Leg 8: Gran Canaria

We assigned Las Palmas as our place of final decision as whether to cross the Atlantic or not, and also to execute a list of various small repair and maintenance works. The engine came first, checking all fluid levels thoroughly and changing oil and filters. Second, and less appealing, came the maintenance of the toilet.

It took until the late hours of the evening, as the damage inflicted by the previous owner on the various elements was far worse then could be seen from the outside. Not only did he change various screws for larger (non Inox) ones, he had also glued various gaskets in place using Sicaflex. The reason for the Sicaflexing soon became clear, as the surfaces of the various components looked more like a moon landscape then anything else. As usual, Murphy dropped by for a visit. After re-installing everything, the toilet still refused to work. Another demounting and installation later, nothing had changed. The water did not want to evacuate, even under heavy pressure on the handle. Due to an incredible coincidence, the drainage pipe had been obstructed just before the maintenance was started…

To make things worse, and despite the new pump, the damage on the existing system proved too bad to make for a waterproof revised bowl. As the toilet gets heavily used, and sometimes takes a pounding through operation by minors, it was decided to clean the new pump and take it back to the store to swap it for a complete new toilet set. The installation of this new toilet lasted almost as long as the maintenance session, as the various fastenings, drainage tubes etc were located in slightly different places then our old version. The throne is also smaller, to great liking of the kids. They think a special “child size” toilet had been installed in their honour, while Leen also sees this evolution with a good eye, hoping it might limit the duration of the toilet visits for certain crew members.

Due to its size, most common retail and supermarket chains have an outlet in Gran Canaria, another reason why we wanted to visit this marina. We undertook a laborious trip to the Decathlon, to look for baby seats for the bikes and a backpack/babysling. As happens most of the times, the distance between the marina and the bus station as estimated by the locals was wrong by about 300%. We came back empty handed however, as the baby chairs were almost bigger then our folding bikes, and the backpack carriers were all sold out.

Our first Sunday in Las Palmas was very slow, as the complete city was completely dead. Even the gantry cranes in the port seemed to have the day off. We went for a long walk to scout the city and get some energy out of the kids, and got to know Las Palmas as a big, Spanish city with little appeal. If the rest of the island proves to be similar, we might be leaving soon, making the question of “where do we leave to?” more pressing.

Being in Las Palmas, which is the natural starting point of many transats, we ran into many people we know from previous encounters getting ready for the jump. It kept us in doubt if we should go or not. We are ready, the boat is, but will it be fun? Reading various websites of boats with children, we find a lot of tension on board of many boats. Most people who make long crossings are type one sailors, for which the sailing is a job and a means to get from A to B, while only few people are type two sailors, who really enjoy the long voyages and stretches at sea because they plainly love to be underway with a sailing boat. Al of us are rather type 1 sailors… One of the people we met made a very correct comment: “The children are certainly not asking to go on such a long trip on such a confined space…”

Despite the many outlets in Gran Canaria, it still is hard to locate various less common items. We had to dedicate a full day to the search of two bike baby seats, and we eventually found only one in the Corte Ingles. It was nearly exactly what we wanted: compact, light weight and to be installed on the bike’s steer. In the whole of the Canaries, there was no second one available and there was even none on order. Delivery would therefore take more then 1 month, a tad too long for our schedule. The baby seat soon proved its worth and popularity with all three of the kids. They love to be seated on the steer, being able to see everything and call out all necessary warnings, such as: “light is red”; “dog shit straight ahead”; “bad people crossing the road while pedestrian light is red”; “bad car making lots smoke to the left”; etc.

Another advantage of Las Palmas is the presence of a beach and anchorage within the port limits, which makes for an ideal windsurf spot in a safe and confined area. Leen and Wouter took advantage of this by going windsurfing and refining their abilities. The kids enjoyed the beach and did some wave surfing on their body boards, dressed in the small neoprene suits.

To save ourselves from further travel adventures to the shopping centers, we rented a small Kia Picanto, which proved completely inadequate for a five people family. The trunk is too small to even hold the normal amount of gadgetry carried by our kids, much less the groceries for 4 weeks. Upon return from the “Alcampo” (Auchamp), the only really free spot was the driver seat and steering wheel, while Leen and the kids were literally boxed in and covered with spaghetti, sausages and other edible items.  We also used the car to make a tour on the island, visiting yet another zoo/animal farm.  We again spent most of the day in the zoo. We also visited two mountain villages in the north, Firgas and Arucas, which were worth wile. The Canary Islands are starting to bore us a bit, being a real paradise for surfers and beach worshippers, but coming up short if one has visited more attractive places like Madeira and others.

Or second Sunday in Las Palmas was quite a bit more eventful. A Lagoon 45 was assigned a berth on our pontoon, and had quite job getting in. After she was finally moored, thanks to the help of about three other crews, she was told to shift to another, bigger berth. The trip out of the berth ended up worse than the one in. Picking up one of the mooring lines with its propeller, the cat became totally out of control and lost this prop. After much pulling, pushing and line working the Lagoon ended up in precisely the same spot it had left 30 minutes earlier, be it about 1,5 kg lighter…

As Wouter dived in nearly every marina we visited so far, be it for cleaning Aspro’s bottom, recovering umbrellas, clothes pins or other valuable items thrown overboard by either our kids or neighbouring crews, it was predictable he would jump in for another round of bottom searching. The training clearly paid off, as the various propeller elements were fished in less then 5 minutes. Later another dive was needed to pick up the severed mooring together with a line which was lost in the heath of the action. Wouter decided to dive in apnoea in 9 meters of water, a decision he regretted for the next two days as it caused him a mild tough annoying sinusitis…  

Our next stop is Gomera, as a small miscommunication made the grandparents send the spare parts package a tad early. Once we have received these, we will go back to Tenerife to visit the island in depth. We covered the distance again in two day trips, with first Las PalmasSanta Cruz on the menu. About 55 nM straight through one of the worst acceleration zones in the island group. With the wind coming from the east, we did not experience much of the normal acceleration, but were affected in a 25 nM zone directly to the west of the lowland between Gran Canaria and its peninsula. The winds there were blowing between 20 and 35 knots, with force before and after this zone around a meagre 12 knots. We left Santa Cruz early the next day to cover the 64 nM to Gomera. The day started off without wind, and remained so until about 15 nM from our destination. The sailing between the various Canary Islands has not really been superb so far dominated by unstable winds in both direction and force.

Lotte’s stomach infection had her suffer from sea sickness. Luckily her brother spotted dolphins shortly after her first vomiting, something which clearly affected her state of mind in a positive way. Their visit was brief, probably due to a fish bank nearby, but their show and jumps certainly made up for the briefness.

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