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!!!
14/07/2012 08:36 EDT, Lisbon
this is a bit of a ritual as you go from country and country you need to change courtesy flags. We do it at see at the precise point where one sea boundary finshes and the next one starts ...its a bit of ritual. (any Kirsty likes the photo)
14/07/2012 08:32 EDT, Lisbon
At my request we put into Ria Potevedra on wednesday and what a place. Similar to a Norwegion Fjord but obviously not as good as Mitch reminded me on bookface, we sailed 10 miles up river to a place called Combarro. A cute little village with a marina but nothing to write home about untill you take a small walk up some small steps and you are into another world. Ancient fishermans cottages and fish drying storage areas hewn into solid granite overlooking the water it was like Disney had constructed the place for a film. Most of the buildings are now used as bars restaurants and tapas bars. We tried the informous green peppers and lashings of beer and just fell in love with the place. If we hadnt got such a mission we probably would have still been there now.
But alas we must push on. We left the next day with the warm sun and wind on our backs and after the stunning sail we had the day before we were looking forward to getting into the fast track trade winds to push us south. Of course the winds did blow from the north as they always do here ...but only 8/9 knots which after hours of trying to kids ourselve swe could sail, meant employing the engine once more or else it would have taken 3 weeks to get to Lisbon. By nightfall on the first night it was clear the new engine would be getting a hammering again. I was a bit hacked off to say the least and wondered when the forecasts would ever get it right. Its not so much the noise but the cost of burning up diesel that is the issue. Anyway sat out glum in the dark on my own listening to the engine whiring away the dolphins came to the rescue again. We have had them a lot, even at night but this time we must have been travelling through some dense phopherescent plankton plumes. These are small sea creatures that when you agitate them glow, and the boat leaves a glowing trail behind it at night. More interestingly when you flush the loo as it sucks up sea water its looks like fairies have invaded the toilet bowel!! As this large pod of dolphins bore down on the boat in the dark they left glowing trails of plankton behind them drawing patterns in the sea around Jon Jon. In my life I have yet to see something as incredible as that. And this went on for about an hour it was magical eerie and mesmirising. In the end I couldnt keep it to myself anylonger and woke up Steve and Kirsty to watch.
By the second night we were starting the feel the strain of 4 hour sleep shifts when the wind picked up and we started to fly. Its amazing what that does for morale as Jon Jon surfed waves and you can really feel the power in the boat. I decided to perk me up on my shift |I would fly full sail no matter what while the Kirsty and Steve slept and was hurtling at 7.5 knots down the swell in the dark having a ball when a loud crack stopped me in my tracks, I had broken a small but significant part of the mainsail called the kicker. I fixed it in the dark but decided to be a bit more conservative in my sail plan after that!
Finally this morning after 48 hours we pulled into Lisbon. The marina is a fab place to chill for a couple of days go explore lisbon and wait for the winds to change for the push to the Algarve. Only 280 miles left to Gib!!!
11/07/2012 08:27 EDT, somewhere off the Spanish Coast
A foreward apology, . ......firstly for the lack of blogs truth is we have been sailing hard and where we have found ports no wifi, also some people have requested more nautical phrases ...there are lots in this one I'm afraid, more than sheets on a boat.
Well Gijon was lovely although we didnt expect to spend quite so much time there. The wind came in from the west due to yet another rain belt hitting the UK and stayed put. We tried to leave just before the really bad bit but were beaten back not by the 20 knots of winds so much as the swell. A 'small' swell down here would be a lumpy day in England and a large swell as we have had recently the waves can reach 2-3 m high ie which means up to 20 feet from trough to peak which is ok downwind but impossible beating upwind. We went about and returned to Gijon for a few days. This was a fortuitous as the waterpump packed up so it gave us chance to fix it (after failing to find a replacement). Its working now ...just .... and we need to desperately find a new one once in Gib or its the UDS (ref blackadder) for us!. It was also fortuitous as Gijon is fab, great bars nightlife, lovely people, fantastic marina and some really great roman ruins to explore we had a ball. (Too much one night, the 2 euros a bottle rioja got the better of us). If you get the chance go to Gijon ... we WILL return. Finally the westerly wind was replaced by a north west and we could move, but as is ususally the case it went from 20 knots to 2 knots, and we had to motor. We made the decision to push on around the corner so to speak onto the west coast, missing out some great Rias to explore but allowing us to pick up the more reliable trade winds . So after 16 hours of boring uncomfortable motoring we pulled into La Coruna which is unremarkable in every aspect and apart from cheap beer (2.50 a pint in the marina) we couldnt find anything to love about it. So we left next day and I am writing this as we wing our way on a broad reach ..down hill towards portugal. The expected 4/5s havent kicked in yet so we are only "bustin 5 knots" but "we're on a boat" and the sun is out and we are finally sailing South. Its starting to feel like it should have in South Brittany.
As for boat life.. its really suiting us and we are getting used to the long sails. Whilst in marinas you have to take what you get in terms of washroom quality which varies a lot!! and just like going into the bathroom in a hotel room to find out what shampoo goodies they have given you, the first thing we do on coming alongside is run to the showers to find out what they are like.... usually followed by a sense of disappointment ..usually followed by a beer. There is a daily forage for fresh food to be done... usually followed by a small tipple as Kirsty puts it. At sea its just sleep off shift and sail on shift and do some cleaning and cooking. Life is pretty simple but you always seem to be busy fixing something or changing sail etc.
Anyway this is supposed to be my off shift so nighty night and I'll report in when we are further south.