September 17, 2008
The best thing about a long passage is that it ends. I can’t tell you how good it feels to be safely anchored at your destination after days at sea. Although this last passage wasn’t a real long one and it wasn’t in the Pure Hell class, it was still a passage. We were hoping the 600 miles from Gibraltar to the Canary Islands would take four days. Yah sure, ya bettcha. It took two days to get out of the Straits of Gibraltar! We left the Queensland Quay Marina on September 11th because that was when they kicked us out. Space there was as dear as it is in the rest of the Med.
Gibraltar at sunrise.
We were hit with about 20 knots of choppy seas as soon as we left the breakwater. It wasn’t long before Gene said, “Screw this!” We crossed the Bay of Gibraltar and tucked into a protected cove on the Spanish side. It was a good anchorage and we spent a restful night. The whole of the next day was spent in the Strait. We slowly worked our way to about three miles west of the lighthouse at Tarifa, Spain. Then, a combination of 20 knots on the nose, and a four knot current held us in that spot for 5 hours! At times we even went backwards! Not a great beginning for a passage. Well, it was Friday. We finally broke away when the tide eased at around 7:00pm. A few hours later, the Mediterranean was astern, and we sailed into our third ocean. Africa lay a few miles to our left and to our right the Atlantic stretched for thousands of miles before it lapped the shimmering sands of Bermuda.
The forecast was 15 to 20 knots from the north so we were thinking we’d have an easy, downwind sail all the way to Lanzarote. The winds were 20 from the north, but a six foot swell came from the west. Were these generated by the hurricanes off the east coast of America? I ate sea sick pills every three hours and collected bruises as we were tossed about. The pointy end of the companionway steps left a nice one in the middle of my stomach. The last two days were quite pleasant and the last night the wind died completely. When we slowed to 2.2 knots and the sails were flogging, we turned on the iron sail and adjusted speed to arrive off Lanzarote when the sun rose. It was a beautiful night, and a brilliant full moon bathed the nearly flat seas with its glow. For a short time, the calm around Peregrine was broken by the backs of tiny dolphins swimming along with us. (This moment was bitter-sweet for me. I am the Founder and President of the Miniature Cetacean Society, and for just a second, I thought I may have found THEM! Alas, they were too large to fit the criteria. Well, there is still half a planet ahead! The Society does accept donations and a membership is only $5,000 U.S. [about half that in any other currency except Sudanese Dinars]. Founding Memberships are still available for only $15,000. With membership you automatically receive bi-centennial deliveries of our excellent publication, Chimera. There’s more… Founding Members also receive, absolutely free, a beer-washed Miniature Cetacean Society tee-shirt.)
Coming up on Lanzarote and Isla Graciosa
We reached the islands just as the sky began to lighten. The winds were north-easterlies and we decided the best place to anchor would be off the little island of Graciosa just to the north of Lanzarote. My Canary Island bird book* doesn’t include Isla Graciosa, so I was happy to anchor off it and have a chance to explore and note the birds I found there. The book does mention that the cliffs on the north coast of Lanzarote are home to Barbary Falcons. The anchorage on Grasiosa is about a half mile from the 1,600 ft. high cliffs on Lanzarote. The strait between the two islands is called the Estrecho del Rio. If I could see a Barbary Falcon, it would take a little sting out of missing a Red-footed Falcon while I was in the Med. As we sailed down the Strait, I kept my eyes on the cliffs to my left. There! Falcons! Two of them! I got my bins on one. It was too far to see well and was flying away from me. I could only see that it was a falcon. I kept the bins up hoping it would turn, but it dropped down from the blue of the sky to soar against the dark cliffs and I lost it. Birding can be a frustrating hobby at times. Gene was patiently waiting for me to stop fiddling around so he could get the main down.
Cliffs of Lanzarote
We anchored in Bahia del Salado on the southern end of Grasiosa (29 13.360N 13 30.782W**). No more three hours on, three hours off! We can go to bed and sleep as long as we want. But first, a real meal! It was about noon, so we decided on a brunch with Bloody Marys for starters. I made an ingredients challenged Huevos Rancheros and it turned out so good I am entering it in my Cruising Cookbook. I’m calling it Huevos Canariensis, or maybe Canary Huevos. It’s pretty much a classic Huevos except that the corn tortillas have been replaced with English bacon, the salsa ranchero includes thyme, and very sharp Cheddar is the cheese. It was really great and we stuffed ourselves. After brunch, I went out to scan for falcons and take in our new surrounds. What a neat place! Really interesting geology. I’ll write about that next, this has been a long enough post. I’m full, securely anchored and very tired. I’m crashing.
*A Birdwatchers’ Guide To The Canary Islands by Tony Clarke and David Collins
**Dad, from this point on, I will post the Lat. and Long. of our anchorages to save you a few tedious hours of Google Earthing our whereabouts. I couldn’t find a degree mark so I just left a space after the number. Does anybody out there know how I can make a degree mark?