Leg 7: Lanzarote and Graciosa

One of the reasons to choose Calero as our port of call in Lanzarote was the free WIFI service in the Marina, reaching to within our steel hull. We spent three successive days surfing in an attempt to figure out our route options. As a break of these activities, we scouted the immediate surroundings of the marina by foot.  This included the whale and dolphin museum, whose interactive features went in overdrive once they were located by Kwint and Lotte. We also soon discovered there isn’t much more then the marina with its fancy shops and high society villas.

We again rented a car for two days, to explore the island. Our first stop was Cesar Manrique’s house, a local artist whose influence you can find all over the island.  He was an architect and sculptor, and was the unofficial chief of urban development on Lanzarote. Many of the tourist attractions, roundabouts and government buildings carry his signature. Although we feared the visit might be dull for the kids, they actually loved it. The house is built inside volcanic bubbles, which makes for many tunnels and stairways. Kwinten and Lotte had us do the complete tour three times, and still were crying when we drove off to Jameos del Agua. To us, looking back, the house was one of the best attractions of Lanzarote.

On the other hand, Jameos del Agua was a bit disappointing. It is a complex of volcanic caves containing a lake, home to a unique species of blind crabs. Many of the bubbles have been turned into cafeterias or restaurants, so we took lunch there before moving further north to the “Mirador”. Again, like Jameos del Agua, the Mirador was designed by Cesar Manrique. Like most other attractions on Lanzarote, it also charges 8 Euros entrance fee. We did not enter, but enjoyed the view over Graciosa from a spot 200 meters further south. The drive back became something of a bowling along, as the fuel tank was nearing empty. Luckily most was downhill, and we found a fuel station in time, sparing the driver from a laborious pushing exercise.

After our day out, Wouter had another crack at our obnoxious Webasto hot air heather. Because of the cold weather, combined with the negative outcome of the repair attempt, the gravity stove was lit. This however caused the tank level indicator to show near empty, so we switched the fuel pump on, thinking this might be the reason for our failing Webasto. The filling seemed awfully slow, and thus Wouter took off to the supermarket. Returning he found out that the tank had been overflowing excess diesel straight to the bilges. The clean up proved we had pumped about 12 liters into the keel, while the indicator glass was still reading near empty. A closer look thought that the glass is connected to the point as the stove feed, which seems to cause this anomaly.

The next day we chose to travel south, first to marina Rubicon to buy spares. Apart from these spares, there weren’t a lot reasons to stay, so we veered off to go and see the camels. The camelride is a typical mass tourist attraction in Lanzarotte’s national park, and though we normally shiver from these, we did not want to miss this one. Maybe it might turn out to be a splendid training for next years Antwerp Camel Rally, allowing us to make it in time at the Antwerp cathedral this time.  Lotte and Kwinten needed some time to warm to the animals, but we finally were able to mount them.

After 5 days at Lanzarotte, we were eager to move on. We visited most of the island, and got fed up with Calero Marina and its endless list of DO’s and DON’Ts. The most annoying one was the ban of drying your laundry on the lifelines, while they were charging 6 Euros for 30 minutes of airing cupboard. Apparently, the drying laundry spoils the attraction for the bus loads of tourists, who drop by for 30 minutes per turn to watch the zoo of yachties. As many others, we kind of skipped this DON’t by hanging the laundry just before taking off for the day.

From Lanzarote we went back to Isla de la Graciosa, to spend Christmas with our Spanish (oops, sorry Marti, I meant CATALAN) friends. The wind was blowing between 10 and 20 knots from the NE, making it an upwind beat. Despite the oscillating wind strength, we managed to clock a 6 knot average in 35 – 45 degrees true wind angles, even with the rudder blocked in a 4 degrees bearing off position. We discovered we need to close more valves, to prevent backwash in the sinks. Aspro also moves gentle through the waves at these courses, making live inside very bearable.

On Christmas Eve we only had to pull up a chair to enjoy a marvellous banket which Marti and Yaiza had prepared. The day before they went fishing with Miguel, a Graciosa born and raised fisherman who loves his island. Christmas day was spent windsurfing in shorty.  Leen went first, and, according to her own description, it was more of a swim then a surf. Lotte did not like the sight of her mom swimming, starting to cry every time she fell in the water. The next two days were also spent surfing, and one day we even took “Gudrun V”, Marti and Yaiza’s boat, to anchor at Playa la Francesa, thus optimizing the available surf stretch.  Spurred by the moment, we decided to get surf gear to keep our roll going.

Our time at Graciosa was fantastic, and it sometimes seemed Yaiza and Marti were trying to keep us here by showing the most beautiful spots.  A long walk to the north turned a bit sour for Wouter, twisting his ankle again returning by taxi.  The others luckily continued to reach a wonderful beach, unspoiled and lonely.  They stayed until darkness, to return by taxi. However, the words “taxi” and “car” are a tad special at Graciosa. 99,9 per cent of the cars in Graciosa are Land Rover Defenders in different stages of dissolution, while the other two cars are Toyotas. A taxi is just another Land Rover, but one that stops when you wave and which you can pay for. Apart from that, nothing differentiates them from their homologues.

Just before New Year, we went to Lanzarote to buy our surf gear. We reached the surf shop around 9:00, and monopolized the French owner for about half a day to gather our set. Around the corner was a “high jumping” attraction, with trampolines and bungee lines. Kwinten and Lotte were very eager try it, and had both already taken off there shoes to be told by the operator they were too small to have a go at it. Very disappointed Kwinten sneaked away from Leen. He had returned to the surf shop, hurt about being called small, and looking for confirmation from his daddy that he was not little….

We got a complete surf set, including one board, three sails, two masts, two booms, two trapezes, two lengtheners for about 1000 Euros. All equipment was Neill Pryde, apart from the board. If we would have bought it new, the counter would have stopped at triple or quadruple.

On the 30th of December we generously celebrated Hannelien’s first birthday on Graciosa, going to the playground and having cake.  Yaiza made a real surprise pancake pie, almost identical to the one in the Kwinten and Lotte’s favourite book “Opa Pettson’s pancake pie”! We looked back at last year, contemplating, remembering how proud Kwint and Lotte were with their little sister, and how much they missed her when she had to remain in the ER to fight off the infection. How cranky they got each day we were unable to bring her home with us, and how they showed their relief with a 15 minute hug once she could come home…

The day after was New Year’s Eve… Marti, Miguel and Wouter went out fishing to catch the party food. In and around the marine reserve of Graciosa, fishing with nets is prohibited, and only the professional fishermen are allowed to use an electric reel. Considering that the fish grounds are located in 300 to 400 meters of water, one can imagine the work for a sport fisherman who want to take a shot. Luckily Miguel and his brothers are one of the 8 remaining professional fishermen crews on Graciosa, meaning we could go at it with the electrical reels. We caught 4 “Merlusa” (hakes), one small shark and an eel. Wouter caught the second biggest hake, though the only real work involved in this achievement was putting the bate on the hook; the rest was pushing buttons.

 Back at the marina, Miguel caught a “Pulpo” (cephalopod), and all this fresh food was turned into a delicious meal by Marti. We thought again about last year, and the contrast between both Newyears could not have been greater…

Our first week of 2008 was quite similar to our last week of 2007, filled with surfing trips and walks to different parts of the island. Our last day was spent preparing Aspro for the sail to Las Palmas. After longer stays in a port this always tends to take a few hours, folding bikes, taking down the wind generator, un-tenting,… We also ate the “Roscon de Reyes”, the typical Spanish cake to celebrate the 6th of January. One day late, but this is getting standard procedure. Sinterklaas also needed an extra day to find our chimney on Aspro.

The idea was to go straight from Graciosa to Las Palmas. However, at one of our friends on board “Luigi Presto” was injured, we made a detour via Castillo, so we could sail together with them in 2 daytrips. During our trip to Castillo, we experienced our first  MOB emergency. Due to an unlucky manoeuvre of Pirate boat Captain Kwinten, the first mate ended up trapped, head down in one of Aspro’s cockpit drain holes, causing considering desperation in Cap Kwint. The first problem to be solved was to get the poor soul freed from his awkward position, while at the same time making sure he would not be hit by our propeller once he came loose. Pushing with a sail batten was to no avail. The Ocean swell came to the rescue, lifting Aspro so the cockpit drain was exposed. It then took two attempts to recover the distressed swimmer from the water. After 35 minutes of warming up in a big shower towel, the mate was as good as new again. For the peace of mind of the grand parents, the first mate of the Pirate Boat is about 8 cm high, bulky, and made of plastic…

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