Storm brewing over Tenerife
Living the Dream, part 7
The Canary Isles and Countdown to the Big One!
We did not in fact leave on Friday 17 November 2006, because a couple of days before, we checked our working jib for fraying along the leech and discovered more damage than we had seen when actually sailing. We contracted a local sailmaker to replace the sacrificial UV strip, which we had expected to have to replace next year anyway. Although efficient, there was nevertheless a little bit of Spanish mañana slippage and we sailed a day later on Saturday 18 November at 0745. The sail across to Santa Cruz de Tenerife was uneventful with no acceleration zone winds until very close to Tenerife and we arrived at 1100 the next day.
We entered the marina and had to wait for the marina staff to organise themselves and eventually we tied up. We were not impressed with the marina, as it was cramped, dirty, disorganised and lacking in security. We were, however, aware that there were at least three good chandlers in Santa Cruz, to get spares for the BIG ONE. When I went to the reception to check in, I was shocked to find out that the marina charges of 16 euro were increased to 56 euro by port charges. As Siobhán was tired we decided to stay just one night and then sail south to a more reasonable anchorage or marina. Accordingly, the next morning, after visiting a couple of nearby shops, we sailed out of Santa Cruz and headed south into a south-westerly force 5. We tacked down the coast and dropped anchor in a quiet little bay behind Punta de Abona lighthouse and spent a quiet night there, maintaining an anchor watch, as there was some swell running and we were only in 2 metres of water. Otherwise a perfect night.
The following morning we sailed peacefully down the coast to Marina San Miguel, a partially built development, which, although basic in its facilities, provided everything we needed (showers, launderette, bar and nearby restaurants and supermarket for fresh hot rolls in the morning). In fact we stayed here until 1 December.
Siobhán and Lawry, Mount Tiede
— a fat,toothless old man
We hired a car for a week and this facility enabled us to travel back to Santa Cruz and visit the chandlers there, tour the various markets and drive up to Mount Tiede and the surrounding National Park. Spectacular is an understatement for this moonlike surface leading up to the volcano itself.
Unfortunately, on the day we visited the volcano, the wind on top was too strong for use of the cable car, but our picnic with the lava fields all around made it a memorable visit.
I hope that the photographs will describe it well enough. While in possession of the car we also visited some hypermarkets and we were able to stock up with preserved foodstuffs for our impending long voyage.
San Sebastian de la Gomera
Finally, on 1 December, we sailed away from Tenerife and towards the port of San Sebastian de la Gomera, a small island to the west of Tenerife. We had chosen this island for our ultimate departure, as it is unconnected with the larger islands, is unconnected with Gran Canaria and the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) and was the island from which Christopher Columbus set sail on his voyages of discovery. We did not regret our decision, as we fell in love with its beauty, its prehistoric splendour of flora and fauna, the magnificent roadbuilding skills, the friendly and helpful nature of the inhabitants and the simplicity of the island life.
Siobhán and Adam at the helm
en route to La Gomera
We hired a car for a day and drove around the spectacular countryside to Valle Gran Rey, where we had a simple lunch, before driving back, with the intention of visiting the tropical forest in the centre of the island. We got more than we bargained for, as we found ourselves driving up 1-in-4 (25%) hills, with hairpin bends into a forest wilderness.
We stopped finally in a garden of a disused shack on the edge of a precipice. I gingerly reversed, with my hand on the handbrake and sighed with relief, when we finally regained the main road. We had mistakenly chosen one of the small roads, which the local government have turned into tourist walking tracks.
We took some photographs of the dramatic scenery on that tour of the island. One of them is of Mount Tiede peeping out above the clouds across the channel between Tenerife and La Gomera. Picture postcard!
Love in the time of Canaria
By now, Adam, my elder son, had completed his ‘Day skipper’ with Canary Sail and assisted us in final preparations for our departure. He had just one last appointment to complete, with a DJ friend, Saul, who was doing a gig in Las Americas on Tenerife. He went there and stayed overnight and I believe among the crowd of DJs and other musical persona in the party, he fell in love numerous times with Tenerife’s young female offerings.
We, meanwhile, went to the beautiful Parador, which overlooks the port in La Gomera, for a superb departure dinner. It reminded us so much of our honeymoon, when we stayed in Paradors throughout Spain.
Next day was taken up with last-minute purchasing of fruit and vegetables (ensuring that we obtained variety and unripe, to last as long as possible), topping up with water and paying our port dues, plus obtaining a signed certificate of leaving La Gomera en route for Barbados. This is necessary for the authorities at the end of the voyage in Barbados.
This was it then, the day had arrived, the moment for which I had dreamed for so many years and for which Siobhán and I had worked and prepared for the previous two to three years or more. There was no trumpeting salute, no crowd with fireworks, no grandiose speeches and presentations, no tears and damp handkerchiefs, just the simple request, “slip bow and stern lines”, ... and we were away from the ties of land for at least the next three or four weeks or more, until we once more rejoin the realm of the land people.
As I write this, we are about 900 miles from our destination, with possibly another week of sailing ahead of us, after already spending two weeks at sea. Adam is on watch in the cockpit, in the blazing sun, we are travelling at 5.6 knots, with the easterly trade winds blowing us gently towards Barbados. Siobhán is lying in the cool saloon, reading as the boat gently rocks from side to side in the 9-foot (3 m) swell. We have our full main to port with preventer and lightweight genoa poled out to starboard and we are sailing goose-winged along the same ancient trade wind route used so successfully by Columbus and other great mariners. Idyllic sailing? Yes. Paradise? Not quite, but heading there.
Living the Dream? You bet we are, and to the full.
Lawry, Siobhán and Adam Nunn, 3 December 2006
San Sebastian de La Gomera:
Light Blue ready to go