Sunday, October 28, 2012

Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

Yesterday I took the ARMAS (Naviera Armas) from Santa Cruz de Tenerife to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. (50.50 € round trip) Las Palmas is the departure point for the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC), an annual sailing rally from the Canaries to the Caribbean. I have been very curious about the ARC so I thought it would be fun to go over and take a look.

The outbound trip was pretty much as expected, that is to say boring. I had not taken my laptop as I didn't want to carry the weight. As it turns out the ferries have internet so I could have amused myself for the 2 3/4 hour trip. I did have a cheap novel and passed the time reading. I was surprised that at both ends the ferry took on a pilot, apparently the Canary Pilots have a strong union!

The port at Las Palmas is larger than Santa Cruz and very industrial. The ferry dock in Santa Cruz is about 1/4 mile from Reboot and 1/4 mile from downtown Santa Cruz. When we arrived in Las Palmas I expected the same. We docked in the middle of nowhere. There were a bus waiting to take us to the other Naviera Armas facility which is much closer to the downtown area. I expected to be met by a potential Caribbean crew member but when I got to the facility I was told that she had gone to the Parque Santa Catalina to meet me. I found the parque (in the words of the local promoters "the crossroads of the world.) but was unable to find the person I expected to meet. My search was not made easier by the thousands of cruise ship tourists who had apparently just arrived that morning.

After waiting for a bit I decided to walk down to the marina. It, like Marina Santa Cruz, is quite a long walk from the downtown area. The marina is right next to a beach. In front of the beach is an anchorage area. I decided that I preferred the marina at Santa Cruz. First, there are no finger piers so everyone is "Med" moored. The boats are packed in like sardines - any motion on one will be transmitted all the way down the pontoon. Second, the pontoons seem much closer together making docking and getting underway more difficult. Finally, the bathrooms are a lot further away for almost everyone. No a good thing for an urgent need in the night! The anchorage was already quite full, more than a month before the ARC. I was told but could not confirm that in order to make room for new boats after one had been on a dock for some time period they sent you off to the anchorage. Not my idea of a good time. I really could not judge but my impression is that the water is not as clean as in Santa Cruz. On the positive side there is a long strip of marina stores and providers right at the marina.

There was little evidence of the ARC other than the boat flags so I did what all good cruisers do - headed for the bar. There are several, I chose the most central, the "Sailors Bar" (catchy title.) Link: Sailors bar. I ordered a beer and a pizza from Carlos only to find that I had to wait 40 minutes until food service was available. Carlos and I agreed that I could pass the time drinking beer. The pizza arrived and I (apparently) decided to wear the first piece on the front of my white shirt! Cleaning myself as best I could I continued to eat (with my mouth.) A few minutes later I discovered that the bar had free internet. I checked my mail and discovered that the person I was supposed to meet was looking for me so Carlos was kind enough to send a text for me. While waiting a French/Hungarian couple I had meet looking for crew positions recognized me and joined me. A bit later the potential crew member and her local friend showed up. We all had a great conversation.

After a bit I decided to take off and wander around Las Palmas. I ended up in the Elder Museum, a beautiful hands on science museum. I  had a great time walking around pushing all the buttons.

I walked back to the ARMAS dock. We were loaded into the bus for the trip back to the dock and the bus would not start. After a short delay a second bus arrived and off we went.

I was on deck during the ferry departure from Las Palmas and as luck would have it met the second engineer. She was off duty (she had the midnight to 6 AM "cold iron" watch) and we started to chat. Her English was quite good and she told me that it was a treat to practice speaking it. I told her that I lived on a sailboat and was retired US Navy. She asked me if I would like a tour. I said of course. She excused herself and when she came back told me that the Captain would be delighted to show me the Bridge and that she had permission to take me to her domain - the engine room. So off we went. The bridge was very large and very modern. The first officer walked me through all the controls as we slid down the side of Gran Canaria on the way to Tenerife. The bridge is about 60 feet in the air so as soon as we rounded the point we could see Tenerife in the distance. I was then invited by the Captain to dine with the crew. How very nice. Off then to the engine spaces. Most of the equipment was familiar, the big difference from my personal experience was the level of computer control and monitoring. We then went to dinner and voilà, we were back in Tenerife. What a great way to pass the trip back. So I was off to bed after a nice day.

Fair winds and following seas.

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