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A Cruise to the Eastern Islands from Gran Canaria

By Sue Richards last modified May 03, 2010 12:45 PM

Published: 2010-05-03 12:45:49
Countries: Canary Islands

Sent by Frank Castella, Canary Sailing.

Cruise Plan

We have 2 weeks in January to complete our cruise from Gran Canaria and intend to sail to Alegranza, a small-uninhabited island north of Lanzarote, stopping at Fuerteventura, Lobos, Lanzarote, La Graciosa, and then we will sail around Roque del Este, Roque del Infierno and finally Alegranza and back to Gran Canaria, about 350NM in total.

Gran Canaria to Fuerteventura

At 07:00 Hrs we got in contact with the coastguard to let them know of our navigation plan and departed from the port of Las Palmas (Gran Canaria) on a compass course of 090º. We were heading for the port of Morro Jable (Fuerteventura) about 60 NM away. It normally takes about ten hours, with all the sails up, but we are in no hurry, as we have got two weeks.

Some time ago, when exploring one of the islands in the dinghy, we came across the entrance to a cave. At the end of the dark cave there seemed to be a white light, which turned out to be a white sandy beach. The sunshine coming through a crater in the cave roof illuminated it. We made it to the beach, we felt as if we were the first humans to enter the cave, the smell of ozone and virgin territory was an unforgettable experience. We intent to visit the cave this time too.

Now we are sailing very pleasantly in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, re-living the nostalgia of past times and feeling so close to nature. All the sails are up, main, mizzen, jib and stay sail, with N.E trade winds blowing at F4 -5, boat speed 6-7 Knots, with just a few waves of about 1-2 metres high.

Gran Canaria is gradually disappearing at the stern and at about midday we notice ahead, on our starboard bow, a disturbance on the surface. Mike climbs up the ratline and into the lookout and confirms that there are whales ahead. We cautiously release sheets to reduce speed and get near them. They are a family of six magnificent specimens of pilot whales swimming slowly together

Fuerteventura

As we got near the lighthouse of Punta Jandía (Fuerteventura), we looked for the tell tale signs of wind coming down the acceleration zones but saw none, and with about 80 metres under us, we put out our faithful fishing line and caught a splendid 6 kilo tuna fish which we cleaned and kept.

After leaving the lighthouse on our port side and keeping our distance from the reef, which you could see clearly, experience tells us to lower the main sail to prevent it being caught by gusty winds, which you sometimes get on these stretches of water. Two hours later, at 17:00 Hrs, we arrived at the port of Morro Jable, tied up to a berth and phoned the coastguards to report our safe arrival.

Morro Jable
Morro Jable is a fishing village as well as a tourist resort, with a fair harbour to cater for the traffic of ferries and jet foils from Gran Canaria.

The following day we sailed northwards along the coast of Jandía and enjoyed the magnificent sandy beaches, 14 Km long of golden coloured sand. They say it is the continuation of the Sahara desert that surfaces from the sea, crystal clear water coloured turquoise and blue-green. Sometimes you can see turtles that come to lay their eggs, but alas, there are not many now.

Anchoring for Lunch
We let our Bruce go, inflated the dinghy and three of us swam to the beach, whilst Susan and Brenda got into the dinghy with the tuna we caught the previous day. We barbecued it with charcoal on the beach with tomatoes, green peppers etc. washed down with white malvasia wine, and it was divine!!

Although it was January, our friends suffered sunburn from prolonged exposure to the sun.

Gran Tarahal
Time went by rapidly and we arrived at Gran Tarahal at nighttime, but there was a power cut in the town and neither the harbour nor the town was lit. It was pitch dark, but thanks to our radar we were able to find the entrance through the breakwater. There was no room at the pontoons so we tied up to the wall, facing the patrol boat, after suitably fitting two chain loops around the bollards and securing the ropes to them to prevent chaffing. At about 04:00Hrs the patrol boat returned with 28 illegal immigrants and the small boat that they had used to get into our local waters.

Sometimes in the summer, we anchor off the beach here and spend the warm nights sleeping on deck, contemplating the starry sky and enjoying the guitar music coming from the people on the shore. In 1764 skipper George Glas, a Scottish trader, used to anchor off the beach of Gran Tarahal waiting to load his boat. His description of the coastline has not changed very much since then.

Gran Tarahal is a fishing village where you can still enjoy the traditional gastronomy. It’s a delight to have the local fish done on the griddle, opened up like a kipper and cooked with olive oil and garlic, and I will not mention the wine!!.

Gran Tarahal to El Castillo
After spending a full day in the village and on the beach, we coasted and aimed northwards towards “El Castillo”, also named Caleta Fuste, further up the east coast of Fuerteventura. We had the wind on the nose, and only put up main and mizzen, aided with the engine at 1200 revs. A few flying fish came out of the sea, possibly trying to get away from the tuna's yaws.

We left the Entallada lighthouse on our port side. This lighthouse is the reference point that illegal immigrants use from the African coast, 54 NM away, as they come in their boats.

These coastlines must be very interesting to geology students as you can see where the magma entered the sea, and the peculiar strata of volcanic eruptions on the cliffs.

El Castillo
The entrance to Caleta Fuste (El Castillo) can be difficult, but not dangerous if you follow the instructions, as reefs extend half a mile offshore and you have to use a transit point (green buoy at sea and the lighthouse) and head north. We always get in contact with the marina on the VHF to avoid embarrassing situations. We like to plan our entry at daylight and know what berth we are going to be given before the final approach. All ropes have to be ready, fenders as well, and the crew have to be ready too as there is not much room to manoeuvre inside.

El Castillo is a typical touristy resort, with alot of night life. There you can hear and see the re-incarnation of Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison, and many more. Its marvellous to see how well they are imitated. There is a Pub owned by the lead singer of a once-famous pop group called Herman’s Hermit (no milk to-day), where he still plays even though he is a white haired 62 year old!

Fuerteventura to Lanzarote

A couple of days later, at about 09:00Hrs, we slipped moorings (having noted a considerable difference in price for our stay compared with a couple of months before!).

We set a northerly course to Lanzarote, the coast always in site, and on our port side passed the airport (Fuerteventura), and the small island of Lobos. Finally we arrived at Lanzarote at 18:30Hrs where we tied up at Puerto Calero. The sailing got a bit uncomfortable at times due to gusty winds coming from land, but you could see the tell-tale disturbance on the surface of the sea before you got there

Lanzarote

Lanzarote is very much worth seeing and I recommend hiring a car. It boasts the most fascinating volcanic scenery. The last eruption was in 1730, and they continued for six consecutive years from more than 30 craters. There is an area called Timanfaya Park, which is untouched by human hands. The astronauts from Apollo 13 said on a visit to the island that it was the nearest you can get on earth to a lunar landscape. There are many places you can visit here, but I leave that to the appropriate guidebook.

Lanzarote to La Graciosa

With a NE wind, we sailed in a northerly direction towards the small and peaceful island of “La Graciosa” (treasure island). With full sails, we passed Punta Fariones on our port beam, following the instructions from our pilot book. We lowered the main and rolled in the jib, sailing with mizzen and stay sail into the shallow channel (El Rio) between Lanzarote and Graciosa and finally into the harbour of Caleta del Sebo on our starboard beam, where we tied up to new pontoons.

La Graciosa

La Graciosa is deliciously unspoiled. Fishing is their livelihood and very much looked after by the locals. There are no McDonalds here, and you can get a delicious fish stew just like granny used to make.

La Graciosa to Alegranza

A few days later we slipped moorings and turned to starboard to sail between La Graciosa and the small island of Montaña Clara. We left “Infernos Rock” on the port side and with full sunshine and a breeze from our starboard beam, towing the dinghy, we slowly made it to the uninhabited island of Alegranza where we anchored off a sandy beach for the next two nights.

Back to Lanzarote and on to Gran Canaria

We returned to Puerto Calero (Lanzarote) and after leaving the younger party ashore, we set a southerly course, sailing through the channel “La Bocaina” between Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, leaving the small island of Lobos on our port side. We tied up in Marina Rubicon and walked to Playa Blanca for a full supper, departing shortly afterwards under full sails with the prevailing NE trades and current behind the port beam. Occasionally dolphins accompanied us.

Sixteen hours later, after having sailed all night - at times touching eight knots - we finally arrived at back Gran Canaria. All good things come to an end!

You can see photos of the cruise on www.canarysailing.com

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