13th January to 20th April 2023
After over four months in the Canary Islands, mostly on my favourite island of La Gomera, it really is time to move on. I’ll probably leave from here, the island of La Palma, in a day or two.
Four months is the longest time I have ever stopped anywhere in the world in the past eight years on Henrietta. (Even covid restrictions didn’t hold me back for so long.) It has for the most part been joyful, interesting, restorative and rewarding to settle for a while. I’ll summarise these months of relative stagnation and peace below.
Now though the nomadic instinct has resurfaced. The urge to move has come back. Ants in the pants can never stay quiet for long. Before moving on I thought I’d quickly write this update.
For the ever-indecisive sailor, choices of where to go after the Canaries are very tricky. The trouble is, you see, you can go north, south, east or west.
Whichever direction you choose, there are wonderful delights and boundless possibilities. North to Azores, Mediterranean, Portugal, and Northern Europe; South to Cape Verde islands, then Brazil and South America; East to Senegal, Gambia and West Africa; or West, the most popular choice for sailors, to the Caribbean and then perhaps Panama Canal or North America.
The winds, predominantly northeast Trade Winds, favour voyaging south and west. Hence the huge annual winter yacht migration from here to the Caribbean. However, I’ve decided to go north. Winds are in the hands of the weather gods.
After many hours of consideration and talking with others of all the possibilities, I’ll probably go to England. It is my homeland and there are several matters to deal with, and the lure of Brussels sprouts.
Then, before the end of the summer, hopefully, I shall leave British waters again, once I’ve sorted out a few odds and ends, getting myself and Henrietta polished and strong. That, for Henrietta, is long-term planning: Wow! Plans devised for about six months into the future.
But, in case you’re interested, here’s how I’ve filled the past few months in warm winter sunshine.
Walking the hills and mountains of La Gomera with longish hikes every two or three days, it could be that I’ve walked nearly every single metre of the hundreds of kilometres of path and track that crisscross this charming island, and clambered up and down many thousands of metres. (Could I even become a guide for trekking on the island? I initially thought ‘yes that’s a good idea’ but alas the answer has to be ‘‘No, definitely not’. Trouble is, I get lost rather too often.)
Few activities other than sailing over oceans give me the uplifting and humbling delight of mountain walks. You’d be an impervious sort of brute not to love the birdsong, the butterflies, the flowers and trees, the rocky ravines and volcanic landscapes, forests and lush green valleys, the peace and timeless clear skies of an island such as this. To feel so close and connected to beautiful unblemished parts of the planet is a real privilege.
Apart from visits of friends and family from England, I’ve enjoyed meeting dozens of local and visiting folk from most corners of Europe, plus a handful from North America; together with the small number of resident or semi-resident sailors.
There have been Christmas and New Year festivities with lots of singing and dancing and fireworks, a Carnival fortnight and, yes, more singing and dancing and fireworks. (N.B. I like fireworks and I can’t dance)
Then there are local beaches for regular swimming, plus I learn Spanish, try to keep abreast of world events, and there’s reading and lots of excellent podcasts to challenge, inform and amuse…..and of course there are the chores that go along with life anywhere. I wouldn’t say I’ve been wildly busy, but I have seldom stopped.
People sometimes ask, and I ask myself, what it is that I miss about England. I’ve thought about it occasionally and yet, despite trying hard, can only come up with a rather limp and pitiful looking list.
Apart from the handful of friends and family in Britain who mean a lot to me, there really is not much. Perhaps BBC (though nowadays fairly accessible anywhere), varied lush green countryside (especially rural Devon), good drinking water, public libraries, familiar pleasing architecture, homemade marmalade and fresh Brussels sprouts. And, as I pay UK taxes I feel I earn a right to criticise and praise, where possible, my country’s virtues and priorities; (with other countries I’m more circumspect).
Thank you Canary Islands (and the coffee shops, bars, bus drivers and especially marina marineros) for giving me such a comfortable, secure and welcoming winter stay!