Leg 9: Gomera

Many colleague cruisers advised us to stop at Gomera, and to explore its inland.  However, as a promise makes for a debt unpaid, our first priority was to locate a play area, as we had told the kids during the crossing we would find a play ground asap once we arrived. Number two on our list was the overdue maintenance of the winches, as one had started squeaking on the way over. Unfortunately and in accordance with popular belief, the previous owner was convinced that the maximum quantity of grease that could be pumped into a winch the equalled the minimum to guarantee smooth operation. This made the cleaning operation laborious and messy, though the improvement was all the more enjoyable. To minimize the amount of help offered by our OS’s, Leen took them for another spin at the playground and a round of ice cream.

After these two small delays we were ready to get into town on day three to start our exploratory works. However, the oldest of our three tropical storms imposed a change of plans in his proper style, by tumbling down the cabin stairs even though the lower one of the two hatches was installed. His fall resulted in an involuntary double “salto mortale”, with the stairs being non intended intermediate supports. It took him a few minutes before he was willing to discuss the damage sustained, but the latter was limited to pain in the right foot and a lightly wounded tongue. The pain in the foot persisted however, and Kwinten refused to walk on it, even to go to the playground, so we decided to pay yet another weekend visit to a hospital. X-rays showed no broken bones, and the pain seemed to come from a bad strain.

Our city exploration got of to a late start, and was limited to a bike ride due to our patient’s condition. Nonetheless Gomera charmed us from the start. As most of the islands on our route, they claim a place in the discovery of America.  Apparently Gomera was Columbus’ last stop before the jump over the pond, and it was here he filled his water tanks, making Gomera claim it provided the water to baptize the Americas. The legend further explained that yet another of Columbus’s mistresses lived at Gomera, making him the model example of a true seaman with a woman in each port…

The course of day 4 at Gomera was also changed due to the condition of the kids. Hannelien fell from her bunk the night before, resulting in a bloody nose.  A few hours later she started vomiting, making us fear the worst. However, once everything was cleaned and changed, her bed companion Lotte, still suffering from diarrhoea, also emptied her stomach on the sheets. To make for a full house, Kwinten was unable to reach the toilet quick enough for diarrhoea in the early morning hours, much of his delay due to his injured foot.  To make things better, we spent the day on the boat, to rest and recover from the infections and sprain.

The next day we reopened our baby-chair hunt, as the one chair proves too popular to satisfy the demand of our three experienced pilots. Surprise, surprise we found one in the local motorcycle store, and cheap too. After installation we continued our exploration of San Sebastian by bike, with one full female bike equipped with two baby seats, and one male bike with no baby seats. Kwinten loves to stand behind the handlebars, which, though not the most secure way, it is the only one we can get out all of us.

On day 6 we were finally ready to discover the inland of the island, but the scenery was more then worth the wait. It is not easy to reach the most spots, as sometimes you need to pass over Rome to get to the next place, but the views make it more than worthwhile. It is not the kids’ most favourite activity, so we always try to throw in a playground mid way to balance things out.

On the second day we tried to go for a walk in the “Parque Nacional”. However appealing, it is near to impossible for us to pull it off. Even the shortest, easiest walking routes have quite a height difference in them. Most of them cover these changes by some type of rudimentary stairways, which, though Kwint and Lotte really try to go for it, gets them knackered after less then 500 m. After an extended stop at the parking lots two playgrounds we continued to Valle Gran Rey, a tourist sea side development in its early stages. At this moment it is still small and picturesque, though too many construction is going on to ensure its character much longer. We ate here and then spent some time on the beach and chasing fish in the little pools left by the ebb tides. We also had planned to visit Playa Santiago, but a sleeping back bench prevented us of doing so…

After a week at Gomera, we started heading back to Tenerife. Our package with spare parts from Belgium was overdue by one week, and it seemed difficult for FEDEX to deliver us a coherent explanation of its whereabouts since its arrival through Madrid. Despite these the package suddenly and unannounced turned up in the marina office when Wouter went down to settle the bill… 

We had no wind for most of the trip, until about 15 miles from Marina San Miguel, when we hit the acceleration zone between Tenerife and Gran Canaria.  The wind quickly picked up to 20 and later 25 knots. We first tried (and succeeded) to keep all 100 square meters of cloth flying, but at 25 knots we decided to take one reef and roll the Genoa a bit. Despite the baggy Genoa we were able to do about 6 knots at 45 degrees upwind. An Elan 434, which had started the upwind beat at about the same time and place, arrived some 45 minutes later at the marina.

Though we had considered to use Marina San Miguel as our base for exploring Tenerife, we soon changed our mind. The water end of the marina is only about 20% completed, and the prices are the highest we found so far in the Canaries. 30 Euros per night to enjoy the right of staying on a construction yard, in the middle of the approach of Tenerife’s southern airport. We happily decided to leave port early the next morning to continue beating upwind to Santa Cruz. It was not a dead upwind, as we went NNE and the wind was blowing NE. Still we needed two legs to the East to make it. The wind was either a steady 20 knots or a steady 25 knots, with little or no gusts once established. A tad strange, but marvellous sailing weather for Aspro. Luckily we had changed our 50 square meter Genoa 1 for the 32 square meter Genoa 3. This still makes for 82 square meters of upwind cloth in unreefed conditions, but Aspro carries these very well in the 18 to 25+ knots range. At 25 knots the rigging seems near perfect giving her all the pressure she needs to plough through the waves unassisted at about 6,5 to 7 knots.

Upon arrival in Santa Cruz we moored next to a Bavaria 42 confotainer. They had left San Miguel about 30 minutes after us, and had arrived at Santa Cruz about 45 minutes earlier. The only but being they had covered the complete 35 miles under engine, while we covered 55 miles of upwind beating, and had done so completely under sail… To make up to the kids, we made pancakes for dinner. However, they actually quite enjoyed living in an inclined world, forcing them to crawl to get anywhere. All infections and sprains healed, no seasickness disturbed the playing and reading inside Aspro, though, as usual, the supervising adult had more difficulties coping with the circumstances….

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