Last Days in Lanzarote

Tuesday November 25, 2014

Lanzarote, Canary Islands

Leaving the marina on Friday we had a bit of an issue of where to go next. We didn’t want to continue to pay to stay there although conditions hadn’t settled enough yet for us to go back to our old spot. With few spots that give protection from the SW winds we were encountering we thought that we might just have to sail up Lanzarote to a cheaper marina although that didn’t sound very fun either. Luckily Matt had gotten on Active Captain and found an anchorage on the east side of Lanzarote that I had been completely unaware of. I guess it’s not used very often, and only three miles or so from one of the main towns that does hold a marina (with cheap rates), so most everyone passes it by.

There was a very small town accompanying the anchorage, something I can’t even remember the name of but somewhere along the lines of Playa Quimacha. As we sailed around the peninsula and up the coast, past an enclosed fish farm and into the anchorage, we noticed a few small homes and restaurants by the shore as well as what looked like a resort jutting out of one of the hillsides.

We expected to quickly get our anchor down and enjoy the rest of the afternoon with a Wuld beer and a sunset. Things didn’t go quite as planned. As we’ve been finding with just about every anchorage in the Atlantic Islands, the only shallow water (as in 35 ft) is butted right up against shore and then takes a dramatic drop off. As we puttered closer to shore we saw that what would have been a perfect anchoring spot in front of the resort was blocked off with buoys, probably a partitioned swimming area. Changing direction we had to head off to the far corner of the anchorage by a grouping of rocks and another boat. We didn’t want to be ‘that boat’ that anchors directly next to the only other boat in an anchorage (the sheep issue), but it was the only spot left that would be shallow enough to get the anchor dug in.

Trying to stay a fair distance from them we let the anchor down and went through our usual process of letting it set and backing down on it, when all of a sudden Matt was making frantic motions for me to switch to neutral. It turns out that our chain had gotten itself wrapped around a gigantic boulder sitting at the bottom and we were more or less screwed until it came free. The first and most obvious answer that went through my mind was to have Matt simply dive down on it and let it free. He doesn’t have much of an issue getting down to 30 feet, and if we were in tropical waters that’s probably what he would have done. A quick check of our gauges though showed the water temperature had now dipped from 72°, which is bad enough, down to 67°. Not impossible to swim around in for a few minutes, but definitely not pleasant either. That was now a last ditch resort.

If we did have a saving grace during this debacle it’s that the water is still crystal clear, even at 35 ft, so we could see exactly what was happening below as we looked down from the deck. Scratching our chins and just staring for a few minutes, we decided the best course of action would be to find out what part of the boulder the chain was coming up from, and then gently motor further in that direction and hopefully loosening it. With me behind the wheel once more and Matt at the bow giving directions we would make small movements in different directions to get the chain to unwrap. Forward, neutral, run up on deck to take a look, back to wheel. Reverse, neutral, take another look.

Not that I minded the act of having to do this to free ourselves, we had plenty of time before the sun was to go down and I knew we’d become loose eventually, but I hated to imagine what the other boat probably thought of us. Look at those silly Americans who have to anchor directly next to us in this wide open harbor, and can’t even properly get their anchor down. I almost wanted to shout over to them, “This isn’t normal, we’re usually very good at this process!”. But instead I kept my head forward and awaited further instructions.

In the grand scheme of things, the time to free ourselves from the boulder was actually much quicker than I thought it would be, or could have been. 10 minutes after we had originally got ourselves stuck we were free and off to find a sandy spot. Which did happen to be only a few hundred feet from the other boat since there happened to be a shoal that jutted out from shore and didn’t leave many other options. Once it was deemed that we would not swing into this other boat or into the shoal we let our guard down and went to enjoy the last 90 minutes of daylight with a Wuld and a new radio station we just found that pumped out electronic music all day.

The anchorage itself was very beautiful, with tall rock formations, dark sand beaches, and a cool dark teal color to the water which reminded me glacial areas that one would find near Alaska. There were a few terrible swells that rolled through during the rest of the evening, the kind that could send plates sliding off counters and shattering on the floor (we actually have had that happen to our Corelle dishware before), but somehow my seasickness seems to have departed for the moment, so instead I glued my eyes to the deadlight to watch how they were affecting the other boat and laughing in surprise when a few of them threw the boat far enough on it’s side that I could see the beginnings of their keel.

Yacht WinWin by Fuerteventura

Lanzarote, Canary Islands

sailboats at Lanzarote

We ended up spending the whole weekend in this spot as we waited for a weather window to open up that would carry us the 100 or so miles to Gran Canaria. We figured that during one of our afternoons sitting around we could run to shore and visit one of the little restaurants and use their internet while enjoying a beer or coffee to find out when we could make our escape. There were two issues with this plan though. One of them was that after our first night there we could not find a period of more than an hour where it wasn’t raining on us. Every time we’d start prepping ourselves to get in the dinghy and motor in we’d see a huge rain cloud coming over the horizon and then tell ourselves that we’d wait for it to pass and then try again. This happened for three days until we couldn’t take it anymore and were ready to go in, rain or shine. Never escaping the rain storms, we landed the dinghy on shore just as a new shower was starting and became soaked as we walked up the road to where the few restaurants were situated.

Sitting down at a table and ordering two steaming cups of coffee, we talked to the server and found out that not only did that particular place not have wifi, but it wasn’t available anywhere in that town. To get a signal you had to go to the next town over, three miles away. Bummed out and a little confused about what we’d do for the weather, we enjoyed the rest of our shore excursion while watching the dishes come out to the other patrons of the restaurant. It seemed that one very popular item was a large fish that was coated in salt and then lit on fire at you table before the server put it out after a few moments, scraped off the salt, and placed it’s toasting insides on your plate. It looked and smelled delicious, but no amount of persuading would get Matt to order it. He really is only into fish when it’s fried. And preferably freshly caught by us and therefore free.

In the end we were able to send out messages to my dad through our satellite phone and let him know the path we needed to take and what kind of winds we were looking for. Although we wouldn’t have been able to move all weekend anyway because of some very strong winds between the islands, a window finally came up for us to leave today. Our first overnight passage in a month. Instead of whining and complaining about having to spend a night at sea like I probably would have a year ago, all I could think of this time was ‘We’ll be there tomorrow morning. I can actually sleep about half this passage away. This is going to be so easy!’. Oh how things have changed.

storms over Lanzarote

Lanzarote, Canary Islands

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