In connection with sightseeing on Fuerteventura, many of us have seen the image of a ship lying on the beach, washed by strong waves.
The S.S. America, or later American Star, was launched in New York in 1940 and, at 220 metres long, was one of the largest and most luxurious cruise ships of the time. On 10 decks there were pools, restaurants, hairdressers and a ballroom in the art deco style of the time. Investors planned to tow the special ship, which was by now a kind of museum piece, to Southeast Asia in the early 1990s. There it was to be turned into a tourist attraction, a floating hotel.
A tugboat under the Ukrainian flag was chartered to tow the American Star safely through the rough Atlantic to Asia. The propellers of the American Star were dismantled and the ship was towed with ropes. On 17 January 1994, the Ukrainian tug with the American Star was caught in a heavy storm with waves over 8 metres high. The sturdy ropes broke and an attempt by a helicopter-assisted salvage crew to reattach the tow ropes on board the American Star failed.
The ship was thus lost and finally ran aground on the coast off Fuerteventura, at Playa de Garcey. There it also broke in two. The rear part of the S.S. America sank into the sea only two years later. The front part was still clearly visible from the beach for well over a decade and only disappeared into the ocean for good in 2007. Today you can only see some metal parts sticking out of the sea at low tide.
Most of the luxurious furnishings of the American Star are probably now in private sheds and garages on Fuerteventura. Because a stranded cruise ship was naturally a sensation on the sparsely populated Canary Island.
Completely independent of the story and the shipwreck, the beach known as Playa de Garcey has another special feature. This is especially popular with us surfers. The wind on the beach of the shipwreck is always weaker and partly offshore thanks to the mountains in the background, while it is very strong and onshore at other places on the west coast.
In addition, there is a relatively harmless channel, i.e. a very practical current for advanced surfers, which pulls out towards the line up.