1st to 15th January 2019
The most picturesque anchorage we have had the pleasure of being in, I think. Especially at sunset when the mountains behind the anchorage glow – the whole skyline looks so-pretty-it-must-be-fake, even when you are standing there. Amazing. And, of course, being on the West coast the sunsets themselves are astounding.
We anchored in about 10m, directly off the pebble beach. When we arrived On New Year’s Day there was a reasonable swell from the West (about 2m, but slow at 9 seconds or so) which the anchorage was totally exposed to. Perfectly comfortable but it would have made landing on that beach impossible. The steps in the harbour are much more sheltered, and you can walk your dinghy along to the free cleats on the dock wall (unless you want to block the steps by tying off to the railings like an inconsiderate cruiser did for a few days).
Another note for fellow sailors: on a few occasions, SW winds of 15kt+ in the area have caused fairly substantial gusts in the anchorage (mostly from the West, funnelling down the valley; but also from the South East whipping around the island). With a forecast of 15kt offshore we had a couple of 25kt gusts. With 25kt offshore the gusts – well into the 30s – also seemed to vary direction (including 180-degree shifts), resulting in significant movement around the anchor. Holding is great so you are perfectly safe, but it’s a little disconcerting to move at speed from one end of the swinging circle to the other! Worth being aware of when setting scope and deciding where to anchor.
Also worth noting that both of our phones refused to connect to the phone network here (and everywhere on the island apart from near the top of one of the mountains), which is weird but wasn’t enough of a problem for us to care about. We had the Iridium to monitor weather and speak with those we want to, and contact with the rest of the world can wait for the Caribbean.
On the 2nd, after catching up on some domestic jobs, we went into town – landing our dinghy at the steps, and after a chat with some holidaymakers who remarked how well-behaved our kids are in the dinghy (😊), we wandered around for a while. The town of Valle Gran Rey is lovely – plenty of small restaurants, shops, and local colour to the place, and it is nice to see active smaller farms again too (banana mostly, but some other crops around). On the way back from our wander we found a lagoon with a black-sand beach which the kids saw and begged us to go play on. “We’ll just go on the sand”, they said in the knowledge that we had no towels and had not planned on a beach visit. Reader, they most certainly did not just go on the sand. Instead they started a hermit crab city and had a great time, naked, exploring the rock pools. Good stuff, and the sun had more-or-less dried them off when we decided to call it a day. The rock pools and lagoon were revisited a couple of times, and the beach next to the dock visited a couple of times too, while we were here.
We hired a car from a local company, based on the front by the harbour area- not too expensive and a baby car seat was included, meaning we only had to dinghy two car seats out! There are organised tours and buses inland, but with three young kids a car gave us more flexibility. The national park forest is great – both the nature, and its presentation for the public. Our first day started at Laguna Grande. The old growth forest reminded us of British Colombia on a smaller scale, and some of the viewpoints on this steep landscape were awesome. The trails are well marked, with a large variety of trail distances (from 400m upwards) and what seemed like an accurate grading system regarding their difficulty. Many of the larger stops are also well kitted out with restaurants, large picnic/BBQ areas, playgrounds and the like. The kids managed nearly all of a 4km trail on our first visit, taking in the regenerated forest after a wildfire in 2012 as well as some of the old-growth. As Dave was reading The Hidden Life of Trees at that time, much learning was done while we were en-route. Then, some carrying for Theo and a 50m “recharge” carry for Arthur.
The last few days of our stay were spent getting the boat back in order for a long passage, and replenishing our supplies. Which, via dinghy and in a small town, is much harder than it was from Arrecife marina! Between the Spar, the local supermarkets, and some of the specialty stores which the town is studded with, we got everything we needed. The fruit and veg in particular was easy to get hold of – there’s a fruiteria a couple of doors down from the Spar which, while not cheap, has excellent quality produce (all of it lasted as long as you’d expect, or longer, on passage)..