ISLAND OF DOGS
DATE : 20/11/2012 , 13:00 UTC
MOOD : ONLY 5 MORE DAYS !!!!!!
( see also www.worldcruisingclub.com) which will start on the 25th of November at 14:00h UTC. And what an event it was. All the national flags from all the participating boats and people, so of course I had the venetian flag waving and cheering.
My sailing club in Venice, Compagnia della Vela, should be proud !
The least we will do on this trip is starving, I can assure you of that.
On top of that the boat has to be in prime condition for the journey, so checks on the safety equipment, the rig, the sails, and others is a necessity one has to go through with. And I start wondering how those guys way back in time coped with all of this, was health and safety on top of their list whilst discovering the most common sailing routes available by season and favourable wind direction, not only in the Med, but
The Canary Islands are a tourism centre of great proportions, with more than 12 million yearly visitors . It also celebrates a daily
"Reincarnation of the battles of the Bulge, Dunkirchen and El Alamein together" :
"The war of towels",
the means to stake one's territory for the best places at the pools of all the resorts on the 12 islands in this famous archipelago. But I don't want to bore you too much with 'post-war' rivalries, most of you know the islands anyway, and let's not get involved into the bad habits of "binge drinking" at the beaches of Maspalomas either.
So I thought in length about what to write this time, and have come to the conclusion that most of the hard facts about the islands can be read in tourist guides or on the web. I would therefore like to do 2 things:
I will concentrate a little bit indeed on the history of the Canary Islands and Gran Canaria in particular - just to warm up - but also put the story of these islands into the greater context of a period in our history, that finally led to the discovery of a new world.
In order to do that we have to include as well the islands of the Azores as much as Madeira - or better the neighbouring island Porto Santo - , and whilst I keep it to historical facts , I would also like to explore the possible connections from a sailing perspective, without claiming that what I describe has actually happened .
But then it might have, who knows ? As this could turn out to be a long story, I will also cut it into 2 blogs, so it is still easy reading.
PART I : THE BEGINNING OF THE END
Dear Mount Teide, remain calm for the next 6 months.
I don't want to be interrupted and overtaken by a tsunami on the Atlantic. I have better things to do.
When he landed on what today is Gran Canaria, he found a large amount of wild and large dogs roaming it, so he called the island
'Canariae Insulae' ,
or for all of you who only speak "classical Greek", the " Island of Dogs ".
I don't know whether four legged dogs were meant or 'canis marinus' , the equivalent for seals, but the name stuck and was later used for all the other islands as well.
As a result, and surely
to the despair of many bird lovers all over the world,
I officially support the view that these
cute little birds of mostly yellow colour
who roam the islands whilst singing beautifully , have not, and I repeat, have
not given the islands the name,
but rather the other way around. I hope you can forgive me for this fundamental revelation.
To finish quickly the story of these islands, they were inhabited by quite a fiery people called Guanches. And only after more than 100 years of constant incursions by fleets from Portugal and France ( not Spain at the beginning ! ),
the islands and specifically Gran Canaria were only and finally conquered on April 29, 1483,
after a campaign that lasted 5 years, by the Kingdom of Castile under the monarchs
Ferdinand II of Aragon and his astute wife,
Isabella I of Castille.
Tenerife followed a couple of years later.
The conquest of these islands under the Spanish flag proved important for not only the
consolidation of a unified and freed ( from the Moors ) Spain,
but created the
beginning of Atlantic exploration
discovery of the " New World".
An important hub and starting point became available as the main stopover for Spanish sailing ships ( Galleons) on their way to the Americas,
because of the favourable easterly winds.
So the question remains why did this all come together at basically the same time, what World Events had happened that triggered this all off.
Aha, dear Reader, I hope I have hooked you on, because I have finally arrived at the beginning of my story. Sorry for this long introduction. But if you hang in, and continue reading, you will see why I am here, in Gran Canaria, right now, and why I believe that the island is much too undervalued in its contribution for a new era of mankind and civilisation.
of course, you ......lot !!!!!!!!!!
Do you see the pattern of my brain ?
Sailing and Venice. nothing else !
But for good reasons ! So let's get started.
The first people who recorded prevailing winds and resulting sailing routes were the Phoenician traders
( 1500-300 BC ) in the Mediterranean , both in the very East as much as to the West. In those days rowing supplemented sailing, as much as the engine does today on a sailing boat.
But the prevailing winds according to the seasons of the year were recorded,
and helped all other sailors thereafter to find the best conditions and to avoid the often much more hazardous and enduring land travel.
This knowledge , extended by the Romans even further East ( west and east coasts of India )
created the basis for the Venetian success story. Whilst this knowledge had been previously accessed by all the appointed "Repubbliche Marinare" ( Maritime Republics) of which there were initially 4 :
Venice, Genoa, Amalfi and......Pisa ! ,
(Pisa ? Yes, Pisa !)
Well , have a look at their tower, they have never been able to straighten things out.
And you can't have that at sea !
( Folks, I am joking, I am joking ! )
the Venetians were definitely in the right place at the right time.
And their trade extended by land routes far into the East of what was loosely called in those days "the Indies", ie India, China and South-East Asia. In contrast,
played more on the military side, participated in the Crusades ,and established a
for being the centre of the slave trade in those years.
But its mariners were well respected as I will come to tell later.
Any difference to modern times ?
So for the 'Merchants of Venice' it was all "merry go around for ever and ever and..." ,
until a major disturbance caused an uproar in the East.
The rise of the Ottomans Empire at the beginning of the 15th century.
And with it war, although at the beginning I think it was probably more piracy than all out war.
Daylight robberies of caravans , like today's pirates off Somalia and Yemen,
stealing the riches of a spoilt western world and demanding hefty ransoms for their return.
Piracy that suddenly interrupted the well established trading routes over land to the main ports
where Venetian boats were waiting to bring the load back to the West.
And the West and its rich families, being used to the delivery of spices, jewels, silks and other fashion items of those days, became gruntled.
"What to do, where do we get our "goodies" from ?" ,
was probably the most asked question of those years .
And the call for new trading routes to be discovered
both overland as much as over seas became
The Venetians must have shuddered.
Their trading world trembled. Things were about to change.
They saw it coming, I am convinced.
They tried as many other before and after to hold on to their world, Do you know the book
" Who moved my cheese ? "
by Spencer Johnson, written in 1998.
Instead of adapting and re-focusing, they tried to hold on.
But the world turned west, to the Atlantic,
and venetian boats
were both by general design as much as by their latin sail plan,
to sail in these ocean waters.
The most serene Republic had no answer, it was
THE BEGINNING OF THE END.
But like many other things, as a result, it created a new power, a new beginning :
Out of Ashes
there is always something new that follows.
But this dear reader, I will talk about in my next blog. Hope you will join me.