6th October 2021
Papagayo, Lanzarote – Arrecife, Lanzarote
Capital cities draw people in from all over the world. They come for the culture, the history, to be near the seats of power and to be around the movers and shakers. Our needs are much simpler, we have no need of the big city lights or the opportunities they bring, we have however visited a capital and it has served us exactly what we needed.
Before the call of the capital become strong, we sat at anchor in Papaguya and as usual, in these exotic locations, we cracked on with boat jobs. The principal boat job didn’t involve the usual tools of grease and noxious chemicals, this was an intellectual technology focussed boat job. Iain had resolved to setup and get the sat phone working in preparation for our imminent ocean crossing.
If Iain thought that the days of sitting in front of a laptop, getting deep into the weeds and searching the internet for error messages were behind him, he was sadly mistaken. Hour after hour he updated firmware, changed drivers, setup email, and used the friend of every IT professional, Google. Finally, the modem* came to life, all the right check boxes were checked and others unchecked and he as rewarded, not by fireworks champagne and glory, but by super quick email and a little blinking red light. The joy of small victories.
Needing to get ashore our feet sunk into the soft sand of the beach where the warm Atlantic waters lapped the rocks. The beach was like all beaches, but this one hid exciting treasure. Nestling behind the beach we stumbled upon archaeological excavations that led deep down into the earth that had been dug eons ago but uncovered just years ago. As we wandered around them, we could feel 16th century man drying his catch in the sun, trying to find water in the arid landscape and worshipping the gods that rumbled in the volcanoes that dotted the horizon.
As time ticked the draw of the Capital increased and this ticking increased at the same rate as our propane reserves decreased. We had to get to the only place to refill our gas bottles, the capital of Lanzarote, Arrecife. The challenge was that the marina was full and the anchorages surrounding it patrolled by fierce policemen. The only way we thought we’d resolve this conundrum was rely on luck.
As we beat our way north an AIS target popped up in the marina and started moving. It seemed that lady luck was on our side and this was going to be our salvation. With the berth still warm from its previous occupant we slipped in, Cerulean caught our lines and we could then resolve our gas ‘situation’.
Procuring gas is always a fraught affair, involving dangerous decanting, bus rides or cycling along busy highways, today we were about to take things to a whole new level. Iain popped the propane bottle into a backpack that was a little too small, donned a motorcycle helmet that was a lot too small and then hopped onto the back of a motorbike that was being piloted by the aptly named ‘Stevele Knievil’.
Hurtling around the streets we made our way to the huge gas refinery that overlooked the town. Taking our turn behind a tanker the bottle was plugged into a huge silo, gas flowed in and our chore was just about complete. Our motorbike ride was however about to get just a little bit more dangerous.
Instead of just piloting a bike ‘Stevele’ was now piloting a bike with a bomb on the back. The consequences of a crash wouldn’t result in just a little embarrassment and an insurance claim, it would result in a mushroom cloud and bits of Iain being flung far and wide. Thankfully no mushroom cloud was seen above Arrecife, ‘Stevele Knievil’ returned Iain safely and our chores were in the process of being ticked off.
With the list fully ticked off, fun was now back on the agenda, and top among them was the wreck of the ‘Temple Hall’. This huge coaster had been beached years ago in the shallow waters near the town and now it offered all sorts of exploration possibilities. With the sun rising over it we resolved to snorkel it at low water. With shallower water it’s height would feel more impending, it’s stability feel more precarious and a way in might be revealed to us.
Whilst the waters were still high we took in all the Capital city could offer. We found boat building artists by the lagoon and ancient castles guarded by huge cannons, but rated top among the attractions in Arrecife was a tree. Not a special tree, not planted by anyone special, not to commemorate anything. It was a just a tree, with leaves, roots and branches!
The tide was now low and the snorkelling expedition could begin. Deciding that the waters beside an industrial park and next to the gas works were not inviting Fiona stood guard on the beach while Iain slipped into the water and headed towards the ship.
With every stroke the ship became taller and taller and with every kick become more and more imposing. Lifelines cascaded down the side covering the ‘danger of death’ signs while the long evening shadows make the jagged shards of metal on the ships broken back look like teeth waiting to take gobble up Iain. As snorkelling experiences go it wasn’t in touch with nature but it did make Iain realise that soon enough the ship would be returned to nature.
As our ticking time bomb of running out of propane has been defused the draw of the big city lights has been extinguished. Our next stop is as far from a city as we can get, as from mainstream commercialisation as it gets, we’re bound for an island devoid of roads, devoid of the 21st century but full of possibilities.
* For those Gen Z’ers a modem is a proper old school way of accessing the internet before the joys of wifi and hotspots.
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