CANARY ISLANDS, SPAIN (con't)


Our sail from Graciosa to Lanzarote was a rough passage, a beat to get around the top of the island, heavy seas and lots of wind. We chose Arrecife as our destination anchorage as it is the most protected spot on Lanzarote.

We settled into a harbor adjacent to the working dock, where the cruise liners make their berthing so the area was noisy day and night. It was a tight fit to get as many boats into the narrow bay as there eventually was, especially with the bordering reefs and 8 foot tide range!

At the end of the bay was a tiny beach where it was possible to land the dingy (but no where to lock it up) and walk into the town of Arrecife, about a mile away. There had been reports of dinghies stolen in the area so security was a major concern.

Nov 4

We arranged to share a rental  car with Djarrka to tour the island. The hardest part was finding a place to go ashore and leave the dinghy near the main part of town. Arrecife is not very cruiser friendly in that respect. Several others this year have already had their dinghies and/or outboards stolen, even when locked up. It seemed the only place to tie up was at the bottom of a very tall rickety ladder which went to the top of the commercial dock, with the dinghy squished in behind the coastguard boat with a long cable to lock the dinghy. Not conducive for transporting groceries, that's for sure.

We finally managed to take the dinghy through the fishing harbor and into a sleazy, shaky marina but the access to shore was always locked. We talked a live aboard into letting us through the gate and just hoped we could raise someone when we returned later to let us back in.

We walked along the pleasant palm lined town waterfront promenade of Arrecife in search of a rental agency. Arrecife is the capital of Lanzarote, a city that goes back to the 15th century, the period of frequent pirate attacks. Today it is a large built up commercial center with high rise development behind a breakwall with beautiful beaches.

We drove north to check out Puerto Blanca, the alternate anchorage on Lanzarote. We found the small town touristy but charming, although the anchorage was not very protected. We walked along the high rocky ridge with nice stretches of beach tucked away in coves along the shore. Stark white cubic buildings, 3 stories high, were the norm in architecture here.

Fire  Mountains

North to the Montanas del Fuego (Fire Mountains), the zone of recent volcanic activity and area of the major National Park on Lanzarote. We drove through acres of stark barren lava fields until we reached the Park Gate that wanted us to pay 8 Euros each to go any further. Naturally we turned around! We laughed at the sight of tourists ridiculously perched on camels tied together in long trains picking their way down from the top of the crater.

A stop at the Information Center showed us everything we needed to see about the dormant volcanic area and the history, and it was free.

Throughout the island were works by artist Cesar Manrique, local hero who made huge mobile sculptures that moved with the wind. We drove to the museum to see his work but the entrance fee was 8 Euros so we passed.

We passed miles of lava rock walls, many bounding huge square areas of fertile black volcanic soil, void of any vegetation at all. Looking like dirt farms, I imagine something is grown in these areas at other times of the year.

Some of the rock walls were placed in rows just feet apart, used to cultivate vines for wine. Other rock formations were in the shape of crescents that sheltered little trees.

A lot of man hours building rock walls, especially when some of them were painted white along the tops.

We headed across the interior of the island passing through some very special little villages, their austere white boxy houses striking against the barren ashland background. Fields and fields of prickly pear cactus plantations, bounded again by the lava rock fences, covered the landscape. I am told that this cactus is cultivated for the crimson dye that is extracted from the insects which feed on the plants.

When we arrived at the "Cactus Garden" we didn't bother to park, just sent someone to check that it was indeed another 8 Euros to enter. Onward we drove.

There are some interesting cactus and succulents on the island, many are cultivated or used for fencing.

Pictured right is the Dragon Tree, that only grows on Lanzarote. The plant does not have rings so it is impossible to determine the age.

In San Bartolome we stopped for lunch at a Chinese restaurant. Talking to a Spanish Chinaman in English was a bit satirical but the lunch was excellent.

An eruption formed some supposedly interesting lava caves, subterranean complexes with restaurant, nightclub, swimming pool and seawater lagoon. We pulled into the parking lot, amidst hoards of tourists and tour busses only to discover the "8 Euro" fee, so we moved on. Further down the road, a tube of solidified lava stretching for 6 km underground invited tourists to pay another 8 Euros. We decide we had seen enough caves in our travels and gave it a miss!

A twisty narrow rock wall lined road led to a nosebleed high viewpoint on exposed cliffs 2000 feet high, where we looked down on the anchorage at La Graciosa. We saw some of our friends anchored in the bay, another island away!

On the way back to Arrecife, we passed through the oasis  town of Haria, palm trees and white cube houses in a picturesque village.

We returned the rental car and managed to get back through the gates to our dinghy, arriving back at Ascension around 8 pm. A great day all in all.

Nov 5

The weather was becoming rather unsettled, the wind increasing in intensity every day. We discovered our anchor chain was wrapped up in the rocks so we re-anchored in prep for the expected blow predicted later. With 8 boats in the small anchorage, it was a full house. No room for any more.

Nov 8-9

The wind continued to howl. Donned with raingear, the girls got dropped off on the beach to get groceries while the boys stayed on watch with the boats. It was gusting 39 knots so it was a wet ride in. We found a large supermarket and spent several hours just so we wouldn't have to return to the boats and the howling wind any sooner than we had to. Laden with a month's supply of food, we took a taxi back to the anchorage.

Nov 10

The wind bowls covering the boat with dirt and filling our eyes with grit. We renamed the island LANZAGROTE! The waves splash against the boat and tempers are volatile but that's part of this lifestyle. The wind is supposed to continue for 3 more days. I am looking forward to getting to a greener island with less dirt in the air.

Nov 11

We braved a wet dinghy ride to shore to celebrate our Anniversary, almost forgotten the day before!!!! 15 of our friends made up a card for us. Someone had an accordion and played a few polkas and Brian, visiting son of Traveller, played bongo drums. An impromptu event...very fun!

Nov 13

Finally the rain stopped but a forecasted change in wind direction prompted us to lift the anchor and move to the other side of the bay. We were still waiting to find a means to repair the alternator and we were also sourcing parts for the wind generator, which hopefully could finally be taken down now that the wind was supposed to let up.

That evening, we had a wonderful fish dinner on Traveller, cooked by chef Michael.

Nov 14

We are still waiting for parts for our wind generator, which we dropped off in Arricife for testing, Repairs are being done for our alternator. Gord visited the dentist today and got 1 out of the 2 teeth repaired so we will return tomorrow. He chipped a tooth resulting from a runaway winch handle and then lost a filling so we need to deal with that before the Atlantic crossing. And we purchased new halyards and some other necessities.

Rubicon & Marina

Finally we left Arricife and headed 50 miles down the coast to Rubicon Marina, where we would wait out the southerlies before sailing to Las Palmas.

The Marina was quite economical and complete luxury for me. I  absolutely loved being in a marina and sleeping on flat water after all the unsettled wind conditions we had been battling. What a treat! A washer and dryer, showers, water to wash the boat, free wifi internet, free electricity!!! This marina is brand new and really first class with boutiques and restaurants and villas all around. The grounds are immaculate with gardens and rock pools. Our marina fee included use of the swimming pool but I doubt I will take advantage of that. The expected wind has started to blow and it is so nice to be tucked in safe and secure.

We did not plan to stay here for long but it was a lot easier to get our boat repairs done at a dock and we were busy with all of that. And provisioning. It took multiple trips with the shopping cart to the big supermarket a mile's walk away along the beach as we needed to stock up for 30 days worth of food. There were closer smaller stores, all very expensive.

Finally we were ready to make the trip to Gran Canary but there was a hiccup in our plans. We had got word that there had been a huge oil spill in the anchorage at Las Palmas and 250 boats in the Marina and 200 boats anchored outside the marina were covered in oil! The rolly anchorage caused the oil to slosh its way up the sides of the boats! We had just spent the last 4 days scrubbing the hull, underneath and topside so didn't need that. Also making water in such conditions would destroy our watermaker.

So we decided to wait in the marina at Lanzarote for a few more days hoping for a handle on the disaster there. By then all the ARC boats will have left too. It means more expense staying in the marina but there are no good anchorages around here. Holding is poor and the swell makes anchoring uncomfortable. Besides, I was enjoying Rubicon. I kept myself busy exploring the wonderful walkways along the waterfront. Pictured right is an old stone church perched on the cliffside.

November 22

Off to the Gran Canaries, an overnighter, 100 miles. Travelling with Djarrka. The weather looks pleasant and the oil spill has been contained in the anchorage at Las Palmas.




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