Friday, March 20, 2020

Lessons in patience

So, we're still in Lanzarote, in marina in Arrecife. After our flights to Venice were cancelled ten days ago, we tried to find flights through other airports and countries and soon realised it will be difficult to get home, so we decided to change our plans. We would sail to Madeira first, when the weather would be suitable, and then fly home from there, when things return to normal. But we had to abandon this plan as well - Porugal closed all their ports and anchorages (yes, anchorages as well) a week ago, so even though we could leave Lanzarote, we wouldn't be able to get to Madeira. So we thought, we'll stay here for some time, do some day sailing, maybe rent a car and do some driving around the island and wait till things return to normal. Then this weekend Spain declared the state of emergency for whole country and all non-essential businesses were closed and they limited movement of people to necessary trips to grocery stores, to pharmacies etc. So we can't even go for a walk and only one person is allowed to go shopping. Day sailing is also not permitted, the marina told us they would not take any boats in unless it was an emergency.

So it finally dawned on me that it might take quite a while before things get anywhere near normal again. And that it maybe isn't the worst thing to be stranded here, where things look under control, shops are well stocked with all possible food (captain even got some 97% alcohol today), and the weather is not too bad. Well, it was blowing strong these past days, we even had few drops of rain each day, but it's still like not too cold April weather.

Yesterday Spain also closed all ports and anchorages, so while we could still sail out of the marina, we would not be able to return to any port in Spain, and as it looks also not to many other countries. There are few that haven't closed their ports yet, but it could happen any day. We're definitely not moving.

Yesterday the New Zealand sailboat was approaching our marina (we saw them on AIS) and soon the Port Authorities contacted them over VHF to inform them they are not allowed into port. Sailboat said they are coming from Valencia, they don't have corona virus on board for sure and that they have a reservation in marina. Port Authority didn't budge - no entry, state orders. Sailboat tried to contact the marina, where they were told the same - no exceptions, ports are closed. Then they asked if they can anchor anywhere. The answer was yes, but not in Spanish territorial waters. It might sound harsh, but I'm pretty sure, they didn't sail directly from Valencia, I'm sure they stopped along the way to Gibraltar, and they must have known about the corona situation getting more serious, but they were probably speculating that if they turn up at the marina entrance, they will not be turned away. After quite some more negotiating (they said they were tired, low on food and water, the weather wouldn't allow them to turn back), they were finally allowed to anchor in old harbour (there's a photo in my last post), but had to stay on boat. And I'm pretty sure they got a visit from Port Authority soon.

We were also reading blog of a sailboat on their way from Cartagena to Valencia. They reserved the marina there and on their way stopped in Mar Menor for about a week. In this time situation changed, obviously without their knowledge, although I can't understand how, and the bridge that is opening for boats to sail in or out of Mar Menor, stayed closed. They tried to get into local Mar Menor marina, but were refused. Only after lots of negotiations they were allowed to take water in the marina, and buy some food and charcoal for grill, as they were running out of gas for cooking. They are now anchored in Mar Menor, which is actually not a bad place, but I guess they might need some more food and water in near future.

All this just additionally convinced me to just stay put and be happy with our situation. OK, I'm not there with the "happy" part yet. I feel a bit stressed and jumpy, captain even says I'm grumpy. I guess it would be a bit easier if we were home, where we understand the language (we don't speak more than two words of Spanish), and where we have family and friends who support us and could help if we needed anything. But all in all, we're ok, healthy, well fed, no shortage of water or other drinks. We still have enough books to read, marina wi-fi is slow and a bit temperamental, but mostly working, and thanks to EU we have unlimited free phone calls within EU, so we talk with our families and friends every day. Could be a lot worse. I was never known for my patience, and I'm afraid this didn't get any better with growing older. But I guess this situation will force me to get more patient.

We even manage to pull ourselves together and do some work on the boat, I'l try to post some photos of our boat projects in my next post. It's just that we can only work with what we have on boat, as all the chandleries are closed.

Anyway, I think we'll manage to get through, even though I'm not yet seeing the end of it, and it will surely not be over in two weeks. I hope you are all well and managed to find the best way to get through these turbulent times. Drop us a comment, or an email, or call us, we'd be happy to hear from you.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Back to Lanzarote

We left La Palma on Sunday 10 days ago. We were lucky - on Saturday evening the swell gate got stuck, but luckily while it was open, so the boats were able to sail in and out of the marina. It meant that night was a bit less calm as some of the waves got into the marina, but we were able to sail out on Sunday morning without a problem. There was still some 6m of water above the door.

We were able to leave quite early, well, early by our standards, so a bit before 8 in the morning. We had to ask for the permission to sail through the commercial harbour again. This is the city of Santa Cruz in morning mist.
At the beginning we were able to sail a bit more to the North, but later as we came from behind the island, wind was changing direction often, so we had to adjust our direction as well. All of a sudden Captain yelled: Whale! It took me a moment to find it, but it was only some 30m from the boat. Unbelievable! I took the camera but didn't move my eyes from the whale, because I didn't want to miss a moment, so I just pointed the camera in general direction of the whale and pressed the button many times. That's why the photos are not very good.

Whale slowly swam away and after couple of minutes I saw the last spray of water in the air. We were both very excited about the sighting and were scanning the sea in hope to spot another one. But we saw nothing else.

First day of sailing was fine, we did lots of motor-sailing since the wind was very light, and in the afternoon wind turned more to the North so we could sail by Northern side of Tenerife in the direction of Lanzarote. Night was pretty uneventful as well.

In the morning wind moved a bit more to the North, so we decided to gain some height and sail above our rhumb-line (direct line to Lanzarote). Wind was a bit stronger as well, but waves were still rather small, so sailing was nice and fast. Well, beating into wind is never very pleasant or comfortable, but this was much better than we feared it would be.

During the second day wind got stronger and stronger and the waves got bigger as well. In the afternoon we were flying on small solent jib and reefed main, but the waves from wind were about 2m on top of 1,5m swell and sailing got more uncomfortable. But as we progressed really well we knew that by middle of the night we would already be anchored near Playa Papagayo on Lanzarote.

We dropped the anchor almost exactly at midnight and were really happy it went so well and fast and that it was over. Anchorage was surprisingly calm, like a lake, and after a drink we went to bed and slept long and well.

Morning was bright and sunny, and a bit more windy than the night. There were quite some people on the beach and also some boats anchored along the coast.
We decided to stay on anchor another night. During the day we rested and did some small stuff around the boat, when you're sailing or rather beating into the wind it is not very easy to do anything inside the boat. I even managed to get into the water in the afternoon, but it was a very short dip. In the evening we had a great BBQ.

The night was not so calm as the previous one. After the breakfast captain went into the water to check the propeller and to see how much the boat is overgrown with algae and barnacles.
It doesn't look too bad.
Some through-hulls (skozniki) will need some cleaning.
Inspired by Captain I got into the water as well and stayed there longer than just a few seconds.

At noon we lifted the anchor, luckily without problems. The bottom is quiet rocky and many people were complaining that their chain got tangled around rocks or their anchor got stuck under them. The people on catamaran that was anchored next to us, tried to lift anchor for an hour, but without success, and they were sitting and waiting for help as we sailed away.

As we sailed around Punta Papagayo and turned NE, we expected wind on the nose. But it was from behind, not that we were complaining. This time forecast was completely wrong.
So sailing was again easy, although a bit slow. But we had time, there were only 15 miles to marina Lanzarote in Arrecife.
A little bit later we saw a catamaran in front of us that was sailing in all different directions, even made circles and Captain was already getting angry because he couldn't decide on which side to pass. But then we saw what was happening - the big pod of Atlantic dolphins was chasing big school of fish and the Gannets (strmoglavci) were helping. The catamaran was obviously following the dolphins. We sailed towards dolphins as well and soon a couple of them joined our boat and started playing at out bow.

The sea was quite choppy and it was very hard to make decent photos, as boat was jumping from one wave to another. After a while the dolphins returned back to fishing. 

There were many Gannets fishing as well, they were diving down into the water with great speed, looking like fighter jets. They are so much more elegant than pelicans. Adults are almost white, the young ones are grey.
Soon the wind stopped, then turned to its expected direction, NE, so exactly on our nose. We rolled the sails and motored towards Arrecife. The wind was getting stronger and waves bigger and our progress slower. It took us almost till 5 in the afternoon to get to the marina and tie the boat.

Marina is big and new and the staff very friendly. We had a nice burgers for dinner and then slept very well.

Next day we went for a walk through the town. The wind got strong and the sky cloudy, just as was forecast, but that's why we wanted to be safely tucked in marina. There is a big shallow lagoon with boats near the centre of the old part of town.
The skeleton of a Byrde's whale is of the whale stranded in Tenerife. I was amazed about little arms and fingers it has. Later as I was reading about Bryde's whales on internet, I started thinking that this might be the type of whale that we saw - it was of about the right size, it is most frequently seen whale around Tenerife, it looked just like on photos on internet, didn't show the tail and stayed near the surface for long time. It is possible...
We strolled to the old port with the walls...
and the fort. It is a museum now.
The old breakwater...
...and the anchorage.
Captain admiring old cannons.
I don't think the bridge still works.
This is our marina.
We planned on flying home for couple of weeks yesterday. This was one of the reasons why we sailed back to Lanzarote. But corona virus changed our plans - our plane tickets to and from Venice have all been canceled on Monday and today and as the situation is, it is very unsure if we could get home safely at all and then back to the boat as well. So we're staying here for a while. When the weather permits, we'll probably sail to Madeira - wind has to be more easterly than now. This was the second reason for coming to Lanzarote, to have a better angle for sailing NNW. As it looks we'll have to wait for at least a week, until then we'll try to be useful and finish some boat projects - we already installed a winch, bought new lines, captain climbed the mast today and washed the shrouds and halyards. And we'l try to have some good time while we're here, although we still feel a bit deflated after all the changes that happened in last two days.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

La Palma by car - part 2

Wine country was probably one of our favourite parts of island, with all its cottages, vineyards, flowers and winding but almost empty roads.
A bit further down we met a herd of goats.
Next we stopped in Zarza. It is a site where original inhabitants lived, the ones that Spanish later eliminated. The site is in the cloud forest, laurisilva. There is a small but interesting museum with information and artefacts about life of original inhabitants, and there is a path through the woods to some of the caves where they lived and stones with their carvings. The wood alone is enchanting. I spotted a nice bird nest.
Soon we reached first carvings. They are mostly concentric circles or of elliptical shapes.
This is one of the caves where they lived. First people came to Canary islands from West Africa in some 300 b.c. I can imagine they liked the climate here, it is much nicer than in the desert.
While archeologists don't know what the meaning of carvings could be, Captain found an explanation in seconds - it represents circles in the pool of water when you dip your fingers in. It is true, that in this site there is also a spring, that doesn't go dry even in dry season, but similar shaped carvings have been found also on other sites without water, even the ones around the highest mountain Roque de los Muchchos.

The stroll through the woods took and hour and it was truly beautiful.
I found a patch of violets.
We ended our hike just when they were closing, so we were lucky to get here in time. It would be a pity to miss such lovely and interesting place.

We drove on along North coast of the island towards East and the scenery was very dramatic, many steep drop-offs and the road was cut through the hills.
Due to roadworks we took a detour and found ourselves on this narrow road. Luckily we were the only car there.

The area is really wild and quite sparsely inhabited.
But still one sees bananas wherever they can be planted.
Next day we first drove to Mirador la Cumbrecita, the lookout at the South rim of the big Caldera de Taburiente. We have planned to visit it already the day before, but when we got to the entrance of nature reserve, we were sent back because we didn't have the parking permit. There is a limited number of parking spaces at the end of the road and one has to make the permit reservation on the internet. We stopped a bit away from the entrance and quickly checked the availability, but it was all booked for the day. But we found a half an hour slot for the next day, so we quickly made a reservation. In visitor centre we asked if we could stay a bit longer than half an hour and a nice lady prolonged it to an hour. And we could enter the park 15 minutes before our slot. Great!

After couple of kilometres driving through lovely pine woods we parked our car. This is a great view from parking lot.
We decided to hike to next mirador, it would take us about and hour to get there and back which would be just right. We walked among bent pine trees...
...and came to the next mirador with great views across the caldera. Somewhere up on the other side are all the observatories and Roque de los Muchachos, where we were two days ago. Just today we had a beautiful weather with great visibility.
There were several crows around, we read that they are quite used to get some food from the tourists. Unfortunately we left our sandwiches in the car, otherwise I could maybe photograph them up close.
We've seen quite many trees with their roots partially exposed, must be because of the erosion.
It was a lovely hike and we were happy that we got the whole hour for it. Next we drove to West coast and then along it towards South. We wanted to see some "recent" volcanoes. We stopped at the Visitors centre of Volcan San Antonio. At visitors centre there were some videos and presentations about the geology and recent volcano eruptions. San Antonio erupted some 300 years ago, it's caldera is already filling up because of erosion...
...and trees are already growing in it. We also saw some birds, among them kestrels and crows, that are living there.
There is a nice path around the rim of the volcano.

This is another one of the birds living there.
There was a great view to Volcan Teneguia, which is much younger, it was erupting only in 1970, so in our lifetime. There was an actual video of its eruption in visitors centre. Nothing is growing on that one yet. We would have liked to climb that one as well, but the time was running out.
Teneguia made La Palma a bit bigger than it was before - the pale rock in the middle of the photo was before one of the cliffs above the sea, all the black lava around it and towards the sea, where the bananas are, is new ground.
Next we drove to the lighthouse near the South cape. While the lava was flowing in that direction, it missed the old lighthouse (the new one was built later)...
...and the salt plants and flew left and right from them. We took a stroll around salt plants, there is a self-guided tour there with lots of information boards. At this time of year the plants are quiet, only in summer when the temperatures are high there are good conditions for salt production. They produce salt by hand, the old fashioned way, just like in Sečovlje in Slovenija.
Unfortunately the restaurant there is only open till 6 in the evening, so we were too late to get something to eat, but we could get a drink. We met a nice guard dog...
...and had a great views from the terrace, and a great company too.
We decided to make a stop in one of the restaurants along the way back to marina. Well - the first one Google suggested was closed for vacation (Google didn't tell us that), and then there were no more restaurants along the SE coast. I didn't know the coast there was also very steep and very sparsely populated. But in one village we spotted a restaurant that was open and we stopped. Usually when we go out to eat we like to pick restaurants that are special and that offer local food. This one was just a village restaurant, but decent, and while we wouldn't go back, we got fed with decent fish and had a bottle of very good local wine (I had the most of it, Captain was driving). So we (especially I) were happy.

In the meantime it got dark and Captain got the idea, that we should drive to some place where we could do some star gazing, since it is such a big thing on La Palma. We remembered the Mirador la Cumbra from two days ago and although it was out of the way, drove there. Well, we wanted to, but missed it. It is on the road that once was a two way road that climbed into hills and then drove through a tunnel to the other side towards West, and later they built newer longer tunnel much lower in the hill, so the old road is now both lanes in direction West through old tunnel, and new road is both lanes in direction East through new tunnel. So we could not just turn around once we realised we drove passed the mirador, but had to drive further up the hill and then through old tunnel and then down on the other side so we could cross back through the new tunnel and get back to East side. By the time we got there we were fed up with it and went straight to the boat.

On Saturday we took it easy and prepared the boat for a passage back to Lanzarote, that we wanted to start on Sunday morning. It looked like we would have a good weather window for travelling NE, the direction from where the trade winds usually blow. For next couple of days there was more Northerly wind forecast, and rather light one, and most importantly, there would be only very small waves. So if we have to beat against the wind and the waves and the current, that would be the best weather for it. 

We bought some bread, fruit and veggies and payed the marina. This is how empty marina is when there's no carnival.
In the evening we went to town for our last carnival mojito, there was again some live music there and lots of children were still dressed up in costumes. Then we went to bed early to be rested for the passage.