Finally I arrived at La Graciosa, an island just above Lanzerote. From here I will start a second episode of my journey this year to the Madeira archipelago. Yes, archipelago, because there are four islands to be visited all belonging to Madeira, Portugal.
But first the Canary islands. After my strenuous walk on La Gomera I left San Sebastian to anchor for three days just a bay two miles south, with a view on the mountains I had my strenuous walk . I also had a magnificent view in the snow caped mountain Del Teide on Tenerife on the other side. Nice to be out of the crowded marina. I just spend the days with relaxing, swimming and reading.
Then it was time to go to Tenerife where my friend Hans would arrive to accompany me for two weeks. Hans is a familiar face on my trips. He joined me two weeks to the North Cape, Norway in 2000 and in Spitsbergen in 2008. Last year Hans joined me the first two weeks all the way to Brest and now in the Canaries. Definitely more his preference as far weather goes.
We sailed from the south to Santa Cruz de Tenerife and from there to Las Palmas, Gran Canaria. Plans to sail on to Lanzerote we abandoned due to strong North East winds. I was apprehensive about the Canaries. I expected many ugly hotels crowded with many tourists. All true, but just a bit of the beaten track I found the Canaries very beautiful and a great hiking experience. Of course, sometimes you have to look the other way to forget the big touring buses on the parking lot, but many occasions very little people were there, and if so, thoroughly enjoying the same activity.
Hans and I visited the mountain Del Teide and the lava fields on the slopes of the mountain. In fact, the Canaries being volcanic, we visited many craters on the islands. We also visites an archaeological site on Gran Canaries to learn more about the indigenous people who lived there before the Spanish conquered the island. It seemed to my that before the Spanish arrived, the Guanches, had a paradise to themselves. Enough water and food to live on.
Where San Sebastian, Santa Cruz de Tenerife and certainly La Palma have a nice feel about them, I found Las Palmas a big ugly city with only one thing in favour and that is all the supplies you might need. Lucky Hans and I where also invited for a real Spanish evening where locals gave a free concert of Canarian songs.
After Hans left Gran Canaries, I sailed to Lanzerote in the spare days the wind was not predominantly North East and at least 20 knots, but more North with a touch of West about 15 knots. The distance was about 115 miles so one night of sailing was included in the deal. Sure enough I left in the morning and I was able to sail all the way to the canal between Fuerteventura and Lanzerote in one tack. However, arriving there, the wind shifted to the North East so I had to tack my way through the canal in pitch darkness. Once passed, I had to beat an increasing wind all the way to Arrecife, where I arrived just before midday in 28 knots of winds.
Arrecife has to me a more exotic feel about it. Mostly white buildings, nice sea front and boulevard and a small inside lake around which the old city is made. The marina, I have to say, is one of the nicest marinas I have been. Spacious, well equipped and great showers. More important, the marina is build in North East direction. Good for mooring without stress. I rented a car to drive from the North to the south to visit the desolate Timanfaya volcanic area, just like many other tourists. It was impressive but seen by so many people I refrain from any further comment.
So, now I am at La Graciosa. A small island, mostly sand with some low volcanic mountains. Was most of the Canaries in places very touristic, here no big hotels, no large appartment parks looking like a huge Italian graveyard. Here only simple white houses and much emptiness. I like it. It not easy to go here. You’ll need to confirm and pay your visit days before which is not easy when sailing is depending on the weather. I came one day later, while the ‘capitainnerie’ told me no worries, my place would be reserved up until the time paid for. So any other sailors arriving in a half empty marina will be sent away by guards equipped with a bat and handcuffs but not with foreign languages. Apparently, La Graciosa being so close to mainland Africa, get it’s share of occasional lot of poor refugees. I fear they are not welcome here as in the rest of Europe.