Thu 27 Oct 2005 12:19
At last we managed to get away from Madeira. The south west winds eased and the sea calmed allowing us to slip out of Calheta Marina at first light on Wednesday 12th October.  The passage to the Canaries is about 280 miles but the forecast was for the winds to fall considerably so we were expecting to take about three days and two nights to get to Graciosa, but of course it continued to blow at 20 knots and we realised pretty quickly we were going too fast.  Not usually a problem for us, but at the rate we were going we would arrive during the second night.
The team decision was to slow down, Lady of Lorien, our sailing buddies, took as much sail down as they could, and we had two reefs in the main and bit of jib out.  Still trundling along at 4 - 5 knots.  And rolling.  First lunchtime I had proudly produced fried bacon and egg sandwiches, not a trace of mal de mer as I hovered over the cooker.  By day two it was dry biscuits all round.  We were all pretty miserable.  But as the dawn light spread acoss the ocean on the third morning we could just make out the peaks of northern Lanzarote and the islands around.  We were a bit lacking on charts and up-to-date info on what to expect here, our old-edition pilot book suggested diving down to the concrete held mooring rings on the floor of the harbour - I don't think so.  So imagine out relief when we saw two pontoons with plenty of spaces, so I spat out the anchor chain and we tied up.
Yet again we are in a little paradise.  A hundred little white, flat roofed buildings wrap round the habour.  A couple of restaurants, bars, supermarkets, and streets made of golden sand. The beach is fantastic volcanic rock overlayed with sand, half a mile across Estrecho del Rio Lanzarote proper rises steeply from the sea.  There are no trees, no grass.  As the moon rises over the dark cliffs, you can imagine yourself on Mars looking at the earth.
It's a bit like camping on the boat. The marina has no fresh water or electricity to plugged into. It means there's no endless washing down of boats you get in more plush facilities, and at night it's dark. Gas lamps and candles light the cockpits. We've met so many friends here. At last Koshlong, a Canadian boat with three girls on board, we we're told to watch out for them weeks ago,  Starlight, an American boat with three boys.  Sarah Grace and Regina,  we met both back in La Coruna.  Eddie's also palled up with two Dutch boys, who don't speak English but love to fish. So the children are having their best time yet.
We all dinghied over to Lanzarote and swam off a beautiful, deserted beach. Some of the children took a GPS off to find a 'geocaching' site hidden in one of the tunnels made by lava flow.  
On Trafalgar Day, the children decided to take on the adults in a "reinactment" of the sea battle. We took the dinghy out to Wild Alliance in the anchorage, she's a huge Formasa 50 and looks quite like a pirate ship. By the alloted hour there were sixteen armed with water pistols, sponges and water balloons on deck.  The grown ups took up position on a nearby boat, Aventura.  And then they came, they swam, they rowed, they canoed.  We held them off for 15 minutes, but we all walked the plank.  There's nothing like pushing in a fully clothed grown-up when you're seven, I guess. You could spot the experienced family cruisers - they managed to keep their Ray Bans on. Once the colours had been struck we swam back to Wild Alliance for a could have been 1805, except we invited Chris and Lynne from the French boat.
Later that day we had the "Art Show". Liz, an artist from the Australian boat Amaranth had been taken the children off every afternoon for lessons.  This was the showcase for their work, sketches of the village, imaginary animals and craft made from sea glass and shells.  An excellent end to one of our most enjoyable days.
We saw a turtle being rescued.  Fishermen had brought her in with a hook in her mouth.  She was quite a sad sight, about a metre long, 12 years old they thought,  but already suffering because she couldn't dive or eat properly.  They left her in a dinghy full of water on the pontoons for the night.  Next morning she was heaved into a wheel barrow by three conservation officers and taken onto the Lanzarote ferry, the plan was to get her to a vet on island.  We don't know the outcome.
For our last couple of nights in Graciosa we decided to come out to the anchorage, the water is beautifully clean and it's great fun buzzing around the boats and the beach. 
Tim adds: There is a thing serious cruisers do called 'diving on the anchor'. And in the anchorage in Bahia del Salado just South of Caleta Del Sebo I had my first go. As soon as you've anchored, the skipper dons his mask, snorkel and fins and swims down to check how well the anchor is embedded. This is not a practical proposition in Walton Backwaters. The sea-bed here was mainly rock with the odd patch of thin sand so there wasn't a lot for the anchor to grab and we were planning to stay a couple of nights so it was important we were well secured. You swim into the current ahead of the boat looking down on the chain. Despite being about 8m deep, I could see the bottom clearly. There were odd groups of fish but, I'm glad to say, none of the pilot whales said to use the straight for migration. I found the anchor and dived. I got close enough to see that most of it was well embedded but couldn't quite reach it. The water was fantastically clear. Like a lot of things you do on a boat, it's a job but fun too. 
According to one of the guides, Graciosa was the model for Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island. The complete lack of trees makes me doubt that but it is exactly the right size - just big enough to walk round in a day.
The original Canarians, the Guanches, called Lanzarote the Rose-Coloured Mountain and it is. 
Summing up the pace of life on Graciosa was the sign in the window of the bike hire shop - If you're bringing back a bike, just leave it outside, if you want to hire one and I'm not here, try the Restaurant Girasol - but only after 1030.
The shops all shut from 1 to 5. The fishermen dried their fish on a big net on the harbour's edge next to the internet cafe.  
There was a sign in another shop offering driving tests - presumably the full EU test!
The Harbour Master was also the Alcalde (mayor). Our 8-day stay in the harbour cost 33 euro - less than one night in Lymington.