A short trip home, then back to the Canary Islands
11 November 2018 | Pasito Blanco, Gran Canaria, Spain
Barbara/Mostly sunny and warm
Here we are in the Canaries, enjoying the beautiful days full of sunshine and interesting people – every day a new adventure in preparation for our crossing of the Atlantic, set to begin in the next 2-3 weeks. We did take a short trip home, where we fulfilled lots of little and big goals. We told everyone that the most important reason for our trip home was to vote – and we did that! In fact when we got back to the boat, we fed our jet lag by following the news from home altogether too closely, just to find out the election results. Now that the results are mostly in, we are back to the main things – preparing the boat for our trip across the Atlantic.
Two days ago, Craig took out the head (toilet) and made some necessary repairs (something that requires attention – so it seems – every year or so). He’s a hero in my book! Today he finally found a water system leak that has been plaguing us for the last few months. He managed to fix it despite the unavailability of American replacement plumbing parts. Yay!
The biggest job was the watermaker. Craig had started the maintenance procedures before our trip home, and discovered, with some dismay but no great surprise, that the seals leaked and the filter membrane was at end-of-life. The seal kit costs about $500, which gives you an idea of the number and quality of the necessary seals. He found out, though, that all the watermaker parts are cheaper (about half price) in the US, and that for “only” about $700 we could get a replacement Clark pump (the guts of the thing), factory rebuilt, with only a short side trip to Seattle.
The down side of that operation is that we had to bring the old Clark pump with us from the Canaries, as trade-in on the factory-rebuilt one. Craig decided to bring it on the plane as a carry-on. The weight limit for carry-ons was 10 kilos, and the danged thing weighs about 9.8 kilos. Not only that, it’s a very weird-looking thing, and as far as the airport security people are concerned, it might be a pipe bomb. The airport security people in the Canaries and in Barcelona asked a lot of questions but let it through. Frankfurt was a completely different question. “Oh, we can’t let you take that as a carry on. We can’t tell what it is. You’ll have to go back to the check-in counter and check it as baggage.” “Oh, no, we can’t check baggage at the gate.” “I’m not sure we can even let it on the plane as checked baggage.” The gate people brought in a couple of twenty-something police officers. Higher and higher levels of officials came to look at the thing, and all refused to make a decision allowing it on the plane. Finally, as they were loading the last people onto the plane, the highest official of all came, and blessed it as checked baggage and told the underlings to check it in at the gate. We were amazed when we got to Portland and the pump was actually there in its original box. Whew!
For the trip back to the Canaries, we were a bit smarter and Craig found a suitcase online, big enough to hold the Clark pump in its original box plus his clothes. We checked the new filter membrane as an extra bag, for “only” an extra $125. When we got to the Canaries, it was apparent the boxes had been cut open and resealed, twice, by the TSA. But it all made it! The watermaker components were reinstalled and now work well.
While home, we acquired some items of clothing, sprouting seeds, and various other boat parts and supplies we didn’t think we’d be able to find easily in the Canaries. We also got a chance to see a few close friends and family (although there were others we would like to have seen as well, and just simply couldn’t fit in). I found several opportunities to play chamber music, getting my “fix” that will have to last 7 or 8 more months. We did some necessary maintenance at the house and checked in with our housesitter. We’re happy to have made the trip home, but also happy to be back in the Canaries.
The second day after our return, we had to move the boat from the Las Palmas marina down the coast to Pasito Blanco, where we are now. The night our flight arrived from Portland, I had unfortunately dislocated my little toe (ouch, ouch, ouch!) and we were uncertain whether I would be a competent crew for our sail down the coast. We contacted Agustin Martin, the Port Officer of the Ocean Cruising Club (which we had joined last year) hoping he could connect us with someone who could crew for the afternoon sail. Instead he offered to make the trip himself! What a treat – we got a good dose of local culture and history as we sailed south past the airport, many wind generators, beaches (nude and not), mountains, hills and tourist resorts. Pasito Blanco is Agustin’s home port, which meant we weren’t arriving blind (as we so often must).
The reason we had to move from Las Palmas is that it is the central gathering place for the ARC – Atlantic Rally for Cruisers. This is a collection of perhaps 1000 cruising sailboats who rely on the ARC organization for two weeks of pre-departure educational seminars, weather information, routing, customs clearance in the Caribbean and lots of parties. The ARC cruisers pay quite a lot of money for these services, and many of them are first-time passage makers. The marina at Las Palmas provides docking for many if not most of the ARC participants, hence their need to kick us out. (It’s OK, we were expecting it). Many people have asked us if we are participating in the ARC, and no, we have not considered it. We have crossed oceans before, and we’re not very interested in massive social events.
But smaller social events, yes! Yesterday, Agustin hosted a midday pot-luck get-together for OCC members at his house in Pasito Blanco. We met cruisers from 8 or 10 other boats –delightful people from many different countries. (See photo accompanying this blog post). We shared food and compared notes about our destinations, hopes and concerns. We hope to communicate with some of these folks by radio as we cross the ocean, and then perhaps see some of them at some lovely island in the Caribbean when we happen to arrive at the same time.
We’ve taken a couple of days off to explore Gran Canaria – yesterday was a trip up into the mountains, along scary winding narrow cliff-edge roads, but with spectacular scenery. We were reminded at times of the Grand Canyon, of Waimea Canyon on Kauai, and of the foothills of the Sierras in California. We stopped for lunch in one spot surrounded with palm trees and orange trees. Nearby there was an old (16th century) mill involving a hike through the palms and down a steep hillside. It was in such good condition, it must have been in use until recently. As we continued to drive up in elevation, we started to see pine trees and eucalyptus, making it look very much like some of the higher elevation parts of Southern California.
Through shopping, restaurants, haircuts and a brief encounter with the medical system, we’ve learned a lot about what life is like in the Canaries. Some things are just like home, and others are quite different. Most of the people we encounter are tourists – especially British, German and Scandinavian. The people who live here are often from somewhere else. Agustin’s partner is from Belgium; the two doctors I met are both from Latin America – one from El Salvador and the other from Venezuela. People appear happy to be living here, and the economy seems to be quite healthy. I’m enjoying the chance to speak Spanish again, and I like listening for things about the Spanish language that are different here.
Sometime in the next week or so I will check on whether Sailblogs really can post an entry from me, when I send it by email. So if you look at the blog site next week, maybe you’ll see my test blog. Otherwise, it’s likely the next blog will indeed be from the middle of the ocean. Wish us luck as we prepare to depart!
Craig & Barbara