When it invades the beaches and harbors of the Caribbean.
Evidently this has been a challenge for months, as this article from October of 2014 indicates. And the article is correct; the Sargassum is smelly and a nuisance to humans — more disturbing is that it can prevent baby turtles from making their way to the ocean. Ironically, if one chooses (after talking with the ranger in charge) to rescue those turtles, the best place to restore them to the ocean is under a big clump of Sargassum.
Concerning the baby turtles, if they can be rescued from the beached Sargassum, the best place to turn them loose is likely to be in a mass of Sargassum that is in the open sea. In open water, they are vulnerable to consumption by numerous animals, but within the floating Sargassum, they have food and shelter. Young turtles, tunas, jacks, and numerous others rely on those grand floating islands of life.
Interestingly enough, DPNR supposedly prevented Crown Bay Marina from removing the weed for a week or so because of the wildlife harbored there. (One of our friends swears he saw a “baby shark” in the Sargassum.) During that same week, the safari bus I was riding was stopped in traffic along with hundreds of other vehicles while two front end loaders crossed the road to a dump truck. A crew with pitch forks was raking the Sargassum from the shore across from Carnival Park. Guess Carnival trumps baby turtles.
Go figure. This may fall into the category of our favorite St. Thomas bumper sticker: “Welcome to St. Thomas. You can’t make this shit up!”
In the meantime, EW and I became adept at stopping the engine, raising the prop, and cleaning off the weeds. For days, I avoided going into Crown Bay, and when I did, I would paddle through the mulch. It was slow going and a great workout.
Until I undertook this bit of research, I had no idea that the brown seaweed making entry and exit to Crown Bay so difficult is the exact same stuff I would have been delighted to see had we sailed through the Sargasso Sea. Look at that. We did sail through the Sargasso Sea, or should have. Neither EW nor I saw the sea last year.
Oh no! Maybe we’re to blame. Maybe the Sargassum has followed us to the Caribbean. (Cue creepy oceany music.) Sargassum is taking over! Run for your lives!
Yeah. Just kidding.
I wish all baby turtles safe passage. (Many of them go to the Azores, you know. Smart turtles.) And I have nothing against the baby sharks. (Wink, wink.) However, I was delighted that Crown Bay received permission to evict the Sargassum and send it back to sea. Bet those who work and live on the dock at Crown Bay were even more delighted.
And, under the category of “Keep Your Sunny Side Up!” here’s a photo of my breakfast on Sunday. Those aren’t potato wedges; they’re apple wedges, sautéed in bacon grease and sprinkled lightly with cinnamon. Captain EW is THE BEST! (Note that he didn’t fill my coffee cup though.)
It’s nice to know the right people. Friends on shore pointed out a lovely three-masted schooner and asked, “Do you know what boat that is?”
Hell, yes. Tom, Captain of the Schooner Mysticused to keep his own boat at the same marina that was La Luna’s home for eight years. Not being fools, we took advantage of that friendship and showed up one morning while Mystic was at anchor in St. Thomas.
Captain Tom and crew helped us aboard, but neither we nor the captain and crew were as elegant as this photo from their site. (This photo and the one of the interior came from their website. The sailing photos are mine.)
The Schooner Mystic is a new boat, built in 2007, and is beautifully appointed. The crew we met are all knowledgeable, and number at least two women skippers. The kitchen, not open to the public, is a restaurant style kitchen on a boat, and we were told the food is outstanding.
And yes, I know it's a galley. But this galley is a professional kitchen, so I'm calling it a kitchen. So there.
We were delighted with the opportunity to see how The Schooner Mystic was appointed, how much work it took to keep her in Bristol shape, and how much fun it would be to haul those sails. (As long as it wasn’t in our job description.) It was great to talk with Tom. After one or two more charters in the BVI’s they are headed back to New England where she will be available for charters during the summer.
Look for her on the water. She’s a beauty under sail.
NOTE: Some of you are easily confused. We are still in St. Thomas and will remain here until later in April. I just didn’t get the opportunity to tell you much about our stay in Guadeloupe and want to fill you in on a few interesting facts.
Like their public toilets, which have a certain je ne sais quoi.
One day, while we were anchored in Islet du Gosier, we opted to join cruising friends from S/V Silverheels III, Lynn Kaak and Ken Gooding, on a bus trip to Saint-Francois . It was lovely to relax and see a new-to-us part of Guadeloupe, and to check out prospective new anchorages and marinas. Saint-Francois is a beautiful town and I happily took photos of boats at anchor or on the hard, interesting buildings, birds, and …. a toilet.
A really, really, cool public toilette. It takes an act of some god (or a four-hour parade and two beers) to convince me to use a porta-potti, but I wanted to try this beauty out and was thankful that the bottle of water a while back and provided the necessity to spend 50 euro cents.
This exact change only, necessity stall was pristine, because the whole unit is sprayed and disinfected after each use. It’s just big enough for a parent and child, if that’s what must occur, but tight for two people who want to save time and 50 cents. You insert your coin and the door opens automatically. Inside is a hook for your bag, and a toilet with the tiny hand washing sink beyond the toilet.
Do your business.
Hold your hands over the tiny sink, first comes soap, then water, then – after a bit of time for scrubbing --- hot air all from the same nozzle. How cool is that? Once you are done, and exit the facility, the door closes much too quickly for someone to enter on your four euro-bits, and if they did (or if you decided to stay in) they’d be sprayed with disinfectant and water. Hence, always clean public toilets, and a slight delay between uses.
Special thanks to Lynn “Vanna White” Kaak for her so ably modeling this facility.
I later heard that there is a 15 minute limit and wonder if the door just opens when time is up. This brings about a number of disturbing situations to my disturbed mind. Still, these public toilets are one of a number of areas (like brie, and champagne, and pan du chocolat, and free busses for Carnival) in which the French are well ahead of us.
I was reminded of this while watching “All is Lost” with EW on our Friday Pizza and a Movie Night. Since we are in St. Thomas with Choice wireless, we signed up for Netflix so we can watch movies not in our on-board stash. We didn’t watch “All is Lost” before we went on our Atlantic circle, but had heard from other sailors enough to know that non-sailors would definitely be on the edge of their seats, while the cruising sailors would scoff at many of the events on the screen. EW and I scoffed. A good movie will transport me into the characters on the screen. I can’t count the times I’ve growled at EW for making a joke or comment when I’m enthralled with a movie. People in movie theaters who talk through the film drive me crazy.
On Movie Night, I was one of those people and it’s OK because EW was a willing participant. We talked through the whole thing; we laughed at some things and were disgusted with others. It’s probably unfortunate that we had heard about the inaccuracies before watching the movie because we didn’t give it a chance. We were watching Robert Redford, a great actor in a performance that was highly praised, and I just couldn’t get past the fact that he had never prepared a ditch bag before crossing the Indian Ocean. EW couldn’t figure out how he hanked on the storm jib when there wasn’t a mid-stay or forestay available for the hanks.
This after he deliberately sailed his boat back into the offending container (oh yeah, like that would happen) and waited for-absolutely-ever before closing the hole and pumping the bilge. By the way, there is no possibility that amount of water would pour in that hole under those conditions, or to back up a step, that he would have slept through the initial impact. The first scene confused us because we couldn’t figure out what was behind him when he wrote his note as the container was long gone, but the movie didn’t lose us until “Our Man”, as he is named in the credits, woke up with water over the floorboards. Essentially, the movie lost us in the second scene. That was quick.
(At right, the orange, blue and yellow blobs under the companionway are two ditch bags attached to large life jackets to help them float. They were prepared prior to leaving the dock. Now there’s an idea.)
When one is cruising, one becomes intimately familiar with the normal sounds and one comes to immediate attention when something is different. That container did not sneak up silently like a second story man and cut a careful hole above the chart table. That container hit his boat and made a strange noise while doing so. Just ask EW how many times he made a minor sail change or the wind picked up and I would bounce up and ask, “Everything OK?” And that’s when I had an excellent sailor in the cockpit. To provide an analogy for non-sailors, once one has a baby, the soundest sleeper will awake at the softest cry; and once a sailor is at sea, the soundest sleeper will wake at some new noise or lack of noise. (EW was able to sleep through minor noises or changes and only woke up when something was really different and when I might need his help. Points and more sleep to EW for that.)
When the movie first came out, our dear friends, fellow cruisers, and live-aboards, John and Dora, went to see it. John couldn’t get past how quickly “Our Man” cut the only stay holding the mast to the boat. EW wants a knife like that. John wants to make sure his stays are stronger than “Our Man’s” were. Both keep the bolt cutters where they are easily accessible in emergencies. After viewing the film, I Googled “All at Sea Sailing Mistakes” and found this fun and very detailed post on Sailfeed. While I have no quibble with “Our Man’s” background and motivation (or lack thereof), I also had no idea how he had made it so far without mishap.
Every time he went up the companionway in a huge storm, he lifted the kick boards---and he didn’t put them back or slide the hatch closed! I yelled at him for this. (Quietly, because I knew he couldn’t hear me.) I also had trouble with how messy the boat was before the impact. We lived aboard for 8 years in Maine and in the summer our living space was more clutter-free at the dock than “Our Man’s space was while crossing an ocean. Things happen at sea, and even little things can knock stuff over. You bring something out, use it and put it away immediately. His cluttered counters drove me crazy.
When the movie was first out, the Portland Press Herald, our home paper, invited six sailors to the theater for a sailors’ review. These guys may have a combined sailing experience of 242 years, but they aren’t snarky enough to review this movie properly. They seemed to critique what “Our Man” (or Robert Redford) had done, and ignored what “Our Sailing Consultant” didn’t do. “Our Sailing Consultant” is a figment of my imagination. Evidently they didn’t use one. It shows. At the very least I want “Our Man” to have packed a ditch bag as I just can’t get over that.
We had advised our non-sailing family not to watch the movie before we crossed, so they wouldn’t worry more about us. I’m not sure it would have drawn them to the theaters anyway. Certainly the danger is real; my two biggest fears are 1. EW falling overboard, and 2. La Luna hitting a container. We know of at least one Caribbean cruising couple who lost their boat in that fashion, and I do not want to make light of what happened to them and to “Our Man”. You cannot see a container on a dark night in a dark sea. Along those lines, I chuckled at the “reverse” product placement showing a loaded Mareskcontainer ship passing very close to the shipwrecked sailor, with those on watch oblivious to numerous emergency flares. Bet Maresk really loved that. Not.
So we watched the movie, talked and ridiculed the writer, ate our pizza and didn’t let ourselves get caught up in the acting or the drama. Which is probably unfortunate. We knew “Our Man” lived at least until he could write the good-bye note, so we knew he’d live when he fell overboard – (twice!), experienced a 360 the wrong way, and endured yet another storm while in the life raft. That 360 – when the boat capsized and righted itself – was cool to watch. Unfortunately, I had already dis-engaged to the point that I didn’t even care about him or the boat. It was just a cool special effect.
It’s a shame, really. Robert Redford is an excellent actor, deserving of awards and accolades, and of working with expert sailing consultant. Too bad he didn’t have one.
Oh man. Did I ever get in trouble after the parade in Guadeloupe! We opted not to take a backpack because we just didn’t want to carry a lot of stuff. I had a dry bag on a shoulder strap, with the camera, hand cleanser, sun screen, and bug spray – and the dinghy key.
You know about dinghy keys, right? It’s that little plastic u-shaped thing that allows you to start your engine, and (if you attach it to your person while driving) will pull out and turn the engine off if you fall over-board. In Maine, the dinghy key was always in the dinghy attached to the engine. Once we started cruising, we removed the key to help prevent theft. I pretty much always forgot to use the key and would have problems starting the motor since it won’t start unless something such as the little u-shaped thing holds the button out to allow spark to happen. (I’m guessing about spark. I know that button in, no vroom; button pulled out from the motor, vroom.
(See previous posts about the dinghy key, here, and here, If this continues I’ll have to create a separate category.)
So, you know what happened, right? Evidently, when I took the camera out of the dry bag, the key came too, and I lost it somewhere along the parade route. Of course, I didn’t realize it until we were in the bus on the way back to Gosier. To say EW wasn’t happy would be an understatement. We weren’t totally recovered from the Endurance Crossing and it was a toss-up as to which one of us could find our sense of humor on any given day. When I announced I’d lost the key, EW lost his sense of humor.
Unfortunately, (or fortunately) depending on how you feel about things, while I was much chagrinned, my sense of humor – and my unwavering faith that things would be just fine --- prevailed. EW was not happy, but I was chipper. Actually, EW was less happy because was chipper. “It’ll be OK,” I opined as my mind leapt from one possibility to another. “How will it be OK?” Mr. Grumpy asked. “The dinghy is locked with a padlock and we don’t have that key, and if we could get it unlocked we can’t start the engine! None of our friends are with us, we don’t have a marine radio and we didn’t bring the phone. Exactly how will this be OK?”
Well, when you put it like that.
Yes, the dinghy was padlocked to the dock, and yes, that meant we had no way home. In the past I’ve actually found myself without the plastic u-shape safety thingy and I know you don’t need that to run the motor. A small line, or the shoulder strap of one of my purses works just fine. Somehow EW didn’t seem to happy that I knew that. Plus, we had that steel cable/padlock issue to resolve. Since the last dinghy key issue (see first “here” above) both the safety key and the padlock keys were attached to the float and cord.
(At left, the new cord/safety key. The faded red button is held out by the u-shaped safety key. Which of course is different for each brand of motor, because why?)
I figured we’d first see if one of our friends was still in town, if not, we’d have to go to the police to find someone with bolt cutters to release us from the dock. We’d get home, but EW would still not be happy. I was truly repentant, but refused to be discouraged. I knew things would work out.
We got off the bus, and saw that ours was the only dinghy on the dock, therefore we were the only cruisers still on shore. Oh. Plan B? Before we trotted (or stomped) to the police station, we discovered Plan C. (Gosier is this lovely town with friendly people and this dock was used by the little ferries who take folks from the town to the Islet Du Gosier for the day. The last ferry was on the dock when we arrived, and the crew person was one I had chatted with often as he is one of few who speaks English. So we conveyed our issue, and jumped aboard. They took us to La Luna and waited while EW grabbed the bolt cutters and I grabbed the box of spare keys and two flashlights. We traveled to the islet for the last pick up of the day and back on the dock EW paid our 6 Euro plus nice tip for the round trip ride.
I found a key that fit the padlock on the second try and EW learned which of the two small lines in the boat work best for safety keys. He still wasn’t thrilled with me, but he couldn’t deny that things had worked out very, very well. (Truthfully, my chipperness had been hiding some anxiety and I was stunned by how well things had turned out.) I had really screwed up and definitely was extremely fortunate to get bailed out so easily. EW relaxed a bit, and forgave me totally. Though I better not do anything similar for quite some time. I’ve used up his patience when it comes to this damn dinghy key thing.
That’s La Luna on the top right, anchored in Islet du Gosier or at the little island off the town of Gosier. Gosier means Pelican. See the pelican in the tree at the bottom?
Voila! The perfect photo!
(And for you non-French speakers, Voila also disappointed us. Having heard the term expressed by real and literary magicians we thought it would translate into something more exciting than, “There you are.”
Let’s travel back in time. Now that I have the new laptop up and running and can once again edit and upload photos, you deserve a bit about Carnival in Guadeloupe.
We had been told that the parade in Pointe-a-Pitre would be one of the longest in the Caribbean with over 70 different groups marching. Some boaters opted to anchor near the city, but we like Islet du Gosier and didn’t want to move, so early that week EW and I visited the office of tourism there. Unlike the larger tourism office in Pointe-a-Pitre, the one is Gosier was welcoming, and staffed by people who spoke English. In fact, on our mission to find out about Carnival, the young man spoke the Queens English with a delightfully posh accent. (Go ahead, say “Delightfully posh accent” in one. You know you want to.)
Our first question was whether the normal buses operated on Sunday. He regretfully told us that they did not. “Oh, we wanted to go to Carnival.” He brightened. “Ah. The buses don’t operate on Sundays, but they do have special runs for Carnival.” And he whipped out a schedule and list of stops for the holiday. These special bus for carnival caters to both tourists and locals and included trips down to the resorts, normally off the bus route. Brilliant.
We spread the word among our cruising friends in the anchorage and were joined by 3 other couples, all heading to town early in order to choose a good spot. None of us brought chairs, but we found a good section of curbing and later in the day I found decent port-a-potties in Point-a-Pitre.
None of us lasted for the entire parade, though EW and I stayed the longest. Of course, it started late (Island time, man) and moved slowly as each group stopped periodically to perform their routine. We understand from other cruisers who watched from downtown that the parade went for miles to a red carpeted area where there were judges and multiple television cameras. These crews had a long day. Each one was followed by helpers who towed coolers of chilled water, and toted various items to repair costumes and shoes.
We enjoyed this parade more than any other we’ve seen because this one rarely featured recorded soca music. Most of the crews had percussion bands, some had brass instruments as well, and still others had a number of folks on conch shells. They also had crews that promoted social causes, and a number of groups in full masks, mostly gorilla masks. Many of those had whips they would wield with a very loud snap! Frankly, this was a bit disconcerting to us cruisers, but the locals took it in stride and a number of young children had their own whips. We never did learn much about the costumes, though one of our Franco-Canadian friends asked one of the local folk about it. The person wasn’t sure, but thought that masks were worn years ago to hide the identity of slaves who might be punished for participating. We aren’t sure if that is true, or why gorilla masks were chosen.
Like all Caribbean carnival parades, the costumes were remarkable, and the participants varied in age, body type, and skin color. There were girls on lead drums, lithe young men leading the dancing, and grandmothers shaking their booty (and pretty much everything else). One group celebrated the booty with exaggerated stuffed gluteus maximi, to the enjoyment of all.
Once EW and I realized we weren’t going to make it to the end, we opted to walk backwards along the parade route so we could see more groups. The talk in the harbor the next day included a discussion of how long one had stayed, determined by how many groups we’d seen. We saw over 40 before leaving, over three hours after it started. I applaud anyone who lasted for the entire event, and would recommend that you visit Guadeloupe during carnival and attend this parade and BYO chairs.
We are in France,and since I’ve already acted the Ugly American when re: conversing in AmeriFrench, I thought I’d jump in with both feet and discuss French Sailors and Anchoring.
We who cruise internationally make light of French sailors and their proclivity of anchoring very close to other boats. If there is a large anchorage with a few boats and lots of prime open space, odds are that the French sailor will anchor well within another boat’s safe zone. An international group of sailors who befriended us in the Canaries mentioned that all through the Med, Turkey, and Croatia, they prepared to defend their small circle of territory when ever any French boat entered the harbor. This is even acknowledged when self-aware French sailors discuss anchoring. In a recent conversation, one Canadian cruiser said that she had to repress a laugh when a friend from France complained about someone anchoring too close to her boat. The French woman caught the Canadian’s eye and had the grace to laugh first. The implication is that if a French sailor thinks you are too close –—you are most certainly to darn close!
We had a prime spot at the entrance to Marina Bas Du Fort, where we had a short and relatively chop-free dinghy ride to the marina and were often able get the marina’s Wi-Fi. Of course, this means that many other boats try to anchor in the same location. Some succeed where they shouldn’t.
One such boat was a nearly new catamaran with (of all things) a British flag and pink lettering. We returned from a trip ashore last week to find them anchored well inside La Luna’s zone of safety. As both boats were pointing in the same direction and there was no immediate danger, we wimped out and didn’t address the issue. The next morning, I popped up on deck to lower the dinghy and found the butt end of this cheeky catamaran, very close off La Luna’s stern. How close were they? I don’t think I could have swung the stern ladder down, but if I had, I could have used it to easily clamber aboard their pontoon. Catamarans swing differently than keeled mono-hulls and it’s the wise boat owner who takes that into consideration. I believe my exclamation roused our neighbor who arrived on deck about the same time EW did. At that point, the cat had finally started to swing and we no longer could have shown up for breakfast sans dinghy. They left shortly afterward, and we assumed/hoped they’d left the island
Also last week, a small sloop anchored well off our bow. The (also compact) young couple appeared to be that breed of practical French sailors who cheerfully and adroitly make their way on a small boat with few amenities. While I was off one morning rowing the dingy for exercise, EW had reason to go on deck and could not help but notice that sailing with few amenities requires one to sleep in the nude, and to hang over the stern for one’s morning business. EW was adamant about how much of the young woman he’d seen, but I was a tad skeptical.
Way back when we were dating, after the “I sail and all of my friends sail,” conversation, EW convinced me to take a Power Squadron safety and chart-plotting course. I was a naïve, twenty-something, and two slightly older young professional males also taking the course delighted in teasing me about 1) taking a course at the behest of my boyfriend, and 2) all of the things I would have to endure at sea. One of those things, they assured me, was hanging over the rail bottom-out in order to relieve myself. I was appalled and promptly called EW, after class to let him know that was not an option.
Frankly, I didn’t really think it was an option for anyone, but those same Canadian cruisers mentioned above were well aware of this practice among French sailors. Sure enough, a few days later, I happened on deck to observe a tight compact behind, perched just so on the stern rail, as the lady on board did her morning thing. EUWWW!
So, the scene has been set. The small French boat left for a few days and returned to anchor closer to La Luna’s port side. EW watched them anchor, realized they were astute sailors who understood their boat, and decided that while they had unnecessarily positioned their boat within easy hailing distance, they weren’t close enough to cause problems. A few hours later, a large, new catamaran with pink lettering steamed into the anchorage. The cheeky Brits were back. Knowing their modus operandi, EW and I both sat on deck and stared at them while they tried to find a good spot, ignoring the wide open spaces just a few boats beyond.
The Brits wisely chose to avoid the La Luna zone, and instead anchored just ahead of the little French boat. That couple were on board doing boat projects in the hot Caribbean sun. The young gentleman was in cropped pants, a pink long-sleeved shirt, and a floppy hat. He had been concentrating on repairing his steering vane, and hadn’t seen the Brits anchor. They had scooted below to change into fetching shore outfits and had just lowered their dinghy for a trek to the marina when our petite French captain walked up to the bow and asked them to move.
The burly Brit was reluctant to do so, and a discussion ensued. We couldn’t hear it, but all conversation stopped as the French captain planted both feet on his bow pulpit, leaned back against the forestay, crossed his arms, and simply stared at the Brits. Mrs. Britannica looked around the anchorage and suggested to Mr. B. that they move off to port a bit. He clearly wasn’t ready to declare this his own personal anchoring Waterloo, but abandoned the field of conflict and moved his boat.
We were disappointed. We had been looking forward to the following morning when we imagined the Brits enjoying their tea and scones as a nubile young French female sat on her stern and took a dump, barely a meter aft of the Brit’s raised dinghy.
Dang! That would have been so great! Ah well. In addition to how one says “You are welcome” in French (which get’s huge smiles here), this week I learned the following: 1) The French are different; 2) French sailors do have an anchoring zone of safety, it’s just smaller than ours; and 3) Those guys back in Maine 30 years ago were right. It is possible for a woman to “go” over the rail.
I am, of course, more likely speak French fluently than I am to bare my non-compact Anglo-Saxon butt in that fashion.
First, a recap: We sailed from the Azores to the tiny island of Graciosa, arriving on the 10th of October.
October 17th we sailed to Marina Lanzarote.
November 4th (finally) we sailed back to Graciosa, with the intent of staying as long as possible before provisioning and taking off across the ocean.
November 17th, we sailed back to Marina Lanzarote, earlier than intended due to strong southerly winds. We stayed on the dock, provisioned, played tourist for just a bit, and left on the 21st, motoring south for two hours to get fuel, then motoring north back to Graciosa to fix a few things and prepare the boat for the crossing.
In the Canaries we sometimes struggled not to become “Ugly Americans”. And our impression is not fair to the Canaries, especially as we’ve only seen two of the islands. (Only one if you consider that Graciosa is part of Lanzarote.
First of all, we have not seen any canaries of the feathered variety. In fact, the Canary Island Group is named after the island that is now known as Gran Canaria, and that island was named by the Romans after the multitude of huge dogs roaming about. There’s even a statue of these large, black dogs in Gran Canaria. So, we weren’t in bird islands, we were in dog islands. This was ironic, as you will see.
Marina Lanzarote is on the northern end of the city of Arrecife, conveniently located near the marine stores, some excellent hardware stores, Antonio’s Solar business, the stainless steel company, and walking distance (once one knows the route) to four grocery stores, and IKEA -- of all things. To check into or out of the country, one must take a taxi or walk over two miles to the cruise ship port, farther north.
We had arrived on a Friday, not in time to reach the Port Police, so we spent the weekend visiting with cruisers we had met in Graciosa, walking around our end of town, and enjoying or avoiding the loud grand opening experience at the Marina and it’s somewhat more important shops and restaurants. (Including a Burger King. We cruisers began to call the place “Mall Lanzarote”, not in a good way.) During that weekend we experienced the electrical problems on the dock and blew our transformer. By Monday we knew that we’d be staying in the Marina to install solar panels, and finding things.
On Monday our tasks were to check into the country and get propane. As has been discussed, one proved to be ridiculously easy (especially since we were clearly illegal) and the other impossible. The walk to the cruise ship terminal was at times picturesque, but since there was no cruise ship in port, the lovely walkway ended at a locked gate, and we trudged through the dusty edges of an industrial park to reach the vehicle gate, which was open. No issues. It’s all part of the adventure. (Note, the photo above and the one below left were the picturesque parts. Really.) We were declared legal, and headed to the road and the round-about. After asking directions, we reached a convenience store, about a mile from the cruise ship terminal, where one can exchange butane bottles from DISA, the local supplier. They do not fill tanks there, but the clerk nicely directed us to the factory – located a half mile from the cruise ship terminal – in the other direction.
Still all part of the adventure. Reminded me a bit of getting propane in Hampton Virginia. Sort of. So we trekked back around the round-about, down the hill and toward the DISA factory, to be told in no uncertain terms (despite lack of language skills on both sides) that we would not be able to fill our tanks in the Canaries.
The adventure began to wane.
This island has no trees, except for the occasional ornamental Australian Pine and various palm trees along the sidewalks. The countryside is barren: rock, sand, and stone. For interest there are ruins of stone walls that had been around gardens or salt flats a hundred years ago.
We walked back, over the dirt road in the port industrial zone, to the lovely walkway created for cruise ship passengers, and then on a sidewalk in a shopping district at the edge of town. By then it was 2:00 and we had succeeded only in getting our passports stamped. After lunch, we set off for a shopping district that included the IKEA, two grocery stores, and I thought a lot of smaller shops. We had a list.
We had actually been at the doorway of the IKEA store during our morning trek., but couldn’t find it coming from the other direction in the afternoon. We ended up walking about a mile too far up hill, stopped at a bar for sodas, and got directions sending us back down the hill and (ultimately) into a construction zone.
We were giddy. EW had reached pissed off and gone to not giving a farthing (complete with faux British accent), taking him back to a good mood. As we waded in ankle high dust along a dirt road with a highway just to our left, past an old landfill toward IKEA (we could see the sign), EW said, “You know, if I lived on this island, I wouldn’t even own a dog. It wouldn’t be fair to the dog!” I cracked up. “Seriously,” he continued, “There’s nothing to sniff here!”
The resulting release of laughter and endorphins just made us laugh more when we realized that all of the small shops in the “shopping district” were closed for the day. (Spanish shop hours are strange; some stores close for four hours in the middle of the day, others don’t open until 4:00 and still others close early in the day. We shopped in IKEA, where I was able to purchase three much needed kitchen items for under 10 Euro, and we were able to purchase about a third of our groceries next door. When we were done, a nice security guard at the store called a taxi for us, telling the dispatcher that the driver should look for “dos gringos” with groceries. (Above, the picturesque walk up the hill that took us too far for IKEA. Yes, I requested EW pose to show the exercise equipment. This is a cool idea. This park is a wide lane between a divided street. It’s brutally hot during the day, but one could jog or walk and stop for a workout in the morning or evening. That’s as green as Lanzarote gets.)
A bunch of British folk have retired here on purpose. There is a English language radio station, complete with ads letting you know that haggis and Christmas crackers are available for the holidays, an English language newspaper, and a surprising number of folks in the shops speaking the Queen’s English. I stood in line at a shop with one mother and daughter and asked if they were on vacation. “Oh no. We moved here.” Without thinking, I burst out, “Why?!” (There’s that Ugly American, again.)
All in all, we figured we walked eight miles during our first Monday in Arrecife. They were hard, dusty miles.
OK, this is pretty, It’s the lagoon in town. These small fishing vessels have a channel from the ocean, under two bridges to this harbor.
Still the Canary Islands aren’t our favorite destination. I’m sure in the future that if we aren’t enamored with a town or island, we will say, “If I had to live here, I wouldn’t even own a dog.”
OH! The photo at the top of the page was taken when we motored past the small (only) town on Graciosa.
We haven’t loved the Canary Islands, but we’ve met wonderful people, installed solar panels that are working, and have gotten things done on the boat. We’ve even played tourist a bit. Just a bit. Frankly, we didn’t give the Canaries a chance. At times I’m afraid we’ve been Ugly Americans; we were mostly focused on boat projects and finding parts; we stayed on the boat too much; by necessity we’ve stayed too long in a marina. It’s time to leave.
We had two lovely, quiet, productive weeks in Graciosa. We celebrated EW’s birthday with grilled Azorean steaks, lovely red wine, and cake. EW obsessed over the solar panels and their output, and there were too many hazy, cloudy days. Still, the panels and the wind generator kept up with most of our needs, and the dingy motor worked, so we could ride to town for Wi-Fi and light groceries.
While having this quiet, boat work, contemplative time in Graciosa, EW and I thought about our Atlantic Circle trip and ultimately decided that we didn’t want to sail to Brazil and Argentina, but would rather sail back to the Caribbean. Our plan is to visit some of the islands we haven’t explored, hang a few weeks in the Virgin Islands, and sail west to the San Blas for a while. There, we’ll join Jaime and Keith on S/V Kookaburra, Carrie and Carl on S/V Firefly, and perhaps some of our new friends from the Canaries. We don’t plan to go through the canal, but would be delighted to once again help other boats transit it.
Which brings me to old friends. When we arrived back in Graciosa just before EW’s birthday, I noticed a seaworthy white boat with red trim and mentioned that she looked like a fine boat. After we anchored, EW realized that we knew that boat! She’s S/V Bear, formerly owned by Chuck and Diane, our neighbors at South Port. EW crossed with them from Tenerife to Antigua, and we both helped them transit the Panama Canal.
Now she’s owned by a family, also from the states, and we chatted with them as they were raising the anchor. (They had a lot of chain out and came close to our stern. All good -- the better to chat with them.) According to the woman on board, “Rust is the new black.”Bear looked happy , and ready for another adventure and yet another crossing.
As are we. Sailing in the Canaries is better in the summer when the winds are more constant and less threatening. Like the Azores, there are few comfortable anchorages and none that are safe in a strong southerly. Strong southerlies were predicted for Wednesday of this week, so we joined the other sailboats in exiting the otherwise lovely anchorage. When we left, only 7 boats remained and most of them were getting ready to raise the anchor. Since we had to go back to Lanzarote for final provisioning and to check out of the Canaries, and since we were now planning on crossing to the Caribbean, and since it’s just a matter of a week or so before yet another round of southerlies, we’ve decided to leave the Canaries.
As I write this, it’s Thursday, November 20th. EW has gone to check out of the marina so we can trek on over to the Port Police office and check out of the islands. We’ll get the veggies, fruits and other cold stuff on the way back, visit with dock mates this afternoon and evening, and leave the marina on Friday. Shhhh. Don’t tell the Port Police, but we’ll finish preparing the boat at Graciosa, and begin our crossing on Monday or Tuesday. As before, I’ll update the blog via our SSB and pactor modem. Though we told folks in our email list that we were sailing to Barbados, we might end up on St. Marten, or Guadeloupe. Our first port of call may be up in the air, but we are definitely heading west.
It’s time. But that doesn’t mean we are done with the Azores. EW has agreed that we will make another Atlantic Circle in a couple of years. Who know where that will take us? Life is good at sea.
The Canary Islands, and to a lesser extent, the Cape Verdes islands are gathering points for folks crossing the Atlantic. This is a busy time in the marinas, and Marina Lanzarote was filling up as we left to return to Graciosa. Two weeks prior, the marina had allowed us to move to a dock where we could use the Honda generator, and where our neighbors were one workboat and ten or twelve local racing boats. After the sailboats left for a race back to the nearby island of Fuerteventura, we shared the dock with Pablo, Marco and their crew as they worked on their new, second or third hand workboat. They’d purchased her from an Englishman. Pablo speaks fairly good English and is a delight – a diver, business owner, and racing sailor. He reminded me of Favorite, so after we became friends I did gently ask him whether he knew “about his boat’s name”.
He looked chagrined and said that he did. They will change her name to Tandem Alpha, to signify that two strong men own her. He and his crew didn’t mind the generator – and in fact they made more noise than we did, and we didn’t mind that.
As the days progressed and the marina began to fill, more and more cruising boats joined us. One French gentleman asked why we ran the generator, but he was out near the end of the pier and assured us the two hours she ran in mid-day didn’t bother them at all. Over the next few days, more and more French boats were placed near us, one docking stern-to right across from us.
The first day they arrived, I went over and apologized for running the generator, explaining that our transformer had died and we had no choice but to run Jenny while we installed the solar panels. They were very forgiving, only asking whether we ran it at night. Upon assurance that Jenny would only be operated up to three hours a day between ten and four, we were forgiven. (It had been our experience in the Azores that the French were more disturbed by the use of the generator than any other nationality.)
Now that we were good neighbors, they told us that they were crossing the Atlantic in order to head up to Virginia for the Hermione Project. At least 20 boats from France will join this replica of Lafayette’s ship and follow in her wake from Virginia to Lunenberg, Nova Scotia, stopping in New York, Boston, and Castine along the way. It sounds like a great thing to do, and certainly patriotic, but they won’t see much of Maine as their schedule is a little tight.
In addition to what EW and I called the “French Contingent”, other sailors from other Atlantic rallies filled the docks. There were folks participating in this year’s ARC, most of whom will leave directly from Lanzarote, while others will first stop in the Cape Verdes; and folks from Jimmy Cornell’s Odyssey – some just doing the Atlantic crossing, and others planning on joining his around the world odyssey.
EW and I have no plans to join a formal rally, but were delighted to be asked to join the “Atlantic Crossing Group”. This Google Group of sailors was formed in 2013 by a couple sailing to the Caribbean who wanted to stay in touch and share ideas with others who were crossing. The folks we partied with three weeks ago in Graciosa all belong to this group. We were welcomed with open arms and made new friends from the US, Great Britain, New Zealand, Australia, Germany, Ireland, and Turkey. A number of them were very helpful during our double quest for solar power and butane. There are musicians in the group, and we took over one of the docks one evening for an impromptu jam session. This was our kind of group.
When I signed on, I noticed that the description calls us “over the hill” sailors. I both resembled and resented that remark and said so in a group posting. Now I have to come up with a new description. It’s that kind of group – do-it-yourselfers and delegators – our kind of people. While we truly enjoyed all the people we’ve met, my favorite new sailing friends are Lucy and Ben. I’m appalled that I have no photos of them. They are from Great Britain, and are good sailors, except they can be known to shed quite a bit. One of the boats from Great Britain have not one, but two Labrador Retrievers on board. Big, gentle, loving, tail-wagging labs. I fell in love. Their people,Jack and Fizzy, are neat, too.
As always, EW and I will set our own course, point of departure, and destination – but we’ll keep in touch with our new friends via sailmail and SSB. Life is good at sea.
At left and above, a gathering of the members of our group who were at the marina. Other members were en route from Gibraltar or Morocco, anchored in Graciosa, or sailing in the Canaries or Cape Verdes. It’s an independent kind of group.
At the top of the post, looking from our “meeting” to boats on the dock at Marina Lanzarote.