Tenerife to Gran Canaria

Caramor - sailing around the world
Franco Ferrero / Kath Mcnulty
Fri 7 Nov 2014 16:32
Entry by Franco.
27:44.8N 15:37.4W

Given the prevailing north-easterly winds and a south setting current, the easy way to Gran Canaria would be to head straight across from Santa Cruz. However, being 'hard of learning’ we decided to sail around the west side of Tenerife, see the sights, get some sailing in and shake off the harbour rot.

Monday 3 November 2014
Our first day was from Santa Cruz to the small harbour/marina of Garachico. This is a distance of some 55 nautical miles so an early start was called for. When the crew were informed of the 5 am start, Kath looked horrified and Aries (our wind vane self-steering) was his usual stoic self. The forecast was for 15-20 knots northerly breeze (force 4-5).
The alarm went off at 0500 and we were leaving the harbour mouth by 0530, an impressive performance. Apart from dodging a ferry the next two hours was simply a case of motor-sailing into the wind and waves until we cleared the NE tip of Tenerife.
From here we set sail with one reef in the main and genoa and ran off downwind. The waves were very confused and the motion most unpleasant. I was feeling queasy and to my amazement Kath was looking seasick for the first time in the five years we have sailed together. In the end she threw up her breakfast and went for a half hour lie down. She had not been feeling too well the last couple of days and I suspect that this combined with the motion got to her. Unfortunately, there was a good deal of low cloud so on this day our views were not that great. Ah, the best laid plans of mice and men.
As we approached Garachico the wind eased a little which made our passage through the very narrow harbour entrance a little easier. We arrived about 1630 and were greeted by the security guard who showed us where to moor and turned out to be a dab hand with a mooring line. (If a person who offers to take a rope from you doesn’t know what they are doing they are more a hindrance than a help). 
Garachico used to be the most important harbour on the west coast, used mostly for the wine trade. In the 1700s there was a volcanic eruption and a lava flow filled the old natural harbour. The locals have been petitioning for a new harbour ever since and in 2012 they got their wish and the new harbour opened. It is a most impressive construction and although the entrance is tricky once you are in it is completely sheltered. The pleasant calm after the last eleven hours was a stunning contrast. Work is still going on and for the moment the office and shower blocks are portacabins, but unlike many Spanish marinas we had hot water. IT was also the cheapest marina we have been in to date at just under €10 for the night. We went for a walk before dinner, looked around the pleasant little village and bought an ice cream at the Mexican restaurant/ice cream parlour (you have to be flexible to make a living in these little places).

Tuesday 4 November
We set off at 0900 and the wind had eased to a force 2 and was forecast to be 10-15 knots (force 3-4). The sea state had improved considerably, the visibility was good and we were in for a pleasant day’s sail of some 36 nautical miles. All the way down the NW cost we sailed pleasantly along at 4-5 knots, enjoying the sunshine and taking in the views.

Leaving Garachico

As we approached Punta de Teno, the SW tip of Tenerife, we entered an ‘acceleration zone’. These are areas where the wind is ‘squeezed’ and you can expect an increase in wind speed of about 10 knots. We reefed in good time and hurtled around the corner doing 7 knots. I decided against another reef as I reckoned we would soon be out of the zone and the wind would ease. In fact as soon as we were in the shelter of the cliffs of Los Gigantes the wind died completely, and it stayed dead for the rest of the day. So we motored for the last fifteen nautical miles till we reached an anchorage of sorts to the SE of the harbour of Los Christianos.

Rounding Punta de Tenos.

Approaching Los Gigantes.

The Canaries are notorious for having few anchorages and most of them are badly affected by any swell. This one was no exception and we were in for a very rock and roll night. We slept on our ‘sea bunks’ in the main cabin in the centre of the boat where the motion is least rather than in the fore cabin in the bows.

Wednesday 5 November
We were up at 0600 and had weighed anchor (still 25kg) by 0630. It was good to get going as the motion improved immediately. As is often the case at dawn there was no wind to start with and we motored for a couple of hours.
The forecast on the GRIB files was for 18 knots of wind from the NE. However you should always add a few knots to a GRIB file forecast and the whole channel between Tenerife and Gran Canaria is a bit of an acceleration zone. Soon enough we were bounding along in 20 knots of wind and a reef in both sails. Although the wind was from the NE and the course we needed to be on was a little north of SE, the combined effect of the south going current and our leeway (the amount a boat slips sideways when trying to sail towards the wind) being considerable in the rough seas meant that we had to steer a course with the wind well forward of the beam. The seas were quite steep and we were taking the odd wave over the hood. Despite a few soakings I was only wearing shorts, T shirt and a light windproof jacket, and I wasn’t cold! The power of this southern sun.
Lunch was cheese and biscuits, nothing fancy in these boisterous conditions. As the day wore on and we approached Gran Canaria the wind picked up to 25 knots (force 6)  and we put two reefs in both sails. Most of the time we had been making about 5 knots but as we got closer to land the wind started to back to the north so that we could sail more off the wind, and our  speed increased to 6-7 knots. Once again, as we gained the shelter of the land the wind died so we motored the last 6NM into the marina at Pasito Blanco. We made it in in the last of the light and just as we had tied up to a temporary berth, the ‘marineros' turned up and directed us to our proper berth.