Everyone on board Passepartout
breathed a sigh of relief when we
finally dropped sails and rounded the southern end of La Graciosa into the strait separating
this small island from Lanzarote.
The night had been rough with winds gusting forty knots, four meter waves
and dark in the extreme. A waning moon made an appearance at around three in the
morning and was mostly hidden by clouds. We looked forward to dropping anchor in
the bay of Playa Francesa which is recommended as a good all-weather spot. This
had been our second night without sleep, the previous one having been spent in
the rocky whirlpool that passed for a bay on the Portuguese outpost of Selvagem
Grande. To keep spirits up, I promised Nirit and Roni that as soon as the anchor was down and holding we’d
have a drink, hot showers and sleep the rest of the day.
Playa Francesa was crowded and I
could count at least twenty four other yachts. Tucked in at the far end of the
bay was an English classic wooden sloop we’d seen before at Porto Santo. A
strange looking aluminum motor boat with picture windows and flying a Cayman
Islands flag stood a little farther out. My options for anchoring were limited
by space and time. Time because the wind was being cranked up again and Nirit,
who controls the chain, was almost asleep
on the feet. I chose my spot and gave out instructions. The anchor went
down in twelve meters and forty meters of chain followed as the yacht surged
astern with the near gale force wind. I could feel the anchor dig in and bring
us to a dead stop. Having a look around I decided that in the interests of good
holding we should let out an extra ten meters, so away they went, bringing us to
rest between a blue steel yacht flying the English flag and a fifty footer whose
flag was furled but has an Aussie name. We were more than one boat length from
either. Three freight trains on parallel tracks would stand about as much chance
of colliding. The English skipper looked across, waved and nodded. The chap on
the fifty-footer cupped his hands to his mouth and called out ‘Ahoy there! It’s
forecast thirty to thirty-five knots in here tonight, If I was you I’d want to
be out there,’ and pointed back towards the open sea.
Ah, the anchorage police!
There’s one in every bay, someone who doesn’t care where you hang as long as
it’s nowhere near him. I ignored his suggestion and set about tidying up the
deck. We drank, showered and got ready for eight hours of the horizontal.
“That chap over there wants to
talk to you,” said Nirit.
“Well, there’s no risk of us hitting him, I’m off to
bed and you’ll see that when we wake up everyone will be in exactly the same
position. If the wind shifts, we’ll all move together and still keep apart.”
And so it was. The entire day
went by, we made up for lost sleep, the wind roared and nobody moved. I had to
laugh when darkness fell and we saw the fifty-footer had a blue flashing lamp
tied to his boom instead of the regulation white masthead light. He was taking his policing duties
The following day we got busy catching up
on a few maintenance chores, Nirit and Roni finished new cushion covers for the
sofa, we had a good meal and played cards.
The yachts stayed firmly apart.
On the second night we got
another ear full from the neighbour, “Ahoy there! We almost collided, you should
Almost? Give me a break digger,
‘Almost’ doesn’t count. I almost stepped on a landmine, I almost had a date with
Claudia Schiffer and I almost bought Apple stock at $4.80. But, in the interest
of getting a decent night’s kip we took in ten meters of chain and put ourselves
ahead of the agitated anchorage cop.
The sun came up and we enjoyed a
good breakfast. With one eye on the wind instruments, Nirit noticed the
occasional lull. We decided we’d had enough of our bothersome neighbor and would
use one of the lulls to weight anchor and check out a small village with a
harbor less than a mile up the coast. A quick call on the satellite phone
determined that the harbor of Caleta del Sebo had a free berth and whoever had
picked up the phone said he would send someone to help us tie up.
We made the harbor and were
called over to a vacant spot on a floating pontoon. Two cops, real Spanish
policemen this time, took our lines and made them fast. ‘Buenas dias senor!’
The one who seemed to be senior in rank
made a note of our passports and ships papers.
‘Where do we have to pay?” Nirit
‘That is the duty of the port
captain, but he is on holiday.” Our friendly policeman told us, “if he comes
back from holiday and you are still here, perhaps you will pay.”
I was falling in love with
Caleta del Sebo.
“Or,” he continued with a smile,
“you could leave and perhaps come back this way another time and try to
After two wonderful days in
Caleta del Sebo, a magical place of low whitewashed houses, sandy streets and a
few bars, we went for a hike back down towards the anchorage. Mister ‘Ahoy
there’ was still stuck in the same spot, arms folded, on guard and ready to see
off anyone who might want to anchor too close.