As mentioned we set sail from Ayamonte early December, since leaving the weather has proved by far the most challenging aspect of the trip. Being fully aware that man against nature will never win, we can only embrace the weather and use any available time to explore and enjoy new experiences.
So far on the trip we have sailed through gales, caught our own supper, had some unique experiences and memorable moments. Sailed with some wonderful people, experienced different cultures and been recipient to extreme generosity.
Having set sail from Ayamonte the weather was far worse than predicted so we scrapped our first stop in Mohammedia through concerns of becoming storm bound in an industrial area. Instead we opted to go directly to Agadir and then onto the Canary Islands.
Our time in Agadir was interesting and we had time to explore inland as well as around the City itself, The locals could not have been friendlier and it made for an amazing stop over, the views from the old fort and fish dinner in the local market will stay with me for a long time. Going inland we had an “issue” with the hire car and had to knock on the door of a small Auberge to seek assistance. With no mobile phone coverage and in the middle of nowhere the lady invited us in and fed us tea and biscuits. Eventually after a couple of hours and making alternative child care arrangements we managed to get through to the car company and sorted a replacement vehicle. She did not want to take anything from us despite the disruption to her day and giving us French lessons, a real act of generosity indeed.
Finally the 3 to 4 m seas that had been running off the Moroccan coast moderated and we could set sail again. Heading South before crossing to Isla Graciosa, the least known of the Island group. Wow, what a place, we arrived with flat service batteries, got the engine going and then the alternator decided to melt the battery splitter relay causing a few moments of concern as to what the smell actually was and more worryingly was El Rubicon about to catch fire. Thankfully it got now worse and we made it into Graciosa, berthed up in 35 knots of crosswind and were than told that the cold water shower and toilet was potentially unapproachable as the cleaner had been away for a few days and nobody dared to inspect it to see how bad it had got!!! Then there was no electric on the pontoon and there was another front coming through. Great what had we just arrived to, however after a short sleep and explore ashore it become clear that this arid landscape has quite a charm. With some of the clearest water we have encountered, friendly locals and some great biking trails this place was definitely growing on us. Sampling the local tapas we were also introduced to Aloe Vera gin and some great Lanzarote wines.
Lanzarote itself was full of surprises with some amazing food, good wines and some stunning landscapes. Most of the developments have been conservative compared to any other Spanish coastline, thanks primarily to the work of Cesar Manrique a local artist and influencer in keeping the building low rise and using only white paint with coloured windows and doors. No trip to Lanzarote is complete with a trip to Timanfaya National Park and we were not disappointed, the harsh landscape in attractive in a bizarre kind of way. As to the rest of the Island, having hired a car the trip over the pass over the central mountain range is quite stunning. Facilities for yacht repairs and services were good and we had some good sailing here in the lee of the Island. So far after the initial weather wobble things were looking up.
Fuerteventura, now as the name translates to strong winds, the island is appropriately named. Leaving Lanzarote early January we had planned to make several stops along the coast before making for the Southern town of Gran Tarajal. More wind and biggish seas meant this was not possible and we had to go direct. Enroute we had a spotted Atlantic whale join us for a brief period but little else. On arrival we found a pleasant little town with yet more cold showers, not sure what the harbor authorities here have against hot water but clearly sticking a couple of solar panels on the roof is clearly beyond them. One of the intriguing things about this town was the street art. Lots of building are decorated with street scenes or some kind of reference to the towns nautical connection. From there we headed to Morro Jable which is one of the strangest places we have so far visited, the town looks typically Spanish but has a heavy German influence so basically you are in Germany. The beaches are stunning on this side of the Island and naturism is well practiced, unfortunately mainly by the elder generation and not the younger ones…Fuerteventura like all the Canaries has volcanic origins but due to its proximity to Africa is covered in Saharan sand, now interestingly the Island is famous for its goats cheese, but I am still left wondering what the goats actually feed on because there is very little greenery. Still the cheese is rather delicious so that’s good enough for me. A project that really caught my attention whilst on Island was a Turtle sanctuary trying to rehabilitate injured turtles back into the wild. It got us thinking about the current war on plastics and seeing some of the damage it causes it seems a worthwhile cause, not too mention that anything that helps keep our Oceans a little cleaner can only be a good thing. We have seen some wonderful sea creatures on our travels and to think that some of these creatures are on the endangered list is pretty scary.
Island number 4 was Gran Canaria, home to the ARC and major shipping port. Having been a few times before I am always amazed at just how much more I keep discovering in Las Palmas, this time we managed to explore the Old town in a bit more detail and would highly recommend it if sailing in this area. Now comes the interesting part as we move South into the famous wind acceleration zones. Where the wind can increase or decrease in seconds, as we got level with the airport the winds freshened and stayed lively until darting behind the Maspalomas headland and into Pasito Blanco. On leaving the next day we had no wind in the harbor, then 10 knots out of nowhere, I thought this was a bit sudden so after the previous day we tucked in a couple of reefs and set off, well 10 knots soon become 20 which within a couple of hundred meters became 40 knots. With El Rubicon slightly over-pressed to say the least we managed to drop the main and continue under a very small amount of headsail, it’s not just the wind strength here but the rate at which it changes and if your out of the lee of the Island you can expect at least 2 m of ground swell to accompany the wind.reef early and clip on the rides about to start are becoming popular sayings on board. We had spent around 3 weeks in total on Gran Canaria and enjoyed visiting Anfi del Mar, Puerto Rico and its mass tourism along with the quieter Puerto Mogan. However our time here had come to an end and it was time to move on, Tenerife here we come.
Santa Cruz de Tenerife, it has a special ring to the name and despite berthing in a rather industrial area the marina is in the heart of the City. A few people we met were not keen on Santa Cruz but we really enjoyed it, the marina was secure with great facilities and friendly staff. As a bonus, a 2 minute walk gets you into the heart of the City and there is plenty to see and do. The trams are a great way to get around and cheap, unlike Spanish buses, they seem to run very punctual. The area North of Santa Cruz is steep to and very green, with a bit more time I’m certain there’s some great walking up there. More bad weather forecast so we opted to head South before it came in. We ended up in marina San Miguel and for what seemed like an eternity never managed to leave. One of the must do things on Tenerife was Mount Teide, well its eluded us so far as the roads up have been closed due to heavy snow fall and high winds, luckily we plan to go back before returning to Ayamonte so are keeping fingers crossed we can make it up there. Edgar one of our neighbour’s who I occasionally cycle with is considering cycling up Teide in the summer, good luck to him I say, I’m not sure I would get anyway near the top!
The whales and dolphins that live around Tenerife have shown themselves but as yet not given us a full display, some of the crew have been a little off colour during the Tenerife leg but not surprisingly pick up when these magnificent creatures swim alongside the yacht. The trip to La Gomera was interesting and with 2 reefs and small jib El Rubicon was occasionally groaning that she may be better with less sail, but with 7 knots SOG and our destination in view she dug in and rallied on.
San Sebastian de La Gomera is a small town on the Eastern side of the Island, once again we are reminded of just how different all the Islands are in terms of landscape and cultures, but La Gomera has a wow factor that goes beyond all the others we have seen so far. Steep ravines and sheer rock faces make for some dramatic scenery, the Gorayjonay park is stunning (when the cloud clears) this place is a walkers paradise and the pace of life is slow which is a total contrast to the busy tourist areas of Southern Tenerife. Valle Gran Rey lies on the South/SW side of the Island and welcomed us with an even more relaxed feel to it. Swimming and watchin the 6 Nations rugby was the order of the day and fantastic day ashore was had by all. It was now time to return to Tenerife and this time the wind failed to appear, a first in 2 months. The benefit of calmer seas allowed us to finally spot some wildlife which included Portuguese Man O war jellyfish and green turtles, beautiful to see in their natural environment.
With a quick crew change it is time to set sail again and explore the remaining Islands as our time in the Canaries is drawing to a close, we still have El Hierro and La Palma to visit, fingers crossed the weather will be kind and we can achieve our goal of exploring all of the Islands.
Make sure you pay us a visit in the coming weeks to find out if we succeed and reach our goal.