With stormsails to La Graciosa23/10/2015 15:43
Hola! Now we have reached the Canary Islands, and the first stop is La Graciosa, a small island just north of Lanzarote. Had heard great things about this place from one of the locals in Porto Santo, so almost the entire Norwegian fleet decided to head here. But to get port space one must apply via mail first. We all did without receiving any response, but Sun Trip and Tamara who arrived first got the space anyway after a while though. When we came here we were greeted by a grumpy old Securitas guard who just waved us away and gave signs that we could just turn around and disappear. He couldnt´t speak a word of English either, so the communication was rather poor. But after some shouting from the boat and gestures he agreed that we could lie on guest harbor to the next day. Slightly comical, and not surprisingly, because the guard was exactly as described in the port guide; grumpy, arrogant and equipped with both baton and handcuffs. Next day we talked to the Harbor Master who had a completely different appearance, and now we've got space for the next two weeks.
La Graciosa is in an entirely separate category compared to the tourist islands below. A fairly dry, naked and wild island, with a few houses and residents. A few grocery stores, a butcher and small restaurants. All the streets are covered with fine sand, and with small white brick houses and palm gardens. Beautiful beaches, completely untainted by large hotel complexes and charter tourists like we always associate with the Canaries. There is no airport here, but there is a ferry to and from Lanzarote located about 500 meters away.
It took exactly two days to sail across from Porto Santo / Madeira, and it is the worst crossing we had together so far. Because of the short time intervals with favorable weather windows we were almost forced to get off to not become entrenched in Porto S the next weeks. Forecast reported up to 25 knots winds from the west, which is quite good sailing winds. It's usually not the wind that is the problem anyway, but the sea, which can be quite uncomfortable if you have waves in the wrong direction. We had it fortunately from behind mostly the whole time. We had to sail full speed straight south to avoid the storm that was to pound away the very next day over Madeira, so with the storm jib and second reef we had a little regatta against "Sara Ulrikke" the first day. We managed to keep them behind us all the time. Second day we had a lot of varying winds and very heavy rain. When the rain clouds are so large and heavy that they come up as big stains on the radar..well, need i say more. The night was wet and cold, and it was getting pretty close with boat traffic the closer we came Canaries. We were also forced to jibe away to avoid collision with a cruise ship. For those who do not know what jibe is; it is to get the wind direction on the opposite side of the sails when the wind almost directly from behind and you do not have anything more to go on midtown courses. Generally it is a pretty straightforward affair, but with 40 knots of wind, heavy rain and up to 5 meters high waves it is NOT cool. It slammed hard in the mainsail and it felt almost like we were turned down by the waves. And then we discovered that the ship was much further away than originally anticipated, so the whole drama was totally unnecessary. Skippers wife takes self-criticism for that one. For a while we were so tired and weary that we began to rethink the whole trip, and a big argument on top of it all made tragedy complete. For those who sit at home and are envious of beach life and palm trees- it is a little work to get there sometimes! We arrived safely in port after all, and we can log 12.7 knots at most. It's pretty funny! Another positive thing is that the autopilot (goes by the name Horatio Hornblower) has worked well in spite of the conditions, and it has been a very firm and steady helmsman throughout. When we approached land, the weather got warm and sunny, and happy dolphins were playing circus around the boat. And when "La Familia" stood on the pier with open arms and hugs and anchor beer was captured, the hard trip were forgotten pretty fast.
Day 3 we took a bike ride over to the other side of the island, where we found the world's finest beach, but with very dangerous swimming conditions. The waves hit high and hard over the land, but we were not frightened and took a bath anyway. The guys were tough and played baywatch with cool plunge straight through the waves, with subsequent beating. When we got up from the beach , we discovered a memorial stone which was a warning to us al; in 2013 a father and daughter stood at the water's edge, looking at the sea when they unexpectedly got a rotating wave over themselves and was sucked into the sea and drowned.
For more photos, see the norwegian version.