The Islands of Eternal Spring – First Stop: Lanzarote

The Canary Islands, formed in the early 1700s by volcanic eruptions, are considered the sunshine center of Europe with year round mild temperatures and a plethora of outstanding natural attractions. Five out of the the eight islands that make up the Canaries are actually Biosphere Reserves, basically major conservation areas. The Canary Islands are the preferred jumping off point for most sailors that want to make the Atlantic Crossing. They are the last westward stop that offers a good infrasturctue to support the ocean going cruiser. before the big jump. We are able to stock up on fresh food, water, fuel and most last minute spare parts we might need. We still have a bit of time until the weather window to ride the tradewinds across, so we had some time explore. Our first stop was the easternmost of the Canary Islands, Lanzarote.

Lanzarote is best known for it’s stunning golden and white sand beaches and a very unforgettable otherworldly volcanic lanscape. It was first inhabited by indigenous people known as “Majo” who mostly likely crossed over from Northern Africa. Rife with natural disasters, they didn’t last long, but as time went on…centuries later, it is now a thriving tourist destination that is trying to hang on to it’s natural beauty while increasing sustainable tourism. 

We anchored in crystal clear emerald green waters surrounded by the untamed golden sands of Playa del Pozo. One of the many of the uninhabited Papagayo Beaches lining the southern tip of Lanzarote.

We can see our anchor in 10m (30′) of water!

A big bonus to this anchorages is the anchorage itself is fairly quiet and remote, we were a good dinghy ride over to Playa Blanca (“White Beach”), a small resorty town with a large marina, Marina Rubicon. Once everything was settled, we were eager to get off the boat and stretch our legs and scout out the area.  It’s been 6 days of just the four of us in a tight space with no land in sight!  Can’t imagine why everyone was in such a rush to go ashore?! We headed into to the marina, where we could easily get ashore.  Right off the dock there was a short strip which included a few restaurants, a dive shop and snack bar with ice cream, Lani’s.  Perfect. Our first stop…a Tex-Mex joint, Lani’s Steakhouse, on the pier. We weren’t being picky.  We just wanted a frosty cold beverage and a hearty meal. 

Good-Byes and Good Views

After a good night’s rest, we took our two crew members ashore so they could start the next leg of their own journeys. Louis planned to make some fun stops and play tourist in London and Portugal for a week or two before heading back to the states and a new job. Geoff was headed out on a walkabout (literally!) around Europe reading his way through some historic cities.  We would see him again in a few weeks for our next big leg across the Atlantic. We were very grateful to have both of them on board with us. They were great company and incredibly calm and helpful throughout the trip despite the weather delays and crazy unpredictable moments at sea. Kevin and I would, meanwhile, sit back, relax, enjoy the islands of eternal spring while attempting to repair our ripped Spinnaker and the tear in the carbon fiber mast. Since we left Valencia in mid-October, we had traveled almost 1200 miles. Time for some R&R!

Need land time!!
Cheers to a successful(ish) leg!

First stop was hiking up and around to the cliffsides we had been staring at for the last 24 hours.  Just past Papagayo Beach lies Los Ajaches Natural Park. Four square miles of volcanic massif. While the lanscape itself feels rather desolate, the views are unbelievable. Beauty in every direction with the neighboring Fuerteventura Island and the ravines and cliffs that plunge down to beautiful blue waters and golden beaches in three directions and the distant volcanic craters that formed Lanzarote in the fourth. While we were out hiking all over the southern tip of the island we noticed a small building all on it’s one along the cliffs. Upon inspection…it was a restuarant! Of course, we stopped for a pint at Restuarante Casa El Barba overlooking our anchorage and talked about how far we had come. Honestly, at times I wasn’t sure we were actually going to get out of Valencia! Cheers indeed. 

Our Anchorage in the Distance
Returning along the Beach
Casa El Barba

Back to Work

The biggest things we needed to tackle of the bat on this stop was finding a place to repair our sail.  We weren’t sure how long that would take, but we couldn’t leave until that was completed. This would be a key sail to keep us moving when the winds got light. So it was the long pole in the tent if you will. We found a highly recommended sail loft, Lanzarote Sails. We dropped it there and they took a look and said it was repairable. YAY! But it was probably going to take a 3-4 weeks. BOO!  Understandable as they are one of the main sail lofts in a location that is one of THE jumping off points for crossing the Atlantic. Again, worse places to be stuck. 

Sadly this was not the only tear!

Next up was the mast.  So far we have only seen the damage through the binoculars.  It was now time to go up and see it up close and give the rig a very thorough inspection. Kevin went up on what appeared to be a calm morning.  Of course as he was working, the winds picked up along with some wave action. The boat started rocking and he had some “fun” bounching and swinging around 70 feet up.  He assed the damage, took lots of pictures and cleaned up the sharp strands of fiberglass that were peeled out.  After a lot of research, we determined we could patch the hole with fiberglass mastic to prevent it from getting worse in the near future. Now where to get THAT all the way out here and how to apply it?!  That was going to take a little more research… More good news… no damage to the rigging itself. 

Looks worse than it is?

Other “work’ we accomplished:  We scraped the hull. Sitting in Gibralter for so long, a little grassy knoll appeared along the edges of our boat. Erin will make any excuse to get in the water when the water is that clear and blue. We had a “fun” toilet leak from a in correctly sized sized fitting. They sikka’d the entire base of the toilet down so while great…won’t go anywhere, it made it incredibly difficult to get under it to clean the leak and replace the fitting. And we made a provisioning run to the local HiperDino.  

The Grassy Knoll
Toilet Fun

With a month to kill waiting on the Spinnaker, it was time to find some things to do!

A Very Unique…and sort of creepy…Dive Site

During our first couple of days we noticed some yellow bouys in the distance that seemed to mark off a significant section of the water.  We saw boats cruise to and from it throughout the day.  A quick google search led us to discover that Playa Blanca has a unique new dive site: the Museo Atlántico. The only underwater museum in Europe. How could we not go check this out! After some research it appears you can not snorkle it or dive it on your own.  So we found a local outfitter, Dive College Lanzarote that takes small groups out a couple times a week. 

The Museo Atlantico was created by Jason deCaires, who is world renoowned for his underwater creations.  His design in Lanzarote was the first underwater museum in Europe and the Atlantic Ocean. His aim was to create a strong visual dialogue between art and nature keeping conservation at the forefront. To do so, he created an artificial reef on a large scale that would raise the alarm of the current threats facing the world’s oceans and highlight the social and political divisions within today’s society as a result.

The park includes over 300 life-size casts placed on an area of previously barren seabed measuring 50m x 50m. Since the first sculptures were installed in March 2016 the marine life has increased in diversity by over 200%! You now see large large shoals of barracuda, sardines and axillary seabream. There are also regular sightings of angel sharks, rays and triggerfish along with octopus and moray eels which can be found living in and around the sculptures.

Some of the more notable scenes in the eerie below include the following:

The Raft of Lampedusa. The raft carries 13 refugees towards an unknown future.The inspiration was from Théodore Géricault’s Raft of the Medusa, which represents the constant hope of shipwrecked sailors.Even if they see a rescue vessel on the horizon, they are ususally left abandoned to their fate. There are countless tales in the mediterranean of raft after raft of refugees is lost to the sea and people washed up on European shores as Europe has withdrawn rescue operations, built barriers, continually turned refugees away.

Crossing the Rubicon. 35 people walk towards an underwater wall, unaware that they are heading to a point of no return. They are in their own worlds as they stare at their phones in an almost dreamlike state. Taylor’s works lend heavily to humans “sleepwalking” towards catastrophe, completely unaware of their own impact on the natural world and the survival of our species. 

The wall they are facing stretches 30 meters long and 4 meters high with a single rectangular doorway at its centre. It creates a visual of absurity.  “ A dysfunctional barrier in the middle of a vast fluid three-dimensional space” that can be gone around in any other direction. The notion of ownership and man-made territories/boundries are irrelevent to the natural world. We are merely apart of the world, patirotism and protectionism alone will not segregate our oc of eans, climate and wildlife.

The Human Gyre.   200 life-size human figures framed in an oceanic gyre. What is an ocean gyre? Yeah, I had to look it up too. Let me save you the trouble. It is a large system of circular ocean currents formed by global wind patterns and forces created by Earth’s rotation. This formation of bodies is meant to highlight our vulnerability to the ocean’s immense power, and  how fragile we really are in the face of its cycles and force. It provides oxygen for the atmosphere, it regulates our climate and it provides many sources of nutrition to millions of people along the coasts and beyond. 

There were many more, but you will have to see the video below or go yourselves to see those!  Overall, it provided a nice change of pace to the more “normal reefs” and was thought provoking and education as well.  We highly recommend if you pass through the southern end of Lanzarote!

After the dive, feeling a bit famished, we walked over to a local shopping center and found ourselves a delicous Kabob shop, Abbasid doner kebob, and ordered up a large snack!  The U.S. is seriously missing out on small kebob shops!! We found ourselves stopping often in and around Spain. So so delightful!

Erin’s Birthday Adventure

We rarely buy each other things when days of celebration come around.  Not a lot of room for random things and we tend to pick up things we need or want as we go. So we try to plan things to do together.  Kevin surprised me with a special “Erin Day” by renting a car out of the small Payless Car Rental Kiosk just outside the Marina so that we could go more inland to tour a bit. 

The first stop was a hike in Timanfaya National Park.  “Timanfaya” means “fire mountain”.  A very apt name of a park formed by massive volcanic eruptions in the 1730s. While there have been no eruptions in the last 300 years or so, hot steam can still be felt in some of the fizzures throughout the area. Trip Advisor describes the park as “a geology masterclass”. And it did not disappoint. We followed a long road to seemingly nowhere intot he park. Once parked at what was literally the end of the dirt road, we followed the approx 13km “Volcanic Trail” which led up to one Lanzorte’s natual wonders, Caldera Montana Blanca “White Mountain Crater”. The trail wound it’s way from the parking lot through lava fields and an apocolyptic looking volcanic landscape to the base of the crater. It felt like what I imagine walking on a black/brown version of the moon would be like. The multiple signs along the way that explained the history of the volcano and neighboring geology were a nice touch!

Eventually we started the long slow ascent up and around the top.  We stopped mid way so that I could run down to the center and stand in the middle of the 1200’ diameter crater.  Never have I felt so small!  We continued on up to the rim overlooking the crater to one side and the surrounding volcanic landscape followed the beauful greens and blues that make up the more livable areas of Lanzarote. After enjoying the majestic views, we turned around and worked our way back to the car still marvelling the foreign landscape at every turn.

Once back to reality, we drove into town where Kevin crushed me (a rare occasion…and on my birthday?!) at the local mini-golf in an outdoor mall course, Jurassic Kingdom surrounded by you guessed it dinosaurs, jeeps and volcanos! On the drive back to the marina, we stopped in the bustling area of Tías and found a delightful small tapas restuarant with a very friendly staff.  The local flavor, food and people, were just perfect. Once back at Playa Blanca near Marina Rubicon, we decided to make one last stop at The Harp Irish Pub to have a pint and cheer on Liverpool before returning to the boat. By the way, there is an Irish bar in just about decenly sized city or island in the world.  I have been testing this theory in all my world travels…I have yet to be disappointed 🙂 We capped the night off chatting and reading with a sun downer in our favorite spot on the “back porch”.  The perfect “Erin Day” complete!

Cruiser Meet Ups

Nearly 4500 sailboats cross the Atlantic from Europe to the Caribbean each year before spanning out further on their journeys.  You can even choose to join a rally such as the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) which takes on about 200 boats each year and organizes almost everything you could need from provisioning to pre-sail courses taught by those how have done it before that might help make your journey a little easier.  Or you go at it alone.  We actually ended up on a Whatsapp group with other sailors going about it on their own we dubbed the “NARC” (Not the ARC) and passed info back and forth and tried to deteremine if we’d cross at a a similiar time. Doesn’t hurt to have other boats, “buddy boats” on the same course. With everyone moving the same direction at about the same time, we crossed paths with a number of these cruisers. We decided to put together some meet ups in Lanzarote at the marina bar, Bar One, since we new a few boats were here at the same time. 

Meeting New Friends!
Yes, it’s a race…right?

It’s always fun to meet new friends and swap sea stories with these very well traveled folks from all different backgrounds. The first night out we had the U.S., New Zealand and Canada representing. The second one grew a bit bigger and we added Irish, French, Spanish, Lithuanian, And Turkish sailors! The libations flowed freely, the coversation a little less so with the different languages and accents, but we got through it.  The overall take away…Same adventures, same problems, just different languages! We learned a ton about other cultures and met a lot of great people who we hope to cross paths with again in the future!

Not long after we received a call from Lanzrote Sails.  Our sail was mended and ready to be picked up almost 2 weeks early! Win!  Now can move on to the next stop, a long sail down to Gran Canaria. 

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