Category Archives: Canary Islands

Deep Blue

loggerhead-turtleWe have sailed many miles in the past ten months. We have surged blindly through fog-shrouded seas in the high arctic; dodged through ice-scattered water off Greenland; surfed upon white water off the coast of Iceland; wended our way through the dark secret waters off the Hebrides islands; and coasted through thick red seas off the Saharan coast of Africa. But the past few days of sailing has been the first time I really understood the term “blue water” sailing. As we left the coast of Africa behind and hit the deep clear waters of the Atlantic we have found that the sea is unlike any that has ever lain beneath our keel. The water here is a deep blue like no other colour I have ever seen. In me at least, it evokes a feeling of another world – as we glide over this silken sea with cyan skies above and the indigo Atlantic beneath I seem transported to a different time. Here it seems that the square top-sails of a clipper trader could poke above the horizon at any time, or a sighting of distant land could be an uncharted island. It is a timeless world where the bustle of modern life seems to fade into insignificance.

bottlenose-dolphinThe sea also teems with a life that has long been lost from the crowded African shores behind us. Loggerhead turtles commonly poke their nose through the water as we pass by, and teams of dolphin seen to jumping doplphinstay in relay to keep pace with us. First Atlantic spotted dolphins, then bottle nose dolphins, then striped dolphins and then short-beaked common dolphins. Amidst he playful mammals, an occasional flying fish clatters across the surface and bonito tuna team in shoals around the islands (occasionally providing a meal for passing sailors!). Above us ganets soar benito-bonitoand plunge and shearwaters glide gracefully in our wake. In this vast ocean we rarely seem alone.

The past few days found us exploring the waters around Lanzarote and Fuerto Ventura and Gran Canaria in the Canary lanzarote-ruinsIslands. Though this was never one of the places we dreamed of visiting we have discovered a marine life here that has seemed absent since we left the vibrant shores of the Arctic. Conversely, the land is barren and dry with a few hardy birds and lizards stirring torpidly in the sun. Scattered over the island are the ruins of the lost civilization that perished upon the arrival of the Spanish which clash violently with the condominiums and tourist orientated sprawl crowding the shoreline. It is a land of contrasts but definitely a land worth exploring.lizard

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Beslama Morocco, hola Lanzarote!

Leonie_and_Sparrow_sleepingWhen our propeller finally arrived with more than a month delay, it almost took us by surprise, having waited for so long. Even more astonishing was the quick installation: after having a good thought about it, it took Pat only half an hour under water to exchange our one bladed woe for a three bladed bliss. And suddenly nothing kept us from moving on! Well, except for roaring sea which had built up to five-meter waves outside our sheltered harbour. Then again, we had been locked down for so long, another few days really didn’t matter so much …

Soon the sea calmed down and we found ourselves on the road again! Our next destination lay 250 nautical miles to the south-west: Rubicon, a small town on Lanzarote, one of the Canary Islands. As usual, we divided the sailing between the two of us in four-hour shifts, one person on watch, the other cooking or sleeping. That is, if Sparrow allowed any rest! She was not happy at all to leave Agadir behind – after all, she’s never been at any other single place for longer. To sooth her sulky mood she was allowed to sleep on the berth with us – at the foot end, of course. Which worked fine, until one awoke from a paw poking into one’s neck. Apparently the little rascal could only sleep with her head on the pillow …

ShearwaterOtherwise it was all smooth sailing. The winds were moderate and from behind, the sea was calm, and the sun hot on our backs. What a difference to sailing in the Arctic! No more down jackets, big mittens, beanies and winter boots, just shorts and t-shirts and, best of all, no shoes! The sea warmed to
over 20°C, shearwaters and terns soared overhead, and the occasional loggerhead turtle told tales of the tropics. At night, no moon lit the clouded sky, and the only light came from below as the breaking waves on Widdershins’ hull stirred the plankton to emit their otherworldly fluorescent glows. To add to our own shimmering wake, the sea was suddenly illuminated by converging streams of light. As our eyes struggled to comprehend these sudden comets of light a pod of dolphins broke the surface, racing briefly along our boat only to disappear into the blackness of the sea again.

LanzaroteAs the second night came to an end, the horizon was finally illuminated by an additional glow: Lanzarote lay ahead! As we approached the island in the early morning, bleak volcanic hills devoid of any vegetation greeted us. A few hours later we pulled into the harbour of Rubicon, and here we are, back in Europe again! No more mosques, veils, men in long robes or donkeys pulling carts, instead the place is bustling with tourists, bars and bowling clubs – quite a change of scenery. Tomorrow we’ll hopefully head on to Gran Canaria, to sort out further African visas … and to finally leave Europe behind for good!

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Into the interior

The circumference of Tenerife is fringed by beautiful beaches with grey stained sands from the eons of volcanic activity. Watching the waves lap upon these far flung shores and soaking up some sunshine is definitely worth a day or two but the island has far more to explore! Aboard our two trusty scooters we were soon buzzing around narrow winding roads through landscapesranging from arid plains populated by countless cacti to frozen fields of churned magma that spewed for El Teide thousands of years ago. Raising from sea level to over 3,000m the journey took us from the coastal hinterlands into the arid band of desert in the foothills before entering the greener pine-clad mountains of the interior. Finally the pines give way to bare rock and the cold war-zone of magma and volcanic bombs that crown this island in a spectacular moon-like landscape.


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Tenerife – two in the blue style

Anyone who has been to Tenerife has doubtlessly cringed at the forbidding hive of condominiums and fancy hotel-resorts. These sprawling edifices crowd the beaches and transform the tranquil island landscape into a cement jungle complete with its languid population of tourists who rarely venture far from the tout-lined path from the hotel to the beach sunbathing spots. Not really our scene!  So we decided to strike out for our own tailor made Tenerife adventure.

No motorbikes could be had for love or money so after a little haggling Léonie and I were soon happily straddling a pair of 150cc scooters and buzzing around the winding roads leading to the interior of the island. Not quite the power of the motorcycles that carried us across the South American continent back in 2009, but a whole load of fun none-the-less!


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From the cold to the canaries

After spending four months in the cold clutches of Antarctica Léonie and I decided to take some time out in the Canary Islands. Just a week after waving good bye to Tierra del Fuego, the southern-most tip of South America, our plane touched down on the barren sandy ground of Tenerife. The vista of icebergs, jagged peaks and wide wind whipped oceans that has been my home for months was suddenly replaced by an arid volcanic landscape punctuated by cacti, strange trees and the snow clad peak of El Teide – the islands active volcano! Forget the woolly mittens and the beanie … time to break out the swimmers and try and do something about this pale Antarctic complexion of mine!


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