From La Graciosa we only had a short sail (20 nm) to Arrecife, the capital of Lanzarote. We were prepared for the worst, it being a capital and Lanzarote a popular tourist destination. We were going to dock in the marina with a clear mission, codename ‘kayak’. Having lost our kayak in Madeira, we had been aching to replace this essential cruising asset. A search on the internet taught us that Arrecife had a Decathlon and our three seater inflatable Itiwit kayak was in stock.
Radioing the marina went easy, they answered immediately in English, gave some instructions and told us where to dock. Following the canal to the marina entrance went smooth as all was well marked. The harbor entrance was quite scenic with colourful fishing boats and art work in the water. In the marina the docking assistant knew what he was doing (that was a first for us) which relieved us from the usual tension that accompanies docking in an unknown marina with a slight crosswind. We were pleasantly surprised, and once we set foot in the marina, even more so. Everything was sparkly and shiny new, from the quays, the gates, to the showers, restaurants and shops. Most of the quays were empty. Apparently their peak season coincides with the Cross Atlantic Rally (only in October), which made that we had most of the place to ourselves. The staff was friendly, professional and helpful.
Ships chandlers are all within walking distance. We did our usual tour to buy odd bits and pieces for small repairs on the boat. After that, mission kayak commenced. The bus stops were poorly indicated and missed itineraries. A quick chat to a local revealed that seeing we are five it would be much cheaper and easier to grab a cab. 10 minutes and 5 Euro later we found ourselves strolling in the Decathlon. The correct kayak was found, but no paddles. We bought the kayak, ordered a new cab and had ourselves and the kayak delivered to the marina. Mission kayak completed. The paddles will have to wait for another day.
The nice thing about Arrecife was that it did not feel like a capital, it all seemed small and containable enough.
From Arrecife we sailed another 20 nm to Punto Papagaio, a protected bay on the south side of the island. This is a very famous beach. Not only for tourists, but also because it is where the Spanish conquest of the Canaries started.
We anchored in front of the longer stretch that was far less populated. Ideal for the kids to swim to shore by themselves, to relax and read a book on the beach, to build sand castles, to swim and snorkel. Plans for a beach braai took shape. Enjoying the beach South African style.
While we were enjoying the scenery, the sun, the company, we pondered on the history of the Canaries.
From aborigines to Spaniards to Scandinavians
Long long ago, when animals could still speak, the Canaries were inhabited by prehistoric animals such as giant lizards and monster rats. The first humans to live on the islands were called Guanches. This is the collective name given to the different aborigines of the Canaries, such as the Majoreros of Fuerteventura, the Canarii of Gran Canaria, and the Majos of Lanzarote. They were visited by the Phoenicians, the Greeks, and the Carthaginians. The Romans recorded their encounter in the early first century.
The Guanches were still around going about business as usual when sailors from Mallorca, Portugal and Genoa started arriving. In the 1300s the Genoese navigator Lancelotto Malocello (aka Lanzarotus Marocelus) landed on an island and built a church there. The island was named after him, Lanzarote. Not much later, the Castilians found their way there, with less noble intentions. They came to catch slaves to sell off in Spain.
The Spanish conquest of the islands began in 1402, when adventurers Jean de Béthencourt and Gadifer de la Salle were sent by the king to take Lanzarote. The island lacked mountains and gorges where the remaining Guanches could hide, therefore Lanzarote was taken within a few months. All but 300 Guanches were carted off to the mainland. The Spaniards pushed on to Fuerteventura and El Hierro. Of the initial 283 sailors only 63 remained, the rest had deserted or perished along the way. In 1404, the commissioned adventurers founded Betancuria, which was to serve as capital of Fuerteventura until the 1800s. The Spanish tried their luck on La Gomera, Gran Canaria, Tenerife, and La Palma, but the natives managed to fend them off for almost a century. Eventually the native kings were capture by a cunning Spaniard and colonization started.
Two cities were built, Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. They served as stopping point for the Spanish galleons carrying Spanish conquerors, traders, and missionaries catching the prevailing northeasterly trade winds on their way to the New World. The cities prospered and attracted merchants and adventurers from all over Europe. The more their wealth increased, the more attractive they seemed to pirates and privateers. The settlers not only had to fend off poachers but were also frequented by slave traders trying to kidnap them. Even the other trading nations had their eye on the islands and its merit as a filling station. The attacks of the Ottomans, Dutch and Brits to claim the islands as their exclusive Pick not Pay, all failed.
Nowadays the trading nations have taken a different strategy. They still misbehave but they no longer raid and kidnap the locals. They just flood the best beaches, frying their soft white bellies until brightly red, and spend their hard earned moneys. The most recent influx of immigrants are part-time settlers, having a house in their native country and a holiday house/ flat/ cottage in the Canaries. Northern Europeans (Scandinavians, Germans, Belgians, Dutch, French) and Brits looking for sunlight on tap and their own piece of paradise. A great way to escape winter.