Canary Islands: November 3 2010
It was a quiet, still morning as we tossed the lines and officially checked out of Morocco...bye bye Africa (Oct 14). We crossed the bar and were on our way to the Canary Islands...466 miles away. The water was as mossy green as the acorns sold in the medina until we were well offshore...where the waters again became bright blue. That was our cue...we switched the water maker "on" after successfully avoiding a fill up of dock water while in Rabat...one more belly bug possibility avoided. Sadly, it was not enough for Chris who had a belly bug that would just not be evicted until heavy duty drugs forcibly tossed the amoebas out.
It was a calm motor for the first two days with smooth seas and sunshine. The nights were a bit trickier as we avoided several enormously long lines of buoyed fishing nets lit at either end by small strobe lights. We definitely did not want to get tangled in those...a real white knuckle situation lamented by many cruisers who became tangled in them. David's Chicken, Ham, Artichoke and Pasta Casserole stretched for two nights as we read and just plain relaxed through the uneventful passage. Chris is back into baking mode and made a batch of biscuits for breakfast. Delicious! Unfortunately, the weather changed the third day and we had winds on the nose and lumpy seas...not much eating occurred (Oct 16). However, we were not completely without luck as Barefeet caught a beautiful Mahi Mahi...stunningly blue while being reeled in but then immediately yellow once out of the water and into the net. Knocked out by a splash of gin in the gills and into the fridge (inside a garbage bag) he went. Erin filleted him up before we entered the anchorage to avoid predatory fish at the anchored boat (Oct 17). Since we are back in the land of sharks we don't want to tempt any predators to come sniffing around Barefeet. All was tidied up as we arrived at the Playa Francesa anchorage on the island of Graciosa in the Canary Islands at 2.40pm on Sunday, October 17. Wow, ending the day with sundowners on the beach with fellow cruisers was perfect. Ahhhhhh.
David's Chicken, Ham, Artichoke and Pasta Casserole (from Crazy For Casseroles by James Villas) Erin's note: great casserole but the goo factor needs to be higher...double the liquids and/or add small cubes of cheese scattered throughout. Ingredients: 1/4 cup olive oil; 2 medium onions, minced; 2 large celery ribs, minced; 1 garlic clove, minced; 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg; 2 Tablespoons flour; 1/2 cup dry white wine; 2 cups milk; 1 cup diced cooked ham; 4 cups cooked shredded chicken; 4 large artichoke hearts, cooked fresh or bottled, quartered; 1/2 cup sour cream; 1 lb rigatoni, cooked according to package and drained; 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese; 1/2 cup soft bread crumbs; 2 Tablespoons butter, melted. 1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 3- to 3 1/2 quart casserole. 2) In a large, heavy pot, heat the oil over low heat, add onions, celery, garlic and nutmeg...stir until softened (approx 7 minutes). Sprinkle four over the top and stir 2 minutes longer. Add the wine, increase heat to moderate and cook for 3 minutes. Add milk and stir until thickened (approx 3 minutes). Add ham, chicken, artichoke hearts and sour cream and cook for 3 minutes. Add pasta and cheese and toss until everything is well blended. 3) Transfer to the casserole, sprinkle the crumbs evenly over the top, drizzle the melted butter over the crumbs and bake until bubbly (approx 30 minutes). Makes 8 servings.
The archipelago of the Canary Islands contains seven major islands with several smaller ones. The islands were once part of Africa but now more closely resemble their volcanic past with steep sided cliffs and gorges. Graciosa is an example of this volcanic landscape. It is flat and sandy with four volcanic cones. Layered on top of this topography is a laid back lifestyle with roads made of sand and very little development. We eased into our anchored status and slowly began to clean Barefeet inside and out; removing a plastic bag from the port prop, wiping fuzz from the hull, getting rid of the dust of Morocco and the salt from the passage. Our days usually closed with sundowners on the beach. The anchorage is isolated without anything ashore except sand dunes and screeching sea gulls. However, in Caleta del Sebo there are just enough resources to get us back on track (population approximately 700); three small grocers, a butcher, a baker, an ATM and...a diesel pump...excellent. Our passage to the islands was all motor which meant that we needed diesel. The quick dinghy into town with jerry cans was without drama. Okay, the diesel pump is only open 11am-1pm and we had to track down the attendant in town...but at 70 cents (of a euro) per liter it was worth the slight hassle. Additional cruisers arrived daily...and at night...filling up the anchorage and creating a social scene sorely missed in the Med.
Several birthdays and anniversaries were rolled into one big beach party on Thursday afternoon (Oct 21). Kurt and Katie (s/v Interlude) brought the tunes via iPod/speaker combo which kept the mood festive...and were organizers extraordinaire. It was quite a crowd with 31 boats at anchor. Janine of s/v Cristata was the big winner of the patonque tournament where she bested 32 participants. Well done! The anchorage was bursting at the seams which meant that the beach's shoreline became an enormous dinghy parking lot. Everyone brought their own grog and a dish to share. It was a wonderful and delicious afternoon that went on well into the night...thank goodness for the bright moon. Cruising has its own stars and celebrities just like every other community or sport and we met two of them at the beach party. Linda and Steve Dashew were exploring the area, anchored in the bay and came to the party...cruising in their butch motor vessel Wind Horse. Despite their star-studded status they were very down to earth and friendly...and Chris mentioned how grateful he was for reading their marvelous Cruising Encyclopedia tome before we left Boston four years ago. Oh, cool...they talked about the party on their website, too (http://setsail.com/beach-party/#more-13836). That's fun!
The island of Graciosa lends itself to walks through desolate terrain and up to the top of an inactive volcano crater...much like the moonscape must look (Oct 22). The paths consisted mostly of loose volcanic gravel which made tennis shoes a better option than flip flops. Temperatures were mild for easy traveling and we were off. The panoramic views were spectacular; clear blue water along the black shore with sand and rocks below, distant vistas with very little evidence of humans and small lizards darting between bushes. It was nice to stretch our legs before strong-ish northerly winds kept us boat bound for a couple of days (Oct 24 and 25). It was 30-ish knot winds so no drama; however, there was no need to get soaking wet in the dinghy. Wind generators whirred and whistled constantly...keeping batteries topped up but adding to the already howling sounds of the wind. The anchorage was still full and everyone seemed well stuck in for the passing blow...but so strange to see dinghies remaining in garages. Sundowners ashore took a temporary hiatus.
Happy Birthday Chris! It is great to be at anchor to celebrate because most often we have been on passage or in the middle of boat work which has hindered our celebration (Oct 26). This year was a Mexican fiesta with enchiladas, Spanish rice and refried beans...all homemade and all shared with fellow US west coasters...s/v Stardust and s/v Interlude. The tunes played and the cocktails flowed. Did you know that if limes are not available...lemons are a good substitution in margaritas?! No kidding. And Becky capped off the evening with apple cake topped with caramel sauce, whipped cream...and a candle. Wow, was it delicious!
Hood River Fresh Apple Cake (from The Taste of Oregon Cookbook) Cake ingredients: 2 cups granulated sugar; 1 cup shortening; 2 eggs; 2 cups flour; 2 teaspoons baking soda; 1 teaspoon cinnamon; 1/2 teaspoon salt; 4 cups chopped & peeled cooking apples; 1 cup chopped nuts. Carmel Sauce ingredients: 1/2 cup packed brown sugar; 1/2 cup granulated sugar; 1/2 cup margarine; 1/2 cup whipping cream; 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Cake 1) Cream together sugar, shortening and eggs. 2) Sift the dry ingredients and add to mixture. 3) Add chopped apples and nuts. 4) Bake in a greased 9x13 inch pan for 45 minutes at 350 degrees F. Sauce 1) In a small pan combine the sugars, margarine and whipping cream. 2) Bring mixture to a boil then add vanilla. 3) Pour sauce over individual servings of cake. May be warm or cold...especially good warm. Serves 12. A bit of whipped cream is good, too.
Our days and nights on Graciosa are simple. Active pursuits include swims in the bay, walks into town and exploration of the island. Tide pools and curling waves are back into our ecosystem after the more sedate, non-tidal Med. We explored the boisterous side of the island complete with windswept rocks and sand mounds covered with low brush valiantly holding the island's land together (Oct 27). Island entertainment is the standard cruiser fare of movies watched on the computer or guitars and games on the beach supplemented with lots of reading. Electronic books have begun to creep into the fleet; however, paper is still alive and well...and easier to trade. Erin organized a book swap during sundowners one evening and got loads of interest (Oct 27). The response was overflowing bags of books laid out to swap and share as the sun dipped behind the volcanic rock. Libraries have been restocked and waterlines raised...maybe.
The timing of the book swap was serendipitous as southerly winds arrived ahead of schedule and once again kept everyone boat bound (Oct 28). Not forecast to last long most anchors stayed down with cowboy hats and spurs replacing fins and masks. The warm southern wind at 20-25 knots kept everyone bucking throughout the day but slowly petered out as the sun went down. Phew! Winds are common in the Canary Islands with the added punch of acceleration zones between islands and funneled over mountain peaks. Protection is fairly easy when the seasonal northerlies blow; however, southerlies are a different story...from which very few protected spots exist...on any island. Yet another reason why moving for the "quick" blow was more trouble than it was worth. Between blows saw changes and movement in the fleet. Boats kept arriving and departing with new faces added to the beach social scene as well as boats shuffling around for better anchor spots when prime locations were vacated.
Happy Halloween! Holidays make it to us even at anchor and away from towns. After boat check-ins on the morning net it is much like a bulletin board with announcements and shared info...so all are aware of happenings and festivities. The DragNet has transitioned to the Rum Runner's Net that will continue through the Atlantic crossing and into the Caribbean. It is broadcast daily at 0800 GMT on 8131 of the SSB radio. Today's bulletin board announced that there will be trick-or-treating from boat to boat at 1pm followed by a costume party on the beach at 3pm. Yikes, what will we be?! No such consternations plagued the kids as they cobbled together marvelous costumes. They looked great in their costumes and make-up...eager to fill their tick-or-treat bags. Three dinghies of trick-or-treaters flitted across the sun dappled anchorage spreading the Halloween spirit. Then it was into the beach where Kurt and Katie again brought festive tunes...a fun Halloween music mix that kept us all doing the Monster Mash. Costumes were great with feathers and glitter and wigs and capes...it's amazing what can be found lying around a boat. We consumed adult beverages and played a couple of Halloween games while we danced to the music. A cloud burst of rain eventually ended the party with a frenzied mass exodus to dinghies and back to boats. Gosh, it was a great bit of frivolity before the winds again piped up (Nov 1 and 2). Are you sensing a pattern of wind?! We are.
We are at our staging point for the Atlantic and will stay in the Canary Islands until we are ready to make the passage to the Caribbean. Over the next few weeks we will explore a couple of the other islands and do a major provisioning run. We expect that we will leave late November after the weather systems have settled into a seasonal rhythm with our eye on land fall in Antigua. But for now we are enjoying the slow pace of Graciosa Island.