Saturday, December 12, 2015

Gran Canaria

 After only 1 night in the Gran Tarajal Marina on the island of Fuerteventura we slipped the dock lines at 04:00 the following morning for the 81 NM passage to Las Palmas on the island of Gran Canaria.  Winds (abnormally) were from the SE and veering to the ESE and swell was from SSE at 2 meters.  Wind was strong enough to sail but only at 5 knots SOG and the large swell was not comfortable.  We were determined to arrive at Las Palmas during daylight, so ended up motor-sailing in order to make about 7 knots SOG to arrive before the marina office closed.

The Muelle Deportivo de Las Palmas is one of the government operated marinas.  Getting a reservation here is darn near impossible.  It is a complicated process whereby one emails or faxes a reservation request, but never receive a response so do not know if you have a reservation or not.  Telephoning is a joke; they do not answer the phones.  We had been a little concerned about this because there is only a small anchorage nearby and that usually is full.  What do you do if you arrive and there is no space in either the marina or the anchorage?  Press on overnight, I suppose.  At any rate, we really lucked out!  

As commodores in the SSCA (Seven Seas Cruising Association), the resources of the SSCA are available to us.  One of those resources are station hosts at various destinations worldwide.  We had contacted the SSCA station host for Gran Canaria, Augustin Martin; and he had gone way above the call of duty and obtained a marina reservation for us.  Like us, he had been unable to contact this marina by telephone; calls never answered.  He actually drove from the southern tip of this island all the way to Las Palmas and personally visited the marina in order to get us a reservation.  Like everyone who visits that marina office, he had to take a number and wait his turn to speak with the management.  He waited 2 hours!!!  And he was successful in obtaining a reservation for BeBe!  It was a great relief for us to know that there would be a space for us to dock on day of scheduled arrival.  We would stay there 3 nights before moving onward to the island of Tenerife.  

A few of the ~200 dolphin that came to play
Thanks very, very much to Augustin!  We certainly did not expect him to go to so much trouble assisting us.

About 3 NM out from arrival at Las Palmas the dolphin found us.  Bill whistled loudly and dolphin came jumping out of the water towards us from every direction!  They kept coming and coming!  There had to have been at least 200 dolphin!  The largest pod we have seen since the Indian Ocean.  It was fun watching them play with our bow wave and jump and flip all around us.  I tried to get some photos but with the large swell still running the sea was too active to get good photos.   I did get 3 videos of a few of the dolphin and if I can find a way to shrink those videos they will be added to the bottom of this blog posting.

Moonshadow's wall painting

Upon arrival at the marina entrance we were advised by VHF radio to circle outside the entrance for at least half-hour and call back again as the reception dock was full.  Bill inquired if it was possible for us to go to the fuel dock and take on fuel instead; so that is what we did.  After filling the tank, Bill walked over to the reception office and cleared us in. As we backed into our berthing spot along the east wall the first thing I saw was the name of a boat we have followed for many years.  I continue to follow this boat today with new owners.  This boat is Moonshadow, one of only 10 boats built of that model.  Moonshadow is Deerfoot 2; a 62-ft cutter designed by "cruising guru" Steve Dashew.  She was built in Finland by Scandi Yachts and Launched in 1986.  We followed George and Merima on Moonshadow as they circumnavigated.  And now I follow John and Deb, the current owners of Moonshadow, as they are beginning their circumnavigation, heading out soon from Mexico.  Small world.

Just part of the wall with all the boat names painted on

Each year boat owners and crew paint the names of their boats and sometimes crew names on the walls of certain places before they depart to cross the Atlantic.  It is a tradition in Madeira and also here in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, where the ARC departs each November.  The wall in this marina is covered in boat names.  Moonshadow participated in the ARC in her first year, 1986, and then again in 2010.  I would not be surprised if she won her class in both rallies as these are fast boats, but that is not something I follow.  What a surprise it was to look up from tossing our stern line to the marinero and see the sign for Moonshadow right behind us!  We did not know any of the other boat names painted on that wall except for Moonshadow, and the marina berthed us right in front of her name.  (For what it is worth, this painted wall tradition also continues at the Santa Cruz marina on Tenerife island; not sure if we will paint BeBe's name on the wall there or not. Neither of us is artistic.)

The first Moonshadow blog of George and Merima:

The current Moonshadow blog of John and Deb:

Augustin Martin, Judy & Bill in Las Palmas

The day after our arrival Augustin and his friend, Sonia, again drove up to Las Palmas and visited us aboard BeBe.  It was a pleasure meeting them.  They provided many insider tips about Gran Canaria.  We wanted to treat them to lunch but they had other plans.  We mentioned that we planned to rent a car to see the island and they suggested we drive down the the southern tip of the island and we could have lunch down there.  Fabulous!

Sonia, Judy & Bill in Las Palmas
After they left, Bill and I walked around in search of lunch.  After a nice lunch of ropa vieja (old clothes; Google it if you are not familiar with ropa vieja; delicious), we decided to find a car rental company to reserve a car for the following day.  And we walked. And walked.  And walked.  Another cruiser had told us where he thought 2 tourist information offices were located; we found neither.  Bill used the iPhone to search out car rental companies but that proved useless for the first 2 listed; never found those places. When I had reached the point of not caring if we managed to see this island or not, we finally found a car rental agency -- in the basement level of a parking garage beneath a high-rise office building.  Talk about difficult to find!  We made arrangements to pick up the car the following morning and walked back to the boat.  Now with blistered feet.  We had walked well over 5 miles.

The next morning we walked back and picked up the car.  Easy once you know where to find that place; only 1 1/2 mile walk.  Augustin had told us that it should take only 45 minutes to drive from Las Palmas on the NE side of the island down to Pasito Blanco on the southern tip of the island; but we wanted to allow plenty of time since we had no idea of the road conditions or knew anything of the areas to be visited.  Well...he was correct.  There is an excellent freeway down the eastern side of Gran Canaria.  This freeway continues westward along the southern coastline until the town of Mogan, where it ends.  A much smaller typical mountain road continues past Mogan up towards the mountainous center of the island.  The western side of Gran Canaria is very rugged and there are no north/south roads trans-versing that side of the island.  The good roads and most habitation is on the eastern side of the island.

Alguineguin port

We arrived at Pasito Blanco much too early to meet Augustin and Sonia for lunch, so we continued driving westward on a narrow coastal road to the old fishing village of Arguineguin.  We stopped and strolled through this quaint little village.  Walked the docks where the fishing boats sell their catch.  Stopped for coffee at a small outside cafe. Enjoyed this little picturesque village.  

Section of the beach at Meloneras

Then we drove back eastward past Pasito Blanco and visited a resort area known as Meloneras.  Lots of shopping there and a pretty beach.  

View of Pasito Blanco marina entrance

From the upper level of the shopping area there was a nice view of the entrance to the marina at Pasito Blanco.  Suddenly we realized that it was later than we thought and had to hurry back to Pasito Blanco or we would be late for our appointed time to meet up with Augustin.

Entrance into Pasito Blanco marina

Airstream, patiently awaiting
Atlantic crossing

Augustin was waiting at the guard entrance to get us into Pasito Blanco.  This is a private gated community and is very nice.  The marina is well protected and there even is a small boat yard.  In fact, our friends, Bill and Janet Wickham, had left their boat Airstream on the hard here!  Bill will be returning early next month for the Atlantic crossing; we might be crossing at about the same time.

One GREAT beach seafood restaurant!

Augustin took us to his home and Sonia joined the group and we headed off for lunch at their favorite beachside restaurant at nearby El Pajar.  This restaurant is called El Boya and is family owned and operated. I think all the employees are members of the same extended family.  It is a casual place and exactly the kind of seafood restaurant that Bill and I prefer.  Plastic chairs and great food!  At great prices, too!

Don't we all look like we are having a wonderful time!
Augustin Martin and his friend, Sonia, with Judy

El Boya started when the family had a single small fishing boat called Jocefa.  Business has grown a lot since then!  Bill and I each ordered a small plate of chunks of some kind of fried fish; it was delicious.  Sonia ordered grilled octopus and we shared; again, delicious.  There also were a couple of plates of the Papas Arrugadas (wrinkled potatoes), the delicacy of the Canary Islands which is served with a green and a red mojo sauce.  Augustin ordered fried sardines or small whole fish.  He and Sonia enjoyed those; Bill and I abstained as we had more than we could eat of the fried fish pieces.  

Sample of the seafood available that day.

Augustin also introduced Bill to an alcohol-free beer, which Bill thought was wonderful.  The law here is DUI at blood alcohol level of .025 rather than the far more lenient level at home of .08.  They take drunk driving very seriously here (as they should).  Since we planned to drive a lot that afternoon Bill did not want to drink any alcohol.  He enjoyed the non-alcohol beer very much.  I forgot the brand name.

Augustin, Judy & Bill at El Boya lunch

After lunch we returned to Augustin's home for coffee.  We very much enjoyed this short visit and lunch with Augustin and Sonia.  Next, off for a long drive.  The roads we followed to the mountainous interior of the island were not like the divided multi-lane freeway which runs along the eastern coast.  There were typical mountain roads, twisting and turning and climbing ever upward.  

The highland interior of the island has more vegetation and trees.  Quite different from the almost barren coastal areas.  We did not stop so did not take any photos.  Sonia had warned us that there is no street lighting or highway lighting up on these mountain roads and that we should leave the area at least 1 hour 15 minutes before dark to allow sufficient time to get back down to the lighted roads in the more inhabited areas.  She was right. Thanks for that advice! 

We dropped the car off and walked back to the marina.  It felt perfectly safe walking the streets in the early evening.  I love the Spanish habit of families taking children to the plazas and squares and playgrounds between the hours of 8 pm and 11 pm.  Would never see that at home!  Yet here those places seem perfectly safe during dark hours as these are filled with playing children.  A different world.

The following morning we departed Las Palmas at first daybreak for the 56 NM passage westward to Santa Cruz on the island of Tenerife.

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