The Canary Islands
Seven days, seven nights
From Cascais in Portugal we leave for a trip to the Canary Islands, which will take approximately a week. On the first night of our trip, the wind is quite strong. We are both using a patch to prevent sea-sickness and we are feeling very well, despite the wind. So we manage to get through the night without any problems. Then the wind subsides to about 15 knots (4 bft) and the direction changes as well. The wind is now coming from straight behind us. We adjust our course so that the wind is on the quarter and we sail at 3 to 4 knots. In other words, the circumstances are perfect. The swell, however, is very inconvenient. It makes our ship roll continuously from left to right. You have to plan each step at the right moment and you have to be very careful with every movement you make. Before you know it, you pour your hot tea next to your cup instead of in it. Despite the fact that the cooker has been fastened with a cardan joint and is doing its utmost to remain level, the pans are sliding back and forth.
The days at sea are passing by quietly, at night we each sleep three hours in turn and during the day we regularly take a nap. On the sixth day we have to start planning. Will we be able to arrive before dark or not? We probably won't be able to make it and have to spend about 12 hours without moving forward. We have to lay by, as the phrase goes. This is very unpleasant, because the rolling gets worse and as a result, we don't sleep at all during this last night. Daybreak has already replaced the darkness of night for some time when we finally slowly slide towards Isla Graciosa on just the headsail. We are extremely happy that we have reached it.
Isla Graciosa, Isla de Lobos and Willie
Isla Graciosa is the northernmost island of the Canary Islands and the only village consists of sand tracks and small, square, African-looking houses. The harbour has been beautifully built with posts on the jetty for electricity and water. However, on closer inspection, it turns out that the electricity and water supply have never actually been installed. The posts on the jetty have been purely decorative for the last three years. It is a disappointment when you have grabbed your towel and are heading for the shower and you then find out that they have run out of water for the rest of the day.
The landscape is dry as dust and contains a beautiful mountain. We climb up and even Hans reaches the top, after some encouragement from Dory. The view is fascinating. It's a place where you could stay for months, but we move on.
The next island we visit is Lanzarote. We are in the beautiful harbour of Rubicon, near Playa Blanca, which has a swimming pool. We don't see a lot of the island, because we are having Willie, our new wind generator, installed on our ship. It takes a lot of time to make appointments and make preparations and to walk back and forth between our boat and the 'Waterline' company which we ordered Willie from. They are also making the stainless steel pole to which the wind generator will be attached. The pole is very beautiful and solid, but it cost an absurd amount of hours to build, making it all very expensive. Hans mounted Willie on the pole himself.
From Lanzarote we leave for Isla de Lobos, a tiny little island to the south of Lanzarote. We drop anchor and enjoy nature. Unfortunately, there is hardly any wind and we don't have any energy yet from Willie. One lovely evening, we go ashore for a barbecue with Ad and Anja from the 'Ocean Breeze' and their 9-year old twins Ian and Kyron. We bring all sorts of delicious food and tie our dinghies to the pier that is used for tourist boats during the day. In the setting sun we sit on the beach eating and drinking and having a good time. When it's dark, we find our way back to the pier with difficulty. The twins are enjoying the adventure. Once we arrive on the pier, we discover that it's low tide by now and that we cannot get back into our boats just like that. We have to jump!!! That is scary. After having found a better place, Ad can finally lift his children in the boat. He also lifts Anja in the boat and then manages to get on board by hanging from his arms. Now it's our turn. We try to do it the same way as Ad. We succeed and fortunately we arrive back on board 'Happy Monster' with dry clothes.
Sore knees and the Pico del Teide
After Lanzarote we go to Gran Canaria and drop our anchor in the inner harbour of Las Palmas. There we meet Wil, the owner of the 'Faston', a 44-foot Van der Stadt. Wil has sailed around the world many times and is now sailing with his Jacquelien. We learn a lot from him. And he has such wonderful stories about everything he has experienced that it is often difficult to leave them.
The water in the harbour is polluted with oil and this is staining our 'Happy Monster', stains that are very difficult to remove. We don't like the city of Las Palmas so we are glad to leave after about five days. Because the distances between the islands are just too far to cover in one day trip we leave in the evening and sail to Tenerife during the night, so we arrive in the morning. We stay in Santa Cruz harbour for a week. We take the bus for a day tour of the island and we go for a beautiful walk in the forests. Sometimes the way down is so steep it makes our legs and knees hurt. We also rent a car for a day and we drive to the Pico del Teide. At the bottom of the cableway there is a long queue of people waiting to get on. That and the price of 22 euros make us decide not to take the cableway up. The views are breathtaking when we drive back down again via a long and beautiful route among the oldest forests on the island.
From 40 to 4 to 40
After a week we leave Tenerife with La Gomera as our next destination. We leave in the afternoon to sail for another night. Hoisting the sail is interrupted by a harbour master who wants to see our invoice and all in all it's a troublesome departure. We have already reefed the sail and once we have arrived on open sea that feels good.
In the evening, the wind freshens to 32 knots (7 bft). While Hans is in bed, Dory is in the cockpit and sees a falling star and makes a wish that the wind will not get any stronger. Her wish is not granted and the wind freshens even more. She wakes Hans and we climb along the deck to lower the mainsail. Once the sail has been fastened to the boom with many strings we fly along with just the headsail. At some points, the wind is as strong as 43 knots (9 bft). To make matters worse, the next time we change course we discover we cannot operate our wind vane, Wendy, anymore. She is completely stuck. This means we have to steer manually. We can forget about sleep now. In the morning the wind subsides to just 4 knots, so we have to switch to using the motor. A strange experience after such a rough night.
As soon as we catch a glimpse of La Gomera, the wind freshens again. We want to go to an anchorage to the north of San Sebastian but the wind freshens to nearly 40 knots and turns completely against us. We can just about reach the harbour of San Sebastian. Once we arrive there, we are not allowed in because the harbour is full up. Which means we have to return to the rough ocean. We drift down to the south on the wind. There the wind fortunately subsides again and in the afternoon we drop our anchor near Puerto Santiago. There's a considerable swell, but at least we can both spend the night in our beds. And about time too, because our spirits are very low. Next day, we meet Theo and Annemiek, friends of ours who are spending a holiday here and we enjoy this meeting immensely.
After two days we leave for Valle Gran Rey on La Gomera. The swell is a lot less there and we decide that this is the place from which we will leave for the Cape Verde Islands.
(Translated from dutch to english by Percy Balemans)