SPAIN AGAIN...

 

Sunday 20th Septmeber 2015

 

The pilot book along with comments in the Cruising Associations ‘Captains App’ makes the entrances to the Guadiana River and the marina in Ayamonte sound quite intimidating but we managed without any problems at all. That’s not because we are getting good at this sailing \ navigating game, there just was nothing to worry about. All we did do was to ensure that we arrived outside of Ayamonte marina 4 hours or so before high tide as they have an issue with silting. (Mud \ sediment being washed down by the river and collecting where it’s not wanted). We were warned by the marina staff when we signed in that dredging would begin on Monday (to remove all of the unwanted mud and sediment) but we didn’t pay too much attention to it so it was a bit of a shock to be woken at 07.30 the following morning by the sound of heavy diesel engines, the clanking and screeching of badly oiled machinery accompanied by men shouting across the water to each other from huge barges. These barges carried two cranes each that were dropping great big buckets into the water and pulling out black, smelly mud which they then dropped into the bottom of the barge. All this was happening in the marina entrance about 50 meters away from our berth.

 

After we showered and sorted the boat out we walked into town to have a look around. We met another English sailor and mentioned the dredging starting so early. It was whilst talking to him that we realised we were now back in Spain and our clocks needed to be put forward an hour. That meant the dredging had started at 08.30 which I suppose was sort of acceptable.

 

Ayamonte is a nice place, it has beautiful town squares and it was nice to see whole families out and about with the kids letting off steam after being released from school. We both commented on the fact that you didn’t see this as much in Portugal but we assumed that it was the result of the Spanish siesta with families getting together after work. It really was nice to be back in Spain but it was very difficult to stop saying ‘Obrigado’ and start saying ‘Gracias’!

 

After a nice meal out in one of the many restaurants we made our way back to the boat. The tide was out, the barges had gone and all was quite.

 

We sat reading for a while then went to bed. Not long after, around 10.30 – 11.00 the heavy diesels accompanied by the rest of the band started up again!! I stuck my head out of the hatch and yes the barges were back. We could only surmise that as the tide had risen the barges could get in and had started work again. We intended to leave in the morning so we put ear plugs in and slept as best we could. The next morning when we went to settle up I had a bit of a moan about the noise going on through the night as we hadn’t been told that the dredging was a 24hr operation. To be honest I don’t think the lady behind the counter knew too much about it either but without any additional moaning from me she decided to only charge us for one night and not two so that made things a lot better.

 

We wanted to travel up the river about 20 miles or so to Alcoutim and San Lucar two ancient towns that face each other across the river border and preferred to have the rather strong current with us for the trip. We couldn’t leave the marina until we had enough water to get out so we left at 0900 which only gave us an hour or so before the tide changed against us. We were told that we could spend the night at an old pontoon outside of the famous Quinta Vale Golf Course which was just under the large suspension bridge that crossed the river about 30 minutes or so upstream so we decided to get out and tie up there.  

 

The bridge didn’t look very high but we wasn’t too worried as we knew of three different boats all bigger than ours that had been under it without any problems but it was still a bit scary. The pontoon came up on the port side and we tied up without a problem. It was beautiful here so quiet and peaceful after the noise and commotion we had left behind us.

 

Later in the afternoon another yacht traveling downstream made it obvious that they too wanted to tie up on the pontoon so Claire and I went out to help them with their lines etc. We were a bit fed up about sharing this lovely spot but after a brief chat it became apparent that Alan and Bijuca aboard ‘Serene’ had spent nearly a year on this river and what they couldn’t tell us about it wasn’t worth knowing. We had a copy of the river pilot book given to us by our friends First Mate Millie and Johan but I think first-hand knowledge is always preferable.


We invited them on board after we had both eaten for a drink and a chat. They were a great couple and we learned a lot from them. They were heading back out to sea, along the coast and then up the river Guadalquivir to spend a few weeks in Seville. We said our goodbye’s at the end of the evening as we needed to leave early to catch the tide.

We had a pleasant but very windy (Force 6 on the nose of course) motor up to Alcoutim with the tide underneath us all the way. We had been told by First mate Millie and Johan as well as Alan and Bijuca that we would be lucky to get a place on the pontoon and they were right.

 

I had no concerns over anchoring in this beautiful place in fact I preferred it as on a town pontoon you always have people coming and going at all times of the night and day. It took us two attempts to set the anchor and I thought we were settled but as the tide changed we ended up swinging (Not that kind of swinging!) quite close to another boat so I decided to move again as we were going to be here for a few days and I didn’t want to worry about RR. Third time lucky saw us in a perfect place down- stream from the two towns but only a few minutes trip back up in the RIB. I tell you one thing though, I won’t be swimming here as the tide is really strong!!

 

After we were as sure as we could be that the boat was OK we went up to town, we chose the Portuguese side, Alcoutim as Alan said that there was a bit more to see and do there plus the library had free WiFi. We didn’t stay too long as I wanted to be back on board for when the tide changed but what we saw left us wanting more so we agreed to return on Thursday 24th. The boat was fine, the peace was perfect as the moon rose to light up the river. We slept like babies as it was so still and quiet.

 

Back the following day we caught up with news of family and friends via email and Face Book at the library. Claire paid our friend Darren, via the internet our deposit for this year’s skiing trip and we had fantastic news that our friends Tina and Ian can make it out to Switzerland also.

 

We walked up the hill to the castle. It’s a great place with a museum displaying artefacts found within its walls dating back to Muslim and Roman occupation.

 

We walked back down into town and found a table at a restaurant where we had a lovely meal with a jug of sangria for £16. Oh I love this place.

 

We decided to take our dinghy across the river to have a beer or two in Spain before heading back to Red Rooster. Haha how great is that. The Spanish side I must admit was a bit quieter, but it was still as beautiful as its neighbour.

 

We wanted to venture further upstream to a very old town called Mértola. It was, in our opinion too risky to take Red Rooster up the river too much further although other boats had got close traveling the last mile or so by dinghy but we had heard of a few yachts hitting the bottom with one sinking as a result so decided to take the bus!! There are two a week from Alcoutim, both fortunately coming back the same day! We caught the one that left Friday morning at 10.00.

 

It was an hour long ride and I enjoyed every minute of it. I think it’s because we spend so much time on the boat, walking everywhere when we get off it that the chance to take a bus or a train is something I now look forward to, isn’t it funny how things can change so quickly? To think I used to dread the commute into London every day.

 

Mértola is an amazing place and I enjoyed just being there. It has a very interesting history with ongoing archaeological digs still turning up artefacts from occupations by the Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs and the Crusades. You could clearly see the remains of Muslim dwellings recently uncovered.

 

The Main church, formally a Muslim temple dating back to the 12th century still has Islamic symbols in the doorways and on the walls confirming its place in Mértola’s history.

 

I really liked the way modern architecture had been integrated into the historic structures to help stabilise and make them safe and accessible for all those that wanted to visit.

 

I don’t think Claire ‘feels’ the history like I do but she enjoys visiting new places whether they are old or new. I get enjoyment from thinking about all the different people, through the ages that may have stood on the same spot. It makes me realise how important it is to make the most of the time you spend whilst you’re on this planet as without any shadow of doubt in a hundred years’ time someone else will be standing where I have stood.

 

The trip back was fine, the bus got us back around 4 in the afternoon. We took our tender back to RR and as we are off in the morning to retrace our steps back to the sea we decided to sort the boat out and have a meal on board.

 

Saturday 26th saw us back in Alcoutim to use the internet, we also needed bread. It was while I was waiting for Claire to return from the shop that I overheard some English people ask a local where the zip wire ride was. I had seen signs for this myself but didn’t think it was close to where we were staying. To my surprise the local man pointed up and across the river and there perched at the top of a high, steep hill was a little wooden shack \ shelter with a zip wire coming from it, from Spain! Stretching across the river and disappearing behind some trees in Portugal! I couldn’t understand how I hadn’t spotted it myself but there it was.  I love zip wires and decided that Claire would love them too. I sold her the idea and with a little effort, it was 17 Euro’s each but the ride was booked up solid for the weekend I eventually managed to get us a spot for 4 that afternoon. We wanted to leave at 5 with the tide but I was sure it would all be fine.

 

We took our RIB to Spain, met the zip wire team, and after putting on a harness and helmet we were taken by Land Rover with another 6 people to the ‘launch pad’ at the top of the hill. With a few more words of instruction I was ready to go out first. The instructor David said to me ‘how great it was that I was doing things like this with my daughter’!! Well the smile on Claire’s face lit the place up. This has happened a couple of times before and I am never sure whether they think I look old or Claire looks young. Of course I know what Claire thinks! She thinks both are right!!

 

Anyway David told me that ‘I was going to experience true time travel as when I leave here it will be 1630 and when I touch down in Portugal it’s going to be 15.31. Without further ado the safety gate was pulled back and with a little run up I was out the door and flying down the hill then out over the river. It was great it only took a minute or so but it was brilliant. The wire had a great breaking system that bought you reasonably gently to a stop. I jumped down and ran round to try and get a picture of Claire. I could see that she had enjoyed it too.

 

We walked quickly back to the river jumped in a ferry that took us back to Spain where we hopped in our dinghy. 20 minutes later the anchor was up and we were on our way.


I have really enjoyed the peace and tranquillity of this stretch of the Guadiana. (Apart from the zip wire). It’s easy to see why so many people get stuck here. The locals, a lot of them are English and Dutch call it ‘The Guadiana Glue’ they sailed up the river as we did but have never gone back down. A few have bought plots of land here close to the river putting caravans or mobile homes on them with their boats anchored in the river and are living day by day. I can honestly see the attraction of such a life but it’s very isolated and I don’t think it’s for me.


The trip back down the Guadiana was fine and we spent the night tied up to the same golf clubs pontoon. There is a sand bar at the end of the river so to be sure we had plenty of water under us we left at 0300 the following morning. It’s a pain having to get up but I do enjoy leaving early. I have the same feeling I used to have as a kid when I was going away on holiday with my Mum and Dad in the car and you had to leave early to miss all the traffic.


Once out at sea we put the sails up, yes there was wind!! Claire took herself back to bed and I had a wonderful few hours sailing across the Gulf of Cadiz watching the full moon slowly sink lower in the sky, trying to find the few star constellations I know and eventually watching the sun rise on a new day. Fantastic.


The wind did eventually die away. We had another spooky sea mist episode, we were quite away off the coast but this sea mist started to form. It was a wall of cloud, stuck to the ocean that was moving slowly towards us. I altered course, taking us further out to sea as it looked really thick but it kept on coming eventually swallowing us and the boat. The odd thing was that ‘inside’ the visibility was quite good. Very Strange.


We had sailed most of the way to Chipiona, a town on the banks of the Guadalquivir. We have come here to try to visit the Doñana National Park. It’s also tempting to go up this river to Seville but we have been advised that its best to leave the boat elsewhere and go by car or bus as the marinas are not very nice and quite expensive.

 

Chipiona is another nice Spanish beach town, very few if any English people around, very little English spoken by the locals or restaurant staff. Perfect.


We quickly discovered that it´s virtually impossible to go to the park unescorted as there are regular patrols by the environmental police who live in the park and you can be fined if you are caught. There were however organised trips to the island by amphibious trucks (Lorries that can go across rivers and the land) but you were not allowed to get out and it was 35 Euro’s each.

 

The other problem was that you had to get yourself to their office to board the trucks and that was a 20 Euro cab ride. That didn’t appeal to us. In the marina office there were leaflets advertising a trip by land rover to the nature reserve, also taking in the large Salt workings and stopping when and wherever you wanted to for pictures etc. for 30 Euro´s each and lasted about 2 hours. This sounded a bit better. The marina staff contacted them on our behalf and we were told that the best time to go was around 1700 so you could see the sun go down over the park. They would also pick us up and drop us back to the marina for no additional cost!! Result.


We spent the rest of the day in Chipiona, returning to be ready for 5.  They arrived on time, a driver and an interpreter and we left for the park. I was curious as to how we were going to cross the river but I was told by the interpreter that the park and marshlands were on both sides of the river. I was not sure if I believed her but we were on our way now.


It was a good 30 minute drive before we went down a little unmade road, then off road into the marsh lands. If you remember when we crossed the Gulf of Cadiz a few days before the moon was full meaning spring tides (The highest and lowest in the month). The driver was surprised at how high the water was in some places and got stuck at one point sliding off the track and into quite deep water stopping as the Land rover went down on one side with water level with the bottom of the doors. I said to the interpreter that I would get out to help the driver get back onto better ground and stepped out into thick mud up to my shins, I lost my flip flops and in finding them got covered in mud in the process. I tried to direct the driver onto higher, dryer ground but he just stuck the thing into four wheel drive and floored the accelerator!! The truck lurched over even further and I imagined it going over with Claire inside, all the windows were open and the water must have been 4ft deep on her side. She looked scared and in talking to her afterwards she was running through in her mind what she would do if the thing turned over!
With all four wheels spinning like mad and the engine roaring the Land rover edged forward until it gained dry land. I have only ever driven off road vehicles a couple of times but I thought the idea was to go slow and steady in the right gear. Anyway they were out of the water Claire looked a lot happier and I was covered in mud but all was OK.


The birds here were beautiful, with the star attraction being the flamingos, there were hundreds of them all feeding in the shallow pools. We stopped and got out many times to take pictures and walk around. We then went to the salt works that were very interesting and Claire and I wondered if the salt we used to put down in her school over the winter to keep it open had come from here as it was transported over most of the EU.


We decided to watch the sun go down from the top of a salt mountain. It was an unusual spot after all.


We were dropped off back at the marina at 21.30! We had had a good time and felt the 30Euros was well spent. We thanked them both for a good tour. As we turned after waving goodbye a familiar voice called my name and we were both surprised and pleased to see Alan and Bijuca from ‘Serene’ standing there. They had come into the marina as bad weather had been forecast. We told them we were off in the morning to Rota so we could visit Cadiz and were happy that they intended to do the same.

 

Tuesday 29th September saw us on the move again, this time a very short hop to Rota which was about 5 miles away. We had loads of time, no wind and lots of empty pontoon berths here at Chipiona and I managed to persuade Claire to have a go at backing into a spot (Stern to) rather than going in forward (Bows first) as we had been doing for the whole of this trip. We needed the practice as in the Med most if not all of the marinas and harbours are set up for you to be stern to. George had tried to get us to try it when he was with us in Porto but we had chickened out.


So I had a go first, it went sort of OK. I got us in between the two finger pontoons but we were too far away from either one to allow Claire to jump and tie us on. I had two further attempts both with similar results. I was sort of happy knowing if we sat there for a while the wind, when it came would blow us one way or the other to allow us to step off.


Then it was Claire’s turn she got us closer with her three attempts but was frustrated at not really knowing what to do when it all started to go a bit wrong. Anyway we had had a go and the boat came away unscathed so I considered it a success. I just hope we have a few helping hands when we have to do it for real!!


We checked that Alan and Bijuca were ok. They were ready to leave too so we made the trip together taking pictures of each other’s boat as we headed on to Rota.


We had an uneventful trip, the highlight for me was seeing the 112ft Russian square rigged ship ‘Shtandart’ in the bay of Cadiz. This fired up my imagination with me picturing the English fleet under Nelson preparing for one of the greatest sea battles a short distance further along this coast at Cape Trafalgar.


Rota is another unspoilt Spanish town with narrow streets and nice people. The fast cat ferry from here into the old town of Cadiz costs a little over 5€ (£4) each way for the 40 minute trip. Cadiz is a beautiful city and a great place to visit. Claire and I spent two days there and enjoyed every minute of it. The streets are very narrow and the history is extensive as Cadiz has been an important trading centre since the Phoenicians populated it around 11BC.


We were pleased to discover that the Spanish tourist board had set up four different walks around the old city. You can get a free map and information in your language from the tourist information centre where outside four different coloured lines were painted on the pavement all heading off in different directions. You decided what you wanted to see, Yellow was ‘Castles and Bastions’ for example and you followed the line around the city. It was a great way to see a place you had never been to before allowing you to stop when and wherever you wanted, leaving the line and returning to it if you wanted too.


Cadiz thrived from the 16th to the 18th century as it became the centre for trade with the recently discovered new world. The ‘House of Trade’ was moved here from Seville as the city held the monopoly of goods and transactions arriving from the Americas. This led to many very wealthy merchantmen setting up businesses here with each one building a ‘watch tower’ in the city to allow them to see their ships arriving into port. There are about 120 of them still standing with the tallest of them ‘The Torre Tavira’ built in 1778. You can climb to the top of this fantastic structure to see the city at its best. There is also a ‘Camera Obscura’ installed in the tower. This is a kind of periscope that projects a really detailed image onto a curved screen allowing the operator to zoom in and out showing pictures of almost any part of the city. It was like looking at a moving photograph.


Back on our ‘yellow line’ we were taken through beautiful gardens dotted with sculptures of famous Cadiz characters and water features
When we returned from Cadiz we bumped into Alan and Bijouca on the ferry, they had also enjoyed the city. They told us about a sort of competition that was going on in Rota that evening to pick a girl to be an ambassador for the region. It wasn’t a beauty competition but it sort of was!


We had an hour on the boat before we got ready and went out to the main square. I could not believe the amount of effort that the Spanish and Portuguese for that matter put into these things. A large stage had been built complete with huge columns, guilt chairs and a throne. There must have been two hundred seats for the guests and relatives of the girls being judged. Around these it was standing room only and the whole town was there. It was packed. This again bought home to Claire and I the sense of community these people have, something I think England has sadly lost.
 

We planned to leave the following morning so we walked to the big supermarket on the outskirts of Rota where we did a big shop getting a cab back to the boat. While Claire packed it all away I spliced two ‘eyes’ into a couple of new mooring lines I had bought earlier.

 

England were playing Australia that evening in the rugby world cup with the kick off at 21.00. I wanted to see this game as I had missed most of the others. Spain is not the place to be if you want to watch anything other than football. Alan mentioned this little Irish pub tucked down a backstreet called O’Malley’s, (obviously) that he had seen and was sure that the game would be on.

 

Claire and I got there just before the kick-off and I treated myself to a pint of Guinness that wasn’t too bad. The place was very small with all the seats taken by American servicemen from a base close by. I asked a bloke if a stool next to him was taken and was surprised to be answered by someone with a really strong French accent. The stool was free and Claire sat down. The French guy, Eric then tapped another bloke sitting in front of him on the shoulder saying that some more English supporters had arrived. When he turned almost without hesitation he said to me ‘is your name Derek?’  ‘Yes’ I said with a lot of hesitation as I sort of recognised this man but could not place him. I thought he must have been a sailor I had met somewhere back along the coast. He said ‘my names Kevin and we used to be friends in Cornwall over 30 years ago’!!! I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, I was totally confused. He said that we had first met when we both used to windsurf off a beach in Marazion.
I was completely dumbfounded. I had lived in Cornwall for about 10 years moving there around 1985 to satisfy my passion for windsurfing. All of my children are Cornish being born in Treliske Hospital in Truro.


It is amazing how these things happen and I know virtually everyone has a similar story but to try and go back over all the little twists and turns in both our lives that saw us turning up at the same time in a small Irish bar in Rota, Spain was unbelievable. We talked at half time and we all went back to RR after the match.


For what its worth I personally thought England played well. Australia just played better.


We talked long into the night drinking coffee and port promising to keep in touch from now on.

 

 

4th October, My Cornish girl Joy’s Birthday.


Up early, 0830 as we were leaving for Barbate. (Pronounced Bar-Ba-Tey) It was an 8 hour hop and we were on our way by 1000 after filling up with fuel. There was a nice breeze so the sails came out and the engine went off. This lasted for an hour or so then the breeze dropped away and we made passage for the rest of the way.


I was excited to be on my boat almost exactly where Nelson took his smaller fleet into battle with the French and Spanish ships of the line. The battle of Trafalgar took place on the 21st October 1805 ooooh so close. (The date not the year!!) It just gave me a nice feeling to be here in my own boat. Odd I know but that’s me. I have enjoyed reading about the battle again. (There is a very good web site called www.nelsonsnavy.co.uk) In winning we not only destroyed a large portion of their fleet but also scuppered, pardon the pun Napoleon’s plans for invading England.

 

We rounded the Cape of Trafalgar in flat, calm water looking across the sea as the coastline of Africa came into view through the haze.
We intend to stay at least two days in Barbate before moving onto Gibraltar and the Mediterranean Sea!


A very strange noise woke me on the morning of the 5th. It was a noise I had heard before in the dim and distant past but I couldn’t quite place it. I lay there in bed racking my brains for a few minutes and then it came to me. Heavy rain!! Bouncing off of the boat. That sound is wonderful if you’re cuddled up in bed in a tent, campervan, boat etc. bringing with it that beautiful metallic smell. I have sort of missed the rain during our trip. I can count on the fingers of one hand how many times it has rained heavily since we left England. In fact I could count them on a hand that only had three fingers!! The down side of the rain here is that everything gets covered in a fine coating of orange dust which, I am told is from the deserts of Africa.


I had just made a cup of coffee and a tea for Claire when a shadow passed the window. That meant someone was on our pontoon close to the side of our boat. Odd I thought. I stuck my head out of the hatch and there stood my long lost friend Kevin. I told him to come on board and offered him a cup of coffee. He had bought with him a bag of Danish pastries and a bottle of Cava??? How nice. Then I remembered it was his Birthday. He said when we had last met that he would be in the area as he was visiting a place called Bolonia a half hours drive from the marina. Well Claire and I do not need much of an excuse to eat out so without further ado we sorted ourselves out and strolled into town. After a couple of abortive attempts we found a restaurant to Kevin’s liking, apparently ‘it can’t be along the sea front, it has to be down a side road’ the food and wine was great but the WiFi was rubbish. Kevin wanted to talk to his wife Jo but he had no reception on his iphone, mine was the same but Claire´s Samsung worked so after a few try´s he managed to get through.


We had ice cream as a dessert in another place on the seafront, apparently that was OK!! Then we wandered back to the boat. Kevin opened his presents from Jo and his two kids, Emma and Kate and again tried in vain to call them using my phone this time.

 

That evening we had nibbles on board RR, Claire got stuck into the Cava and I had an Old Speckled Hen to celebrate. Kevin had had enough alcohol and settled for water and a coffee. We said our goodbyes later that evening as Claire and I were off in the morning sailing to Gibraltar. I think all three of us had had a great day and Claire and I were pleased to have been able to share his special day. I again promised him that I would stay in touch.
 

The alarm woke us at 07.15 but I told Claire to go back to sleep as it was still pitch dark outside. We got up at 0745. It was still quite dark but you could see the sun wasn’t far away. We showered, paid the fee´s (very cheap now, two nights for £25 as we are ‘out of season´) and motored out of the marina just after 0900. It was a grey day (very Larry Grayson) with a slight south westerly breeze. The sails went up but we left the motor on just above tick over to keep us moving along. We were both a bit nervous today. I think it was more to do with the occasion, sailing through the Straits and into Gibraltar rather than the weather which didn’t look nice.


We had been told to only go through the ‘straits’ into the Med(Mediterranean Sea) if there was a west wind or no wind as anything with East in it made for a very disturbed sea as the wind then pushed against the westward running tides. The water flowing into the Med through the straits is incredible due to it being virtually land locked and evaporation from the heat of the sun far exceeding the water replaced by rivers discharging into it. This meant water from the Atlantic running in almost constantly in a Westerly flowing stream. It was great for us as at times we saw 9 knts showing on our speed over the ground instruments even though we were only motoring at around 4- 5.


We got caught in a nasty rain squall which saw us getting the main away pretty sharpish. We both got soaked but it was warm rain and we soon dried as the clouds moved away and the sun came out.


Seeing ‘The Rock’ was almost as good as seeing the coast of Africa. Claire and I gave each other a hug and we commented on how we needed to start using a new pilot book when we leave on the next hop as we had completed the ‘Atlantic Spain and Portugal’ pilot book from end to end. Somehow this summed up, for both of us what we had achieved more than anything else.

 

As we motored into the bay a small pod of common dolphins came to greet us, a sort of welcoming party I thought and it was the icing on our cake.


Entering the marina at La Linea was very straight forward and is the marina of choice when visiting \ stopping over in Gibraltar. It is in Spain but only a 10 minute walk to the border. We sorted the boat out, showered and walked the 10 minutes to England. After going through the self-service border control where you had to poke your opened passport into a scanner and look into a camera, a bit like those in a photo booth at the same time. All was OK so the barrier opened and we were in. Next you had to walk across the runway in between the passenger jets taking off and landing!!!! then you can relax a bit. I have been here once before a very long time ago when I was windsurfing at Tarifa just down the coast. It’s a strange place, kind of worn out but steeped in history. We had an expensive, but nice cod and chips, walked up the high street a bit then retraced our steps back to the boat as we were exhausted.

 

Wednesday 7th October


We had a jobs day planned as we had now got into the habit of getting all the chores done before we went out to explore and enjoy ourselves. Claire makes a list and we work through it until it’s done. Nothing major, just things like phoning the marina in Puerto Caleta de Veleze to find out their costs as we intend to stay there for a week or so whilst our friends Bridget and Conor come to visit. Updating this site as the Café has good WiFi. Google Top ten things to do in Gibraltar. There is also a good Volvo Penta service centre here and we went to order a couple of bits for the engine. I have had a very small fuel leak and have been unable to source the parts to repair it so fingers crossed.


Up earlier than normal today as we were going to see the sites in Gibraltar. I was really looking forward to this as ‘The Rock’ is just stuffed full of history. We wasn’t sure how best to see all of the sites, we didn’t fancy walking up to the top as it was a hot day. The cable car was a natural choice but it had long queues and only took you to one spot at the top and we wanted to see everything so we opted for a Rock Tour cab. This is like a mini bus with a driver \ tour guide. There was eight of us in the mini cab with Claire and me at the front. George, our driver was born in Gibraltar and knew his stuff. Our first surprise was how much land reclamation had been carried out. George pointed out the cannon from the 17th century poking through the outer wall where the sea used be. The sea was about a mile away now!!


Our first stop was the ‘Towers of Hercules’ legend has it that the Romans believed that the Rock of Gibraltar and either Monte Hacho or Jebel Musa on the coast of Africa was once formed the Pillars as the rock type and their heights above the sea were the same. I liked this spot as you could clearly see Rosia Bay protected by a small jetty and quay. The square riggers had to anchor out in the bay as they were too big to come alongside with small tenders and gigs hurrying back and forth to them from this tiny harbour.

 

The story is that the body of Nelson, already placed in a cask filled with Brandy for preservation, along with all the wounded from the battle of Trafalgar were brought ashore here with the wounded being taken to hospital whilst the Victory was repaired and readied for the trip back to England.


Next on the list was St Michaels caves. These were surprisingly large and beautiful. They have had many uses throughout England’s rule here even fitted out as a hospital in WWII, they are currently used as a theatre and auditorium. It was here that we saw the first of the Barberry Macaques. They were cute but they were also to be kept at arm’s length as they would grab anything within reach.


We stopped a couple of times on the very narrow roads so we could get out and take pictures then we went to the ‘Great Siege’ tunnels. These were started on 25th May 1782. Sargent Major Ince along with thirteen men using only hand tools remember no 240v hammer drills in those days dug an 8ft square tunnel 82ft into the rock in just 5 weeks!! They carried on digging, opening out rooms for 4 cannon as well as lengthening the tunnel. By the end of WWII these and other tunnels have been formed and extended by 30 miles or more.


After the official tour ended Claire and I made our way to the Trafalgar cemetery to find the two remaining grave stones of sailors that fought and died in the battle of Trafalgar. We then went onto the botanical gardens ending the day with a pint of Doombar. We walked back to RR via Ocean village. What a great day.

 

We have had a good time in Gibraltar, it’s a strange place but one we are not sad to leave. I can’t really put my finger on it. I have loved the history of course and I have probably missed loads but it’s time to leave. We had the boat sorted, paid our fees at La Linea and motored out just after 10.00 on 10th. The wind was very gusty this side so I just pulled out the genoa and kept the motor on as there was a lot of boats about.

 

As we passed Rosia bay in RR I could not help but imagine The ‘Victory’ anchored here all those years ago sitting low in the water in a sorry state listing slightly to one side with holes in her sides from the Spanish and French cannon, spars and rigging all over the place, filling the attending tenders with the wounded as the news spread across Gibraltar that Nelson was dead. Claire bought me back to the here and now as the wind, now quite strong as it came over the rock was coming at us from all directions backing the sail every now and then. I rolled it in and we motored until we were clear.

 

Looking back at Gibraltar with its cap of grey cloud made us both realise that we were now in the Mediterranean Sea for real making for marina de Bajadilla a small harbour on the outskirts of Marbella. The wind (I know I don’t have to tell you after all this time) was on the nose!! It was only about 8 knots but really!!!!!! I mean COME ON. Claire calmed me down with a bowl of cereal and a cup of coffee.It did eventually come round and increase enough to let us sail for about 4- 5 hours. What we have noticed though is that the very helpful 1 - 2 knot current that was like being on a conveyor belt virtually the whole way down the Atlantic coast had now gone. We were sailing at 4.5 knots and our speed over the ground (SOG) was the same. By way of consolation we saw lots of dolphins during this hop which was great.

 

As we neared marina de Bajadilla the discussion inevitably turned to mooring stern to. We have I suppose been worrying about this since we left England. Worrying is probably too strong a word but it has always been there. As we neared the entrance we went into wind and took the sails down then motored towards the breakwater. The New Pilot Book told us that we needed to stop at the visitor’s pontoon where the Capitania would direct you to a berth. We loved this as we could have a good look at where we were going, plan how we were going to do it and run through who was going to do what. I radioed just as we were entering and was told by the Capitania that he was on the pontoons and could not meet us, he asked our length and when I replied he said go direct to berth H14 and it was stern to. OH NO……. it was everything that we didn’t want. We didn’t know where H14 was Claire took us in but I could see that she wasn’t happy. I was desperately looking for an H painted or printed somewhere. Then a bloke, the Capitania I presumed pointed to a long concrete jetty we were just going past and shouted that was H. Claire said ‘what shall I do? I don’t know what to do’ I went to her and said ‘let me do it’ unfortunately for me she gave up the wheel without a moment’s hesitation!! I was hoping she would at least make a bit of a fight for it!!Anyway, I took RR out backwards for a bit then came in again, it was different now, we knew where our birth was, we had time to sort out the stern lines. I did a sort of three point turn and backed RR in up to this concrete wall, I had already placed one of our big fenders in front of our Hydrovane self-steering gear as that would be the first thing to hit if it all went wrong. The owner of the boat next to us came out to help and we stopped close enough to allow Claire to throw him our lines.

 

Once these were made off I put the engine in forward at tick over to keep us off the wall until the ‘slime lines’ were sorted out. ‘Slime lines’ are, in this case, thin bits of rope that are tied to the jetty and lay under the water connected to the end of a thicker rope whose other end is connected to a heavy chain or concrete block sitting on the seabed at the front of the boat. You need to pass the thin rope through your hands, this rope is always covered in weed and mud because it’s always in the water, hence the name until you get to the thicker rope which you tie off on your forward cleats. It’s a simple system that works well and it does away with the very expensive finger pontoons. We were pleased to be tied up and safe and we gave ourselves a hug. We were lucky in that there was very little wind and that the guy on the boat next door came out to help. I asked Claire, as we were in Marbella if she wanted to go out to a night club? Luckily for me she said no, I was knackered.

 

We had a restless night as it seems the local teenagers use the sea wall which was a short distance behind us as a meeting place, I thought about getting up and asking them to move but they were not doing anything wrong really. I put my trusty ear plugs in and went to sleep.

 

When I woke it was raining hard, the sky was a uniform dark grey as far as the eye could see. I got up, Claire didn’t!! For some reason and I have no idea why my mind took me back to Sunday mornings like this when I lived at home with my parents in south east London. There was something missing though, Big Band Music, my dad used to and still does like his music turned up loud! Loud enough to shake the pictures hanging on the wall. I searched through my music and found some Ted Heath (a favourite of my dad’s) I put it on, a bit too loud. I looked in at Claire and she had her head under the covers trying to block out the noise just like I used to do all those years ago. Brilliant. All that I needed now was for my Mum to come in with her hoover knocking lumps off the legs of the bed. I really don’t know how I survived.

 

When Claire got up we went out even though the rain was still pouring down, we found a small supermarket, stocked up on food for the boat and had a nice meal in an Italian restaurant. We dragged the meal out quite a bit as the rain was still falling and the WiFi was good. The staff didn’t seem to mind. The place was very busy anyway. When the weather brightened up a bit we made a dash for it. We were moving on in the morning so an early night would be good. The sun came out late in the afternoon but unfortunately so did the noisy teenagers. We ignored them, put a film on the PC, turned the sound up a bit and settled down for a couple of hours.

 

When we went to bed all was quiet and it stayed that way until the alarm woke us at 07.00. It was dark and raining. I didn’t have too much of a struggle persuading Claire that we should stay in bed for another 30 minutes. We motored out of the marina at 08.30 into a grey sea with a matching sky. More rain was forecast and they got that bit right but by the time we were passing Fuengirola the sun was out sitting in a nice blue sky with the grey clouds slowly moving inland.

 

We motor sailed to Caleta de Vélez the current seemed to have kicked back in giving us an extra knot or so. We radioed ahead and they had a spot for us, stern to again, Claire was plucking up the courage to take us in. I was very proud of her as it takes a bit of nerve the first few dozen times! We were told our birth was B32 and that a marinaro would be there to help. As with most of these marinas it’s in two halves, one section for the fishing fleet the other for pleasure craft of all shapes and sizes. Our section was quite small and packed full, we couldn’t see the pontoon letters or the marinaro, Claire stopped the boat and I went down to radio the office again. The reception said he was there and that the birth was in the middle of the first row. We spotted the gap and the marinaro at the same time. Blimey is was tight with the mooring lines coming off of the boats on both sides making it look even smaller. I looked at Claire and I could see that she would rather I took us in. We swapped places and I talked through what I was doing as much for Claire’s sake as my own. It went OK and we were tied up and happy to be in a good spot as we intended to stay here for three weeks as we have friends coming to visit. I am really pleased that Claire and I can swap jobs on the boat easily with no fuss or drama, I think it makes us both better as individuals and very strong as a team.

 

Caleta de Vélez is a very nice place and we consider ourselves lucky to have picked this marina to stop in for three weeks. We are out of season so its reasonably cheap, we were a bit fed up that they wouldn’t do a deal as we are here for so long but that said its perfect. As we were staying put for a bit we rigged up the hammock that Claire received from St Johns as part of her leaving gift.


There are a couple of good bars at the end of our pontoon that serve excellent food, have their music turned down low enough so you cannot hear it on the boat and have live bands every Saturday afternoon. One, El Camarote has very good WiFi which we can just pick up on board allowing us to get Facebook sometimes and update our emails etc.


There is a very good market here every Saturday with the post office, bread shop and Pharmacy all close at hand.


As usual the local bus service is brilliant and very cheap. A 2 minute walk from the marina gets us to the bus stops, one way is the town of Nerja, 1.8€ each for a very scenic 30 minute trip along the coast. The other way 2.92€ each gets us into the centre of Malaga. A Euro at the moment is about 70p!!


We went to Nerja on Sunday 18th at the suggestion of the couple who live aboard the boat berthed next to ours, Jean Pierre and Chantel. I think they’re French! We were talking to them about needing a folding bike as we had been informed that Almerimar, where we intend to stay for the winter is a big place with shops etc. quite a distance away. They have a spot at the local flea market in Nerja where they often see bikes for sale. Well we managed to find an aluminium folding bike with 5 gears for 35€. Jean Pierre took it back in his van for us leaving us free to have a look around the town.


Nerja is a lovely place with spectacular views over the sea from the pretty square in the centre of town. It was quite busy with a lot of English people and I could imagine that at the height of the season the place would be rammed. We had a very nice lunch with a huge jug of Sangria followed by a nice ice cream as we strolled around enjoying the sunshine.


We made it back to the boat just after dark and looking at the sky it seemed that we might be in for a spot of rain. Well we had a lot more than a spot! I think I have only ever been in heavier rain once or twice before. The thunder and lightning was spectacular lasting for over 20 minutes as it raged overhead.

 

I got completely soaked as I wanted to check the mooring lines after a very strong gust pushed the boat back into the pontoon. No damage done. The next thing to happen was both the opening windows in the saloon started leaking. This in itself isn’t too bad but the one by the nav station is over the main fuse board, with a fizz and a bit of smoke all the circuit breakers tripped as water ran into the board. Oh bugger I said. We had another big storm the following night that lasted even longer, I had sorted the windows by then so we could sit back and enjoy the show. I am sure every sailor worries about lightning hitting their mast during such a storm. It’s another good reason not to have the biggest yacht in the marina!! 


We got the bus into Malaga on the 21st (Trafalgar day) what a great city, nice streets and markets to walk around. We found a nice little bar with huge barrels of wine, port and dessert wines. You stood at the wooden bar, chose your tipple, in my case a Muscatel dessert wine and the barman held a largish glass under the big wooden tap filling it to the brim. He plonked it down in front of you writing the price, 1.35€ in chalk on the bar. You carry on drinking with the barman adding up your bill in front of you in chalk. When you paid up he rubbed the chalk out. Brilliant.


Claire went into the cathedral but I declined as there were services taking place.


The streets were narrow, very clean with bars and café´s dotted around all over the place. There is a great castle fortress in the city with well-preserved \ presented roman ruins including an amphitheatre.


We walked around the marina which is reported to be very expensive, we were glad we were in Caleta de Vélez it looked terrible, the boats were backed onto the quay bouncing around all over the place in the swell, there was no security with every Tom, Dick or José walking past looking in at you. We wouldn’t swap places.


We enjoyed a few G & T’s well I did anyway, Claire stuck to her white wine and lemonade, She phoned home and then we made our way back to the bus stop and the boat, stopping off in the bar El Camarote for a sea food Paella for two. We Face timed my Mum and Dad whilst we finished off the last of the wine. Another good day in a Spanish city, Malaga is right up there with the best of them.

 

We went for a swim in the sea today, I must admit to being a bit apprehensive but a lot of people have said that I need to keep going in, not only for my confidence but to build up my fitness. It was OK but I lost a lot of skin on my knuckles as I was trying to do the front crawl in 2ft of water!! No I did go in deeper and it was fine but I am aware of my limitations and I need to keep at it.


We are going to spend the next few days cleaning the boat in readiness for Bridget and Conor’s visit. We also have a date for lunch on Tuesday 27th in Nerja with Jan a good friend of Claire’s from her old school.

 

We caught the bus to meet Jan and Sheila at 1pm by the brass man on the Balcon as agreed. The Balcon got its name from King Alfonso Xll when he visited the town in 1884 after a serious earthquake and was so impressed with the views out to sea that he said it was the Balcon of Europa.

 

The weather wasn’t that brilliant but the company was so it didn’t matter. We had a stroll around the village for a bit then settled in a very nice Italian restaurant for some lunch. It was great to see Jan again and really nice to meet Sheila. We talked long into the afternoon only moving on when the rain stopped for a bit. Claire and I were offered a go on one of those ‘segway’ things. You often see a gaggle of them in the bigger cities although I think they’re banned in London. They are the two wheeled electric gizmos, their riders in crash hats and hi Vis vests holding on to the handles trying hard to look nonchalant. I must admit it was fun to have a go but I didn’t like the looks I was getting.

 

Jan kindly bought me a Ferrero Roche ice cream, I might have mentioned a few times to her how nice they were in Vilamoura!! It was obvious that it was half term in England as there were a lot more tourists around than when we had first visited. That didn’t spoil it for us though and we were sad when the time came to head back to the boat. It was good for Claire to catch up and I considered myself lucky that Sheila had nothing whatsoever to do with education as I also had someone to talk to!!

 

We walked back to their hire car, said our goodbyes and Claire and I walked fast back to the bus stop as our bus was leaving soon. We got our tickets at the office but the attendant told us that we had an hour to wait!! That couldn’t be right but when Claire looked at our timetable again we realised that we had read it wrong, oh well there is always a café nearby when you’re in Spain.

 

The 28th dawned bright and clear, I didn’t see the dawn you understand as I got up around 10 but it was a lovely day which was great as we so wanted Bridget and Conor’s visit to go well. They were the first people to make the trip just to visit us. We have of course met up with George, Lauri, David, Roger and Stuart which was fantastic but they had already planned their trips, we were just lucky to be in the same area. Bridget and Conor on the other hand have come just to meet up with us. They had originally intended to meet us in Lisbon at the end of August but the flights were far too expensive.


We had nothing planned with both Claire and I happy to do whatever they wanted. They arrived around 1600 and by 1830 we were sitting at a table outside a restaurant on the seafront. We had lots to drink, good food and we walked back to the boat very happy after forking out just 53€ all in.


We went straight to bed as Conor and Bridget had had a hectic few days before getting here as well as a tiring trip out. They liked their cabin and in the morning commented on how well they had slept. Thursday was going to be a rest day, they went for a run!! Claire and I sat on the beach, swam a bit to cool off as the sun was still hot at this time of the year. When they got back we all went in the sea it was the warmest yet and I am looking forward to swimming more as we move further into the Med next year.


That evening we went to El Camarote the nearest bar to us in the marina. We had cocktails, tapas and four very nice desserts.
 

We went to The Alhambra on Friday, it was about 1h 40 minutes in the car and I was amazed to see snow on the peaks of the Sierra Nevada Mountains as it was really warm and sunny where we were. We had tried to book tickets on line as everyone we had met had said that you cannot get tickets on ‘the door’ as it’s always fully booked. We only realised that this hadn’t worked when we tried to collect our tickets at the entrance. However we did manage to get them on ‘the door’ with a 1400 entry time. That left us an hour or so to find a nice shady restaurant for some well earned lunch. 
 

The Alhambra started life as a small fortress in 889 and stayed that way until it was converted into a royal palace in 1333 by the Sultan of Grenada, Yusuf l being built for the last Muslim Emirs in Spain and for the court of the Nasrid dynasty.
 

It was taken over by the Catholic Monarch’s in 1492 with some parts being used by the Christian rulers. It has very beautiful gardens planted by the Moors with roses, oranges and myrtles with a dense wood of English elms bought by the Duke of Wellington in 1812. There are many water features that are fed by a conduit which runs for over 5 miles from the Darro River at the monastery of Jesus Del Valle which sits above Grenada.

 

The Alhambra is one of Spain’s major tourist attractions and is a UNESCO World Heritage site
 

We left around 1800 and made our way to The Albaycin as recommended by our neighbour in the marina Jean Pierre. It was a short car ride across the other side of the valley.
 

The Albaycin was an area populated by the mainly Muslim Arabs at the time of the Catholic Conquest and they were left there in peace but constant revolts by the 40,000 or so inhabitants caused the monarchs to have them expelled. Their Mosques were pulled down with Christian churches built in their place. It is an amazing place, very narrow winding streets with many bars and restaurants influenced by the Muslim culture and a great place to explore.
 

We got back to the boat pretty late, Claire and Bridget went off to bed leaving Conor and I to polish off a newly opened bottle of Taylors vintage port!!
 

Unsurprisingly Saturday saw a bit of a slow start. We had a mission though, we had to get into Malaga by bus and find a bar that was showing the rugby world cup final. The bus we wanted left at 1330 which gave us time for a bit of breakfast a shower and a walk around the Saturday market.
 

As you know we think Malaga is great. We went back to the Andalusian wine bar sampling a few more ports and sherry’s than we should. We seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time in shoe shops of which there are many before finding Hennessey’s, an Irish bar that was showing the rugby. We got good seats, had some food, the Guinness was flowing and we sat back, actually we were sat forward for most of what turned out to be a brilliant game. Bridget is a Kiwi and so she really enjoyed the match.
 

We caught the last bus back to Caleta de Valez getting us in just after midnight. Bridget and Conor had to leave at 0330 to catch their flight home so we went straight to bed.
 

We were sad as we waved them off. We had had a great time with them over the last few days and it just goes to show how much you can do if you can only have a few days away. We went back to bed but our thoughts were with our friends as they flew back to their home and cats in England.
 

The storms that were forecast came with a vengeance that evening. Really strong winds, very heavy rain with a good portion of thunder and lightning thrown in for good measure. I had to lay out additional mooring lines and I sat up most of the night as Red Rooster was shoved around like a toy boat. The Mediterranean Sea wasn’t a nice place to be as we walked along the front the following day. We saw 2m waves boiling up the beach where we had been swimming only a few days before. How lucky were Conor and Bridget!!
 

I am slowly getting the hang of editing film from our Go Pro camera and have started posting short video’s on you tube. If you ‘search’ for Sailing Red Rooster there are a few on there now from this trip and more from our trip to the Frisian Islands last year.

We had stayed in Caleta de Valez for three weeks but it was now time to leave. I find it odd thinking about moving on when you have been in the same place for a while. You start to get to know people, like the lady in the bread shop and the waitress at the bar. The couple in the boat next to us had become friends, Jean Pierre and I just sort of ‘clicked’ and I was sad to have to say goodbye. I think it’s to do with the realization that you will probably never see them again and that they have all contributed in some way to making the stay more memorable and enjoyable. Anyway leave we did enjoying the fact that when you go in stern to its very easy to leave as your facing the right way already.


The trip to Motril was uneventful but the scenery was fantastic. I don’t think I will ever get used to sailing along the coast in shorts and T-shirt looking up at the Sierra Nevada Mountains with their peaks dusted in snow!


Claire had psyched herself up to take Red Rooster in stern to when we reached the marina in Motril but very quickly accepted the offer of the hammerhead on the main pontoon when it was offered to us. Quite right too. We were a bit shocked at the costs here at €30 a night!! We moaned a bit but the Capitania said that the marina did not need visitors as it was always full with member’s boats. 


We stayed for a couple of nights. The town was a cab ride away but we were pleased to be able to accept a lift from a fellow Spanish sailor who was heading into town. There was nothing to see really just a clean pleasant town with the biggest cheese and tomato sandwiches we had ever seen.

 

We left on Friday 6th November for what was to be our last hop this year. We are heading for Almerimar which we had been told by numerous people was the best \ cheapest marina in Southern Spain. It also suited us as 2015 was fast running out and we needed somewhere safe to winter. The trip again was uneventful but I did manage to strap a GoPro to my RC plane and I filmed us sailing along the coast in beautiful sunshine. Check out YouTube.

 

Almerimar was\ is a pleasant surprise and I am very happy to be here. The costs are brilliant at about €7 a day for a winter deal. The toilets and showers are OK with shops, supermarkets, restaurants and bars in plentiful supply. It’s not very ‘English’ which is a bonus. My only concern is ‘have we stopped to soon’? I know other sailors we have met stopped late September, early October but when I think about what we have done and seen since then, all in beautiful weather I am pleased that we continued on. We have had such a brilliant time since we entered the Med and the weather here is still perfect for sailing. Ibiza isn’t that far from here you know!!


We had a very pleasant surprise not long after we had tied up as Jayne and Graeme on board ‘Scarlett’ popped along to say hello. They were moored a couple of boats down. We had first met up in Porto, blimey it seems ages ago now and although we kind of knew they were in the area it was great to see them again.
We will stay here now for a while. Red Rooster needs to come out of the water at some stage to allow me to check the anodes, rough up the Coppercoat and grease the prop and sea cocks.


It’s our intention to go skiing for a week at Christmas then back to England for a few months catching up with friends and family.


We have travelled nearly 2000 miles since we left Tollesbury all those weeks ago. We have visited over 50 marinas or anchorages, met many fantastic people and have seen some memorable sights. I am proud of what we have achieved and cannot wait for next year.


For those that are curious about the details of our new life here are a few facts:


We have sold everything we own apart from our houses which we let out.

 

We have been trying to live on the £1800 a month we receive in rent. That has to pay for everything, the marina fees are still the biggest expense with food, drink, diesel and the maintenance of the boat taking up the rest and a bit more unfortunately!

 

We have yet to stay within budget going over by £100 - £200 each month. We have a small pot of money that we have left in the bank, a contingency fund that we keep dipping into but it’s frustrating for us that we keep overspending. We have talked about it a lot and we think it’s to do with feeling like we’re on holiday all the time. I know this sounds a bit simplistic but we are always eating out in restaurants, drinking in the many café’s and bars virtually every day. We wouldn’t do this if we were at home and it all costs money. We have to stop ‘being on holiday’ and start living as we would do if we were at home. After all, Red Rooster is our home now and we love it.

 

The other point we have discussed is that we do not want to visit these beautiful places and not enjoy all that they have to offer so if it costs to go into a museum or into a castle we are going to pay up no question. We want to get to the end of our adventure having seen and done everything we wanted to do. If that means spending ‘our pot’ then so be it. I don’t suppose we will be able to visit all of these places again!

 

Now that we are in Almerimar with the marina fees so low for the next 6 months along with our resolve to eat on the boat more we feel that we may be able to put some money back into the pot.


The boat has been fantastic with all of the work we did during the refit last winter paying off. Nothing serious has gone wrong (yes I did touch wood) I repair things as a matter of course as soon as they need fixing. 


We have not had any issues entering the different countries we have visited so far. When we arrive at a new marina they always ask to see our passports and the insurance for Red Rooster along with the official registration document for the boat, we fill in lots of forms and they photocopy everything. Often they input all of this information into a computer as well. If it’s a marinaro doing this it can take ages.


We have had a customs official on board once in La Corunna and have been visited by the police on three or four occasions. They have never come on board, we assume that they have been to the office first to look at all our paperwork, they always ask ‘how many people on board?’ then leave.

 

Everyone who is not living our life always asks ‘what do we do all day’ that is a very good question and it’s quite difficult to give a definitive answer. When we are in a marina we get up, normally between 08.30 and 1000. We spend an hour or two getting showered dressed etc. I normally walk to the local bakers for a fresh baguette, most days we have two boiled eggs each with tea or coffee. I wash up. We then go out, always locking up the boat making sure nothing is left out, as you would do at home. Then we go exploring. Often walking for miles. If there is an interesting city, castle or ruins that is too far to walk we would figure out the buses and use them. 


We now try to have a small lunch out somewhere nice coming back to the boat so Claire can cook our main meal of the evening. I wash up then we read or watch some pre-recorded stuff on the laptop etc. Recently we have been getting into ‘Breaking Bad’

 

We normally stay in a place for two or three days but if there is a lot to see or we just really like where we are we will stay longer. The weather forms the basis for most of our decisions and we have been lucky with it since we arrived in Northern Spain back in June.
One of the best things about our new life is that we have no agenda, no timescales and no plan. That, we have proved on numerous occasions ensures our safety. Other boats we have met that have limited time, crew on-board that have pre booked a flight home or arranged to meet people at a pre-determined time and place often have to leave the safety of a marina in poor weather because they need to be somewhere!!! We won’t do that. We understand the problems this causes for our friends and family who may wish to visit us. 


Both sets of parents came to see us in Almerimar along with my Sister Lauri and her husband David. Fortunately they stayed in accommodation close by, the boat isn’t that big!! It was lovely to see them. The weather was perfect, they really liked the marina along with the many small bars and restaurants scattered around. They all get on very well and I consider myself lucky to have a great Mum and Dad as well as a great mother and father in law. 


I think visiting us here for a week or so gave them a little insight into our new way of living and a better understanding of why we want to continue on deeper into the Med next year.  It really was great to see them all and we are looking forward to meeting up again when we go back to England next year.

 

An added bonus for us is that we got our Christmas present early! They were in the shape of 2 mooring springs and as soon as our parents left I spliced a couple of lines onto them and put them on Red Rooster. This, in the circumstances turned out to be probably one of the best presents we have ever had as on Saturday 21st November, the wind blew up stronger than we have seen since leaving England, touching 48 knots at times. The new mooring lines and springs worked perfectly and we feel safe in our winter home. 

We have settled in here, but I am trying very hard not to settle into a routine. We exercise every other day and Claire goes horse-riding on Monday afternoons but the rest of our time is up for grabs. 


Our exercise consists of walking fast for one minute then jogging for one minute. We go out along the promenade and on the way back we walk and jog on the beach. We do this for about 50 minutes then spend two minutes on each of the public exercise machines. There are seven or eight different types and we think they’re good but we have never seen anyone else on them.


We have put Christmas lights up the mast and in the boat but it is difficult to feel Christmassy when it’s still so warm.


I had some jobs to do on the boat, the first was to winterise the engine and I probably didn’t need to do all of it as it’s almost as cold as it’s going to get here but I have been doing it the same way since we bought RR without any real problems. 


I start by running the engine for about 40 minutes to warm up the oil. I then stop it, close the raw water inlet valve and open the lid of the raw water filter. Claire then goes up to the helm and on a nod from me she starts the engine. I immediately start pouring a watered down antifreeze mix, not too weak, into the opened raw water filter. So instead of sea water being sucked in to the engine I pour a freshwater antifreeze mixture in. I keep pouring no matter what. In a few minutes Claire shouts that she can see the blue, in this case, antifreeze coming out of the exhaust then she turns off the engine. Then and only then do I stop pouring.  


My engine needs about 25 – 30 litres. If you want to do this on your boat try and find out how much raw water is in your engine, including the heat exchanger as it’s important to be able to keep pouring it in until the engine stops. If you run out before he/she turns the engine off you need to shout to your helper to stop the engine as you have no coolant left to pour in!!


This process forces all of the salt water from the raw water system, replacing it with freshwater / antifreeze. This is the bit I probably didn’t need to do but I will not be starting the engine for about 5 – 6 months and I would rather fresh water in the pipes etc. than salt water.


Once that is done I then draw out all of the old engine oil via the dip stick tube using an extractor. This is a lot easier when the oil is warm and runny. I also remove the oil filter and have a bit of clean-up. I screw on a new oil filter, smearing the O-ring with grease to ensure a good seal. Next I pour in the fresh oil checking the level on the dipstick every few minutes. I write on the filter the month and year this was done as a reminder. This time I put 04/16 because that’s when I’m going to start her up next.


I then unscrew the fuel filter at the front of my engine and screw on a new one, again smearing the O-ring with grease. I undo the bleed screw and pump the fuel until it’s through. I then move onto the fuel filter near the tank, the one with the glass bowl. I strip and clean it, replacing all the O-rings as I put it back together. I bleed this through also. I check for leaks and clean up.

 

I have a turbo on my engine and I wish I didn’t! It hasn’t given me any trouble, yes I did touch wood but it’s a complication that I would rather not have. I take the air filter off, squirt WD40 in there and ensure that the fan spins freely and is well lubricated.


I then check the levels of the fresh water cooling system and wipe everything down. Finally I remove the cover of the raw water pump, I have the speed seal version and I remove the impellor, check it for any cracking / wear and I place it on top of the opened raw water filter. Lastly I remove the red plastic key from the battery switch and hang it by the nav panel so the engine can’t be started by mistake. That’s the engine winterised!! 

 

 

We have taken the main and genoa sails off the boat making sure that they were completely dry first. We folded them on the tiles in front of the shops in the marina, put them back into their sail bags and put them into the front cabin.

 

The two opening windows in the saloon on RR have leaked on and off for the last couple of years. I managed to find a company that would post replacements out to us here in Spain and I have installed them with complete success.

 

We have had a cover made for the Hydrovane self-steering gear, I don’t think it really needs protection from the elements but we keep grabbing it when getting on and off the boat and I think a cover will help to keep it from getting damaged.

 

 

On the 8th December we took a trip to Seville with our friends Jayne and Graeme from Scarlett. We hired a car and drove there staying in a posh hotel for what we hoped would be a bit of a treat. As it turned out the city was great especially as all the Christmas lights were up and on. But the sleeping in a big soft bed didn’t really work for me as the room was really warm, the ventilation had been switched to winter mode so no real cooling was available. I opened the windows but that let the noise of the city in and I had two very restless nights. 

 

Seville was great though and we all had a lovely time. On the way home we went via the town of Ronda. This was a spectacular place to spend a few hours with breath taking views across the valley from the bridge and many other vantage points.

 

Claire and I went into the bull ring, this is one of the oldest in Spain. It really was a wonderful building being completed in 1785. Neither of us wants to see a Bull fight but to stand in the centre of the ring imagining the noise of the crowd as the lone bull fighter faces such a powerful animal gave me some sense of the spectacle.

 

The road back to the coast from Ronda was fantastic and I longed to be on a motorbike or back in my Porsche. The road surface was perfect and it went on for miles as it wound its way through the mountains with spectacular views of the ocean as we dropped back down to sea level.


We stopped to pick up Izzy, Jayne and Graeme’s cat that had spent a couple of restless days in a kennels / cattery she was a bit quite but none the worse for her experience.

 

When we got back to Red Rooster, we had a cup of tea and crawled into bed, we slept for nearly 12 hours aahhhh it’s great to be back home.

 

We had been invited to ‘a passerelle’ opening party by Karina and Gerard aboard K’Dans their beautiful Koopmans 44. It was a really good night with plenty of wine and good food. The Passerelle looked and worked perfectly. During this party I accepted an invite to join a walking group consisting of sailors, ex pats and Spanish people who drive up into the mountains behind Almerimar every Sunday to walk 5 to 10 miles along the old paths made by the farmers and miners who brought all of their provisions and produce back and forth on the backs of donkeys. I am sure I must have been drunk but it turned out to be a very enjoyable hike with a group of very nice people. It was so good that we have agreed to go again next week!!

 

One of the good things about being in the same place for a while is that it gives you the chance to spend time with other enlightened people that have adopted this way of life as normally you only have a few days to get to know each other as your paths cross in a marina or anchorage.  I am sure there are small communities in all of the longstay marinas everywhere and we consider ourselves lucky to be able to build friendships that will possibly last forever. I am not sure they think the same way about us !! You will have to read their blogs to find that out. In addition to Jayne and Graeme  on scarlett we have spent good times with Ian and Lynn on Infinity, they are originally from Liverpool and are just a couple of boats down from us. They intend to move further into the Med next year as do Suzie and Mike on Toy Buoy. These two are from the Solent area, Mike though has a definate Jordy twang that comes to the fore the more he drinks. Karina and Gerard are a dutch couple on K'Dans that have once again proved to us that ALL Dutch sailors are nice people. Finaly Alan and Bijouca on board Serene turned up here as well. It was great to see these two again. There is a very good chance that we will all be sailing towards the Balearics together next year.  

 

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