot winds but soon fell into the wind shadow of Teide when the wind gradually faded and we had to motor for a while until it came back at a sedate 12 knots. This was giving us a very pleasant crossing until waiting to greet us like a tricksy halloween witch was the big acceleration zone between Tenerife and Gomera which gave us 32.5 knots from the North. Fortunately this was at the end of the journey so not too long in the rough but we arrived in San Sebastian, capital of Gomera, feeling rather wind blown.
Voluptuous Volcanics of Tenerife
03 November 2019
Lorraine and Chris Marchant
The Teide caldera with its subtle colours and black lava flows.
Explorations of Tenerife were mixed with swimming and walking. It was fun swimming at Las Galletas as the beaches were surrounded by rocks and plenty of low growing scented shrubs such as dill and helichrysum. Previous bathers had built rings of small rocks at the start of the beach as though setting up camp. The sea was never a flat calm and the rollers where big and frothy close in.
We had a great time in Las Galletas but had to move back a few miles up the coast as the marina had a fleet of charter boats transferring from the Mediteranean coming in that had booked some time before us. In fact it was probably for the best as our shore lines had taken some punishment in the surge which we had got used to. We sailed up to San Miguel still in the shadow of Teide and where Peter spent the rest of his holiday with us. He and Chris walked back along the coast to retrieve the hire car discovering some new sea-side places and their idiocyncratic character. One bizarre sculpture at Costa del Silencio caught their attention and we are still wondering what it is all about as there was no explanation. See gallery.
The morning came when Teide was clear. Lunch was packed, water bottles filled, waterproofs stowed in rucksacks and walking shoes stowed in the car. It's quite a long way taking 2 hours with stopping points.
It got colder as we ascended to the caldera which is huge and still looks raw with subtle colours from various chemical strains in the laval deposits, mainly ochre and green amongst the black and brown volcanic landscape. It's eerie and awe inspiring. The last summit erruption was in the 9th century but there have been more recent erruptions lower down the last being in 1909 from the side of the volcano at Chinyero. It all looks very recent which of course it is in geological terms. There are numerous fumarols where steam gushes from within. We saw these when we came with Hattie and Peter as young children but they were higher up as we were able to take the cable car then.
The cable car which goes nearly to the summit was not operating due to high winds and as we watched the summit the clouds gathered over it and heavy rain began to fall. It was cold windy and wet, we bolted for the car and ate our lunch in relative comfort with a great view of the swirling peak which gradually cleared.
Peter's time with us was all too short and the day for his early flight came all too soon. Sadly he didn't have the best of weather in Tenerife but hey, we see him again in early December when he and Harriet join us in Grenada to sail through the wonderful Grenadines and St Vincent to St Lucia. We are really looking forward to celebrating a Caribbean Christmas and New Year with them.
The Start of a Great Fortnight
01 November 2019
Lorraine and Chris Marchant
All Things Banana
To make the most of our visit from Peter we booked ourselves into a marina and hired a car. Las Galletas is a great place on the short south coast of Tenerife. A small coastal town with the Canarian black beaches, a great surfing bay and rocks for snorkelling, it has a traditional feel with fewer tourists than locals. The marina is small and there are no great hotel or apartment complexes in the town. In the mornings local guys gather in and outside one of the bar/cafe/restaurants discussing the topic of the day whilst downing coffees or more usually beers. A very relaxed and cheerful place that feels a world away from the great tourist bases of Los Christianos and Playa de las Americas.
Having booked into Marina del Sur for over a week we arrived to find berthing quite difficult due to strong winds and surge that tested and chafed our warps in the ensuing days. However, we got in safely thanks to the Marineros who were always on hand to help. Everyone was out in their cockpit when new boats came in or boats left,
on guard in case they came within swiping distance of an errant bow or stern and there were a few mishaps. Our bow thruster saved us from making too big a mess of docking stern to which we had to do to get on and off as there are no finger pontoons. A Dutch yacht that came in before us couldn't manage it and was having an unpleasant gymnastic climb over the bow anchor and all. He got in a bit of a state as his wife, not a sailor, was flying in next day and would not be able to get on board. When there was a lull Chris helped him turn the boat by manipulating warps, the pair worked fast and the boat got in unscathed to everyone's relief.
Peter arrived and soon settled in, we had stuck up "head" alert warnings here and there as he is 6'3" and hadn't stayed on the boat before, this worked so no lumps and bumps. We all enjoyed the laid-back atmosphere of Las Galletas, with the surfing bay just at the entrance to the marina we had an interesting stop off every day to watch the surfers and body boarders in action powering toward the beach and the rocks!
One of our first trips out was to an area in the north west which usually had ponds that attract a range of bird life. Clearly we were there at the wrong time of year as the ponds were dry and there was nothing alive except a few other walkers. However, it was an interesting landscape created about 50 years ago by quarrying the fertile soil for transport to the south to create the many banana plantations. The natural landscape in the south is bare, largely unweathered rock giving a building site appearance. Nevertheless, in the 70s banana farmers from La Palma realised that by trucking the northern soil 30 miles to the south they could take advantage of the empty landscape and the warm climate to farm the humble Canary banana.
We actually learnt most of this on an unexpectedly enjoyable visit we made to Margarita's plantation close to the marina where a charming polyglot woman explained to us all things banana. A team were busy cutting the bananas whilst we were there. The foreman surveyed the plants and selected the bunches to be cut, then slashing the stem enough to bend the plant over, cut through the thick stalk and lowered the bunch onto the shoulders of a waiting sherpa to lug his 80 kilos to the lorry, the men move fast under this weight otherwise they would lose momentum. Later the clearing team will move in to ensure the plantation is kept clean and tidy to keep disease at bay. Once cut the plant is left until a new shoot emerges from the root then the 'mother' is retired and removed. This is tough dusty work but the teams and the growers have very good relationships as the plantations here are part of an effective co-operative.
Canary bananas are small and not ripe until the skins develop small black patches at which stage they become sweet and ready. Said to contain a particular chemical that releases endorphins they are known here as a happy fruit responsible for the good humour of the Canarians. We were served and later bought a delicious selection of banana and other traditional products which also put us in a very good mood. However, banana wine - no thank you.
One of the pleasures of the Canaries is being able to eat out economically and we had a number of memorable meals but especially a mound of sea food which the 3 of us managed to demolish one lunchtime....leading to little afternoon activity that day. The salty Canarian potatoes and the mojos (sauces) that accompany many meals we particularly liked and the waiters here are so helpful and friendly it adds to the pleasure.
The weather was annoyingly cloudy and we looked every morning to see if Mount Teide, Tenerife's major volcano, was clear but she was taking her time. We decided to ascend to the highlands anyway and picked our way up to Villa Flora, a mountain town famous for its natural water supply and the ancient and unusual water mill it has powered. We chose the scenic route and the journey became stomach clenching as the road narrowed, the hairpin bends increased and the precipitous drop offs crept closer and closer. For miles we had single track road with no passing places other than 2 unofficial view points where we admired the clouds.
Villa Flora is a lovely town of extremely well kept historic buildings and a really small but very unusual water mill which diverted a water course via tiny viaducts to a stone and clay reservoir from where controlled release of water turned the cogs of the grinding stones. The viaducts also carried the water across the hillside to sustain the crops. All this was the brain child of one man renowned for his ingenuity and persistence, looking at the landscape one can see why. The routes of the viaducts are still there but now the water flows through pipes to irrigate the hillside and supply homes with good running water.
The mill can still function if needed and was copied throughout the area by those who had access to water and could afford to build one, then happily charged the local farmers to grind their crops of wheat, barley and maize. The grains were/are roasted then ground and mixed to a paste with water and can be rolled into large sausage shapes, sliced and served with a variety of foods or are mixed into other foods such as soups and stews. In the past this formed an important part of the infant diet being rich in protein, carbohydrate, vitamins and minerals. This product, called gofio, can be sweet or savoury depending on what is added, we thought chocolate would be good! It is still a feature of Canarian cuisine and appears in shops and restaurants. We had tried some at the Margarita's banana plantation not expecting much but it was surprisingly good.
The water course in Villa Flora has now been harnessed to form part of the formal gardens which spill down the hill in the town centre but is still an important local supply. Unfortunately our pictures of the main feature, the mill and its workings cannot be found but all others are in the gallery for this blog.
We decided that going down the roads we took up to Villa Flora would be just too much at the end of the day and took the easy route down so that we would be able to go out for a meal later rather than having to do stomach relaxation excercises. The same roads could be used to go up Teide which could make for a very long day but more of that later.
Luscious Santa Cruz
14 October 2019
Lorraine and Chris Marchant
The fresh produce in the market was second to none.
A short hop down the coast took us from Ensenada de Zapata 0' De Antequera to the capital of Tenerife which is abundantly green and lush with tropical plants and trees of every description most of which we have never seen before. Lots of the trees bear unusual and probably inedible fruits but look just gorgeous as the landscaping here is excellent.
Our first trip ashore we explored the town with its Art Deco architecture. We were looking to buy a SIM card but then just sat in one of the squares' garden cafes drinking good coffee, gazing and absorbing the warm atmosphere. Families chatting, children playing, owners walking well behaved dogs, elders watching and, of course, the buzz of youngsters laughing, heads down and into their phones.
The iconic Auditorio de Tenerife, right on the water front, is the home to the Santa Cruz Symphony Orchestra. A building that like the Sydney Opera House is a successful mix of architecture and sculpture, it is bright, bold and beautiful giving testament to the importance placed on the arts here as we found throughout Spain.
A trip to the municipal mercado was a real treat. It is said to be the best in the Canary Islands and not just for its produce, the building is quite remarkable with the entrance surrounded by wonderful sculptures depicting working people who provide the wares, goods and produce through their hard labour.
Please look in the gallery to see these and other works of art.
The fresh produce in the market was second to none with the delicious aromas of the fresh flowers, fruit and vegetables. We would love to have bought some of the beautiful flowers but indulged in the fruit, veg and cheese to replenish our fresh stores on board. Plenty of Canary bananas in with the fruits but our breakfast treat for the week was a selection of the small sweet fresh figs that almost melt in the mouth which we steeped in greek yoghurt, yummy.
On our final walk about we found the usual Spanish free outdoor gym equipment designed to keep the nation healthy, difficult to walk past without having a go. Then the street art, one gorgeous piece which as a mixture of graffitti and fine art takes street art to a whole new level. A photo of this is posted in the gallery for this blog.
We so enjoyed Santa Cruz during our quick 2 day stop but with our excitement building we needed to move on to the reputedly warmer, drier south as Peter our son, whom we hadn't seen since August 2018, would soon arrive to spend 12 days on board Jobiska with us.