4th report of summer 2003 trip from Taniwani.

Taniwani is now back in Madeira, already for a whole week and in another week we should be on our way to the Spanish or Portuguese mainland.

Since our last report from Santa Cruz de la Palma, we have cruised to four other islands in the Canaries and then back up to Madeira.

In retrospect we think La Palma is the most beautiful of the Canary Islands. Like in most places, we rented a car to explore the island and went up into the high mountains, where the air is very clear and the view was fantastic. We could see all the neighboring islands: Gomera, Hierro and Tenerife, and from such a high place (2400 Meters), one has a real top of the world feeling, seeing the sea behind the other islands.


Quite a few observatories have been set up there, utilizing the clear air. Not far down from the highest peaks, the island is covered with trees. The nature park, at the southern end of the big crater is simply beautiful and so pleasant to look at.


We haven’t explored the very southern part of the island, which is said to be more desert and volcanic, as the last activity was only some fifty years ago and apparently altered the coastline quite a bit. This also affects the possibilities one has when visiting by boat. Now there are no suitable anchorages on sheltered southwestern side, as all ground is hard fresh lava, where no sand or sediment has built up yet.


Now there are only two, less than suitable places to stay with a yacht: Tazacorte on the west coast, and the capital, Santa Cruz de la Palma on the east side. We choose not to visit Tazacorte, as Swiss boat in Gomera reported lack of space and an unfriendly harbormaster.


Instead we went to Santa Cruz. While the book says that yachts usually lay alongside the thinner part of the main breakwater, we were directed all the way into the basin, once we radioed harbor control. There is a lot of construction going on in the inner part, which is being separated by an inner breakwater, still under construction. We suspect they might plan a marina behind it.

We were directed into this inner basin and asked to tie up alongside the village side behind two tugboats. Formalities were handled friendly and easily, with the Guardia Civil coming to the harbor wall handing papers up and down to the boat.


Water in the harbor is very clear and you can see down to the 10m deep ground. We also set a side anchor to pull is off the huge and rough harbor wall. So the boat was laying safe and well, boarding at other than full high water, when our deck was still over a meter below the top of the wall, was not simple. Even with the dinghy one we didn’t find a ladder or stair. So best way was to use the main boom at low water.


Not many boats seem to visit there and in the three days we spent there, we only saw two other yachts.


Generally it’s fair to say that the number of yachts cruising the Canaries is rather small, with the exception of the big bulk that goes through Gran Canaria every year, en-route to the Caribbean. Very few boats go back again like we did. Actually, in Tenerife a German from a Catamaran told me, that it was virtually impossible to go back or to the windward laying islands, and that we were doomed!


From Santa Cruz de la Palma we went to Santa Cruz de la Tenerife. At the beginning we could lay the course to the north end of Tenerife, some 100 miles away, but when closer to Tenerife, the wind bends and becomes very easterly, so that we had to take a tack north for two and a half hours to clear the corner. We started in the evening around 8 pm and sailed through the night, and by 1 pm the next day we were in the marina in Santa Cruz de la Tenerife; the straight 105 miles inflated to 123.


The marina basin in Santa Cruz de la Tenerife is very big and surprisingly deep, wherever we had been with our boat, we measured constant 20 meters depth. The marina now has 5 large floating pontoons and space for at least twice as many. We found any amount of empty berths and the friendly marina crew had difficulties deciding into which one to guide us. It seems that short-term visitors get sent to the one large pontoon that is connected to the outer wall. That is the longest walk into town.

But even if on a closer pontoon it is a 2 to 3 km walk to a decent supermarket, and on the way to there one could have bought every Panasonic or Sony product and a barrel of Channel.

The good news is, that you can drive a rental car all the way right to the pontoon, and leave it there next to your boat. That is provided you can figure out how to get into the harbor by car. It took us 45 minutes of cruising the waterfront to make it.

We had crew change in Tenerife: Felix’s friend Dominic arrived Friday evening and Markus had to leave Saturday. The later wasn’t without problems: Tenerife has two airports, one north one south, about 70 km apart. Markus was convinced he had to leave from the northern one, so we dropped him off with the rental car, only to get a call from him 10 minutes later: Wrong airport, 1.5 hrs before departure. Racing the poor little Citroen south, we made it just about.


The original plan to visit Loro Park after dropping off Markus was now abandoned and we went all the way to mountains, to the Teide Park. Up there it was indeed very nice, and much different than the dessert south, with all the tourist ghettos. Driving along the mountain ridge towards the big, 3700 meters high, volcano was the best we saw on Tenerife. We didn’t take the cable car further up, as it doesn’t go to the top anyway, and we didn’t think the view would be that good to justify 20 Euros per head.


So Loro Park was on for the next day, and it wasn’t easy to find, lacking any signs. And then we found out that it would have been much better to visit on a weekday, rather than a Sunday when all the locals tour their island including the park. Other than that it is a real nice place, with beautiful birds, dolphin shows and the like. Not very big, but at a high standard and all animals look healthy and happy.


From there we went further west, to check out the corner where we had been surfing down in 57 knots of wind, just two weeks ago. The basic trade wind was now weaker, but the effect was still visible.

Getting to Punta de Teno, the west corner was however also not possible due to the many cars parked on and along the road. So, the rule seems: Don’t tour Tenerife on a Sunday.

Next day we returned the rental car in the morning and took off for the short 55 miles dash across to Las Palmas, Gran Canaria. The book describes the canal between Tenerife and Gran Canaria as the most pronounced funnel, and since we had seen the wind speed doubling at Tenerife’s western end, we choose to set off with the main substantially reefed. But on this day the main trade wind wasn’t very strong and the effect only brought it up to 20 knots. Once around the northern corner of Gran Canaria, the wind was rather weak and we made the last few miles assisted by the engine.


5 pm we arrived in the marina of Las Palmas. We called the marina office on the VHF, but got no answer and sight seeing in the marina, we decided to tie up at the outermost pontoon Nr. 18. A Polish and a Finish boat where already there.

The boat with the Finland flag caught our attention, it was a small but seaworthy looking boat, quite similar to a Contessa or the like, but topsides and deck looked really worn down. Yet when looking closer, all the important things like rigging and halyards looked quite new, and she seemed well equipped with electronics. She seemed to be single handed by an old guy that we estimated between 70 and 80 years old. This old guy, seemingly fulfilling his dream at last, and sailing into the sunset, impressed Felix.

Some hours later, two guys from the harbor police appeared. One of them charged straight for me: “You cannot stay on this pontoon!” he said. “Who told you to tie up here?” “Well, I called the marina office and got no answer, so I thought I tie up here until I know where to go.” “And I tell you to leave!” He was of the type you don’t mess with: “OK, OK, where should we go?”

He went on to talk to the Polish boat, then came back: “How long do you want to stay?” “One night.” “OK, then, you can stay for one night.” They marched off and I was thinking where I had last seen a police that apparently has their own law and does whatever is to their benefit.

Some hours later, as it was getting dark, the guys from the harbor police showed up again, but this time ignored us and talked to the old guy from the Finish boat, then left.

Half an hour later, it was now dark, a white van pulled up at the pontoon entrance. Two guys brought some grocery to the little Finish boat, but also a stack of empty cardboard boxes and a bundle of cheap travel-bags. The old man, wearing a headlamp, was down in the boat filling the bags and the boxes, and one after the other was brought back to the van. Watching them lifting the bags, I’d guess they were around 20 kg each, and we counted 16 bags, and at least 6 boxes. We were simply ignored, like if we were air, and I didn’t think for a second about informing the harbor police, as they were sure informed and would have given us all sorts of trouble.

We actually stood for two nights, and had to move to the next pontoon the next day. Only the little Finish boat was allowed to stay on the special pontoon.


We used the opportunity to stock up, and also had our groceries delivered to the boat, but we had nothing to return.

There are some similarities with Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Las Palmas, both have large marina basins, both separated from the town by several highways, and the town only reachable via under-passages, and any useful part of the town is quite a walk away. The commercial harbor of Las Palmas is even bigger and shares the same entrance, so that the water in the marina is quite polluted with oil. That is clearly better in Tenerife. But none of them are really attractive places for other than quickly stocking up or for a quick island tour.

This time we didn’t rent a car, so we cannot say much about the rest of the island and as already said we left after two nights.


A remainder of a front, of an depression way north had at this time disturbed to the dominant NE trade and we had a weak wind from South when we left Las Palmas around 11 am. The pleasure only lasted for an hour and then the wind died. Later it turned back to NE, but only with up to force 3, and we decided to motor-sail straight for the southern end of Lanzarote.


We skipped Fuerteventura, since many sailors had given a negative reference and comments like: “Lots of sand on the boat, no good harbors, just not worth it.”


Even going all the way to Lanzarote from Las Palmas is only just 100 miles and we arrived in Playa Blanca around midnight. We had planned to anchor east of the harbor entrance, in front of the hotel beaches, and were slowly making our way towards the targeted spot, when we found on the radar that half of the eastern part of the bay had been filled or so. We also saw another set of harbor-entrance lights on the other side and concluded that a new harbor must have been built in the eastern part.


Amazingly our last chart updates are just a year old and latest corrections for the pilot books had been loaded from the Internet, but no mention of all that.

Anyway, we proceeded into the middle and anchored at a depth of 8m. We noticed a line of inflatable boys, unlit, but detectable on the radar and with the night vision, just inside of where we anchored. Then when Felix checked the anchor by diving and reported several rocks, we decided to move to the south of the main harbor wall. There we anchored around 1 in the morning at a depth of 18m, and that place was perfect, so that we stood there for two nights.


The inspection by dinghy next day revealed a beautifully arranged marina behind the two new entrance lights. It is built with no expense spared, and with a nice architecture. It is quite a large place with some 500 berths, once fully operational. We were received very friendly and decided to berth there for one day and a night, while touring the island.

This new Marina Rubicon is truly excellent with very modest prices, and they give a rebate to Transocean members. Definitely recommendable.

It was very difficult though to get a rental car, we talked to over 10 rental companies, and all were out of cars. Eventually we found one car, which luckily had air-conditioning.


With that we toured the island, and in particular the new volcanic area, which now is a national park. The landscape looks really dramatic and with its shades of brown and black, has it’s own beauty. It is probably not so great a place to live, but always worth a visit.


We also drove by car to the other, now well-established marina at Puerto Calero. The place seemed quite filled, though not completely full, and all the waterfront shops and restaurants are operational. Right now, if you cannot stock up with a car, it is the better choice than the new Rubicon, but that is probably just a matter of time.


Our original plan was to anchor in Playa Blanca, and then head up on the east side of Lanzarote, stay at Puerto Calero, and tour the island from there. Now, that we had done all this from the southern end, we figured it would be shorter to sail up the west side of Lanzarote, straight to our next stop at Isla Graciosa.

This wasn’t so easy, as the trade was now back to full force 6, and coming from NNE, was exactly on the nose. We had to take a long tack out to NW first, before laying course to our destination. So the 40 miles became 53, and it was around 7 pm when we tried to anchor in one of the three bays on the south side of Graciosa.


This time we had a new problem: In Playa Blanca we had anchored quite deep, and had let out some 80 Meters of chain, the big pile that had built up pulling it in, had shifted when we were beating into heavy seas, on the way up. The weight on top was so much that the windlass didn’t pull out the chain, since it has a torque limiter, when in reverse.

We had to go out into the channel between Lanzarote and Graziosa, and open the 16 screws the hold the inspection lid to the chain load. While letting out all the 100 m of chain, we nicely anchored in mid channel at a depth of 28 m! Anyway, the problem was quickly sorted out and we went back to the little bay, where we anchored at just 5 m of depth.


These bays, at south end of the little island of Graciosa, are probably the nicest anchorages in the whole Canary Islands. There are three bays and after the most eastern bay a little town, with a protected harbor, called La Sociedad.

Most yachts seem to favor the harbor with its new floating pontoons, which still seem without electricity and water. Yet diesel is phenomenally cheap there at 35 Euro Cents per Liter. Another disadvantage of the harbor seems to be the sand that gets blown onto the boats.


We went to the middle one of the three bays, called Playa Francesa, which we enjoyed so much that we stood for several days, before finally taking off to Madeira. Snorkeling in the bay is fantastic, with a large population of fish. During the day, especially on Sundays, the beach gets frequented by locals, but in the evening you have the bay all to yourself, or maybe share it with another yacht, mostly French.


Interestingly we found that the only other boats we met, that planned to go back to Europe against the wind, were all French. All English flagged boats we saw, were heading for the Caribbean via the ARC, and would most likely not cruise around in the Canary Islands, several German flagged boats seem to just hang out there for a whole season, with no hurry getting across the pond, but also no intention to return.

So it boils down to very few boats that sail around between the islands and even fewer that go back to Europe. In retrospect we think the Canary Islands are nice to visit once, there are a few decent marinas, but nice anchorages are on the rare side. Gomera is pretty ok in that respect, both the marina in San Sebastian, as well as some of the anchorages in the South and Southwest. And as already said, at our last stop at Graciosa we found the nicest anchorage here.


Eventually we took off towards Madeira, to meet up with my parents and Dominic’s family. The wind was still north of northeast, but heading for Funchal we could sail about 60 degrees to the true wind and 35-40 degrees to the apparent wind and keep the boat near 8 knots through the water. That is quite essential as there is a current of over one knot setting south.

Keeping the boat at a good speed is the trick, since with the current going slower means more relative leeway, consequently a need to point higher, with the consequence of less speed and so on.

But Taniwani coped well again, and we went a straight line to Funchal, again with standard etmals of 170 miles over ground. In the end it took us 39 hours to cover the 271 miles, and we anchored in Funchal at 6 in the morning on Thursday the 21st.


Again, checking with our friend at the marina, we got a nice place, and by noon we were in the marina of Funchal, where we could receive our friends on board. So we stood in the marina for three days spending some time with my parents, and later had a nice day ail with Dominic’s family to Baia Abra our favorite anchorage in Madeira.


After some wonderful days there, back to Funchal again, where Felix had to leave last Saturday. Then it was just Beate and I on board until Pam and Ulf to arrived again on Tuesday, and later on Thursday friend Sanjay.

Again we all enjoyed the nice Baia Abra. This time we managed to anchor near some car wrecks, but didn’t faul our anchor. A bit of scuba diving and a hike to the hills above, rounded off the stay at Baia Abra. Today at noon we left for Porto Santo, with the wind exactly from there at 20 knots. So it needed some Tacking, but six hours later we are now safely anchored there. Still plan to leave for the mainland  tomorrow and expect to be at sea for about three and a half days.

Report 5:  Porto Santo to Lagos