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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. 

 

We thought it was all very colourful until we went to Chefchaouen. The whole place is varying shades of blue. According to Rashid they used to be white till one day (I’m not sure when) they all decided to colour it blue – what an amazing thing to be able to just do. Try that in Australia! Each trip Rashid has found a really nice place for lunch and they do have wine in some. We have seen a few restaurant inspections – the police, a chef, a doctor and army officials go in and if they are not happy the place gets closed down! Quite reassuring really….. also if any Moroccan Muslims are found drunk the place that sold them the alcohol gets closed and the owner goes to gaol. You can buy alcohol is some places but they can only sell to tourists.

 

For the last 5 days we have had 3 guys on board cleaning and polishing everything. It hasn’t been done thoroughly since Trinidad and the smooth areas were oxidising with all the salt water, dust and sun in all the various places we have been since then. Pete and I clean with a wash and wax regularly but after a while it’s just not enough.

Off to Tangiers with Rashid next.

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Gibraltar

 

It turns out that to get to Gibraltar you do in fact just walk across the runway after customs and immigration (who barely look at you) and then grab a bus into town. We looked around the first day in general. It’s quite British even with English pubs – we had a disappointingly horrible fish and chips at one. There are a few boats we know in the marina, Bingo (Aussies) and Ruby Rose from the ARC Europe.

August 29 we decided to explore the Rock. We took the cable car up and got a ticket to the National Park that gets you into all the tunnels and caves etc. The  Great Siege Tunnels, St Michael’s Cave and the WW2 tunnels were really interesting. The two tunnel projects, one from the 18thcentaury and the WW2 ones actually meet up with a total of 48 miles underground. They can drive huge trucks all through them. There is a hospital and loads of barracks where they built Nissan huts into the tunnels to give the men a sense of normality even with windows to counter claustrophobia (wouldn’t have been enough for me!). The Great Siege tunnels were to fight the combined Spanish and French armies trying to get back Gibraltar. Unfortunately I was so occupied with operating the listening device they give you that I forgot to take photos! Here is a link if you are interested.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Siege_Tunnels

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tunnels_of_Gibraltar

St Michaels Cave is thought to be bottomless and may in fact have a way through to Morocco via which the Barbary Macaque Apes may have travelled to Gibraltar as they are only otherwise found in Morocco. There have been explorers lost in the cave and never found. Now it is used as an amphitheatre for small productions. The operators think it is effective to light the interior up all different revolving colours which is all very pretty but makes photography a nightmare.

 

 

We also looked at a few batteries, the whole Rock literally bristled with guns during the wars. We’d started off the day with a full English breakfast (very nice) at the Trafalgar Cemetery (didn’t turn out to be the burial place of Trafalgar sailors but a yellow fever outbreak) which was just as well as we didn’t get back to the boat till 9pm. This did include dinner and the last bus back to Spain. It was a huge lot of walking, a fair bit uphill and actually down the Rock - we were exhausted and spent the next few days relaxing and recovering. We perhaps should have taken several people’s advice and taxied it but it seems that they missed out on quite a bit of interesting stuff. The monkeys were everywhere so no immediate danger of them leaving the rock and it falling from British control (superstition).

We met an Aussie couple on a brand new Fontaine Pajot 44 which they plan to gradually sail back to Australia. Everyone we meet is worried about avoiding various European taxes and the Schengen visa agreement. It’s such a stupid muddle.

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The Straights to Gibraltar

We had a great day in Cadiz, (via ferry from Santa Maria not far from the boat). The ancient walled city was at one time the second largest city in the Roman Empire and its theatre (a much better view on Google Earth than you can see from the road) second only to Pompeii in size. Lots of twisty windy streets and historic places. It is still an important shipping port as it has been mostly through the ages. Pete found a street side oyster vendor shucking oysters and had a few at 2 euro each! We went into the main Cathedral and were lucky as it was the 750 year anniversary of its consecration (or whatever it is they do with cathedrals) and there were many artworks, statues, carvings etc on display on loan from various museums which filled up what would normally just been a huge big space – very interesting. 

We left for Barbate the next day for an overnight to catch a weather window for the Straights on Saturday. This proved to be a good move as the weather system had hurried up a bit and the next day the winds would have been too strong from the east. We breezed though no trouble on the right tide, wind and current. We passed Cape Trafalgar just before and imagined a time travel back a few hundred years landing us in the middle of the Battle of Trafalgar! All the way we had been hearing Pan Pan calls form Tarifa on the VHF about two rubber dinghies with people on board in the Straights. Then we saw on the instruments two Search and Rescue boats hanging around together just into the Straights. It turned out to be refugees being picked up by the Spanish authorities. We missed being there first on site by about an hour! Thank God we didn’t get by them first. 

 

Dolphins welcomed us into Gibraltar waters as did some very big ships. We couldn’t get into the Gibraltar marinas as they were full so are at Alcaidesa on the Spanish side of the airport. Apparently you walk across the runway through customs to Gibraltar. We find out tomorrow.

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Back in Puerto Sherry

We arrived back from Luxembourg and went to see the boat and talk with Paco. The motors were not quite in yet so we wheedled our way into staying on at the Hostal for a few extra days. They moved us to another room (cupboard) as they were full still but it had air con and was not so bad. We explored around Santa Maria and had lunch in a café run by an ex Picador by the bull ring. He was behind the bar but surprisingly not very friendly. Maybe that is your nature if you like stabbing bulls. It had lots of bull fighting memorabilia all around which was probably a bit gruesome if you’re that way inclined to think. We didn’t worry too much and ate Torro stew tapas. 

Finally on Friday morning we got back in the water. The travel lift here is huge but the concrete slip only just a few inches wider that the boat so it was a bit tricky but not so bad as the haul out. We are very happy with the work Paco did on the engines he did a final check when we got back in the water and everything seems fine. We are now doing a major clean up. We have taken advantage of a few days here to get some fibreglass scratches repaired and plan to get the ferry to Cadiz tomorrow to look around then one more stop till the Straights and Gibraltar. Pete has installed two new toilets to replace old ones that we cannot get parts for. I’ve been polishing stainless steel outside, which may not sound very much fun but is infinitely preferable to being anywhere near while toilet installations are taking place!. There is a very nice roof top bar at the hotel to while away a few hot hours. We are still getting used to Spanish hours – one must remember that siesta is a Spanish thing! Things start happening around 10am then all off to lunch at 2pm, then open again 5 or 6pm till dinner at no earlier than 9pm. Mananais fairly well embraced as well.

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Luxembourg

From Puerto Sherry we flew via Madrid to Luxembourg for the week while the boat is on the hard getting new sail drives installed. My brother Mark met us at the airport at 11.00 pm and we stayed up till 2 ish sampling his beers and catching up with him and Annabelle and daughter Ella. Oscar, my nephew who sailed with us from Darwin to South Africa, is at boarding school in Melbourne so unfortunately we missed him. Mark’s beer brewing business is doing well and he has side stepped into canning and has his own mobile canning and labelling machine which he contracts out to various breweries around Europe. He and his off sider Mark travel around operating it. We had fun checking out the machine and doing a little more sampling at his shed.

We drove around Luxembourg a bit for Pete to see as it was his first visit here and called in to the American War Cemetery for the US soldiers who died liberating Luxembourg. Very moving and a frightful reminder of what a waste of lives there was – and this only a small corner of the war. General Patton is buried there, who, interestingly didn’t die on the field but as a result of a car accident after the war had finished in Dec 45 coming back from a pheasant shoot. The few photos I took of Annabelle and Ella turned out blurry but there are plenty of beer shed shots. We met Annabelle’s brother David who for the last 25 years I have missed meeting by a week here or a day there at various places in the world. 

 

 

 

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Ayamonte to Puerto Sherry

Before leaving Ayamonte we took the ferry over to Santo Antonio on the Portuguese side of the river. It’s amazing how different it is to Ayamonte (being Spanish). Just for example : the bars and restaurants on the Portuguese coast all compete to do the biggest cheapest full English breakfast but across the river you can’t find one! Pete bought a set of stainless steel curry serving dishes from a huge kitchen shop, so we’ll have to get back in to making curries again. 

From Ayamonte we decided to skip a few ports and get to Rota on the edge of the Bay of Cadiz. We arrived at 8.30 with still plenty of light for berthing at the marina. This supposedly “overlooked by tourists” town was chock a block full and  the long long beach very crowded. We found a nice little bar on the sand for the afternoon. 

On the 5th we motored round to Puerto Sherry to be on hand for the haul at 11.00 high tide. We met Paco the Yanmar mechanic and he came on board. After a look and discussion (via various translator apps) we decided to go ahead and have both engines out for a look at where some water is getting in and oil getting out. Of course – it turns out that both sail drives (gear box) are worn just about to the point of failure! We approved two new replacements ordered and the marina office booked the only room available in Santa Maria nearby. There is a big fiesta here on Wednesday and it is August summer holidays. The Hostal is OK but we decided to fly up to Luxembourg and stay with my brother and his family for the week while the parts are ordered and installed.

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The last of the Algarve

Isla de Culatra turned out to be a little sand island that has no road or cars. There are little concrete or wooden tracks between the houses and yu see the odd tractor for towing rubbish bins or boats. Loads of people catch the ferry from Ohlao daily to go to the ocean beach and generally lie around. A French couple came by in the dinghy – they have a Lagoon 420 just like our but one year newer. We had coffee on board with them (Serge and Isobel) then drinks and dinner on each boat. Their English is good and my French improved and wasn’t too embarrassing. We caught the ferry to Ohlao which was really busy with a biker convention (based in Faro a short ride away) apparently the biggest in Europe so we bike watched for the afternoon as they cruised up and down the streets.

There is a terrific fresh market in the waterfront strip on Saturdays but also a permanent one under cover all week. Lots and Lots of sea food. Sardines are the big deal here.

We went round to a nearby sand bank with the French couple and both beached our boats and cleaned bottoms and touched up anti foul. Isabelle went digging for cockles and we had a big pasta cockle meal. It’s interesting to see what each set of boat owners have done to personalise the identical boats.

We sat through two tide changes then went back to our previous anchorages and got a water delivery from Water George.

We sailed to Tavira with isobelle and Serge and anchored in the river. Isobelle has a friend there from when she worked in Portugal who invited us to a house where she was staying that the owners were renovating – really interesting. Tavira is really neat with an old Roman bridge still being used. We all had dinner at a typical non touristy Portuguese restaurant where you pretty much eat what they serve you.

We are now in the Rio Guardiano which separates Portugal and Spain on the Spanish side at Ayamonte. When we arrived there was a strong smell of gear box oil so we have to find a place to get hauled to fix it. Ayamonte is very nice and friendly with a good if quirky chandlery ran by and Dutch/English family. They were able to give/sell us a tube of special black Sikaflex that we needed to seal all our hatches that is like gold to find. (Pete had got through unsticking all the old seals only to find his tube was white and looked terrible) Luckily they were in the process of building a new boat and had some spare. They were also able to order us two new toilets – we cannot get parts for our two TMC ones and their parts wear out due to a pretty horrid environment (I mean flushing salt water!) Just another thing you have to throw money at to fix.

So here we are just waiting for a weather window to move around the coast in two steps to get to Puerto Sherry in Cadiz for hauling. We have occupied ourselves with looking at utube and forums to find out how to convert Aust gas systems to European without re dofing the whole boat! (Also sampling a few reaturants and bars) Got it sorted though. It’s been very hot the last few days 30+ and daylight till after 10pm so we are a bit shagged.

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Cruising the Algarve

We left Lagos early July and are making our way slowly along the Algarve coastline.  First stop only a few miles away was Alvor, a very cute little town full of cafes restaurant and bizarre souvenirs (see pics). We did a bit of a bar crawl. The anchorage was so shallow and calm that our bridle kept dropping off at tide change so we’ve had to devise a securing system with cable ties. 

A few miles further along the coast was Portimao. I left Pete on the boat and did a quick 3 day trip to Lisbon. All the time my sisters and brothers and I were growing up we heard tell of my Father’s cousin in Portugal whose daughter was Portugal’s only ever female bull fighter, both on foot and horseback! This was an amazing feat anyway but back in the 50’s when woman were fairly firmly positioned in the home it was nothing short of astounding. By various means I found her address and made contact through her daughter Alex. They both live in Cascais not far from Lisbon. I booked an Air BNB and Alex very kindly met me and arranged to meet her mother, Rose May. Both have spent large parts of their lives in England so language was no problem. Rose May is a very fit and well 82 year old and none the worse for her adventurous life. Not only the bull fighting but taking buyers out on test flights for her father’s Cesna agency, parachuting and being a reserve pilot in the Air Force – all before having two children and settling down (only a bit). We looked at photos and tried to work out the familial relationships. The next World ARC reunion is in Portugal next year so we plan to catch up again. Alex may join us on the boat for a suba dive at some point.

Albufeira was our next stop. There is no anchoring but we were happy to be in a marina and got washing done on their water and power and a boat clean. The old town was lovely – lots of little windy streets with a big broad beach at the bottom. We caught the local bus from the marina on two days to look around. We had seen signs for a fish spa but had no idea what they meant till we looked in a street front window and saw ……. You sit on a bench with your feet dangling in some water while dozens and dozens of little fish eat all the dead skin off your feet!! Fantastic, in a slightly creepy sort of way.

 

We are now in Olhao at Isla da Culatra. About to go ashore and explore on our new delicately soft feet.

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Lagos, Porto and Lisbon

There are some neat grottoes and caves just near the marina that you can get to in your own dinghy but since ours is playing up we went with a group for E10 – glad we did as it was crowded and more distant than we thought, crazy other boat drivers too and rent- a- kayak soup. I tried to leave them out of the photos.

Our car trip up to Porto went well. After looking at train, bus and rental car options we went with DayTrip, a company that matches you up with a driver and you can select stops on the way. Our driver (who drives for Uber as well) was Mauricio and was very informative and spoke excellent English. We selected to stop at Coimbra, the second oldest university in Europe and a terribly ancient library. No one can take photos in the library so here is a link. It is amazing that it survived the many purges and sackings that went on throughout the ages! They have a colony of bats that live there that eat the insects that are destroying the books and now all the tourists ask after the bats and not the books which gets the custodians all bent out of shape. We had a horrible museum cafeteria lunch and got driven on to Aviera. There are canals here and gondola type boats – used to be a major Roman trading town which at one time is silted up and caused everyone to die from diseases but is now busy again. Our driver also took us unexpectedly to Costa Nova, a very pretty little seaside strip where all the houses and buildings are painted in stripes. 

We arrived in Porto just after 7pm much more relaxed and comfortable than if we had done all the driving. A divorce would have been on the cards trying to navigate through Porto old town to our hotel!

We took a Red Bus to get a feel for the layout of the place then messed around on our own for the day. Very quaint and historic lots of Vasco de Gama this and Prince Henry the Navigator that, Magellan too. I am remembering a lot of history that I didn’t know I’d learned at school! Must have paid attention sometimes…..

We took a stock standard tour of the Douro Port wine region that was interesting. We didn’t know of such a thing as white port. You can add tonic and mint to it – who knew?

Next day we got the train to Lisbon. Very impressed with the clean wide boulevards and good roads. We were staying in the new area that was built for Expo 98 but went in to the old main part of town both days.  Lovely old buildings and loads of sea faring discovery/conquering history again. They happily proclaim that they were neutral during the war but friendly to Britain- huh? Both our skin checks went well, Pete clear and me a small sample taken.

We met up with Manuel and Louis who had organised the doctor for us (World ARC friends) and had a lovely dinner in the old water front area where the boat sheds etc have all been converted to restaurants. Forgot to take a photo!

 

We got back to Lagos by train (sitting opposite a horribly unattractive young  G,erman couple who fiddled with each other the whole trip I mean, picking bits out of his ears, squeezing pimples, messing his hair till it went greasy and stood on end, the guy with those awful sparesly black haired legs in short baggy shorts spread everywhere – pass a sick bag)  to find the boat had behaved, the new carburettor for the dinghy had arrived and all was well. The dinghy now goes like new, rather disappointing Pete who had been getting quotes for a new bigger dinghy, new bigger motor and a seat and steering wheel. We are going to mooch around  the Portuguese coast in few days next for however long it takes.

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Lagos at last!

The final approach to the Portuguese coast is a bit of a horror. There is a shipping separation zone to separate the north and southbound vessels, most of them very big freighters and tankers with a few yachts here and there. The idea is to get close to the Portuguese coast to the north and avoid the choke points where they all try to leave or get into the zone. We got there at 2 am and Pete and I stayed up all night getting through it safely. The boat speed was getting up with the high winds so we took sails down to slow us up and be able to control the speed and direction better. The next trick was the catabatic winds from Cape St Vincent as you round the cape to Lagos -  having had too little wind most of the trip it ended up all about too much wind at the end!

 

Once again we sneaked in just ahead of the finish time and got another first in the catamaran category! (just us again).

We were all pleased to be at the end of the trip – especially Bobbie who had been ill most of our days at sea with ongoing,  non specific, unresolved food and stomach issues that made her miserable for almost the entire time. She and Neil vanished off after a quick help with the boat clean to go to Italy. Jesper stayed on a couple of days and had many goodbye drinks with the friends he had made on the passages.

As the north coast of Portugal is the wrong direction for sailing at this time of the year, Pete and I have booked a car trip to Porto and a wine trip to the Douro region for 6 days then back via Lisbon where we both have skin checks booked with a dermatologist. A couple who we met on the World ARC are doctors in Lisbon and have organised it for us.

We love Portugal already and Logos is lovely. The marina is expensive but has  excellent facilities and food and drink establishments. We are just a foot bridge walk away from Lagos old town centre.

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To, and at the Azores

Leaving the harbour of St Georges and through the Cut out into the Atlantic was very picturesque. The wind was quite good for the mono hulls so they quickly passed us. We spent most of the trip bringing up a fairly respectable rear. We managed to tear the gennaker along the sun block fabric line at both the foot and the leach (where previous repairs have been) so we suspect that what one sailmaker told us was true - that the South African sailmaker did not use proper sun shield and we had sun damage there. Anyway it meant that we could no longer sail directly downwind so we slowed up even more. The whole fleet experienced crazy weather patterns: no wind, too much wind and direction changes sometimes many times in a day! Fuel consumption got to be a bit of a concern but we dribbled along economically on one engine when we had to still using the generator to make water. Apart from the weather frustrations and a few uncomfortable days because of these we had a good time with lots of great meals cooked in turn by all and loads of fresh bread which Neil experimented with till he got a fabulous French loaf. Everyone on board has now seen a green flash sunset despite the rumours that there is no such thing. We caught one small tuna and saw lots of dolphins so everyone was happy. At halfway we had a little party with a few rums and wines, nibbles and pats on backs.

We arrived in Horta, Faial, where the boat all paint the names of their vessels on the dock and walls. We got over the finish line just in time to come second (out of two!). As usual there were a round of ARC drinking events and a prize giving before we headed off to spend nine days cruising 3 of the other Azores islands – Terceira, San Miguel and Santa Maria. Each quite different from the other. We particularly liked the UNESCO heritage listed port town of Angra and Ponta Delgado. The history in these islands is all about the voyages of discovery when Portugal was a world leader and they played a big role in provisioning stops and communications. Horta is still the 4thmost visited port in the world. The language is Portugese but with an accent that can’t readily be understood even in Portugal so the government is trying to get the school kids bilingual in English. Otherwise the place is fairly Portugese we even went to a bull running.  Jesper jumped into the road and ran very fast then rather stupidly told his mother! We obviously haven’t scared him enough with the sailing! 

Most of The Azores is very very green which tells you all you need to know about the climate……..lots of cloud and rain, damp and New Zealandy if you ask me. When you look at it, the latitude is not far off similar in the other hemisphere and the fact that they are both small islands in the middle of a big sea attracting the clouds.

We all left for the final leg to Lagos on 9thJune after a last provisioning run and refuel. The weather is once again variable so we have to allow for motoring.

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Bermuda (posted late, ignore date!)

Left Nanny Cay for 5th May arrived Bermuda 12 May. 

Well, here we are in Bermuda! The “Triangle” didn’t get us although the moon did rise in a place I wasn’t expecting but that has more to do with my pathetic astronomy abilities, and the Raymarine time reset itself one night watch….The trip over was varied and interesting – strong wind and rough seas to start with for about 3 days so all the crew experienced the more uncomfortable sailing that we do. We got off to a slow start as the wind was not in a good direction for us to sail straight so we took the opportunity to do a few training jibes and hove tos. Everyone coped with the rough seas well and by the time it got calmer were quite confident that they could cope and the boat was safe! Neil and Bobbie were a little sick to start with but rallied for their watches and settled in quickly. Jesper didn’t miss a beat. No fish to be had, though.

We arrived in Bermuda at 8.30 am and were asked to anchor out to wait our turn on the immigration dock. The weather was overcast and a bit rainy so we didn’t get a good idea of just how beautiful Bermuda turned out to be. The first night was a pirate theme BBQ at the Dinghy Dock Club at St Georges where it  was fun to catch up with the other boats. The prize giving came a few days later and we won the multihull division as we were the only multihull…….got a bottle of rum. Goslings put on a rum tasting and told us the history of the family run business. Lots of rum was sampled. My favourite was a butterscotchy one made especially for the Americas Cup.

We all walked in to St George township which was pretty and quant and historic and had lunch at the famous Wahoo fish restaurant. Bermuda is very lush and quite tropical compared to most of the Caribbean islands and very clean and organised, Most of the houses are bright pastel colours and the Naval Dockyard area is interesting., more touristy where the big cruise liners come in. Pete and I spent a day on buses going there and to Hamilton seeing the huge lagoon where the Americas Cup was raced last year.

On Tuesday the sail repair (tear on the leach of the gennaker) was completed so the guys got it back on while Bobbie and I went to do a provisioning shop for the next 2 weeks. Lots of food! 

The sail over the start line was very picturesque with the yachts in full sail through the cut on aquamarine waters. Light winds predicted for most of the way so we will probably only go a little north and follow the wind. 

 

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Farewell the Caribbean!

We sailed back to Road Harbour to collet our new main sail and the bread maker that we ordered from Amazon. For a test sail we went to Anagada (sounds like a Star Wars galaxy) it sails well and faster than the old one. The bread maker is a success too. Anagada is famous for it’s fresh lobsters so we had some even though we both think it is overrated as a food. 

We are now in Nanny Cay and doing the last of the getting ready. We donated our old out of test life raft to the ARC people for a demo in the pool. It inflated fine and everyone had fun trying to get into it and sampling the rations and water, unfortunately for some reason my phone didn’t record so at this time I don’t have photos – I’ll try to get some from someone else. Our crew arrived yesterday so we have Neil and Bobby from Pensacola and Jesper, my niece’s boyfriend, from Luxembourg. We had a first day madness with them and all off to sundowners at the beach bar with the other ARC participants. The gas bottles are getting filled  today, we passed the safety check and a rigging check with flying colours. Tomorrow is last minute fresh fruit and vegetable shopping, skippers briefing, immigration and then off the next morning at 11. We plan to go out an hour or so early to practice some hove tos and safety routines before the start.  We are all keen to get going now! Next stop and blog – Bermuda (not too sure where the “Triangle” is ……..)

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The Last of the Virgin Islands

Late March we sailed south to ST Croix (pronounced St Croy which probably annoys the French, but who cares). It is the southern most of the US Virgin Islands and a really good downwind sail for us, about 6 hours. We anchored in Christiansted just before a massive rain storm hit. Just after we came in ARVA arrived, an Australian couple, Dave and Sue, who we then met the next day. Christiansted is a pretty little town with a basically undamaged waterfront where we drank green beer left over from St Patricks Day.  It was Easter but plenty was going on and we all went to a very good Jazz in the Park on Easter Sunday.

 

 After a few days of lunches, dinners and haircuts there we all sailed to Buck Island. It is a lovely pristine nature/marine reserve with the clearest water. Quite good snorkelling by our new low expectations standards! The anchorage (strange really as all the other parks don’t allow anchoring) gets really busy from about 10 to 4 with local day trippers and charters but once they went home there was usually just us and ARVA. Sue even swam with about 6 dolphins right in front of their boat! Lots of turtles too. Had a bit of entertainment when Pete stepped off the boat and the dinghy wandered off to one side and he went in the water! Not so funny was the hearing aids and the blue tooth booster that went in too. Luckily my phone is a X that is waterproof. We put all the other things in a bowl of isopropal alcohol and guess what? Next day after a night in the dehumidifier they were OK - Phew.

 

ARVA sailed off to Calebra (Spanish Virgin Islands (?!) and we went to Teague Bay where the St Croix yacht Club is. We had one of their special Wednesday night 5 course special nights, quite dressy and proper with good table ware etc. Very nice.

We spent a bit more time around St Croix and sailed back to Christmas Cove and had pizza from the pizza boat for lunch.

Here we met Simon and Kim, another Aussie couple on Aura. Pete and Simon murdered a bottle of rum and suffered a bit. 

Pete and I sailed back to St John to fill in a few days before heading back up jto BVI’s to get ready for the ARC. Saw Aura and Arva at Cruz Bay on the way.

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More Virgin Islands

We spent a few nights at Rod Hook in American Yacht Harbour Marina. The shops, restaurants and other buildings here ware not so damaged, or been mostly repaired so it was quite nice.  After that we sailed with Sundowner to a few bays around St John Island, Rendevous and Little Lameshur that was beautiful and quiet with turtles popping their heads up everywhere. Most of St Johns is National Parks and they have put mooring buoys everywhere. In the past you paid for these at a floating kiosk but the hurricanes blew the kiosks all away so effectively they are free! We said goodbye to Howard and Sue, they are off to the Bahamas on their way to America for hurricane season. Pete and I went off to Watermelon Bay via Coral Harbour where we snorkelled round a little island that prior to the hurricanes must have been the most lovely coral gardens. Still some fans and brain corals left but there is damage everywhere and dead coral broken off all around. The dive industry here will be wrecked for many many years. Makes you think about all the fuss re humans impacting on the reefs when something like Irma can take them all out in 10 hours! There are next to no boats around. Mooring fields of 20 plus buoys are empty except for us and usually only one or two other boats. Nice for us.  We are now bobbing around on a free Parks buoy in Hawksnest Bay with good internet via AT&T getting some communication going. Even with all the repair work and 6 months on most landlines are still out and wifi patchy where normally it would have been readily available and good.

We have a couple from Pesacola joining us for the ARC Europe. Bobbie and Neil. They are looking for some blue water experience before buying a boat and setting off round the world. My nieces boyfriend is set to come as well so with 5 of us the night watches will be doddle! We leave on 5 May for the first leg up to Bermuda.

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