13 June 2017 | Santa Pola
12 June 2017 | Caletta de Velaz
12 June 2017 | Gibraltar Straits
12 June 2017 | Rota and Cadiz
12 June 2017 | Ria Guadiana
02 May 2017 | Ihla da Culatra
14 November 2016 | Lisbon
13 November 2016 | Figueira da Foz
04 November 2016 | Porto and Leixoes
31 October 2016 | Viana do Costello
31 October 2016 | Sanxenxo and Baiona
19 July 2017 | Valencia
On 16/06/17 we left Gandia for Valencia where we were to leave Swallow for two weeks to return home for Jack’s graduation- he got a first in his script writing degree; very proud mum! It took us a while to negotiate our way out of the berth at Gandia as the wind wanted to push us down into the cul-de-sac; we managed to communicate with a Spanish lady on the boat next to us so that Ed could jump on board and take a line from our bow to push us round the right way to get out around the mooring lines. This was an uneventful 31 mile motor sail and we were happy to be here with a week to relax before going home.
Valencia, being the third largest Spanish city where Catalan is widely spoken (bit of a variation on our school Spanish), is full of life with lots of history, playing a major role for the Republican Government during the Spanish Civil war; I found this of particular interest after reading The Return by Victoria Hislop, a brilliant novel featuring a family caught up in that dreadful turmoil. We are in the Marina Real Juan Carlos which was built for the Americas Cup and also houses the original Grand Prix circuit; a friendly marina albeit a little tired. They’ve had a heatwave here, 40 degrees some days, so Paul has set up our windscoop and we’ve been to the Chinese shop to buy an extra fan; fly swotting has become our latest sport!
Our first impression on wandering around on our first day here was one of a great party atmosphere; in all the back streets families were dancing and bands were playing, we also stumbled across a comic fayre. The following evening we took the metro into the old town to witness the Corpus Christi procession from the cathedral, the streets were lined with locals on chairs for this ancient tradition of people dressed up as biblical characters, decorated carriages and army members dressed in 16th century style; the cathedral was full of people, it was very hot and all of the Spanish ladies were making full use of their ornate fans.
Sue and Ed were returning home before us and so we all went out for tapas at the Casa Guillermo, a tavern, which has been open since 1957, renowned for its anchovies; so of course we tried the anchovies, they were delicious; we rounded off the night with a drink by the beach- a ‘jolly’ evening all round!
Miles of busy, sandy beach stretch out along the coastline next to the marina; on 23 June the midsummer Pagan festival lit up the beach all night- literally, as the common custom is to light a small bonfire and jump over it for luck, and then jump over the waves, presumably to cool down the burns! This was a fantastic atmosphere with families eating, drinking, playing cards or volley ball and partying around their little bonfires. We stumbled across this at midnight after a day out in the old town. Valencia has some magnificent architecture including the post office building, which is beautiful inside and out, the Town Hall (whose facade has shrapnel damage from the artillery shells bombarding it during the Civil war), Mercado Central, Bull Ring and the Cathedral. There have been a few concerts a couple of hundred metres from Swallow, one of them being Luis Fonsi; we were also treated to a magnificent firework display- reminded me of Aviles; the Spanish really do know how to celebrate.
We had a wonderful couple of weeks back home seeing our family and friends and have spent the last few days preparing for the Balearics. The large supermarket is a bit of a trek from here so I was very pleased with myself when I managed to successfully set up a Mercadona account online and have all the heavy provisions delivered to the boat- fantastic, just like being at home! The washing machine is free here so everything has been washed as not sure how easy it will be getting water over there. The Captain has done an oil change and I’ve baked a madeira cake today so we’re all ready to go tonight- Ibiza, bring it on!
Alicante, Calpe and Gandia
19 July 2017 | Gandia
We left Santa Pola on 13/6/17 for Alicante; bit of a slow start as the wind, although strong enough to sail, was on the nose! We passed between the mainland and the Isla de Tabarca and we could see the bottom as we were only in 8m of water; after this we were on a starboard close reach and managed to turn off the engine- peace at last! This was a great sail accompanied by Locomotion. We found Alicante not massively attractive although the promenade had beautiful mosaic paving and the old town was nice; the two crews enjoyed a few alcoholic beverages that evening and Sue successfully bartered for a folding b
The following day we fancied a night at anchor and set off for Calpe; bit of a slog today with only a F1 wind and the large undulating swell rippling into the bay like a giant crinkle cut crisp impeding our progress. As we motor sailed past Benidorm we enjoyed a pleasing view of the mountainous skyline fronted by high rise buildings of similar muted colours along the shore; the hazy pale blue sky contrasted the deep blue Mediterranean sea. We were quickly jolted out of our dreamy mood when Locomotion radioed us to say they had engine trouble, so we changed course to head into an anchorage at Greenwich; we were now crossing the Greenwich meridian where East meets West. This change of course gave us a fantastic sail, we were now on a great beam reach-thank you Locomotion. We sailed into the anchorage, started the engine and circled around waiting to assist Ed and Sue, we knew that it would be difficult for them as there wasn't a lot of room for manoeuvring here without an engine. At the eleventh hour Locomotion radioed to say that a plastic bag had just floated out from underneath them- it had been wrapped around the prop, so they started their engine successfully and both yachts headed for Calpe. We arrived at 1900 and all jumped in to cool off, blissful! The view of the rock here, the Penon de Ifach, is stunning. Our Captain's Mate app told us that this was a very still anchorage but we suffered a fairly rocky night so were both a bit grumpy in the morning when we set off for Gandia.
The sail to Gandia was another close reach but we wanted to get around Cabo de Nao today for our home run up to Valencia. This rocky coastline is stunning; we sailed past steep cliffs and caves, the odd village was nestled into the mountains; after we rounded Cabo de Nao we saw lots of little beaches and beautiful anchorages, we could also see the striking Montana Mongo in the distance. We were now 12 miles from Gandia and were picking up transmissions from Ibiza on our radio, this reminded us of how close to the Balearics we now were. I managed, using my limited Spanish, to secure us a berth, over the phone, in the Club Nautico; as soon as we entered the marina we felt like we had stepped into an oven, it was so oppressive but to our delight there was a great swimming pool at the club which we very quickly made use of. Tomorrow we will be in Valencia.
13 June 2017 | Santa Pola
On our one year anniversary we left Cartagena and headed for Santa Pola (58 miles), another step closer to Valencia (another 100 miles). Locomotion followed us out at 0730, they tacked out quite a way to get around Cabo de Palos, as usual the wind was on the nose! We decided not to do this and managed a close hauled motor sail around the point, we had to put a few tacks in and eventually got past Mar Menor and around a large marine reserve; the early morning sun was glistening on the choppy sea. We turned the engine off for an hour and a half for a bit of peace and quiet and to let Locomotion catch us up, we were only making 3 knots. After that we ploughed through the troughs, listening to Jackie disco, on a starboard close reach with the engine on to sustain5 knots; with only 5 miles to go the wind picked up to about 10 knots and we had a great motor sail, at 6knots, in the early evening sunshine. Both crews were relieved, after a 12 hour stretch, to be welcomed into the Club Nautica by a very friendly marinaro who helped us tie up and pass us the pick-up lines, which were the cleanest we have seen so far! Well done to both crews- time for a sun-downer! Another great little sailing club with impeccably clean facilities and offering use of their washing machine for 2 euros- bargain!
On Saturday morning we visited the extensive local market with its vast array of delicious fruit and vegetables; there were also lots of dried fish stalls, something we haven't seen before. We saw a strange, curly vegetable (pictured ) , a cross between a courgette and a green bean, not really sure what it was; if any of you recognise it please let us know. There is a great beach here, right next to the marina; we had a couple of evening swims here in the shallow water, Paul tried out his new Tribord all-in-one snorkel mask.
12 June 2017 | Cartagena
On 02/06/2016 we edged around this attractive, arid coastline with low rise apartments and sandy beaches, in search of a sheltered anchorage. We passed a sunfish flopping his fin from side to side on the surface; I think it must be quite lonely to be one of these solitary species.; after this we past a small fishing boat housing three hopeful locals with their rods out. There were a few small villages tucked into the hills, one of them being Nerja , where you can visit the prehistoric caves; this bay seemed a little too exposed for anchoring so we carried on. The views along here are spectacular, suddenly all of the buildings have disappeared and we can see steep cliffs coloured with shades of yellow ochre, sand and beige and beautiful beaches with a few houses scattered in the hills. There are quite a few look-out turrets perched on the high rocks. We motored around the next headland and came to the Ensenada de Herraduras and dropped the anchor in 5m of clear water; this was a beautiful little bay with a town which sprawled into the mountains. We saw an impressive large house perched on the edge of the cliffs; some of the houses gave the impression that if you walked out of your front door you’d fall off the edge- not a place for those suffering with vertigo! This is a much nicer coastline than I had envisaged- I had only imagined high-rise hotels and bars serving English breakfasts! A British couple in kayaks paddled up to Swallow for a chat and told us that they had been renting a house here for over a year and had fallen in love with the place. Unfortunately this perfect little spot turned into a very rolly setting overnight- oh well, you can’t have everything!
The following morning we set sail for a 48 mile trip to Almerimar; the wind was funnelling into the bay and we had a good beam reach, starboard tack. We could see Kinni Rossi in the distance with no sails out and we soon realised that once we reached the headland that we would have no wind. The whole journey was very still and I even managed to chop the vegetables for that evening’s dinner. We spent two nights in Almerimar, which is a 70’s purpose built complex for the marina with plenty of shops and bars. This is one of the cheapest marinas on this coast and lots of boats over-winter here. We grasped the opportunity to leave here before the easterly winds set in so that we could make our way towards Cartagena.
When we set off on the 05/06/17 it wasn’t our intention to go the whole 120 miles to Cartagena but we didn’t fancy any of the anchorages or marinas on the way, especially as we would have been stuck there for a few days whilst waiting for the wind direction to change; so we went for it, the full 24 hours! We had a close reach motor sail for most of the way, although we did enjoy a couple of hours with the engine off in the evening, making 4.5 knots with the wind on the beam; we hadn’t prepared any food for this unintentional long journey so I made us some tuna pasta and ate our dinner without the drone of the engine, it was very tranquil. We watched the sun go down and at 2130 we put the engine back on. I had about four hours sleep down in the saloon and then at 0200 I kept watch while Paul rested. The moon shone over the water behind us and there were thousands of twinkling stars. Paul reappeared at 0500 and so I took the opportunity of another micro sleep; at 0730 Paul called me, I was in such a deep sleep that I woke up panicking thinking there was an emergency; turned out we were approaching Cartagena, what a relief! The next minute, after an uneventful 23 hours, a cruise ship, Celebrity Reflection, was bearing down on us; Paul called them up and the captain told us to keep our course and he would overtake us shortly to enter the harbour; we cautiously followed him in, unsure of where he was going to tie up, and watched him do a 360 turn to rest against the terminal wall, right next to the Real Club marina where we were heading for. We were welcomed in at 0845 by Sue and Ed (Locomotion); Ed had kindly organised a berth for us as the Cartagena Yacht Club next door was rather expensive. What a result- a lovely little club with a swimming pool!
Cartagena is rather an elegant town with some great architecture. We visited the Roman museum with an amphitheatre which was excavated in the 1990’s, this was awesome. The beautiful marbled streets are lined with shops and restaurants. There’s quite a lot to see here but we were happy chilling out for a few days as we were exhausted. We were to leave here on 09/06/17 which was a year to the day that we left Yarmouth and headed across the Channel to Alderney- how far we have come, at least 2300 miles so far! Feeling a great sense of achievement. We are not far from Valencia now which is where we will leave Swallow for a couple of weeks to head home for Jack’s graduation.
Bajidilla and Caletta de Velez
12 June 2017 | Caletta de Velaz
After spending our final night in La Linea anchored off the beach we set off on 29/5/17 for Bajidilla, 40 miles away. We picked our way through the anchored tankers at 0730 and let the tide take us around Europa Point; we saw the Royal Princess cruise ship come in and the dolphins waved goodbye to us at the tip of the point, they were waiting for the fish to come round with the current. After a couple of hours we turned off the engine and had a fantastic downwind sail with the genoa; unfortunately there was a wind-blown chop to the sea which was rather uncomfortable; the waves were crested like a toothpaste advert! Paul managed, after quite a struggle, to catch a fair sized Bonito en route; very tasty! The entrance into Bajidilla harbour was horrendous to say the least; Malcolm( Kinnirossi) helped us secure to the reception pontoon as we were yo-yoing up and down against the very rugged wall- our fenders took a hammering! The chop was so bad that we had to stay on the reception pontoon all night, the marinaros said it was too dangerous to try and secure to a berth on the pontoon.; consequently we didn’t dare leave the boat unattended and so did not venture into town or to Marbella.
The following morning we headed off for Caletta de Velez with very light winds and a moderate sea state; as we approached the Punta de Calaburras there were many fishing pots to avoid. The sky was clear blue and the fluffy white clouds above the mountains formed monster faces; the dark blue, rippling sea was glistening in the sunshine and Paul was listening to some jazz funk with his shades and straw hat on; I even had my shorts on- hopefully you are now picturing our idyllic, holiday lifestyle! There was a heat haze in the distance at the other end of the bay where we were heading and we spotted a couple of planes coming in and out of Malaga. During the passage Paul noticed that the automatic bilge pump was kicking in rather a lot and after investigation in the engine bay he found that we had water entering the boat through the stern tube shaft seal; this leak was manageable but Paul would have to rectify it at our next port. With five miles to go we could see the Sierra Nevada mountain range behind the shoreline; we arrived at this busy fishing port at 1800 and were relieved to find a placid mooring in contrast to the one at Bajidilla.
Caletta de Velez is a friendly, typically Spanish, little town not far from Malaga. Paul managed to source a wrench from the local Chinese shop (they are in every town) to carry out the repair to the shaft seal; after three hours of hard graft all was back to normal! We walked down to the smaller of the two beaches for an evening swim but quickly changed our minds as there were dead fish all along the shore; a local told us that these were discarded by-catch from the local trawlers. Instead we headed for the bar and chatted to Malcolm and Barbara (Kinni Rossi) who are fellow Cruising Association members .We caught up on a few chores here, such as washing the boat and the bedding- it’s not all sunbathing you know! On the morning we were leaving we noticed the Guardia Civil had brought in a punctured large rib and were taking photos and examining it closely with their blue gloves on; we speculated that the rib had been seized for either drug running or immigrant smuggling from Morocco; apparently this coast is now becoming a target for refugees coming from Africa, more so than in Greece; we are hearing daily ‘pan pans’ on the ship’s radio of overcrowded dinghies which are either adrift or on fire. This is very upsetting as we don’t like to think about the people, including small children, in the water as we know that the waters of the Mediterranean can be dangerous- it’s not always as tranquil as you might imagine; these people are clearly so desperate to risk their lives in this way.
12 June 2017 | Morocco
As we’d missed out on visiting Seville we decided to head over from La Linea to Morocco, crossing the Straits, for a few days of culture; once we’d negotiated our way through the anchored ships we had a great 17 mile sail over to Cueta, a Spanish enclave; we could just about make out the Moroccan mountains which were covered by a mist of heat haze. The highlight of the day were the dolphins who came to say hello and the scary moment of the day was when three large ships were bearing down on us from different directions; Captain Paul kept his cool and steered us clear. There are several high speed ferries which come and go from here over to the Spanish mainland. This was our first experience this season (we did it once in Portugal) of tying up ‘Mediterranean’ style; this entails going in stern or bow to and picking up a dirty, slimy line which is attached to the sea bed. Luckily Paul and Andy (Ula) had managed to find timber planks in Gibraltar so we could get on and off the boat- a whole new meaning to walking the plank!
Not long after we arrived I was sad to learn that my Nan in France had passed away the day before; she did reach the ripe old age of 102 years though so we raised a glass to her that evening.
Hercules marina at Ceuta, which is a lovely town with a definite Moroccan influence and a great beach, was quite expensive so we decided we wouldn’t stay long, but long enough to take a day trip across the Spanish/Moroccan border to Tetuoan .This is an experience not to be missed! The day before we went we had to source some dirham in exchange for euros; the post office told us to ask at the police station and they would take us to a currency seller on the street; so this is what we did- we met a couple of men sat in deckchairs by a roundabout with their wad of cash waiting for tourists to use their services, we found this hilarious but it is clearly the norm here! The following day, accompanied by Clare and Andy (Ula), we caught the bus to the border (80 cents each); we met a young Arab girl at the bus stop who we think, like many who come across the border on a Saturday night, had been partying in Ceuta (naughty Muslim girl! ) Najoua spoke a little French and sat with us on the bus and said that she would help us get into Tetuoan; once across the border she negotiated a price for a taxi for us and accompanied us all the way communicating in Arabic/English with the help of Google translate on her phone. The taxi was a beaten up old Mercedes which was held together with a lick and a promise! But the four of us dutifully squashed in on the back seat whilst Najoua sat up front talking to us and the taxi driver; she arranged for the taxi driver to collect us at the end of the day to take us back to the border; she also told us to ‘trust nobody’ which made it all the more exciting! We soon realised that Morocco was two hours behind Spain and so we were arriving into town at about 08.30. We felt that the 45km taxi ride was cheap at 100 dirhams (10 euros). Just before our destination, a man jumped into our taxi, next to our new friend, and told us that it was best to have a guide show us around the Medina ; we figured that at 15 euros for two hours (which turned into four hours) was a good deal as we didn’t have a clue where we were going (not the sort of place to have a tourist office with countless maps and leaflets). Our first impression of the city was that the men sit around in the cafes all day and the women hang around the streets; Jamal explained to us that the women are waiting around for the more wealthy people to come and offer them cleaning work for the day. Jamal was very pleasant and accompanied us around the Medina, an ancient walled town which is a Unesco Heritage Site; this was like another world: the streets and houses remained as they would have been hundreds of years ago, a maze of winding narrow streets where people were selling all their second hand wears, as well as spices and herbs; we tasted a very sweet confectionary which all the stalls were selling as this is what is consumed at Ramadan to give them energy during the fasting hours. Old women were selling cheese which they apparently had brought down from the mountains on their donkeys! Everywhere we went we were offered mint tea, which was rather sweet. We entered the Jewish quarter which was full of gold shops, this seemed a bit vulgar after seeing the meagre lifestyle which some of these people are living. Countless cats were wandering around and sleeping on bits of cardboard; we saw no dogs, Jamal told us this is because they are considered unclean . After being taken to a furniture and rug co-operative, where we saw some amazing craftsmanship and bought two beautiful cushion covers for Swallow, and an apothecary, where saffron and argon oil was in abundance, Jamal deposited us at ‘the best restaurant in the Medina’ where we had a rather bland meal of couscous , chicken and vegetables and of course the obligatory mint tea! All in all a rather entertaining day (and cheap at 50 euros all in per couple), although it all seemed a bit surreal! We did feel a bit uneasy coming back over the border, there were a few refugees hanging around hoping to get into Spain.
The following day we sailed the 16 mile back to La Linea to wait for the right wind to take us around the Europa Point and further round the Spanish coast; this was rather a bumpy ride with a very uncomfortable swell. We spent the next few days eating and drinking with the crews of Ula and Millie and even treated ourselves to a, very British, fish and chips in Gibraltar