After a night at anchor in the small town of Gran Tarajal, south coast of Fuerteventura we felt the pain of swell (almost no sleep) was worth it, crystal clear and relatively warm water, at least by our standards, ca 22 C. The wind & wave forecast looks promising so we might stay here for some time.Deep lava sand guarantees perfect grip for the anchor. Last anchorage at Isla Graciosa looked ok but after checking the anchor and bottom it showed no more than 30-40 cm sand over rock which made us nervous for the grip whenever we left the boat. Back to Tarajal. According to our pilot book, Tarajal is a place that “offers a glimpse of how the island must have been before the tourist boom took off”. We agree with the author, and really like this “under developed status” as we are not very keen on having “24/7 Full English Breakfast” places and waiters trying to convince you to use their restaurant. We love places with spanish language only menus or even better no menus. Another positive feature of Gran Tarajal was very artistic mural paintings on almost all walls. Most themes from the sea.
Before coming here we spent 8 days in the new Marina of Arrecife, Lanzarote, about 60 nautical miles north from Tarajal. We liked the place a lot partly because of the “non touristy” feel and the opportunity for long walks and hikes. We really recommend the brand new marina. Relatively low marina prices (around 30 €) and extremely service minded staff. The other two marinas close to ours charged between 60 and 80 Euros a night for our size of yacht even though this is low season and the marinas are almost empty.
As suspected, since leaving the Iberia peninsula, heading south, we have had really perfect sailing conditions. Only disappointment so far has been that we have not had any luck with the fishing. We clearly need to consult a pro to get some tips. At Graciosa we had a drink with a nice German couple who had made a circumnavigation. They told us about a rather scary situation when they got a Blue Marlin, ca 2.5 meter long which had a weight of 175 kilo. As they had really heavy gear they had to reel in the giant fish. Unfortunately the Marlin died before they were able to disentangle the line and the hook. All big game fish companies today release the fish to ensure they have something left to catch.
SInce 24 hours we are now safely anchored in the bay of Playa Francesa, Graciosa Island. A narrow sound separates Isla Graciosa from its much bigger neighbour island of Lanzarote. The sail from Madeira to this anchorage was about 270 miles, and we underestimated the speed that averaged 7.2 knots so we had to slow down to avoid arriving in darkness, cloud cover, new moon. Slowing down meant using almost zero headsail, spending 5 hours doing the last 15 miles in heavy swell, not very nice, but we think it was the right thing to do with these conditions and a unknown anchorage. We are alone except for a german sailing boat here in the bay which can have more than 2 dozen boats in the “high season”, i.e. Sept-Nov. The water temp is between 22-23 C, and the air is ca 24 C. As the wind is still up in the 30+ knots until tomorrow noon, we will stay onboard, reading, checking news on the net, planning a feast dinner made up of minced meat and cabbage (aka “Kålpudding” in Swedish) for this evening. Tomorrow we expect to be able to use our rib to get to the small village of Caleta del Sebo, a small settlement with a marina, a couples of mini mercados, restaurants and bars, 3-4 km from our anchorage. The day before we arrived, Lanzarote measured 41.3 C, which is a record May temp in Spain since weather stats started in the 50’s.
We have now spent a week exploring “Grand Madeira”, the mainland of the Madeira archipelago. Tomorrow, weather dependent, we are off to Graciosa, a Canary Island close to Lanzarote, where we hope to be able to anchor for a couple of weeks. Madeira is very different compared to Porto Santo. The whole Island feels like you are permanently inside a huge greenhouse. Besides abundance of flowers and exotic “green stuff”, the island is also a heaven for geologist (we guess anyway). We rented a Nissan Micra for a couple of days and I felt sorry for the engine and brakes having to cope with a lot of 15 degrees slopes. Another big difference to Porto Santo is the lack of sand beaches. If you want a (safe) swim in the sea you have to settle with natural sea pools where the tide fills the pools with fresh seawater and makes it safe to have a swim. The swell on the windward (north shore) is magnificent and makes these waters great surfing grounds, several times of the year there is 8 meters waves before break on specific places on the north shore.
As planned, we left Almerimar March 31. Fabulous weather, bikini sailing. We stopped for the first night at Marina del Este, anchoring just outside the marina. First dip in the sea (18C) and a calm night. Next morning, after yet another swim, we sailed / motored to Gibraltar. Approx. 100nm. Managed to see quite a few dolphins and a flock of Flamingoes heading for Almerimar’s Salinas. Flamingoes are really big and with the pink colors it was a nice view. We anchored at midnight in La Linea, Spain, and went to the Gibraltar Queens Way Quay marina the day after, spending the Eastern holiday and a couple of more days there. It’s a good marina, but the easterly wind created a strange surge in the marina (Peter blogged on that before) which gave us a couple of very uncomfortable nights and some damaged lines. Anyway, we wanted to fix some things for the boat and Gibraltar is a good place for that. We bought an outboard motor for the dingy and some man over board (MOB) equipment to put on the person who has the night watch. After checking the museum, a very interesting place with remains dating back to Neolithic time and the Botanical garden we think we now have covered Gibraltar inside and out. From Gibraltar we took a weather window with 14 knots of wind to sail to Cadiz. Passing the Gibraltar sound comfortably, we ended up with a southerly wind of +40 knots almost all the way to Cadiz. Cadiz is as always a very pleasant place. We walked the city, bought good food at the market and enjoyed ourselves. No place for buying spare parts, though. (We are spoilt in Sweden, Göteborg, with many good chandlers and good prices too.) 4 days later we sailed/motored in rain and thunderstorms (not that bad) to Mazagon, for a quick stop before we entered the Faro archipelago, as our main stay at the Portuguese Algarve coast. We had planned to stay for some time at anchor in the bay outside Culatra village inside the Ilha da Culatra. On our way down to the Med last year we did not dare to go all the way in the delta, but this time we came with raising (high) tide and got a good spot for our anchor. Approx. 15 yachts from different countries were laying there. The weather was fair, with sunshine and +20 degrees. We visited Olháo with our new dinghy and outboard motor. At low tide it was approx 6 nm and at high tide we crossed the sandbanks (2nm) back. Since it was a Saturday the markets were open. It is fascinating to see all the things you can buy in these markets. We found a big fish market and a separate vegetable and meat market, both under roof and outside. We also made walks in the Culatra village, finding new places to eat or have a beer almost every day. The island has approx.. 2000 inhabitants added on with the mainland tourists visiting and a small yacht community that is drying out year after year. We tested “almejas” (sand clam) in different forms. Here they cooked them in garlic oil instead of water. Delicious!!! It took a whole week before we let go, to move to Lagos, our last stay before the jump to Madeira. Lagos marina is safe and expensive. However, we came in low season so the price was not that awful. We made some serious bunkering of groceries, meat, wine and beer, fixed a block for the main sheet that was damaged and, of course, made some walks in the city. A Stork community was also checked out. All nice places with sea view were taken and we counted to 5 different Stork families in close proximity to the harbor. On a beach walk we found some very nice shells wit fantastic mother of pearl (sw, pärlemor), colors we have never seen before. April 29, after bunkering diesel we set sail for our 450 nm to Madeira. 71 hours later we entered the marina in Porto Santo, after a peaceful passage with sail and motor in wind speed between 5-12 knots. We saw a Sunfish, some common dolphins and a shark(?) the first day, nothing day 2 (maybe because the depth was 4000m) and more dolphins (both bottlenose and common) whale blows in the distance, Pilot whales, lots of Petrel birds day 3 when we came closer to the islands. The water temperature increased from 18 degrees to almost 22 as we came closer to Madeira. During our passage we were followed by an almost full moon that made the nights enjoyable. With almost no traffic to disturb us, we could just spend the days reading and looking at the beautiful sea. So now we are here, and will stay a week to look at this Island, take swims in the ocean (we tested yesterday and it was nice, clear and warm) and enjoy ourselves. Nature
- Pilot whales ( sw. grindval)
- Sunfish (sw. Klumpfisk)
- Dolphins, both Bottlenose (sw. Flasknosdelfin) and Common
- Petrels ( sw. Lira)
- As this is spring time we have followed the green spreading through the trees and the birds fighting for the best mates. Lots of flowers even though this area is very dry.
- Gazpacho: Have eaten a number of fantastic gazpachos this month. Also tested to do some ourselves with good result
- Almejas: A “sand” clam that, at its best, is boiled in olive oil with lots of garlic and piri-piri
- Tomato juice: We bought 6 l of tomato juice in Spain for 60 cent per liter. With salt, pepper, tabasco……Should have bought more……
Until next time, BR Eva, Peter
After 72 h sailing and some motor/sail, we arrived safe and sound this morning at Porto Santo, the second largest island of the Madeira archipelago. Most of this journey is over ocean depth of more than 4000 meters so we didn’t see much wildlife except in the beginning and at the end of the sail. Plenty of Dolphins, both common and bottlenosed, Pilot Whales and an unidentified LARGE Whale that requires some more research. Porto Santo, this time of year, is rather empty of both sailors and tourists. Tina P is the 4th sail yacht moored in the marina that has a capacity of 140 yachts. Even though it is still low season, we truly enjoyed a swim in the 22 C degree warm water that is crystal clear just outside the marina. On the marina breakwater all sailors transiting Porto Santo leaves behind an artistic painting, we feel the pressure and are carefully planning our contribution.
Until now we have been spoiled with good, reliable wifi access. Last couple of days though we have experienced the amount of dependence to internet access today’s sailors (and land based humans) have. A couple of days abstinence makes you wonder how leisure sailing was done 20 years ago. Actually, we remember those days. Weather reports from short wave stations (BBC ch4), cash by exchange of traveler’s checks, comms to family by postcards etc. We experienced a hiccup using our fixed fee 3g roaming service by vodafone.it. Now sorted but interesting how stress levels was raised. One reason being income tax declaration deadline in a couple of weeks. Funny how most problems are either a result of technology dependence or synthetic, man made challenges, like declaring your taxes. Concrete problems like how to get something to eat or to manage bad weather is usually more in your control Below are some pictures, mostly from Culatra, the fascinating island where we’ve spent 7 days at anchor plus a couple from Lagos where we are now completing a number of final must do’s projects and stocking up before heading to Madeira. We hope to be able to find a nice weather window mid next week to get some pleasant following winds for the 500 nm passage we hope to make in about 3 days.
Finally, we are back at Faro, at an anchorage we really enjoyed August last year. We have tried our new dinghy and outboard motor. Works well, even though we have some strange issues with the external tank. Great to be able to get up to 10-15 knots speed and manage 20 knots headwind without to much water spray. From Gibraltar we managed, or rather planned for sailing wind. We had a “performance sail”, 25-40 knots downwind sail to Cadiz. Due to wind against current, plenty of overfalls. On the bright side we were accompanied by dolphins most of the time, sometimes of more than 20 individuals. At Cadiz we spent 5 days enjoying this magnificent city that we enjoyed so much last year. Great food / marketplace, fantastic botanical gardens, lot of history, etc. Finally we managed to cast off, due to weather (rain) we stopped at Mazagon, thereafter we headed to Faro. We spent a couple of nights at anchor here last summer, but didn’t go all the way to the anchorage outside of Ponte Cais. Now we are here, we have a feeling this is an anchorage that will manage all kind of weather. Closer to the Island of Culatra there a number of “serious liveaboards” anchored. According to our pilot book some of them have been here more than a decade. As we have been liveaboards since 1996, guess we qualify :-)
Last couple of days at Queensway Quay Marina in Gibraltar has been “interesting”. We have a F7 easterly gale, meaning, in theory, Gibraltar should be a perfect shelter with a huge 400+ meter Rock just a couple of hundred meters to windward. After two sleepless nights we got a very physical demonstration to “surge”. We have 28mm polypropylene mooring lines that have served us well during the last 20 years (yes we change them every 4-5 years due to UV degradation and wear). After 48 hours the lines were almost broken due to the extreme surge. Surge is the phenomenon where water movements accelerates the boat to a dangerous level, it feels like you are crashing in to a harbour wall at 2 knots every 30 sec. Apparently very difficult to avoid when designing a harbor, I would guess it is the combination of very deep water (300+ meters just outside the breakwater), tides, right now 5 meters waves east of the Rock and katabatic wind gusts from the hill tops that creates this feeling of being in a washing machine. In August last year we considered this marina as our winter quarter. In hindsight, we made a very good choice in selecting Almerimar Marina as our base.
You know the feeling when you’ve been at a tourist destination for a while, and start to feel “native”, i.e. you have spent more time than the average, pale, newly arrived tourist, so you are in fact able to give advice and directions to newcomers. Well, can’t say we are full breed Gibraltarians yet, but we have now spent about three weeks in total during the last two years here in Gibraltar. This place gives us mixed feelings, in one way we enjoy the mix between 200% british culture and the role modelling of multicultural integration. On the other hand this is VERY touristic and besides some places in south east asia we have never experienced more traffic on a extremely small area of land. Should be a no-brainer to make 95% of this tiny country/city free of traffic. But, all in all, we like Gibraltar and for the sailor this is a perfect spot to have a break.
Ok, got a bit upset – let’s go back to our principle of neutral blogging, no politics, religions, etc. Plenty of that available elsewhere. Since arrival Thursday we have been busy with ordering a new 5hp outboard engine and some other things on our wish list. Good opportunity to use our “yacht in transit” status and avoid the VAT tax. As one of our yachty friends phrased it, Gibraltar is great if you are into Booze, Cigars and Yacht equipment. As he was a Canadian heart surgeon, he obviously included a joke about the very extreme diet at offer; fish and chips, pies, full english breakfast available 24×7, etc. Great to be able to take a 30 mins walk over to Spain and enjoy non-fried sea food….
Last month of our winter stay in Almerimar is gone. We left harbor March 31 and are now April 1 in Gibraltar. This chapter will act as a sum up of our experiences as well as the March letter.
Staying put in one single harbor without being able to do weekend trips with the boat (except twice), was a new experience for us. On one hand it was most likely necessary in order for us to calm down and get some kind of home-like surroundings; on the other hand we might not choose to do that again. Winter 2015 we have planned to stay in Canary Island, where we will be able to combine our” home-harbor” with weekend sailing.
We have had time to read a lot of books, take walks and be out in the sun, which is not possible in Sweden during the dark season, when you are working. We have also understood (almost) that it is not necessary to do more than 1-2 things at the same day, if you can leave some of the tasks for “tomorrow”. Taking care of the ship, ourselves and buying and preparing food has also been given more time than before. A nice experience. A specific sign (smile) of us calming down is that when we are traveling by car and miss the right exit, Peter just takes a second round in the roundabout. (There are LOTS of roundabouts in Andalucia)
Spending half a year in one place also makes it possible to follow the seasons changes. When we arrived in September it was still summer, with 30+ degrees and all trees still green. We had almost the same weather conditions up till beginning mid-January, when “autumn/winter” came. Weather started to be colder, more clouds and wind, and after the influence of a severe storm which sprayed the trees with salt, the green gave way for brown. Now in the last weeks of March we started to see green leaves again and flowers everywhere.
The 6 months in Almerimar has given us a pretty good knowledge of one part of Spain – Andalusia. We are very fond of the nature, the friendly people and all small and big places that we have explored. We will never forget the snow covered Sierra Nevada view from our boat. The village Felix, where we filled water every 10-th day, will always be special for us. So will Roquetas del Mar with our tapas place by the sea and good shops for tools and other “stuff” necessary for our boat projects. For Almerimar we will remember all new and old friends, some we might meet again and some not, the beautiful weather, the sea and all nice tapas bars and good grocery stores which have given us good experiences of the food here in Andalucia.
When we visited Cadiz last autumn, we reported in the blog about the brass and drum orchestras that were exercising almost every evening. Now last Sunday being Palm Sunday we learnt what this training was aiming for. We were in Malaga to return the rental car and found ourselves in the middle of the processions held with all the fantastically ornate Saints that were carried around in the narrow streets, followed by the brass bands. The whole week of “Semana Santa” (Easter week) this is happening daily in all towns and villages, reported on TV and people following it with Apps or in the streets. It makes us understand that it is one of the major feasts, maybe the biggest, for this catholic country. In the pictures attached to this letter, you will see some Saints, but also the, for us Swedes, strange clothing with top hats in all different colors looking like KKK. You will also see the beautiful ladies with their black mantillas, for mourning. Makes us wonder why we in Sweden great each other with “Glad Påsk” = happy Eastern, when this is a week of sorrow for the catholic world.
- All stainless steel jobs are done: prolongation of the davits and extra fasteners for the solar panels.
- All four bilge keel pumps now in good working order.
- Eva planted a new batch of spices: rosemary and greek (?) Basil
- The frogs starting to make noise in a dam Eva has been following since we came here. It is spring!
- The birds are fighting for their mates and in Malaga, where there are parrots; we saw them build their nests by actually cutting branches from the nearby trees.
- Leaving harbor we had beautiful weather with bikini-sailing. We anchored outside marina del Este and were able to take the first dip in the sea. Water temperature +18 degrees. On our way there we saw a flock of approx. 30 Flamingoes moving east, maybe to the Salinas in Almerimar.
- We were surrounded by dolphins as we came closer to Gibraltar straits. As always that makes us happy.
We are now looking forward to new places, new experiences and new adventures. Closest is a visit to Ceuta (the Spanish enclave in Morocco) and thereafter most likely Lagos in Portugal before we take the jump over to Madeira and Canary Islands. But, as always plans can be changed…
Until next time – see you later…
BR Eva, Peter