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the many adventures of Chilli Cat
Day off!
heather manfredi
25/11/2012, las palmas Gran Canaria

Hired a car from the centre and headed off inland and up to the mountains. Beautiful! Amazing rock structures and lush and green too. We stopped at a view point and had a great Sunday lunch, slow cooked lamb shank and traditional canarian potatoes. As usual, the Manfredi,s over ordered! After lunch, we took the road south to the beach and sand dunes at MAspalomas and had a walk along the shore. We saw a few ARC race boats close to shore, the weather had not yet become too windy so good luck to them! Back home to Chilli Cat for a quiet evening.

27/11/2012 | stuart kirkham
If you have Simon Zavad and Graham Williams on board, then tell those two pirates (a euphemism for ba****ds, sorry kids) that I am extremely envious but you wish you all fair winds and calm seas.
03/12/2012 | Julian Thomas
Hi Guys, This comes with lots of love from Debs, Anna, Sam, Tup and Molly (the dog). We hope you have a fab crossing with fair winds and great sights. We're very jealous and can't wait to hear the tale over a few VBs. Any good sea urchins out in the mid Atlantic??? ;) xxxx
Delayed start to ARC 2012
heather manfredi
24/11/2012, Las Palmas Gran Canaria

Well what a difference 5 minutes can make. We were all geared up and ready to go, we had looked at the weather and knew it was interesting(!) and had started to make plans accordingly when we went off to the Skippers briefing at the hotel. We were given all of the information we needed in terms of starting procedure and then the detailed weather forecast for the next week. this was a little concerning as the wind is in the wrong direction, strong and with gusts up to over 30 knots, plus 6m swells, and on top of that there was another nasty bit of weather coming in which made taking a different course just as much of a challenge! After that , the organising chairman of the ARC made the announcement that for the 3rd time in 27 years, the race start was to be postponed for 48 hours. We were very relieved, after all this is a rally for a high proportion of people who are new to sailing, plus a significant number of families.
So now we have a couple of days to chill out, just a bit more shopping to do but its good to know we are ready and have some time on our hands.

Preparations for the ARC 2012
heather manfredi
23/11/2012, LAs Palmas Gran Canaria

we have been here a week now and my how the time has flown!.. its a full on week with seminars all day on sailing, safety, provisioning and all matters related to the crossing. in the evenings there are always sundowners and other entertainment. on friday evening it was the official opening party hosted by the Gran Canaria council. there were dancing girls, a magician and speeches by the organisers from here as hosts and the cruising club back in the UK. we all had a ball and it set the expectation for the kids in that they now expect to dance the night away. sadly this results in cranky, tired kids so we have had to curtail their socialising a bit. This week they have been to the kids club in the mornings which has been a blessing as there has been a host of jobs and checks to do on the boat as well as provisioning for the crossing. no popping out to the shops when you run out of milk mid atlantic! then i realised that this thing called christmas will be happening and to which i have given no thought to, so , as the shops here are so good i have managed to get some presents prepared.
it really is a great atmosphere here and for me, it is lovely to share the excitement and fears with like minded people. the kids have made friends already and we hope to be in the company of some of these boats along the way to Sydney.
Last night was the Lagoon owners cocktail party. As it was the last chance to dress up for a while Isabella and i dug our best frocks and heels out and it was a lovely evening. great cocktails, fab thai finger food and a smaller crowd to chat with and share stories of our lovely catamarans.
The freezer, fridges, tanks, cupboards etc are all full! problems with gas supply and still waiting for fresh veg to be delivered . this eventually arrived with some interesting errors, 70 individual oranges was translated to 70 kilos. luckily we were able to return them. storing all the fresh stuff to maximise its life is then an interesting project. The provisioning seminar taught me some tricks and tips and only time will tell so will report back later if we are still enjoying iceberg lettuce on arrival in St Lucia!

25/11/2012 | Wendy Fish
Have been thinking of you knowing this is about the time to cross the Atlantic. We all wish you a safe journey. Will you be able to update during the crossing? A big hug from us all, Wendy
arrival at Gran Canaria
heather manfredi
15/11/2012, Las Palmas Gran Canaria

All through the night watches we could spot the distant lights of Gran Canaria and as usual, we had every type of weather on the way there. Unreasonably, it was grey and raining on our arrival and not the red carpets that we fully expected! It was around 8am so still early and the previous day had been a national strike day all through Spain , nothing was very organized that early. We tied up at the fuel dock and took on fuel as there would be very little opportunity later in our stay and its not the done thing on departure day for the ARC! We were then escorted to our berth in a separate part of the marina with other catamarans and families, the children were soooo thrilled. Charles went up to do the formalities with customs and checking in for the ARC and I cleaned the boat outside and in whilst Sarah, our lovely neighbour took the kids off my hands. Pretty good baby sitting service so far! We were then greeted warmly be Chester, the golden retriever from 2 boats up who seems to think the pontoon is his. After a cat nap we headed out for sundowners and met some of the other people who are doing this amazing adventure. I love hearing everyones stories and learning why its important for them to do this. Already we have met another anglo/aussie family who are doing roughly the same route as us with 2 kids. So good to finally be here and get on with the final preparations.


Agadir to Canary Islands
heather manfredi
13/11/2012, Canaries

A bit of hassle with our documentation for leaving Morocco. A lot of waiting around and talk of us not getting them until the following day! Some people had been waiting for 8 hours, and then of course, as soon as you have your papers you really need to leave but with delays like that you can end up with the wrong weather. Thanks to Charles, we had ours sorted and to be safe we left the marina after dinner and anchored off in the bay which actually was a lot less squeaky than the marina which was suffering from a lack of WD40 on the pontoons !!
4.30 am had us all up apart from sleeping beauty Isabella. Cup of tea and off into the darkness through the well lit tankers and unlit fishing boats (always fun ).
We noticed a nasty vibration after an hour so switched engines and waited for daylight to see what the problem was. After a quick dip in 14 degrees of Atlantic, charles retrieved a carrier bag around the prop! All ok though and on we went. Big swells but the boat took them well, unlike the kids who unusually both had a bout of motion sickness. We had the sails up and one engine going andas the day turned to night the swell became less and we were all able to nap between our watches. Not a single other ship in sight until dawn when there were 5 grouped closely together so a very quiet night. Some spinner dolphins did thier best to entertain us but it was still dark. Morning came and the wind died completely but there they were in the distance, our first sighting of the canaries! Lanzarote is the closest and our course was to go between there and Fuerteventura. After a nap and the kids chores, we cooked up a thai green curry for lunch. The kids passed the time with their books and drawings plus some games on the ipad. I am slowly getting better at napping when not on watch, not even the noise of the engine could keep me awake today.
As I write , we are between the islands near the resort of Playa Blanca. I have very fond memories of this area as I used to take winter holidays with my beloved sisters in this very town and looked out at the boats on the ocean then from many a restaurant and bar!.

Marrakech
heather manfredi
10/11/2012, Morocco!

We picked up our Dacia Logan hire car the night before and sans GPS or map, headed for Marrakech. Google maps provided some help so we were fairly happy. A lovely journey through the Atlas mountains and what a different world for us and the kids to behold. Small berber settlements, lone goatherds tending their flock, camels wandering the fields and trucks loaded up with who knows what! We stopped at a service station for a refreshing real mint tea served with real ceremony, a far cry from our Agip pit stops in Italy. 3 hours later found us in the chaos of Marrakech, but we worked our way through the madness of cars, horses, donkeys and what seemed like a million motorbikes to the calm of our hotel. After a rest we ventured out on foot to the Medina and were treated to snake charmers, dancers, tattooists and vendors of amazing looking fruits, herbs, spices and other unidentifiable objects! The kids were very brave and had snakes coiled around their necks, then we wandered into the souks to get lost. It was all that we imagined and the kids eyes were out on stalks. The souk is enormous but hunger called and we returned to the medina to sample the street food with entertainment provided by the chefs and waiters.
It was a great evening and we rounded it off with a horse and carriage ride back, a very lovely way to be in the middle of the bustle without the hassle.
Following morning we headed back to to the old city to visit the tanneries and learnt how the animal skin is treated there for sending to market. A very basic industry that has probably changed very little since the 12th century. 90 families live and work in that area treating cow, camel, sheep and pig hide. The smell was overwhelming and we were given fresh mint leaves to hold to our noses. After that we walked back to the centre through a non tourist part of town and it was good to see the normal shops and compare them to what we are used to. Once again we visited the souk with a mind to get a momento of our trip but we must have been amongst the very few that visit the town and come away with nothing but memories. The boys had a maroccan haircut then we all had a traditional lunch while the rain passed.
There is much more to see and do, but we wanted to get back in daylight and did so, very content with our road trip!




20/11/2012 | Tracy Elliott
Love this blog - I get a real sense of the place that you and I have often talked of visiting together and I can completely picture it. ;o) x
leaving the Med
heather manfredi
06/11/2012, Gibraltar

left the marina at 0900 on a grey wet morning, very English! The straits of Gibraltar have a number of peculiarities and we were fighting a 3 knot current for a while. After crossing the shipping lanes, we had 30 knots of wind behind us and set a new chilli cat record of 14.7 knots! Yay!
The following morning at sea was Charles birthday, we had every kind of weather and lighting and thunder to boot! Night watches were spent putting the reefs in and shaking them out, 2 little birds came and sheltered in the cockpit for the night then a bunch of dolphins played along with us for almost 3 hours; a busy night!
The next day was Isabellas 7th birthday and at last blue sky and some warmth. The night watches have seen us with thermals, full waterproofs, boots and beanie hats so we were very happy. Having left the caffeine alone I was now able to sleep when not on watch for a while, a big step for me. More sailing which was good practice for me with the reefs. We have now taken delivery of our parasail, but have yet to try it. Slowly over the day and noght the wind completely eased and we motored into the bay of Agadir at 0930 on the 3rd day(9th November).
WE ARE IN AFRICA, ON OUR BOAT!!!!!!! The Marina looks lovely, checked in, washed the boat down and went out for a tagine after researching a side trip to Marrakech


Almerimar to Gibraltar
heather manfredi
03/11/2012, ALmerimar, Spain

At last we get to leave Almerimar (no offence, it's a great place for wintering and storing up but we have placed to go and things to do!!!)
WE left around 5pm, and reckoned on 24 hours to Gibraltar. Weather forecast was not great but if we didn't go now we gad to wait another 4 days and Chilli Cat would have grown roots by then!
On the nose for the evening and then it calmed down to a fairly quiet night but foggy. The lights of the Spanish coast were always with us and a bit of shipping but nothing to worry about.
Day dawned and in a few hours we would be in Gib and on the verge of the next big step.
Weather and sea and tide around point Europa on the big grey rock were just horrible, 39 knots at one point so we got all the sail down and motored through the chaos for a couple of hours. Very, very glad to see the marina approach. Tied up alongside at Queensway marina in the rain(free wash down!) and cleaned the boat and ourselves up. We went out in the evening to see if we could get in to the new James Bond movie, but alas, sold out for the next few nights. The following day we chatted with Matt who was going to come along with us to the Canaries, picked up some parcels and went shopping in Morrisons supermarket. Needed some treats as Charles and Isabella birthdays are coming up! Lots of rain so off to the pub for fish and chips, yummy.

Cordoba visit
heather manfredi
28/10/2012, mainland SPain

Back on the road to visit the historic area of Cordova, we have been told there is a lot to see ! Parked up easily and set off on foot for the old town , and I do mean old. The Mosque or Cathedral here was started in 785 and the Roman bridge dates back to Emperor Augustus, 1st century BC! Apart form all of the historic stuff its such a beautiful town, walled off from the rest of Cordova (which is not worth looking at unless you really need McDonalds). The first building we came across was the former royal stables, now used for Andalusian horse shows in the evening which of course Isabella was very keen to see. After that we went to the Mosque which is the largest Islamic monument in the western world, and third largest mosque in the world. The Christian cathedral was built inside the moqsue after the re-conquest so there is an interesting blend of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles and artwork. Very interesting and atmospheric, we were in there for quite a while. A choir and organist were rehearsing whist we were there, and it was lovely to just sit and enjoy the music. It was all choral music that I recognised and at one point the organist played a few bars of Widor's Toccata which was lovely for two reasons, I was firmly reminded of my dear Dad and it was also the music we had for our wedding procession. Headed out into the sunlight with damp eyes in search of lunch.
An interesting restaurant served up paella which sadly we now regret, as mild food poisoning affected all of us at some point over the following 48 hours! Found a hotel close by so that we could go back into the sights later and catch the horse show. Isabella was entranced by the horses standing up on their hind legs and prancing around, sadly Luca and I missed most of it as he wasn't feeling too great.
Never mind, we loved Cordoba and highly recommend a visit there.


Alhambra visit
heather manfredi
27/10/2012, MAinland SPain

We picked up our car last night and headed north across the Sierra Nevada mountains to Grenada to visit Alhambra palace, just a 2 hour drive away according to Tom Tom. The palace was easy to find and quiet at this time of year so tickets easily obtained and we were given our time slot for entering. We went to the gardens first and the beautiful buildings that surround them. There were a significant number of flowers still out so lots of colour, and of course plenty of oranges. Lovely little fountains and lakes dotted around. Truly lovely and the detail in the buildings was amazing, you could be forgiven for thinking that you were in North Africa. We then proceeded to the main area of palaces, there were 3 of them built under different rulers and again, we were blown away by the detail, especially as the building work initially started 800 years ago! Its so great that it has been preserved for us all to enjoy - another history lesson for the kids and us!

We wanted to continue our road trip to Cordoba in the morning so drove on for an hour or so and found a great little hotel, family room with bath and fast internet and we were happy!

20/11/2012 | Tracy Elliott
So glad you got to do this - and I'll make it one day...

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