Lisboa to Lanzarote
When I last left Skyelark 2 we were at a marina in Cascias, Portugal waiting out some bad weather. They had purchased the boat in Marmaris, Turkey and we were delivering it to the UK, making a stop in Malta to complete the registration process. Mom, 92, had taken ill and I had to leave the yacht to fly to Florida to be with her (she’s fine now, thankfully). As it turns out they didn’t make it back to the UK until after the 1st of the year.
After a successful season chartering around the UK, they are off to restart their Caribbean program. They run two trips, UK to Portugal and Portugal to the Canary Islands where she will head across the Atlantic with the ARC. I chose this trip to fill in a gap I had in my travels; I had made a challenge to myself to sail across as many lines of longitude as I could before they send me to the old sailor’s home. I had previously sailed from Fethiye, Turkey to Cascais, Portugal and previously from Tenerife in the Canary Islands to Papeete, Tahiti over various trips. The charter was to end in Lanzarote, which is still a little east of where I needed to be, but I figured I might be able to get a spot on a yacht heading that way or worst case, take the ferry.
I flew United out of Buffalo, with connections in DC and Newark. The airline has a portal where they guide you through uploading your test results (Portugal requires either a PCR test or an antigen test) and the requisite passenger locator form. This made things a breeze on arrival as the information was already in the computer and all I had to do was present my passport and I was on my way. Dan and Em require a covid test immediately prior to boarding the yacht, the home test kits you get at the pharmacy suffice, but since I attended an event with several thousand fans on Sunday, two days prior, Dan asked that I take the more reliable PCR test. I was able to schedule one in Lisboa online in advance so no big deal.
The flight was slightly delayed in Newark due to weather but arrived on time. My taxi took me to the street where the testing center was and since I had some time before my appointment, I had a little breakfast at a nearby café. By the time I got to the marina and had a bottle of lemonade the results were emailed to me, so I was good to go. As it turned out these would come in handy for entering the Canary Islands, they have strict rules for entry, even if you are coming from mainland Spain, and they couldn’t read the QR code on my Excelsior Plus Pass. Traveling internationally during the covid does add some expense and a lot of bother, but that’s life during the pandemic.
I was surprised to see Rike was onboard, we had sailed together in the Grenadines a few years ago and were scheduled to sail on a leg of the WARC in 2020, but that all went to heck with the virus. Skyelark was berthed along-side the wall, I don’t think they had a slip big enough for her at 62 feet. I dropped off my gear had a welcome drink, caught up on the past year and then we took the bus into the city center.
First order of business for me was to get a SIM card; I went with Vodaphone only because it was the first one I ran across. 20 Euros, good for a month, unlimited calls and texts, 10 GB of data and no roaming charges in the EU, perfect especially when you consider what some of the US carriers want a day for international roaming. I found a street where the restaurants are on both sides of the narrow road and the chairs are set up in the street. Had a baccalah (salted cod) fritter stuffed with sheeps cheese and a local draft beer, very nice, Baccalah is very important in Portuguese culture, they even have a museum dedicated to it in the square by the waterfront. I did some sight-seeing then took a leisurely walk back to the marina.
Some of the sights in Lisbon, I'm returning at the end of October prior to flying home
Once the rest of the crew had arrived, we had a couple drinks in the cockpit and made the introductions then headed to a restaurant, 5 Oceans, which was near the marina. Everything was very good; I would have liked to have ordered the octopus, I tried some of Rike’s and it was the most tender and succulent I had ever had. However, looking over the menu I noticed a cassoulet of beans and cod tongue, never seen that before so I had to try it. There were far more beans than tongues, but the tongues were tender and had the taste and texture of scallops with slightly more fishiness. After dinner we went back to the boat, had a nightcap, went over the watch schedule and then to bed for our 6:00 am departure.
Beans and Cod Tongue
Heading out under the bridge
A monument to seafarers
The morning watch was on deck along with our skippers, lines were cast off and we were on our way down the river to the sea. The original plan was to cruise the southern coast of Portugal for a few days then head for the Canary Islands. This plan was scrapped due to some crazy activity with orcas. For over a year now there has been a pod of orcas attacking yachts causing damage to many and even capsizing some smaller ones. They seem to go after the rudder for some reason. The attacks have now become a daily occurrence and another pod has joined in on the action. They don’t usually go after a yacht as large as Skyelark, but why take any chances. One of our crew is originally from Finland but now lives on Jersey, the island not the state. Towards the end of our trip, she received notice of a Finnish yacht with all female crew who were on their way to join the ARC when they were attacked. They lost the bottom portion of their rudder but were able to make it to safety and are awaiting repairs.
We were now on our way to Porto Santo, Medeira’s lesser-known sister island. The first day out was very rough with winds in the high 20’s, steep closely spaced swells of 2-3 meters and waves perpendicular to the swell, not unusual in the Atlantic. All the crew, except for Dan and Em were on sea sickness meds as a precaution. I’m not usually susceptible but I had a hard time getting our dinner of beef stew down. The next couple days were calmer and we were on a nice broad reach the whole way without having to motor once. We hooked a small bluefin tuna on our lucky lure; ordinarily we’d throw one that size back, but it took the hook pretty deep and damaged its gills so it wouldn’t have survived. It did make a nice tuna niçoise salad for 7.
Beautiful sunset at sea
After three days of sailing, we reached our destination; the inner anchorage was full, so we anchored outside, we were in the lee of the island so it wasn’t rolly at all. As it turns out Porto Santo is on the same line of latitude as some of Tenerife, Em said it would just be a matter of which marina we started from for my previous Atlantic crossing. I have been using a spot locator to log my travels for years and checked my location of departure from 2012, made it by just a few minutes, woo hoo! I have now sailed across 178.6 degrees of longitude, nearly half-way around the world!
Approaching Porto Santo
We had Champagne in the cockpit to celebrate, not only our arrival but also Reunification Day as one crew member grew up in East Germany and wouldn’t be with us had the country not been freed from communism. The island itself is very dry and barren, hardly any trees except along the coast road and those were probably planted. When you look up on the mountains there is not a speck of green, just small brown scrub brush.
One of the joys of sailing with Dan and Em is that no matter where we turn up, they always seem to know crew from another boat and this tiny little rock, 400 miles from Portugal, that most people had never heard of before (me included) was no different. Anchored just a short way from us was an American yacht, the wife had done the ARC on Skyelark to make sure ocean sailing was for her, before they went ahead and purchased their own boat. They are also heading down to Gran Canaria to join the ARC.
Friends over for happy hour
We went ashore for lunch and a swim at the beach, the beach stretches for miles and the water is calm enough for swimming. I bought my usual souvenirs of tee shirt and shot glass to add to the growing collection. Back at the boat the crew from the American boat stopped over for cocktails with cheese and crackers. Dinner was ashore at a restaurant where they serve grilled meats on large skewers. The waiter said each one was intended to serve one and a half people, and he was right. I ordered the lamb chop skewer which was three double chops over 2 ½ inches thick. No way I could have finished it myself so I passed some along to Dan, he must have a tapeworm to eat as much as he does and still stay fit. There was a side dish on the menu, fried corn. It is maize that is dried, ground and packed into a large pan we guess, then cut into squares and fried. Excellent, crisp on the outside, moist and smooth in the middle. I would have thought it would taste like corn bread, but the flavor was much more subtle. Back to the boat for a quick nightcap then off to bed after our busy day, how Nice to sleep in a bed that isn’t bouncing and leaning over at 15 degrees.
Some beach shots from Porto Santo
The crew having a swim
The next day the crew went ashore to take an island tour on one of those open topped buses. I’ll tell you, there isn’t much to look at, just a dry barren landscape all around. We did notice some terraces in the hills from the boat, turns out they build stone walls along each row of grape vines to protect them from the never-ending wind and even with that these were some of the scrawniest vines I had ever seen.
An old windmill
A dry and barren landscape
Back at the harbor there was one more thing to take care of. On Porto Santo, as on all the islands that are jumping off points for crossing the Atlantic, it is a tradition to leave a painting of the boat on the breakwall at the harbor. We found an empty spot near where Dan had previously painted one to commemorate his first ACR on Cheery Ripe in 2000. We borrowed a couple plastic beer cases from the bar and Tim, being the tallest, went to work. He did the whole thing freehand, except for the name which our resident nurse skillfully cutout from a piece of cardboard salvaged from the marina trash bin. Simple but tasteful, just the outline of the boat with the name and year.
Our contribution to the wall, special thanks to Tim
Next morning, we headed off to Lanzarote in the Canary Islands. It was a nice 37-hour sail and again we didn’t have to use the engine. We anchored outside the harbor for the night and motored in the next morning after everyone had a refreshing swim off the transom.
The harbor was full as many yachts are preparing to sail off to the Caribbean or other points west. We went for some tapas for a late lunch then wandered around the marina a bit and some took a dip in the pool. The restaurants were all busy, but we were able to get a couple tables at an Italian place on the other side of the marina. Dan and I had the baby lamb shoulder slow-cooked; others went for pasta and filet steak. All the food was good and the portions very large.
With my favorite watch partner
The next morning, we packed are bags, thanked our hosts for another great trip and each went off in our own directions. I had booked a room in Puerto del Carmen, which I had read online was near some of the best beaches. The area was very busy with tourists, but it really isn’t the vibe I enjoy. It was very developed with condos or possibly timeshares being the main accommodations. I walked about a mile and a half in each direction from where I was staying and it was just and endless line of bars, restaurants and gift shops. The staff at most of the places were either British, Irish, Indian and Asian, English was spoken everywhere so that made things easier. There were a lot of old people, and to put it in perspective I’m 64 so when I say old I mean ooooold. It’s not unusual to pass someone on a mobility scooter when walking down the street and they line them up at the pool in the hotel. It kinda reminded me of the old folks home, I mean “independent living facility” my mom is at. No disrespect intended. If you’re looking for someplace warm with easy access to many different options for inexpensive dining, where the comfort level is high due to no language barrier, this might be worth a try, it’s just not for me.
Rental cars line the road
The beaches are wide, clean and well-groomed although the water is a little on the colder side. They are mainly in coves separated by rock outcroppings, being a volcanic island that’s not surprising. Speaking of volcanos, we saw no sign of the one that was erupting on La Palma, another of the Canary Islands about 200 mile west of us.
Some beach photos from Puerta del Carmen on Lanzarote
I stayed for three days, my time was mainly spent walking up the strip one way and back along the boardwalk that borders the beach on the other, looking for where I would eat my next meal. One afternoon I was looking for something light; I had seen a place advertising a Tapas Wheel, your selection of 5 tapas for 12 Euros. I figured how much food are they going to give you for that price (right!), so I went in and ordered. Everything was excellent, but I had to go back to the room for a nap after the meal.
The tapas wheel 12 Euros
the taxi ride from the marina, I saw a place, Lanzarote Safari, where you can ride camels something I’ve always wanted to do since an early age after seeing a picture of my dad with his pet camel when he was a boy in Tripoli. Unfortunately, there was a triathlon and an Iron Man competition going on the next day and some of the main roads would be blocked so the tours were running. They apparently don’t operate on Sunday, and I was leaving Monday morning, so I just didn’t have the opportunity.
Grilled sardines very popular on the island
The full English
Usually, my trips are all well planned out with hotel and flight information all written on a calendar, but this trip I’m winging it and making plans as I go. My main objectives were to complete my loop (done) and try some trekking on the Rota Vincentina, along the southern coast of Portugal. There were no decent flights to Lisbon, they all had layovers in Europe and ran about eight hours. There was a cheap flight to Seville on Ryan Air. I’ve never been to Spain, except for a one-night layover in Aguadolche waiting out some weather on our delivery, so I said, “what the hell, why not”, and off to Spain I went.
About the new Skyelark, I know some of the sailors amongst the crowd are probably interested. It’s a 2005 Oyster 62, a fabulous boat. They are built to order, and all the joinery work is done by hand. No prefabricated parts, even the cabin doors can’t be switched around as first they build the door frame and then make the door to fit it as there are slight variations in the width, height and curvature of the frame. The price tag reflects the time and effort that goes into producing one. If you were to order a new build from the factory today, the cost would be in excess of $2.5 million US.
Everything is electric; winches, heads, even the stove; if you’re only using one burner it will run off the battery, but for the oven you must run the genny. We only use the oven for dinner and since you must run the genny a couple hours to top up the batteries it’s no big deal. There is a full-size refrigerator in the galley along with a three-compartment chest freezer. On our delivery from Turkey, we pre-made a months-worth of meals and they all fit nicely in the freezer. There is even a fridge built into the cockpit table. Everything uses fresh water, including the heads; the only salt-water pump feeds a hose bib on the bow to wash the anchor. It has a diesel heater and central air. There are cabins for 10, including the “VIP cabin” with a king-size bed and ensuite head. I’m looking forward to sailing on her again in the Grenadines
One of the guys made a YouTube video of the trip, here's the linkhttps://youtu.be/wGjVUkzGCwk