4. Christmas and New Year (19 Dec 2013 - 9 Jan 2014)

We posted our last Blog (Page 4) once we had finished exploring Fuerteventura and had started to make our way back north from Morro Jable at the south of the island to Arrecife, the capital of Lanzarote.

Progress up to the end of the last Blog (page 4)
It took us some 24 hours to sail from the south of Fuerteventura back to Papagayo Bay on the south side of Lanzarote. As we were against a fresh northeasterly headwind and corresponding sea we were at first forced to sail “halfway to Morocco” before being able to tack north to our intended destination.

Sailing track back to Arrecife via Papagayo

After two pleasant (free) days at anchor in Papagayo we found that our anchor chain was trapped under a couple of rock ledges. While we could, with our tripping line, recover the anchor itself and indeed much of the chain, we couldn’t recover it all. We therefore got a local diver to do so. (Every reason for us to more seriously consider carrying diving gear on board!).


Owner of diving school about to set out to recover our anchor chain

Anchor chain being recovered by divers  

Thereafter we tacked slowly in light winds and seas the remaining 25 miles to Arrecife where we dressed Island Drifter overall (i.e. put up all the signal flags) and decorated inside to kick-start our Christmas festivities.
Island Drifter dressed overall for Christmas in Arrecife

On arrival we found ourselves dwarfed by an enormous 33m dark blue catamaran called G-Force.  When we investigated we discovered that she was originally called Orange II and had been skippered by Bruno Peyron. In 2003 he set the 24-hour sailing record of 706 miles! In 2005 he then smashed the round-the-world record for a crewed yacht when he finished in 50 days and 16 hours. This record stood for five years. As Kingfisher II she was sailed by Ellen MacArthur on a Round-the-World record attempt which ended when the yacht’s enormous mast broke in the Southern Ocean.  In 2010 she was converted into a fast cruising yacht with three staterooms for guests by Jack Setton, a famous French yacht owner and collector.  Recently she has cruised around the world for pleasure in ten months, prior to being sold by Setton for 2.95 million Euros to a new Turkish owner. The French crew member (one of six permanently employed) to whom we spoke said she was “very fast but easy to sail”.


G-Force, previously Orange II, past-holder of the 24-hour sailing record of 706 miles and of the crewed Round the World Record of 50 days & 16 hrs

Alan and Lynn joined us on the evening of 24 December. At one stage we thought that they might not make it as flights were badly delayed by the storm that hit the UK before Christmas. Friends in the Solent, where we have our beach chalet, phoned to advise that OUR property was all right but that half a tree had come down and severely damaged an adjacent chalet.

Storm damage to adjacent beach chalet at Calshot

For Christmas lunch, Helen roasted a “turkey sandwich” in our small boat oven, the joint being made up of two 2-kg turkey breasts with homemade chestnut stuffing between, plus all the trimmings with the exception of Brussels sprouts (which, thankfully, we couldn’t find here).

Christmas roast – two turkey breasts and stuffing

We had a great meal in the sun.

Alan and Lynn about to tuck in to Christmas lunch

Mike and Helen enjoying the occasion     
After an appropriate pause for a siesta we promenaded around the city’s inner lagoon, stopping at one of the “exercise areas” to build up an appetite for the evening.


Alan and Lynn working off their Christmas lunch

The following day we caught a bus to the surfing village of Caleta de Famara on the northwest corner of the island and walked 16 kilometres along the coastal path to La Santa via Caleta Caballo and Club La Santa – each one a surfing mecca.
Walking along the coastal track between Caleta de Famara and La Santa

Surfing beach at Caleta Caballo

On finally reaching La Santa we treated ourselves to a well-earned lunch in one of the small town restaurants.


Fish of the day at "Restaurant La Santa"

Next day we had a great downwind sail from Arrecife to Marina Rubicón – running in advance of a following gale. The marina is located at the eastern end of the enormous ribbon development of Playa Blanca on the south of the island.  Marinas, and their costs, are not our “cup of tea” – but Rubicón is a well-protected location (it needed to be). We also have to accept that the marina complex is excellent, by any standards.

Marina Rubicón viewed from above with Playa Blanca in the background 

While there we discovered that the Canary Island of El Hierro (200 miles to the west) had had over 500 earth tremors both around and under the island during the previous few weeks, the strongest measuring 5.2 on the Richter Scale. Previously, areas at the south of El Hierro had been evacuated and the rest of the island put on standby, although this does not appear to be happening at present. 

Recent seismic activity on the island of El Hierro (western Canaries)

Interestingly, it is now being suggested that the recent heavy swell in the Canary Islands is at least partly due to seismic activity around El Hierro.

Since, in the gale, we were clearly going nowhere that day by sea, we hired a car in Rubicón to give us greater flexibility to look around with Alan and Lynn and to visit some of the places not accessible by bus. These included:

·  Timanfaya National Park Fire Mountains (which we had already been to – but it was well worth revisiting) and their Restaurant El Diablo where we again enjoyed a half chicken grilled on the volcanic BBQ.


Lunch at El Diablo Restaurant in Timanfaya National Park

·  The island’s central massif, which we’d not been to, and which contains a staggeringly large area of vineyards – each plant surrounded by a horseshoe wall (zocco) designed to trap condensation at night and to protect against the prevailing wind. 


El Grifo vineyard’s logo in the central massif, Lanzarote

Vines growing in protective zoccos

·  The Estrecho del Rió between Lanzarote and Graciosa, where the anchorage was empty – not surprising, given the gale in progress. 


Estrecho del Rio and Graciosa viewed from the cliff top on Lanzarote's north coast

·  Orzola, the north-facing ferry port that services Graciosa, was being battered by the northeast gale. It was clearly giving the ferry skippers a challenge – judging by the “throat cutting” action given by the incoming captain!

Video of surf at the entrance to Orzola Harbour

Ferry surfing into Orzola harbour 

Once the gale blew through we left Marina Rubicón and had a pleasant light wind sail south, initially on a run and then a broad reach, to Puerto del Rosario in Fuerteventura. On the way we took the narrow channel between Isla de Lobos and Corralejo on the mainland. Even in mild conditions it was a bit choppy. In bad weather one is strongly advised to avoid it since the sea becomes very rough over reefs on either side of the channel. 


We were surprised on arrival in Rosario to find that the short temporary pontoon on which we’d previously stayed had not been trashed in the December storm. The Port Police, who are everywhere, at first tried to get us to anchor round the corner in the more open sailing club anchorage rather than on the pontoon.  Helen argued, in her rapidly improving Spanish, that we “always” stayed there and had “permission” to do so from the Port Captain (not entirely true, but it worked!). At that point they gave up, shrugged their shoulders and came down to help us with our lines! Once tied up, we got out the flags to dress overall as a start to our New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Island Drifter dressed overall for New Year’s Eve in Puerto del Rosario 

We spent the day of New Year’s Eve exploring the north of the island by bus.  Our vehicle had a particularly noisy and problematic gearbox and at one stage, after the driver struggled in vain for five minutes to engage gear, we thought we were going to end up marooned in the interior.  The depot’s mechanic, whom the driver phoned, advised him to get into reverse gear, which he could do, drive backwards to re-align the gears and to then put it in forward gear and keep it there with clutch and brake on when stopping for passengers. This worked, albeit with a few crunches, and we eventually reached our intended destination.

Bus “station” at El Cotillo, Fuerteventura 

El Cotillo is a quiet surfing and holiday resort on the northwest corner of Fuerteventura. After looking around the town, we enjoyed an outstandingly good racione (half portion) meal in a small family restaurant overlooking the old port.  Mother and son were the cooks and the food was truly excellent. (It was a good thing we didn’t go for full portions since the halves were enormous!)


Lunch at old port El Cotillo, Fuerteventura 

In El Cotillo we bought photographs of the small fishing harbour. The wave shown below completely obscures the breakwater, yet the fishing boats inside look as if they are perfectly safe.

El Cotillo harbour in good weather

The same harbour in a winter storm 
Our other memorable stop on this bus tour was at the 12-mile-long Playa Grande (beach) south of Corralejo.  Both the beach and the extensive dunes behind are made up of soft fine sand that has blown across from the Sahara.


Alan and Lynn on the 12-mile long Playa Grande beach south of Corralejo

Sand dunes backing the Playa Grande 

We saw in 2014 in Canarian style – eating one grape (in our case a sultana because Helen had forgotten to buy fresh!) on each of the twelve strokes of the town hall clock. Immediately after midnight the sky was filled with isolated firework displays that went on all night – not exactly highly coordinated but nevertheless impressive. 

We went to bed at 1 a.m. The locals were still partying at dawn – and at full volume! What impressed us was how immaculately dressed (and well behaved) everyone was. 

On our way south the next day for the 50-mile sail from Rosario to Morro Jable we caught a very nice 5lb tuna – the first with Alan and Lynn. Just right for four people for supper plus a salade niçoise the following lunch time. This was only the second fish we’ve caught since arriving in the Canaries, even though we have trailed a line whenever we’re at sea.

5lb tuna caught off Fuerteventura 
   On the way we took a closer look at some of the minor anchorages in the four coves along the rocky coast west of Rosario that we had only superficially looked at on our previous sail south. We were particularly impressed by those at Las Playitas, Ginijinamar and Taralelejo, which appeared to be perfectly adequate for an overnight stop in prevailing northerly winds.

  Our passage south allowed us to view the impressive sandy coastline of the Jandía peninsula including the Isthmo de Pared. The isthmus is comprised of sand blown from the Sahara over several millennia and joins the “mainland” of Fuerteventura to what used to be the island of Jandía.

The sandy Jandía Peninsula

   We arrived at Morro Jable at low tide and had to hoist Helen up onto the reception and fuel dock wall in order for her to take the lines and organise a berth. We ended up “parked” on a pontoon in the inner harbour opposite Fisher & Paykel, an impressive 84ft ketch which came second to Peter Blake in a sister boat in the 1989 Whitbread Round the World Race.   It is now used as a sail training boat for racing enthusiasts.

Fisher & Paykel, an 84ft Whitbread Round the World ketch, at Morro Jable

The same boat at Marina Rubicon 

Sailing back north against the prevailing wind was always going to be a more difficult task than sailing south. Again we did so in two stages – stopping overnight, this time in Gran Tarajal. As before we also had to sail a long way east before being able to tack to the north.

Route from and to Arrecife with Alan and Lynn 

We just made it into Gran Tarajal at dusk. We enjoyed a good night’s sleep before departing next morning. Very different from our previous stay during the “December storm” when the swell in the harbour made it nearly impossible to sleep.  Initially, on the way back to Arrecife we hugged the shoreline under the lava cliffs in order to keep out of the acceleration zone’s strong winds that curve around the Punta de Lantailla.

Gran Tarajal town and bay viewed from the east

Cliffs east of Gran Tarajal showing lava dykes 
It took 18 hours, including an overnight sail, to get back from Gran Tarajal to Arrecife.  We had to sail 80 miles to cover the 50 miles that the seagull would have flown.  Unlike day sailing, when we are more relaxed, we split into two watches and rotated watch every three hours. 

Chart plotter showing Island Drifter “halfway to Morocco” before tacking north  
  We came back to Arrecife in order to see the celebrations of “The Night of the Kings” on 5 January (which was followed by a public holiday on 6 January to allow everyone to recover). In brief, the Three Kings on their camels (the equivalent of Santa on his sleigh) bring symbolic Christmas presents on the evening of 5 January.  People subsequently hand out their presents on the morning of 6 January. (Christmas Day is more simply celebrated with family get-togethers.)

Camel laden down with symbolic presents prior to Parade of The Kings, Arrecife
This festival takes place all over Spain. The Three Kings and their followers throw handfuls of sweets into the crowd. Children (and some adults…) scrabble to catch them. The truth is that we had to sheepishly hand some over to young children who glared accusingly at us! Children also hand up letters to The Kings with their present lists.

The parade assembled in a car park close to the marina as dusk was approaching and proceeded along the Promenade to the town beach.  It comprised the Three Kings, an entourage of youngsters on camels, bands and floats, each with a nautical theme befitting Arrecife port.

One of The Three Kings

A nautically themed float 
Afterwards we worked our way round (and thereby had supper!) the stands set up on the promenade by local restaurants and bars at which tapas and drinks were sold at 1 Euro each.
One Euro Tapas Night notice

Arrecife population and ourselves enjoying Tapas evening
Tapas bar in action 
Having enjoyed “supper” we settled down with the rest of the crowd to be entertained by a large open-air concert at which musicians, singers and dancers performed.  Everything was traditional Spanish or Latin-American – thankfully no modern pop music!

Open-air concert 
Afterwards we put our heads down for three hours before leaving the marina at 3 a.m. to sail to Graciosa, the “desert” island to the north of Lanzarote. It proved an easy 5-hour motor-sail in light winds and flat seas (often the case at night).  We anchored at Playa Francesca, close to the shore. There was only one other boat in the bay.

Anchored at Playa Francesca, Graciosa 
(note tripping  buoy!)
Sunset viewed from cockpit at Graciosa anchorage 
After breakfast we rowed ashore, then walked the three or so miles along a sandy track through scrubland to Caleta del Sebo, the island’s port and only inhabited village.  The island is part of a marine reserve at the north of Lanzarote.
Tiled plaque of Marina Reserve, Graciosa
Sandy track from anchorage to Caleta del Sebo
The sandy streets of Caleta del Sebo 
We stopped for lunch at an excellent fish restaurant, Restaurant Girasol, where we shared a very large Pargo (a Pink Dentix) and four raciones (half portions again, when a full portion would have floored lesser men).
Caleta del Sebo port, Graciosa 
That night our chain got caught round a rock and there was nothing we could do about it (without risking making matters worse) until daylight. We therefore had to put up with loud grating noises and serious snatching movements all night.  Fortunately in the morning we were able to lift the anchor with the tripping line and then unwind the chain from the rock before leaving for Arrecife.  

Alan and Lynn relaxing on the sail back to Arrecife 
Back in Marina Lanzarote, Arrecife, we enjoyed a bowl of homemade guacamole and glasses of Bucks Fizz, which seem to have become part of our staple diet over Christmas! The outstandingly good, large Canarian avocados at 40 cents each and very drinkable Cava at 1.90 Euros hardly broke the bank.  Our second course of Peppers Padron has also become a boat favourite. Lynn’s excellent salad wraps and dessert of caramelised Canary oranges completed our final meal together on board.

Peppers Padron 
We needed an early night as Alan and Lynn had to catch a taxi to the airport at 5.45 a.m. and none of us had slept well at Graciosa thanks to the noise and vibrations from the trapped anchor chain.

We are now having a bit of a sort-out in Arrecife before heading back south to Fuerteventura where we are being joined for a week by Ian and Ginny Ross who, like Alan and Lynn, sailed with us in Norway last year.





  1. All this good eating just makes the pair of you look ever younger! Perhaps you have discovered the secret which escapes the rest of us storm bound mortals.......

    Have a great New Year with many pleasures still to come.

    bob & Beryl

  2. Did our postcard from Cape Town arrive at Marina Lanzarote?

    James & Carol Bryant