Thursday, November 10, 2011

Back to the Story...

Days 5 and 6: Viva La Graciosa!

Accessible only by boat, this small island on the very northern tip of the Canaries is AWESOME. The volcanic nature of the place makes it part Medditeranean-esque seaside village, part moonscape, all brilliant. We arrived at the anchorage in a passage between the top of Lanzarote island and La Graciosa on the afternoon of Nov. 2nd, and after 5 days at sea, no sooner had the anchor hit the sandy bottom when I had a large glass of rum, jumped off the side of the boat, and went fishing – in that order, but not at the same time. Well the rum and the fishing part was pretty simultaneous, I just couldn’t work out how to swim while holding my rum without getting it all salty. Five nice-sized Black Bream later and we had the next day’s lunch sorted. They couldn’t get enough of my left over Gibraltar steak.

Rum, classical guitar on the stereo, sunset, bream, rum, moonlight, bream, rum, music, brum…you get the idea…
The next morning (sunny, again. Hating me yet?) we unhooked Freddy (mercury – the outboard motor) and winched Bob (the blowup zodiac dinghy) into the water and Dusty and I headed ashore, leaving Herve the gouty one to look after the boat. After a brief stroll to check out the volcanic scenery, including a real life sea shanty (made of rocks and shells with empty wine bottles outside and all!) I made a sunburnt stroll into town to get bread to go with the bream for lunch, which were cooked up to perfection on the BBQ. 

Hopefully I’ll find somewhere with internet soon (found it!) so I can put some photos up, because words just can’t describe how beautiful La Sociedad is. 

Soft, white sand leading from clear blue water up to palm tree-dotted streets of one-storey, whitewashed cubist (?) houses with sky blue doors and window frames, all immaculately maintained, with the odd elderly Spanish gentleman on his promenade (the evening stroll Spanish take after their siesta and before dinner). Even veteran adventurers Dusty and “The Canaries are all just black sand and drunk Irish tourists” Herve had good things to say.  Best paella I’ve ever had too, although admittedly that’s not 
saying much.

Day 7: Volcanos and surf
After making contact with Joy, another Cygnet, Tasmania local (seriously, what are the chances!? We’re everywhere!) who was staying at Rubicon marina at La Playa Blanca on the southern tip of Lanzarote island, we decided we’d drop in for a visit because we have a yacht and we can go anywhere we want. We woke to the forecasted gusting souwesterly wind and crashing waves on the far shore of the passage we were anchored in. Rounding the top of Lanzarote to a cranking soundtrack of Mastodon, Animals as Leaders and QOTSA, past large volcanic craters dotted with the odd church (please god, don’t destroy our humble village with fiery boulders and molten lava, amen) we hit the top speed of the trip so far with 8.6 knots, as 6 foot barrels peeled left and right along the petrified lava coastline, the same offshore wind that fed our sails lifting plumes of spray off their tops and misting up the air, adding to the whole primeval vibe. In fact, the water around Lanzarote is 2 degrees warmer than the other islands, purely due to the volcanic activity.

Lighthouse on a volcano. Tough.

The east coast of Lanzarote is more developed than La Graciosa, though all the buildings still maintain that same square, white design. Hundreds of them all together look amazing and add to the uniqueness of the place when contrasted to the martian countryside, though I couldn’t help but wonder if the similarity occasionally gives rise to issues with trying to find your own home after a hard night on the aguardiente. That stuff kicks arse. Tastes kind of like potato vodka and draino, only with a higher alcohol content and a worse hangover.
We made it into the marina at a little past 7pm. Coming in was a little more dramatic than it could’ve been, but nothing a touch of paint won’t fix. After being at sea for a while it’s a strange feeling when you get ashore, kind of like being really drunk when you’re sure everything else is moving. The marina routine was starting to consolidate: beers, chat, bottle of red, Herve charms waitress, dinner, digestivo (fancy word for strong alcohol consumed after dinner). As the oldies went to bed I wandered off on my own around the coastline to a place with live music, sat back, and quietly came to the conclusion that La Playa Blanca was kind of like a adult version of Tokyo Disney Sea, with bars instead of rides and fat European tourists instead of crying kids.

La Playa Blanca. Disney for adults.

Day 8: Viva Espanol!
Functional wifi seems to be rarer than the Spanish gold doubloons that filled the galleons who stopped here on their way to and from pillaging the Americas all those years ago. But funnily enough, it works fine on this rock outside the marina laundry, so here I sit, resorting to beer to maintain sanity after a quick trip to do the washing festered into a full day of laundro-tedium, the details of which no ones needs to be subjected to. I found a little Italian place for lunch right on the water overlooking the marina, the most memorable part of which was the gayest Italian/Spanish waiter on Lanzarote island, possibly the Universe. Priscilla, Queen of the Canaries.  Though while I’m on the subject, Spanish people have impressed me with their friendliness and vivaciousness. Seriously, that’s the right word! Coming from Tokyo where some (not all) neighbours I’ve known for years won’t say konnichiwa if they can avoid it, I must’ve said hola! at least 100 times to no one I’ve met before or will meet again. It’s good. I like it. Respect to the Spaniards. Must be the siesta, and the awesome weather, and the food…

Not much to complain about.

A great tapas dinner was the setting for discussions on how to avoid the debacle (and bow scraping) of our arrival into the marina the previous day. I finished my La Playa Blanca experience with a night time stroll along the coastline, past bars of retiree couples avoiding eye contact with each other while guitarist/singers belted out other peoples’ pop songs to varying degrees of success. But I was only half listening. Most of my attention was on the sea. New waters and new vistas awaited the next morning.


Day 9: Lanzarote to Fuerte Ventura
Refuelled and watered, we headed out of the marina and southward down the east coast of the island of Fuerte Ventura, aiming for an anchorage in the town of Gran Tarajal. With the wind on our back we brought out the spinnaker; 140m2 of sail that balloons directly out the front of the boat, picking up any tail wind and immediately giving us 2 or 3 more knots of speed. (1 knot is 1 nautical mile or about 1.8km/hour). We hit a new speed record of 9.6 knots (nearly 18 km/hour).
There is an ancient European maritime belief that women bring bad luck to a boat, no doubt made up by henpecked seamen desperate to get away from wives and domesticity in general. It’s bullshit. Joy, the Cygnetian I spoke of earier, had decided to join us as far as Gran Canaria, and not long after she came on board we hit our speed record, and then the fish struck. First a smallish but decent enough bonito, then 15 minutes later a mahi mahi (finally!). Not as big as the one that got away, but decent enough.  Both fish were fantastic eating that night. The bonito we did Japanese style with soy sauce and fresh grated ginger. The mahi mahi (one of the best eating fish there is) went on the bbq with a squeeze of lemon. Bewdy!

This is just the beginning...

That evening we anchored just off Gran Tarajal, much less Disneyland than La Playa Blanca, despite the neon merry-go-round/disco type thing blaring Spanish pop till the wee hours.  The east coast of Fuerte Ventura is dotted with tiny villages, almost enclaves, of little huts tucked between the volcanic formations. Villages that obviously had not been party to the massive funds injected into the resorts further up the coast, but by the same token had an air of permanence, which can’t be said about some of the tourist spots, now that the funds in Spain (and Europe, and the world?) are seriously drying up. Or so it seems back in the real world.

It's the second house on the left. The white one. Can't miss it!

Herve hailed a local fishing boat in the hope of scoring some crayfish. They didn't have any...

Top Gun on a sailing boat.

Fast sailing, good fishing and another awesome sunset were toasted with beers and chorizo in the cockpit, as we edged further south towards the trade winds that were to ‘carry us across the pond’ in a few days time.

Days 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 : Fuerte Ventura to Gran Canaria. Waiting for the wind…

Sitting amongst more civilization than we’ve seen for a while, in the anchorage at Las Palmas, the capital city of the main island of Gran Canaria. I’m attempting to burn the remaining white parts of my body to match the bits already done. It’s working. Arrived here from Fuerte Ventura last night and broke the speed record for this yacht in doing so. 11.7 knots, held by yours truly! (Suck it Herve, hehe). The wind has dropped so after typing it will be in town for an explore and to pick up more supplies. Still gotta fix the radio and get the snorkel on and scrub the slime of the hull.
Whenever entering a new port, the first thing you do is search out the 'Sailor's bar'. Every decent port has one. 

A few coldies here and then drink driving in motorized dinghys. Great fun!

Have met all sorts of interesting characters in the bars around the marina in Las Palmas. Got drunk with a skipper of a big racing yacht, and had beers with some English blokes who just chartered a catamaran to head across the Atlantic with the aim of learning to sail and scuba dive on the way to the Carribean to be treasure hunters.  Bars full of fascinating people getting drunk. Good stuff and makes for interesting banter.

 Part of the main bach in Las Palmas. 6 foot point break going off on the point too.

Korean people running a Japanese restaurant in Spain.  Ordering sushi from a Korean in Spanish was fascinatingly confusing. Can anyone spot Hello Kitty?

Now hopefully the wind will pick up and we can leave.  See you in the Caribbean.


  1. I'll say. Excellent reading...
    Spain's economy might be shitting itself but hopefully the internet won't until you can bottle these entries into a book.
    Glad to hear the fish are biting and hope poor Herve's gout gets back in its tree.
    Sahara/Mauritania coast next??
    Fare thee well ne

  2. Hello Luke.
    New video arrive.
    Do you remember her? you don't forget them,do you?

    Good luck.

  3. Thanks guys. The real bit starts now. Osamu! Wow! Great video, of course I remember my Shitmachi Otoosan and Okaasan! Thank you! It put a big smile on my face! Let's have a drink at Masumi when I get back.


  4. Hey El Ray, how was your day?
    Right now I'm at school but the skies are gray.
    I'm reading some stuff and writing my essay
    Looking at your pictures, you must be far away,
    but the weather looks good and the temperature okay
    Show us more pictures of your life next time you're at bay!

    Anyway, here's an update on current events: Burlusconi is no longer prime minister (i's now Mario Monti, aka Sergeant Badass; The Occupy Wall Street movement has been attempted to get shut down and peppersprayed some old ladies and preggerettes, someone shot at the White House a couple of times... annnnd, I dunno what else. I'll update you on other more important world news, such as my intricate, fast-paced, fabulously interesting life, such as how many words I wrote in Microsoft Word at the library and other exciting news! Hope your life is as interesting as mine! bon journee!