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Tunisia 2

Sidi bou Said, Carthage and La Marsa

The big wind has dropped and the boat is covered in salt and sand but we ignored it and got a taxi tour of the area. Taxis are very reasonably priced as there are many of them due to not much public transport. Our guy, Ibrahim, is an ex tour bus driver and really knows his stuff on ancient ruins. He took us first to La Marsa to get some internet and go to an ATM that wasn’t broken, then to Sidi bou Said. This is a very pretty little town on the hill above the sea closed to cars and all painted blue and white. We tried to wander around but as there was a tour bus in we got accosted all the time by the shop/stall keepers so it was a bit of a hassle. If they’d leave you alone it would be a lot more tempting to go into their shops. First time you walk by everything is 5 dinar, second time 2 dinar, third time everything under 1 dinar!! I did buy a handbag though.

Next up we went back to La Marsa to an excellent restaurant called Le Golfe right on the beach verandah style. The food here is very reasonable even of this quality. They had wine.

After lunch Ibrahim took us to Carthage. This was a surprise to me. I had rather the impression that it was just a big ruin that you walked around but no – it is a very nice expensive looking town with various ruins scattered around it. So we drove to the original old Carthage (Phoenician to start with) that the Romans sacked in 146BC, then to the ruins of the new Carthage they built 100 years later, then to the baths/gymnasium, then some villas, then the amphitheatre. It was super interesting. We came home very dusty and a bit ruined out.

The next day Ibrahim picked us up again and we drove 40 minutes to Barda where the Barda Museum is. This is the world’s foremost museum for Roman mosaics. It also has a lot of very old Tunisian mosaics too. The archaeologists take these from uncovered sites and try to preserve them so they don’t degrade further due to light, salt air etc. Amazing works of art, part of the awe of it is the effort that has gone in to the preservation work. There are millions of bits of tile in each one. The subtly of the colours and the artistic skills were really impressive.

Ibrahim dropped us off for lunch at a double yellow door by the Tunis medina which opened up in to a beautiful courtyard restaurant. they lent Pete a robe as he was wearing shorts!? but they weren’t worried about me in shorts – strange. They had wine. It is obviously untouristy as there was no sign to say what it is. There were really only local people there, quite a few tables of Arab ladies who lunch. 

We walked around the medina/souks afterwards. These ones are all covered and windy all over the place with streets specialising in rugs, lamps, robes, jewellery, food etc. We nearly got lost but discovered daylight just in time to find Ibrahim thinking of looking for us although goodness knows how he would have found us. Another big day. Tomorrow is election day here. Tunisia has  been a democracy since 2011 after a peaceful revolution. There are two political parties and no trouble is expected. Ibrahim told us that the country has been very peaceful and settled under the interim government. We will be spending he day cleaning the boat.

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Tunisia

Once safely back in Menorca (after paying 50 E to the marina guys to come out after work hours to dinghy us 5 minutes to the boat) we grabbed a weather window the very next morning to go to Tunisia. We were worried that if we didn’t get moving the weather is getting more unreliable for this trip and we need to get out of Spain (Matriculation Tax) and reset the boat EU visa for the next 18 months. 

The trip to Bizerte, the northern most tip of Tunisia and indeed Africa, was uneventful thankfully, motor sailing all the way with rolling following seas and not quite enough wind. The marina staff were friendly and helpful and immigration and customs one the best experiences we have had anywhere. The two men were friendly, courteous and professional, even with a sense of humour asking us if we had any hash and telling Pete when he signed the final page that it was his receipt for the boat! The marina is a bit of a stalled grand project that may even be in receivership. The buildings are not finished including a big hotel and the marina is lacking in maintenance but nevertheless safe and secure. One restaurant serves alcohol the other doesn’t. I can’t quite make sense of it as the nearby carrefour supermarket had a really big alcohol section and seemed to be selling to anyone.

The town is pretty typical – markets, medina, Kasbah etc. Arabic and French are mostly spoken but some people attempt English. this northern area of Tunisia is very rich agriculturally and apparently Tunisia is self sufficient in produce. In the Roman Empire days they supplied nearly all the grain. We scooted around on our e scooters attracting little groups of fascinated 10 year old boys. We ran up the Corniche expecting it to be a bit of a Croisette, but definitely not. Just unused messy beachfront and old hotels and apartments. We have felt safe here, the people have been very friendly and helpful when we’ve been looking for things and bureaucratically safer than Europe – out of Spanish Matriculation Tax, out of EU for boat visa and out of Schengen. Pete’s ailments are all better now so we don’t have to go through the experience of a Tunisian hospital. Speaking of which, amusingly the Christian cemetery is between the Military Hospital and the Training Hospital!

We are now in Gammarth in another not quite finished marina (must try to find out when and why the infrastructure building stalled in Tunisia seemingly around the same time) sitting out some very high winds – gusting 40k. We stayed inside and ate pancakes watching Harry Potter (Pete had never seen any). Hopefully it will all be gone tomorrow and we can explore Carthage, Sidi bou Said and Tunis.

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Cannes and Northern France. September

While we were on our floating island pontoon we had to go back to a medical centre for Pete’s ears throat etc – tonsillitis! More drugs. whilst in town we tripped over the Mahon Festival. Actually it’s not hard to bump in to a fiesta, Saints Day or some other celebration – there are plenty of them! The giant statue things are operated by children inside them and there are some funny incidents where their adult minders have to get them back on track. There is a pretty little statue of a fund girl by our favourite tapas place. (see pic)

Somewhere along the line we had thought to go to the Cannes Festival of Yachting in France so by the time we had decided to go to the North of France for Pete’s 70th! it seemed easy to fit in. Our friends Howard and Sue lately of Sundowner, with whom we sailed a lot with in the Caribbean, have bought a riverboat in Holland and got it to the Meuse River. We drooled and fantasized over various boats at Cannes and had too many drinks on the Lagoon stand. We had a lovely lunch with a Lagoon agent and his parents at the Raddison the next day. It was all very interesting but hot and very busy. Cannes seemed a bit of a tired old lady but I tried to imagine it in Film Festival mode and 50 to 75 years ago in it’s heyday. We people and car watched. Neither of us had seen so many Astons, Ferraris, Maserati etc in one place - and a large brand new Rolls convertible being driven by two teenage boys! (I don’t think they stole it). We walked the Croisette ,of course, and wished we had our scooters with us. 

After three days we hired a car to drive to Charleville Mierze in the Ardennes about 9 hours away. We arrived after getting lost right at the last mile or two thanks to the world’s worst in car GPS. Howard and Sue were waiting for us by the foot bridge near their boat. “My Way “is a 40’ two cabin very comfortable Linssen. We had hello drinks and an earlyish night.

The next day we were at the local medical centre with Pete’s ears and throat again. The teenaged doctor in a designer T shirt, ripped jeans and fashion trainers gave him steroids, drops, painkillers and antibiotics. Here’s hoping! there was a marionette festival on so we looked in the museum. Some were very dark and gothish but the two I took pics of were quite quirky.


We had a great week with Howard and Sue travelling along the Meuse and associated canals, Howard steering us cleverly through locks with Sue directing us on the lines and general lock skills, stopping at picturesque little towns, and having French meals and wines. This was an area of intense horrible fighting in the 1st WW, it is hard to imagine all the beautiful countryside all blown apart and full of trenches. There are a lot of war cemeteries and memorials everywhere. Verdun is just an hour south of where we are. 

For Pete’s birthday night we found a lovely little Auberge in Stenay, where we forgot to take any photos. Sue and Howard gave him a very nice shirt and I am getting him a new BBQ and a chain counter (both when we get back to Oz). It was a fun and happy night.

Getting back to Menorca was almost impossible! Who knew it would be so hard? The flight from Paris was easy enough, but getting there ……Taxi to Verdun, bus to Meuse, train to Paris Est, taxi to C de G airport. Phew. Luckily it all went perfectly, we even accidentally got in the first class carriage on the train and nobody moved us. Howard and Sue are wintering in Stenay and had to get back to England to pick up their car for the next 5 months and had the same trouble. We told them that when they come to sail with us in the Greek Islands we will find one that is impossible to get to and none of the planes, trains and ferries connect! (that could very well be the case in any event).

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Menorca - visitors

 

On 24thAugust we moved from Binabeca round to Mahon where we moored up to a floating “island”. there are several of these in the river managed by Marina Menorca to accommodate extra boats. Some have power and water, it was quite fun to be here instead of at a regular marina. we put the dinghy in the water and toed and froed to the Mahon waterfront whenever we wanted. After a big wash and polish we went ashore to wait for my brother Mark and his wife Annabelle who flew in from Luxembourg for a week with us. They taxied to a restaurant where we met them and had some tapas and a few welcome drinks. The next two days we explored around Mahon while we waited for Annabelle’s brother David and his wife Lucy. We met them by the same arrangements – very civilised and easy.

From Mahon we went off back to Binabeca as the wind was northerly. Lots of swimming and noodling with beverages. The kayaks got launched along with “Gary” and “Dolores” the two floating drinks holders. We all explored ashore at the two little towns and had meals etc.

After a couple of days and coming back from breakfast to find CEB over someone’s buoy in a slight wind change we went off to Cala en Porter. This was very handy as Annabelle had booked her birthday evening at a private balcony in Cala d’en Xoroi to watch the sunset. A must do thing in Menorca and just above our anchorage. It is a series of caves fronting the ocean high up which have been converted to various bars and a night club. A very spectacular setting and quite unique. The next morning we farewelled David and Lucy first then Mark and Annabelle, all dropped ashore to get taxis for the airport. 

Pete and I are now in Cala Teulera in the Mahon River waiting to go back onto our floating island before our next adventure – watch this blog……..

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More Menorca 2. To Aug 24th.

After an eventful night at an anchorage at the mouth of the Mahon river – we dragged in weed at 2 am and ended up just barely on a rock under the lighthouse – we motored off rather than try to re anchor and ended up back at Cala Gandala. From here we took the bus to Ciutadela again the very attractive town that used to be the old capital. Did a bit of supermarket shopping and exchanged a gas bottle. David and Mary will probably go to Tunisia before us so that’s good, they can check out the marina etc.


A southerly looked likely to set in so we got ourselves round to Colom again then on to Fornells where we took a buoy for 4 days. We got back from town to find a note on our dinghy davits from an Australian couple on a Bali 4.5 called Craig and Nellie. We went over to say hi and ended up with drinks, and met again the next day for lunch. They are from near the Gold Coast. Luckily we mentioned that they might meet “Adventurous” in their travels around the island as they had an event the morning after they all met where Craig and Nellies “Lomana” was T boned by a badly anchored boat in the same bay that we dragged (very poor holding in weed and too crowded to let out enough chain) and Dave was able to swim over and help.

Over the next week or so we saw quite a bit of the “Lomanas” as we both came and went from various Calas – lots of fun. They will be in Australia at Christmas so we will see them then too. It’s been a good opportunity to check out different places in different winds for when Mark, Annabelle, David and Lucy arrive for a week at the end of August.

 

We then checked out very pretty Binabeca and Cala Torret where we hadn’t been before. Excellent protection from all but some South and East. they are both the prettiest little towns and very clean and tidy – seem quite affluent areas. Lots of tiny winding streets some only a shoulder width wide. I missed taking some photos as my phone was on charge back on the boat! Next time.

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More Menorca

The night before we left Cala en Porter we took the kayaks ashore to go to the famous Club Menorca on the cliff overlooking the anchorage. It’s a top position and good food. We had to take the kayaks as the very officious life guard on the beach won’t let you tie up to the boat ramp or land on the beach even when it is night and empty! We had got into trouble with him the day before when we tied up and went shopping. The smaller tenders can get carried up the ramp but we couldn’t. Luckily the restaurant assured us there was not big dress code and if we arrived with wet bottoms it would be OK. 

That night the wind went southerly so we left in the morning for Isla Colom around the island to the north west of Mahon. it’s a lovely spot with crystal emerald and aqua waters just a short dinghy ride or rather longer kayak to the pretty little fishing village of Es Grau. Where there was an interesting item for sale in the supermarket/souvenir store (see pics) From here we took a taxi to Mahon and checked out marinas for when we pick Mark and co up at the end of August, found a few chandleries, found the gin distillery, had lunch and a look around.

You can’t tour the distillery but they have glass walls so you can see in and two very good tasting tables.

The following day we got a taxi from Es Grau to Es Castell where a 3 day fiesta was on. It’s all about the Menorcan horses and they race up the street between all the people in pairs then get up on their back legs to prance about still in amongst all the people. Apparently no one has ever been hurt. iI’s the closest I’ve ever been to a flat out galloping horse, or a prancing one for that matter with no barriers. While you wait for the horse races you get in huge crowds to drink at roadside bars and, it turned out, get water hosed by a mostly naked man on a table with a silly hat on. Anyway it was cooling and fun. We met David and Mary there, finding each other with google pin drops and so on.

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Menorca

 

After leaving Porto Petro we had planned to overnight somewhere on the east coast of Mallorca and then head off to Menorca but the place we stopped did not live up to expectations and the weather was not as predicted (a fact we have noticed in the Med continually) so after a few hours of indecision and looking at the weather, rather optimistically as it turned out, we decided to head straight for Menorca some 25 nm away. We had been moaning that the winds were too light to try out the new gennaker but of course this all changed and by half way across we had 30k winds from the north west and big seas!

We arrived in Cala Galdana about 8.30 pm a bit bedraggled but in a good anchorage for the night.

The next morning was spent getting red rain off the boat. It is dust from the Sahrara that blows from Africa then hangs around in the atmosphere till there is a tiny bit of rain and down it comes. This is our second experience of it in a big way, sometimes there is a light coating that blows in without the rain. The rain just makes in one step more horrible. It’s gritty and smelly. A VERY well kept secret about the Med! It goes everywhere and gets in every nook and cranny, not just boats obviously but houses, cars etc too. We’ve heard it suggested that nothing good ever came out of Africa – but I disagree, there’s diamonds, some decent wine and me (born in Kenya)! the only thing you can do if not in a marina with loads of fresh water is to hose down with sea water. Then you have to go over all the stainless steel and windows with fresh by hand. There doesn’t seem to be any fresh real rain around here.

Cala Galdana is lovely. Clear clear water and a good dinghy area just up a little creek with shops and the usual cafes and bars. It’s quite touristy and we’ve had lots of fun watching them rent out the floating cars with water slides on them. Bunches of squealing topless girls being followed around by young guys, and the poor man who rents them out trying to stop them breaking through the buoys into the swimming only zone – a hopeless task.

“Adventurous” sailed in a couple of days after us. We had met them in Mallorca and they came aboard for a rum or two or three. We all got the bus to Ciutadela (can be spelled a variety of ways) one day. it’s a very ancient historic town which we found very pretty. We looked in a couple of grand homes of the old aristocracy that are preserved. The old buildings are all made of the lovely pinkish stone that we liked in Alhambra with windy little streets as well as wide squares and boulevards. 

Apparently in many of these seaside and river towns the streets were deliberately built crooked with dead ends and switchbacks so as to confuse raiding pirates, wild hoards and armies who then if they managed to land couldn’t just storm in a straight line to the strategic parts of town. Pretty hectic time they had of it round here too. In one 100 year time frame in the 1600’s to 1700’s Mahon (now the capitol) was taken over by no less than 6 times by different countries, some of them twice! The island of Menorca was highly strategic - off the coast of Africa and on the main shipping lanes.

After a very nice time in Cala Galdana we sailed 9 nm to Cala en Porta where we are now. We got the opportunity to sail the new gennaker and are very happy with it. It’s a bit more robust than our previous two which is good and will stand higher winds before having to come in. We still get close to half wind speed from it eg 12k wind 5.6 k speed. 

In our new bigger dinghy we’ve been able to go from one Cala to the other for a look see without having to leave the anchorage in CEB, so we get about without losing our good spot. The caves in this coastline number in the hundreds, some of them able to take kayaks or a dinghy to explore. We had drinks aboard “TuSan” last night with Ott and Paivi a Finnish/Swedish couple along with David and Mary from “Adventurous”. We all swapped the usual funny/scary sailing stories.

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Last of Mallorca

Having left the very expensive marina in Palma we ended up after a few stops at Santa Ponsa. This turned out to be a great place to anchor with a good dinghy dock and plenty of opportunities for hilarious people watching on shore. Poms on all you can eat and drink package tours! All shapes and sizes. with varieties of all over tattoos, hens and bucks parties, footie support groups etc you can imagine. Luckily the anchorage was far enough from the actual beach to only hear murmurs of all the jollity. 

We decided to stay here while my brother is here and also to have our new gennaker delivered which after a few “the dog ate my homework” days arrived and was installed. 

We had 4 great days with Mark on a much needed break from working his beer canning machine in Luxembourg. He’d been having frustrating mechanical breakdowns etc. So a few days of swims. lying around and beers helped out.

Joe and Janice in “Babycakes” from Torrevieja turned up just behind us and it was nice to catch up with them. Unfortunately they had to head back with a few boat type problems to sort out.

We stayed on at Santa Ponsa for a while longer for Pete to get over a swimmers ear infection. Because we hadn’t been swimming for so long he forgot to put in his ear plugs – instant aqua ear for him! We even had to go to the Medical Centre – twice. 

One day we experimented with getting the e.scooters into the dinghy and ashore. We’d had some carry bags made which worked really well so we went for a long ride to a chandlery , hardware and big supermarket. Most of the beachfront areas have quite good little grocery stores for day to day bits and pieces but it’s good to get to a big one occasionally.

“Katarina” anchored just a little away from us just before we left Santa Ponsa. they had been in Trinidad with us and again in Cartagena. Definitely catch up drinks there a couple of times. We also said hello to an Aussie flagged boat called “Adventurous”. David and Mary had bought their boat in the States and had sailed to here. They are heading for Menorca so we’ll probably see them there.

 

Porto Petro was our next stay, on a buoy. we had been here with Terry and Liz a while back. There was an interesting event one day. We had come back from taking the rubbish ashore and I went to get the salt water rinse hose out as there had been more red rain (thank you Africa) and Pete yelled that a rat had run out from behind the crate! it ran into the water and we thought it might drown, but no, it tried to swim to the other back steps to climb back on. I shooed it away from there and it swam back to Pete’s side. I grabbed our fishing net (that has not actually been used for fishing ever) and we caught it and bashed it dead with a meat cleaver on the chopping board. We think it may have been swimming by and either came up the back steps or the buoy line and smelled the rubbish that we had hanging on the back rail waiting to go ashore. There are hundreds of holes in the rocks around this bay and they may well live in them and opportunistically swim around the boats looking for food. They probably also frequent the somewhat smelly marina skip bins. There was no evidence of it being on board for more than a few hours as there were only two droppings. However, we were very careful about shutting doors after that I can tell you! No photos, sorry – too busy rat catching.

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Mallorca - continued

The day sail trip around the south of Mallorca went well stopping at Porto Christo and Puerto Petro. The weather stayed benign enough to keep everyone happy. We’ve decided to call it “reverse sailing” with Terry and Liz – we stay in harbour on a nice stiff sailing breeze and venture out when there is no wind and we motor! We found a nice spot just off Marina des Arenal where we anchored for the night and took Terry and Liz to their fuel dock to leave for the airport and us to refuel. We’ll miss the scones on the BBQ and lots of fun and drinks. Another drying out period coming up.

Back just to ourselves again and we went to Cala Portals, a very crowded day tripper place in the greater Palma Bay. One beach is a nude one where mostly German men were standing in the shallows with their bratwurst out. We were hailed by an Australian sounding voice as we went in and it turned out to be a couple we had seen in a bay in Ibiza but hadn’t spoken to as we were leaving that night. Jean Michel ls Aussie/French and Lisa and their little son Xavier live and work in France, in the ski region of Chamonix running a restaurant called La Boomerang! We saw them a few times over the next days as we both went to Palma Nova then over to our marinas in Palma. They are back off to work and we were heading to Lisbon for the third World ARC reunion.

 

The reunion went really well. Nearly everyone was there and it was interesting to see the children so much older. Only Willow and Kai were there as unfortunately Bluebelle and Columus had exams. We missed last years in London as we were still sailing across the North Atlantic. 

Manuela and Luis organised drinks and meals each day and a tour to the Palace Pena in the UNESCO listed area of Sintra. A very dragonish building of many different styles and historical significance, part old Moorish, part old monastery and part palace. I really liked its quirky nature. The main ruler/architect travelled all over the world to incorporate different design styles and to reflect the countries past. Every ceiling is different and the carvings are wonderful, very hard to do justice to here. 

After a quick windy look at the most western part of Europe (that we had all sailed past) we headed off to lunch and that was the end of that. It went on so long we all lost the urge to do any more touring so it was back to the hotel for a nap before dinner.

The Fado restaurant we went to that evening was very good in the old Alfarma district. Fado is a particular form of very melancholic Portuguese music – all lost loves, dastardly unsuitable men and angsty women. A bit like their version of our Air Supply – remember the saying that each LP came with a razor blade?! The Alfarma district was preparing for a festival of sardines combined we think with the Lisbon festival of San Antonio. Anyway people had sardine hats on. This is an area where everyone is always out in the tiny narrow streets drinking and eating so I can only imagine what it is like in a festival!

 

After our farewell lunch on Sunday we had a few extra days partly so we could fit in a skin check with the same doctor we saw last year. (All clear for both). We took ourselves off to the coach museum which was very interesting and the next day had lunch with Peter and Janet (Wayward Wind) who were still in Lisbon too. the hotel we stayed in the Sana Lisboa was very nice with an interesting couple of features – instead of something useful in the bathroom like a hairdryer that stays on or an extractor so you can see in the mirror after a shower, it had an adjustable TV speaker……….at least we weren’t going to miss anything on the Portuguese news.

Back to Palma for a diet and some relaxation! We found that the dinghy had rubbed on the marina wall in some wind one night but luckily the cover I had sewed for the throttle prevented any damage and had stopped it from sticking under the dock. Now I have to repair the cover! Still, better that than a new throttle. After a quick restock shop we headed off to anchor out. Thankfully free after an eye wateringly expensive marina stay in with the super yachts. It was the only place we could get to leave the boat for the Lisbon trip.

 

Next up is my brother Mark coming from Luxembourg for a four day break from work and we pick up our new gennaker from the sailmakers. This morning in Santa Ponsa an Australian couple and their 3 boys called over to say hi. They bought a catamaran in Turkey 5 years and have been out ever since. I’m sure we’ll see them around again.

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Ibiza and Mallorca

The day Gina and Rod left the weather was so appalling that they even cancelled the big inter island ferries for the morning. Luckily they were able to get one in time for their flight. We had a few days of the Med’s famous red rain where the dust from Africa that hangs around in the atmosphere gets rained down. The boat was filthy with think red gunk but thankfully washed away relatively easily. 




Once the weather had settled down Pete and I sailed back to Ibiza to San Antonio where we found a good anchorage but a very tired waterfront. Quite seedy looking during the day and in poor condition but probably all the night clubs, bars, joints etc all lit up and busy at night may improve it if you like that sort of thing. Package tours of drinkers and partiers I think. We only stayed there one night then moved on to Cala San Pedro to the north. It was a lovely spot but we only went ashore once as the dinghy gear box seized (or something) and went only backwards! That having happened it didn’t make much sense to hang around places where we couldn’t get ashore so we did a night sail to Mallorca (Marjorca, however you want it) passing by a crazy little bay where people go to drink to the sunset each Sunday – a bit like Fanny Bay in Darwin. 

It turned out that the Palma International Boat Show was on and we couldn’t get accommodation actually in Palma. Eventually we got a berth in Port Andraitx. We taxied in to the boat show and after much compromising on weight and size ordered a 3.6 m Highfield and a 20 HP Honda self start auto tilt outboard! We’ll feel like royalty after our other little set up.

The boat show was really interesting and we sorted out a few other bits and pieces as well as meeting the Doyle guy who is making our new gennaker.

Friends from Brisbane Terry and Liz arrived on 7 May and taxied to us at the Port. The new dinghy arrived and Juan took our old one to put in his showroom for sale. We’d cleaned it all up and it was quite sad to see it go – but not for long! The new one goes brilliantly and is much better in every respect. The four of us went into Andraitx town from the port about 2 miles away for the day. 

The next stop was Puerto de Soller about 4 hours around the coast. We took a marina spot to make our guests comfortable. There is a famous old wooden tram/train that takes you up to the town of Soller. it is typical here to have the main town away from the port so it was more difficult for the pirates to raid the town. The day we went up in the train was day 2 of a re enactment of a successful repulsion of some pirate by the towns people about 600 years ago. It was very busy and parades etc but the highlight was on the Monday when thousands of people dressed as old townsfolk go down to the port and chase off the (very enthusiastic) pirates. There had been guns and fireworks going off for a few days while everyone wound up for the action but the actual event was something else – I’m sure nowhere else could so many people run around throwing crackers and letting off charges from guns with such mad abandon! It was lots of fun to watch. We took chairs and a couple of bottles down to the beach to watch. 

Chris the Doyle sailmaker came one day to do a check measure and gave us all a lift to Palma where we spent the day looking at the Palace and the famous cathedral plus lots of very nice shopping streets and plazas etc.

After this we motored around to Torrens Pareis – a quite spectacular little gorge where we had planned to overnight but the spot was a bit tight so we continued on to Cala St Vincent where we had hoped to avoid some weather. Well, that worked out for the first night then a swell got up and was pouring into the bay, so after an uncomfortable night and two not so happy guests we upped anchor in the morning and went to Puerto de Pollensa where we took a marina spot. Hideously expensive but decided to all chip in for three days for a bit of regrouping and recovering. Once again the main town of Pollensa was inland so we all spent a happy day there. 

 

We are now nearby Alcudia bay anchored very happily behind a little island. Last night we decided to take the dinghy for a run and went around the corner and practically ran into the dinghy dock of a Michelin starred restaurant, La Terraza, overlooking a little cliff. That ended up in drinks and dinner. The plan is to make our way round the east coast of Mallorca to Palma to drop Terry and Liz off for the airport at some point. Let's hope the weather continues nice for them!

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Ibiza and Formentera

We said goodbye to Joe and Janice at Marina Salinas in Torreviejo and travelled overnight to Ibiza. A good trip with sailing till dusk when the wind dropped. Ibiza Magna was the marina we booked in to right at the bottom of the old town area which made it very easy to go exploring. This is the island where in the summer the English come to behave badly in great droves but at this time of year is very quiet but with many of the shops, bars and restaurants starting to open for the summer. I can only just imagine what it gets like! 

 

We settled in for a few days then were joined but Rod and Gina (friends from Surfers) and Gina’s sister Betsy and her husband Lyle. They had all been travelling together around Spain for a few weeks. We all hired a van one day and went all over the island. It was hilarious really as every place we went to was either closed that day, closed that week, being renovated or we couldn’t find it! The ancient Moorish village proved particularly elusive – 6 of us looking out for signs, at least 4 different map apps , the tourist centre map and Google Earth and still we didn’t find it. We found it was not much use asking the locals either. I think it’s all about the beaches and eating, drinking and night clubbing around here rather than much history, although the old town had excellent information signs and the necropolis was very interesting and well done.

 

When Betsy and Lyle left after 4 days a good weather window opened up and we sailed to Formentera with Gina and Rod anchoring at Espalmador, an island joined to Formentera by a sandy spit. The water is lovely and clean and a beautiful colour all round here but too cold to swim. I’m not sure if it particularly unseasonal but it’s been quite cold (highs of 16 and 17) with cold winds. For two nights we took a mooring buoy (free at this time of year) at Cala Sabina, went ashore and hired a mini moke type of thing to tour the island. Mini moke would probably be insulted by the comparison! It was very rumpety and had not been near a mechanic for many years, no seatbelts in the back, crashing gears etc but lots of fun. 

 

One day we sailed off to circumnavigate Isla Vedra just off the Ibizan coast and stayed the night in Cala de Port Roig. It was a lovely little bay and we anchored with only one other yacht. We took the dinghy round the corner to find a really nice and very smart beach bar where we had a couple of bottles of wine. A big wind blow was advertised so we sailed back to Formentera Marina for a few days where the wind did arrive at a great rate of knots so it was a good decision. Gina and Rod hired electric bikes for a few days and we joined them on our scooters for a ride around. Bit windy but got a good appetite up for dinner and got rid of a few calories from lunch. (you can tell the order of our days!).

It will be sad to say goodbye to Gina and Rod tomorrow after a fun few weeks.

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Leaving Torrevieja

  

The weekend after we arrived back Pete and I went up to Huesca in the mountains where my stepbrother Dave and his wife, Roz, live in a cave! It’s a very civilised cave however with all the mod cons. When they bought it 15 years ago it was a very different story as you can see in the photos. They have done a great job getting it really comfortable and liveable. They took us to Castril Gorge where we walked along a narrow wooden pathway and over a swing bridge and through a tunnel to find the restaurant was closed – oh, well there were plenty more. I found out what all the rows of trees are sometimes about – they were planted ages ago to give shade to marching soldiers. The landscape around Huesca (pronounced Whekka) is very High Chaparal and cow boyish. They did in fact make a lot of westerns here including The Good the Bad and the Ugly apparently. The almond trees were all in blossom, hundreds of acres of them. Everyone is very happy that all the California trees died of a blight just recently.

 

Apart from a few shopping trips and returning the rental car we didn’t do much for the next bit of time waiting for a weather window to get to Ibiza. We decided against going up the coast then across as the weather has been cold and very changeable so decided to stay put then overnight to the islands. We did manage to have another very nice paella meal with Gonzalo and his girlfriend and caught up with Pete and Bee from Jubilate Mare who drove up from Cartagena for the day. Bee had two old school friends with her – we all had a noisy fun lunch on a cold rainy day. Kevin and Marion took us one night to an English restaurant up the coast. It was hilarious seeing all the Poms out eating all their home food. The menu read like an English pub and none of the staff looked Spanish. For some it is definitely a case of “when in Rome don’t, whatever you do, be Roman”.

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Australia 2

While we were home we made two trips to the little house on Moreton Island and various friends joined us there. The first trip over is usually the one where we relax and find out what bits and pieces we need to bring over as replacements/ improvements etc and the second it with a very loaded down car! This year we spent a week each time so lots of food and drink had to get taken over as well. The poor Mitsubishi Outlander (not really designed for heavy off road) struggled in the very soft sand as there had been no rain to speak of to harden the tracks. The first trip over Angela and Andrew from Moore Park Beach joined us for a few days which was lovely. Pete and Andrew put the tinnie in and rowed out to the weed banks for a squid catching trip, caught two then decided it was all too hard without the outboard. So that meant the outboard had to come back to Brisbane for a service. We also measured up for one more blind for the front verandah. 

The second trip my son Rupert came over for a few days and helped put the new blind up. We had also brought over the outboard which was a help for the next few squid. By the time Veronica and Jock came over the outboard had decided to stop working – so no more squid! Pete and Jock cooked a huge Beef Wellington and I made “hedgehogs” and prawn cocktails to have a 70’s night. 

Just before we came back to Spain we took a trip to New Zealand. My Aunty Liala lives there and we stayed with her in Orakei. In that week we managed to catch up with some old friends and work colleagues of mine and had a wonderful day at Waiheke Island. The reason for the Waiheke trip was that when I was sorting out my Mother’s effects a few years ago I came across a bundle of letters that her Grandfather has written (typed, fortunately) to her nearly every week for many years when she was first married and back in England. (mid to late 50’s) They form a great snapshot of life in those years and mention many members of our extended Foreman family in detail as they all lived in Hamilton where he and my Grandmother both lived after coming out from England during the war. My cousin Ruth managed to assemble a number of cousins and siblings, including a connection from Wellington by internet. We all took turns at reading a letter out loud each. We only got about a quarter of the way through them in the whole day we set aside with many stops for laughs and explanations! Ruth is going to get them digitally copied so we can all have a copy. Maybe another reading next visit to NZ, I hope. 

In New Zealand we also visited Fleur and Mark (cousins) and I got to hold an actual Emmy Award. Their business associate drives the camera boat for the Americas Cup and they won an Emmy for the photography.  The story goes that they came second in the race as all the time they were just behind New Zealand ! (taking the pics).

The next week was pretty busy with last minute appointments, tidying up the apartment and seeing the last few people. What should have been quite a comfortable trip back to Spain with good connections turned into a bit of a nightmare as the airspace over Pakistan and India was a no-fly zone thanks to them throwing bombs at each other. We missed our connection in Madrid and on to Alicante so instead of a horrible time trying to reschedule and loose bags etc we rented a car, stayed the night in Madrid and drove to Torrevieja the next day. We arrived back to find the boat in excellent order thanks to Gonzalo’s careful attention while we were gone. Joe and Janice from the boat behind had bought us some food basics. It was the best homecoming we have had. In the past years we have come back to a boat on the hard, stinking hot, dust and leaves all over and either staying on board in the heat with no facilities or in a nearby room having to unpack and repack!

Back to the land where good wine is cheaper than bottled water and petrol….

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Back in Australia

It would be fair to say that I have neglected this blog recently!

Having got the boat settled into the Marina at Torrevieja we spent a week messing around getting ourselves ready to come home. This included meeting Joe and Janice from the boat behind us in a scotch tasting night – it didn’t end well. We thought we were doing OK with our bottles of Tallisker and Laphroag, but no, Joe is a Scot and had a tasting bag of at least  6 vastly superior scotches that he proceeded to explain in comprehensive detail while we sampled them in succession. Janice and I had already been drinking our wine and were unprepared for scotch tasting! Oh well, it was fun till the next day! 

 

A private captain from a Lagoon 620 recommended this marina and his brother who lives nearby is going to keep an eye on CEB a do the odd hose down and engine start while we are away. We took him and his girlfriend to lunch at one of their favourite paella places. They smoke over trimmed vine stalks for a very unique flavour. It’s a bit like England where every second pub is the “oldest in England” only here it is the “ best paella in Spain”.

 

After a horribly long time in the air and at airports we arrived back in Australia.

We’re having a great time catching up with everyone – going to the Island and catching squid etc. it was nice to be home for Xmas and New Year for the first time in years.

The famous Story Bridge Hotel is just across the road from the unit here and hosts a day of cockroach racing every Australia Day. (you maybe have to be Australian to get it). A great day with friends and family betting on cockroaches and wearing silly Ozzie clothes. Have a look at some of the names that have won over the years. Pete’s won the first race and that set the day up well. Now he thinks he is a gun trainer and is going to book a corporate box for next year! This year we were just in the VIP stand.

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More Costa del Sol and Alhambra

While we spent some time relaxing comfortably in Marina del Este we explored around the nearby towns and rented a car for a day to Alhambra in Granada. Alhambra includes the Generalife Gardens and the Nasrid Palaces - all part of the almost city. it was the Moors administrative centre and their homes for centuries. This is a place I have wanted to see since I was about 8 years old and reading my Look and Learn weekly magazines. So I guess a bucket list item if such a thing existed then. We were completely blown away by the history, architecture and grounds – everything I was hoping for and more. My photography efforts do not do it justice. The building stone is a lovely soft pinky red and it glows beautifully. It was a cold day but only rained once when we were inside having lunch anyway but it kept a lot of tourists at home so the whole experience was much nicer than I think it might be in the height of the season when I imagine it would be had to get a photo without a hundred people in it. As it was an annoying couple in matching bright yellow rain coats kept getting in my way.

 

We looked for the pass called Suspiro del Moro where the last Moorish ruler looked back on his kingdom of some 700 years (while he was making his way into exile driven out by the Christians) and sighed. But could only find a BP petrol station called Suspiro del Moro BP! Apparently, the ruler’s Mother whipped him and said “now you cry like a woman over something you couldn’t defend as a man”!

 Almunecar is a nearby beach suburb with an interesting fort (San Miguel) and we rode our scooters all round there. In the centre of town is surprisingly a monument to Laurie Lee (Cider with Rosie etc books) as it turns out that this is the Spanish town in the last book he wrote and he’s quite famous here.

 The caves at Nerja were really good. Not all lit up with silly party lights like the Gibraltar ones and we were on our own in them with just one other couple and the guide so no noisy other tourists spoiling the effect. They were only discovered in the 60’s and have some very old cave drawings that were not able to be seen by the public. It seems that a nasty green slime starts to grow once artificial light is introduced so they don’t want them getting damaged. 

We now are punching on along the coast to get to where we plan to leave the boat for Christmas while we are home. Next stop was Almerima, a very good marina with lots of places to scooter to. 

 We are now in Cartagena. It is quite my favourite town so far. Wide pedestrianised boulevards and may interesting old buildings of some grace and splendour. Lots of Roman ruins and Spanish Civil war history. We are very glad of the scooters – some of these marinas and waterfront areas are really quite extensive and we can zip around everywhere. We saw on the Aussie news that last weekend they trialled them as rentals in Brisbane. They are the exact same ones as ours. We have caught up with “Katarina” who me know from Trinidad this time last year so we’ve had a few meals and drinks with Tony and Gunilla. (English and Swedish/Aussie).

I am going to start a collection of bad boat names I think – how about these for starters……

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UK, Henley on Thames, Yorkshire and London

Pete and I flew to Heathrow and met my brother Mark, who flew in from Luxembourg. We rented a car and drove straight to Henley on Thames. Had a day walking around and a nice lunch that turned into a bit of a pub crawl! We drove to a little village called Thrupp on one of the Oxfordshire canals where a series of books we’ve been reading is set. Felt a bit like groupies but it was nice to see the actual settings. After collecting my Mother’s ashes from the funeral home we left the next day for Yorkshire. Her wish had been to be scattered on the old family farm in Swaledale that had been in the family for 500 plus years till her brother sold it in the seventies. (Don’t even ask why!) Once in the dales we met up with the farmer (Maurice Metcalfe) who bought part of the property and his great niece, Jean, who kindly gave us access to the gravesite on the land. Around the early 1800’s the then current Broderick family member had fallen out with the church at Mucker where the family were traditionally buried and was interred on the hill behind the farmhouse.  His grave and a cairn wall are there where there are plaques for subsequent family members. It was very cold but lovely and clear  - Mark and I scattered the ashes on behalf of all her friends and family. Strangely, it wasn’t a sad occasion.  The plaque we had planned would have been too big so we have to revise it and have it attached at a later date.

Mark left us at Heathrow and flew off after returning the car. Pete and I went to Wimbledon where my father’s wife still lives and had a lovely 5 days with her and members of the extended family. Whilst there we caught up with Huw, our crew member from Australia to South Africa, for lunch in South Kensington. He gave us the original picture that a magazine had done for an article Huw had had published by them about our rounding of Madagascar and subsequent broken bulkhead. 

We managed a few touristy things as either of us had been in the London area for many years: Covent Garden markets, the Mall, Trafalgar Square and Hampton Court.

We got back to Spain to find another thunderstorm had just been by and we had broken mooring lines (retied by the marina staff) and a few other little issues that we fixed up. It took ages in the cold and dark with the boat lurching all around. We had to throw our bags into the dinghy and get them out from the boat as the paserella was unusable. Who knew the weather was so iffy around here….The marina is a bit unprotected too which is a pity as the environs are quite quirky and fun. 

 We got out of Benalmadena early on the 2 November and got to Marina del Este. It was like entering at brand new world – warm, protected, calm. I think before we were still too near the Gibraltar Straights for comfortable predictable weather – who knows? It seems you can safely add about 10 knots to any predicted wind. I guess we’ll learn more as time goes by.

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Costa del Sol and Andalucia

This is the Gold Coast on steroids! We stayed at La Duquesa Marina after leaving Ceuta . Poms everywhere even though it is not the high or even shoulder season. Pommie watching at their favourite watering holes is a bit of sport. They are all crazy on holiday! It’s quite built up here and touristy but somehow not too spoiled. A local film company made a B Grade series episode at the end of our berth one night which was fun to watch. A thunderstorm delayed our departure for a day but we eventually moved on up to Marbella. It turned out they could not accommodate our width so we missed out on a meal with Serge but did see him briefly before we got moved on up to Bajadilla Marina. It’s a quick walk back to Marbella and we liked it here except for the fact that they put us by a rock wall that got a bit close in some stormy weather. One day we thought about looking at some electric scooters that had been on our minds since we walked all over the Rock of Gibraltar! The rental place in Marbella had a couple that had just come in that they were willing to sell on. We got them for a good bit less than we had been expecting to pay and a sturdier make than we had been looking at as they were designed for rental. They’re great fun and certainly zoom around! 25 klm/h and a range of up to 80klm depending on weight and terrain etc. Not a good idea after anything more than half a bottle of wine though……the tourist strip in Marbella is very Gold Coast but just a few blocks away is the old Medina with cute little twisty streets and squares. 

We hired a car and drove in to Ronda. A very old and interesting town (one of  the oldest in Spain) about an hour and a half inland. There is the oldest and biggest bull ring here. Quite famous and touristy but we enjoyed it.

This part of the coast caught the tail end of ‘sort of hurricane’ Leslie that dumped all over Portugal and northern Spain and we bounced around a fair bit. As soon as we could we left for Benalmadena where they left us on the fuel dock for the night while they argued about where to put us. The interesting and annoying thing about all these marinas (bar only a few) is that you can’t book ahead or even call them. If the phone number is correct then they don’t seem to care about answering, or replying to emails. You just turn up on the fuel dock or reception dock and hope for the best. From here we flew to the UK to meet my brother and go to Yorkshire to scatter my Mother’s ashes.

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Ceuta

This is a Spanish enclave to the north of Morocco with smart shops and malls and duty free. Loads of mainland Spanish people come here to shop as do Moroccans from just over the boarder as it is cheaper for many items and more variety of goods. It is an ancient city with lots of mixed history and ownerships. Huge cruise ships from Southampton arrive as well and fill the streets with shoppers. The one in the picture is one of the world’s largest, the Sapphire Princess.

Ceuta was kept after the Spanish gave Morocco independence in the 50s, a fact that rankles with the Moroccan king and causes the problems with the illegal immigrants who use it as the fast track to the EU countries. Spain has been a bit wishy washy about borders and immigrants with the result being that the EU countries are not happy with it and nor are the Moroccans whose country many sub Saharans use to get to Ceuta – and once in have refugee status in an EU country . While we were in Marina Smir a border boat came in to the marina area towing a boat of immigrants one of whom had been shot dead. Ambulances and military and police everywhere. Here on Sunday the same thing happened at the end of our rock wall but no deaths just lights, sirens and amulances for hours. The nearby helipad has flights all day doing sea patrols. We feel quite safe though but plan to leave on Friday for mainland Spain again. Especially before the new drippy Spanish minister takes the razor wire off the fence between here and Morocco! He thinks it’s too bloody a way to deter people………there are about 1000 various potential illegal immigrants living rough in the hills behind here waiting for their chance to storm the fence. They do get over on a fairly frequent basis.

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Morocco - Tangiers

Rashid took us on a day tour to Tangiers. You may well think that sailing around the world on a small yacht is one thing – it’s quite another driving or being driven on the roads around here! It seems that you can pass cars in their own lane and otherwise just drive on the centre line and make everyone else fit into the remaining road space. Pretty scary stuff. However we survived it as we did in the Caribbean – so really France and Italy will hold no worse driving fears I expect. Tangiers was interesting but with a far smaller and dirtier old town centre or Medina. We fooled around trying on kaftans and djellabas and ended up buying one each. Good luck getting out of any of these shops without a purchase! They might be quite good for lounging about in. The Grotto of Hercules is nearby, an ancient Roman shrine which we thought would make a great house. These days it is a major tourist attraction but Rashid remembers when it was just in some field down a goat track. Morocco certainly seems to be ramping up their tourism there is even a Hospitality College near where we are staying. Tangiers used to be a big international centre back until the 50’s with many countries embassies here,  then the rules were pretty much no rules and commerce and enterprise (to give it a nicer name) was rather free with mafia like groups running wild. These days it is an organised clean looking city with ferries running all the time to and from Spain and big cruise ships in the wharves. I’m sure there is still a murky side if you knew where to look.

For Pete’s birthday Rashid took us back to Tetuoen to a restaurant that we had liked previously. Delicious tagines! Pete bought himself a birthday silk carpet to get shipped back to Australia – goodness knows when we’ll ever get to walk on it.

An Australian couple, Rob and Liz, on a brand new Lagoon 42 (called Bilby) arrived the other day so we have had dinner and a few drinks swapping notes and stories. They picked the boat up in France and intend to spend a few years in the Med then back to Australia via the Caribbean – the reverse of what we have just done.

We are here for a few more days then off to Ceuta, a Spanish enclave to the north just opposite Gibraltar.

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Morocco

We left Alcaidesa Marina, La Linea (Spain) in the morning and had a 5 hour trip to Marina Smir just around from the Spanish enclave of Cuerta opposite Gibraltar. The marina is good and safe and we are stern to right on the main drag of the marina with cafes and restaurants (THAT DON’T SELL ALCOHOL) just off the back of the boat. Not very quiet and peaceful but interesting watching the people – and a camel. We have put up our black sun shades so have privacy along with our tinted back windows otherwise it would be a bit intrusive. People stop all the time getting their photos taken. In fact until we worked out a pulley system to pull up the passarella they even got on the boat for a selfies! We are now barricaded in with our drawbridge up. Even so everyone is friendly and the security guards have their post just near us to scare away the little boys. 

One of our ARC Europe friends gave us a good contact for tours and we have been out with Rashid for two trips one to Tetouan and another to Chefchaouen (The Blue City). Both really interesting and we got to see some non touristy areas. Tetouan was the ancient capital and where the Jews and Muslims were exiled to when the Christians took Spain in the 14th century. We went in the Medina (old town) on a Berber and Bedouin market day. The ladies come down form the mountains by foot and by donkey to sell in the markets as they have done for hundreds and hundreds of years. The Catholic Churches, Mosques and Synagogues exist happily together on adjacent corners and there are adjoining cemeteries.