5. Fuerteventura to Gran Canaria (10 - 26 Jan 2014)

After Lynn and Alan left for Arrecife airport in Lanzarote, following their fortnight’s cruising over Christmas and New Year with us (see Blog Pg 4), we had a sort-out for a few days before sailing south to Corralejo on the northeast coast of Fuerteventura to await the arrival of Ian and Ginny Ross, our Wayfarer sailing friends, who joined us for a week. 

Principal locations referred to during Ian & Ginny’s visit
Lynn and Alan, incidentally, announced when they first arrived on Island Drifter on Christmas Eve that after many years together they had finally decided to get married – and having decided to so, they arranged it promptly and with the minimum of fuss. This they did on 21 January in Gibraltar. 

Mr & Mrs Alan Newton!

(photo courtesy of:
We’d been to Corralejo before by bus and had also sailed south through the El Rió de Lobos, the channel between Corralejo and Isla de Lobos. This has surf-breaking shallows on either side which can become very difficult in poor weather.  The seals on Isla de Lobos (wolf seal island) have long since been eaten by the locals and visiting seamen. There is currently therefore a programme on what is now a nature reserve to reintroduce the species.

 Isla de Lobos at dawn

Following our initial exploratory visit by bus in December we described Corralejo (Blog Page 3) as a bit like “Blackpool in the sun for Brits” and indeed (in our view) much of it is. The harbour and surrounding “old town” are, however, attractive and our berth on the port’s visitors’ pontoon was well protected and inexpensive.

Pontoon at Corralejo

Ian and Ginny caught local buses from the airport, via Rosario, right into the port at Corralejo (100 metres from the boat!).  An interesting ride and a good introduction to the island.

A view from their bus on the way from the airport to Corralejo
Next day we left early and sailed north for the seven miles across the Estrecho de Boycana to Marina Rubicón at the south of Lanzarote. We had pre-booked a car there for the day to give us the flexibility to visit a number of sights in Lanzarote in a short period of time and in particular the island’s principal attraction, the mountains and volcanoes of the Timanfaya National Park. (The hire car costs were £27 per day all inclusive plus £1 a litre for fuel – hardly expensive between four people.)

Colourful foothills of the Timanfaya National Park, Lanzarote

Some of the many volcanoes in the Park

We also had time to visit El Golfo – a most unusual green lagoon where Raquel Welsh once posed in a fur bikini in the film “One Million Years BC”.   While driving through the vineyards of La Geria in the central massif, we pulled in at sunset to enjoy a wine-tasting session, drinks and tapas at a small family-owned vineyard and bodega. Their basic wines were a bit rough but the Moscatel was excellent.

El Golfo’s famous green lagoon

Wine tasting at a fifth-generation family bodega in La Geria

We enjoyed a fast downwind sail from Lanzarote to Rosario (the capital of Fuerteventura) where this time our presence seemed to have become accepted! We again moored in solitary splendour on OUR pontoon without any hassle from the Port Police.

Island Drifter on her OWN pontoon in Rosario                

Since Ginny is an enthusiastic artist, we were minded to visit the attractive town of La Oliva, which we might otherwise not have found time to do.  It was once the capital of the island – in fact, if not in name.   The bell tower of its eighteenth-century church is the town’s focal point. The tower’s black volcanic rock contrasts starkly with the white walls of the stone church itself.

La Oliva’s distinctive 18th-century parish church

In the past La Oliva was the seat of the pre-Hispanic kingdom of Maxorata, one of the two tribal kingdoms that shared control of the island. More recently (in 1708) the military governors (the Colonels), appointed by Spain to undermine the power of the local nobility, took up residence in the town and ruled the island with a rod of iron for some two hundred years. The Casa de los Coronels (House of the Colonels) has recently been restored. It is a large, austere but impressive palace/fortress and is said to be the best example of Spanish colonial architecture in the Canaries.

House of the Colonels, La Oliva

Fine examples of Canarian balconies
at the House of the Colonels

Courtyard within House of the Colonels

Nearby is the island’s art museum, with a garden of cacti, succulent plants and metal sculptures, together with galleries containing works by local artists. We particularly liked the landscape paintings by Alberto Manrique (no relation to our friend César!) and bought a print which we feel reflects many of the principal features of Fuerteventura.   We struggled, however, to appreciate the virtues of some of the modern paintings, one of which is illustrated below.

Metal goats (silhouettes) in the garden
of the Art Centre, La Oliva

One of the galleries within the Art Centre

Modern painting, about which we have reservations

As it was not far, we went on to El Cotillo, the sleepy surfing town, and again enjoyed a “raciones” (half portions) lunch in the old port. As before we were staggered by the size of the portions, the (low) price and the quality of the cooking and service!

Raciones lunch at Café Central, El Cotillo

In the afternoon Ginny spent some time sketching the beach and surrounding hills, while the rest of us watched the surfers riding the enormous Atlantic waves rolling on to the “beach of the eagles” to the south of the town.

Ginny’s sketch illustrating the colours of the landscape

On our sail south from Rosario to Gran Tarajal it actually rained for an hour! We simply had to photograph this rare occasion since the island gets only 4 inches of rain a year.  Ian offered to model his sailing jacket in the rain!

Ian modelling his jacket in the rain

As it happened, once we had arrived in Gran Tarajal it rained heavily at intervals for three days – to everyone’s (or at least the farmers’) delight and amazement. Even so it was still warm enough to wear shorts in the evening when walking into town. Nor did the rain stop us visiting Morro Jable and the spectacular Jandía peninsula to the south of the island.

Rainbow over Gran Tarajal's harbour


Little seemed to have changed in Gran Tarajal since we were there during the December “storm”.  The boats that were damaged were still damaged and the finger pontoons that broke were still unrepaired – the latter not surprising in a government-owned port.

Cleat snapped in two by December storm

Finger pontoon broken in the same storm

In the Canaries, yacht berths can be found either in privately owned marinas (such as Arrecife, Calero or Rubicón in Lanzarote) or government-owned ports in which there are (or sometimes are not) pontoons. Meanwhile, good overnight anchorages are slowly being encroached upon as marinas are developed.   

Most private marinas are attractive, well organised and efficient. They are, however, expensive for visiting yachts, although significant discounts can be negotiated for long-term stays of 6+ months – not necessarily what visiting cruisers are looking for.

By contrast the government ports are significantly cheaper and are often in traditional and interesting locations.  Many are “run” with the ruthless efficiency (!) of pre-Thatcher Services and Utilities in the UK by a surfeit of port staff and security guards who are clearly working two levels above their ability and whose principal objectives would appear to be their status, an easy life and a guaranteed state pension. There are of course exceptions regarding ports and staff. 

Theoretically one is supposed to book a berth in advance (sometimes by up to ten days) through the Gobierno (council offices) in the capitals of either Gran Canaria or Tenerife. These offices, however, seldom, if ever, acknowledge applications, don’t answer the phone and the booking system therefore has broken down – a fact that appears to be generally acknowledged by officials in the various ports.

The good news is that if you simply turn up, find and slip quickly into a berth, it is often too much trouble for the local “jobsworth” to eject you – unless you are foolish enough to challenge their authority in front of subordinate colleagues. Hence Helen, who is more tactful than me (surprise, surprise) and now speaks a fair amount of Spanish, becomes shore captain on arrival and to date we have therefore not had any major problem getting a berth.

We were impressed by the enormous murals on the gable ends of the walls of many of the commercial buildings in Gran Tarajal.  This appears to be a local practice since we haven’t seen any elsewhere.

Fishy murals in Gran Tarajal

While in Gran Tarajal, we were shocked by the news that one of the couples – Roger and Margaret Pratt on Magnetic Attraction – whom we had met when we first arrived in Arrecife in early November had been attacked while anchored at Vieux Fort in St Lucia. We had even attended the same seminar on Piracy as they did during Jimmy Cornell’s Atlantic Odyssey preparations.

Roger and Margaret Pratt celebrating her 60th birthday

Vieux Fort is in the south of the island near the airport. We have been there a couple of times before to collect or deliver friends to the airport and on each occasion have been the only yacht spending the night in the anchorage.  

Tragically, Roger was killed by a local gang that boarded their yacht at night. Such incidents are not infrequent and we are therefore even more conscious these days of the need for proactive security than we were fourteen years ago. Unfortunately Joshua Slocum’s security technique of leaving upturned tintacks on the deck to warn him of invading natives doesn’t work these day since most intruders are likely to have far better quality trainers than most cruisers can afford.

Daily Mail headline

Clearly one’s life is more important than one’s property. The dilemma that one faces, however, and one that is constantly discussed among cruisers, is whether it is more effective to appear to adopt a non-confrontational submissive response to aggressive, probably drugged-up intruders or to respond more actively in countries where you have no confidence in the judicial system.

After Ian and Ginny left to return to the UK we again had a sort-out on the boat. In brief, in a small space, one has to organise stores and berths in order to best accommodate either two or four people.

I returned to Lanzarote by bus and ferry from Fuerteventura to catch my pre-planned flight back for a long weekend in the UK. There I joined friends for our annual pilgrimage to attend the “Strictly Come Dancing” exhibition which tours the UK each year after the TV Final.  In previous years, we have had to travel by coach to Manchester. This year the Exhibition has also been held in the new Leeds Arena, which simplified our travel arrangements.

Mike, meanwhile, sailed the 80 or so miles from Gran Tarajal via the south coast of Fuerteventura to Las Palmas, the principal port and capital of Gran Canaria. I gather that he had a fast beam reach in a Force 7 with a 4m swell –  which he appears to have thoroughly enjoyed!

Sailing Route: Fuerteventura to Gran Canaria

We’re looking forward to exploring the island in depth now that I've rejoined Mike in Gran Canaria.


  1. Nice to follow you at this blog:) Hope you will have a good time at Gran Canaria :) My wife and I will go to Thailand NeXT week and stay there for 3,5 week :)


  2. Sounds like you're having quite a nice time! Enjoy! x