Donnerstag, 26. Juni 2014

La Palma - Santa Maria - Pico

Tuesday, June 10, we left the Canaries, but not before trying to top up our fuel tanks. Fuels is less expansive then anywhere in the vicinity in the Canaries, though this particular marina in Tazacorte sells it for a significant mark-up over street price, much different than Marina Santa Cruz on the other side of the island. It would still have been less than in the Azores where the price is still lower than on the mainland. So, on the way out we docked at the fuel dock to do all these things, just to find out that they had unknowingly emptied their tank when the pump stopp after 16 litres. Not a real problem for us as we have a range of about 1500 miles when full, and so we left anyway.

It took us 3 days an 20 hours to sail the 625 miles to the island of Santa Maria, 9 hours longer than last year, which was simply caused by lighter winds. But that way it was a bit more comfortable.

We arrived to well known Vila do Porto in the early hours of Saturday, June 14. It was easy as always to enter the little marina in the dark and tie up in the same berth as last year.

We love the little island of Santa Maria and including a day touring the island by car, it was easy to spend over a week in this place. Leaving earlier would not have been particularly pleasant due to strong Northwesterly winds.

It wasn't before Sunday, June 22, that we finally left the nice place, to sail over night to yet another very nice place: Lajes on the island of Pico, an old reef-protected whaling port about 175 miles from Santa Maria. Having looked at the place before, when we were visiting the island by ferry from Horta, we had some doubt's whether we would fit into this tiny place and find one of the very few berths that can take a boat our size. The book says it can accommodate boats of up to 14m and two of those at maximum.

Given this we had planned in the option to continue on to Horta, some 25 miles further. But then we had a nice trip, with dolphins playing around our boat and two hours before our potential arrival, we called the port-manager and asking if he had space for us. The answer was no problem! And no problem it was. We carefully and slowly entered the reef strewn, but buoyed channel into the inner part and found the best two places empty and well capable of taking boats up to 18m in these two spots. 

Lajes is a pleasant little place, with not much going on, except for a bustling whale-watching business. Two companies and a total of 7 boats are kept busy all day long, driving tourists out to see whales and dolphins. Pico is a very nice island, not only because of the 2300m high volcano, but more because of the intense green, contrasting the black lava. It is pleasing the eye wherever you go. Add to this a 5km long lava cave, the whaling history and museums and you get a very interesting mix. Again, we rented a car and toured around the island and found it even better then when we had visited by ferry from Horta and had to be back to the ferry terminal in time for the last one back. So, even for us a great new experience.

We now want to move on to Flores which is just under 150 miles further west. The wind has been mostly from there in the last days, but tomorrow and the night to Saturday there seems to come the rare opportunity to sail with a light NNE. After that it seems like westerlies as far as the forecast reaches. So, stay tuned, we may report from there next.

As always more pictures and in higher resolution are to be found at:

Sonntag, 8. Juni 2014

La Palma - Gomera - La Plama

So far we have been sticking to our plan to keep this years voyage through the Canaries limited to a few islands an on the short side, as we also want some time in the Azores before heading to Vigo to again join Alfredo Lagos' wonderful gathering for the so called Rally Bayona. 

By now, (Sunday, June 8) we are at our last port in the Canaries, ready to head off to the Azores tomorrow or more likely Tuesday when the wind conditions should be better.

Since our last report we had sailed over night from one side of the Canaries to the other, from Lanzarote to La Palma. In La Palma we went into the marina in Santa Cruz, a place we had been to many times before. This time it was a bit rainy and windy and so we only stayed for three days before sailing south to the western side of Gomera, to the second of our favourite anchorages in the Canaries. There beneath the tall wall at Valle Gran Rey, one usually finds a calm anchorage even if the NE trade is roaring just around the corner. 

This time we started to have doubts, whether the anchorage would indeed be calm, as the wind was strong and almost from the North. But again, only a few hundred meters from the the anchorage the fierce wind stopped. 

We spent almost a week at this place, which only has one disadvantage, being in a dead spot of cell phone coverage, which meant riding the dinghy to the harbour nearby and walking through most of the village of Vueltas before picking up a net and being able to send and receive e-mails.

But immediately in the harbour is a decent car rental place and so we got a car for two days to tour the island.  During our stay, the wind picked up even more and while we still had nearly no wind at the anchorage the last night at anchor wasn't particularly comfortable as a big swell set in rolling Taniwani beyond the point of comfort. 

We had thought of staying until the wind abates a bit, but then decided we would prefer a rough ride to Tazacorte on the west side of La Palma over another such night at anchor. We knew that the 50 miles would be mostly rough, as the wind accelerates around the islands, first around Gomera and then around the south of La Palma. Our estimates were surpassed as we metered 46 kts of true wind at times and for a long stretch never had below 35 kts. In addition our autopilot had decided it wasn't his day to be on duty, so Harald had to steer for most of the time. Which was actually fun except for being salt pickled. 

The last miles in the lee of La Palma were calm as expected and a serious brain wash fixed the autopilot. Apparently just looking at the settings from to different control heads to help a friend who had problems with the same autopilot, had confused ours to the degree, that it would appear to steer straight, but slowly coming off course and when the error was big enough it would complain.

Anyway it's all fine again and we ended our trip in the marina of Tazacorte. A place highly recommended by many friends, but we had never been in with Taniwani, just looked at it on some of our car trips around the island. And it is indeed a place one can like. More sunny and less windy than Santa Cruz and still not hot if you have a good shade. Huge breakwaters provide shelter of a perfection that you can barely notice the omnipresent Atlantic swell.

It is also a popular fishing harbour and if you don't mind that kind of ambience (noisy generators and fishy smell), it is a perfect place.

Again it is easy to get a rental car brought to the marina and so we had some really wonderful tours. We love these wonderful pine trees with their black bark and intensely green needles. And up at the highest points, at 2400m everything was blossoming, a beautiful sight. While we have been up there a few times, we never had these colours and for the first time we had guided tour through the biggest observatory, which was rather interesting.

We had some trouble posting pictures in this blog, so I'll try with a few and radically reduced in size. For more pictures and better quality look at the photo stream at: