Debbie & Stephen (Just taken a long time ago - not photo-shopped!

Winter on the dock encourages the First Mate to declutter and spring clean, ready for the rest of the year. One of these chores was attacking the ever increasing book collection, many of which we will not use again and gather far too much dust. However one pilot book stood out, not just because it was well used, pages stuck together and totally out of date, but because it was full of notes regarding our life before we moved full time aboard. The pilot book was destined for the bin but many of our memories would have been discarded too.

So we are going back sixteen years, where it all started, refreshing our aged minds and romantically reminiscing.

We bought Amelie in March 2008, spending a few months in the Channel Islands and then in August 2008, with the three boys and one of their friends, we sailed to the Canary Islands. The next four years, Amelie spent her time exploring the islands and several trips to Morocco, with her crew fitting in work around the many holidays on her.

La Graciosa

Carefully opening the pages, we came across the first chapter on La Graciosa, the largest of a bunch of islands north of Lanzarote. We can still picture this beautiful community, with white beaches (most of the Canarian beaches are black volcanic sand), a pristine, glistening white  church nestled amongst a fishing community. Our first anchorage was Bahia de la Cocina, before checking in, as the kids needed to get off the boat! This is the one and only time we broke the rules having not checked in. Our favourite anchorage however was Bahia de Salado, close to Caleta de Sabo, a small village with a fantastic fish restaurant. Paella always tastes better on Spanish terra firma. Prior to our world adventures, we travelled to this spot several times but the last memory of this place, is an armed gunboat full of stern looking militia, asking us to leave, as we were now anchored in an ecological habitat. We didn’t argue. Over the years in the various islands, we came across different interpretations of marine law from the “powers that be”. We doffed our cap and with British politeness we agreed to move on, never disputing their views.

Sunset in Canaries

Lanzarote proved to be a great place to drink, eat, dive, sustain head and collar bone injuries but overall join the thousands of tourists that flock here.

Marina Rubicon was a huge complex with great facilities, easy registration of boat and crew by beautiful model like young women. The marina included a brilliant boatyard, chandlery, swimming pool, English speaking with great bars and eateries. A hubbub of music, dancing, cocktails on the beach and friendliness. Every Saturday, the main dock groaned under the weight of an enormous market with many visitors. We found Lanzarote slightly more expensive than the other islands but we preferred it to Tenerife and Gran Canaria.

Fuerteventura is an island 33nm south west of Lanzarote. One late afternoon, the heat picked up more than usual and then came the wind, building quickly and the sensation was one of a hot setting on a powerful hairdryer. We clocked 50+ knots, up anchored and headed for a tiny fishing marina in Gran Tarajal for shelter. This settlement was beautiful and a safe haven for these types of Sahara gusts.

We returned several times to Las Playitas, a small Canarian fishing village, which over four years exploded into a German “Butlins”. The anchorage was great, ashore the two restaurants were exceptional, our notes stating that the Fisherman’s clams, Padron peppers and grilled fish were fabulous. Unfortunately the twice daily loud music aerobics class put us off after a while.

We anchored many times in Fuerteventura, enjoying Pozo Negro, Jacomar, Giniginamar, Puerto del Rosario and Moro Jable. The latter was at the foot of a mountain where we experienced huge gusts of wind in the evening, a very typical local wind phenomenon, Levanto, but the holding was excellent.

Just off the north east corner of Fuerteventura lies Isla de Lobos, requiring a dinghy ride or small ferry from Corralejo, to get there. We walked easily around the island in a few hours, astounded by the moonscape features and enjoying the bird life in the lagoon.

Gran Canaria, shaped like a huge cookie, sits in the centre of the Canaries. It is a tourist magnet and holiday destination for the Brits. One of our least favourites but we had the best provisioning here at the El Cortes Ingles. Our notes mention that the shopping was delivered to the boat in sealed boxes, free of charge. We stayed in the marina in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria on the guest dock. Here we were aware of some boat crime, so for the last sixteen years we always lock up Amelie when we leave her, even if it is on a neighbouring boat and when we go to sleep. A habit that fared us well in other parts of the world.

Pencilled notes suggested that we wouldn’t repeat anchoring off Arguineguin again, because of the light pollution and strong smell of fuel; the touristy Puerto Mogan had a fantastic fish restaurant and was the final anchorage before we started our Atlantic crossing to join the OWR in Antigua.

Tenerife, northwest of Gran Canaria, was the island where Amelie spent her formative years, waiting for her crew to remove their work shackles. We barely explored Tenerife, as we were always sailing away from her, to enjoy the other islands. Amelie’s home port for nearly four years was Las Galletas, looked after in our absence by a British sailing school. Unfortunately the care wasn’t up to par and the last nine months was spent in Agadir, Morocco. The marina was run by the local council and the staff were downright rude and uncaring. However the many bars and tapas restaurants were fabulous. Gin and vodka were poured until you asked them to stop, no measures in this place. We were fortunate to get very friendly with an Irish couple, Gemma and Conor from Howth, near Dublin and we continue to keep in contact.


We have briefly mentioned Morocco, primarily Agadir, where we spent many months. Once again as Brits, it is very quick to fly there, also only 70nm from the Canaries. Memories of food markets, ancient Souks, oasis, disobedient donkeys, possibility of selling Jaz for twenty camels, many beggars with very few teeth, refreshing mint tea with bricks of sugar and goats climbing almond trees, bring a smile to our faces. Oh the adventures we’ve had!

Tree Climbing Goats

The pilot book at this stage is hard to read and many of the pages are stuck together but the next island was one of our favourites and visited many times, the stunning, mountainous La Gomera. This small rugged island is directly west of Tenerife with many anchorages for us to enjoy. Alas the copious notes are destroyed and our logbook barely gives any information. Our memories are of fun times in many of the southern anchorages, swimming, exploring the island with a tour guide, visiting the many quaint restaurants and anchoring off a beach full of naked German tourists. La Gomera’s prominent language is Spanish but practises a whistling language, hailing from goat and sheep herders from the past. This island is very mountainous, so whistling was used as communication between the mountainous range. The language is taught in the village schools and we were privileged to hear it being used by some local men.

Another favourite haunt of ours was La Palma island, about 60nm, north west of La Gomera. We stayed in the marina at Santa Cruz de la Palma every time and explored the island by rental car. This island has changed shape since we were last there due to a volcanic eruption taking out a portion of the south. Originally the shape of La Palma resembled a tiny South America. The main town is exquisite with cobbled streets, ancient houses and lovely gift shops. The food here is more earthy and rustic with plenty of choice. We spent a memorable new year’s celebration here, dressing up like the locals, enjoying a multi course meal and dancing until dawn in the main square. One of our favourite restaurants was off the beaten track in the town, sitting in a courtyard with washing drying high above us, trickling water statues in the corners and geckos running across the ground. Classic car rallies and motorbike conventions came to town but overall the feel was less touristy, despite the daily ferry schedule and low key resorts on the coast.

El Hierro is the most southwesterly and the smallest of all the islands. We sailed past it on our way across the Atlantic but never visited, normally due to time constraints and poor weather due to its Atlantic exposure.

The Canary Islands being so close in airtime from the UK was an ideal place to lodge Amelie. We were able to get to know her under warm conditions, try out her systems under warranty and the sailing conditions were challenging enough to put her through her paces, to iron out any gremlins.

We have fond memories of our time there, particularly as all the children visited us for holidays and it was easy for friends to get to us for the odd week. A group of OWR boats joined us before our departure across the Atlantic, late 2012, making lasting friendships and a prequel for our circumnavigation fun adventure.

Yes, the Canary Islands have lasting memories albeit with help from a well thumbed, disintegrating pilot book! 


Carefree Sailing