Las Palmas again 28:08.00N, 15:25.00W

Saro's Gyda
Derrick Thorrington
Sat 19 Mar 2011 15:40
We had a good sail from Tenerife to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. The man aboard the next boat in Santa Cruz de Tenerife was Canarian and he assured us that, once 5 miles away from the coast, the wind and waves sorted themselves out and pleasant sailing could be had. He was right! The quick decision to sail was made in the middle of the afternoon so we arrived at the anchorage of Las Palmas at 0400 the next morning. Despite the hour, we are creatures of habit, so after sorting the boat out, we sat down for a well deserved whisky before turning in (thanks Brian!).
    For the next couple of days we enjoyed the seclusion of being at anchor, making the most of this unusual state of affairs by enjoying the swimming from the boat and giving GF a good bottom scrub, but as we needed to do alot of organising for our next stage of the voyage we soon moved into the marina.We were very pleased to reacquaint ourselves with several boat crews previously met here at Christmas. A great community had formed on pontoon R. Included in these crews were 5 children aged between 9 and 14 who lived aboard permanently. These children tended to have "school" on their respective boats in the morning but if other opportunities were available and other people were willing, this might be substituted by learning a new skill, such as practical electrics on another boat undergoing work in that area. The children were free in the afternoons to amuse themselves (joined by two girls of a similar age from another boat). They made model boats (mostly boys), jewellery (girls), went to the beach, sailed dinghies and made music. We soon became part of the community, sharing tea, coffee, beer, wine, experiences, information and skills such as marine engineering, physiotherapy and music theory!
Back in Las Palmas
     Also in  the marina, though not on our pontoon was "Pax Nostrum", a substantial, 60ft Baltic Trader owned and lived on by Paul and Hilary. "Pax" was the centre of music, Paul being an experienced guitarist and Hilary a budding bodhran player. Although Paul was very definite about the fact that he didn't "do" children, he had five of the kids over, twice a week for guitars and harmonicas, teaching them the basics of playing, singing along and encouraging them to compose their own songs and tunes. Later on, the adults came along and for about an hour everyone played and sang together before the kids were dispatched back to their boats to give the adults a bit of peace!
    Unknowingly we had returned to Las Palmas during "Carnival". The weekends were particularly lively with bands starting up at midnight and continuing until the (not so) small hours! We decided to see the main carnival parade which started at 1700. It was a shame because the heavens decided to open, only on this day, all afternoon, evening and night, varying from drizzle to torrential rain - rather like England actually! We stood near the beginning of the route and enjoyed the fantastically dressed Carnival Queens and quite a few huge lorries with enthusiastic occupants dancing to their own very loud music and throwing sweets to the crowds. Each lorry had an enthusiastic rearguard of fancy dressed groups, dancing in it's wake interspersed with happy samba bands. We stayed for a couple of hours enjoying the atmosphere but were amazed later, by the constant continuation of loud music etc, that the parade was still passing "GO" at 2300. Apparently it was 7kms long and took 7 hours to pass by! The inevitable band started up at midnight but, despite the many thousands of people on the streets and the easy availability of alcohol, there appeared to be absolutely no violence                                       
    We had left Santa Cruz and returned to Las Palmas as we had suddenly had the opportunity, that very afternoon to have the boat put on a ship to mainland Europe. The ship was due to arrive the following week and we didn't want to miss the opportunity by being stuck in the wrong place. We had decided that we didn't fancy the hard slog northwards against all the prevailing conditions, but rather preferred the option of going into the Med and returning home via the French Canals. It is not recommended to start heading north from the Canaries until, ideally the end of April when the northerly winds are not as strong and dominant as earlier in the year. Waiting this long, however, would not have allowed us sufficient time for our plans.
    There was alot of hassle involving paperwork and many a long walk in and out of the docks, but eventually all was organised. GF was put aboard the ship after a long delay due to the boat previously loaded, falling over in it's cradle on the deck! D was not amused and we both felt very anxious when it was our turn as there didn't seem to be alot of care regarding health and safety. At one point, before we were aware of what was happening, we were being lifted, still on GF,swinging towards and away, high up the ship's side. We were then told to clamber aboard, over the ship's rails, onto the deck when GF swung near to the ship. Quite scary, and definitely not within the rules. D has this ship earmarked for very close inspection next time it enters Southampton!
Our ship
Nervous moments
    Due to the varying ETA of the ship, we were unable to book flights until the last minute, which rendered us homeless for one night. This was absolutely no problem, we had 3 offers of accommodation. We were originally going to stay with Dave, Sarah, Bethany and Bryn on "Cape", but a last minute offer of a double berth in the forward cabin arrived from "Pax. Everyone agreed that this would be a better regarding available space, so "Pax" it was, where we were made to feel very welcome. The flight left in the evening of the following day, but far from feeling at a loose end, we spent a very busy day visiting and saying goodbye to some lovely friends.