Tree planting and Salsa

Chiscos - Atlantic Cruise
John Simpson
Sat 12 Nov 2011 14:28
Hello, Susan here again.  I've rejoined Chiscos for a few days in Gran Canaria as all the boats prepare for the start of the ARC rally on Sunday 20 November and am delighted to be back on the blog! 
There are about 150 boats here in Las Palmas Muelle Deportivo, a large marina which is part of the main port for the island.  By the start of the rally there will be approximately 220 yachts and catamarans gathered to make the crossing across the Atlantic to St Lucia.  For the ten days before the start there is an impressive itinerary of seminars and parties planned for the crews to take part in.  There is already a sense of camaraderie amongst the crews that have got to know each other in the past few days.  A walk along the pontoon where Chiscos is berthed takes a while as we stop to chat to people on their boats and share stories of some of the funny events of the night before! 
On Friday (11 November) we joined an expedition to plant trees in the centre of the island.  The ARC is sponsoring a project to replant some of the forest that once covered the island.  As Gran Canaria was colonised over the centuries the forest was gradually diminished until only about 10% of it remains.  The tree cover is important for retaining soil on the steep mountainsides, for maintaining nutrients in the soil and encouraging rainfall in the dry climate.  The project leaders took us to a mountainside with fantastic views of the coast towards Las Palmas.  There we were given tools and gloves and a lesson on tree planting.  The guides were Belgians speaking English, Spanish and French to the multi-national ARC crew members so the instruction took some time!  There was a lovely moment when two of the little girls in the party (one American, one French) were 'talking' to each other in their native languages.  The American girl was asked how they managed to communicate when neither spoke the other's language.  'It's OK', she said, 'if we get stuck we just ask our Moms and they tell us the words'.  What a fantastic learning experience for them.
Susan wonders how she comes to be digging a hole on a Canarian hillside on her holidays!
Mikaela admires the finished article.
In the afternoon we had a visit from Rod and Caroline from Advance Yacht Systems who came to check that we were happy with the generator, water maker and energy management system they had installed for us.  It has transformed the living experience on the boat; we really appreciate the luxury of being able to boil an electric kettle, have a hot shower with plenty of water and even use a hairdryer (I really appreciate the last bit)! 
The evenings begin with a 'sunset rendezvous' (drinks party) at 6.30pm followed by other events.  Last night the Las Palmas town authorities treated us to a Reception with free drinks, tapas and entertainment in a nightclub alongside the marina.  We enjoyed a fun evening with crews from Time Bandit, Beyzano, Nyda and Arabella.
The entertainment was a little unexpected.  Three magicians performed tricks to begin with, but were followed by two male dancers dressed in little more than a few sequins and some tall glittery stilt boots.  As this was a family event, one can only wonder what words the little girls were asking their Moms to translate!
The weather turned wet during the evening and as the nightclub was open to the elements it was a little damp on the dancefloor. 
However, we didn't let it dampen our spirits and we had a great time trying to teach the group how to salsa.  As John and I were the 'experts' on a few lessons half-remembered from a long time ago, our success was fairly limited but it didn't seem to matter!
We finished our evening in the early hours of Saturday morning having had a fantastic time.  The free drinks provided by the town may have been a mistake; as John and Mikaela set about boat preparations this morning, Mikaela was heard to say 'if we were sober we wouldn't need the funnel'!