We've been enjoying spending time in the Canary Islands and getting to know each one. We're hoping to do all of them before leaving sometime in December to sail to the Cape Verde Islands followed by the long haul to someplace in the Caribbean, hopefully Martinique. It seems we never have much free time because we are either planning what we're going to be doing or doing what we've planned since there is so much to explore. That and working on our website VentureFarther and trying to keep on top of boat maintenance has kept us busy. So here's a few of the highlights anyway just so you don't think we are sitting around with our feet up drinking margaritas....
Just as many sailboats position themselves in the Canary Islands each Fall to provision before crossing to the Caribbean, so did many earlier adventurers including Columbus. After following in the footsteps of Captain Cook all the way across the Pacific, we are now re-living Columbus's past in museums and guidebooks as he too stopped here to fix his ships and restock. It was interesting to learn that he died thinking he had reached Asia but in actuality of course it was N&S America. The docks are filled with sailboats right now because the ARC and Odyssey rallies are starting soon and except for the fact that it is a pain to not have a full choice of marinas because it is busy, it does feel sort of festive seeing all the flags and spiffed up boats scurrying around stocking up. We are currently in Santa Cruz, Tenerife, a beautiful city and we are front & center to all the action. Well sort of. We are on an overflow dock some distance from the main clubhouse, where the megayachts are. We look so small. The picture above is from our cockpit in the marina looking up toward the mountains behind. We finally had some raindrops today. And we hiked in those mountains!
We spent the first couple of weeks touring Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, the dry islands of the chain. Emphasize dry. Twice we had 3 day blocks where the wind switched to the east and brought in the Sahara air and dust that scratches your eyeballs before drying them up till you can't see, or that is how I experienced it. Laundry dries before you can get it hung though! We have been staying in some really nice marinas and the one on Lanzarote was no exception. We had a primo spot in a fishing village called Puerto del Carmen. The are several types of marinas and they vary in price, (all very reasonable) but the ones we like are run by the fishing ports and are more authentic but still purpose built, often spacious marina complexes which is so impressive to me. They are also the cheapest which works for us! It made a great base to explore the island by car and it was always nice to come home to the boat there. We did some unique desert hikes up many volcano calderas on Lanzarote. All the multicolored hues of the lava rock were pretty as well as the visual of the blow-outs that occurred when these volcanoes erupted in 1730 and continued for six years! We went to Timanfaya National Park and saw a lot of great scenery from the window of a large tourist bus because that is the only way you can see the heart of the park. When we weren't being amazed by the scenery we were by the how the bus driver squeezed around tight corners weaving the bus through the scenic drive. While efficient in handling hoards of tourists, it isn't the best way to experience a park. At the visitor center you could see how hot the earth still is in the area as they cook BBQ chicken on a huge natural grill there and can also boil water! It is something to see the amount of lava rock that was thrown from the center of the volcanoes and now forms the lifeless moonscape that makes up a good part of the island. But over time the Canarians figured out how to grow grapes for wine and other produce as some of the lava stone actually holds water quite well. They build rock walls to protect the plants and corral the water which makes a nice landscape too. We visited a couple of wineries, saw the famous green lake which is just a pond of sorts by the sea with an algae that colors the water green, saw the old salt pans, did some really cool rim hikes and also took a day to bike on the coastal path to Lanzarote's capital city. At a pirate museum, set in an old fort atop a caldera, I learned that once the Canary Islands became a popular sea route for tradeships, in came the pirates from all over to take whatever they could. And that some came from Rabat, Morocco, where we just were a month ago. They would kidnap wealthy people and then sail them to Rabat where they were held for ransom!! So everybody was in to it.
We sailed south from Lanzarote to a little park island called Los Lobos which had its own volcano to hike and also some snorkeling. At times you can see small hammerhead sharks here but in our couple of tries we saw none of course. Things are improving in the underwater department and there are a lot more fish but it still isn't impressive enough to put on our scuba gear. So we moved to Fuerteventura. We anchored a couple more nights off of seaside towns and then moved into a marina for a few days for the easterly breeze. This island is mainly bald. There are no trees and there isn't the degree of volcanic scenery to observe. So we didn't rent a car to tour it. Instead, we did some local hikes for exercise, hung out on the dock with other sailors and did some boat projects. I mistakenly slopped a coat of varnish on the cockpit during the Sahara cook-off which meant that it skinned over too fast and didn't dry properly. I forgot it needs humidity... We serviced the head which is always fun and went about fixing the latest round of broken stuff. Jon said goodbye to his foul weather gear pants as the lining has disintegrated along with so many of our things. And we discovered that the Pactor modem which seemed to be fixed wasn't since it stopped working again. Must be some internal electronics failure. But we have a spare! It was sitting on the shelf in Whangarei, NZ at a consignment shop labeled "Modum 50NZD" and Jon spotted that baby and bought it a few years back. Obviously the owner of the store didn't realize what it was worth (or how to spell modem). So now our onboard email/weather seems to work. Meanwhile the positive latch on our fridge door broke, and those latches Jon bought in New Zealand when he redid the countertop so it is unlikely he will find matching replacements. Oh well. We had a regulator go on the generator so Jon replaced that and the list continues. There is always something that needs fixing.
Venture Farther continues to grow with a record 10 new users in a day recently. The subscription service is working out and Jon was able to upgrade the servers so it is faster and can handle the added demand. It is now listed on the OpenCPN charting software official plug-ins page for satellite imagery. As well as SEAiq on the Ipad. We are position reporting on our website and if you are interested in receiving an email whenever we do a position report to see if we are still floating, you can send us a note and we'll get an invite out to you or you can go to VentureFarther.com yourself to sign up to track us. This is where we will report to from sea.
While at Gran Tarajal, another fishing port, we went for lunch at the "Cofradia" which is the fishermen's co-op restaurant, highly recommended. The waiter comes over to you with a platter of raw whole fishes and you pick which one you want them to cook up for you. He pointed to one and said it was really good and big enough for 2 people so we chose that one. It came with the Canarian style boiled potato (they call them wrinkly potatoes) and a simple salad and then perfectly pan cooked whole fish. It was really good in a simple way. When we got the bill we realized just how good it was as the fish had cost $42! We decided tossing out our fishing line was more economical but we haven't caught anything yet.
Once the NE trades settled in again, we left and did an overnight sail to Gran Canaria. It was the best sail we've had since we think Indonesia, great wind, flat seas, a partial moon and we arrived at sunrise to a new island. I love those nights. At the southern end of Gran Canaria, there are some Sahara like sand dunes for some reason, called the Maspalomas Dunes. They block out the unsightly tourist development that occurs on the southern ends of most islands here. It was so beautiful to glide past those colorful waves of sand with no one on them and the light just beginning to show them off.
We had to wait get into our berth so anchored just outside and I had a great swim to clean the bottom some and check to see how the lawn was coming along. Not bad! Our last cleaning has lasted well and I could see where the fish had been doing their part to mow down what growth has been taking hold. We shoe horned our way into the berth at Pasito Blanco Marina. It is a private marina since our favorite fisherman's harbor was full and at these you pay more and get no finger pier! The dock was so low that Jon had to boost me up to the bow each time we boarded the boat. Nuts! But we did rent a car to tour the island and we knew the boat wasn't going anywhere since it was wedged in with fenders. We toured some lovely, flower-filled towns, went to an incredible botanical garden with the biggest cacti we've ever seen along with the same kind of cherry bushes that I had growing up in Miami (with the ripe cherries too), and traveled some incredible roads. The challenge of living on an island that goes straight up from sea level is making roads that can cling to the cliffs and curve around endless mountains. Really impressive feats of engineering and enough to make your heart jump our of your chest with some of the drop-offs or at least risk losing your lunch with all the curves and elevation changes. We ate almonds right off the tree on some of our hikes, visited old churches and went to the Casa Museo Colon (Columbus's House museum) in Las Palmas. They say Columbus might have stopped at this house in 1492 as it was used at that time by the governors of the city but what is more interesting is its old Canarian architecture with large balconied patios, complete with palms and parrots. And also the information on each of his voyages. We did long days exploring Gran Canaria with the time that we had and really enjoyed it. It felt so good to finally start seeing some trees and having the air smell sweet again as opposed to like dry rocks. The Canary islands are a well laid out playground with the usual great Spanish vibe and a lot of variety. We really like them.
We moved around to the SW side of the island after returning the car to see the town of Puerto de Mogan and also position ourselves for the sail to Tenerife. Called the Venice of the Canaries (by the tourist board) it is a tourist development & marina built around rugged cliffy scenery. The guidebooks say that the British are on the beaches and the Germans are up in the hills and they really are pretty accurate with that. Anyway, it is unique in the theme and all the little bridges are cute but it also felt kind of boring and we were glad to sail off to Tenerife the next day. It was boisterous as we were going to windward but it was fast and despite all the junk we have on this boat, it seemed very happy to barrel along through the waves which made me happy and a bit relieved. It still knows what to do!
We are tied up at Marina Santa Cruz and have rented another car to see Tenerife, an island we have been excited about for quite some time. It has lots of trees, steep mountains and more!The only way to really see or do anything is to have a car and we figure there will be a lot of "down time" at sea so we're living it up while we can! But Evergreen never lets us forget it. We will start the day today researching places to get new batteries as ours seem to be getting weak fast. We had to add over 5 liters of water a few days ago. As usual, the boat always gets the biggest presents!
I have some more pics to include here and will when I have time. Until then clicking on any pic (except the first one) should take you to the album...