Monday-October 31, 2016-La Palma and La Gomera, Canary Islands
Early in the week it rained as a weakening low pressure system slowly made its way over the area. We used the time to organize the Nav Station and get caught up on some cleaning. When we had breaks in the rain we walked around town. Santa Cruz de La Palma looks very different depending on the time of day and day of the week. During siesta it is quiet with hardly anyone about. On mornings a cruise ship is in port, the town almost feels like a tidy theme park. During the evenings most tourists are gone, and the cafes buzz with conversant locals and musicians. All of Santa Cruz’s aspects are pleasant and I do like the town.
Despite the attractiveness of La Palma, we felt quite ready to leave. We wanted to go somewhere we could anchor out and enjoy some quiet. Valle Gran Rey in La Gomera is that place. Friday, the lingering low had dissipated and the Southerly wind shifted slightly to the Southwest, just enough to give us a favorable tack. We left before the predicted calms settled the area Saturday.
We departed La Palma and had an exciting few hours close hauled in a Canary Island wind acceleration zone. These are areas where the gradient wind can be greatly increased do to the Islands’ topography. Many times these zones flank an island’s wind shadow making an obvious border between an area of calm and a zone of near gale force conditions.
A few hours out of La Palma we had transited the acceleration zone and were making good course in diminishing South Westerlies. It was an awesome starry night of sailing with La Palma dead astern, Tenerife fine on our Port bow, El Hierro broad to starboard, and La Gomera dead ahead. Though the sky was apparently clear of any clouds, heat lightning awed us throughout the night, first above Tenerife then La Gomera.
Saturday morning Dawn Treader was ghosting in light air and La Gomera stood 5 miles ahead. Through the morning our speed steadily dropped. 4 knots, then 3, then 2, 1, and finally we were becalmed, drifting half a knot in the South setting Canary Islands current. We tried to be patient with the wind, but after a few hours we decided to use our outboard engine to motor up to what appeared to be a patch of wind around La Gomera’s western promontory. I am still impressed with how well the 6hp engine pushes us along. At half throttle we made 5 knots. The patch of wind was the slightest of air and from astern, so not good for sailing. We continued to motor for an hour, and then the wind eventually filled in from the port quarter. We secured the engine and sailed the remaining 5 miles to Valle Gran Rey, first at 3 knots then 4, then 5.
The anchorage is wide open, and the conditions were about perfect for anchoring under sail. We approached on a port tack beam reach under reduced sail. When we reached the spot just downwind of where we wanted to anchor, we rounded up to stop the boat, and furled the headsail. I walked forward and took a sounding with the lead line while Debbie doused the Main. I sounded 25 feet of water, then let go the anchor and paid out 110 feet of chain. This all happened during the course of one exciting minute.
Now we are settled into La Gomera. We love it here and look forward exploring this beautiful island.