28:01.17N 16:36.89W Marina San Miguel, Gran Canaria

Tue 17 Nov 2015 19:19
11th November. Parting of the waves. To Marina San Miguel, Gran Canaria.
We watched as the Norwegian yacht headed south and we slid over calm water towards the south end of Gran Canaria. Zoonie didn’t like the uneven rolling motion so Rob set the main and immediately she steadied herself. I went below for a snooze and was aware, a few minutes later that we were healing somewhat.
“Barbs we need to reef, winds over 18 knots and rising.” We set a tiny amount of foresail and reefed in the main to match the foresail size and settled down opposite eachother in the cockpit – for the night. For the rest of the 50 miles we had 24 – 28 knots of wind and Zoonie loved it, we decided to stay up in the cockpit and enjoy the fun. If Zoonie had her way she would pitch up and down in these conditions enabling us to rest below but the passages between the islands are not only funnels for the water and winds but if the water were drained away would reveal a complex of mountains, gulleys and reefs that lead to a very confused sea state as the mass of water is forced around and up and down.
For a few moments Zoonie’s progress would be constant and steady, then a tall wave would slap her stern, spin her and give Henry the Hydrovane a hard task bringing her back on course. She didn’t heel too far because she only had a little sail area unlike the Stavvy as we crossed these same waters back in 2007 on the voyage I mentioned recently, when I met Rob.
This stretch of water, between Fuerteventura and Gran Canaria is the windiest and most turbulent in the islands and one evening we started out on our tall ship with a wind Force 5 forecast. So the ‘on’ watch, mine, set to releasing buntlines so the square sails could fall and take up the wind. Meanwhile the foresail halyards and sheets were also being hauled upon so those sails would draw us forward and as close to the NW wind as we could go. A few minutes later an almighty wind reached us and the Stavvy started to heel well over. In the fading light I could see from my position by the helm that her forecourse yard was dipping almost to horizon height. Captain Roy Love came on deck and exasperated said “Barb its supposed to be a five, where has this Force 10 come from?” We gathered in the midship area called the ‘waist’, because its runs from one side to the other.
The bosun, Ben, addressed us. “We have to reduce sail quickly before they rip, I am asking for volunteers, you do not have to climb but we will be glad of your help.” Ben and I did the port side of the fore course while two other crew worked with us on the other side of the mast, hand over hand heavy sail material being pulled up until it could be tipped into the last fold and tied in place with the buntlines, not the prettiest stow but at least the sail would not tear. Soon the job was done but the wind persisted all night and more excitement was to come.
Under engine alone we were trying to enter the harbour on El Hiero. Rob was on the helm on approach when Captain Roy came out to him and said “I know you are perfectly capable of doing this Rob but I am not prepared to give you the responsibility,” so we both stood back and watched as the engineer, on the orders of Captain Roy, put the helm fully one way and then fully the other way to give her forward motion while the storm was blowing at right angles across the mouth of the tiny harbour. The purser was recording all the commands and at the end of the evening she counted over 1100, given by the captain before we were safely tied up alongside the harbour wall. I asked the engineer how he had faired through such prolonged physical exertion, “My back’s killing me” was his pained reply.
Forward to 2015 and with only 50 miles or so to go we let Zoonie run along at 6 plus knots knowing that we would arrive too soon and have to turn around and bide time for a few hours before the light of dawn would make harbour entry safe.
How long did that dawn take to break! Six thirty, no sign, 7.30, no sign. We had seen the airport lights, 5km north of the marina, when only 10 miles out of Mogan and they guided us all the way across, but there was many a rocky headland twixt airport and marina.
Just after 9.00am Zoonie was sitting happily on station (holding her position) outside and we radioed Rafael in the marina office. He answered immediately, which is always reassuring. “Wait please, we have cat fuelling up,” an hour later “Ok our staff will help you on the fuel pontoon, big Polish yacht, alongside him please”. Topped up with diesel we motored straight into the marina towards the boatyard at the end and rafted up alongside Tamarind. When in Gran Tarafal we took his lines as he brought her in single handed. At that time he mentioned how he was going to have to make sure his prize possession was a clean as a whistle before his wife arrived and later we got an inkling why.
Signing in with silver haired Rafael was an experience. He spoke little as he talked on the phone and at the same time recorded and copied our documents. In between calls, answering VHF requests from approaching yachts and dealing with marineros with queries, it took us an hour to get sorted. We were tired and this was all we needed but Rafael was cool, accommodating and very busy, as were all his staff too. All our requests were granted, gaz bottle replacement, receipt of our solar panel delivery he organised through the marina, saving us hours of getting to places and sign papers and paying tax etc. Hire car, no problem he would sort it. After our booked stay we asked if we could stay another 5 days “No, problem” he smiled, his big eyes looking from his compassionate face.
13th November. VIPs arrive!
Paul and his son, Richard were due to arrive late afternoon, so our time was taken up preparing their cabin, filling up with water etc. They were staying for 3 nights and as soon as they arrived produced an early Christmas present for us from sister Sue and Bernard in the form of money for a meal out. They also planned to treat us as they were staying on board and the third night would undoubtedly take care of itself.
We felt privileged that they had come all this way and it was great to have their company in our otherwise quite solitary lives.
The first restaurant catered for Brits abroad and we learned all about the couple behind us from Blackpool who had a B&B, at least he did! The food was ok, very large portions, mucho chips. A very bored male singer gave his rendition of songs he thought we’d enjoy and many of the clients sat silently opposite eachother looking fed up. Things could only get better.
On the second night we fared better. The Lava Beach was the end restaurant before the promenade overlooking the sea descended onto rocky paths past unfinished hotels. It was a small family run place and had a nice atmosphere and a very pretty waitress. The food was novel. Richard and I started with mozarella and tomato towers, literally like a fat lighthouse with red and white bands of paint. Yummy.
The lady who owned the place was also waiting on table and as she came to top up my water she dropped a large ice cube into what she thought was an empty glass. Water shot vertically upward and for some reason made me jump. My squeal of laughter brought glances from other guests and being a common language caused them to join in too. As Richard rightly commented, “For someone who lives on water that was an odd reaction.”
The best part of the evening though was the Irish Coffee Incident. The first Irish coffees had squirty cream on top which was ok (I prefer whipped cream). We ordered seconds and as the evening was now well advanced the waitress was relaxing a little as the ‘rush’ was over and said “ I’m sorry, we’re out of squirty cream, we’ve only got real cream, but we can try and float it on top!”  A few moments later she returned very sheepish, deep blue, carefully made up eyes dancing, “I’m really sorry we can’t get it to float, would sinky cream be alright!” We couldn’t reply for laughing. It was fine, just stirred the lumps in and drank coffee with cream.
Tamarind was due to leave early the next morning so we decided to move away from her to a space directly beside the long pontoon by the harbour wall. I clambered onto Tamarind to let go our lines when from inside came the retort, “What are you doing, you only had to ask for help you know,” in a tone fit to freeze a volcano.
“I didn’t even know you were on board.” I responded meakly.
Funny place Tenerife. Very funny place San Miguel. The marina is part of a golf complex with lots of hotels apartments and rows of small attractive houses. The tourist information assumes you have come by car and is beyond walking distance from the marina. The nearby booking office is for tours only, no bus timetables or anything sensible like that and the nearest bus stop is directly reachable over a steep rocky path. We had already found the bus timetable on the internet but it could not be downloaded. Car hire is four times more expensive than Lanzarote even with the same company.
At some point we have to clear out of the Canaries officially, just as we cleared in. A paper trail is essential in this game to confirm where we have just come from, otherwise it can take hours if not days to clear immigration. We knew from the pilot that one can clear out of Los Christianos and Santa Cruz (at the north of the island) so while the boys were here we decided to have a look at Christianos. We waited at the bus stop and here found the first bit of inspired networking on the island. A taxi rank right behind the bus stop. Oooh that air-conditioning was bliss.
Los Christianos was packed on the seafront and in the bars. A strong wind was blowing sand across the beach so the sun beds were empty forcing everyone onto the promenade. I thing we managed forty minutes or so walk, noting the derelict and crumbling handful of historic buildings amongst modern architecture. “Let’s try a road back”, I suggested. Phew, in the shade a few people were sitting outside bars and we found a nice little Italian restaurant for a light lunch, with a charming waitress and the biggest Porcini mushrooms I have ever seen. It was not difficult to fill the time with chat about eachother, home, mutual friends and our trip. Another taxi ride took us ‘home’. We gave up on the harbour office as it was Sunday anyway.
An unexpected and lovely surprise about this marina is the bar, above the office and shop. It has the best views of the sea to one side and the marina, golf course and eastern flanks of Mount Teide, right to the top on a clear day on the other side. We relaxed over a cool beer a couple of times while Paul and Richard were with us and of course while on our own.
Our last evening meal in the company of our visitors was not without its laughs either. This time the cream topping on the Irish Coffee was whipped cream. Rob couldn’t feel it on his lip as it was room temperature so as he tilted the glass a moustache of white poured down either side of the glass. It wouldn’t have been so bad but we were already laughing about something else at the time and Paul and I just collapsed. We never found the cream on Rob’s clothes, which was a mystery, but the chef and waitress came out with mop and bucket ready to clean up Rob!
Back in the marina we had been watching a refit take place on an enormous catamaran. It seems this marina is very busy with refirbs, unlike Puerto Calero on Lanzarote. A hoist was no where near big enough to put this lady back in the water and two massive cranes had to take on numerous weights weighing 12.5 tons each to lift her back in to the water. At which point she left the harbour to be replaced by one just a big that had been built as a world racer.
A couple of mornings ago I had awoken to see a square rigger in the harbour. As we walked up to her from behind I saw the port of registry was Leith and knowing there was only one square rigger in Scotland when I sailed on her a few years ago, I thought she must be the Jean de la Lune, and indeed she was. I hoped we would get a chance to visit.
Paul left us mid morning for his midday flight and Richard very kindly washed down Zoonie’s decks with fresh water before taking himself off for a last run after lunch. His taxi arrived even before we could walk up to the office and suddenly their much looked forward to visit was over, but with the promise that Paul would try and visit us in the Caribbean.