Albeit February is the shortest month of the year, we managed to visit 5 islands, starting from Tenerife, sailing to La Gomera for a day, then La Palma, El Hierro, La Gomera, then again to Tenerife and back to Gran Canaria!
On the 4th February we left Tenerife to sail to La Gomera. It was not a very successful sailing day, as the wind was on and off all day, and we tried all different combinations; all sails on, only main sail, spinnaker, motor and everything in between!
Around 16:30 we finally threw our anchor at Valle Gran Rey, an impressive compilation of rocks, on the south east side of La Gomera. We spent the night there only to be woken by massive gusts and swell very early in the morning. It was scary but thrilling experience taking the anchor up, being able to saw the gust coming due to the ripple effect on the sea surface and our perfect coordination with Jelle; him managing the anchor winch and me behind the steering wheel. It took us much longer than usual, having to stop every few minutes to let the gust pass, but around 8 in the morning we managed to leave the imposing anchorage and head to La Palma.
La Isla Bonita
Until 9am we had a nice wind so we were able to sail nicely, but then the shadow effect of La Gomera caught up with us and the wind died out, leaving us no option but to motor sail all the way to La Palma. Despite our luck with the wind however, we stroke gold with the water life, as not only playful Atlantic dolphins followed us jumping around, but we even saw a pod of pilot whales!
Around 16:30 we entered the Santa Cruz marina, a marina in the capital of the island. The marina is really pretty and very close to the city center, but it suffers from heavy swell, despite the anti-swell door installed. Apart from the heavy rocking of Libra and the constant lines squeaking, we had to deal with a pack of charter boats, who came in the port late in the evening, did not know how to maneuver and caused small accidents in the nearby boats, almost to Libra too, if it weren’t for Jelle and me holding flashlights over the hull and giving them directions! The next day we strolled around the cutest capital of Canary islands, Santa Cruz. Very busy and lively little town, but with colorful buildings and detailed wooden balconies-a famous landmark. The rest of the day we took it easy and relaxed.
On the 7th February, we rented an Opel Corsa from CICAR (where else?) and we explored the island. Driving around La Palma is exhilarating. It is indeed “La isla bonita”, a majestic green island, full of banana trees, colorful cute towns and high mountains!
We first visited “Cueva de Belmaco”, an archaeologic site, where aboriginals lived and ancient stone carvings were found. We drove all around the south part of the island and headed to the west. We stopped at Puerto Naos, a cute seaside town where we had lunch. Then we continued north until our nest stop, Tazacorte marina. This the 2nd marina in La Palma, a but remote abut extremely well sheltered! We enjoyed a local beer at the bar and saw waves smashing against the breakwater whereas the marina was perfectly flat! Maybe this marina was a better option! Last but not least, we drove through the mountains to reach the mirador de la Cumbrecita, from where we admired the impressive natural reserve “Caldera de Tamburiente”.
The following day we explored the north side of the island. We took LP-1 ad headed towards Los Tilos, a beautiful forest. We did an incredible hike until the mirador and back to the car through green paths, mosses, ferns and hanging trees. Amazing landscape! We also visited the natural pools “Charco Azul”, which were less than impressive as the massive waves breaking against the rocks did not seem very inviting. We had our lunch at the cute town of San Andres, a tiny city with palm trees, bright-colored houses, sea view and a stone made church. We also passed via Barlovento, an uninteresting village but with a nice view point!
We continued on LP-1 until Hoya Grande, where we took a by-road which took us through windy, mountainous roads where Jelle tried to race! We made our last stop at 2426 meters high, at Roque los Muchachos from where we could see Tenerife, La Gomera and El Hierro! We also hiked to the next rock formations and took nice photos while breathing fresh, mountain air. The surroundings were almost surreal, with many different telescopes and observatories built around the rugged, untouched landscape, making us feel something of cosmonauts.
9th of February we woke up relaxed and well-rested and spent half a day preparing for our next sailing destination: El Hierro. We had decided to leave in the afternoon, as it was a 70-mile distance and we preferred to sail during night and arrive with he first light to the island rather the other way around. So we did, and around 7 in the afternoon we left Santa Cruz and hoisted our sails towards the south.
El Hierro: Under the Sea
We had a nice sail to El Hierro, sailing halfwind, with 15-20 knots of wind, 6 knots average speed and relatively calm sea. It was our first night sailing since we arrived in Canaries in 5th November! Rounding the south corner of El Hierro proved a bit difficult, as the La Restinga marina, our destination, is located within the acceleration zone! Therefore, we had very strong wind the last half hour until we entered the marina, with high waves smashing the nearby rocks. The marina itself is very sheltered however, and we quickly found an empty spot in the pontoon and moored safely. As it was Sunday, the harbormaster was not present, but we were greeted by a security guy, who wrote down our details and gave us a key for the gate. We spent the rest of the day resting and walking around the most peaceful and remote town in Canaries.
Next morning we received a less welcoming greeting from the harbormaster, who slammed Libra at 8:30 am and yelled at us and the security guy that we were moored and we had a key. We followed him to the marina office to fill in our details and we had yet another scolding because we had sent an email and not filled a reservation form in their complex website. He told us he had no space for us, and we would probably had to leave by the 13th of the month. It was not the news we hoped for, as we visited El Hierro only to go diving and obtain our next diploma, Advanced Open Water. Nonetheless, we paid until the 13th and decided to explore the island, without a car this time.Hence, on the 12th February we took different buses and visited first the viewpoint “Mirador de la Pena” and then continued to the capital of the island, Valverde. We strolled around the little town and had lunch and a few beers. By the end of the afternoon we too another bus home.
The next day our luck changed and due to my impeccable (not!) Spanish, the harbormaster agreed to let us stay if we changed spot, and our next spot was even better than the first and the most sheltered in the whole marina! Having secured a good mooring place, we decided to go diving. There is a big competition of diving schools here in El Hierro, with around 10 different schools offering almost the same courses and dives! We just strolled in the marina and met Danny, a young diving instructor for the Green Shark diving school. We chatted and followed him to the diving school, where we filled all necessary forms and agreed to begin the next day.
From 14th February until 16th February night, we did 5 dives in the most magical places and we saw such a varied aquatic life! We dived in El Rincon, Punta Restinga, El Bajon, El Dessierto, and the last dive we did inside the port as it was a night dive! We also dived down to 31 meters, a majestic experience! It felt so good to be underwater again, the silence and the lack of gravity offer a unique experience only to be compared to being in space! We also saw so many different fishes, such as Viejas, Atlantic cornetfish, ornate wrasses, Morena Negras, zebra breams, Canary damelfish, tuna, dusky grouper, and rock fish. We also saw various coral reefs, Atlantic lobster jellyfish, the so-called pyrosoma and “Aguila jardinera” , a type of garden eel. The night dive was the most impressive one, as we had to hold flashlights, use our compass and saw the most interesting water life, including octopus, manta reys, butterfly ray and neon planktons! We completed our course with big smiles in our faces and unforgettable experiences!
We also made two new friends, Danny-our instructor, and his girlfriend- Laura, also a diving instructor! We made many friends in this peaceful village, and we even got invited at a night BBQ by the sea, where we admired the wild beauty of the nature and enjoyed beers and Atlantic bonitos together with young people all over Europe; Spain, France, Poland, and of course, Netherlands and Greece. Glorious days! We also met a German couple who travel around Europe with their Ford transit, Tim and Saskia! We enjoyed a few drinks in both Libra and their Ford, and we chatted happily about travel stories and shared experiences about life on the road and life on the water.
El Hierro is by far the most remote place in the Canaries, and the most southern part of Europe! No wonder it was known as “the end of the world”. Despite its remoteness and its rugged look, it will always have a special place in my heart, as we made new friends and explored the ocean, obtaining treasured “under the sea” memories!
La Gomera: Hiker’s paradise
We left El Hierro on 21th February at 8am, filled with happy memories and also our first hitchhikers! Danny and Laura joined us in Libra to get a taste of sailing, and they sure did! We had a great upwind sailing trip towards La Gomera, with medium winds and Libra gracefully gliding over the sea, on an average 7 knots of speed! The sun was shining, the visibility was great, and we had a variety of visitors! Flying fish, a dolphin and even a turtle! Danny and Laura really enjoyed their boat ride but unfortunately they left the next day to Tenerife, so it was the last time we saw them ☹
We entered the San Sebastian marina, a cute but well-sheltered marina located in the capital of the island. The marina staff was very friendly and the location was great, between the city center, and a black-sanded beach, while a hill was overshadowing the moored boats. It was also very warm and very dry in La Gomera, it felt like summer again! We spent the following day strolling around the city and booked a rental car for the next day. San Sebastian is a small town, with a few bars/restaurants and a big park next to the water.
On the 23th February we explored all of the island by car. We visited Hermigua, Alajero, Vallehermoso, Agulo, Valle Gran Rey and also hiked in the Parque Nacional Garajonay. La Gomera is characterized by green valleys, impressive gorges and the most unique spectacle; man-made “steps” on hills, which serve as farming grounds! It is truly a hiker’s paradise and we definitely want to visit again and explore the island on foot next time. The towns of Vallehermoso and Hermigua were cute, and we enjoyed local desserts. Valle Gran Rey is probably the most impressive place in the whole island, with huge, green gorges, valleys and massive “steps”, overlooking the ocean. Our last stop was in the national park of Garajonay, where the landscape was quite different; a humid forest with hanging trees, mosses, ferns and other plants and many hiking paths.
On the 24th February we hoisted our sails and set course towards Tenerife and the following day to Gran Canaria!