The evening we arrived at La Gomera, we had a super meal
in a restaurant, recommended by a chap who had lived in South Africa
but who now lives on the island. He and his sister look after a motor cruiser
plus a couple of other boats, berthed in this marina.
We had hoped to meet with
Austin but he couldn’t get away. The
people who had chartered his classic sailing boat had too much to drink and not
looked after their 11 year old. She subsequently fell into the water and ended
up underneath one of the pontoons. Following her rescue she was taken to the
local hospital and is now fine. However, her family wanted to leave the marina
and anchor so, sometime approaching , Austin
and his colleague had to move the boat to an anchorage in a nearby
Next morning we hired a car and drove around the island,
mainly on elevated roads in the mountains, with their fair share of hairpin
Perhaps La Gomera doesn’t have as many tunnels as does
Madeira but based on tunnels per square mileage, there
cant be much in it.
The scenery is just stunning with the most indescribably
beautiful mountains and ravines. From almost everywhere on the island, there is
a wonderful view. Mt.Teide on
Tenerife, some 25miles away, looks as if it is just a
backdrop to the mountains on this lovely island.
We drove through the national park and the dense
forestation, some 600+metres above sea level. “More a cloud forest than a rain
forest” said Philip and he spoke the truth. The predominant trees in the forest
are related to the laurel and with their evergreen leaves, stay green all the
There is a shortage of water here, so the moisture which
supports this forest must come from the clouds, not that there were any around
during our stay here.
Sadly there is an aging population here as most of the
young people leave, looking for an easier way of life than toiling the
A considerable number of terraces have been built, to
assist the agricultural way of life and although many are cultivated, with
grape-vines and plantations of bananas, as well as other crops, most of the
terraces have either been left fallow or perhaps are now just
There are a couple of other ARC boats here in this marina
at San Sabastian, as well as one or two that are planning to cross the Atlantic
independently. Everyone is very friendly and it is impossible to set foot on the
pontoon without chatting to someone else who is also on a boat here.
Monday is a fiesta, a Saints day and all the shops are
closed except the local supermarket which remained open until .
We had lunch on board and then left San Sabastian to
travel to an anchorage near Valle Gran Rey, about 14 miles down the coast. The
passage was not very pleasant with wind over tide and we were punching unto a
force 6. We saw the small marina of Puerto de Santiago, after having traveled
about half way to our destination. We hoped to shelter there for the night but
we were not permitted to stay so we continued on to our anchorage, just outside
of the marina of Puerto de Vueltas.
There were already a few sailing boats at anchor and we
joined them, putting out a kedge anchor in addition to the main anchor, so that
the boat would face the swell, rather than the wind.
While we were at anchor, during the hours of darkness, a
monohull, also anchored here, sank to the bottom of the sea. The Spanish
equivalent of the RNLI made a search during the night but returned in the
morning to continue to locate the sunken vessel. We subsequently received a
Navtex “Uncharted dangerous wreck, 8 metres long, showing a mast at low
We spent an uncomfortable night here and left by
to make passage to El Hierro, the
smallest of the islands in the archipelago.
We arrived at the marina of Puerto de la Estaca around
. The marina office is only open
during the morning but a port policeman directed us to a berth against the
quayside and took our lines. As the tide went out, it was necessary to attach
another line to the bow and it was no mean feat, pulling the boat towards the
quayside, against the wind, so that Dick was able to climb a ladder, set back
into the concrete wall, to access the top of the quay.
Next morning, Dick went ashore and formalized our arrival
and arranged for us to hire a car for the day.
A chap arrived from the aeropuerto and drove us back
there, to collect the car. At first it seemed as if there was a problem with the
power steering but the “city” button had been left depressed by the previous
user. I have to say that subsequently, we were very glad of the power
We traveled to the main town of
Valverde and down to Porto Restinga,
where we stopped for coffee and looked at the boats in the harbour. There was a
large sailing boat tied alongside the wall of the quay and three smaller sailing
boats tied up to one of the pontoons. Also, in the bay were another two
monohulls which looked as if they were on moorings.
From there we drove upwards, across the mountain ridge
towards the lighthouse at Punto Orchilla. It was a very scarey ride. Not only
were the roads narrow and winding, in many places there was nothing between us
and the sea below.
We passed through the forest which was not as dense as in
La Gomera and mainly consisted of pine trees. In a couple of places, the pines
had been cleared and on a plateau, almond trees were growing. We could see where
trees had been felled, chopped into logs and left, piled by the side of the
road. Some of the more recently felled piles of logs, still had branches with
pines needles attached.
Just below, on the edge of the forest, a lot of fig trees
were growing. There were so many that one has to believe that they are grown
The last five kilometers of the road to the lighthouse
was unmetalled. In fact, the ash and clinker, probably courtesy of the volcano,
was possibly flattened, to make the road.
Punta Orchilla, at the western tip of El Hierro, even
until the 15th century, was considered to be the limit of the known
world and from 1634 until 1884, when Greenwich was internationally recognized as
prime meridian, Punta Orchilla held this status, along with several others at
When we arrived at the lighthouse, set within lava flow,
it was closed and in the process of being renovated for use as a restaurant and
museum. We had braved those sheer drops, to come here, to collect a certificate
stating that we had visited the most western part of
Europe, for naught.
that the certificate is now issued from an office in Valverde. The map given to
us by the tourist office at the aeropuerto was not the latest issue and was out
of date. No certificate but then, what would we have done with it even if we had
We chose the inner road for our return journey, rather
than the coast road, fearing that the coast road might be even more frightening
than the road across the mountain ridge. Passing through cloud at 1330 metres
did nothing to relieve the fear factor caused by the sheer drops and clinker
built road. Then, at last, the road was once again metalled and there were
barriers on the side of the still winding road.
Finally, we returned to the marina just after . The tide had come in and our boat was
swinging back and forth, in towards the wall and out again.
I am so pleased that we use big, round fenders. When the
tide goes out, the fenders fall below the lip on the quay which is indented
around 40cm, for the length of the wall. If we still used the cylindrical
fenders supplied with the boat, we would have no protection from the concrete
wall, as they would disappear into the gap.
At 18.30 we ceased to be the only visiting boat here,
when a French couple on a sailing monohull arrived and tied up alongside, ten
metres in front of us. They will have to use their dinghy to reach one of the
ladders, if they want to get ashore. Even at spring high tide, without a ladder,
the wall of the quay is too high to access the dockside for all but the most
Puerto de la Estaca at 8am. I was lucky to be on watch at , when three dolphin played around the bows
for about five minutes before departing. We motor-sailed until , then sailed until within an hour of our
destination. We punched through the sea with the wind and tide against us and
the 54 nautical mile trip became a 74 nautical mile trip, allowing for the
We eventually switched on the engines just 9 miles from
Santa Cruz de la Palma, in an attempt to arrive before it became dark. We tied
up alongside the reception pontoon at .
Next morning, we moved the boat from the reception
pontoon to a hammerhead. Philip kindly hosed the salt from the boat, Dick went
ashore to complete the entry formalities and then we were off again, in a hire
car, exploring another volcanic island.
The highest point on La
Palma is 2400metres and Caldera de Taburiente, the
largest volcanic crater in the world has a circumference of 27 kilometres. The
heavily forested slopes of the ravines against the towering sheer rock of the
mountains, make stunningly beautiful vistas.
We visited the two volcanos on the southern tip of the
island and walked around the edge of the crater created in the 17th
century. The volcano which erupted in 1971 was close by.
Saturday morning we left the marina soon after sunrise to
make passage to San Miguel, on Tenerife, to the marina in
which we had stayed 8 days ago.
Within two hours we were sailing and although the sea was
big and uncomfortable, we were traveling at speeds up to 10knots. Mid afternoon
Dick spotted six pilot whales but didn’t have time to call us as they only
surfaced as we were passing them.
As we came into the lee of
Tenerife, the wind changed direction and for the last
four hours we had to use the engines.
We tied up alongside having covered 77nautical miles in
The berth was more comfortable than when we were last
here as we were moored stern to the quay rather than alongside. Unfortunately,
one of the lazy lines twisted round the starboard propeller while we were trying
to berth, so Dick had to dive under the boat next morning, to free the
In many marinas it is a health hazard to have to enter
the water but the water here is very clean and clear.