|Posted by yachtmoonlight on November 14, 2009 at 12:28 PM|
We left Madeira on Tuesday 3rd November as planned and set sail in the morning.
There was enough wind for us to sail for the first few hours, but the wind soon died away and we had to run the engine to keep us going.
The sea was choppy, which made the boat very rolly and although it had been sunny when we set out, the sky gradually filled with clouds and we had occasional showers from late afternoon and through the night.
The following day wasn’t much better, the sea was still choppy and the showers continued, so the trip really wasn’t much fun at all. It was very difficult to sleep and the days and night-watches were very dull as we didn’t sea any wildlife or other boats for the duration of the passage and I had listened to every podcast on my ipod at least three times and was rather bored with them to say the least.
We arrived in Santa Cruz on La Palma in the Canary Islands at 9am on Thursday morning, both very tired and grumpy and extremely pleased to see land.
As we entered the harbour, a large German cruise ship that had arrived shortly before us was docking against the harbour wall. Lots of passengers on the cruise ship were standing on the balconies of their cabins and many of them waved down to us and some even took photos of us! It was a very nice welcome and cheered us up no end.
The marina in Santa Cruz is very new, the pontoons are all pristine with free water and electricity, but the main marina building is still under construction, so the showers are in a portakabin and very basic, but we didn’t mind too much as it is quite cheap and very close to the town.
After checking in and getting directions to the supermarket and chandlers from the very helpful chap in the marina office, we headed to the town to explore.
During the passage from Madeira, one of the Genoa sheets (ropes!) had frayed quite badly where it was rubbing against the boom preventer (another rope!). This will need to be replaced before we can move on as it won’t last much longer.
We couldn’t find the supermarket, only small Spar shops which weren’t very big and didn’t have a lot of choice, but we did find an excellent fruit and veg market, so we were able to stock up with some fresh produce and I headed back to the boat while John went to look for one of the two chandlers he had been given directions to. One turned out to be a paint shop and the other a general hardware store that didn’t sell ropes, so John was a tad miffed and stressed when he arrived back. He did manage to find a couple of other items we needed though, including an oil hurricane lamp, which he spent a happy afternoon taking to pieces and re-assembling around the home-made LED anchor light he made in Cascais, which now looks very funky and much better than the plastic container in was in before. Meanwhile, I spent the rest of the afternoon downloading new podcasts for future night watches!
(John with his very funky homemade lamp)
Unfortunately, our hopes for a good night’s sleep were dashed as there was a huge surge in the marina, making the boat roll around quite dramatically, pulling and snatching at the mooring lines, which made an uncomfortable night also very noisy.
In the morning, John made a few trips to a nearby petrol station with the fuel jerry can to top up on very cheap diesel, and called his daughter, Becky to arrange for her to buy the new ropes we needed so she could bring them out with her and I pottered off into town to do my Christmas shopping, which really is quite odd in the sunshine and heat!
Becky’s Christmas stocking has already been arranged with Santa, but I still needed to get a few things for John and some small postable things for my family. (As we are planning to leave the Canaries in the last week of November and won’t reach the Caribbean until a few days before Christmas at the earliest, any presents needed to be posted this week.)
I had a plan for a present for John. He doesn’t have a soldering iron and borrowed a very funky gas-powered one from Ron which he liked very much, so I decided to try and find one. Not many people speak English here and my Spanish doesn’t extend to tools, so this was quite challenging, but I thought I was hopeful in one of the hardware stores when the chap behind the counter nodded and disappeared into the back, re-appearing a short time later with a soldering iron. Unfortunately it was a mains-powered one, but I thought we were heading in the right direction, so asked if he had a gas-powered one. “Si” he replied and disappeared into the stock room again, returning a few minutes later with something slung over his shoulder which I can only describe as a flame-thrower. He put in on the counter in front of me and smiled, probably wondering why on earth I would want a flame-thrower. Despite how much John would probably have liked it, I decided it wasn’t really what I had in mind and left the shop (wondering why on earth they stock flame-throwers). I gave up on the soldering iron idea and went in search of a supermarket, which I finally found nowhere near where the marina chap (who I decided was a complete chump) said it was.
We decided to explore the town a little more on Saturday morning and in between the rain showers, we wandered down beautiful cobbled streets and admired the different coloured houses, many with old wooden balconies, and meandered around bustling squares with fountains and cafes.
(Some of the old wooden balconies in Santa Cruz)
At the far end of the town there is a concrete and wooden replica of the Santa Maria (the boat Columbus sailed when he discovered the New World) which houses a maritime museum. Unfortunately the museum was closed and there were no opening times displayed, so as we had no idea when it might be open, we retired to a café for tea and cakes.
(One of the squares in Santa Cruz with the Santa Maria replica in the background)
That evening, I made a leek and chorizo bake for dinner, which I have never made before and according to John I wasn’t making it the right way. After we had munched my incorrectly cooked, but delicious (added by John) bake, I emailed Delia Smith to let her know her recipe was wrong and to give her John’s phone number is case she needs any help in the future.
The next morning, we went for a walk along the seafront and watched the rough sea crashing onto the rocks and were glad the boat was tucked up in the marina, even if it was still very rolly. We then walked back the other way, back past the marina and the container port next door to a small deserted beach which is made up entirely of black sand due to La Palma being a volcanic island.
That evening we were invited onto Pylades (and Irish boat a few pontoons down from us) and had a really nice evening with Fergus and Kay, along with Judith, an Austrian lady who is single-handing her 49ft boat!
After yet another very rolly night, we woke to find one of our shore lines had broken. Speaking to the people on nearby boats, we found that two others had also broken lines during the night. The rope we had broken was quite old and manky, so it wasn’t the end of the world and didn’t need replacing, but John checked all the lines anyway and put on some extra ones, so we then had 10 lines attaching us to the pontoons on both sides of the boat. While walking up and down the side of the boat, John somehow managed to kick a block extremely hard, making his toe turn purple and swell up quite dramatically.
As John couldn’t walk very well on his swollen toe, we relaxed on the boat and I went into town when the shops re-opened in the evening (the shops here close at 1pm and re-open at 5pm for a few hours) to finish my Christmas shopping. I met John in a bar a little later and we had a drink before finding a very nice restaurant in a small square for dinner.
After dinner, we headed back towards the boat and wandered past an open doorway which appeared to lead onto a courtyard. There were lots of people bustling around, so we headed inside to see what was going on. The open courtyard had a well in the middle and was surrounded by beautiful wooden balconies, with a wooden staircase at one end. A local chap was operating a strange machine which resembled a mangle. He was feeding sugar cane into the machine and then mixing the resulting mixture with rum to create cocktails. We grabbed a cocktail each and followed some people up the stairs, trying to appear inconspicuous as we had no idea what was going on. We picked up a leaflet about the event on the way up the stairs, but it was only in Spanish so we were none the wiser. At the top of the stairs, a man who was the spitting image of my friend Karen’s boyfriend was signing books and he seemed to be rather popular. I decided to text Karen to tell her and as I was texting, we wandered into a side room, talking very loudly about how much the chap looked like Peter and suddenly became aware that we had walked straight into a very serious sounding lecture (about vegetables according to our translation of the leaflet) and everyone was silent and staring at us. We turned around very quickly and ran for door, dashing straight back down the stairs where we could hide amongst the cocktail-drinking crowds. A short time later, someone started setting out chairs, so we sat down and a few moments later, a local band came on and performed several songs. They were absolutely fantastic and we enjoyed every minute of it, but not quite as much as a very strange chap sitting near us, who was wearing two pairs of glasses (one in the traditional nasally balanced way and the other on his head). He was holding an unlit cigarette in one hand and an unlit cigar in the other and every so often he stood up, cheered and waved at the band, much to the amusement of one of the singers.
(A video of the band we saw - taken from Youtube (not the actual show!)
When the band had finished, we headed back to the boat, still completely baffled and a little tipsy having had a very enjoyable evening.
John also needed to do some Christmas shopping, so the next morning, I pottered around the boat while he headed into town, returning a short time later having lost his debit card in a cashpoint (and thankfully persuading the bank to retrieve it) and with a fishing rod and some other fishing gubbins he had bought for himself. I’m not quite sure what made him think the fishing tackle shop would be a good place for him to find Christmas presents, but he seemed very happy with his new toy.
In the afternoon, we headed to the nearby Yacht Club (which doesn’t appear to have any yachts) as they are very welcoming to those staying in the marina and let us use their showers and outdoor swimming pool. It was a quite cloudy and cool so the swimming pool was very cold, but we enjoyed a quick swim anyway.
The evening brought with it more rain, and as it felt like an English summer, I decided to make toad in the hole for dinner, but having miscalculated the amount of batter to make, it ended up being all toad and not a lot of hole.
Wednesday was stocking up day and we headed off to the large supermarket to stock up on provisions for the Atlantic crossing (other than fresh food, which we will get the day before we leave). We needed a lot of heavy items, like water and wine (which we need to stock up on as it is expensive in the Caribbean) and thankfully the supermarket offers a free delivery service. As no-one in the supermarket spoke Enlgish and we’d had to struggle with our phrase book, diagrams and sign language, we were amazed when the delivery actually turned up later in the afternoon.
I then set about re-organising the boat, which stressed John out no end. Not only did we need to store everything we had bought, but we also had to make room for Becky who would be arriving in a few days time. I thought the best way to do this would be to get everything out of all the cupboards and then re-pack it, making sure that anything we wouldn’t need for the next few weeks (woolly jumpers, books we had reads but wanted to keep, souvenirs we had bought along the way) were packed away in the harder to reach storage. John couldn’t cope with this and I kept finding him trying to put things in cupboards that contradicted my master plan. I found after a while that if I kept feeding him snacks every so often, this seemed to keep him amused and kept his stress levels down. After a few hours, everything was packed away and we had made space for Becky in the back cabin.
In the evening, we headed into town with Fergus and Kay for some tapas and we told them about the great band we had seen a few nights previously. We still had the leaflet we picked up and this seemed to imply that there were bands playing and vegetable lectures every night for a week, so after the meal we headed back to the courtyard. We found it open, with people milling around but unfortunately the sugar cane cocktail machine wasn’t in use so we sat down and waited for the band to appear. The band that evening turned out to be two chaps, one with a guitar and one with a harp, which sounded unpleasantly harsh due to a microphone that had been attached to it which seemed to be distorting the sound. The harpist appeared to be very talented, but the speakers were far too loud and it just sounded rubbish. We were just about coping when they were playing songs that sounded like Barry Manilow would have sung them had he been Spanish, but when they launched into Spanish renditions of Yesterday and My Way (alarmingly much to the delight of the crowd) we could no longer contain our giggling. I have no idea if My Way was their last song of the evening but we didn’t wait to find out and quickly made our escape.
Fergus and Kay set off yesterday morning and we were very sorry to see them go. We only spent a short time in their company and would have loved to get to know them better. There is a chance we will meet up again in Bequia and we hope we will.
We had planned to go to the zoo today, but the nearest bus drops off a kilometre away and you have to walk the rest of way. This would have been fine, but John’s toe was still very swollen and painful, so we decided to catch a bus to Los Llanos (a small town on the other side of the island) instead. It was a warm day but the bus was air conditioned, so we enjoyed the trip and the views down to the sea as we ventured up into the hills.
Los Llanos is a bigger town than Santa Cruz and is less touristy. It’s not as picturesque either but had a few nice streets and squares and we chose a café in one of the tree-lined squares for lunch, listening to the canaries in the trees all around us.
(One of the prettier streets in Los Llanos)
After another stroll around the town after lunch, we headed back to the bus and spent the rest of the day resting John’s toe on the boat!
We woke up this morning to find a huge cruise ship had docked in the harbour and the town extremely crowded with English, American and German tourists.
(Santa Cruz when there is a cruise ship in town!)
We fought our way through the men wearing socks and sandals to the post office so I could post the Christmas presents to my family back in England. I was surprised by how cheap the postage was and I will be even more surprised if the parcels arrive.
The sun came out and it was very hot for the first time since we arrived. We headed into town and for the maritime museum as we thought it would most likely be open when the town was so busy and we were pleased to find that it was.
(The Santa Maria replica / maritime museum)
It is a small museum with not a lot of displays, but what items they did have were displayed very nicely and there were a few explanation boards in English as well as Spanish. A spiral staircase leads up onto the decks and some nice views the nearby square and out to sea.
(John up on deck)
As we were exploring the decks we heard an English chap ask his friend if he thought the boat had every sailed. I thought seeing as the bottom half is made of concrete and painted to look like wood that this was rather unlikely, but decided not to break this to him.
In the evening, we found some seats outside a bar and enjoyed a beer and watched the world go by. On the way back to the boat, we popped into a small Spar shop to get some potatoes for dinner and I was acosted by an old man with a packet of fish in his hands. He was pointing to the label on the packet and asking me something in Spanish. I said I couldn't speak Spanish and directed him to the fish counter. This is the second time this has happened to me. I must look like the kind of person who knows about fish....