Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, Canary Islands – When visiting this capital city, you would never guess you were on an island in the Atlantic Ocean. Las Palmas is a metropolis – population 400,000 - and once you leave the marina area, you will find yourself strolling down tree-lined boulevards and perhaps getting stuck in a traffic jam. The “island mentality” does not seem to exist here – especially when visiting the posh Spanish super department store “El Corte Inglés” that sells everything from a leg of ham to automobile parts. It almost feels like New York City!
Anchored here since last Thursday we have been very happy to meet up with some friends we’ve met along the way – friends who are participating in the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) and have come here for the big departure to cross the Atlantic Ocean. The ARC was started about 15 years ago by an avid sailor named Jimmy Cornell with about 15-20 boats interested in making the trip en masse. He has travelled around the world a few times, has written some books and decided to create a rally for people to cross the Atlantic all together. One has to pay to participate, and in return has a transmitter that is constantly giving your position back to the organizers while you cross, radio nets and weather information, an inspector that comes on your boat to see what you might be missing and make sure all the boats are in proper working order. All boats in the ARC must have a specified list of things onboard to participate, such as a certain type of life vests with harnesses, certain type of life raft, certain type of flares, etc. Most of all, the ARC gives its participants the peace of mind that someone is looking out for them. Jimmy Cornell sold off this organization many years ago and now the ARC has as many as 300 participants!
The launch of all the boats was an impressive site to witness. Music playing, the community out en force as all the boats in the harbor were waiting to take on the Atlantic and reach their final destination of St. Lucia in the Caribbean. Many of the crew were very professional, all in the same clothing: a “tight ship,” so to speak. Others were dressed in costumes. There were sailboats large and small and everyone was in a good mood; everyone except the local businesses, that is, who had enjoyed a large influx of business for the last few weeks leading up to the departure and now hear only crickets.
Those of us not participating in the ARC and anchored out in the harbor decided to have our own celebration on the beach later in the evening. There are some who feel the ARC can be a little competitive about how big one’s boat is, or how much one has spent on electronics and the latest gadgets, etc. So, some have named the rest of us the SNARC (= So Not the ARC). Very funny! We personally feel though the ARC is a great opportunity for those who may not have a lot of experience to feel more comfortable knowing that someone has their back if they get into any trouble.
The rest of the time here in Las Palmas we have been provisioning, getting our vaccinations and anti-malaria medications, and getting the boat up to snuff before departing to Senegal the day after Thanksgiving.
Prior to Las Palmas we spent about a week on the island of Tenerife with our dear friends Dani and Pablo who flew in from Ireland. Poor guys had to wait longer than expected for us to get there since we had done an overnight sail the night before to be in Tenerife before their 10:30am arrival. With no wind all night, we ended up arriving instead at 5pm! Dani and Pablo were worried since they had been waiting all day and there was no real way to get a hold of us. They finally saw us only because they were coming back to the marina with the idea to ask for where there was a decent hotel to stay in the area.
Although the weather was not as warm as expected, we still managed to get into the water, spend some time on the beach, sail, eat, drink and be merry. A funny moment was when we dinghy-ed onto the beach where we did not realize some good waves were crashing down on the shore. There was silence as we rode the crest and then tumbled down onto the sand and all the nude sunbathers looked on as we lay like beached whales cracking up.
Tenerife, despite what images this name might conjure up in your head, in our humble opinion, was not the picture of island perfection. Instead, the parts we visited were miles and miles of condos. Many of these developments are left unconstructed, so all you see are cement skeletons of buildings. The restaurants were mainly British. Not so many “tapas y cañas” (tapas and beer)… lots of pints fish n’ chips.
We did rent a car one day to visit the “El Teidei,” the tallest mountain in the Spanish territories, at 3700 meters (about 10,000 feet). It was raining and freezing up top and we were not at all prepared for the weather. There is a tram that takes one to the very peak, but it was actually closed since it was cloudy with zero visibility.
Despite their attempts to return to the cold temps of Dublin all tanned, Dani and Pablo had to accept the fact that the weather was not on their side. But it still was a good time had by all and we are extremely grateful to have had them visit us. We are grateful to have such close friends and hope to see them again real soon.
This coming Thursday is Thanksgiving and the sailors have organized a potluck dinner to celebrate. It will be a good celebration and good-bye to Las Palmas. We hope everyone has a good Thanksgiving! It is a good time to count all our blessings.
NEXT STOP: Dakar, Senegal; leaving this Friday. Estimated passage time: 6-7 days.
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FOUNTAINE PAJOT ATHENA 38 CATAMARAN FOR SALE – After our wonderful experience, BEGONIA is ready for its next sailing family – with or without children! Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.