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Gran Navidad!

Updated: Dec 25, 2021


“A younger self with a wide open future and with no conception that one day I would sail here and onwards.”


We wish you and your families a very merry Christmas. It’s been two weeks now since we arrived in Gran Canaria. The good news is that Chocolate Cat has been given the all clear by the vet, so we can leave for Cape Verde. He’s scratching his mouth and ears much less. We still have to give him another ten days of half a tablet for the skin infection and two drops in each ear every twelve hours. Administering these, for those of you that don’t have cats, is not easy. Doing it at sea is going to be very interesting indeed. To avoid more scratches, we have to wrap him in a towel. One of us holds him and tries to open his mouth, the other has to lob the tablet into this snapping open goal. Once it’s in, the jaw has to be clamped shut and his throat gently rubbed so that he swallows it, otherwise he spits it out. The torture is not over at that point, next come the eardrops. Again, one person has to hold him and open the ear. Cats can open and close their ears at will. Then he cries like a baby when each eardrop touches the ear - four in total every morning and night. Then the base of the ear has to be massaged to absorb the drops, all the while he cries. Then when he is free to go, his claws are caught and he trips and runs away as fast as he can. He doesn’t know it’s for his own good and we’ll be glad when this ordeal is finally finished.


This week, we finally got the chance to do a little exploring of Gran Canaria. Not far from where we are anchoring in Pasito Blanco, are the sand dunes of Maspalomas. I’ve been there before on a holiday with some teacher friends about twelve years ago. A week’s Easter break to sunbathe and swim after a long hard-working winter. I had the weird sensation of remembering my past self. A younger self with a wide open future and with no conception that one day I would sail here and onwards. We breathlessly ran barefooted to the top of the fine sanded golden dunes, looked out across the blue horizon, sun sparkling across the water, sand like icing sugar wafting off the top of the ridges in the gentle breeze. Then we ran back down the other side, enjoying the warm yielding sand cushioning our feet as we descended. At the bottom we crunched through the salt encrusted sand. These valleys must have had salt water pooling there not long ago. We also visited the historical centre of Las Palmas, the capital of Gran Canaria, known as Vegueta. Here are the museums and beautiful old buildings, including the imposing dark Santa Ana Cathedral. Outdoor cafés abound in the palm tree shaded plazas. In San Telmo Park there was a beautiful mechanised nativity set which you could walk all around. Christmas lights and decorations adorned the shopping street. Despite the strong sunshine, it felt like Christmas.


We decided to celebrate Christmas on the 24th December as they do in Brazil and leave for Cape Verde on Christmas Day. A catamaran next to us in our anchorage brought the festive cheer to the sailors with the whole boat lit up in multicoloured lights. The next morning we had what is a traditional Christmas breakfast in my family - bucks fizz and French toast. With non alcoholic prosecco for Luciano and a gram flour based batter instead of egg to make the French toast vegan. I also made a vegan panettone. This is not something we have ever eaten at Christmas in my family, but is a staple in South America, probably due to the Italian settlers there and traditional for Luciano. It turned out pretty well. Last - our Christmas dinner. We have to be quite careful with our gas consumption on board and of course our oven is very small, but we made do with some shortcuts. Everyone always asks what vegans eat on Christmas day. This year we made a pie with tofu, onion, garlic and herbs. The rest is as usual, roast potatoes, vegetables, chestnuts and gravy. We haven’t been able to find stuffing in Europe, but the herby main course makes up for it. Christmas for me is all about family. Disappointingly I won’t see my two year old nephew this year, but it’s been lovely to watch the videos of him building a gingerbread house and admiring the Christmas tree. We are both calling our families and so we will get to speak to them. With lockdown last year, and Omicron this year, it seems like a smaller Christmas is par for the course. We certainly can’t complain, we have spent Christmas Eve paddleboarding and sunbathing on the tiny beach near our anchorage. Tomorrow will mark a new chapter as we finally leave Europe on Christmas Day.


We’ve hoisted the Brazilian flag on the left hand side of the boat. Flags on boats tell you all kinds of things. You have a big flag at the back which tells you in which country the boat is registered. The UK flag is a small union jack against a red background. If you’ve ever been in the navy, you can have a blue background. On the right hand side you hoist the smaller courtesy flag of the country you are visiting. Right now, we have the Spanish Flag. On the left you can hoist the flag to show the nationality of the occupants on board. Other flags can also be hoisted, such as membership of various sailing clubs and organisations. There is also the yellow Q flag to be hoisted when you first arrive in a new country. Q stands for quarantine - a reminder that Covid is not a unique phenomenon but humans have long had to battle the spread of disease. It’s important to Luciano to represent Brazil. We haven’t seen any Brazilian or indeed South American flags yet. We’ve mainly seen various European countries, a couple of African countries, Japan, the USA and Australia. One yacht that was here in our anchorage was painted very brightly in the colours and star of the Senegal Flag. Senegal is just opposite from Cape Verde and we would like to spend time in mainland Africa, but it will have to be for another trip so that we can do the tradewinds crossing and spend some time in the Caribbean before hurricane season.


We’ve decided we will visit Cape Verde rather than cross the Atlantic straight from here. We still have our water maker to install, which would be great to have done before we cross the Atlantic. It is somewhere we are unlikely to pass by again in the near future and it is supposed to have great culture and music. Plus it will make the crossing three weeks rather than four. All in all, we’ve really enjoyed our time in Atlantic Europe. To be honest, when we had this idea to go sailing, our only thought was of the Caribbean or the Mediterranean and the Caribbean was calling us more strongly. We’ve been to such beautiful places, some of which we would never have otherwise visited, such as Galicia. Particular highlights were the tranquil delights of the Ría Muros and the Cies Islands in Galicia. Our favourite cities were Porto in Portugal and A Coruña in Galicia with Lisbon a close third, especially the day trip to Sintra. Our favourite large island was the stunningly beautiful and mountainous Madeira. Our favourite place in England was Dartmouth. Our European chapter has come to an end. We’ve gone ashore in Europe for the last time in a while. We’ve taken the rubbish, filled up our water containers and spent our last Euros on fresh fruit and bread. We have learned a huge amount, usually the hard way, but we are feeling much more confident in our ability to handle problems as they occur. We weren’t sure we’d make it this far, but somehow we have and hopefully I won’t be writing from Gran Canaria again next week.


This week's Vlog.





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