Preparations for the Atlantic Rally
Just over a year ago we booked in our place in the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, and we’ve been anticipating participating in this event ever since. It seems crazy that we’ve finally arrived in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, which will be the jump point for the Atlantic crossing, and our final destination in Europe. We have just over three weeks until we depart, all of which will be spent preparing the boat and ourselves!
But first, let me bring you all up to speed. Last Saturday my friend Laura flew out from London to meet us in Fuerteventura, and the following day we sailed the 45 miles from Correlejo to Gran Tarajal. I’m afraid that Jimmy Cornell never did return to sign our book, which makes me very sad indeed! However, the beautiful weather we had for the sail kind of made up for it. There was, I admit, a few light showers, but otherwise the day was sunny and warm, and the sea was as still as a pond. Perfect conditions for Laura, who broke the news to me as soon as she arrived that she gets sea sick!
Gran Tarajal is a small seaside town on Fuerteventura’s east coast. It’s quiet and, happily, has almost no tourists, which suited us well. However, Laura was keen to spend a day in Correlejo, since that’s really where the action is, and I wanted to go to the Correlejo dunes nearby, so we jumped on the bus and made the trek back up to the north of the island.
Beach at Correlejo
Two hours and two buses later, we found ourselves walking along a white, sandy beach with crystal blue water- gorgeous! Unfortunately, this was one of the most popular beaches on the island so we didn’t exactly have it to ourselves. It also became clear quite quickly that this was a nudist beach- and it was hard to ignore the simple fact that this is a past-time enjoyed mainly by, er, those of a certain age. One or two younger girls had their bikini tops off, but I’ve not seen so many bare, wrinkly bottoms- and more- since my days as a paramedic.
Anyway, a swim and some sunbathing later, we continued our walk into town, which was the better part of an hour, and enjoyed a seafood lunch and then cocktails (then shopping at Zara- boozy shopping is never a good choice!), then finally headed home. We were looking at another long journey, but when we saw that we’d missed the connecting bus, and had to wait for an hour for the next one, I employed my sharp bartering skills with the taxi drivers and, to my surprise, secured a cab for just over half of the quoted price.
Ten minutes later and I was wishing I’d just waited for the bus. I’ve had my share of white-knuckle taxi rides, but this one was by far the worst. Half an hour of praying- yes, I found God at last- and we were deposited back in Gran Tarajal, scarred for life.
The day after Laura left, Nick and I spotted a boat that I swear has been stalking us all the way from Galicia- an Elan called AWOL. Lovely boat, that we first saw in Caramiñal being interrogated by customs, I believe. We’ve spotted them all the way down the Spanish and Portuguese coasts, but have never had the opportunity to introduce ourselves. Nick insisted we head over to say hello- social awkwardness obviously no hindrance to him- and so we did. Val and Cliff were very warm and welcoming, immediately giving us tea and biscuits, and we had a good old chat comparing our sailing experiences so far, and how excited we are to be finally closing in on the Caribbean leg of our respective trips. It turns out that they have actually read our blog, which took us aback somewhat! If you’re reading this now- hello!
So, the next day we dropped our lines at 6am and motored out of Gran Tarajal. The conditions were a little cooler than we’d had so far- the jumpers were on for most of the morning and then, later, in the evening. It was a 75 mile passage, and, as usual, we had to motor-sail the entire way. We also had some pretty impressive swell, which led to much speculation as to what kind of sea state we can expect crossing the Atlantic. As I pointed out to Nick- we’re already in the Atlantic! The depths between the different islands of the archipelago were in excess of 1000 metres; these volcanic islands literally plunge directly up from the sea floor. We also saw some minky whales (no autocorrect, not kinky whales!) on our approach to Las Palmas, but the light was fading and I didn’t get a good photo. Hopefully we’ll see them again when we leave!
Entering the marina here was a little confusing, since it was early evening and all we could see was a mass of lights. Dodging ferries and container ships was also necessary: this is a busy port! There was another yacht right in front of us, so we kind of just followed him in. We radioed up and were met at the entrance of the marina by a guy in a dinghy, who showed us to our berth. It’s all Mediterranean style berthing here, which we haven’t seen since Viana do Costelo in northern Portugal. We were a little nervous, but needn’t have worried- once we’d reversed into our berth, we were securely tucked between two other Atlantic rally yachts, and had plenty of time to sort out our lines. The fact that- for once- there was no wind helped!
Yesterday and today have been mainly spent getting started on the long list of chores that need doing before the Atlantic rally- primarily, installing the hydrogenerator, which has involved a lot of swearing on Nick’s part, and many trips to the chandlery. I don’t know how it’s happened, but no matter how organised we try to be, there’s an ever-growing list of things being added to our to-do list. However, we have our priorities straight: after hearing about a Marks and Spencers in town, we went there as soon as the shops opened to stock up on percy pigs. Sadly, the food section was very small, but we still managed to find some mincemeat and pastry cases for Christmas, and we splurged on some fancy Christmas crackers as well.
Me: “Right, how many crackers do we need this year?”
Nick: “Um- two?”
So, we have four spare crackers. Who wants a Caribbean Christmas?!
We’ve also done a recce to the supermarket of the El Corte Ingles, which is pretty much the Waitrose equivalent. We didn’t shop in Waitrose in London, but after months of shopping in Hiperdino’s, we got a little giddy at the prospect of something new. They even had Quality Street (€50 euros for a large tin?!). The canned goods isles were of particular interest to us, sadly enough. However, since Nick’s cleared out Gran Canaria’s entire supply of M&S Chicken in Creamy Sauce, I don’t think we’ll be needing much else!