There are worse places to spend New Year and Christmas. It's been a good one this year, though very different. We were so happy that my mum was finally able to come out after 24 hours delay and a hotel stay in Gatwick. One less day with us, but we packed as much in as possible whilst she was here, hiring a car and visiting volcanoes, camels, entertaining (but what would Durrell say?!) parrot shows! The weather is about 24 degrees; Puerto Calero is a very touristy spot with lots of people coming up to ask us about our trip.
Christmas was lego-tastic. Santa obviously knew about Mia and Lochy's star wars craze as he bought plenty for them to get on with. Most of it is already done, but it can always be re-done!
Another highlight of Lochy and Mia's stay in Lanzarote was that Kieran from Jersey arrived with his mum and dad to live in Lanzarote and we have all made the most of our time together before we cross the pond. New Year in Puerto Calero was a kareoke extravaganza with Nicola stealing the mike for most of the evening and Mark's birthday was spent walking along the coast - just like the cliff paths at home. Only volcanic.
New Years resolutions? To write more regularly in the blog! Watch this space! Oh, and a very Happy New Year xxx
You can probably tell how much I have settled in to a place by the presence or absence of blogs and I had settled into Gibraltar so didn't really think about writing. Hence the dearth of blogs for a month and a sudden frenzy of catching up.
We left Gibraltar on 12 December with what seemed a good weather window. A little light on the wind front but it was no bad thing motoring out of the bay and across the strait. Actually, the strait was a lot less scary by day, in the sunshine. And very quiet too. Obviously all the tankers had saved themselves up for our arrival.
The wind came out for about three days and we made good progress down towards the Canaries - Lochy caught another tuna, Mia gutted it - that's my girl!!
On the night of 14th December, there is an unbelievable show of shooting stars - it is literally raining with them. Every 10 seconds you could see 1 or even 2 at a time. Mark's Focus magazine tells us that it is debris from the astroid Phaethon - which we had naturally thought all along (in fact Lochy commented "Mummy, isn't that debris from the astroid Phaethon?") but it was nice to be confirmed!
On the Thursday, the wind died right down and we had to motor again, however we worked out that we would arrive at night, so we slowed right down, even turning round to follow a turtle for a few minutes. We also threw another fender overboard and this time got the kids to manouvre the boat to retrieve it.
In hindsite, it would have been better to have caned it down as fast as we could, even if that meant arriving after sunset as the winds came round onto our nose and picked up to 30 knots. The narrative in our log book read "lumpy" and "choppy" and "YUK YUK YUK" which pretty much described the last 12 hours of the trip. However, once again, the kids slept right through, Mia waking up at 9.30am to say "have we arrived, then?"
This was the first trip that no one felt sick - Mia was bouncing around the boat from the whole trip and we managed to do lots of school work - mental stuff like timestables, spellings etc, so that we can have a break when Grandma arrives.
I can see on the internet that my mum has made it to the the UK - Jersey airport having been closed all day yesterday, that's a huge relief - and we are really looking forward to her arrival tomorrow - so, please don't snow in the UK tonight - I really want to see my Mummy!
Speak soon, love Catherine x
Gibraltar reminds me of Jersey - but whereas we affectionately refer to Jersey as the Rock - I think we're going to have to have a rethink on that name - the rock that looms over us is immense and we have learnt by visiting the museum over 200 million years old. It is definitely more rockish than Jersey. But, like Jersey, it doesn't take long before you are bumping into people you know in the supermarket, giving the place a strong sense of community and claustrophobia at the same time. The difference is if you want to get off Gibraltar you don't have to spend over £100 on a flight - you can just hop over the border to Spain. Of course there are other differences. Although it's cold enough for us to buy a heater, when the sun is out the temperature was still about 21 degrees. They drive on the right. And Spain still wants the end of their country back. I think the French gave up on us a long time ago! There are also apes at the top of the rock - and we enjoyed a trip up in the cable cars to see them - very cute!
We were made to feel really welcome by Heidi, David and Milly who lived within spitting distance of our boat. I am so grateful to Heidi and David for giving me a lift over to Spain so I could do some Santa shopping without the kids, cooking us a meal, taking us to Morrisons, looking after the kids so we could get on with some boat jobs, amongst other things. I was also delighted to bump into Julie, a fellow Speech therapy student from over 15 years ago who I bumped into in Morrisons and who also had us over for a meal.
So, our overall impression of Gibraltar was of the wonderful hospitality. Thank you everyone. We were quite sad to leave!
You travel all around the world (or in our case only across the med so far) to experience new tastes and cultures but there's something strangely reassuring about being back on British soil for a little while, with British supermarkets and X factor. OK, so we've not been missing X factor but at least I know who everyone is talking about on Facebook now on a Saturday evening! So, our trip to Gibraltar. We reckon it will take us about 23 hours to get there (give or take), so if we leave at 11am, we would be negotiating the bay and all it's traffic during the day. What we didn't account for was the speed at which Pegasus travels with the wind on her back (I told you it was a steep learning curve!) and we keep reducing sail as much as we can but our speed over ground is still 8 knots with all our reefs in and a handkerchief for a headsail.
"Hmmm. At this rate, we'll be in Gibraltar at 4 in the morning" I joke. Not funny. We do literally fly all the way to Gibraltar and the AIS (equipment that tells us where all the big boats are) is looking busy. As it is 4 in the morning, there is what can only be described as a "car park" of tankers just outside the bay - possibly 12 or so just milling around, waiting for opening hours in the bay. Mark and I are both up from 2am on look out. It is pouring with rain - and it's really difficult to see anything. Apparently Gibraltar rock is unmistakeable, even at night. We can't see anything, except the lighthouse on the end - always a bonus. As we turn into the bay, the wind picks up, rather than sheltering us as we hoped, and the rain is sideways. We are both soaked through - literally - whilst the kids are toasty and warm inside - as we negotiate the traffic inside the bay - HUGE tankers loom over us. There are so many red, green and white lights around that I don't know how on earth we are going to find the marina. And then we see Morrisons - big yellow letters welcome us - and then I know where we are! We head back down a little and find the entrance to the marina. It is now 7.30 in the morning and the marina doesn't open for another hour. Lochy wakes up to see all the big ships and Mia sleeps through it all until we are nicely moored up inside the marina - 13 hours of sleep!
We are parked at the bottom of the big rock, apparently. We haven't seen the top yet, but hopefully, later this week, we will be able to go up in the cable car and visit the apes. Mia and Lochy met a new friend who took them bowling on Sunday whilst we attempted to dry out the boat and caught up on our laundry. I'll write more about Gibraltar later this week - That's enough for the time being!
There were no red arrows when we left Ibiza and for the first couple of hours we had a lovely sail on a broad reach SW to Formentera, a little island just off Ibiza. We would have liked to have anchored there for one night, but once again time is pushing on and we need to get to Gibraltar. I love doing proper sailing. Where the wind is on the back of the boat and the swell is going in the same direction. Pegasus literally feels like she is flying and I've got a big grin on my face. Mark has warned me once about saying "this is nice." In the past, it has been followed by a change of sea condition or wind or direction (which consequently means change of sea condition and wind.) Once we turned the corner, the wind was on our nose. For those who don't know anything about sailing, you can't sail directly into the direction from which the wind is blowing. You just have to haul the sails in and sail 'close to the wind' - as close as you can. It turns out, that on a catamaran, close isn't very close, but at least we aren't heeling madly over like we would if we were on one of those boats that only have one bit in the water. We can still leave our cups of tea on the table - astonishing!
A little while back, I had said to Mark "you know, we have to accept that we can't always point in the direction we want to go and stick the engine on. We have to accept it will take a bit longer and tack (zig zag) our way to our destination." So, we dug our heels in, accepted the nauseating swell coming from in front of us, and tacked for 6 hours. When we saw that, on the chart, we had hardly moved in 6 hours, we put the engines on and pointed in the direction we wanted to go. This tacking could wait for another day.
Since we had now lost time and wouldn't be in our destination port in daylight, we decided to push on through as Mark and I were finding the night watches fine. Actually, if the truth be known, I LOVE night watches - we had an amazing bright red full moon rising over the horizon, shooting stars, phosphorescence. Kids snoring loudly in the saloon, audio books on the Ipod.
One of the days we were sailing, we were visited by a helicopter who did a full circle around our boat and got close enough for the kids to see the passenger in the back seat waving to them. "Smile and wave boys. Smile and wave." We think they might have been military or coastguards who were seeing whether we looked like drugs smugglers or not. We've been told that there is a lot of smuggling in this area, so we may be visited by coastguards. Make mental note, keep boat more tidy!
We were also visited by whales and a sunfish - the weirdest looking circular fish that flops along the surface with one fin and an eye looking up at you. If someone in Greece hadn't told us about them we wouldn't have had a CLUE what it was.
We arrive in Motril, on the Costa del Sol, in a little marina, at first light. It feels great to have put some miles in, even if it was very uncomfortable and by motor. And it felt even better to have a hot shower as we haven't been in a marina since Palma, so have had to make do with bucket washes. Motril has a strange little marina, with lovely facilities but hardly any boats - we are the biggest boat here. There seems to be a grain depot here so large cargo ships come in to load and unload. The wind looks good for Gibraltar tomorrow - Easterly for one day (good) then Westerly again the day after (not so good) so we only stay long enough to pick up some food and plan our passage ahead.
It's a steep learning curve this sailing malarky. Reading GRIB files for weather looks straight forward enough but we have subsequently learnt that on a weather report, red arrows are not good. In fact they are positively bad. Apparently, they mean strong winds. We knew that of course, but we didn't think they would be THAT strong. And relentless. For 11 hours. Then the winds died down to a respectable 20 (even that's quite strong) and we could put up a bit of sail and enjoy the rest of the sail to Ibiza. Mark and I were exhausted. When we asked the kids what they thought of the trip, they replied "great Mum" so clearly, they didn't experience any of the feelings I had had. But then they had been cosy inside, watching star wars and didn't see the ropes securing the dinghy snap and have to recover it, like we did! It was interesting to note that the power of communication was completely lost to me as I tried to tell him what had happened. "THE.......THE.......THE.........THE.........DINGHY" was about all I could manage. Anyway, we still have the dinghy, so it was all alright after all. But we did learn that we don't like red arrows.
Luckily the wind died down in time for us to pick up a buoy and the sun was only just setting, so that was uneventful, and we are parked just next to a large black boat with a helicopter and speed boat on top of it. Ibiza seems to be made of money. There are lots of expensive looking clothes boutiques in the marina, but no one sells cooking gas. And there are no big dogs, only little lap dogs. But it's a pretty town, although a LONG walk from where we are moored.
We are waiting for less strong winds so we can head onto Spain. In the meantime, we have had fun exploring caves, playing on the beach, and learning Spanish, so Adios for now xx