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27/08/2012 16:20 EDT, costa del Crime
Well its been a busy 2 weeks since last writing, apologies for the lack of communication but we have been beavering away getting the boat ready for the big off. There has been a flurry of activity on Jon Jon in the last week, lots of crawling on hands and knees in dark small spaces, lots of bloody knuckles and fibreglass itch and of course the obligatory Basil Fawlty outbursts!( Kirsty calls it my DIY Tourrettes) However we now have a salt water supply, lazy jacks, loads of stuff has been moved around, the rigging was checked and given the green light, sails satellite phones, water maker and steering system have been ordered and we are counting down the days till we can get sailing again. It was such an epic journey down we seem to have hit a rut here and cant wait to get back into the swell. Phillipa joined us for a week of sunshine on the costa del siesta where we had fun on anchor, buzzed Roman Abramovich's super yacht, got refused entry to marbella marina , flew the spinnaker for the first time this trip and Phillipa tried her best to coax some dodgy spanish cocktail waiter (probably called Carlos) to join us on Jon Jon as crew. I had to put my foot down and say no! Not because he didnt seem like a nice chap but because I just couldnt get on with the South Spanish work ethic. As we observed of most of the locals down here, he would have rocked up about 10am, done 2 hours crewing before knocking off for a 3 hour lunch with his extended family drinking wine and the like, returned to work about 4pm half cut and sleepy, struggled through the last two hours of the day finishing about 6pm before heading off out at about 10pm to party till the early hours. And people are worried about the spanish economy bringing down the Euro.... I can see a way out of this. I might write to Juan Carlos and suggest that he promote going to bed at a reasonable time and getting up and doing a decent days work as a way out of the economic downturn. And while they are at it fix the daft time system here, we are west of greenwich but an hour ahead, by my reckoning thats 2 hours wrong really. Its summer and its dark at 8am but light at 10.30pm again not conducive to a productive day really! Still we did have a hoot I celebrated turning 43 in true Walsall style listening to Slade and eating a fab curry. Thanks for coming Phillipa and hope the bites heal up!
And the heat kept coming, while Gib is windy and cool the Costa really bakes and once more we had an invasion of gazillions of jelly fish which put paid to jumping off the side to keep cool and sent us scurrying back to the most British place in the world to get working on JonJon albeit a dodgy passage in the fog.
We have been able to catch up with folks in Fowey (Ed and Gaynor) on Skype which has been fab except seeing Eddie in his leather pirate outfit was a bit on the strange side. Regatta week seem to go well and we did feel a bit left out this year. Steve confirmed his place for the crossing by booking his flights to Gran Canaria and we think we may have our final crew member but more on that later as we don't want to tempt fate. The more we think about what lies ahead the more excited we get.
Cant wait to leave!
quick...in case they cant see our ensign.... up with the spinnaker ...Cue Carly Simon
09/08/2012 15:24 EDT, benalmadena
the metro.. good cocktails
09/08/2012 15:21 EDT, Costa Del Sol
To Hell and Back
well we said good bye to Steve and hello to Gibraltar but it was no sooner we had worked out how to get Kirsty on and off the boat with Gibs unfeasibly high pontoon walls, when we had to leave to head up the Costa Del Sol to the not so quaint fishing port of Benalmedena (Torremolinos to you). We broke the journey up stopping off at Estapona, a lovely place full of Russian types in ferraris but the marina made us v welcome with a courtesy bottle of wine on arrival. (which we paid for of course but nice touch) AND..... there was a top Indian Restaurant there where I had my first proper curry in months. Oh it was amazing.....puris, chana dahl, peshawari nan bread to name but a few dishes I gorged on that night. Remember I'm from the Black Country where everything tastes better in a curry. Kirsty goes mad when it comes to my suggestions for a new evening meal! For a midlander to go without a Balti is like a German to forgoe Bratwurst or a Frenchman to forgoe something repulsive in a shell.
The next day we bid Adios to Estapona and headed for Benalmadena, Torremolinos where I spent many days as a child getting sunburnt whilst following Mom and Dad around trying to find the most English place to eat. I wasnt quite sure what to find. The marina as we entered had Goudi inspired picturesque bulidings and the marina seemed quiet on first inpesction and well thought out with boats moored fore and aft around apartment blocks. We were ushered to a gap about 3 ft wide between 2 motor boats which we had fun backing Jon jon into (oh well most the boats there seem to be left for months so whose going to see a couple of fender marks eh??) We got ourselves sorted and then headed for a walk around the marina where we realised the true nature of where we had come.
Dante must have visioned this as he wrote the Divine Comedy. 500m of waterside comprising of hoards of 2 Euro Shops, interspersed with tacky bars where you could smoke a fake hookah while watching man utd on the tele; every 5 metres somebody jumping in front of you to persuade you to part with your hard earned cash to go see Dolphins....(we saw lots but nowhere near Benal, they dont like swimming around McDonald wrappers and plastic bottles); middle aged women from newcastle with henna tatoos, who think that a too tight tshirt over disappearing bikini bottoms are suitable evening attire; Danny Dyer Walkalikies with the tattoed names of all their abandoned children written in fake arabic letters on their arms. Are you getting the picture ...it was HELL. And to cap it all from the day we arrived to the day we left the wind dropped and it became hotter than hell. With no air circulating around the boat we lived in a a sauna for 10 days. I felt like Tom Conti in Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence. And if you did mannage to drop off to sleep at night you were awoken by a bang as yet another loud midnight dolphin trip stormed past the boat.
But we had fun. We had come to spend sometime with Mom and Sister Sarah and nephew Ben, who were on holiday and they had a lovely hotel with a swimming pool and I had my first bath in months. Richard my brother in law arrived towards the end and we took him out for a dawn sail where he landed a couple of fish we had the whole Matthews /Lowe Clan on the boat in the afternoon. It gave me and Kirsty some much needed time to chill.(If that was possible in 40 deg heat). We went on a nostagia trip back to where we had our apartment as kids, (the Queen Vic pub is now closed sadly!) and watched Mo spectactularly win the 5000m in cool air con with a beer. Thanks all we had a great week.
Once the family had departed back on "Package Nightmare Airlines" we had to spend a further 2 days in Hell before the wind changed and we put an overnighter back down to Gib. Once we cleared Marbella we had dolphins and great winds untill we arrived at the Rock and sailed into a fog bank and with approx 50 ships vanishing before our eyes (but showing on the AIS and radar as one giant purple blob) we had an hour of butt clenching motoring around ships before arriving back at the marina. I was thankful for all that RYA fog training done over the years...it really works!!!!!
So what next...... well after much silent deliberation and despite making it clear that she never would, Kirsty has decided she likes long sails and Chritmas in the Carribean would be nice and so Barbados here we come. Steve is coming with us and we seek one more crew if anyone is interested leaving end of nov and arriving Barbados in time for Christmas. Its 3 weeks of fast but fun ocean sailing. We are busy importing steering systems and water makers, I have a few jobs with a sailing school and Kirsty is joining the gym (mainly for the aircon) Phillipa arrives monday and we will go off for a gentle weeks cruising. We wont be home soon!!!
21/07/2012 06:58 EDT, Gibraltar
Well we made it, 1440 miles under the keel and we are in Gib. We've been stranded for days, had to motor long stretches due to lack of winds, been blown out in force 6s, we've seen dolphins galore killer whales, had some great company to sail with, thanks Colin Sandra Mike and Mary, had the magnificently relaible Steve to support us, had drunk times sober times and we've loved every minute (almost!). And the last stretch was as usual unpredicatble and magical.
After leaving Lisbon where we had many cheap beers (Superbock... dont read that wrong) we headed for the Algarve. Supposedly forecast 4 or 5 and a fast sail with a difficult end as we rounded the end of Portugal... we actually found ourselves motoring for 2 days in flat seas and as for the dreaded Capo Vincente ..... we found a few fishing boats to dodge to relieve the boredom. We put into our recommended port of Portimau. We anchored behind the breakwater as we were only staying for a pit stop. I was looking forward to a dive in to cool down from the heat that had built even at 9am but quickly changed my mind. I renamed the port Potty Mouth. The water was filthy and we quickly took the decision to go into the marina where cold showers and cold beer would await! We found the Algarve a bit bizarre, looked like something out of Arabian nights with forts and old fishing villages and with a few thousand Brits plonked there with hidieous hotels. We can ruin anything can't we?
Anyway 1 night in the most expensive marina so far, a trip to a gorgeous fishing village where they land and cook their catch on the same quay and we were off again. This was the final push another long 36 hour sail and we would be in Gib. Light winds again dominated as we headed down towards the straits. It was all getting a bit monotonous when all of a sudden Steve gave a shout he had caught a tuna. I think it made his trip!!!
We kept a watchful eye on the forecasts coming in as we headed down to the straits, this notorious stretch of water is where Africa meets Europe and a particularly vicious wind called the Levante blows Easterly and we needed for it to drop to get through. Also add immense currents and tides and you have one of the most challenging bits of water in the world. But if you want to sail to the med and you boat hasnt got wings, through the straits you must go. Anyway it was a dream for a navigation geek like me!
We rounded Cape Trafalgar at dawn sailed over the place where Nelson destroyed the French and Spanish fleets and it was calm. We called Tarifa radio which is based at the narrowest point 12 miles wide and they told us it was still blowing a Force 7 down there but they were expecting it to drop. We saw one or 2 other boats going for it and so with all that info we double reefed down, engined up a few revs and went for it. Needless to say the wind DIDNT drop and once we were tidally committed we started getting Force 7 squalls every half an hour or so. The boat was a submarine as wave after wave caught the bow. (see video) then it would lull to a force 4 for a bit and we started feeling relieved until another squall blew through. Kirsty adopted her storm position (went to bed with eye patch and ear plugs in) and me and Steve having had little sleep fuelled ourselves with adrenalin and biscuits and fought on. It was clear Jon Jon could cope but it was going to be uncomfortable. Then the wind abated as we approched Tarifa but looking down to the point with Africas Mount Jebel Musa towering over us the sea was awash with white stuff. There was luckily no tide or swell at this point (also not predicted we should have had 3 knots of tide!) so the waves were not large just small and nasty (bit like a Jack Russell). We cranked the engine up and battered through it. Then finally relief as we watched the pointy bit at the bottom of spain pass our beam. The katabatic wind hurtling off Jebel Musa kept us entertained for a while longer but as the magnificent Rock of Gibraltar appeared everything settled and we gently motored in to the marina. Its a great place gib, spanish feel but staunchly British, we are buying Brit food again drinking pints and the marina is an entertaining place, very laid back and you can get anything here. We walked into the first shop we found and bought a new water pump .....no problems. We had to say a sad goodbye to the magnificent Steve who is always welcome back. We will stay here a while before moving onto Southern Spain and possibly the Balearics. Life as they say is good!!!