12. El Hierro to Lagos (14 April – 11 May 2014)

We are now in Lagos on the south-west corner of Portugal where we stayed on our way south to the Canaries from the UK in October last year.  We arrived a week ago and intend to leave Island Drifter here in the boatyard until February 2015 when we plan to sail to and cruise in Greece.
 Route from UK to the Canaries and back to Lagos          

Lagos is a trading, touring and fishing centre with an attractive old town, a good marina and an excellent boatyard (with Tarmac hardstanding!), adjacent to one of the Algarve’s finest beaches.

Aerial photo of Lagos marina 
(reproduced with permission of the marina management)

After a most enjoyable stay in El Hierro (Blog 11, 14 April) we left Puerto La Restinga bound for Lanzarote.  Initially we day-sailed the 60 miles or so north-east to Valle Gran Rey on the north-west coast of La Gomera.
Dawn departure from La Restinga in El Hierro

We’d previously visited Valle Gran Rey by bus while exploring La Gomera. At the time we noted down that it appeared to be a very well-protected port worth exploring further.

 Enormous harbour wall, Valle Gran Rey, La Gomera

As anticipated the best (and cheapest) berths had already been colonised by liveaboard hippies and the harbour itself was full of small local boats moored fore and aft.

We were, however, able to moor on the inner breakwater in the old harbour.  It was quite comfortable at the time but we’re told that in a gale one needs tyres against the wall, since fenders simply get shredded.

Island Drifter on inner breakwater, Valle Gran Rey

The adjacent village, once an old fishing port, is now a pleasant, predominantly German holiday complex – the largest resort on La Gomera.  It is set in magnificent surroundings.

From Valle Gran Rey we again day-sailed north along the wild, uninhabited north-west coast of La Gomera to the new €31-million government port in Garachico on the north-west coast of Tenerife. We’d recce’d this port back in February when exploring Tenerife by car.

Garachico marina

The historic old town of Garachico overlooks the old harbour (to left bottom of photo below) which, together with half the old town, was destroyed by lava in 1706 following the eruption of the nearby volcano of Montaña Quemada.   Before this disaster it was a major port in Tenerife.  Successions of inhabitants have been lobbying for a new port for the last 300 years. Fortunately for them, Spain joined the EU and all their dreams came true.

Garachico ancient town overlooking the old harbour

On the way to Garachico a grey whale surfaced in front of our boat and seemed totally unaware of our presence. 

Grey whale surfacing in front of Island Drifter 
On our passage north from Garachico we had a wonderful  view of Mount Teide, before making our way along the north and then down the north-east coasts of the island to Santa Cruz, the capital. We’d stayed there in February for the Carnival.

Mount Teide

Bryan and Dorothy Collins were in Santa Cruz when we arrived.   We first met them in Marina Rubicón in December and as with other cruisers we’d kept in touch.  Indeed, it was for their party in Tazacorte, La Palma, that Helen was preparing the guacamole when she sliced open her finger.

Aerial photo of Santa Cruz

To our surprise, Vencedor (Spanish for “Victor”) was on the opposite side of the pontoon! She’s a Colvic Victor (Island Drifter is a Colvic Countess) previously owned and lived on in Ipswich for over 12 years by our friends Wendy and Graham.  She is now owned by two forty year olds Maurice and Hannah (and their dog Lilly), who are taking a two-year sabbatical from work. After cruising the Canaries they were about to leave for the Mediterranean via Madeira.

Vencedor, a Colvic Victor previously owned 
by Ipswich friends

Also in the marina, on the wall, was a 38-metre superyacht, P2, with a crew of eight, on its way to the Caribbean.  Island Drifter was dwarfed by it. Its tender was larger than we are.

P2 and Island Drifter – “Little and Large”

It took 30 hours to sail the 160 miles from Santa Cruz in Tenerife to Arrecife in Lanzarote.  To begin with we had to motor-sail north in order to catch the NNW wind. Thereafter we were able to sail downwind and made good progress to Arrecife. 

        El Hierro to Lanzarote                                         

In Lanzarote we had a major sort-out while waiting for an appropriate weather window to proceed north.

Washing off Saharan sand while inspecting the rigging
We finally left the Canaries on 2 May and, given the touch of west in the wind, decided to sail north parallel with the Moroccan coast rather than take the more traditional route via Madeira. 
Since we didn’t have a Moroccan courtesy flag, had booze on board, didn’t fancy being searched at intervals or paying backhanders, we kept out of Moroccan territorial waters and tacked up to the Gibraltar Straits, before being able to head directly for Lagos. 

Route from Arrecife, Lanzarote, to Lagos, Portugal  
The passage took eight and a half days during which we covered just over 900 miles, mostly against a northerly of at least 20 knots.  This compared with our sail to the Canaries from Lagos which was a four and a half day downwind sleigh ride in a 550-mile straight line.

Video of sailing against the prevailing northerly wind

Forty miles south of Lagos we were motoring along in calm seas and hot sun when we were hailed by another yacht in need of assistance.  The owner had bought an old boat in the Azores and had intended to sail it to Lisbon.  They did not have the use of their navigational instruments because their batteries went flat and they could not restart their engine. They didn’t have a portable GPS and as a consequence after seven days they were lost!

They had no means of progressing because the wind had by now died down!  We passed them one of our boat batteries (much easier said than done) together with charts, a portable GPS, extracts from the pilot book – and our last bar of chocolate!   With a new battery they were able to restart their engine and proceed to Lagos.

Yacht R&R adrift

Since we intend to sail to and cruise in Greece in 2015, we’ve decided it makes sense to leave Island Drifter in Lagos until next February. The alternative of sailing back to the UK and returning to Lagos in November seems a pointless exercise.  (It would have to be in November because although it is possible to sail south from the UK in the period December to February it can be difficult.)

Therefore we’re using the time we would have spent sailing back to Ipswich to decommission and lay up the boat here. We’ve booked flights home on 11 June and we’ll fly back to Lagos for a month in October/November to complete the servicing of the boat, ready for our departure to Greece in February. Again, this is time we would otherwise have to spend sailing back here.  Our experience to date suggests it’s much more pleasant working on the boat in this climate than it is in Ipswich.  

We’ve taken nearly eight months cruising to, in and from the Canaries. In total we’ve covered over 4400 miles, 1600 of which were cruising in the Canary Islands themselves.  We went for the winter sun and we found it.  Our conclusion is that the Canaries are an excellent cruising ground in the winter in terms of weather, inter-island passages, coastal sailing and things to do and see on the islands. 

This is the last Blog – of this series!

Thanks to those who have made constructive comments regarding content and presentation, to those who have expressed interest and finally to the silent majority who we know look at the Blog.  We've had over 5000 hits during our cruise so at least someone's looking!  

Interestingly, we're still getting hits on our previous Blogs and have been contacted by people who are planning cruises in the same areas. It's encouraging to be of help since we have ourselves gained benefit from looking at other people's Blogs.


  1. Enjoy the sardines - you have both earned them!


    1. Thanks! But we won't try to beat the record consumption at one sitting shown on the restaurant wall of 48 sardines!!

  2. Sad to be at the end or a lovely vicarious adventure. So, Greece in your sights! More goodie shots and Retsina in the noon dy sun . . . . mmmmmm! Thank you again for entertaining us landlubbers. Lots of Love: Grahame & Monica (Bermuda)

  3. Nice reading, nice pictures. Well done.
    Kind regards Hanne & Jørgen

  4. Good to hear from you. Nice to have an international following!

  5. Very Nice reading, have now reading the whale blog. Thanks You very Much.
    Pär, Sweden