Visits from home on the Canaries

When I crossed the Atlantic about 15 years ago, we started the trip from San Sebastian in La Gomera, so I knew that we had to visit this little gem of an island. As we approached the marina, I finally got the cruising guide out – only to read that it’s a bad idea to just show up here without a reservation… But since we were already there, we figured we would have the best chance of getting a berth if we went into the marina. And it turned out to be no problem, they had loads of space for boats smaller than 10 meters.

After checking in, Runa and I took a walk in the marina, and ran into 10-year old Mare, a dutch girl living on a boat with her parents. “Do you want to be my friend?” she asked, and soon the two girls were building LEGO in Mare’s cabin.

The days in San Sebastian soon had the normal pattern, with school work in the morning, and play or trips on the island in the afternoon. We did a hike along the coast, but mostly we just stayed in town. On new years eve, we were surprised at how quiet the town was, but then at 24.00 the fireworks started and everybody came out to party until early in the morning.

On the Canaries, both of our families came to visit, so we made the trip back to the south if Gran Canaria where my parents had rented a flat for the week. Soon the place was full of kids, the pool was busy and the adults had a drink in the shade. We had a wonderful week together, and even managed to go visit the Caldera de Bandama, and old volcanic cone where an old man still lives.

When my family went home again, it was time to head back to La Gomera to greet Esben’d dad and his wife Annemarie. They arrived on the ferry, and we were on the spot with the kids to welcome them. Over the next week we continued the pattern from before, with pool, dinner and hikes. The laurel forest on La Gomera is UNESCO world heritage, and the island is covered in hiking routes, so we had to try one of them. It turned out to be a bit of a cold experience, but very beautiful. I think we will have to come back some time and do some more hiking on La Gomera.

It was now the end of January, and all the boats heading to the Caribbean were long gone. Our plan had all along been to head down to West Africa to visit Dakar and the Gambia, so we were not too much in a hurry. The trip down would be a bit more than 800NM, or about 8 days of sailing if all went well, so it’s a bit longer than the trips we had done so far. But we were looking forward to the new adventures ahead.

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Kid boats and Christmas in the Canaries

Arriving in Gran Tarajal on Furteventura was quite the contrast from touristy Lanzarote. In this sleepy town, the streets were covered in sand and the boats in the marina seemed to have been staying there for a very long time. We enjoyed the laid back atmosphere, and soon the kids realized that the boat across from us had a Belgian boy onboard. They couldn’t really understand each other, but Mattis got a truck out and soon the language differences didn’t matter.

The kids made a small video for their friends about Furteventura and the sail onwards to Las Palmas, Gran Canaria. It’s in German, but we put subtitles in for English and Danish.

When the kids were done swimming in Gran Tarajal, we took an overnighter to Las Palmas, where we could get all the boat gear we needed. Once we reached the city, we were told that there was no space in the marina – something they tell everyone – but when I went to check in, and spoke to them nicely, they discussed back and forth for a long time, and we finally got a berth. But only for three days! Which turned out to be six days.

In Las Palmas we met a Danish boat with kids the same age as Runa and Mattis onboard, so for the next couple of days we were back to playdates and sleepovers, while the adults of course had some sangria in the cockpit. But soon we waved goodbye to La Vie, when they left Las Palmas to sail to Cape Verde and the Caribbean.

We took advantage of the easy access to boat gear in Las Palmas and did some little projects on the boat, like fiberglassing the auxiliary rudder for the wind vane, changing some lines and setting up the preventer for the main sail.

To avoid doing school work in their boats every day, Runa and Mattis insisted we go and see the Columbus museum. Here, they showed the different trips carried out by Columbus, and we were in awe imagining how these expeditions were carried out with minimal knowledge of where they would end up. And even though Columbus must have been sure that the earth was not flat, he had no idea how far he would have to sail to go to “India”.

Once our time in the marina was up, we moved south, to the fishing town Arguineguin, where it was possible to anchor. We had heard that another Danish kid boat was already there, and we were lucky to have a visit from the girls, Ida and Liv, the next day. We had a great time, baking christmas cookies and going to the beach. And of course another sleepover was quickly arranged before the girls moved on to Tenerife with their guests from Denmark.

We took their clue and moved towards Tenerife, where we knew some friends of ours would be on holidays for the next week. Clea, Janus and their kids visited us in the marina in San Miguel on christmas day, and never has Chip-Chip had so many people on board. But we managed to both have lunch and bake some more cookies, and best of all we saw our friends who we hadn’t seen for so long.

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Christmas lunch

We were happy that we had done some grocery shopping for christmas in Arguineguin, because San Miguel was in the middle of nowhere, with no supermarkets in sight. For christmas dinner we got our stove top oven out and managed to make some nice duck. Vegetables, however, were nowhere in sight, so it wasn’t exactly the healthiest christmas dinner. In Arrecife we had visited an IKEA and bought a small christmas tree, and in Gibraltar we had gotten a real english christmas cake, so we were well prepared for the evening. The kids were gifted dive gear, I got a new USB charger and Esben got fishing gear, so all in all it was a really nice christmas. Plus, it was a good occasion to wear the moroccan clothes we bought for the kids in Tangier.

Lanzarote; the island of fire and lava

The sail down to the Canaries ended up taking four days. The whole trip was done using the genoa alone, and was a pretty rough affair, with large waves and quiet strong wind. But then we were in the Canaries! Since arriving in the Mediterranean in September, we had had the feeling that we were running from the weather, and now, in early December, we were finally in the Canaries where the sun was shining and we didn’t have to bring an umbrella everywhere we went.

La Graciosa is a small island just north of Lanzarote, with an anchorage below the ancient volcanoes. We arrived in the anchorage in the evening, and had a pretty rough night – the place was not exactly as protected as we had hoped. But no worries, the Canaries are small, and the next day we set sail and moved south towards Arrecife on Lanzarote. Since the trip was only around 30NM, we were not in a hurry, but when we still had half the way to go at 2pm, we finally started the engine in order to arrive before dark. When we radioed the marina it took a long time for them to find a suitable berth for us, and we later learned that they simply didn’t know what to do with such a small boat… As things were, we ended up on the pontoon for the people who stayed in Recife for a long time to fix their old boats.

We had really loved visiting Morocco, but being back in Europe meant that we could get a beer in the cafes, wear the clothes we liked and walk the streets without being constantly asked to buy something. And that was a really nice change. Arrecife was a cute little town, but the best part was that we met the crew of Lady Lale again, a Swiss boat with to girls Runa’s age, who we had first met in Tangier. So The kids were back to play dates and sleep overs.

The Canaries are created by volcanic activity, and everywhere we went we saw the old volcanic cones – very exciting for our volcano-obsessed kids. The last big eruptions on Lanzarote, about 200 years ago, left a large part of the island covered in lava, and this area is now the Timanfaya National Parc. To see the parc, we rented a car for the day and made a trip round the island. Seen with the eyes of a Scandinavian, the whole island is pretty barren, but still, the landscape clearly changed dramatically when we reached the volcanic area; lava in black, brown and red burned colors now dominated. We had to change to a bus, which took us through lava tubes and along the old craters. Very impressive.

From Arrecife we made our way south in little hops; we spent a couple of days in the bland Marina Rubicon (because of its pool), and one night at anchor off of Isla de Lobos, where it was so rolly it took an hour before the kids realized we had arrived… And we all found it very nice to take it easy for a while.

Anchored in the backyard of 1000 fishermen; visiting El-Jadida

Returning to Tangier, the weather had not improved, and we spent some more days in the marina, waiting along with everybody else who also wanted to go south. And then finally a couple of days without wind showed up in the weather forecast. Most boats in the marina planned to go directly to the Canaries, but we wanted to make a stop in the fishing town El-Jadida on the way. After hurrying to check out before a huge cruise ship came over to check in, we left in pouring rain. We soon lost sight of the other boats leaving Tangier, and motored on alone. The next to days were wet and cold, with a lot of seasickness, as we entered the big Atlantic swell after almost a month in Tangier. And despite of seeing the biggest pod of dolphins on our trip so far, we were pretty happy that we were not going all the way to the Canaries at this time. Continue reading

Our Moroccan road trip, part 3: Across the High Atlas mountain range

Driving away from Merzouga, Mattis insisted we stop in one of the fossil “Museums” along the road. By coincidence we were really lucky, and walked into a shop, in which the owner took part in scientific expeditions to excavate the fossils, and who showed us articles featuring him in National Geographic. Mattis loved the place, and spent probably an hour looking around. Meanwhile, Mohammad, the owner of the shop, told us stories about the Moroccan fossils, and taught us how to test if the very fancy ones are real (see if they melt when they are burned…). In the end Mattis could only afford one type of fossil, so it was very easy for him to choose, but he was very happy. Continue reading

Our Moroccan road trip, part 2: Into the desert

The first two nights of our trip had been spent in hotels, but for the third night we had found room through airbnb in the house of a young Berber couple living in the Ziz Gorge. The drive from Meknés to our hosts took us from green and fertile meadows, across the barren Middle Atlas mountain range, where snow could be seen in some areas, and finally into the desert. What a day. We made a few stops along the way, and even saw the same species of barbary macaque monkeys which we had met in Gibraltar, but we mostly spent the day driving. Continue reading

Our Moroccan road trip, part 1: Sleeping in medinas

An hour after leaving Gibraltar, an alarm went off. This time we knew where it came from – the engine was overheating again. After a bit of discussing back and forth, we ended up continuing very slowly towards Tangier. This would keep the temperature of the engine down, and we would be arriving early the next morning. We could have gone back to Gibraltar, but we knew that bad weather was approaching again, and we preferred to spend that time experiencing Morocco rather than being locked in Gibraltar again. Continue reading

Monkeying around in Gibraltar

The characteristic rock of Gibraltar slowly came into view on the fourth morning after leaving Cartagena. It had been a really nice trip, with many dolphins and even whales around the boat. Nobody was seasick, and we had plenty of time to play the guitarlele and read. But at night the Spanish coast guard would call out pan-pans, asking all boats to look out for rubber boats that had been set adrift from Morocco with 79, 95 or even 130 people on board. We felt really sorry for the desperate people onboard, but never saw any of them on the water.

As we approached Gibraltar, the traffic of cargo ships got more intense and we made sure to stay out of the way until it was light enough for us to head for the marina of La Linea on the Spanish side of the border. As always, we were the smallest cruising boat in the marina, and we ended up all alone on the pontoon for small boats – but with a magnificent view of the rock.

We spent a day getting the boat and ourselves sorted, and then it was time to head to the top of the rock to see the apes. We crossed the border to Gibraltar – and suddenly we were in the UK, complete with British signposts and pubs. We found our way to the footpath that would take us up, and soon it was time for lunch next to an old cannon and with beautiful views of the Strait of Gibraltar all the way to Morocco. We walked past the entrance to the many kilometers of tunnels that carve through the rock, and which were used as a hospital and home for the soldiers during world war two. And soon we saw the stairs that lead to the home of the apes. They are fed in the same place every day, so it’s easy to know where to find them. As we walked up the stairs we soon saw the first pair of apes. We had to walk in between them and were a bit apprehensive as we weren’t sure if they would be aggressive. But we soon learned that that was not the case, and saw how they would crawl on the roofs of the taxis and even sit on the arms of tourists. Runa and Mattis spent a long time watching the animals, and when they were finally done, we walked the last distance to the top of the rock where a huge cannon used to be ready to fire at anybody trying to go through the strait. Now it has been converted into a small museum, and we learned how much work went into firing a cannon like this.

After the hike we naturally had to go and get fish and chips for dinner, not a huge hit with our strange kids, but the adults liked it.

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And then the weather turned really bad, with strong winds and rain for the next week. So we stayed put in the boat, doing school, baking cake, watching movies. Mattis and Esben braved the weather and went to Gibraltar to buy an ipod for Mattis, and we even went back to the top of the rock so that Mattis could make his own pictures of the apes. And we also prepared for Halloween. Runa and Mattis carved a pumpkin head, we made a very scary chocolate-fondant cake and were invited to a boat-kid-Halloween-party at the marina. But finally the winds were in the right direction for us, so we ended up leaving just before the party started, hoping that we would be able to enter the harbor of Rabat before it was closed again due to too much wind. But that wasn’t to be…

Engine problems on the way to Cartagena

Time was ticking, and the weather was getting progressively rough in the Mediterranean, so from Ibiza we decided to make the trip to Cartagena on the mainland of Spain in just one go. So far we had only done trips of one night this year, so going for two nights was not only good for moving fast, it was also good to progressively make longer trips before the trip from Morocco to the Canaries.

Continue reading

Hiking through lemon groves in Mallorca

Port de Soller was located only a few miles down the coast, so we sailed down early in the morning, and were soon anchored in a very crowded, but very nice and protected anchorage. Once again, the sun was out and we could go swimming in the warm water.

The area around Soller is known for it’s oranges and lemons as well as for some beautiful hikes. And since our kids love hiking we soon found a route that seemed to work for us. We took the tram from Port de Soller to Soller, and from there we followed directions we had found online for a nice walk, first to the small village of Biniarix and then on to Fornalutx. We walked on the old road through groves with lemons and oranges, slowly upwards, surrounded by high mountains. In Fornalutx we walked through the little alleyways of the town to reach the main square. We had brought some lunch, which we ate in the shade, while watching the many cyclists getting ready for a day in the mountains.

The walk back was even more beautiful, this trip took us through old walking paths, meandering back and forth between lemon and olive groves. The change in scenery around every bend meant that the kids didn’t get bored, and soon we were back in Soller where we had started.

After these first 9 km we should probably have called it a day and taken the bus back, but instead we decided to walk back, and at the end of the day we had hiked 16 kilometers. Not bad for kids 5 and 9 years old!

After a few days in Port de Soller the weather was changing for the worse again, and we decided it was time to move on to Ibiza. We prepared for a short overnight sail, by making pizza in the omnia stove top oven, and left late in the afternoon. The sail down the coast was calm and nice, and after dinner, the kids went down to sleep. Esben and I took turns with shifts through the night and early in the morning we arrived in a cala on the north side of Ibiza. We had chosen this place as it was protected from most wind directions, and we spent the next couple of days on the boat mostly, waiting for the weather to calm down again. We were becoming very aware that winter in the Mediterranean was approaching fast, meaning that it was time for us to move towards Gibraltar.