Slow Sailing

11 August 2017 | Guadiana River, Portugal
04 August 2017 | La Linea, Spain
31 July 2017 | Marina Smir, Morocco
18 July 2017 | Granada, Spain
29 June 2017 | Pollenca, Mallorca
19 June 2017 | Mahon, Menorca
08 June 2017 | Ciudadela, Menorca
26 May 2017 | Soller, Mallorca
06 May 2017 | San Antonio Harbor, Ibiza
24 April 2017 | Ibiza, Balearic Islands
02 April 2017 | Valencia, Spain
21 March 2017 | Brittany, France
22 February 2017 | England
03 February 2017 | Valencia, Spain
22 December 2016 | Vero Beach, Florida
23 October 2016 | Real Club Nautico, Valencia
07 October 2016 | Valencia, Spain
26 September 2016 | Valencia, Spain
18 September 2016 | Toulon, France
01 September 2016 | Corsica, France

Did Gib

11 August 2017 | Guadiana River, Portugal
Heather
We let our boat have a week's rest in La Linea, Spain while we checked out Gibraltar and did a little land travel. Marina Alcaidesa is up in the bay so while all the wind is happening most days in the Straits, it is calm and hot inside. It was a 10 minute walk to the border of Spain & Gibraltar and crossing is easy to say the least. You have to show your passport as you walk by the officials who may or may not look at it. Then you walk a little further to the airport runway, most likely wait for a plane to land or take off, then the gates open and you can continue on to the rock! It wasn't too unfamiliar to hear British accents as Spain is full of British people especially in the Baleares and along the east coast of Spain where all the sun is. But it did seem odd to see signs in English. We spent a couple days seeing the sights and trying to absorb a bit of all the history. And in the grocery stores there we skipped out with several jars of peanut butter & decent crackers since the Spanish aren't into these items but we are.
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We spent all of one day on the upper rock visiting several interesting places. These included an old Moorish castle that was built in the 1300's & a very large and beautiful cave called St Michael's. I think it is one of the largest caves we've ever been in and was apparently used for a hospital during WWII. It is now periodically used for concerts and of course daily tourists. They had parts of it lit up with colored lights.
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Our favorite parts were the Great Siege Tunnels, the Mediterranean Steps and of course the macaques (tailless monkeys) which helped us (or at least me) get over our bad memories of monkeys chasing and baring their teeth at us on trails in Malaysia! We met some really mean ones (there were a lot of sweet ones too though) that scared the crap out of us. But these were very nice and one even used my shoulder as a springboard to get from one wall to another and it felt light as a feather. Many were nursing babies and doing that nit picking that monkeys seem to love to do. I think Jon is still a little scarred though from past events. There is a potential fine of 4000 pounds for feeding a macaque but this doesn't apply to tour operators who feed them peanuts for pictures.
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I hadn't realized that the Rock of Gibraltar isn't solid rock as it is filled with some 70km of tunnels! A lot of them were built in 1779 by the British during the Great Siege to protect themselves from Spanish & French attacks. It seems unfathomable that a whole garrison of men could live in these tunnels for up to a year with all supplies. And later on, more were built during WWII. Dwight Eisenhower was even holed up down in the tunnels in 1942 while organizing forces to go into N. Africa. We certainly have never been in any tunnels as long as these, except in cars or trains and they were very interesting to stroll through and read all the exhibits.
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There were some trails that linked the sights but the best one was on the SE side of the rock where there was a steep, winding stone staircase that no one was on. It was the only place you could get away from the crowds and see something of what Gib would have looked like before all the stone and concrete were laid. It was a hazy day and we were quite happy to have a break from the sun & heat and we still got some good views of the Straits. It was a really fun day and another milestone in our travels. I have thought about visiting this place for YEARS! At night the rock was all lit up right off our bow in the slip.
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I had decided that I wanted to visit the mountaintop town of Ronda, about 45 miles north of Gib as it was spoken highly of in tourist info and looked to be a beautiful setting. We took a bus and then a train up into the mountains to see it and are really glad we did. Jon loved it there! Set on a steep cliffy canyon with a very dry landscape falling away on both sides and a great midevil village with lots of pretty spots, it was very picturesque and felt really old too. It dates to Moorish rule like everything around here. There were several old bridges that spanned the canyon but the most impressive is the Puente Nuevo bridge. Once again, our hotel was right in the center of everything and had an AC that worked really hard to keep us cool. During the day it was 115 degrees and any breeze would glue my contact lenses to my eyeballs. But even so we got out there for some hikes trying to beat the worst of the sun and later we would try to stay in the shade of the buildings ambling along the streets each with our own big bottle of water. For some reason, there was a sports store chain there called Intersport that stocked a lot of good shoes. And there were a LOT of stores- like CVS pharmacies in the US- one on every corner! Since our shoes have completely worn out from being new in January (the sun!) we were worried they wouldn't last much longer, so we both got a fresh pair. The town had such a thriving, picked up, cared for feel that was kind of missing in Gibraltar and rates as one of our favorite places in Spain although I have quite a few of them now! I read that Michelle Obama visited here in 2014 on a family trip so it can't be too shabby. The train worked out well.
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We scurried around the night we got back to get ready to leave the slip and head out of the Med and around the corner to head up the Atlantic coast of Spain & Portugal so we could see some of it. I was feeling a little sad about leaving the Med in the first place because it is so nice and the water is so clear, blue and warm and the weather so mild! And wouldn't you know that first day out we had to round and then anchor at Tarifa point, mainland Europe's southernmost city which is one of the windiest places in the area and gets minimum 30 kts for over 300 days a year. Yippee! Our anchorage was full of swell and wind that gives you that creeped out feel and you are trapped aboard because there is no way you could even get a dinghy ashore without capsizing on a breaker. That night neither of us could sleep a wink and we finally just got up and had a long coffee session waiting for it to get light enough to leave and head northward. We discussed that the wind generator gives us heartburn. While it made over 50 amps that night, it also served to make us more stressed out because it was roaring in the wind gusts and then braking so it wouldn't self destruct. It makes it all sound worse than it is. We like the solar panels a lot better. Jon says he has grown to hate wind. I think he might feel differently in the coming months when he is trying to get somewhere under sail! But as you would expect, as soon as we got away from Tarifa and its reputation for being a great place to kite board and get your hair blown to bits, it settled down and we actually had a nice, albeit long trip to Cadiz. We're starting to see more sea life now on the Atlantic side like different types of dolphin, sunfish, lots of fish jumping and more sea birds. The water is greenish and the air is cooler (much to Jon's approval) and the places we're visiting have been great.

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The seaside city of Cadiz is supposedly one of Europe's oldest. It is nice to approach by boat and has a long entrance around a peninsula that the city sits on. We checked into a marina there because there is no anchorage and it was a 20 minute walk to the old town on a promenade. Everything was so ship shape and pretty with old trees, fountains everywhere and lovely plazas. We both just loved this place. Most of the museums didn't even charge a fee and had interesting collections such as one being devoted to puppets and it was located inside the old gateway wall to the city. There were puppets from all over the world including Indonesia, Burma, Russia, China- who knew? And the city museum had this massive model of 18th century Cadiz made of mahogany, ivory and silver. The seaside promenade ran along the shore past forts, parks, beaches and nearing the end, the cathedral. It was a great couple days touring this city. And the cooler weather was welcome.
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Then yesterday, we cast off at 5am and made our way 66 miles further to the mouth of the Guadiana River which forms the boundary between Portugal and Spain. Along the way, we gave a warbler a ride and it reminded me of all the times in the distant past when birds took a rest on our deck underway. It's been awhile since we've had a visitor like that. The river is really interesting and it was fun to take a walk in Portugal this morning and then in Spain this afternoon!
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Our sail is on it's way and so we took the opportunity while it is being shipped to head up the river 20 miles to see some popular old river towns before going back down for the hopeful meet & greet with DHL. We've left the cool of the Atlantic for the next couple days as we are inland now and it was 101 degrees today. Jon is panting, my eyes are dry again and the air smells like dry rocks. But the towns are set right across from one another, each with its own fort looking down on us. It is both lively but peaceful here not to mention unique.
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A Thousand Welcomes

04 August 2017 | La Linea, Spain
Heather
I think we kind of lucked out on how calm the overnight was to Morocco because the sea was like glass all night and we haven't seen it like that again! Progress was slow though as we kept bucking the 2+ kt current that constantly flows into the Mediterranean Sea to make up for all the evaporation. We slept in our regular bed rather than make up the sea berth in the main salon which meant we got some good zzz's. Just at sunset, a tug & tow passed us- he was carrying an offshore oil rig bound for Turkey. A long way to go towing that!
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We pulled in to Marina Smir which is 26 miles across from Gibraltar and it was hopping with beachgoers and jet skis everywhere but not many yachts and plenty of slips available. We pulled up to the fuel dock to check in to the country which went smoothly and were assigned a berth. But when we got over to the area where our slip was to be it was in a sea of jet ski dockage (the most common vessel around we noted) and there was even a jet ski float occupying our assigned spot. Back over to the fuel dock to inquire about a vacant berth, preferably in an area where yachts go! They gave us a good spot this time. Ashore in the marina complex, it was funny to see the customs officials sitting down at a card table under a tree to eat lunch together out of a big communal platter. They do 24 hr shifts and sleep upstairs so there is always someone on duty no matter what time you arrive. Later on in the evening, we saw them lined up on a carpet facing East bowing in prayer. But unlike Indonesia, we heard no loudspeakers calling them to do so. I will never forget the volume of those calls in Indo.
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We inquired about getting in to the old city of Tetouan for the following day and were advised that rather than try to take a bus or get a communal cab, we should hire a guide and a private taxi. We generally dislike being insulated in this way but went along with it to avoid any hassle and to try to be normal. For the rest of that afternoon, we just walked the marina complex which was nothing special and we generally didn't like the area as it was mobbed and a bit run down.
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The city of Tetouan is a UNESCO recognized site and is about 45 minutes from Marina Smir. Along the way there, we passed the summer residence of the Royal Family and were impressed with the cleanliness of the surrounding streets and the beauty of the landscaping. There were many workers along the road making sure every leaf was picked up. We met our guide Khalim on the outskirts of the medina in our private taxi and then began strolling around together. It wasn't too long ago that I didn't even know what a medina was but now I know it is the old Arab quarter of a N. African town. Marked by the narrowest streets we've encountered so far, it is just for pedestrians and in a maze that can be difficult to keep one's bearings in. There were lots of mosques but they were closed since it wasn't time for prayer and we usually cannot enter them anyway. In the market area there were all manner of goods for sale from clothing- mainly djellabas to leather goods, chickens and fruits & vegetables. They also make their own cheese. There were also all the dye colors you could choose to paint your walls or the walls of the medina. They tan their own leather in the medina and we got to see the area where they do this with some leather being cleaned but for the most part, all was quiet since it was Saturday. I think smells were less too! It was really interesting to peek into alcoves and see the residents of the medina sewing shoes by hand, using small looms to make clothing, rising & baking bread in wood-fired ovens, hammering out leather purses and belts. There was a lot of hustle and bustle and it felt like it was thriving.
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One thing is there were plenty of cats. Even though they lived outside you could see they were being cared for. This mother with kittens was lying in her cardboard box and had the greatest eye contact. I think that image is what I will carry with me the strongest for this visit.
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Since we had a guide we were looking forward to learning a lot of history about Tetouan and getting sort of an in depth tour but really, our guide was pretty busy smoking and talking on his phone, but he was nice enough. He also kept bringing us to shops where the storekeepers would try to sell us carpets, trinkets or something other that was "a good price for you". Everyone would ask where we were from and then say the words 1000 welcomes or welcome to Morocco. They were very nice about us not wanting to have a huge rug on our boat but that didn't deter them from rolling out one rug after another while we sat with a cup of strong mint tea in our hands. Toward the latter part of our tour of the medina, our guide Khalim turned us over to a friend of his because he needed to go home and give his wife a key. So, we did another rug joint, saw another rooftop view and then were showed back to our waiting cab. We blasted back to the marina like we were in a rocket ship. And to a late lunch on board our boat. We were kind of in a state of I'm not sure what.

We had a nice time. We are very familiar with all of this though, this general feeling of "Huh?!" but have been removed from it for all the time we've been in organized Europe. It reminded me of this saying in SE Asia "same same but different". We have really been enjoying our independence and ability to do our own thing and buy what we want when we want. Anyway, given that we didn't care for Marina Smir and none of the major sites in Morocco are near it, we decided that as long as we don't get distracted with something else in the meantime, we'll head to Rabat, Morocco on the Atlantic side on our way to the Canaries to see more of it. From there we can easily train to Marrakesh where it seems most of the most important sites are. We would really like to see the Sahara still! And, I never got that camel ride. We're looking forward to trying to make that work.
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The following morning, we topped up with bargain fuel, checked out of Morocco and bounced our way back over to Spain into lots of wind and current. We finally saw the rock of Gibraltar! We pulled into Marina Alcaidesa which is steps away from the runway and Gibraltar border and at night the rock is lit up over the bow of the boat. We're officially checked back in to Spain and the boat is all set too. Yippee!

Some Spanish Sights

31 July 2017 | Marina Smir, Morocco
Heather
Written 7/28
We're en-route to Morocco right now, making a straight shot from Cartagena and crossing just inside the Straits of Gibraltar but still in the path of all the shipping in & out of the Med. We're fighting current and our ETA for tomorrow is going up! We've already plotted out that there are 8 hours of darkness and we'll do one 3 hour and one two hour one each. We're rusty at this! Part of the reason for rushing over here is that both our visas and our VAT tax time have or will be expiring and so we need to reset the clock with a visit outside the EU. We're excited to see Morocco although we know there won't be enough time for a thorough visit because we have to get back to Spain (fingers crossed on that one) to pick up our mainsail because we thought better of having it shipped to Morocco! Too bad because we really wanted to see more of the Sahara than the red on our decks and the famous cities of Marrakesh & Casablanca. Those are too far outside of the Med to sail to for now. We'll see what we get done and how we feel about this new place.

After we left the berth yesterday morning, we scooted over to an anchorage just outside the harbor and jumped in the water to check the bottom. It was so warm we were hot in our wetsuits and the fish were all around having breakfast on the stuff we were brushing off the hull. The bottom looked good though and we didn't have much to remove thank goodness. We haven't quite recovered from the rug of grass we had earlier in the season so we are a little paranoid still. Then we got underway and motored till 10pm with 1 hour of wind enough to sail. We rounded Cabo de Gata with its unusual white rocks and stark but beautiful mountains. I so wanted to stop here for a day to hike as it is a park but the swell rolls in and makes it all but impossible to enjoy and we are on a mission anyway to make some miles.
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The rest of our southern Spain travels went great and we had such a nice time plus learned a lot. From the Sierra Nevada mountains we headed to Granada and stayed at an Air Bnb place that was hardly OK. It is such a crapshoot. It was on the edge of the famous neighborhood of Albayzin, Granada's old Muslim quarter. We stood at sunset on the Mirador San Nicolas looking over at the Alhambra like Bill Clinton did many years ago during his presidency. I saw a picture somewhere of that. Then we went back to our baking hot room where the best part was taking multiple showers and playing with the kitten they had. The next day we stayed out touring from dawn to dusk doing the city, moving in & out of little shops. It was hard not to buy a balloon light but the power is wrong and plus, where would we put one? They're so pretty though. I loved all the running fountains that reminded me of Rome. We soaked up the Arab/Spanish feel and ate Moroccan style gyros before the start of our timed entrance ticket at the Alhambra palace. The grounds were lovely and complemented the reddish stone of the buildings. The details of the interior rooms while void of furniture, were so fine they made the Taj look plain to me.
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Seville ended up being our favorite city because the buildings were so beautiful and there was such a good vibe to it. Plus, we stayed in a great hotel with AC and all the luxuries that we were missing like a super comfy bed. I have to say though that our experience in Europe has been amazing in that we can stay right in the middle of the oldest part or most interesting areas and be on a budget at the same time. We can get cars, fly around, find marinas (although they are never as cheap as I want them to be for that square of water), it is all here. If we stay in a place we don't like it is more often the fact that we tend to book last minute and it can be hard to tease out the reviews to get a gem every time.
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The Plaza de Espana building was finished in 1929 for Seville's international fair. Now used as government offices, you can stroll around it looking at the ceramic tile everywhere and a unique mural for every province in Spain. The horse carriages circle the fountain in the center and the whole scene is beautiful as well as the adjacent park. We visited the Seville Cathedral and pondered whether Christopher Columbus's bones were or were not in the mausoleum. I read that he might also be in the DR. We also appreciated the gore of religious sculpture of the time- love the up close vasculature of this one. I think it is more detailed than my anatomy cadaver was in nursing school!


Next was the city of Cordoba. We stayed in a very old Spanish house with interior courtyard in a studio apt with a kitchen which was welcome because we were living on big salads for dinner and were in the mood for something else. I never do too well eating out a lot and I should just let Jon order for me because I always order the wrong thing. This happened in Seville and the next day I was only interested in eating soup but could only find this pureed vegetable stuff in the store which Jon nicknamed "compost soup" which it really did taste like actually!
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I loved Cordoba too, it felt the oldest of any place I've been and I found it very intriguing for some reason. Especially the old Jewish quarter. There are so many interesting old doors in Europe too. You could have a coffee table book just with pics of unique doors. Cordoba has the Mezquita Mosque which was founded in 785. But it was built over top of a Christian Visigothic church that had been there since 600. In 1236, the Christians took it back and in the 1520's it was Charles V who changed the look the most to make it cathedral like rather than mosque like. What you get is this incredible building with a mish-mash of arches, pillars, domes, 1600kg of gold on display in one alcove and a lovely courtyard of orange trees in the entry area. It would seem hard to know which religion to worship here or how to believe that one is more right than the other because this place is so mixed up, but lovely in it's history and architecture not to mention the sheer size of the building.

There is also the Alcazar palace. Originally a castle in the 13th century, it became the headquarters for the Inquisition for the Christian Monarchs. Now it is full of gardens and no one is dying here which is good. Adjacent is a horse stable, built in the 1500's and now used as Cordoba's association for traditional Andalusian horse enthusiasts. We went to a great performance there one night. The routines were choreographed to Spanish music, some including flamenco dancing, the horses stepping in diagonal patterns, backwards, tight circles- very different than what we've seen before. All in a beautiful, historic venue. We both really enjoyed it.
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On the way back to the boat, we stopped in the town of Jaen for lunch and a leg stretch and visited the oldest 11th century Arab baths in Europe. They also had a really nice art exhibit in the same building by both local and international artists. These paintings were among our favorites. Everywhere we go, there is something interesting to see.
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Once back at the boat, we threw away all the things that we so carefully harvested from our old liferaft because they stunk to high heaven! Its funny because when we bought this hypalon raft years ago they said it was so much better than a PVC raft because it didn't smell. Well, after having the boat closed up for a week and a half and coming back to it, we beg to differ! And now we have a PVC raft but thankfully it is all sealed up and we won't smell it unless we have to deploy it. Here's a pic of it after we pulled the little string to inflate the dream house.
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We slapped a coat of varnish on the toerail, did a little more local sightseeing and regrouped and then here we are under way motoring, dodging ships, wishing we were ashore moving around. It is glassy calm except for all the fish and dolphin jumping. And we saw small whale. No killer whales yet but we are looking. They are supposedly around here at this time of year. Hopefully all will stay quiet overnight and by tomorrow afternoon, we'll be getting to know Morocco!

As always, there are more pics in the album if you click on one of these in the blog text. I haven't done any labeling of pics yet though.
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Vessel Name: EVERGREEN
Vessel Make/Model: Tashiba 40 Hull #158
Hailing Port: E. Thetford Vermont
Crew: Heather and Jon Turgeon
Extra:
Over the years, we've explored much of the Caribbean Sea & Atlantic East coast. In January 2012, we left the USA and headed for the Pacific. We visited the Galapagos, French Polynesia, Samoa, Cook Islands & Tonga before heading to New Zealand. We've enjoyed thousands of miles of beautiful sailing, [...]
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