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Lanzarote and Grenada - contrasts and connections

Situated on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean, the islands of Lanzarote and Grenada are connected by a sailing route that has been followed for centuries - but usually only in one direction.

With the North Atlantic trade winds blowing perennially from east to west, the passage is always from Europe to the Caribbean, and that’s why the Royal Ocean Racing Club chose these contrasting islands as the start and finish points for their Transatlantic Race. Both are part of island chains that are volcanic in origin. The violence and upheaval of their creation is still evident in the landscape and, while the earth is much quieter today, there is still activity below the surface on both sides of the ocean.

This geological history is most obvious in Lanzarote, where the terrain is rocky and mountainous and vegetation is sparse. Today the Timanfaya National Park is home to the island’s only active volcano, but as recently as the 1730s some 30 new peaks emerged over a six year period and a quarter of Lanzarote was covered with lava. Seismic activity in the area may be muted, but it is still present.

Nearly 3,000 miles away to the west, the sea mount of Kick ’em Jenny is still active just five miles north of Grenada and should be avoided whenever warnings are in force. But the main island’s mountainous spine is formed of five volcanic peaks that are all extinct. The youngest and highest is Mt Saint Catherine in the north, while the most spectacular is the Grand Etang, whose ancient and flooded caldera forms a crater lake that is home to many bird species, lizards, frogs, armadilloes and mona monkeys.

Surrounded by dense rain forest, the Grand Etang National Park provides the most striking contrast with the blasted lunar landscape of Lanzarote’s Timanfaya. Lush, fecund and rich in wildlife, the green of Grenada could not be further from the bleak, black and brown beauty of Lanzarote.

And the reason for this contrast? The rain. Grenada’s central mountain range forces moisture-laden trade wind clouds aloft, where they condense and fall as rain, with 3,500mm of the stuff landing annually on the windward highlands and 1,500mm on the lowlands to leeward. Back east in the Canaries, however, they only receive 150mm per year, making it impossible for plant life to make a living on a major scale.

At sea level, where the land meets the ocean, both islands are blessed with some of the world’s finest sandy beaches, whose volcanic origins are evident in the black sand that contrasts with the more customary white and golden strands. Both are also home to natural harbours that have been hubs for fishing and commerce for generations, and more recently have become bases for the burgeoning yachting scene.

Calero Marinas are at the heart of yachting in the Canary Islands and Marina Lanzarote is the host port and departure point for the RORC Transatlantic Race fleet. The Calero family first established themselves with Puerto Calero in 1989, setting the standard for marina facilities and
service in the region. Their new marina in the capital, Arrecife, builds on their experience and reputation and provides a large professional boatyard, first rate berthing facilities, and some of the most welcoming restaurants and bars on the island. It is understandably popular with cruisers as well as racers and is a regular starting point for yachts on their westward migration to the Caribbean.

And where better to finish an Atlantic crossing than Grenada – whether cruising across or racing with the RORC fleet? The island is justifiably renowned for being one of the friendliest and most relaxed in the Caribbean, and at Port Louis Marina there’s everything you need after a long ocean passage, from a safe, secure berth to an ice cold beer or revitalising rum punch. There is plenty of ocean between these two islands, with Lanzarote lying just 80 miles from the African continent and Grenada some 100 miles from South America, but the connections between them get stronger by the year.

And there’s one final similarity that cannot go unremarked. Both Lanzarote and Grenada are home to established distillers of that most essential of nautical spirits: rum.