Scotland to Spain
30th June 2004
This is just to let you know that we are still floating and currently moored up in Padstow harbour where we are entertainng the tourists just by being there. A quick check with our itinerary puts us on the coast of
Fortunately, we are in no hurry, we are having a great time and really enjoying the cruising life. We keep looking at each other and laughing. Is this the first sign of madness?
We moved on board on June 4th in Port Dinorwic but then spent a week unpacking all our possessions, recovering, from this dramatic step, swabbing black gunge (caused by a bug that lives on diesel) out of the fuel tank, splicing the mainbrace etc, by which time the good weather had passed.
We eventually had a fantastic sail round to Aberdaron, where we anchored overnight, and then Pwllheli where we stayed a further week. Although it was sunny and warm on land, there were gale warnings and we waited for a good time to go.
We sailed overnight to Milford Haven – 20 hours, leave in the light, arrive in the light. We were met in the morning by dolphins who leapt either side of the boat and accompanied us in. Milford Haven is very sheltered and we had idyllic trips up the river, eventually coming into Neyland Marina where we’d ordered a radar to be sent. Spent three days fitting it, then there was a weather window (excuse the jargon but you know), and we sailed again overnight to Padstow.
Culinary notes on Padstow: we now know why people call it Padstein, there’s Rick Stein’s Seafood Restaurant, Café, Bistro, Fish and Chip Shop, Deli,
If you want to email, please do, we’d like to hear from you; we might take a while to respond though, because we’re relying on nipping into internet cafes every few days.
Hot dogs in Padstow...maybe it's Rick Stein's icecream?
23rd July 2004
I’m writing this half-way across the bay of Biscay which might give a clue to the state of the weather. There is not enough wind to power our sails and we’re motoring. Yesterday we saw groups of dolphins three times; they came and leapt around and under the boat on their way – somewhere? It’s very peaceful. There’s a slight swell making the boat roll but nothing uncomfortable – like being in a giant cradle. The sky and sea are both gun-metal grey though, I’m expecting a destroyer to come over the horizon at any moment, and it’s started to rain.
We set off from Belle Isle, S. Brittany, heading for
Last night was black, black, couldn’t see anything. Away from land there’s no light except the moon and last night was only a sliver which soon set. I had to change course to avoid a large ship. It’s not like you imagine, you can see them for miles by their lights, and identify what they are and which way the’re facing, what you can’t see is their speed and angle - but you can with our new radar. It was heading diagonally so all I had to do was change course and go round the back of it.
We’ve done so much in the last three weeks it’s hard to believe it’s not three months. We stayed in Padstow longer than expected, because of gales. It’s a picture-book harbour with plenty going on and it was hot and sunny most of the time -apart from when you came to visit us Rob and Margo! It’s hard to believe the shipping forecast when you’re on land, and some boats went out to the mouth of the river Camel to take a look/see and came running back. The novelty of walking was beginning to wear off – especially armed with Tesco shopping bags, so we hired bicycles and cycled along the Camel trail to Wadebridge and ended up buying two very decent ex. hire bikes at a bargain price. You can take off the wheels and pedals and they are a decent size for stowing on the boat.
We eventually made a dash round Land’s end, the sea still lumpy from the gales, but we timed it well.
For non-nautical people - we have several options of where to park the boat, a marina is easiest but most expensive and like a big boat park that gets to us after two or three days; a mooring is easy too and if we’re lucky, can be free, but not as safe and you need a dinghy to get ashore; anchoring is the next; or mooring up against a harbour wall; then there’s the legs. The easiest harbours to get in are being turned into marinas and moorings but if we make the effort, accept the risks you can park the boat in some beautiful and more remote locations, far from the madding crowd. Drying out is not related to our alcohol consumption, Yanina has a long keel and two legs that can be attached either side and then she can go places where the tide goes out. There’s lots of lovely places round Penzance you could do that – Marizion, St Michael’s Mount, it’s hard not to linger but we have a plan, and there is a gale coming.
Next day we plotted our escape and left at 6-30am. Round the Lizard and to
The harbour master was very attentive, probably wondering why the hell we chose his patch to practise on. We’d relied on the Nautical Almanac which said we could come in up to two hours after high water but that’s no help when you’ve gone and done it. We spent a miserable afternoon in Tesco’s caf. as the rain started and the wind rose.We came free at 10pm when the tide came in, and the gale was starting. We roped Yanina round to face in the right direction and shot away as soon as there was a lull in the wind. We eventually picked up a mooring as the gale howled round us and stayed there all the next day, which was actually a good place to be as we swung round with the wind. We spent two nights on that mooring, escaping everything. Then the weather cleared and we went to Falmouth Marina and waited the afternoon out and set off across the channel early evening. Wind, but not enough to power our sails, so we motorsailed over.
Sunrise across the Channel
We saw cows and piglets from
The next leg of our journey took some planning as we had to clear Le Chenal du Four and pass through Le Raz de Sein. The North Britanny coast is littered with rocks, pretty much like Cornwall but worse, these rocks all have terrible names like the Manacles off Lands end or passages between them like Le Chanel de Helle in Brittany. On the chart they look even worse, like blobs of spilt porage, with deadly black crosses in the middle. The tide races through these rocks at certain times, they can be uncovered at low tide or disappear at high tide, and beware when the wind is in the opposite direction to the tide, Ahh hargh. We sit and pore over these charts, read the Almanac and become convinced it’s hell out there. Well, it can be, but with careful planning and going at the right time and using the channels it needn’t be like that. Hello to Steve who was on Family Fortune next to us. Your Uncle and his mate set off the day before us and left us with these words of wisdom ‘If we waited till we were ready to go, we’d never go anywhere’.
We had a good time in the end. Going through the Raz was like a free bob-sleigh ride (well I’ve never been on one, but, how I imagine one might be). And it was foggy too, most of the way, but thanks to GPS and Radar it wasn’t a problem. We just programme our route in and a little display in the cockpit shows whether we’re on track and if not, which way to go. It takes some of the mystique out of it but also the fear of where the hell are we.
No wind, fog at sea, we stayed in Audierne, Benodet and Concarneau, explored, shopped and mainly it was hot and sunny. We had a panic when the Navtex stopped spewing out weather information and the VHF didn’t receive it either. We felt vunerable sailing across Biscay without any weather reports. Talking to other boat owners, Navtex seemed to pack up in this area anyway, the VHF turned out to have water in the aerial cable, but we bought a world radio and listened to the British shipping forecast and Tony Blair who we haven’t missed. We knew you needed two of everything on a boat, - but three? While Bob puzzled over the Navtex, I spent some time sewing Spanish and Portuguese flags, a wind scoop and made a bag for the bicycles out of an old sail (how salty is that)?
One last little story, we found we had a chart of the French coast missing and realised we had to delay a day and go and buy one. Bob happened to be talking to a sweet French girl in a dinghy and she pootled by five minutes later with a load of CD’s. Turned out she was a software engineer and she installed all the charts for
25th July 2004
The sun came out eventually over Biscay and the wind increased and gave us a lovely sail for the rest of the trip. We’re in
Jobs jobs jobs...
It’s not all plain sailing, living on board – Kay and Pete, Will and Kate, you’ll be wondering, because you know. It’s a small space and everything has to be put away and it’s all in lockers or under cushions, great when we’re sailing, but when we’re trying to do a job we’re constantly lifting cushions and delving into cubbyholes and the thing we want is always at the back. Something breaks at least every other day, quite often it’s us who’ve caused it. I sat on my glasses two days ago, Bob spent most of yesterday trying to fix a leak on the heads. Everything takes twice as long as on land, the launderette is a km away, etc. etc. When bad things happen we get despondent, but it’s a life of great contrasts and the next day’s sail is invigorating and all is forgotten. We’re enjoying it, and that solves everything.
24th August 2004
Blimey it’s hot. We’re in a marina in Ayamonte, part-way up the Guadiana river that divides
complicated version of den-making. In the last month we’ve rounded two capes – Finisterre and
We sailed overnight to
We’ve been to
We cycled back to the boat – three tipsy people on two bikes – hmmm.
Our next challenge was to travel along the last bit of northern coast and then round Cape Finisterre where the weather is often stormy - another bit of land that dares to stick out into the sea. By contrast, for us, the sea had a glassy swell and we had to motor a lot of the time. We were also plagued by fog and missed seeing the landscape. We saw the
The next day was a total contrast sailing into Ria Muros and into sunshine. The Rias are very wide river estuaries in
A large part of Ria Mura dries out to a huge sandbank at low tide, so we took the dinghy and sandwiches and made a trip up river. The plan was to check the river bottom at a place where the pilot book said you could dry out, and if it looked firm, come back at high tide with Yanina, bolt on her legs, and settle down upright onto the sand. One leg has steps on it, so you can climb down off the boat. We could then walk into a picturesque old town – reaching the parts that other boats can’t reach! We had a plan of the sandbank and the GPS with us and it was no mean feat to negotiate our way round it. When we finally got to the bay the sand was mixed with mud and our feet sank into holes – we were glad we checked it out, not really looking forward to leaning over in the mud as the tide went out.
We met Midge in the next Ria de Arosa, and from then on, the weather started to behave and we had a favourable winds for sailing. More importantly, with the support of two experienced sailors, we were able to start acting as if we were on a holiday and not a delivery trip. For the next few days we enjoyed sailing in the Ria, anchoring off beaches, swimming, them we headed out to Islas de Cies, spectacular islands that are joined by an isthmus.
They are a nature reserve but the isthmus is a national park with a camping area. The two sides of the islands are a total contrast, the Eastern side with beaches and a turquoise sea and the Atlantic side with jagged rocks and breaking waves. We anchored off a quiet bay, fringed with aromatic eucalyptus and pine trees.
Islas de Cies
The wind rose the next day, but we only had a short trip to Baiona, or so we thought. Great sailing weather, 25 knots of wind at one point and we were screaming along. Baiona has a fringe of rocks – los Serralleiros. As we left the shelter of the islands there was a huge Atlantic swell. The sea was pounding on the rocks which looked like foaming jaws and we were tacking round them, watching them with fascination, until Bob realised we were slipping sideways towards them. Hero that he is, he started the engine and we gradually pulled away, back onto our course. Exciting or what.
In Baiona we were shorebound for three days of wind and rain – but it was warm rain and Baiona is a sweet town. Our next leg was to be 225 miles to
When we set off there was a big swell. We’d all been enjoying cooking meals on board and becoming more ambitious as time went on, cooking an extravaganza in rolling seas was an additional challenge, but no one backed down. Having Midge and
We came into Cascais at 9am, which was 8am in
View of Lisbon from a rooftop bar
It was noticeably hotter than
Every stop provided something different, like Alvor where we shared a hidden anchorage with a customs boat that went out at dead of night, it’s searchlights glaring; or the anchorage where someone went aground and we watched their mast lean and lean until it got dark; or the lagoon with the difficult pilotage where a strong wind suddenly came and threatened to blow us aground. When we anchored, a guy appeared on the yacht behind us shouting ‘Hey Yanina, I hef feefty meetres of chain oot’, meaning ‘don’t park near me or I’ll swing round and clout your boat’, but really meaning, ‘don’t park next to my boat’. ‘Good’, we replied. There are several versions of this approach and we’ve heard them a lot now - we’re becoming veterans.
22nd September 2004
It’s late September and we really should be………………in
We left Ayamonte on August 27th. It’s two miles up the Ria Guadiana which is also the border between
We arrived at
Barbate was our next stop and a staging post on the passage to
The coast was obscured by mist so we couldn’t see very much and when we came into
Gibraltar has the feel of the last bastion of the
That evening we started singing to Bob’s guitar and improvised a very creditable rendition of ‘Queensway Blues’ -
that being the name of the
Coming out of Gibraltar and round the rock, we encountered some interesting windshifts that kept us busy, then they died away, and the wind died too, and we motored in a rather lumpy sea. The landscape started to change as the majestic mountains of southern
Along the coast to Motril, which is a working port, but the pilot book said there was a friendly yacht club and you could use the facilities there. Not only were we shooed away and told to anchor out, but when we took our dinghy over we were refused entry to the club. At 1am someone came over in a launch and said there was a big ship due to go out and we were in the way. We ignored them and nothing happened, but we shot away at first light. At least it was free.
On to Almerimar, where we’d planned to stay for a few days and go to
Generalife gardens, Alhambra, Granada
So here we are settling in and hibernating. Yanina is decorated with sun awnings, washing line, hosepipe. We are linked into shore power and can run an electric fan, sewing machine, computer, CD player, fridge. First we did some spreadsheets of our finances and guess what, we’ve been spending too much. Now we have a list of jobs to do and things to fit on Yanina. We start in the morning but it quickly gets hot and we have a siesta. We do our washing on board in a bucket because it’s fun and cools us down. We usually eat on board in the evenings and then practise our music. We are getting to know so many people that walking anywhere takes ages as you’re always meeting someone. There’s a cruiser’s net on the VHF every day which tells of social events, items for sale and who wants a car lift. etc. We’re planning to paint and write. We can still go sailing – just for fun this time.
Hello, Bob writing for a change,
Here’s my take on the cruising life in winter, as we lurk in the marina, hiding from the slightest breeze, and gradually turning the boat into a floating des. res. You know people are marina-bound when you see the pot plants appearing on deck. We haven’t reached this stage (yet).
We arrived in Almerimar in early September. We were planning to carry on to
The marina is about 30 km west of Almeria, set in a flat coastal plain with a backdrop of hills (the Alpuharras) and mountains beyond (the Sierra Nevada) rising to about 10000 ft. This is the driest part of the Andalucian coast, and the landscape is semi-desert. Most of the plain however is completely covered in plastic greenhouses, growing melons, tomatoes, cucumbers, etc for the supermarkets of
The greenhouses and the hydroponics/growbags growing system were apparently originally set up by the Dutch (who else?), but the land and the greenhouses are owned by local Spanish whose parents were probably at subsistence level, but who are now becoming increasingly wealthy. Mercedes, Porsches, big 4WD’s are commonplace. The nearest town is El Ejido. 4 or 5 years ago it was a village, but which is growing rapidly, having brand new boulevards, town hall and square (still being finished), commercial centre, hospital and, directly in line of sight of your hospital bed, a crematorium. The El Ejidans come down to the marina every Sunday morning to parade their Sunday cars, take a look at the craft/flea market (of which more later), then have a leisurely family lunch at a restaurant in the afternoon.
The Alpujarras offer a different perspective on the greenhouses. A friend joined us last week and we drove up into the hills, looking back to see the entire ‘sea’ spread out before us, gleaming in the sun. The hills are a different matter; rows of olive trees and terracing punctuate the landscape in a more ancient way, and as you round a bend on the narrow twisty road you come across one of the ‘white villages’ tumbling down across a hillside. From the hills you look down onto a kind of ‘badlands’ area of eroded rock and shale, again semi-desert with just scrub and wild herbs growing. Further east above
Back down in the marina, there are no shootouts, in fact it’s rather like being in an English village but with a number of other nationalities thrown in for good measure. There are about a thousand boats here in three bays (darsenas) and each darsena is lined with apartments and a few shops, bars and restaurants. There are a lot of Brits on boats and in apartments, but other nationalities living on board include Dutch, French, German, Scandinavian, and even one Czech boat. Social life has been organised by the longer-term residents, so each week there is a pub quiz, a boules contest, a pool evening in one of the bars, Spanish for beginners at another. News of this social activity is broadcast every morning at 10.00 in the Cruisers Net on the VHF radio. One person introduces and co-ordinates it and everybody else chips in. Answers are provided to such questions as: Can anyone with a sewing machine mend a rip in my genoa? (yes, we have Liz’s old sewing machine on board) What time is the bus to El Ejido? Who can give me a lift to the airport? Has anyone got a gasket for a Sur-flo bilge pump? Who wants to buy my spinnaker pole? And so on. And Tuesday’s celebrity Net Co-ordinator is yours truly, so I think we’ve made it to the Establishment.
Apart from Spanish of course, the other nationality most evident is Russian. None on boats but they wander around the darsenas, often in the form of tall blonde girls with too much makeup. And sure enough, we discover that they are available for about 40 euros an hour or 200 for the night. Well, at least they’re not on their feet all day.
We are offering another form of entertainment too, and certainly a lot cheaper. We formed a band from the people who turned up for a jam session in one of the bars. Hard on the ears but great fun.
I mentioned the Sunday morning market, and this is where we have come into our own, almost by accident.To backtrack, we won the first pub quiz we attended, thus ensuring we had to organise it for the next week. I decided to do a ‘spot the difference’ cartoon based on an over-full marina with boats jammed in at every conceivable angle, and with the names of real boats in it. This went down a storm with the yachties, and someone suggested basing a Christmas card on it. From this beginning we now have four different cartoons in the form of Christmas cards, birthday cards and postcards all printed at the internet café and in any language the customer wants, and we have a stall on the Sunday market, where people buy the cards six at a time. It’s keeping us busy but it’s starting to get a bit too much like work. Peter, our German friend who came to stay, started talking about ‘defining our marketing channels’ and getting quotes from commercial printers, so watch this space.
Our market stall
Meanwhile, although the weather has cooled down a lot and become a bit more unpredictable, we still found ourselves sunbathing on the beach yesterday afternoon after a morning manning the market stall in the hot sun. Can’t complain...