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.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Lots of Amels in the Canary Islands!

Marina Lanzarote was so nice and luxurious that we stayed there a full month.  This was a nice island and a great place to relax.  Although had we known how inexpensive were the marinas in Fuerteventura and Gran Canaria maybe we would have left a little sooner.  We were pleasantly surprised to find that the rate at Gran Tarajal Marina on Fuerteventura was only 20 euro per night for 16-meter BeBe.  And 3 nights at the Muelle Deportivo de Las Palmas on Gran Canaria cost only 48 euro!!  No wonder that marina stays so full!

Before departing Marina Lanzarote I walked the docks one day and took photos of all the Amels.  There were more Amels berthed there at one time than we have seen anywhere in the world except at the Amel service center in the Caribbean.  

Kandiba, an Amel 55

Docked next to BeBe was a beautiful USA flagged Amel 55 named Kandiba, owned by Hassan and Zehrya from Turkey.  Their lovely niece Fatma has joined them as crew and will cross the Atlantic with them next month. Fatma holds a degree in fashion design and is taking a year off to learn sailing before pursuing a career.  This is a great opportunity for her to travel; I wish her all good things in the coming years.

Seraphine, Super Maramu

Across the dock from BeBe was Seraphine, a Super Maramu hailing from Weisbaden, owned by Hajo and Julia.  We last met up with them in Fethiye, Turkey.  They had thought to cross to the Caribbean this season but have changed their minds and will return to the Med.  They have years of relaxed sailing to enjoy in the Med. 

Libertad, a Maramu
Libertad, the oldest Amel lady present
Next to Seraphine was USA flagged Libertad, a 33-year-old Maramu owned by Dennis and Virginia from California.  Libertad was the oldest Amel there.  Libertad will be crossing the Atlantic in company with the Atlantic Odyssey II next month.

Rhumb Runner, a Super Maramu 2000

Near Libertad was docked another Super Maramu 2000 named Rhumb Runner hailing from Plymouth, Great Britain, owned by Chris.  Rhumb Runner is crossing the Atlantic right now but not participating in any of the crossing rallies.  

Rainbow, an Amel 55

Down the dock on the same side as BeBe were 2 more Amels: another Amel 55 named Rainbow, hailing from Hamburg.  This boat was in and out so quickly that we never had an opportunity to speak with the owners.  

Now or Ever (or Now or Never), an Amel 54

And near Rainbow was an Amel 54 named Now or Ever, another USA flagged vessel, owned by an Italian.  Gian will be returning to his boat next month and sailing her to Antigua where he has purchased a home.  Gian has stated that the name of his boat really is Now or Never but the company which made the vessel name apparently did not comprehend the word 'never' and produced the incorrect name.  First time I have heard of that happening. An Italian explaining to a Frenchman what he wanted in English.  Yeah, easy to make a mistake.

SM Kerpepere II, a Super Maramu

On another dock was another Super Maramu.  This vessel was named SM Kerpepere II, French flagged and hailing from Lo (wherever that is, never heard of it).  I did not speak with these owners as they always seemed busy with one thing or another on their boat.

Tzigane, sloop rigged Santorin
Tzigane, sloop rigged Santorin
And, finally, several docks away was a French flagged Santorin named Tzigane.  The owners were away and we never met them.  This is a rare boat.  Tzigane is a sloop-rigged Santorin.  The Santorin model was produced from 1989 until 1997.  A total of 145 were built during those years and most of those boats were ketch-rigged.  There was an option to have it sloop-rigged but only a few were built that way.  Tzigane appeared to be in excellent condition.  

Kali Mera, Santorin ketch
Photo taken in Tenerife

We missed meeting up in Marina Lanzarote with Austrian friends Herbert and Teneta on their Santorin Kali Mera.  They had departed Rabat before us and were well ahead of us by this point.  We did later meet up with Herbert at the Santa Cruz marina on the island of Tenerife and enjoyed dinner with him right before he departed to Cape Verdes.  

Kali Mera, Santorin ketch
Photo taken in Tenerife

Kali Mera is the typical Amel ketch-rig and is in excellent condition.  She looks like the baby sister of BeBe.  The Santorin is 46-ft and the Super Maramu 2000 is ~53-ft and the 2 boats look identical, including electrical furling.  Although I think we have 2 more electric winches than was standard on the Santorin model.  The main saloon of the Santorin is a more comfortable living space than the saloon in a Super Maramu, but without all the storage space in a SM. If we did not own a SM2 then I would want a Santorin model.  

Running the wire for the hailer speaker.
He looks so comfortable perched way
up there.

Messenger line.  There were 2 of these lines
installed by Amel just in case an owner might
want to add something to the mast later.
Note those rubber spacers.  These were
tied about every 3 ft and kept the 2 lines
from twisting and entangling.

During the final days before departure of the Atlantic Odyysey I rally we took advantage of the communications expert that Cornell Sailing had flown in from Italy to make a presentation at the informative seminars.  He checked our SSB and VHF and found a couple of ways to tweak the SSB to optimize performance.  We have had no problems with the SSB all these years, but he knew a few tricks to produce even better reception and transmission.  What an invaluable service!!!  

Watching the wire being pulled through the mast
Bill decided to hire this company to run the wire through the mizzen mast so that we could install a hailer speaker, primary reason is to use this speaker as a fog horn via a feature of our VHF radio.  The messenger lines were already inside the mast, courtesy of Amel; and Bill could have done this work himself.  But since they had worked on our radios for free we felt like we should hire them for this simple job.  They ought to get some business out of their participation in the seminars and doing all those free radio checks for all the rally boats.

Bill, Zeyhra, Farma and Hassan;
dinner aboard BeBe
Hassan, Zeyhra and Fatma came for dinner aboard BeBe a few nights before we left Marina Lanzarote.  Zeyhra brought 2 Turkish vegetarian meze as appetizers and a traditional Turkish desert made from pumpkin.  All 3 dishes were simply delicious!  I need to take cooking lessons from Zehrya!  And Hassan gifted us with a bottle of red wine from the Anatolia region of Turkey that was divine; the best wine we have enjoyed in a long time. Wish we had discovered this particular wine when we were still in Turkey and could have stocked up.  The following morning Kandiba departed Lanzarote.  We would catch up with them again later.

Finally it was time for us to depart Lanzarote on 2 December.  We enjoyed a great 56 NM sail to Gran Tarajal Marina on the island of Fuerteventura where we stayed only overnight. 

At 04:00 the following morning we departed for Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.  This was 81 NM to Las Palmas and we wanted to arrive during daylight, so even though there was sufficient wind to sail we ended up motor-sailing in order to make high enough speed to arrive before the marina office closed.

NOTE:  Because of a cyber-stalker who is behaving very childishly, we have been forced to monitor comments left by our readers.  Disappointing to be forced into moderating comments after 10 years of blogging about our sailing and travel adventures.  Because a grown man insists on behaving like an 8-year-old child.  So, apologies to all of you who know how to act like adults.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Day tour of Lanzarote

One of several courtyards around exterior
of the palm grove home

Leaving the small town of Teguise we headed farther north in search of a home once owned by César Manrique.  César Manrique was a famous artist and architect from Lanzarote.  He was an eco-activist long before that term became popular.  His passion for the Canary Islands and for Lanzarote in particular made him loved by the local inhabitants.  He died in a car crash in 1992.  His sculptures and other art work are found all over this island.

A better view of rear patio and swimming pool

The roof lines intrigued us.  Everything was flat except
the vaulted roofs over the bathrooms.

Bill and Virginia.  Those palms
were huge!

An 'interest area' of the pool.
Artsy things everywhere.

Dennis has no problems driving right to Manrique's old home situated in a large palm grove near the town of Haria. This home is really something!  I could move in tomorrow and be quite happy with everything in the home remaining exactly as it is.  It is light and bright and airy.  Yet has dark and soothing spaces too.  It is obvious that this home belonged to an architect even more than the obvious displays of his artistic works.  No photography is allowed inside the home.

Behind the pink flowers is the master bath

One of the features in this home is that the bathrooms provide an open view to the outside, utilizing glass walls and a few glass panels angled as part of the ceilings and roof.  Yet exterior partial walls or high solid fences still provide privacy.  Some people might not like this concept but Bill and I do.  We once owned a home with something similar for the master bath.

His art studio.  Does not appear
clearly, but those steps went down
about 8 ft from ground level.

Adjacent to the spacious home stands Manrique's art studio.  Supposedly it is left exactly as it was when he died.  We watched a short video showing him working on a painting.  His technique employed for this particular painting was interesting as he used his entire body. The very large canvas was laid upon the floor and he walked around it applying paints.  At times he was stretched well over the canvas in a prone position while painting.  As I said, using his entire body to paint.  Dennis did not care for his work but I liked it.  

As we were leaving the site we noticed a brightly colored car displayed on a platform. Manrique had been commissioned to paint the Seat Ibiza model car on display at the Barcelona International Motor Show in 1987.  A number of these cars were given to celebrities.  This particular car belonged to César Manrique.  Bill checked the odometer and this car has been driven only about 16,500 kilometers (10,250 miles).

Looking at La Graciosa (national park island) from
the top of Mirador del Rio.  Look very closely and
see a sailboat down there.

Dennis drove the very narrow streets of Haria and headed farther northwest.  And to much higher elevation!  Our next destination was the Mirador del Rio.  This structure was built in 1973 and overlooks the neighboring small island of La Graciosa, which is a national park.   The views are spectacular and we were treated to the perfect clear day during this visit.  A sailboat was working its way west through the channel while we watched from high above. This view was worth the drive up there on that very, very narrow road. 

Maybe a slightly better view of that sailboat.

There was a snack cafe/coffee shop at the lookout point and we were all hungry by this time, but none of us wanted to settle for coffee shop type food.  We had seen a sidewalk cafe back in the town of Haria and we all voted to return there for lunch.  While there we ran into some folks who are participating in the Atlantic Odyssey I rally.  They were getting in a last-minute tour of the island before their departure in another day or 2.  We kept criss-crossing with them as we all toured the island.  We all were seeing the same things but in different order.

Looking westward down the northern side of Lanzarote

Another Manrique sculpture at
lookout point

Terraced mountainsides all around.
Making the most of whatever rain.
A surprise on the mountaintop.  Have not seen these
in a long time.  These are radomes -- protect large
radars from weather.  Look like air-defense radomes
that we used to have several decades ago.

Take a close look at these.
Semi-circular stone walls are
built around plants (mostly grapes)
to utilize the most of what little
moisture is available.

A very large philodendron at the entrance/exit of the
cave.  We exited through that hole on the bottom right.
It was much large than appears in this photo; it was
down at least 25 feet from the philodendron.

Next we drove back southeast to the seaside main road and turned north for a few miles. Destination this time was the Cueva de los Verdes (the Green Caves)-- a very long cave which really is a lava tube.  But this lava tube was quite different from the lava tube we visited in the Galapagos Islands in 2008. The one in the Galapagos had a smooth interior; it looked like someone had made an enormous smooth black pipe and we were walking inside that pipe. This lava tube looked nothing like that.  The walls and ceiling and most areas of the floor were rough stones and rocks.  With lots of rock formations all through the center areas of the long cave.

Following Virginia inside the cave

Still following Virginia through the very long cave
This cave is about 5 miles long and runs from the cone of the La Corona Volcano down to the sea. This is the longest volcanic cave gallery in the world.  A lava tube is formed by the cooling and solidification of the superficial lava flow in contact with air while the liquid magma underneath continues flowing.  Particularly awesome in this cave are the color range adorning the vaults and walls of the cave.  The red colors are due to the oxidation of bassalts and iron content.  The different ochre shades come from the reflections of light on salt efflorescence caused by water seepage from the surface over millenia.  As little rainfall as this island gets, it would take hundreds of years to cause this effect.  The volcanic eruption and resulting lava flow which created this lava tube occurred over 3,000 years ago.

Seating left of stage
Seating to right of stage
There are 2 areas inside this long cave where cultural events are sometimes held.  One place in particular has a small stage and a few hundred chairs in place, along with amplifiers and speakers.  The guide informed us that this spot is excellent for chamber music performances as the acoustics are perfect.  There was a chant by monks playing on the sound system while we rested in the chairs before the walk back out of the cave and it did sound very pleasing.

The stage itself. 
Only about 2 kilometers of the cave/lava tube is open for visitors.  And that was enough, thank you. It was nice and the stories of how over 2,000 local people sought refuge inside this cave during the 17th century lent more interest to it.  Pirates and slave hunters attacked the island and the local inhabitants went into this long cave and stayed there for several months.  It was impossible for me to imagine over 2,000 people living down there for that long.  There is electrical lighting installed now; I cannot imagine being down there for months without that lighting.  And will such limited water availability for so many people. Guess you do what you must do.  Heartier folks back then.

A Manrique sculpture. Each piece twirls with the wind

After this cave we had wanted to see a couple of other sites but were running out of daylight.  There was time to see only 1 more place.  And only if we hurried.  We took a quick vote and opted to go see the first home built on Lanzarote by César Manrique and where he lived before moving out to his other home in the palm grove near Haria.  This first home was built utilizing what are called lava bubbles.  

Another Manrique sculpture.  Called Windmill.
It also twirls with the wind.

A lava bubble is similar to a lava tube, except that the bubbles are more or less round rather than a long tunnel.  This home now houses many art works of César Manrique.  It was kind of like a maze with hallways cut through the stone connecting many lava bubbles.  Each bubble was filled with sofas or built-in seating arrangements.  I assume those hallways were man-made because cannot imagine how the lava could have created all those bubble spaces and connected them with long narrow hallways.  Did not appear to be natural hallway formations.  

One of several hallways connecting
the lava bubbles

The first lava bubble room.  All white built-in seating
Note the live palm tree.

Outdoor seating area in shade of overhanging rock.
Next to the outdoor fireplace and grill.

Another lava bubble room

Much smaller pool than at his home in the palm grove.
This home certainly was different.  I could see an artist living here.  But the home in the palm grove was much, much nicer.

It was past sunset when we exited the home.  And only a short drive back to Arrecife and back to Marina Lanzarote.  Thanks to Dennis and Virginia for inviting us to accompany them on this little island tour.