Friday, November 19, 2010


 13th - 18th November 2010

 Volcanos, Volcanos and more Volcanos.

Our first stop on Lanzarote was Arrecife in Port Naos the island’s capital city. The anchorage is tucked into the northern end of the bay and the holding is only so so as the bottom is loose volcanic rock. Further in shore near a small beach there was a   nice sandy patch which may have been better, but it was a tad too snug for us to fit.
The snug anchorage at Port Naos
  The main reason for stopping here was to visit the Port Police near the cruise ship terminal and have our passports stamped into the Canary Islands. We also wanted to have a look around the town and do a little Xmas shopping in Ikea which was very conveniently located just a 5 min walk from the anchorage. Arriving on a weekend has it’s downside  as quite often the officals do not work as was the case here, so we settled for a stroll  around the town and found a small cafĂ© for lunch.
A nice spot for lunch 

 In view of the weather forecast and the strong winds that were due to come in from the north  and as nothing much about Arrecife appealed to us, the next day we decided to move down to the bottom of the island and spend a few days at the delightful “ Rubicon Marina”. Quite a few of our friends were already enjoying life in the marina and we saw it as another chance to catch up with them and do a little land touring knowing that GWTW would be snug as a bug when the strong winds blew in.
 The marina had great facilities with shops, restaurants, tapas bars, a small supermarket and a pool on site. A couple of klms away was a bigger town with larger supermarkets and a great variety of restaurants including a good Chinese one, which was like a huge magnet for us as we love  Chinese food..
As we hadn’t been successful with our visit to the Port Police while in Arrecife the first time, we decided to hire a car for a couple of days to see the island as well as complete a couple of important errands So first stop was to be Arrecife and the port police again. It was such an easy check-in, taking only a few minutes we sure wish every country was like that. Next it was a quick detour to the Disa plant to have our French propane bottle filled which they did for us while we waited so that was another success. Then it was off to explore the northern part of the island.
The landscape of Lanzarote was the most barren that we had seen since driving through Oman back in the Middle East. This island has over 300 volcanos and the moonscape of dark rock and lava flows are stark, striking and  pretty much devoid of animal and  plant life apart from cactus which seems to be able to grow anywhere.

 Driving north through villages of white washed boxy homes we arrived at the” Jardin de cactus” ( cactus gardens). This garden is home to over 1500 different species of the plant and each one of them is labeled! .I had no idea that there was that many types of cactus in the world. Now a trip here may sound pretty dull to most people but it actually was very interesting and I would say worth the stop though not too sure that Liam would agree as he stayed in the car. Next we were off to see the”Cueva de los Verdes”, Lava caves, on the north east side of the island. These underground   caves were just awesome. Split into an upper and lower chamber the many stalactites and huge boulders strewn throughout each level are testimony to the immense forces of Mother Nature.

Inside the Lava tube (left) & the enterance to the caves

 The section of the tube which is open for viewing is 1 km long and is part of a 8 km lava tube which extends about 2 klms out to sea. Although part of the cave is below sea level, no water seems to find it’s way in. For us this little adventure was about as close to a “journey to the centre of the earth” as we will ever have.
Continuing north we found ourselves on a winding road which took us up through the northern hills and   what looked to be cultivated areas with rich dark volcanic soil, although we saw no evidence of crops. There were also lots of semi circular stone fences which housed grape vines, a strange site given the lunar landscape. Quite good wines are produced on the island and this area forms part of the “wine and cheese trail” but as we still had a lot to see there was no time to slow down   and sample the vino.  At the top of the island we stopped   at the cliff top lookout   of “Mirador del Rio
 From here there are sweeping views over the channel to Isla Graciosa and Playa Francesca where we had been anchored only a few days earlier. We were so high up that the anchored boats across the channel just looked like tiny dots.   The drive back to the marina took us through a palm filled valley to the pretty village of   Haria., pretty because it had colour, pink an orange bougainvilleas spilled over fences and eucalyptus trees lined the main street. Other than that  it really was a blink and you’ll miss it sort of place but could have been good for a lunch stop.
The road system through out the islands was great and in no time we were back at the marina and catching up with friends in the local tapas bar.
Next morning we hit the ground running and were off to do more sightseeing, this time the southern end of the island. We followed the winding coast road till we reached the “Parque National de Timanfaya”.

Volcanos in Timanfaya

This park is one huge lava flow and for a period of six years the volcano at its center continually devastated the 20 villages and 30 hamlets in the area. 48 million cubic meters of lava spurted out from the volcano daily and molten rock was tossed over the surrounding country side and out into the ocean. The Montanas del Fugo (mountains of fire) are the main attraction of the park. We took the 45min bus tour through the park and unless you do this you really don’t get to see the grand scale of it all. At one point he bus actually drives down through what once was a river of molten lava.
 The colours and contours of the landscape are beautiful with the jaggered rocks ranging in colour   from brown and black to oranges, pinks and reds. The park is made up of several volcanoes and seemingly endless lava flows .At the end of the tour the guides demonstrate the power of Mother Nature. A`piece of bracken is thrown into a large hole and within seconds it explodes into flames as the temperatures at only a few centerimeters down are 100c. At a depth of 10m the mercury rises to a sizzling 600c.Another demonstration was pouring water down a small hole and   within seconds the now boiling liquid rushes back up at lightening speed. The noise that it makes as it rockets skywards is very loud and if you’re not ready for it   gives you one hell of a fright.

                                        Burning bushes and  Boiling water demos

Now that's a real bbq, flame grilled from Mother Nature
After two days of touring we felt we’d seen all that Lanzarote had to offer. Later that evening  on board Chris and Erin’s cat “Bare Feet” we spent several very entertaining hours with all our friends playing  “name that tune” musical trivia. I might add that Liam and I were the winning duo collecting the much sort after his ‘n hers Lanzarote baseball caps as our prizes.
With the days marching on, it was time for us to shimmy on down to the next island so come morning we said goodbye to our friends and left the marina as we headed off towards Grand Canaria.      

Friday, November 12, 2010

Isla Graciosa

The Canary Islands, but not a bird in sight!

6th  - 12th November 2010

Approaching from the north east the volcanic island chain of The Canaries  was a welcome sight on the horizon. We made landfall on one of the most northern islands of the group, Isla Graciosa .

GWTW anchored in the peaceful bay of Playa Francesa
The late afternoon light of soft pinks and browns on the volcanic peaks of Graciosa and the sheer barren cliffs of Lanzarote made our approach through the channel to our anchorage at Playa Francesca truly spectacular.

Our first beach party

There to greet us were friends from Stardust, Bondi Tram, Interlude and Cristata
Shortly after we were settled a call came over the VHF radio inviting everyone in the anchorage, about 15 boats, to gather on the beach for sundowners around 1700, BYO everything. We had been hearing over the radio about these now famous "beach parties” organized by  Kurt and Katie from the US flagged deerfoot 74 “Interlude”.

A good roll up at  one of K&K's earlier parties

These parties had become somewhat of a legend in the past weeks and as many boats descended on the Canaries, Playa Francesca was becoming a “Be there or be Square” type of first stop.

Sundowners on the sand proved to be a lot of fun and we met some new faces that we’d heard only on the airwaves but had never come face to face with, namely Erin and Chris from the cat "Barefeet”. There were around 20 cruisers on the beach that evening and it was a wonderful welcome to the Canary Islands for us. Later that evening Bob and Becky from Stardust invited both” GWTW” and Sheryl and David from the aussie  boat “Samsara” for dinner, such a thoughtful thing to do for the new arrivals after the three day passage from Morocco.

We stayed at Playa Francesca for the next seven days and had a wonderful time. Boats came and went every couple of days so there were always someone new to meet .Sundowners on the beach became a tradition, and great way to catch up with all our friends after a day of  doing chores or just chilling out on the boats.

Most evenings the musical entertainment was provided by the very talented guitar playing and singing duo from “Interlude”. Liam even made a guest appearance one time and Rob from "Ellida 1"  brought along his very strange looking bagpipe made from goat skin. He enlightened us that goat was way better than sheep skin as it doesn’t leak air! Now that’s something for the trivia hounds out there.
Liam & Kurt belt out a tune
Not only was there music but usually a light hearted game of sand boules was also on the go.

    Liam  gives the ball a toss


A couple of times we strolled into the main village of Caleta del Sebo which kind of resembled a western movie set, sans horses. The only thing missing from the deserted sandy streets and closed up white washed shutter fronted homes were the tumble weeds rolling along.
 The waterfront area around where the day tripper ferry berths from the neighbouring island of Lanzarote was a little more populated. A couple of nice cafes serving a good range of light meals, along with a small tourist shop, a hardware come chandlery, bakery and some supermarkets made up for  the emptiness of the streets behind. The 30 min shore front pathway walk to the village gave us some well needed exercise and a nice change of scenery.

Hiking to the top of the Volcano above the beach afforded us yet more exercise was a great way to spend a few hours. The path up was hot and steep with a lot of loose shale and rocks so one had to be fairly sure footed, and have sturdy footwear. The panoramic views from the top ridge were fabulous. On one side were sheer cliffs down to the beach and the other was sweeping  vistas over the caldera and  rest of the island  including two more volcanos to the north.  Looking down over the bay the boats looked like tiny specks on aqua blue water below.
Wonderful views from the rim of the crater

The crew from 'White Rose"Steve, Bridget & Peter
“White Rose” had left Rabat a few days behind us and we’d arranged for them to call us on the VHF on approach to Playa Francesca. The following morning about 0300 the call came as they were ghosting into the anchorage. After a rough passage down from Morocco they were ever so pleased to put the anchor down. Sundowners the next evening was another excuse, not that we need excuses, for more celebrations. This time it was to welcome our good friends Bridget, Peter and their crew Steve to cruising life in the Canaries.

Steve throws a winning shot
It's a long way down
                                                                                                                                                                           We stayed at Isla Graciosa a couple more days and then it was time to move on and  see what the rest of the Canary Islands had to offer.    

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Morocco to the Canary Islands

South Bound To The Canary Islands

The 3rd of November gave us the weather window that we’d been waiting for.   
We left Rabat on what one  would describe as a "sporty bar crossing". High tide was about midday which would have been a great time to exit, however the odds were stacked against us big time.

 Our credit card provider decided that it was a good day to place a block on our card so when it was time to pay the marina bill it wouldn't work. I guess they didn't like the shopping bill earlier in the day at Carrefour. So take 2.. try another card… ditto, take 3,try  a new and rarely used card, oops we'd forgotten the pin number, take 4, Annie finds another rarely used card and bingo this one worked.

 So the bill is paid and off we go to the customs dock to clear out. But hey not that easy. A boat checking in has us twiddling our thumbs for about another hour. The tide is now falling like a shooting star.Finally we tie to the dock, with the  paperwork  completed  we THINK that all is go for lift off, but wait, the drug dog has gone back to the airport and he needs to be present for a final sniff. By now we are getting edgy. Liam explains to the nice policeman that if we wait for the pooch to return, the tide and bar will be too dangerous for us to leave. It's already high tide minus 3 hrs!

Eventually the gentleman agrees to let us go sans dog if the marinaros( marina staff) say it's ok.Well they told us no, the bar is closed. but hey we come from down under where the bars are big, and the sailors have nerves of steel.They agree for us to have a look but advise us not to try.
 Well the maverick in Liam will not be beaten by a Moroccan bar , so we sit and watch and wait, and sit and watch and wait. There are sets but with gaps between, so after a careful count, and a nod to the heavens  we charge out into 2 meter breakers, both 75 horses in full flight thrusting us forward at 8-10 kts. Three sets and we are out. Out into the big blue Atlantic. What a rush that was. A little bit of salt on the decks was all that we got. Now that was a Gin and Tonic moment! Africa nearly won that time.

The first 80 miles was a lovely sail, but then the  wind died and we had to fire up the iron sail. The following morning heavy fog rolled in  but cleared an hour later to a bright sunny ,blue sky day. Fishing lines were deployed, but no takers. We live in hope.
 A few hours later the “pea soup” fog rolled in again.At one stage we were only fifty yards behind our friends David and Sheryl from "Samsara” before we could see them ..  sure  glad she wasn't a tanker coming our way!!

      Thick fog blankets us and "Samsara".                       Only 60ft ahead she is just visible . 

                                 "Samsara" was there and then she disappeared again, errie stuff !

                                   GWTW emerges from the fog. (photo courtesy of "Samsara")
The remaining days were sunny and cool but the nights were down right cold with very dewy decks. Winds were light and fluky and we motored most of the way with only short bouts of sailing squeezed in.

The last couple of days before our arrival saw us giving a ride to a couple of hitchhikers. We only hope that they were happy with their destination as it would have been a long fly back to where they had come from.

                                   These two little birds made themselves right at home.

Yet another hitchiker

Our newly installed  back up autopilot stopped working mid passage so that will be a warranty repair from Raymarine once we reach  the Canary Islands.

                                                         Our first glimse of the Canary Islands 

At 1530 on  the 6th of November, three days after leaving Rabat, we dropped the anchor in Playa Francesca on the island of Graciosa. 
That evening we were invited to have sundowners on the beach with all the other boats, and really how could we say no. It was a fun couple of hours and then it was off to bed for a night of uninterrupted sleep.

At last we had arrived in The Canary Islands.

                                                                 Happy to be here!