Anchoring in new places – Orzola

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.

Relaxed Sailing Holiday in the Canary Islands

This last week Irene suggested that we should ask guests to write in our guest book how they would describe their holiday to other people.  Sounded like a good idea, so here’s what last week guests had to say

Richard and Lin – the best hosts I’ve ever experienced.  Calm, welcoming, relaxed, easy going and yet the most competent, confidence-boosting and safest double pair of hands in the holiday sailing business.  What an adventure it’s been –

Would recommend a weeks sailing on Velvet Lady as the best antidote to anything

Perfect sailing, perfect company perfect break, the happiest week.  We will be back
(Booked their next trip before they left!)

Don’t know how to begin to say how wonderful it has all been.  Its just as we had imagined and more.  Great sailing, great company. Great food and lovely boat

For more guest comments Read our Guest Book

We were on a relaxed cruise around the Canary Islands and the main thrust was to escape from the winter weather and go sailing in the sunshine.

All sailors, many with their own boats, everyone fully appreciated the impact the weather could have on the trip, but as they had read the itinerary their appetite had been whetted by the climb up the volcano in Graciosa.  Stuart more than anyone had a hidden agenda. He was studying geology and volcanoes in particular.

After a consultation with the weather gurus and maps, it was obvious that by the end of the week there was a period of unsettled southerly’s, bad for anchoring in La Graciosa so we better push north as soon as possible.

After our mornings briefing on Friday, we set off north and after a gentle sail picked up a mooring in Arrecife.  A quick dinghy run ashore, and a return to gin and tonics at sunset set the tone for the week.  The local sailing club were out in force and we found ourselves being used a race mark for a fleet of Optimists.

Saturday we continued sailing north in a kind easterly wind, arriving and anchoring in La Graciosa just in time for sunset.  We shared the anchorage with 2 other 50 foot boats, and settled in for the night.  It was quiet, peaceful and flat as the moon rose, and the stars shone down on us. Not so at 7am, as a baby depression came through sooner than forecast and we were forced into a swift depart from the anchorage.  It was so bouncy that the notice board of photos fell off the wall.

Half an hour across the strait we were again anchored but this time the wind was 30 knots and gusting.  After such a rude awakening it was time for a cooked breakfast and a decision about what to do for the day.  An hour later, replete from eggs, bacon mushrooms and tomatoes the decision was easy.  The wind had stopped.  Flat calm again.  Back to Graciosa.

A little later than we usually would we landed the shore party at noon and they set off to ‘climb the volcano’ whilst Richard and I prepared for the BBQ.  But the weather god still had it in for us, just as the last dinghy run was returning the heavens opened.  No one wants to bbq in rain so it was beef kebabs on the grill.

Stuart at the top

The southerly wind was still set to fill in, the barometer was falling and there were ‘angry clouds’ in the sky and so having achieved our mission of climbing the volcano we gambled that the wind would shift to the south in the night and again headed across the bay.  Felt a bit like Groundhog Day (that phrase only works if you know the film)  Fortunately the gamble paid off and we spent a comfortable night at anchor.

There is only one safe place to be in Lanzarote when the wind blows strong from the south and so if was off back to Marina Rubicon. We completed our circumnavigation of Lanzarote in 4 days.  Just as well.  Tuesday as promised it blew hard and then even harder from the south – we were glad to be in as the waves came crashing over the breakwater.  Anyone for scrabble!

As is always the case with weather, it goes away just as fast as it comes. Wednesday, the last day of the sailing holiday the sun shone again, and we had a perfectly fabulous day as we sailed to Playa Quemada, anchored for lunch.  Swam in the sea, sunbathed and read until it was time to return to the marina.

You can tell from the comments we had a hugely successful week – making the best use of the weather is one of our specialities!

There is still time for you to join us in Lanzarote with 3 places left on our relaxed cruise 2, 18 – 25 Feb.

Why not join us.

Wet your appetite and look at more photos from this trip, kindly taken by Stuart.