Madeira to Lanzarote

Here my guest Bill, a British airline pilot, comes on board for a week and we will sail to Lanzarote together. At first we only sail a short distance to the Ilhas Desertas, the deserted islands, a natural park south east of Madeira. Several very slim, very high, and very long islands running north to south, resembling the blade of a serrated knive. Previously, you are required to get a permit to land here. It is free but without it you will be turned away immediately. There is only one possible anchorage in settled conditions behind a rocky reef, partially awash at high tide. Consequently, we have a bumpy night’s sleep.


The next morning we take the dinghy ashore. Shortly after disembarking, but before we are able to pull the inflatable ashore, it is caught by a wave and all of us land on the round black rocks a few meters higher and totally drenched. Barely standing and accustomed to the firm ground a warden is standing at our side and kindly asks to see our permit. He tells us about the island and the animals living here and we follow the laid out path studded with information signs along the way. Unfortunately it is no longer possible to climb the top of the island since a rock chute a few years ago destroyed the path.


Back on the boat we receive a short visit by one of the very rare and endangered monk’s seals curiously swimming alongside. Only later do I notice that my anchor buoy must have filled with water and sunk, as I cannot see it anymore. Upon further inspection I notice a few bite marks on it… Is it possible that someone tried to see if this bright orange thing was edible or at least it was fit for play?


The other boats at anchor here also head to the Canary islands. We are the first to go anchor up. Instead of rolling around in our bunks for one more night we decide to set sail. For the next few days we should have a good north easterly wind we want to take advantage of to sail the 250nm to La Graciosa, the island north of Lanzarote. The first night is relatively quiet. The wind is not so strong yet and the waves are half a meter at most. At dawn the wind increases quite sharply and we reef the main by furling into the mast. Until the afternoon the wind has built to a good 20kn which are about five to six Beaufort and the waves have increased to two and a half meters. Moira is very fast with the wind from abaft the beam at seven to nine knots peak. At this speed my almost fifteen ton heavy boat starts to feel more like sailing a dinghy (small, open sailboat).

At the end of the second night we decide to sail to the northernmost Canary island called Isla Alegranza.


At six in the morning it is still pitch black and we furl the sails as soon as we are in the lee of the island where wind and waves are much reduced. Under engine and with a strong light we enter the only possible anchorage. Keeping our eyes on the echo sounder (depth meter) and the chart. We are greeted by a few shearwaters that we must have woken up and they are loudly complaining about it. But we do not care as we are tired and go to sleep for a few hours.


This bay is fringed by a vertical cliff wall in which sea birds obviously nest and we do not see an easy place to land with the dinghy. What is more, there is still a considerable swell at anchor and we decide to sail on to anchorage we had originally planned to visit. Playa Francesca on the south coast of La Graciosa is a beautiful bay with bright sand and a dark volcano hovering above it. The light brown sand was directly flown in from the Sahara which is not even 100nm away. But it has not been transported by plane but strong winds from the east have been carrying it across the sea for centuries. Here we are among about a dozen sailboats at anchor and we meet familiar faces and stop at a few boats with the dinghy to have a chat.


We hike to the village and up to the crater, snorkle, and sleep in. Bill is showing off his cooking skills - there is an Englishman who knows how to cook delicious food! A leisurely downwind sail the next day takes us into Marina Lanzarote in Arrecife where Bill docks the boat very well twice: at the fuel station and at our berth. It has been a pleasure to meet you and have you along, Bill!

See pictures here.

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