The Canary Islands
Lanzarote, Canary Islands:
Despite having over 300 volcanic cones, Lanzarote has not lifted its head high enough into the clouds to cause water to condense into rain. To the aridity we have seen elsewhere is added a rubble-strewn landscape, rocks rained down upon the earth that must be shifted aside into walls to form level surfaces. Agricultural land is prepared by digging up granular black cinders and applying them as a topping strata for soil. Before desalination farmers further subdivided their plots into 8' semi-circles of stone around each plant as a wind-break and a means to trap dew. Fields resemble stone mazes, and the toil needed to eke out a living unbelievable. Fortunately, since the end of the Franco era tourism has rescued the economy. Much as sun worshippers at home flock to the Caribbean, Europeans come to the Canaries. The towns fail to evoke the feel of Spanish culture. Gone are the red-tiled roofs in favor of a flat, whitewashed water-catchment design. Most current construction seems to be tourist condos but not in high rises. A cubists artist provides the architectural inspiration spreading up the lower slopes and clustered in hamlets in the interior. The island's most famous artist, Cesar Manrique, was enlisted to design structures to compliment the island's natural attractions and he has succeeded in making them gems. The 4th, my birthday (55 and still alive) we set out from our anchorage at the adjacent small island and headed along the eastern coast, just 60 miles off the coast of Africa, putting in to several ports, but moving on due to crowding until we reached Puerto Calero near the southern tip. They made room for us doubled alongside a huge catamaran on the sea-wall. On the 5th, with the mainsail protruding from the rear of our rental car, we found the sailmaker, and then headed north to see from land what we glimpsed from Sunset's decks the day before, stopping first at the Jardin de Cactus. It is sited in a reclaimed pit, the source of the granular ash for the cactus fields nearby. Ringing the visitor is every manner of cactus on earth interspersed with lava arches, and pools for contrast. Outside, the fields abound in prickly pear cactus that supports an insect later scraped from the leaves to produce red cochineal dye, the island's cash crop. We continued up the coast to see caves that once harbored pirates not realizing what a treat the artist's enhancement there would provide. Unlike the limestone caves of home these were created by streams of lava flooding to the sea forming long tunnels of smooth lava with roofs of dripping rock like melted candle wax. Where the thin crusted roof of lava collapses altogether a cave open at one end is formed large enough for an underground amphitheater. A pool and tidal lagoon make the oceanside cave an oasis inviting one to linger. But we have Mirador (overlook) del Rio awaiting us, again, a delightful surprise from Manrique. An enclosed glass-walled view of our previous night's anchorage across the straight called the river (del Rio), and the volcanic peaks beside us is a place to savor-and a far cry from the usual wide patch of asphalt where a car can be briefly parked. This island is a little shorter than Madeira, more narrow, and flatter making the drive home on excellent roads easy after a seaside meal accompanied by a troubadour singing as he played a kind of miniature ukulele. They go all out for the tourists here! We hope to pick up our sail on Tuesday. The Lanzarote Loafers
Puerto Calero's reception area was crowded the afternoon we put in to port as wives and support staff strained to see their champion clear the finish line on the first leg of the Transat Single-handed Race from La Rochell, 1200 miles north, and will conclude in Bahia, Brazil (north of Rio midway on the coast) after another 2700 miles. We had seen the first three place finishers on spinnaker runs earlier. The boats are modern, high performance racing dinghies, 6.5 meters (21' l. x 10' beam) that set out from France on Sept 22, and are scheduled to restart for the final leg Oct 11. It's not often that you can be at the finish line for a major world race-and we just stumbled upon it! There is a home-town entrant, the sole American, one of 5 women, Gale Browning, with sponsorship from surveyor Peter Hartoff, her spouse, and the subject of a film documentary in the making. She had been 17th out of 60 before getting caught in the doldrums. We watched her come up the coast Sunday, the 7th for an 11 am (45th place) finish. There are 4 stragglers at sea, and tragically, a 20 year old Italian was lost overboard having become separated from his safety gear found trailing from the transom. A British contestant beset with leaking keel bolts bailed 25 gallons a day furiously until he had his boat hauled and recaulked in port. The name of his vessel is "I Must Be Mad." Jim has promised to help Gale work on her rigging and generator (no luck, replacement time) on Monday. I'll polish Sunsets' brightwork. Saturday we toured Timanfaya National Park, site of one of the most prolific vocanic eruptions in recorded history that now covers 1/5th of the land mass. From 1730-1736, and again in 1824 a fissure in the earth opened and mountains rose where the most fertile fields had once been. We had seen Fial's homes buried to their rooftops in the Azores, but this eruption buried a town under 33' of lava, hurled rocks, and granular ash. Once inside the park you may choose your mode of transport: bus or camels outfitted with two baskets apiece where caravan bundles would be stowed. Huge caravans tracked along separate paths. We stuck to the bus (no bad breath). It is now primordial earth with only lichens living on the mostly barren surfaces ranging from craters to what look like sand dunes of ash, and jagged lava flows down to the sea. The highest peak is capped by a restaurant that prepares meals directly over a volcanic vent, whose interior would instantly ignite kindling. Sunday's highlight was Arrecife, the capital and main port. Unlike the modern pleasure boat basin where Sunsets is berthed, this is a working port with lots of quaint buildings and vessels in dubious repair. Near the two circular forts there was a lively model boat race in progress as gusts steadily mounted and owners struggled to right their overpowered craft and get them headed towards the mark again. And Optimist dinghies raced just offshore. The capital curls its toes on Sunday: everyone heads for the broad, sandy beaches of Puerto del Carmen-and so did we. Adios from Puerto Calero
PS. Oct 9, We called the sailmaker to see if ours could be picked up, but he has been deluged with racing sail repair orders. The racers use a southerly course that avoids storm tracks and leave next week: we wait. Also, phones here are only for local calls barring e-mail.
The whole marina gathered Thursday 10/11 on the docks and rock seawall to bid the racers Godspeed on their anticipated 30 day passage to Brazil. The 55 or so racers in port (one arrived Wed night and will start 12 hours late, a minimum mandatory respite) were towed out beyond the harbor mouth and excursion area for a yellow submarine. We took our dinghy out with it's mighty 2 hp motor, assessed the current, and hastily put back to port amid earnest Spanish entreaties to clear the area: we were above the sub ready to surface. Jim hoped Gale would have a chance to test a rigging improvement he had cobbled together for her. Basically it works like a clothesline with a set of pulleys out to the tip of her bowsprit to permit the attachment of new headsails without bringing the whole pole in alongside the boat. But her documentary crew were fine tuning equipment and giving her instructions on how and when to use it. She's unflappable, and hoisted sail at the dock although getting clear of adjacent boats was hairy. The racer's progress can be followed on http://www.2001minitransat.com/. Each boat has a transponder; Gale is #252. At the noon start a one minute memorial delay was observed before the brave fleet pulled away on a close reach with favorable winds. Only empty docks with odd leftovers remain: the circus has left town. We rented another car later to pick up our repaired main which we bent on Friday morning, then went in search of new sights. Cesar Manrique, the artists whose stamp is seen in every attraction, made his home in a lava flow with caves created by gas that was in the hot lava. It is on multi-levels, rock tunnels serve for halls, and the huge glass windows blur the barrier between indoors and out. Unique. In Teguise, the island's original capital set well inland, we found the oldest home in the Canaries. Built by the wealthy Marquis de Herrera in the 1700s it served for 250 years as the seat of government. It's central patio has Cesar's favorite table, and is restored and presided over by a descendant, a wine epicure and most gracious host. This is a pilgrimage destination for wine cognoscenti who have their pictures taken with him. His magazine article tells you so, and also that he can discern the flavor nuances between wine swirled clockwise vs. counterclockwise. One is not given a price list, nor does one ask when one is in such rarified circles (Jim sporting his neon pink Dick Wildes hog roast shirt). It was double my filet mignon dinner of the night before for a plate of delicate snacks and two bottles of wine. We did if for Gordon and Wally. The basement of the home had a tunnel leading toward nearby Santa Barbara Fort on a crater rim with a commanding view of the sea off both coasts. This permitted escape from attacks from Moors and Berbers so incessant that a town street is named Blood Alley. The fort hosts a museum of emigration: these barren islands barely sustained its population in favorable years of 10" rainfall. Drought and eruptions forced citizens to Cuba, Mexico and Rio. We ended our day at La Santa on the western coast which hosted Ironman triathlon and Olympic windsurfing from here around the southern tip to the beach above our marina. We passed hang gliders hovering like birds above the basalt bluffs. Quite a variety in a compact island with a laid back pace. Saturday, the 13th we bid adieu to our marina friends, John & Nicole Saban aboard Gannet and Felix to anchor off the southern tip beach hub of watersports.
After watching 2 huge sailing catamarans, a square rigged party boat, a glass bottom tour boat, a mini cruise ship from the neighboring island, and an army of racing jet skis plying the tourist dollars as well as the busy beach scene from our anchorage all day Saturday we enjoyed the serenity of sunset when they all headed home. Fuerteventura, the island of great adventure, was a 4 hour motor passage to Puerto del Castillo in Caleta de Fuestes midway along the southern coast and a slip by noon on Sunday. The islands were known to the ancient Greeks as the Fortunate Islands for their ease of life. It is also known as "the old country" with its buildings definitely Spanish/Moorish in appearance, and having served as the bread basket of the islands in bygone times. Initially a lush land that had an indigenous population of fair coloring, the Gauche, whose ruins dot the countryside, and later conquered by a Norman, then wrested from de Bethancourt's grasp by Spain. It now stands in utter desolation. Man and vast herds of goats denuded the hills, and the scant 6" of annual rainfall is insufficient for ecological recovery. The second largest island, it has the smallest population whose economy depends on development along it's 15 mile sandy beach on the southern coast, the best among the islands. Saharan sands are carried here by the constant wind forming dunes and gently sloping shores perfect for families and windsurfers. The Spanish Foreign Legion was relocated here after the bulk of Morocco was ceded back to its king in the '50's. Our Monday rental car excursion took us through sandstone mountains with limited agriculture in the gorge valleys, an occasional strip of trees along a dry riverbed that must fill from flash floods in spring. The cloth greenhouses here are dun colored and melt visually into hills where water can be pumped from springs. The tourist sights are a kind of hunt and peck for ruined windmills that once raised water, old monasteries, and 3 oasis towns, but mostly the vast brown hills, broad brown valleys, tan dunes and azure ocean. There being no other likely ports, we will try our luck with the anchorage off Gran Tarajal, about 10 miles, Tuesday afternoon, the 16th, and then on to Gran Canaria. The Canaries likely take their name from the Latin "canis", or dog. Romans noted the wild dogs, the Verdino, a lithe hound with a slightly greenish coat in their accounts of this land. The Spanish ordered their extermination save for one per shepperd boy. We saw dogs with a goat-like face, and it is here that the breed persists in its purest form. But the name could also have come from "canora", the yellow singing bird which may also have been here then too. (I think the tourism bureau is stretching for an upgraded name image.) Monday night while Miss Pumpkin snoozed unawares, Jim slipped out to the '60s music club at the marina to see the guitarist from Herman's Hermits, and we are waiting to get his forgotten shirt back. This was the group that gave us "Henry the Eighth," the ballad about a woman who had 7 ex's, all 'Enrys. With a sound track accompaniment Jim reports he does a great nostalgia act, and packs the (small) house. -The Fortunates
After motoring alongside Fuerteventura in the calm of the early morning of the 17th, the breeze which sprang up as we came out under the wind shadow was welcome, and we hoisted our newly repaired mainsail for the first time. At the extreme tip of the island the ocean swell was evident as it crashed and swirled around some deadly underwater rocks. The swell was unusually high, maybe 10', about 200' apart, no doubt left over from a storm far to the north. No sooner had the genoa been unfurled than the effects of the "wind acceleration zones", which run along the southern coasts on both sides of the islands, were felt. Sunsets took off as if eager to make up for lost time, actually maintaining 11 knots for 45 minutes, and I got my harness out for possible mainsail reefing, before gradually slowing to 8-10 knots. There were very few boats, no fishing marker buoys, and enough sun to warrant the bimini. 50 miles of comfortable, fast beam reach sailing to Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, took a too short 5 1/2 hours. Arriving at Las Palmas marina, we tied up to their mooring ball by leaning over from the stern and threading a line through the ring, then backing up to the sea wall in a cross breeze until close enough to lasso a bollard ashore without scraping Sunsets' stern against the wall. No marina help, just the assistance of an old man who had been sitting on the dock. When I asked if he would like a "cerveza frio" he said no, he had had two heart attacks. I was glad he didn't have the third while pulling Sunsets to the dock! Many boats have formidable bow boarding gangways but we can get by with one or two loop steps from spare line that we attach to the shore bollard. With those aids we can stand in the dinghy, get a leg up, and clamber with more or less grace up on the dock. This sufficed when Joyce and I set off for a restaurante but upon returning found the tide had dropped an astounding 5' in 2 hours, making reboarding difficult: Jim leapt down into the dinghy from our bottom loop. I found a harbor rescue ladder that extended low enough for Jim to collect me in the dinghy. We'll take the dinghy to a floating pontoon for the remainder of our stay. This the 3rd largest island has a population of 700,000 with over half living in Las Palmas; from the tranquility of Fuerteventura to metropolitan bustle! Puerta de la Luz is a massive marina, and is situated on the isthmus that attaches a little island to the north shore with the city fanning out around it. One central volcanic concentration forms a circular land mass with few harbors. Gran Canary is known as "a continent in miniature" with a snow capped peak, green north, and Saharan south. The "Gran" in its name honors the valiant native Guanches' resistance to conquest. This is the jumping off harbor for the 220 ARC sailors departing November 24/25 for St Lucia. Much like a wagon train from the old west these sailors are banding together to form a pelagic community as they make their way across the Atlantic. Sailors pay to participate, and fly an ARC burgee. Sunsets would doubtless only serve as a forward scout in such a pack. Before we set out Jim hopes to recharge our engine refrigeration with freon if we can replace the supply lines whose slow leak became fast. We have been using the battery cooling system only for the past month. With all our motoring it is a shame not to have that function. Thursday is engine maintenance day since this port will have the best available parts and service. -Captain & Crew
The 20th to the 22nd our nearly new Saxo rental car carried us up hill and down all around the island through quite variable terrain. Broad barrancos, gorges carved by flash flooding define where the roads are built: along the ridges. Driving is challenging in the city that was laid out in colonial days crushed by commuters pouring in from the tiers of pastel colored apartment complexes marching up the slopes ringing the city. We limited our city driving to Sunday, however, that strategy did not benefit us in the mountains. A pilgrimage town noted for its colonial architecture is so popular on Sunday that roadblocks prevent auto entry, and the devout park along the highway shoulders reducing us to parking lot speeds. 700,000 Canarios on their day of rest are out of their apartments and enjoying the perfect weather. And we did, too. This has always been a prosperous place, and sought by both Portugal and Spain. Sugar was traded for the artwork adorning the churches, and was valued as highly as silver. Las Palmas pier, the longest in the world, kept wealth here especially before the Suez Canal when steamships and sailing vessels departed to all parts of the globe. The southern coast of Gran Canaria supports a tourist population that rivals its cities. Condos cloth what would otherwise be rock and gravel hills. New construction is pushing even higher up all the slopes as if there is an infinite number yet to host. Landscaping transforms what is stark into Eden resorts no one leaves. The road from the airport heading to the resorts was lavishly landscaped for miles. The coastal town of Puerto Rico outdid the others by arranging its waterfront like a quaint Spanish town of narrow streets, arches and trellises of blooming Bougenvilla cascading from above the two story construction that doesn't dwarf strollers. On the north side of the island in Puerto de las Nieves, a ferry port, rolling swell crashing against the sea wall entertained us as we ate when it occasionally surged over the barrier and splashed onto cars in the parking lot below. The wave action here would thrill surfers if it were not for the rocky shore. The beach here is all black basalt rock of volcanic origin. Within an hour's drive you can be on hairpin turns in craggy hills covered by cactus, and higher still by pine trees. Many of the hills, however, are gentle slopes of eroding sandstone and gravel pockmarked with caves, some of which are enlarged as garages and homes. Even in Las Palmas we found caves beside a city fort and were surprised when we scrambled up to have a closer look-a resident emerged, and we quickly departed. One cave in Artenara leads through a 100' tunnel opening onto a balcony restaurant through the hill. Our rambles included searches for Gaunche burial grounds, one by the coast, the other in the mountains but later used a goat pen. The archeological sites were disappointing since there is no effort at interpretive enhancement, signage and access, but we did get an up close look at the agriculture. We have seen large tracts of net enclosed fields looking down into the valleys where they resemble a glacier overtaking the land. Up close we could see that bananas are being shielded from excess sun and wind behind walls topped with frames holding brown gauze. Outside Galdar roads penetrate into the fields in a warren of criss-crossing lanes. Fortunately, locals know their way back to the main roads, and we followed their lead back to civilization. -The Explorers
Peet (rhymes with Fiat) Meyer, 19, from Pretoria, Republic of South Africa moved aboard Sunsets the 25th, and we immediately put his young muscle to work lifting gear in the engine compartment while Jim supervised. He graduated high school in November and is taking a year to travel before beginning architectural studies at the University at home in mid-January. He has worked and back-packed his way through England, Spain and Portugal, and for variety, signed on as crew in Gibraltar on another yacht, and wants to squeeze in a trans-Atlantic with us before hitting the books. Las Palmas is a good place for yachts and crew to make a match. We've been approached by 5 other young men looking for a berth across. We had been looking forward to crossing with Wally, everybody's favorite crew, who regrettably had to defer sailing until next year for work, of all things. Skippers starting with Columbus have used this harbor to make repairs. He fixed a rudder, and had the sails on one of his 3 vessels changed from triangular to a square-rigged sail plan to match the speed of his other two ships. Las Palmas has a wonderful museum, Casa de Colon, where he may have slept one night, illustrating his 4 voyages and the artifacts of New World culture. We were as enchanted with the 500 year old building with inner courtyards, one of which had a door hinged above to allow carriages to drive inside. In addition to the competition between Portugal and Spain for control of these islands, the Dutch sacked the city in the 1500's. The Canary Island Museum satisfied our curiosity about the original peoples, the Gaunche, with replicas of their painted caves, and models of circular stone living and burial chambers. This island is unique in the chain in that it is the only one with cave-dwelling Gaunche who were finally subdued in a starvation siege. Converted at sword point, those who survived intermarried with their conquerors. We have been able to make repairs to Sunsets. A cracked refrigerant hose was replaced and installed today restoring our ability to use the engine for cooling instead of relying solely on the battery. We will replace one of our 3 batteries, and have swapped alternators. As soon as our rebuilt alternator, now the spare, is returned we'll set off for Tenerife 55 miles away. That is, if Jim's back is sufficiently improved. All that rummaging around in the engine room bent over caught up with him yesterday. But Dr. Mom has him on Ibuprofen and as much rest as he'll tolerate. I've developed sympathetic sniffles and laryngitis. Jim is orienting Peet to Sunsets methodically in port. Often it's a baptism by fire as we cast off the lines as soon as crew gets their bags aboard. Peet is off in search of Thursday night folk dancing at nearby Doramas Park with a re-created Canarian Village designed by this island's most famous artist, Nestor de la Torre. A gallery of his work includes fanciful fish swimming with cherubs. Ma & Pa Kettle are resting up aboard. We have plenty of companionship now. The space beside us was filled yesterday morning by a 1975 50'steel Ketch, the home and school for 8 months for 8 students, 13-15, 2 teachers, captain and mate. After 25 years in a classroom in France, the captain was burned out. For the past 5 years he has run his floating school doing the Atlantic loop beginning and ending in Horta. They sleep in bunk beds in tiers of 3 with 20 cm clearance to the bunk above, and seem to be a voracious and congenial lot. -The Canarian Trio
Saturday, the 27th, as soon as our battery was delivered to Sunsets the restive Captain stopped at the marina office to pay for his two additional days of R & R (rest & recuperation), but the manager just waived him on his way! Jim couldn't cast the dock lines fast enough lest they change their minds. Our 55 mile sail under gentle, steady breezes put Peet through his paces: setting both Genoa and staysail, reefing and shaking the reef out of the main on the way to our night's anchorage at the northern tip of Tenerife, Island of Eternal Springtime, largest of the Canaries, at Bahia de Antequera. After 10 days in port it was good to feel Sunsets roll to the rhythms of the sea, and to be anchored nearly alone. The Antequera mountain rose steeply up from the black stony shore where two isolated homesteads clung to the hills overlooking the remains of a marina destroyed by a strong south storm. The hills have striated yellow and rust-colored layers with occasional veins of black basalt, cooled lava, that ran down the mountain or surged through fissures like icing drizzled over a cake. Sunday Peet weighed anchor, and we motored 3 miles south dropping the hook just outside of the artificial reef protecting the imported Saharan sand beach at Playa de Las Teresitas, the best beach on the island. Little brown lumps in the water were floating volcanic rocks, unique! Peet soon swam to the reef, clambered over, and headed to shore where he could look wistfully at the pretty senoritas (alas, he speaks no Spanish) and enjoy the beach. Ma and Pa Kettle find the comforts of Playa del Sunsets irresistible: we can swim off the fantail, listen to music, and people watch without getting sandy. We cooked aboard, and later the offshore breeze swung our transom out to sea far from the rocks completing a weekend getaway. Monday we went the last 3 miles into the harbor at Santa Cruz de Tenerife, one of the deepest in the world and easily found accommodation stern to a floating dock with both an anchor and a warp line to the harbor floor securing our bow. We were met by a runabout as we entered that piloted us to our spot, guarding against the bow swinging down on adjacent boats. We are 5 minutes walk from the center of the capital city of this and the western 4 islands. Tourism to the Canaries began on Tenerife in the 1800's attracting Spanish and Victorian English escaping winter, and it is the best known of the islands today. No doubt, we'll work up the ambition to rent a car in a day or two to ascent El Teide, Spains's highest mountain and explore the old colonial towns, but for now we are kicking back, waiting for a Halloween concert at the main plaza. Port children gave notice to expect them tomorrow for Trick-or-Treat, and the wrapped Twizzlers from the Muses will be perfect. Peet told us more about his previous boat, a 34' sloop helmed by a 71 year old woman, Jillian, who has been circumnavigating for the past 12 years. Her husband joined her in the Med, (he's a good cook) but she relies on pick-up crew for her long ocean passages. Women's Lib! Having Peet aboard has made Sunsets lively again. Our shared experience leaves little for conversation, but all is new with Peet, whose best recommendation may be that he is a good listener. I am concerned about filling him up. Mark Talbott lost 10 pounds one winter staying with us (baby fat, and he became a Greek god), but Peet has no fat to spare. He'll build muscle cranking Sunset's winches and raising her main. The Lazy Loafers
Nov 1 was head rebuilding day. Much as a dentist must remove scale from teeth, minerals deposited from sea water must be removed from the toilet hand pumps, and fresh gaskets installed. As a reward, on our last day in port we rented a Fiat Punto and headed for Spain's highest peak, Mt Teide. Naturally, since we were heading into the mountains, Jim grabbed our beach bag, still packed from Tuesday's stint on beach chairs beside another beautiful Manrique pool complex about a mile from our slip. Peet was unable to do likewise: his beloved (surf)board shorts draped over a lifeline to dry blew overboard when the Saharan winds kicked up overnight. His new fashion statement is a spare pair of Jim's trunks. Actually, jackets would have been more appropriate, as the temperature dropped and the wind picked up noticeably in the higher altitudes. The drive inland took us through a dense pine forest replanted in 1941 restoring what pioneers harvested for building. Our ascent stopped at the windswept Caldera de las Canadas, the volcanic crater left from earlier eruptions. Mt Teide is a newer cone perched on one side of this vast crater. Hikers in parkas were setting out to scale its heights while we shivered below attempting to get pictures: Jim brought a completed camera, and Peet's had a dead battery. No problem. We'll get postcards from the visitor center set in a tube created in the lava by escaping gas. Closed on our way out! One of the most surprising sights was sand covering lava flows. Whenever winds blow from the east our boat becomes coated in fine dust. The jet stream must carry Saharan sand to the mountain base. We passed through several towns whose colonial architecture, churches, gardens and attractions would make full day trips, but we are limiting ourselves to a one day rental while Jim's back heals. Friday evening Peet and Jim saw the opening ceremonies for racing cars competing in a rally. Our slip in Santa Cruz across the street from the city center made it tempting to extend beyond our planned 5 days. But as new boats arrived hemming us in on both sides, and one nearby that ran its generator perpetually, the Captain departed Saturday, the 3rd, dropping anchor for the night off Punta Montana Roja 35 miles away near the southern tip. Sunday we'll dodge the raindrops and dinghy ashore at Los Cristianos where we re-anchored Sunday morning. Along with nearby Playa de las Americas this is the main tourist destination with hotels crowding the hillside. We met a British barkeep who owns the Royal Oak on Tenerife while on another island. He was struck by Jim's patriarchal beard, and eager for the $5 million reward, dubbed him Bin Laden, and made us promise to look him up when we got here. Monday or Tuesday we'll set out for Gomera, the next island. -The Amateur Tourists
Jaded from the massive tourist enclave off Tenerife's southern coast, Captain and crew set full sail and left about noon for La Gomera, the next to smallest Canary, and until 2 years ago only reachable by boat. The wind acceleration zone offshore put Sunsets on a smart angle of heel with main and staysail, and a big smile on Peet's face at the helm. The "undiscovered" San Sebastian harbor was packed, although had a smaller boat been shifted, we could have tied up two boats away from another M65! Instead, we went outside the mole to lie alongside a 130' German 3-masted barkentine, "Antigua". The swell overnight had us tugging fore and aft, then crushing our fenders which turned blue overnight from the paint that rubbed off. Fortunately, on the 6th we squeezed into a slip beside the floating dock while another boat was out sailing. Whee! We're free to set out in our rental Citroen Ax for Garajonay National Park in the central highland of the island. It is a kind of Jurassic Park thrill-minus menacing animals. The forests growing here are millions of years old, mossy, verdant, and able to hold the rains that fall like a sponge. Two-thirds of La Gomera is forested, and the balance is craggy rock and terraced farms that supports a population of 18,000. Locals developed a whistling language to communicate across the deep gorges and steep hills. Sailors have the feel of treading in the footsteps of Columbus while in port. The information office has the well from which he supplied his vessels. The house where he stayed is a museum of New World pottery. The Church of the Assumption where he worshiped is open for visits. It has an unusual fresco on a side altar of a 1760 attack by a British fleet. We know Sir Frances Drake attacked here just before 1600. Along with pirate raids and restive natives, life here was dangerous. The governor's widow, Beatriz de Bobadilla, regent for her son after 1487, took up residence in the Torre del Conde that guards the harbor, the oldest surviving military building in the Canaries. Columbus had known her at the court in Spain before she married. She entertained the widowed Columbus lavishly before each of his 4 voyages. The fortress-like tower was our first sight entering port. Like Columbus, we have topped off our water tanks, done our laundry, replenished the ship's stores, and with additional fuel, are set for our return passage likely by way of the Cape Verdes. But before we go El Hierro, the tiniest Canary, is an easy hop. Known to the Romans as the "Land of Lizards" for the iguanas that persist now on an offshore isle. Until the New World was discovered, the zero meridian was measured from the lighthouse off it's westernmost tip, believed to be the end of the world. The only Canary we'll miss is La Palma to the north. La Palma is the steepest and greenest of the isles, the location of Europe's largest telescope, and a hiker's paradise. The serenity is nice, but the pace is not Jim. We have to spend all of our pesetas. Not only are we leaving Spanish territory, after Jan 1, pesetas will be replaced by Euros. All Europe is on a binge feverishly spending horded currency that the tax man didn't know about, and about which people don't wish to be questioned later. We passed Wednesday tinkering in port, chatting with other owners. Peet, who could pass for our son, waxed the cockpit and scrubbed fenders until Sunsets gleamed. Mark is working on photos for the web.
-Jim, Joyce & our Substitute Surrogate Son