I had always wanted to learn to sail. It was something I nearly did as a student but couldn’t afford at the time. It had been relegated to my extensive bucket list until now.
What took me so long?
While chatting with Stephanie at Endeavour Sailing of Lanzarote one day, I decided that it was about time. I signed up for a week’s course to obtain my RSA Competent Crew certificate (and with the ulterior motive of giving myself a holiday away from the office).
In fact, I wondered why on earth I had even contemplated doing this in the damp, cold UK at all. It was a no brainer. I would pursue my dream in the warm July sunshine of a sailing paradise like Lanzarote!
The northernmost Canary Island is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and part of the Global Geoparks network. The island and its surrounding waters are protected and contain around 30% of the world’s marine life.
The waters are crystal clear and the scenery, magnificent. Summer is also a great time to learn in Lanzarote with guaranteed warmth, reliable winds and that unbeatable feel-good factor.
Meet the crew
The course started on a sunny afternoon in a chillout bar in Puerto Calero marina. Myself and four other people I’d never met were to share a small cabin for the week. Our instructor introduced himself: Roger Moore (no, not Sir…), and we each introduced ourselves over a drink.
We were a mixed bunch, with different reasons for doing this: Roger (number 2) was also ticking this off his bucket list for his 60th birthday; Olga, from Russia took this course with a steely determination that she would sail around the world; and Ben was already a Yacht Master, but was doing a refresher course to prepare to become an instructor himself.
Settling into our home for the week, we chose our cabins before heading out for some dinner. It was a good opportunity to discover the all-important shower and toilet facilities, as well as the ample variety of shops, bars, restaurants of Puerto Calero marina.
Day 1: Learning the ropes
Eager and ready for action after our first night on the water, we got to know the boat, inside and out. We practised a selection of basic knots that every sailor should know, got acquainted with safety equipment and procedures, technology, engine checks, points of sail…the list goes on.
After a quick lunch we headed out of the marina for the first time to sea: such an exhilarating feeling! We now had to put those tacks and jibes to the test. Our nerves were quickly calmed by our friendly and cheerful instructor: we were allowed to make mistakes and he was on hand to help if needed.
If there’s one thing Lanzarote does have, it’s sunshine and wind. We were learning to trim the sails in perfect 25-30 km/hr winds in t-shirts and shorts.
Lanzarote offers choice of islands and islets to discover, varying wind directions and clear blue waters. You can even spot whales and dolphins going about their daily business.
After an energising day at sea, we went back to Puerto Calero marina for some well-deserved pizza and beer before calling it a night.
Day 2: Where’s Wilson?
One of the any important procedures to learn is what to do in a “man overboard” situation. Nowadays, for health and safety reasons, this is taught using a buoy (Wilson, to us) and not a real person.
Despite the scary prospect of someone actually falling overboard, this drill was a lot of fun. Roger, our instructor, would randomly throw Wilson overboard and the team had to immediately switch into rescue mode. We were each assigned a role: one to point and keep track of Wilson, one to make the Mayday call, one steering the boat back to the “victim” and another at the bow to prepare for rescue.
Back at Marina Rubicon for the evening, I finally had a chance to realise another dream: to go up the mast! It was quite high, but I was safely strapped into the bosun’s chair and the poor lads had to winch me up there!
This just might have beaten all the wonderful experiences I had that week so far. Another adrenaline rush to add to the collection with fantastic views to boot!
Day 3: Mooring up at Papagayo, Spain’s best beach
On our third day we were leaving the haven of Puerto Calero to spend the night at Marina Rubicon, in Playa Blanca, a two-hour sail down the coast.
Papagayo is just around the corner from the marina, and had just been voted Spain’s best beach. I could think of worse places to learn to weigh the anchor.
We also learned how to lasso a buoy and took turns in carrying out the different roles involved. The reward was lunch and a swim in clear blue waters, with a view of paradise.
We arrived at Marina Rubicon late afternoon. The evening light was gorgeous as we sat and had dinner at one of the marina’s many restaurants.
Day 4: An amazing day (and night) at sea
I’d been looking forward to this day all week. We’d leave Marina Rubicon, sail for the whole day and then head back to Puerto Calero at night.
Our skills were taken to a higher level as we learnt about charting, following a course with the use of a compass.
Lunch off the coast of Isla de Lobos
Isla de Lobos was our first destination. Just off the coast of Fuerteventura, this island is named after the sea lions that used to inhabit it, but which were wiped out by pirates and invaders. The water turns a shade of bright turquoise as you approach, contrasting with the sand-coloured volcanoes. This was our backdrop for today’s lunch, with spectacular views of the Corralejo Dunes National Park.
We headed back towards Lanzarote and anchored off the coast for a hearty dinner prepared by our instructor. There was a vegan and a celiac among us, and everyone was catered for.
Nothing compares to sunset sailing in Lanzarote
We set sail for Puerto Calero in the evening accompanied by an amazing sunset. There are no words that can describe how magical this experience was. Hopefully the photo will do it some justice.
The winds were moderate but light enough to allow for incredible reflections of the setting sun, and the rising moon. We had a bit of fun with a “friendly race” with a fellow Endeavour boat that was also heading back to Puerto Calero. A great exercise for learning to manage the sails and go as fast as possible. We did win, by the way.
It was dark by the time we approached the brightly lit coast of Puerto Calero and Puerto del Carmen. This made the challenge of spotting the harbour entrance lights more interesting.
The final day
The last day was for learning more technical moves and honing our skills. First was ensuring we were all capable of rowing a life raft.
We then took it turns to learn how to manoeuvre and park the boat in a marina. I was so pleased with myself for managing to do this perfectly, it was a great way to end to the course.
An incredible week of ocean life was sadly coming to end. All that was left was to clean the boat (yes, that’s part of the deal) and gather our things. Roger pulled a cold six-pack of beer that I’d been hiding in the fridge and gave us our certificates. It was a strange feeling saying goodbye to each other after an intense week of teamwork, sharing life stories and new experiences.
If you’re looking for somewhere warm to learn to sail, enjoy an active holiday or tick one more dream off your bucket list, you know where to come. Lanzarote is a true sailing paradise.