According to our information Fuerteventura’s touristic hotspots are Corralejo, Bahia Calma, and to a lesser extent Morro Jable and Jandia. Whereas Corralejo is located in the North and is flooded with English throughout the year, Costa Calma is mainly promoted with Germans, Dutch and Scandinavians. It being summer holiday in Europe we avoided these carefully. Luckily the rest of the tall island caters for the more adventurous (Spanish) travelers.
Puerto del Rosario
We saw the big white blob of Corralejo in the distance and were happy to sail past to the tiny capital of Fuerteventura.
In the past, Puerto del Rosario was the world’s leading spot for tomato export, but no traces of that were found by us. We anchored in the bay and went for a stroll in town. It definitely did not feel like a capital. Even though it had some kind of shopping mall not much seemed geared towards tourists and definitely no kayak paddles to be found. Several camper vans were parked around the harbor, the start of their holiday. Clearly camping out on the deserted beaches is a favorite pass time of many a Canarian.
As we were about to receive visitors that needed easy access to the boat, we sailed further south along the coast and set up temporary base in the government managed marina at Gran Tarajal. It has lots of space, and is rather quiet. The only movement, cruisers coming and going and the security guys counting the boats. The facilities are quite basic (no hot water), not that the hot climate inspires the need for hot showers. There are no shops or bars in the marina. Much to our surprise the marina office informed us we could only use the berth until the end of August. During the month of September all berths are reserved for the Fuerteventura Fishing Open. This big event attracts yachts and sport fisherman from all over the world trying to catch record size game fish. It was made clear that we had to get out before that time.
The small town with the dark brown beach, promenade, shops, bars and restaurants is only 1 km further. Very few tourists were to be seen in the town, most of them just stopping over for a quick look around, on their way to another place. Overlooking the bay, a sun bleached skeleton and an information plaque documents the existence of the cuvier or common beaked whale that used to be found in these areas.
With Fuerteventura in sight, the boys’ days on board were numbered. They were to fly back to Belgium on the 12th of August and would be escorted by the grandparents. As there is only one direct flight a week the grandparents booked a small cottage nearby the beautiful white sand beach of Bahia Calma, a highly developed area for tourism.
Knowing that the end of their stay was near, meant we all had to put in some effort to ignore the elephant in the room, pressing down our moods but increasing our motivation to make the most of the remaining time. One week was easily filled up by the following:
- Beach time at Gran Tarajal: After the usual marina drills of washing the boat inside out, doing the laundry by hand (remember, basic facilities), scrubbing ourselves clean under the showers, we had plenty of time to enjoy the beach. The boys practiced under water breath hold and fish watching skills, while we focused on making Gitane more comfortable and independent in the water so she would cling less to those that are with her. Other activities included snorkeling, body surfing, and building sand castles.
- Fishing in the marina: Normally fishing is not allowed in the marina, but the species were too tame, too big, and too gullible to be ignored for long. The boys developed a trick where they set off a feeding frenzy amongst the fish by throwing bits of bread in the water. Once the adrenaline is pumping in the fish veins you cast your line and unwittingly they bite your hook. In the blink of an eye they find themselves airlifted, swiftly pulled out of the water and put in buckets assorted by our offspring. Once Gitane and Yoren have determined the species, Arno deposits them back in the water. The tiny hole in their mouths hugely increases their chances on future survival as even fish have a memory for this kind of thing.
- White sands of Costa Calma: We tested out the local public transport to get to and fro. Visiting the grandparents in Costa Calma meant a bus ride of about 45min through a rather bleak landscape, except for the oasis around the big zoo. The Costa Calma bay boasts an enormous white sand beach, result of dead coral reef and other marine sediment from ages ago. Because the bay is large you do not get the feeling of over crowdedness and the white sand and turquoise water makes up for a lot. It proved to be a great spot for people watching. Bellies and buttocks mainly of soft consistencies, legs and arms unused to any exercise, sizzling in the sun. Some dangling all their goodies. Next step is to guess the liters of ink per square meter. Since when did giant tattoos rid their association with bikers, sailors and adventurers? Since when did it become a status symbol to have sleeves and socks permanently painted on your young skin? The Chinese dragons, tribal sleeves, angel/ devil wings, and Maori cuffs grimly stared back from under the sunblock. Unoriginal and probably way less cool when a mature age has been reached… While on the topic, our favorite is still the one we saw on the beach promenade in Barcelona: a well-endowed man walking around stark naked with a speedo tattooed on his buttocks. Quite a statement! On the beach one also had to make a special effort to ignore all the selfie sticks, the fake happy poses, the 30 shots to get the perfect picture and hope it will spread on your social media like a disease. People are curious beings…
- Fishing with live bait: Catching fish in the marina gave us the idea to organize a last fishing trip with live bait on some pinnacles close to the coast about 6 sea miles further. The kids were all in favor and set about catching 3 fish, which they decided to deposit in a trap hanging off a nearby boat. The next morning, we would get up early, take out the fish and sail to our fishing spot. Unfortunately the fish that were caught the day before had learned their lesson and refused to bite. And the trap was too deep and wide to get them out any other way. Therefore more fish, new fish had to be caught, under time pressure. We got two, put them each in their own bucket and took off. Once at the spot Arthur showed us how to hook the fish in his spine and let out the line. It didn’t take long before all the seagulls arrived and started diving for our live bait. Gitane blew her whistle, the great seagull deterrent, as loud as she could. So loud that not only the seagulls retracted but all the game fish as well.
- Socializing sailors: Marinas are always great places to meet other yachties. In Gran Tarajal we met a Polish family sailing with their 5 year old twin girls. We also met a British couple, Bryan and Katrien, who had just delivered a boat for a fellow countryman. They both had 40 000 plus sea miles, basically been sailing at each opportunity. It was great to talk to them, to see their zest for life, their calm and wisdom from all those days weeks months at sea. To hear from Katrien that each time she sets foot on a boat she learns something, really resonated with us. If you think you know everything, if there is nothing left to learn, there is no challenge. Then what is the point in life… Living with your eyes wide open and making the best of what lady fortune throws your way seems closer to our stance.
- Folding bicycle salvage: At daybreak we discovered that one of our folding bicycles, which was parked on the quay, was gone. Theft did not make sense in this little deserted hamlet when there were far more interesting and valuable items to be gotten. Closer inspection demonstrated that the wind was the culprit. A heavy bout of gusts the previous night had sent the white framed bicycle to the marina bottom! The boys took charge of the bicycle salvage. They borrowed a length of rope, got in their masks and fins and went down. Yoren tied the rope around the bicycle frame with a bowline knot, while Arno gave the go for Winnie to pull up the rope. Easy!