Gran Canaria

Thu 28th Sept

Before setting off from Marina Rubicon, Lanzarote, we had taken down the Genoa and rigged the running sails. We had never tried them before, and hoped that this would be a good opportunity for a downwind sail. These sails fit in twin grooves in the furling gear foil, so can be partially or fully unfurled just like any foresail. Each sail is set with the sheet led through a snatch block on the end of a spinnaker boom. There are two long booms, mounted on mast tracks, each with a topping lift and two guys. The booms could not be rigged until we were out of the harbour, and are a bit of a challenge to set up in a rolling sea. Once this was done however, the running sails unfurled like a pair of moth wings and stayed set for the next 90 miles or so.

IMG_1396_GranCanaria_RunningRunning sails

Our course to the south of Gran Canaria was not directly downwind, but the sails were stable with wind on the quarter and would almost broad reach. We had the staysail set as well which spilled wind into the windward running sail, and did something to reduce roll. It was a very pleasant overnight sail during which we both managed to get some sleep between 3 hour watches. The sparse lights on Fuerteventura faded to the East, and the glow of Las Palmas spread like a false dawn in the West.

IMG_1415_GranCanaria_SeamountOur track over an underwater volcano

We passed in the night over a (hopefully inactive) volcano, 2km high, its summit barely 40m below our keel. As we approached the island next day, the wind increased in the acceleration zone as expected, but not too much for the rig. Then it became calm as we approached the sand dune coast of Maspalomas, having worked south of some large fish farms. We motored the rest of the way past the lighthouse to the small anchorage outside Puerto Pasito Blanco.

IMG_1442_GranCanaria_PasitoBlancoAnchoragePasito Blanco anchorage and beach, from the port entrance

Sat 30th Sept

After a swim from the boat, the dinghy was launched and we rowed to the beach and had a walk around the village. There were many small birds in the trees, but even now after several months in the Canary Islands, we still have not seen a canary! At the port office, we booked a few days in the marina. Back on the boat after our usual salad lunch, we hauled the anchor and set off with ropes and fenders at the ready. At this point the local customs cutter, which had been lurking and flying a drone over the anchorage, launched a boat to intercept Ambition II. R invited them aboard (extra hands welcome for coming into the marina!). Once moored on a convenient hammerhead, the usual documents were produced, and forms filled in. They departed, satisfied that we were not due a fat tax bill. We then had to move to our allotted berth, requiring that we reverse into a narrow slot between boats, picking up lazy lines. A Marinero was there to take our stern lines and fortunately there was only a light wind, so the manoeuvre was completed without mishap.


We later heard that other boats in the anchorage had not been so lucky with the customs, having lengthy interrogation and in one case a tax demand for several thousand euros.

IMG_1747_GranCanaria_PamsPlank“Pam’s plank”

Friends K & P from home were expecting to be in the area for a holiday, so we hoped to have them aboard. In any case, it is no joke climbing from the pontoon, over the stern rail, wind vane, Dan buoy and general deck clutter, so R set about constructing a boarding ramp. The emergency steering gear (heavy steel tubes) was fished out of the lazarette and lashed down. The swim ladder hinged on this, with the bottom end supported on the outboard hoist, and a plank lashed to the ladder. This contraption was duly christened “Pam’s plank”, and did sterling duty for the next 4 days. Unfortunately, our friends were booked with the Monarch airline, which chose this time to go bust; their holiday was put on hold.

Pasito Blanco is a private port and gated community, with one Spar shop and a restaurant, some miles from anywhere. It was a pleasant place to stay for a few days. Being in port meant we could use the bikes, so on Sunday we cycled along the main road and then a coastal cycle path, to Maspalomas. Facing the coast are hotels, restaurants, shopping. Behind are the clubs and bars. It’s a pleasure dome spread over a mile around the tall lighthouse. To the East are the dunes and extensive beach where an all-over tan is easily obtained. The dried-up river channel from the hills behind empties into a lagoon in the sands, populated by waders, egrets and herons that seem inured to the throngs of tourists crossing to and from the beach. The dunes, of sand blown from the Sahara over the millennia, are fortunately protected, and harbour more wildlife beneath the tamarisk trees, including the large Gran Canaria lizard.

IMG_1476_GranCanaria_LasPalomas_poolHeron and egret in the pool, Maspalomas dunes behind.

For a few days, provisions could be had from the Spar shop which had a good stock, if a little pricey. A frozen paella mix supplied a couple of meals, and a chunk of unidentified meat from Brazil turned out to be shin of beef, better the second day than the first but still chewy. The restaurant does excellent burgers. The dinghy was rigged and we twice had a sail along the coast and back to swim at the beach in the warm clear water. We met S aboard his large boat in the anchorage. He liked our dinghy, and we invited him for a drink on board.  He came from the Åland islands in Finland and had many interesting tales of his time in shipping. It was J’s idea one evening to take the binoculars birdwatching on the beach. Fortunately, there were no nudists on this occasion, but we did spot a pair of whimbrels (a wader similar to the curlew).

IMG_1581_GranCanaria_DinghySailing towards Maspalomas lighthouse

The weekend had been a bit blowy at sea (though tame on our bit of coast), but it promised to be calm by midweek. So on Tuesday evening we packed away the dinghy, for the first time splitting the two halves while afloat and hoisting each part separately to the foredeck. This worked perfectly in the very slight swell of the marina. Pam’s plank was also disassembled ready for an early start on Wednesday.

IMG_1745_GranCanaria_DinghyHalfDinghy split in half for hoisting on deck

The trip of 56 miles back to Santa Cruz de Tenerife took us along the SW and W coast of Gran Canaria. Some parts are spoiled by hotel blocks, though a few ports retain a traditional, low impact appearance.  To the West, the mountains, cliffs and valleys form an impressive sight from the sea.

IMG_1761_GranCanaria_WestCliffsWesternmost point of Gran Canaria

Our track went NW from here to a gap in the TSS where we could cross the shipping lanes at 90 degrees, which then took us directly to Santa Cruz. The light northerly freshened a little on our approach, so we had a pleasant sail, arriving back at our berth in time to get a takeaway curry for dinner!

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