Thu 27 Jan 2011 11:38
It was very difficult to leave San Sebastian de Gomera. The immediate surroundings were lovely, the little beach was delightful with interesting snorkeling, the town was small and friendly, we had made some good friends within the marina and "on land" and the scenery was spectacular, explored thoroughly by foot and bus. Keeping an eye on the weather however, we decided that there was an opportunity looming to sail for the most south westerly of the Canaries, El Heirro. As we hadn't anchored for a while we decided to head for the opposite side of the island to Valle de Gran Rey, spend the night there and then head south for El Heirro early the next day.
The Beach San Sebastian
We set off in the late afternoon and after a lovely half hour sail with the wind behind as per the forecast, the wind gradually dropped to nothing then sprang up again from dead ahead! We eventually reached our destination and anchored off the imposing high black cliffs, The surroundings were very peaceful except for the rolling. We both spent most of the night bracing ourselves with knees against the boat sides - not very conducive to sleep! Needless to say, we were up and off very early the next morning. The forecast was for a light NE wind so as we motored out of the wind shadow of the 1500m high island we were expecting to pick up the wind to send us south. The wind duly arrived, once again absolutely dead ahead! We persevered for a couple of hours but with 40M to go decided to call it a day and went back to San Sebastian instead.
Valle de Gran Rey anchorage
The trouble with sailing here is that all the islands are very high and very steep so you seem to either have a wind shadow or a huge acceleration zone to contend with. The prevailing wind then bends itself around the islands and often ends up by coming from a different direction. Because of the ocean swell, the depth of the water and the shape of some of the islands it is also difficult to anchor. Like the wind, the swell seems to creep around the corners and make conditions very rolly.
We were soon very pleased that we had come back when we learned that the major Fiesta to celebrate San Sebastian was happening at the end of the week (15th Jan). On enquiring about tickets for the traditional music concert on the Saturday night we were told, "No need to book, it's free!" The concert was superb. Traditional musicians on Gomera and a guest group from Tenerife performed in turn. The bands were large comprising about 20 musicians playing a range of instruments - 12 string mandolin types in two sizes, ukuleles, guitars, drums and huge castanets. The bands accompanied their singers, usually 10 or more with excellent soloist/leaders, the whole being complimented with traditional dancers. It was most enjoyable and everyone had a good time.
The following day was the official parade which was due to start at midday, but (don't forget Spanish time) actually began at 1330. Floats depicting harvest scenes complete with figs, bananas,corn, grapes etc passed very slowly down the narrow streets, led and followed by their own bands, singers and dancers, Groups had come from other islands and the town was full of national costumes. Everyone, whether participating in the parade or not was dressed in costume.
Each of the groups had set up base on tables provided in the main square and after the parade assembled to enjoy their own picnics - Paella, barbequed fish and roast chicken prepared by their followers. A stage had been set up and all the groups took turns to perform throughout the afternoon. Traditional dancers joined together to perform complex patterns whilst others enjoyed the Samba rhythms in their own way. I was invited to dance by an enthusiastic old gentleman. I tried to tell him that I didn't know how to Samba but he insisted. It was great fun, but I couldn't help thinking that he was wondering what he had let himself in for!
Two professional bands were booked for the main stage in the evening, due to start at 1100. Another late night! We prepared ourselves with a little catnap until midnight then went to join in for a while. This time the music finished early - 0430 compared to 0710 on New years Eve!
The following day we learned from our French neighbors that there was another band due to play in a few evenings time. This hastened our decision to leave as being typically British we like to go to bed at a reasonable hour and enjoy a good night's sleep!
We said our goodbyes and headed off the El Heirro the following afternoon.