There has been much talking recently of the Jet Stream, and how it is located much further south than usual. This has had a strange effect on the weather, causing the extreme cold and snow in England, the unseasonal amount of rain and floods in Madeira, and altering the prevailing wind pattern in the Atlantic in general. Here in the Canary Islands, we have had more wind and rain than any other year and instead of the expected moderate north and north easterly winds we have had many spells of rapidly changing winds from flat calms to strong south and south westerly’s.
In our relaxed weeks around Lanzarote this creates a great challenge to the itinerary, and as ever we have to alter our plans to suit the prevailing conditions. Harbours that are usually flat are ‘bumpy’ and those that the pilot book describes as untenable suddenly have an attraction and we find we are able to visit.
This last week was no exception. Guests arrived in Lanzarote in gale force winds and torrential rain that threatened to close the airport. Some flights had to have 2 goes at landing. Velvet Lady was tied up in the marina with nine mooring lines! The good news was that it was forecast to be light and balmy by the end of the week.
After a short first day sail to Puerto Calero, these strong southerlies gave us a fast but long 47 mile passage to the north west coast of Lanzarote, and our anchorage for the night in the bay at Famara. For our third night, with more westerly wind forecast, we decided that it might be possible to anchor in the tiny bay just outside the fishing harbour of Orzola. This would be a first for us as it is a place we would not usually consider going to. The pilot book describes it as being fully open to the prevailing north east trades. The entrance is through scattered reefs and the courage of the fishermen who us it regularly cannot be contested!
We decided to give it a try. The bay looked perfect as we approached, with the presence of the high cliff taking away all the wind and letting the sea flatten. There is often an uncomfortable northerly swell, but with so much wind from the opposite direction this was very slight. We dropped the anchor off a beautiful golden sandy beach and watched the surfers before trying the temperature of the water for ourselves. After lunch we set off to follow the narrow channel into Orzola harbour in the dinghy.
What a pretty little place, and a flat comfortable anchorage for the night. This is where the ferry leaves from to go to La Graciosa and we were obviously a point of interest as the ferries came unusually close to have a look at us on the way in and out of the harbour.
For the first time this year we then continued to sail north of Graciosa, and all the way around Alegranza, the northernmost uninhabited island. The wind was perfect as we were reaching along at 8 knots both there and back to our favourite bay in Playa Francesca.
The forecasters had got it completely right, and as the wind and weather settled down we were able to spend a lazy day ashore in Graciosa and follow it with a barbeque on board at sunset. The temperature rose into the mid twenties and we all needed a dip in the sea to cool down after some strenuous walking amongst sand dunes.
To finish the week we spent our last day sailing along the north-western coast of Lanzarote, thus completing our circumnavigation. The start of the day was flat, but that has the added advantage of being able to spot sea life and we were not disappointed. First Richard spotted a whale spouting in the distance, and getting closer so we could get a good view of his back. At lunch time we were visited by a group of very large dolphins, who continually circled the boat, and mid afternoon, just as the sea breeze kicked in and we were able to sail the last few miles home, a group of smaller livelier dolphins came to play in our bow wave.
What a week. Our last one in Lanzarote this year, but we will be back for Xmas, New Year and early 2011.