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Saturday, August 05, 2017

New ferry service now taking bookings (Updated)

The new Benchi Express which will serve the 'interior line' of La Gomera (Image: Fred. Olsen)
The reestablishment of a ferry service between the three southern ports of La Gomera will become reality on Monday August 21st 2017 when the new purpose-built vessel will make its first scheduled sailing and bookings can now be made on the Fred. Olsen ferry company website.
The brand new 90 ft ferry which will cover the so-called interior ferry line connecting the ports of Valle Gran Rey, Playa de Santiago, and San Sebastian de La Gomera was launched in Barcelona recently and has a capacity for 150 passengers on the lower deck with an additional 100 passengers on the mostly-open upper deck. The vessel which was baptised Benchi Express has a cafeteria, and storage space for travelling pets, bicycles and light motorbikes. New floating jetties are being installed in the three ports to facilitate passengers which will also make the ferry wheelchair accessible.
The new service will run three times daily in both directions starting from Valle Gran Rey. Departure times are as follows:

Valle Gran Rey:                          06:30 am, 12:30 pm,  5 pm

San Sebastian de La Gomera:     10:45 am, 3 pm,   9 pm

Playa de Santiago (to San Seb.): 07:20 am, 01:20 pm, 05:50 pm
Playa de Santiago (to V.G.R.):    11:30 am, 03:40 pm, 09:40 pm

The new service operates seven days a week, but this is the initial timetable and I expect some changes once the winter season begins, so always check times again before booking. Prices: The basic single online fare is 10 Euros (or € 8 if you're over 60) for the journey between San Sebastian de La Gomera and Valle Gran Rey and 8 Euros from/to Playa de Santiago which comes down to only € 2.50 and € 2 respectively if you are a resident of La Gomera, according to the Fred. Olsen booking site. 

+UPDATE: There seem to be the 'customary' delays and it appears that the new service will now be running from Sept. 10th 2017, if it doesn't suffer another 'retraso'. 
Please also note that in order to make a booking you'll have to select 'La Gomera' in both the 'Origin' and the 'Destination' windows on the Fred. Olsen website, which then will lead to two further selection windows appearing where you can choose between the three ports served by 'Benchi Express'. As of now tickets on this service must be bought separately from the tickets you'll need to get from/to Los Cristianos if you're going from/to  Tenerife. This is all a bit cumbersome and should be made more convenient for intending passengers.
The new ferry's AIS tracking is now functional and her movements can be followed when they have it switched on (MMSI 225987686). She was still undergoing sea trials in the second week of August near the port where she was built and launched, but should soon make her way down to the Canary Islands.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

'La Villa' rocks again

The annual Villa Rock festival will take place in San Sebastian de La Gomera this Saturday, August 5th 2017, from 9 pm. This year five bands from the Canary Islands, including La Gomera's own Tonelada, will perform various styles of rock music and the event is free of charge.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Algae affecting many beaches

Algal bloom at Vueltas beach, one of the many beaches affected in the Canary Islands

 Over recent weeks large amounts of micro algae have been observed in the coastal waters of the Canary Islands which have affected many beaches. This is a natural phenomenon that is produced by biological, environmental and climate factors and causes the seawater to become discoloured and turbid. A report by the public health department of the Canarian government warns that one should not swim  or bath in seawater where massive amounts of micro algae are present and also to avoid any contact with the algae deposited on beaches by the tides. On La Gomera notices warning of the presence of algae have been placed at beaches in San Sebastian and Valle Gran Rey. 
The report also states that while micro algae are generally quite harmless, some may produce toxins that could ''produce negative health effects'' when swimmers make physical contact by touching or ingesting these through the mouth or nose or by inhaling aerosols which may be emitted by the algal bloom. Some dead fish have also been washed onto beaches which probably perished due to much lower oxygen levels in the sea areas affected by the algal bloom. 
A dead fish washed ashore (Images: HP)

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Fiesta del Carmen 2017 starts today

Summer time is the main fiesta time in the Canary Islands and now it is the turn of the 'Fiesta del Carmen' which is celebrated in many seaside towns, harbours and fishing villages. This fiesta involves a procession by boat and here in Valle Gran Rey, La Gomera, it is one of the major fiestas in the sheer endless fiesta calendar. Carmen is the patron saint of the fishermen of Vueltas harbour where the fiesta is celebrated in the port from this morning and festivities continue all next week. 
The boat procession is today, July 16th 2017, from 5pm and you can join in the fun by just queueing for a place on one of the many participating boats, but be prepared to get wet - not only on the outside - as the drink flows freely. There'll be a fireworks display in the harbour just before midnight tonight, followed by salsa-dancing all night until the early hours of the morning. Highlights on other days include a reggae night with two bands on Thursday, children's amusements, DJs, folklore groups, etc., during Valle Gran Rey's largest fiesta. 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

NEW FERRY LAUNCHED

The all-new Benchi Express at her launch yesterday (Image: Fred. Olsen Express)
Afloat and baptised !
The brand new ferry which will cover the so-called interior ferry line connecting the ports of Valle Gran Rey, Playa de Santiago, and San Sebastian de La Gomera was launched in Barcelona yesterday. The vessel was baptised Benchi Express with the customary bottle of bubbly during a ceremony with representatives of the Fred Olsen company. HOOOORAY and congratulations !
The purpose-built ferry will accommodate 250 passengers on two decks and there will be an open area on the upper deck available to passengers, while a cafeteria on the lower deck will offer drinks and snacks. The vessel will travel at an average speed of around 20 knots and being just under 90 ft long will be very easy to manoeuvre, which combined with the shortly to be installed floating jetties in the three ports will assure very fast turnaround times.
The reestablishment of a ferry service between the three southern ports of La Gomera will take some more time to become operational as the new vessel is not fully fitted out yet and will have to undergo lengthy sea trials, etc., before she'll obtain her seaworthiness and safety certificates while the ferry line will have to pass the usual  bureaucratic hurdles, but by the end of this summer the sorely missed connection should once again be a reality and its future assured. If you're planning a trip to southern La Gomera later this year, I'd recommend to wait with your ferry booking until the new service's schedule has been published. Find out more about the interior ferry line (click)...
+UPDATE: New ferry...  (click)
By the way, from midnight last night the ticket price for inter-island travel in the Canary Islands has decreased for residents as the subsidies from the Canarian government will now cover 75% of the regular price, leaving residents to pay just a quarter of the fare for travel by sea or air between the islands. Pity that I'm not a resident anymore...

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Local police trained to deal with heart attacks

...before the ambulance arrives. (Archive image)
'The Canary Islander' recently reported:
''In La Gomera, there are many tourists who visit the island with serious health conditions, and island residents could also have health problems, but this island tourist destination has experienced increased incidents of heart attacks or emergency situations when an individual’s heart stops beating for various reasons. The 112-emergency service reacts very quickly by sending ambulances with trained medical staff, but often local police can be at the scene of a health incident more quickly. People who experience heart attacks on holiday are more likely to survive if they receive medical help quickly.
Therefore, the local police in San Sebastian de La Gomera has just received updated training sessions on the use of semi-automatic defibrillators and cardiorespiratory resuscitation methods that should be carried out in emergency situations. Also, cardio respiratory resuscitation equipment is now carried in all patrol cars.
The local police have portable defibrillators that mean that they can move these easily and use them in a wide range of situations. These new defibrillators are in addition to those already installed at three municipal sports centres. In addition, four out of six municipalities in La Gomera have semi-automatic defibrillators in public spaces. So faster responses by local police for emergency health incidents when waiting for ambulances and trained medical experts to arrive.''

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Latest image of new ferry

The new Benchi Express vessel under construction for the Fred Olsen ferry company which is expected to come into service later this summer, connecting Valle Gran Rey, Playa de Santiago and San Sebastian de La Gomera three times daily in both directions. It is not clear when the above image was taken, but it appears to be some time ago. The Olsen company has also announced the installation of floating jetties and ramps in the three ports to facilitate the speedy berthing of the vessel which also will make it easier for passengers to board and disembark. (Image: Fred.Olsen)
+UPDATE: New ferry...  (click)

Friday, June 16, 2017

Bloomsday in La Gomera

Today is Bloomsday in honour of James Joyce, when celebrations take place in Ireland and around the world to celebrate Thursday 16 June 1904, which is the day depicted in the famous Irish writer's novel Ulysses. The day is named after Leopold Bloom, the central character in Ulysses. The novel follows the life and thoughts of Leopold Bloom and a host of other characters – real and fictional – from 8am on 16 June 1904 through to the early hours of the following morning.
This year a celebration will also take place in La Gomera, but not until Sunday, June 18th 2017, in the beautiful historic village of Agulo in La Gomera's north. The event starts at 7 pm in the Casa del Pintor Aguiar where excerpts of Ulysses will be be read in different languages as well as poems and other texts dedicated to Joyce's work, accompanied by music from Seamus Mac Aogain. 
The town of Agulo

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Canary Islands prepare for this summer's fire threat

Forest fires season 2017

Janet Anscombe reports:
''The Canarian Government has announced its forest fire fighting and prevention measures for this summer. The announcement was made in a presentation yesterday by Canarian President Fernando Clavijo with the Government’s Política Territorial, Sostenibilidad y Seguridad minister, Nieves Lady Barreto. Specialist helicopter units (Equipos de Intervención y Refuerzo Forestales – EIRIF) will cover all the islands, being physically based in La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro, the result of an investment of almost €3m over two years, explained the president.  The minister, for her part, emphasized that the creation of EIRIF represented fundamental progress in fire fighting and prevention in the Canaries, with the units’ capacity to intervene on any island when required being an important preventative measure which, although it couldn’t stop fires starting, allowed an improved response to extinction and early assistance to stop fires spreading. Each squad will comprise 24 personnel including a technician, a foreman, and 6 specialists, and so together with 3 coordination technicians and 3 physical trainers, there will be 78 additional operatives integrated into the islands’ existing intervention resources.The units will act as reinforcement for the existing Cabildo cover which each island has in its own right, and will be employed between June and October, the high season for forest fire risk, whenever a fire exceeds insular level and requires a coordinated regional response from the Canarian Government. This will be of particular importance should fires break out on more than one island simultaneously. There will also be a hidroavion from Madrid based in the islands, and the training exercises for that were taking place recently between Gran Canaria and Tenerife (Photo: Ejército del Aire)...''

Happy Dia de Canarias

Today is Dia de Canarias, the Canary Islands' celebration of all things that make the Canaries and their people so unique and different from their Spanish colonial masters. There were many events in virtually all towns and villages over the past few days to mark the occasion and celebrations continue today during the Canaries' national holiday.


Monday, May 22, 2017

New ferry soon a reality

Parts of the hull of the new 'Benchi Express' under construction. Image taken some time ago. Source: Juan Carlos Diaz Lorenzo
The reopening if the so-called interior ferry line between the ports of Valle Gran Rey, Playa de Santiago and San Sebastian de La Gomera will soon become reality as the purpose built ferry ordered by the Fred. Olsen ferry company is nearing completion at a shipyard in Barcelona. The new catamaran type vessel will have a capacity of 250 passengers and is estimated to cost around three million Euros. It has been announced that the purpose-built vessel will be able to dock very rapidly with a new automated mooring system and the help of floating jetties which the company will install in the three ports in La Gomera. The new ferry will not sail to Tenerife, but its sailings will be timed to connect with the large Fred. Olsen ferry to Los Cristianos in Tenerife with three voyages in both directions per day . As a further cost-cutting measure tickets will be sold online and through special vending machines in Valle Gran Rey and Playa de Santiago and these will also give up to date information on sea and weather conditions and real-time arrival and departure times. The new vessel will have a cafeteria and will be baptised 'Benchi Express', same as its predecessor a few years ago which however had only been chartered for a few years by the Olsen company. It is hoped that the vessel will come into service in July of this year. Hoorrrrraaaay !!!
Read more about the interior ferry line and its history (click).
+UPDATE: New ferry...  (click)