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Island Life in the Canaries

When thinking of the Canary Islands, we pictured hot barren islands covered in high rise hotels and beach resorts swarming with tourists. The reality for most of the islands we visited was a stark contrast from our preconceived ideas. The islands in fact vary greatly, from green and fertile lands to arid, semi desert. Without time to explore the entire Canarian Archipelago, we chose to visit the greener, more picturesque and least touristy, western islands of La Gomera and La Palma, enjoying a week in Tenerife with Matt’s brother David and sister-in-law Ruth.

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The NE Trade winds are usually prominent in the Canaries and are the reason that many sailors use them as their hopping off point to cross the Atlantic later in the year. As the trade winds funnel between the islands, they produce acceleration zones which can increase the wind strength by 20 knots in 200m. Sailing around and between the islands therefore often involves too little and too much wind in a very short space of time. Thankfully not much of a problem if you are aware and prepared.

 

The NE trade-winds were not as prominent as we would have liked during our time in the islands, with the wind often switching around to the S/W/E. This made finding an anchorage that we could sail to and be sheltered from both the wind and swell very challenging and meant we spent many sleepless nights with Florence wildly rolling, one of us on anchor watch, and more time in Marinas than we or the budget would have liked.

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We soon however appreciated being in a Marina when we discovered how much easier it was to socialise with other sailors. In La Palma, we caught up with our new friends Britta and Bernd of S/Y Brittanica who we met in Madeira and Debbie and Brian of S/Y DawnTreader, who we met in Porto Santo, plus many other interesting people. We were told before we left the UK that we would soon find a community of sailors travelling around the world, but we did not realise how encouraging, friendly and amazingly diverse the group would be. We really enjoy spending time with other sailors from different countries and backgrounds who have all made the same decision and are on a similar journey to us.

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As the buses to access the best walks and peaks in La Palma are limited, we were up before dawn with Brian and Debbie to share the luxury of a taxi up the hairpins to the highest peaks/Caldera de Taburiente ridge. Our early start was rewarded by stunning panoramic views of the sun rising over a sea of cotton wool clouds and lighting up the caldera as we set off on our 30km hike along the ridge and 2500m back down to sea level and our boats. The views from the top were breath taking, allowing us to see Tenerife, La Gomera, El Hierro and the other peaks on La Palma poking through the clouds. As we descended we came through the dense green forests into the cultivated areas, full of banana, avocado, citrus and other fruit trees, ending back where we started the day, in the dark in Santa Cruz Marina. The great company and views made this day a real highlight of our trip so far.

We left the Marina, sailing in company to La Gomera with Britta and Bernd on Brittanica, so we would be be closer to Tenerife ready for the arrival of David and Ruth. The sail to La Gomera was full of sea life. We are really noticing the effect of the increase in water temperature as we continue our journey south; not only in how enjoyable it is for us to be in the water but also the increase of life in the sea. We are seeing a huge increase in the number and variety of fish, both from the boat and snorkeling, recently spotting our first flying fish, huge leaping tuna/marlin and Amy caught our first Mahi Mahi (very tasty). The increase in fish allows for an increase in other life and we saw at least 4 different varieties of dolphin in the sail to La Gomera, each pod hundreds strong. Looking out for turtles, whales and other sea life is a going to be a great time killer on the 750 mile passage to the Cape Verde islands.

We really enjoyed spending some time with Matt’s brother David and sister-in-law Ruth who came to meet us in Tenerife. It was great to catch up whilst enjoying some time exploring the western half of the island. They had bought some new snorkels and fins for the occasion and we found our best snorkeling spot so far, anchored beneath the giant cliffs near Los Gigantes. Whilst it’s amazing that we have the opportunity to have this adventure, we do miss our friends and family back home. Thanks David and Ruth fro coming to visit.

As we plan to cross the Atlantic from the Cape Verde Islands, the Canary Islands are our last opportunity to stock up and ensure Florence is ready for the crossing in December as the facilities are limited in the Cape Verdes. We are already having difficulty getting our gas bottles refilled and after nearly 4 weeks of trying we resorted to buying some new, more common (here anyway) bottles.

We are fully stocked with tinned and dried food, all of which had to be carried by hand from various supermarkets. Matt has been up the mast to check the rigging and serviced the engine and we are in the process of checking over our emergency equipment/procedures. All this preparation has us both excited about the crossing, a trip that seems to be approaching very rapidly. All we need now is the right weather to head to the Cape Verde Islands.

 

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3 thoughts on “Island Life in the Canaries”

  1. Hi Amy and Matt, thank you for a great blog and for answering my last questions. Your photos and videos are such good quality, especially the underwater shots. What camera are you using? Good luck with your trip to Cape Verde. Looking forward to reading about your Atlantic crossing too.
    Bernice and Geoff xx

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    1. We just use a go pro under water and a samsung compact otherwise. The samsung was about £190 decent lens but otherwise nothing special. We need to get an external mic as wind noise is a real problem for the videos.

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      1. Hi Bernice, the last reply in a bit of a rush. The go pro we have is not the latest version, I think it is a hero. It is really great for underwater but tends to distort the picture for anything other than action shots. The compact camera we have is the one we use the most as it’s really easy to have on deck and carry around ashore. It is a Panasonic Lumix Tz30 which is old now but has been great for us. We also have a basic DSLR (Nikon D3300) which has a better image quality but is bigger. We are likely to use this one more in future as a friend is bringing us an external mic out to the Caribbean and the compact does not take a mic. Hope your preparations are going well.

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