Cruise 25 February - 4 March 2017
La Palma Carnival Cruise
What a great week we had – and thank you to Skipper Paul for organising this special trip that gave us a chance to visit three islands and to experience a very special carnival celebration on La Palma.
We arrived on Tenerife to take over Brighton Belle from Julie and Pete, who had given her lots of TLC the previous week – beautifully scrubbed deck, new showerheads and toilet brushes, clean pillows and cushions and lots more. Liz and I were whisked off to the supermarket by the very patient Pete, who followed us around for a couple of hours while we loaded up two trolleys with food, wine and plenty of goodies. We rather overdid it on the cheese, chorizos, chocolate, snacks and pickles… but this is Brighton Belle, after all, with food and drink almost as important as the sailing!
On Sunday we set off from Tenerife before the crack of dawn, 5.30am, to head for La Palma: some 75 miles. With prevailing winds of 20 knots, gusting to 25, we set our sails with a precautionary reef and made our way on one tack, heading past the southwest corner of Tenerife and northwest between Tenerife and La Gomera. Great excitement ensued when – as per Stewart's pencil drawings on our chart – we were joined by pilot whales and a big pod of dolphins. It's so lovely sailing with dolphins: they weaved in and out left and right of BB's bow, and they really looked as if they were smiling and having as much fun as we were having watching them. Magical!
We arrived in La Palma Santa Cruz late afternoon. After a long day's sail were all too tired to go out to explore the town and decided to conserve our energies for Monday's carnival celebrations.
The La Palma carnival commemorates 'Los Indianos': people who emigrated to Central/Latin America during the 16th to early 20th centuries in search of a better life. Returning to visit their homeland, the nouveau riche Indianos came dressed in all their finery, with suitcases crammed full of money, smoking Cuban cigars and generally showing off their new-found affluence. So on carnival day everyone dresses up in white or beige, glorious suits and dresses, lace and hats. People parade through the streets of the pretty town of Santa Cruz all day. There is music, dancing, food, drink – and copious quantities of talcum powder! We were mystified by the reason for talcum powder until Lynn explained that people use it in the Caribbean to reduce sweating. Whatever its significance – we spent most of the day in a haze of white.
We had a great morning walking through the town, soaking in the atmosphere and joining in with the talcum powder fights, then sat in a shady square for lunchtime drinks and sandwiches. George, Chris, Most of the crew then went back to BB for a rest, while Paul and I carried on wandering. We joined a small street party in in a pretty cobbled square in front of an old church, then a bigger one high up in the town. There was music, dancing, food – and several generations of locals had come together to enjoy the festivities. In the evening a few crew members went back out into the continuing carnival party with a great Cuban band, street drumming band, roving acoustic groups and a surprising number of revellers.
It was a great day, and a great opportunity to join this fabulous local event.
On Tuesday morning we headed for La Gomera. As we approached, the weather was getting worse and we heard over the radio that Los Galianos on Tenerife was closed due to big swells. There was no room for us inside the harbour so we anchored out and had something of a rolly night, punctuated by two-hourly anchor watches.
Puerto de Vueltas is a pretty little town perched on the edge of a steep hill and seems to be largely colonised by my fellow countrymen and -women: lots of Germans who have made new lives on this picturesque island and are making a living of sorts selling eco-products, handicrafts and new-age hippy wares imported from India.
Bob Williams and his wife Hilary just happened to be in La Gomera during the same week, and we had arranged to meet them for lunch on Wednesday in Playa de Santiago just a little further down the coast. We donned our Brighton Belle crew T-shirts in an effort to impress our membership secretary and headed ashore to meet Bob and Hilary. We had a delicious meal in a small restaurant on the waterfront and sat looking out at BB's mast bobbing the other side of the harbour wall.
Wednesday evening we anchored in San Sebastian de La Gomera and spent a couple of nights in the very busy and buzzy marina there. Paul had arranged to meet Darren, a south Londoner turned La Gomeran, to replace the rivets holding BB 's gooseneck to the mast. Darren turned up as planned on Thursday morning and did a great job at a reasonable price. We then headed into the interior on a local bus and set off on what had been described by the local tourist office as a 'couple of hours' walk back down to San Sebastian. It was a glorious walk, but turned out to be 12km and something closer to four hours… But we all managed it, with several stops for snacks and soaking in the scenery.
The landscape of La Gomera is rugged and green, with lots of interesting geological formations and an array of interesting plants.
On our return to BB, as if by magic, a birthday cake appeared! The crew had all been scheming behind my back, with Liz and Lynn baking and icing a coffee and walnut cake. I don't know how they managed it without me noticing, but manage they did – sending me off to the tourist office in the morning had apparently been part of an elaborate ruse to get me out of the way! and it was a lovely surprise and a yummy cake!
On Friday morning it was time to set off back to Tenerife. We started off in 25 knots of wind, gusting 35, in the infamous acceleration zone, but with double reefs in both genoa and main BB was quite happy, speeding along at 9 knots towards our destination. Within an hour or two the wind dropped to practically nothing and we ended up motor sailing most of the remaining distance. Liz was thwarted in her attempts as fishing, but we were once again joined by our friends the dolphins and enjoyed their company for a good half an hour.
Back in Marina San Miguel in Tenerife, we had to moor alongside the fuel dock as there was no space for us elsewhere. We celebrated our successful return with drinks in the bar overlooking the marina, then returned to the boat for yet another delicious BB meal. We hadn't quite finished when suddenly we heard a commotion and shouting outside. A charter boat had entered the marina in the dark and was in trouble, out of petrol or with an engine fault, drifting along and heading towards us, hoping to moor alongside. We tried to help, but the wind was not co-operating… They ended up scraping past us and stuck bow-on at the edge to the fuel dock. We helped as best as we could with fenders etc, until the harbour master arrived and towed them off to a secure mooring.
Saturday morning was spent packing, cleaning and tidying. Paul went off to exchange contact details with the charter company whose boat had scraped our side in the night, and George and I went off in search of a sailmaker who might be able to fix a couple of tears in BB's genoa. All chores completed, we headed off to a beach bar perched on the rocks along from the marina, to enjoy some last rays of warm sun before heading to the airport and home.
Thank you to Skipper Paul, Mate George and the rest of the crew for a fabulous week!
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