Arwen's meanderings

Hi everyone and welcome to my dinghy cruising blog about my John Welsford designed 'navigator' named Arwen. Built over three years, Arwen was launched in August 2007. She is a standing lug yawl 14' 6" in length. This blog records our dinghy cruising voyages together around the coastal waters of SW England.
Arwen has an associated YouTube channel so visit to find our most recent cruises and click subscribe.
On this blog you will find posts about dinghy cruising locations, accounts of our voyages, maintenance tips and 'How to's' ranging from rigging standing lug sails and building galley boxes to using 'anchor buddies' and creating 'pilotage notes'. I hope you find something that inspires you to get out on the water in your boat. Drop us a comment and happy sailing.
Steve and Arwen

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Blue M Puerto Mogan: The Gran Canaria diaries Part 1

The Blue M, Puerto Morgan, Gran Canaria

This time last week we were coming to the end of what was our best and most favourite day on our Gran Canaria trip. The Blue M is a modern, well designed and safe motorboat with plenty of side deck, a sunbathing foredeck and upper fly deck that affords excellent views.

being a big kid. I never tire of watching out for dolphin and whales. 

Manolo the owner is a cheerful Gran Canarian and clearly an excellent, experienced skipper. Born in Puerto Mogan he has spent all this life there and is clearly well known, well liked and respected based on the number of locals who waved us off, called out to him or bought their jet skis alongside to trade some banter.  Together with his wife Minerva, they make an excellent, hospitable, easy going team on board a boat they love and care for.

Collected promptly from the hotel at 0915, we arrived in the sleepy, stunning village port of  Puerto Mogan 15 minutes later. Welcomed aboard Blue M, our shoes were deposited in a basket and the rest of the day was spent in barefoot bliss on scrubbed teak strip decks. With only seven on board, the day was intimate, allowing you to get to know your fellow guests.
This is my 'I'm so excited' look even though I am sinning and stepping on board a motorboat instead of a yacht or dinghy

The plan for the day was simple, motor out at a steady 10kts, look for dolphin, porpoise and whales in the morning; around lunch time anchor in a secluded rocky bay, have a simple BBQ and do snorkelling across the boulders. Back in port for 15.00 with the rest of the afternoon at your leisure to wander around picturesque Puerto Mogan.

As we slowly motored out of the port, past the refuel bunker and protective breakwater, anticipation was high. The Blue M has a reputation for finding whales and dolphin, for environmentally respecting their privacy and for keeping a sensible distance from the whales. Dolphins on the other hand, well they just like to play, curious creatures that they are. Any dolphin experience was going to be up close and personal!

With both Manolo and Minerva using binoculars to scan port and starboard quarters off the bow it wasn’t long before a call from Manolo had us on our feet. Well most of us. From the moment we left port I’d been at the bow or on the flybridge scanning the waters for life. I’m such a kid!  Ahead off the starboard bow quarter, two dorsal fins slowly broke the mirror calm sea, gracefully rising in an arc before disappearing below.

Bright whales, mother and calf.  It is a testimony to Manolo’s skill and environmental sensitivity that he managed to get close but not so close as to disturb the mother and calf. He also limited the time alongside. Sharing information with other boats on the water, he moved away to allow another ketch coming up astern to take its turn 30m off the port side of the whales. Only one boat went alongside at any one point in time and after a strictly allotted time, that boat moved away giving the whales time to drift along undisturbed. This environmental sustainable approach was extremely impressive to watch in action and speaks volumes about Gran Canarias’s approach to tourism in general.

Motoring out to sea, its dappled surface ruffled by tiny breezes, we viewed Mt Teide rising above the clouds on Tenerife, the summit seemingly floating above the clouds. Binoculars were lifted to the horizon again and the scanning arcs began once more. 20 minutes later and a large pod of dolphin were spotted coming towards the boat.

The quietly intense excitement on board the Blue M cannot be adequately described in words. Manolo and Minerva never tire of seeing the pods. And yes, the waters were clear, deep azure blue; and yes, the dolphin surfed the bow wave; and yes, you could see them clearly; and yes, they came to us. Such inquisitively playful creatures. There are insufficient superlatives to describe this encounter and it surpassed our expectations. Manolo’s only comment, albeit said with a big grin, was that ‘this was normal’.

 With plenty of room for all of us to line the bow rails, the Atlantic Spotted Dolphin swam alongside, beneath and in front of the Blue M. Bubble trails, the equivalent of airplane trails in the sky, steamed behind some dolphin as they twisted and turned beneath the bow. Some swam sideways, an eye keenly scrutinising us. Do dolphins smile? Based on this encounter, an emphatic yes. I swear blind some were laughing at us.  

20 minutes later and Manolo called time on our encounter, the pod drifted off to find some respite and later some new playmates. We turned inshore and headed for a small indentation in the tall vertical lava cliffs west of Puerto Mogan.

The small bay was already occupied by two other boats with larger parties on board but in typical low-key Gran Canaria style, neither proved to be obtrusive. We swam in clear blue seas, the bay floor littered with large rocky boulders from long ago collapsed cliffs. Black spiked sea urchins hid in crevices between the boulders and ribbon fish swam lazily by.

Well what do you know. Those Atlantic currents are so powerful. I went snorkelling in Wembury Bay, south Devon and next thing I know........I'm stepping aboard some boat in Gran Canaria!!

In 8m or so of water, shoals of fish suddenly appeared from hiding places, attracted by the bread thrown in by Minerva. A free meal, the water teemed with fish shoals. Most sheltered under the Blue M. Snorkelling in water with a temperature of 19C or so is such a pleasure. This is a different Atlantic to the one off Plymouth Sound. Warm, translucently clear and no wet suits and thermals needed here.

The stony, bouldery beach lay at the end of a very narrow deep ravine valley. Someone had built a driftwood bar, long ago abandoned but it gave a wonderful Robinson Crusoe air to proceedings.

With a tasty BBQ comprising chicken kebabs, fresh bread rolls and a sumptuously tasty mixed chipped salad provided by Manolo and Minerva, we all sat on the bow enjoying the sun. Pure relaxation. Free drinks came from the stern locker cooler as and when you needed them. Manolo and Minerva took a dip when we were all fed and plates cleared. Both were clearly water babies!

Back on board and last to depart the bay, we motored along the stunning volcanic cliffs with their different coloured bands of ancient lava flows as far as Amados beach to the east, before turning bow back to port.

Manolo reversed that boat back into its berth stern first. He had a foot clearance either side. The fenders didn’t even graze neighbouring boats. Minerva jumped off the rear bathing platform with a light step and had stern lines tied and tensioned before you could blink. What slick teamwork. When I complimented Manolo on his superb boatmanship, I got the toothy grin and a Spanish accented english retort ‘not my first time eh’?

I recommend the Blue M without reservation. The professionalism, care, attention to detail and laid back gentle humour and welcome of Manolo and Minerva made this such a special day. Thank you goes to our fellow guests, from Italy, The Ukraine, and Ireland for interesting conversation and good humour all day.

You can contact Manolo about a voyage on the Blue M via their FaceBook page or trip advisor reviews.  I cannot comment on the larger tour outfits but this I can say, the Blue M was reasonably priced by comparison and was worth every single euro. Outside of Arwen my own boat, probably the best day I have ever had out on the water!

Manolo, Minerva, Gracias!

Blue M has its own Facebook page: search Blue M Puerto Mogan. 

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