Chaligram 15-4: Chesapeake Bay, Maryland, USA
06 September 2015 | Canton, Baltimore, MD-Anchorage Marina
Hello dear friends and family,
Well, a lot has happened since my last ChaliGram wayyyyy back on July 11, written from Gibraltar, announcing that we were shipping our boat back EARLY and right there from Gibraltar. At the time we still had about 100 logistical challenges in front of us...
The loading onto the big ship went ok, with only minor damage sustained, and which has now been fixed; the changed flights back to the USA finally all came together; meeting the boat 2 weeks later in Chester, PA and unloading her there went smoothly. We anchored out that first night right under the take off path for Philadelphia Airport, so we were understandably anxious to get underway to some peace and quiet the next morning, to escape the Delaware River, traverse the 15-mile Chesapeake and Delaware Canal and FINALLY.... arrive in the Chesapeake Bay. MY! What a difference from Mediterranean coastlines! NO MOUNTAINS was the first thing that struck us; and, the Chesapeake, being one of the world's largest estuaries is naturally rather muddy brown, compared to the relatively blue, clear waters of the Med; And shallow! Our first night at anchor in the Bohemia River in the northern Bay itself, we tiptoed into 8' of water, yes, 8 FEET, not 8 meters, and not expecting a big tidal change, found ourselves sitting in the mud in 5' when the tide went out. (Our boat draws 6'. oops.) No worries, because it's all mud; no rocks. There might not be any mountains, but there ARE lots of green, lush trees. Another big difference is that there are clouds and rain during the summer here!! Our experience in the Mediterranean is that it rained between October-April, and then (usually) NOTHING except clear blue skies the rest of the time.
As I type this, we are sitting in a marina in Baltimore, Maryland in the lovely neighborhood of Canton. They sure have re-developed this historic district in the last 12 years!!!! It's WONDERFUL! We can walk to everything we need: supermarket, hardware stores, a west marine boat supply place, super duper ice cream, hair salons, and a zillion restaurants! ... just like when we were in Cartagena, Spain, or Cannes or Menton or Barcelona, or, or, or....many other Mediterranean old port towns. AND...... it's only an hour's drive from our apartment in Alexandria, Virginia. So, for the time being, we're using this as our home base and driving back and forth.... unloading 10 years worth of stuff we felt we couldn't live without while in Europe. After our daughter Sammy's wedding on Oct. 17, we'll sail ChaliVentures about 70 miles south to a boatyard in Solomon's Island, Maryland on the Patuxent River. She needs quite a bit of serious work done according to the marine surveyor who just examined her, so she'll be spending her winter on the hard. It was rather depressing and alarming to hear the marine surveyor rattle off all the things that needed to be replaced..... Made me feel like we were lucky we hadn't sunk alREADY, and a damned good thing we didn't try sailing her back!
During our first weekend here in Baltimore, Sammy and Brian (soon-to-be son-in-law) drove up from Washington, DC to celebrate our arrival with our first crabfeast in over 11 years. yahooooo. Those crabs were as delicious as I had hoped they'd be. After so long, I was afraid that nothing could live up to my huge expectation.... but Captain James Crabhouse (within walking distance of our boat!) got it done with flying colors! And now 3 weeks later, we're going to have aNOTHER crab feast today with all 3 daughters, Sammy AND Alex (down from New York) AND Christina, Dean and the kids. If only Jon had stayed in Virginia 3 days longer, we could have had all 4 kids at 1 table! But at least we got to see him several times over the last 2 weeks that he was visiting the east coast (from Boulder, CO). So..... our primary reason for returning to the USA is panning out. We're spending more time with our kids!
I'm sitting out in the cockpit with my cup of coffee, enjoying a nice breeze this morning; the humidity is down -- finally!, and the ducks are floating by. Zoey is enjoying lying in her cockpit bed soaking up the sun. Life is GREAT!!!
Wherever you are, hope you're having a perfectly splendid weekend, too!
Love, Alison, Chuck and Zoey
Onboard ChaliVentures in the USA
ChaliGram 15-3: The last one....
11 July 2015 | Gibraltar
…. written from the Mediterranean!
[For those friends who saw my recent posting on Facebook, this is partially duplicate info, but this one DOES have a link to photos!]
Since my last ChaliGram written on Jun 9th, we managed to finally leave Cartagena, with a new toilet and all new plumbing and Chuck’s muscles not protesting too much. We converted our harbor-queen back into a sailing vessel and off we went. Our first day out sailing since last August 12 was superb. Amazingly, we remembered how to do everything…. no major screw ups, and the windgods even allowed us to pure-sail for several hours (as opposed to motor-sailing). *sigh.* We remembered why we liked sailing! We headed south, and then rounded the Cape of the Cat (Cabo de Gata) at the southeast corner of Spain. We stopped in marinas that we’d been to 9 years ago in 2006 when we were first entering the Med, plus a couple of new ones. We treated ourselves to a stay at the Malaga Yacht Club so we could re-visit that lovely city. It was a bit of a hike into town, but we 3 managed. Zoey mostly rode in her rolling tote bag. And then suddenly, we were in Gibraltar. ALREADY! That place with the big rock! This was to be our hopping off point to go to Morocco for visa renewal stuff, which is just a few miles away across the Straits.
So, why is this the last ChaliGram from the Med, you ask? After all, my last email said our boat would get loaded on the BIG SHIP in October in Palma de Mallorca! Well! As it happens our shipping company just announced a July sailing from, of all places, GIBRALTAR! And there’s a rather unusual disembarkation in Chester, PA on the Delaware River (just between Wilmington and Philadelphia). Well HELL! That’s a mere daysail from the Chesapeake Bay... OUR HOME WATERS until 10 years ago. PLUS, it’s hopefully a better place to land than West Palm, FL during hurricane season! (Although the Delaware River is really a really pretty awful area! One that we'll want to get away from as soon as possible!) We will load our boat in about a week or so. At this point, the arrival date of the ship is still a little wiggly. And then Chuck, Zoey and I will fly back to Washington, DC and wait a couple of weeks before going to Chester to meet Madame ChaliVentures. This is really a much better option for us since we don’t have to sail east again for 500 miles to get to expensive, crowded Palma. Plus it gets us back home with plenty of time to get ready (i.e., find a DRESS!!! etc) and help out for our daughter Sammy’s October wedding. The only negative thing about this itinerary change is that we won’t be traveling up the Intercoastal waterway in November-December and seeing our friends in FL, GA and SC…. But…. there’s always next year. We don’t know if we’ll head to warmer climes this winter or not. TBD.
So, instead of having 2-3 more months here, we have about a week. We’ve started the heavy work of removing all the sails and basically preparing ChaliVentures to be cargo on a big ship.
I feel compelled to say that this is a HAPPY event. Several of our friends thought it was sad that we were leaving the Med. We’ve had 10 years, and it’s been great!! It’s probably 7-8 years longer than we had initially thought we’d spend here. We’ve sailed from Portugal to Syria/Lebanon/Israel and back and visited most countries in between. We spent 2 fabulous years in Turkey and Greece with Crete being a real high point in Greece; 3 seasons cruising along the gorgeous coast of France and Corsica; Mainland Italy plus Sicily and Sardinia were also favorites; Can’t forget about Croatia, Montenegro, Tunisia and Morocco either! We’ve spent the last year in Spain. WE’VE LOVED IT ALL! And now it’s time for a change. We’re both excited at the prospect of eating Chesapeake Bay jimmy blue crabs, steamed and spiced in that ever so special way. We’re looking forward to cruising in an area that has a zillion anchorages, and lots of trees. We’re especially happy to be closer to our family and friends and to not have to cram all our visits into 3 months during the winter. And….. as my sister Dori pointed out, we'll have new and different adventures for the next 10 years! Things we’re already thinking about are: renting a canal boat in France and/or Holland for a couple of months; Taking land trips to Central Europe and staying in good old airbnb apartments in various cities for 6-8 weeks. Living onboard Chaliventures in marinas in Boston or Baltimore or Beaufort, SC for a while. So, we’ll continue to scratch our travel itch, just in a new and different way…..and for maybe 2 months at a time, instead of 8 or 9 months. Right now, we’ll just be relieved to get into our boat on the other side. We’re sort of at the bottom of the mountain looking up, with LOTS of logistical issues yet to resolve.
So, that’s our story for the day! Look forward to seeing a lot of you soon!!
Love, Alison, Chuck and Zoey
A few pictures this time:
Onboard s/y ChaliVentures III …along the Costa del Sol, Spain
ChaliGram 15-2: Short Update
09 June 2015 | Cartagena, Spain
It’s a conspiracy!
It’s exactly 1 month since I added a Facebook Status update saying that our boat was all ready to go; all systems go… that we were just waiting for a weather window. Well, HA! The weather gods, the plumbing gods and the health gods have all conspired to keep us here in Cartagena, Spain! First the accumulator tank broke (that works with our water pressure system), needing replacing; then a hose leading TO the accumulator tank exploded, needing replacing. In the course of crouching, twisting, turning and cranking hard on the wrench to install a new tank and hose, Chuck hurt his back, and unfortunately his back CAN’T be replaced. Rather, just needed time to heal. Plus a family member has been in critical condition, and we wanted to stay here in case a quick trip home was necessary.
All ready to go AGAIN yesterday, but the weather gods slammed our window shut for going south and then west along the Spanish coast where Spain and Morocco are only about 5 miles apart. (yes, that’s a change of plan). I think these gods are in cahoots to keep us right here. It was actually a blessing a few weeks ago, because we were still here when our niece, Chelsea, came to visit us for a few days on her big European Adventure. But now. Would you believe…. this morning our toilet broke! No, not (just) a leak; the damned toilet itself has a big crack in the base!! So… the weather gods forced us to stay here so that the plumbing gods could play with us. But…. perhaps THAT was a blessing too, because it’s a helluva lot easier to get a new toilet HERE than if we were cruising along the coast into remote little towns. The toilet’s been ordered from our favorite online supplier in Germany. And the weather sucks for about the next week. Sucks, as in wind from the wrong direction. Hopefully, when Chuck installs the toilet he won’t hurt his back again. I daresn’t say “what ELSE can go wrong?” because there are way too many things that can go wrong on a boat!
In the meantime, since my last ChaliGram about 6 weeks ago, we have definitely decided to ship the boat back to West Palm Beach, Florida with an arrival some time in November. We’ve even made a deposit, so this is a done deal. ChaliVentures will get loaded onto a special-purpose ship in the island town of Palma de Mallorca, Spain sometime in October….. Probably while our daughter Sammy is getting married to Brian. So, during the winter of 2015-16 we’ll be most likely hanging out in Florida, Georgia and S. Carolina before returning to our home waters of the Chesapeake Bay next Spring.
Sure is a good thing we like Cartagena! Fortunately, we have no urgency to be anywhere. Sometime, but not before July 10th, we want to go to Morocco just to get some non EU stamps in our brand new passports. We’re feeling a tad exposed and vulnerable about OBVIOUSLY exceeding our 90 day limit in the EU/Schengen Zone…. by 4 months! This is the first time we’ve worried about it in 10 years. A short trip to Morocco doesn’t TECHNICALLY solve the problem, but Moroccan passport stamps will show that at least we did LEAVE the EU….And there’ll at least be uncertainty and doubt about our whereabouts when the airport immigration officials check us out!
Another ho hum.
So, that’s it. No great adventures, no beautiful new sights nor interesting local festivities to report. No pictures.
til the next time….
Love, Alison, Chuck and Zoey
ChaliGram 15-1: Spanish Spring
23 April 2015 | Cartagena & Granada Spain
Hello dearest Friends and Family.
We returned to Cartagena, Spain on March 3rd, and although the weather was a little cooler and sometimes rainier than we would have liked, it was SO MUCH BETTER than our horribly cold winter in Alexandria, VA! I certainly wasn’t going to complain about temperatures in the 50’s and 60’s! And there were lots of winter-liveaboard cruisers here, so it’s been a fairly social time! Happy Hour every Thursday, a visit from some cruising buddies we haven’t seen since April 2007 when we wintered together in Vibo Valentia, Italy. They swung by in their RV, and it was a delightful reunion.
I decided to wait until the 2 BIG EVENTS had happened before writing this ChaliGram: the famous Cartagena Semana Santa (holy week) AND our road trip to Granada. Cartagena is known throughout Spain as having one of the most elaborate celebrations of Semana Santa…. which means one of the most elaborate in the world, I think.
I have witnessed Good Friday parades in other Spanish cities over the years, so I knew to expect the KKK-like pointed hoods of the penitents’ costumes, but…. in Cartagena they crank it up about 5 notches! In fact, it’s not even holy WEEK; it’s a whole 10 DAYS of holiness. Every day and/or night there were processionals, some starting as early as 3AM. Needless to say, we did NOT go to those! There are 4 competing brotherhoods who organize the events for each day, and 2 of those groups go back to the late 17th century. So, once you get over the pointy hoods, you notice the richness and beauty of the velvet and satin robes. There are thousands of Cartaginians who participate in this 10 day affair. But…..there’s only so much standing an old person can do, so Chuck, Zoey and I only went to 3 of the parades. The Palm Sunday parade featured no pointy hoods, as this was the celebration of Jesus entering Jerusalem (I never knew that.) So, the parade featured lots of Romans, Jews and very solemn and adorable children. On Palm Sunday, while I was riding my bike past one of the old churches in town, the service was just letting out, and a whole bunch of Roman soldiers marched out of the church. Now…… I know the Romans were major participants in the whole easter story, but…. coming out of a Catholic church?????? Really???? The Good Friday parade was by far the biggest one, lasting 3 hours and featuring at least 12 “thrones,” or what we might call floats, of all the main Easter characters and events. The biggest, the most elaborate and always the “grand finale” is the virgin. NOT Jesus. In addition to all the gold and beautiful lanterns, she also has a million flowers on her throne. The thrones are ENORMOUS and beautifully gilded, sculpted, painted works of art; they were conveyed either on a rolling platform OR more often, carried by at least 100 penitents. I can’t imagine where they find the space to store all of these thrones. Each brotherhood had their own… so there must have been about 50 of these things! I imagine a very religious catholic would feel quite emotional witnessing these events. But even among us atheists, it was still a fabulous spectacle of beauty, solemnity, art AND the music of the frequent marching bands. Besides, I do believe Jesus existed and was a pretty radical and admirable fellow in the day. Another aspect of the processionals in Cartagena was the large military presence. Most were costumed in 18-19th century “Napoleonic-styled” uniforms. However, in the Good Friday Processional, there were present-day soldiers who were doing a serious goose step march. I sort of felt like I was watching a bunch of Nazis, although I know the goose-step goes back much farther than Hitler. So…. between the KKK-hoods and the goose-stepping soldiers, there were definitely some eerie feelings!
Shortly after Semana Santa in Cartagena, we rented a car and drove the 3.5 hours to Granada, home of the world famous Alhambra and the Generalife summer palace, a UNESCO world heritage site. We had found an apartment on www.airbnb.com (a WONDERFUL alternative to hotels!), that was perfect and very centrally located. The Alhambra we see today dates mostly from the 13-15th century, although the Muslims (sometimes referred to as the Moors —Arabs and Berbers from Morocco and other parts of northern Africa) had arrived in Andalucia(Al-Andalus) in 711. Cordoba was the main center before Granada. The Alhambra is an exquisite example of the advanced state of learning among the Muslims in the middle ages. (Apparently Mohammed was a big believer in education for all.) They were so far ahead of the rest of Europe in terms of mathematics, (especially geometry!), architecture, science, the arts and poetry. And their incorporation of water into the design of palaces and other structures provided a very soothing and peaceful element to one’s surroundings. The constant gurgling of fountains and water flowing throughout the gardens and the rest of the grounds did indeed have a calming effect! There’s a superb youtube video by Bettany Hughes, “When the Moors Ruled Europe,” that explains the Alhambra in the context of the 700 year Moorish rule, until 1492 when the “catholic kings” Isabel and Fernando defeated this last Muslim stronghold of the Nasrid dynasty in Spain. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_Xnc8ijkrA At least Ferdinand and Isabel, and their subsequent descendants didn’t destroy the place…. even if they did eventually expel all the Moors and Jews…. NOT a highpoint of Spanish history...
Good old American author Washington Irving of Rip Van Winkle fame memorialized the Alhambra in his “Tales of the Alhambra” in 1832
Not only did Granada feature this marvelous hill-top city, but the town itself was wonderful. It has more plazas than just about any city we’ve ever been to. On our first day walking around, we wandered into the Plaza Bib-Rambla and happened upon a troupe of Flamenco performers. What a TREAT! Flamenco clubs are major tourist traps in Granada (and other cities in Andalucia), and although I enjoy watching Flamenco performed, we probably wouldn’t have gone to a club. As such, we were delighted to stumble upon this exuberant performance of Flamenco guitarist, singer and 2 dancers. The woman of course was Chinese. ;-}
Okay, so…. those are the 2 big EVENTS. We have an equally significant ANNOUNCEMENT to make. We have decided (for today at least!) that we’re going to ship ChaliVentures back to the states this Fall. It’s been at the back of our minds for awhile now, but we think that maybe it’s time to be a little closer to home. We’ve had 10 years cruising the entire Mediterranean, from Spain to Syria and back, and well…. not much is NEW anymore. As such, we’d like to spend more time with PEOPLE we love instead of lovely PLACES…..and we have certainly seen some wonderful places! We haven’t signed the contract yet, nor paid any money, so there’s still time to change our minds, but I think we’re about 95% decided. Friends in Florida: We’ll be meeting the yacht transport ship in West Palm Beach probably early to mid November. It would be great if we could have a little visit when we’re in that region. We’ll be heading north, eventually back to our home waters in the Chesapeake by the spring/summer 2016 (so Ashley, we might be able to see your new digs as we’re passing through the Cape Canaveral area.) Knowing that we have the Chesapeake Bay to look forward to, and perhaps summer trips north to Maine is NOT a bad “consolation prize.” We thought about sailing back, but, neither one of us is that keen to do another transatlantic crossing. Been there, done that, ya know? We’ll leave our boat in Palma de Mallorca, Spain while we fly back for our daughter Sammy’s wedding to Brian in mid October, and will hire a skipper to drive the boat from the marina to the ship. So that’s the plan. It’ll be nice to not have to squeeze our loved ones and friends into a short window during the winter!
In the meantime, when we leave Cartagena, Spain in the next 2-3 weeks, we’ll probably head to the Balearic Islands (Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza, Formentara) and just “wander around” from anchorage to anchorage. We passed through somewhat quickly back in 2006, so there will be some new places to go. It’ll be a nice change from last season’s cruise down the east coast of Spain when there were NO anchorages! If it gets too crowded and insane, we can always go to Valencia until September… then BACK to Mallorca.
Hope you all are having a great Spring!
Linkw to photos:
[For those of you who are Facebook friends, you may have seen some of the photos in the attached links. ]
1/ Best of Palm Sunday: https://picasaweb.google.com/chaliventures/SemanaSantaPalmSundayMarch292015?authuser=0&authkey=Gv1sRgCNbmtsPgz5uTHQ&feat=directlink
2/ Best of Good Friday: (Good Friday seemed very similar to “opening night” the friday BEFORE Palm Sunday, so I’m only including the good friday processional highlights… don’t want to bore you after all!): https://picasaweb.google.com/chaliventures/BestOfGoodFriday?authuser=0&authkey=Gv1sRgCPqX_vKB-4_giwE&feat=directlink
3/ Best of Granada and Alhambra: https://picasaweb.google.com/chaliventures/GranadaAlhambraApril152015?authuser=0&authkey=Gv1sRgCKyRvf6onp_kGg&feat=directlink
Love, Alison, Chuck and Zoey
Onboard s/y ChaliVentures III in…
WAY WAY Overdue last 2014 Chaligram: 14-4
08 January 2015
Dearest Friends and Family,
I wouldn’t bother so much with writing this long overdue Chaligram, except for the fact that in my August ChaliGram I promised to send photos of the annual Roman Carthaginian Festival in late September as well as photos from our land travels. Although I DID post a few pictures on Facebook, I realize that not everyone is one Facebook. So! Here we are.
Even with the big buildup of the R-C festival, I have to say that we were rather blown away by the sheer numbers of local residents (at least 3000 or so! ) who dressed up and participated in the many parades, plays, battles and other spectacles over the course of 9 days. I was really impressed by the costume-ing, and was later informed by our Spanish boat neighbor that they were purchased by the town from Hollywood’s various Ancient Roman-themed movies of long ago. It looked like it. One of the climactic events was the BATTLE, and it was a doozy! One play that we went to was about Hannibal (the Carthaginian) trying to convince the local leadership that he should take the battle to Rome itself with his troops and lots of mercenaries (not to mention the elephants!) SO! for those of you familiar with the whole Hannibal crossing the Alps with his elephants story, you’ll be interested to know that he started from good old Cartagena! Unfortunately for the locals that were left behind, the Romans showed up in their ships not long after Hannibal left, (Cartagena offers a magnificent natural harbour!) so with only a "skeleton crew” left, the Romans took over Cartagena!
After the festival was over, our good new Aussi pals on both AnneCam and then later, ThorangLa left Cartagena. But…. Mark and Ginny showed up on “Lone Rival” so we made MORE new friends… Alas, Mark was heading up to Barcelona for the winter. So, life got a little quieter onboard ChaliVentures.
Towards the end of October, we “put the boat to bed” for the winter, hopped in our cute little FIAT 500 rental car and took off for Toledo, Spain (about an hour south of Madrid). Toledo, historically known for its excellent sword-making industry, was the first major center of the Moorish Dynasty in Spain to fall to Alfonso VI in the 11th century during the Christian "Spanish Reconquest.” And….for the next 4 centuries Christians, Moslems and Jews all co-existed peacefully, and to everyone’s benefit. The buildings and monuments still standing make Toledo a stunning place to visit! It was also one of the most advanced centers of learning during the middle ages! Sadly, Isabel & Fernando kicked out all the Moors and Jews in 1492 (the same king & queen who financed/sponsored Columbus)….after which things went downhill.
Next stop was Segovia, about an hour NW of Madrid: another beautiful medieval city in Castille which featured the last cathedral constructed in the gothic style in Spain. There was also an Alcazar (a Moorish fortress/castle) that was rebuilt in the 16th century in the northern European style by King Felipe II in honor of his Austrian wife. When you see the pictures, it might be slightly reminiscent of the Walt Disney castle. Indeed, it was used as the model! The most spectacular sight in Segovia was the 1st C. AD Roman Aqueduct that runs right through the middle of town! It carried water from a mountain river 17 kilometers away into the city with a final stop at the Alcazar. We took a day trip from Segovia to Avila, a beautiful walled city — walls built between 11th and 14th centuries — and sometimes referred to as the “The Most 16c. Town in Spain;" ITS cathedral was one of the FIRST gothic cathedrals in Spain with a construction date between the 11th and 12th centuries. It also boasts being one of the towns with the most gothic and romanesque churches per capita in Spain. This central part of Spain sure does have some beautiful historic towns!
We flew from Madrid to Amsterdam to visit our dear friends Albert & Ineke. They sailed their boat back to Holland last year, so we no longer have cruising reunions, but land reunions are lots of fun, too!!
SO! That’s the summary of our last 2.5 months in Europe. We arrived back in the States in mid November, and have been enjoying our family and friends since then, with multiple trips planned to see son Jonathan and family in Boulder, my sister Dori in Knoxville, TN and our other beloved cruising buddies, Martin & Sandy in Seattle. Before we know it, it’ll be time to head back to ChaliVentures in Cartagena! I wonder what we’re going to do and where we’re going to go THIS season!!! So many options; so many places. Do we leave the boat in Cartagena and hop on the train to do a LOT more land travels through northern/central and eastern Europe???? — Do we head west through the straits of Gibraltar and north up the Spanish/Portuguese coast (already been there) and cross the Bay of Biscaye to Atlantic France? and then north to the UK and beyond? Or indeed, do we head east again, hang out in the Balearic Islands, then Sardinia (again) then the west coast of Italy. There’s a town, Nettuno, that friends have stayed in for the winter, that is an hour to Rome by train and the town itself has a lot of charm…plus, the marina is right in the middle of town (our specialty!) Hopefully, we will solve this dilemma …. when we need to!
So, dear friends…. enjoy the photos and the first 2015 ChaliGram will be sometime in May probably. We already have a land trip to Granada planned.
Love, Alison, Chuck and Zoey
ChaliGram 14-3: Valencia to Cartagena
20 August 2014 | Cartagena, Spain
Dearest Friends and Family,
Yes, it’s only mid-August, but we have stopped cruising for the season. No, nothing’s wrong with us nor with the boat. When we arrived in Cartagena, Spain in late July, we were told by the immigration police that we had to leave — our 90 days in the EU/Schengen territory was UP!!! (First time that’s ever happened in 9 years!!!) We were planning to go to Morocco ANYway for customs/tax reasons before settling in for the winter, but hadn’t really planned on going this early! Oh well. We stayed a week until we had a good weather window for our overnight passage to Morocco, and during that week, we totally fell in love with Cartagena. It’s even better than we had remembered it (from our April 2006 visit.) Okay, well, off we went to Marina-Saidia, in Eastern Morocco. (Morocco in August…. are you KIDDING me???) Although this new marina was just opened in 2009, the infrastructure is already deteriorating. It was kind of depressing, and the bathrooms were unusable (missing parts and cockroaches. uhhhhhh, no thanks!) However, it was cheap, there was a good WIFI, a decent grocery store, lots of restaurants and we met some lovely Aussies there, AND…. we have our own shower on board. So, it coulda been worse, I guess, and it DID solve 2 problems for us, after all. We stayed a week, and then decided to return to Cartagena. I regret to say that I forgot to take any photos. I was totally uninspired, and it was all rather bleak, so no great loss. The best part about the passage back was the extraordinary moon rise on August 11th: HUGE and ORANGE. Nothing like being on the water for spectacular sun and moon rises and sets. The worst part were the unexpected choppy waves (poor Zoey blew lunch within an hour of our setting out!) and of course Collision Avoidance tactics in the very busy sea lanes separating Spain from North Africa. Upon our return to Yacht Port Cartagena, we were assigned our long term berth (which we had selected 10 days before), and we are now settled in! Our new Aussie friends Lee and Don also came here from Morocco, so we had a nice couple of days of socializing. Just as I suggested in my last ChaliGram, we are now in our “pied à mer” until we want to leave or the Frontier Police kick us out. We’re here just…..LIVING. Since we’ll be returning to the States in November anyway, we won’t even have the possibility of a passport problem until next June or so, since we’ll probably return to Spain in Feb/March. And who knows WHAT we’ll want to do then!
Now…. to backtrack. My last ChaliGram was written from beautiful Valencia where we were enjoying weekly fireworks and discovering the treasures in the neighborhood right next to the marina. Gosh, it’s hard to realize that that was only 3 stops ago! We had some fairly long daysails, from Valencia to Denia, then to Alicante, then Cartagena. Denia was a nice surprise because the new marina there only charged us 50% of an already comparatively low rate. (the other Marina and the Yacht Club there are much more expensive, like $100+/night or so.) Denia is the closest mainland harbour to the Balearic Islands (Ibiza is only 50 miles away), so the ferry traffic was rather heavy. It had a holiday resort feel to it, versus “real town.” The electronic-y, “trance-like” dancing sounds (i can’t really call it music!) playing at the club very close to our mooring place lasted til about 4:30am. Ugh. We left after 5 days. Next stop, Alicante which lived up to its reputation. It’s a GREAT town, and with its palm-tree lined, marble-tiled “Esplanade” along the harbour, it’s quite beautiful. It has everything…. including a fresh food market as large as the famous Boquería Market on Las Ramblas in Barcelona! The marina was enormous and had good facilities, but there was a waiting list for long term contracts through the marina office. I did an online search for privately-owned berths to see if there were any available for a 1 year contract; and…...there were! We almost signed on the dotted line, but felt we HAD to go to Cartagena first. Glad we did! When we departed Alicante at 6:45am on a Sunday, the Club behind the marina facilities was still packed with people dancing away. Apparently they stay open til 8am on the weekends. :-( …. and not just in the summer. So, 2 downsides to Alicante: 1-the marina is so big that it’s almost a kilometer just to get to the town, and 2/ the boom boom of music playing all night long. Call us old fuddy-duddy’s, but we like to sleep between midnight and 8am!! These 2 downsides are precisely 2 UPSIDES to Cartagena…, at least to our marina. We understand from an American couple who are just starting their Mediterranean Odyssey and who were moored on the town wall that the music was keeping them awake til 4:30 every morning! Ahhhh Spain! Our berth is close to town, and it’s quiet after midnight! And…. I feel a little like Goldilocks here, but Cartagena is just the right size town, too. I think we’ve each been just about everywhere on our bike. The scenery is wonderful. There’s a mix of gorgeous art nouveau buildings along the lovely major pedestrian street, baroque and neo classical military and church buildings and splendid archeological excavations of Roman and Carthaginian buildings. In 223, Hasdrubal (brother of the much more famous Hannibal) marched his army into the Iberian town of Mastia and renamed it Carthago Nova. He led his army against the Romans during the 2nd Punic War while his brother was busy invading Italy with his elephants! Eventually the Romans ruled here, then the Visigoths and the Moors, so…. there are lots of great — some, recently discovered! — archeological goodies…. and museums too! We are surrounded by mountains, with castles or forts topping many of the peaks. It features a huge natural harbour, making it the Mediterranean base of the Spanish Navy, and there are plenty of museums featuring maritime and underwater relics, as well. Next month is the annual Carthaginian-Roman Festival, where, among other things, there are re-enactments of battles that took place 2200 years ago! Those 2 weeks should offer opportunities for some good photos! There is a fresh food market plus about 4 major grocery stores all an easy bike ride away… and restaurants and ice cream places actually close enough for all 3 of us to go out without stressing our 4 legged crew member too much. All in all, it's a GREAT place to live! Chuck and I take turns going on the bike for “exploratory” rides. In fact he just came back from the Artillery Museum enthusiastically describing the pristine condition of the German 88 guns there, as well as the history and very effective upgrading of ALL the fortifications around here! Perhaps it’s just as well we do SOME things separately! ;-) And Zoey and I have already visited the vet (she rode in her vented dogbag, tied onto the back bike rack). In spite of some cruisers warning us that it was a little “bouncy” in this marina from all the fishing and commercial traffic near here, we are in a very good and secure spot, and haven’t experienced any discomfort! It’s not Barcelona, but it’s a close second. And…. it should be more temperate here during the winter than Barcelona was. There’s a pretty good article in wiki about it.
So, there won’t actually be any more sailing adventures to report on, although we may do some land travel. Chuck has never been to Granada, so that’s definitely on the agenda either this Fall or next Spring. The Semana Santa festivities during Easter week are supposed to rival anything that Andalucia has to offer… so plenty to look forward to here in beautiful Cartagena.
Now I need to go out and take some new photos of Cartagena, so you can see what I’m talking about! LATER: And, I might add, they don’t begin to scratch the surface. I haven’t even been to any museums yet. Chuck and I have to take turns seeing the sights because of our little old lady who just prefers staying in and sleeping … and not ALONE, either!
Alison, Chuck and Zoey
Onboard ChaliVentures III in…. Spain