Friday, March 30, 2012

Almerimar – What to do whilst waiting

Here we are in the same position as we were just a couple of weeks ago in Gibraltar the winds are consistently strong easterlies, 25+ knots on the nose would not make a pleasant journey especially as we really need to make 100 miles minimum on our next journey so we a good weather window.

So what are we doing to pass the time, sleeping is high on our list but we have managed to get out and about both walking and on our bikes.  There is Nature Reserve about ½ mile away which makes a nice walk but it is a bit open to the wind which makes it a bit of battle and the lake is so large that we could see the flamingos but actually they were just dots in the distance!

There is also a lovely bike ride along the seafront on a purpose built cycle path which is great when the wind is behind you but not so good when you going into the wind, we were pedalling in 1st & 2nd gear just to make progress downhill!

Miles of cycle path

The wind across the bay has been pretty wild over the last of days and every morning we are desperate to download some new weather to try to plan our departure.

The easterlies making a blustery beach 
We also had a nice walk in the surrounding mountains, Chris & Tony from Giselle have hired a car and kindly took us out for a walk, we all left the coast lovely and warm but once we were up the mountain it was pretty chilly but amazing views on all the plastic greenhouse which spread for miles around this area – they seems to grow everything from Aubergine to Peppers to Tomatoes at a huge scale! Gives all you gardeners something to aspire to.

The white covering before reaching the sea is all sheets of plastic
We have been joined by some parakeets which seem to live on the buildings behind the boat and we have really enjoyed seeing (& hearing) them flying around.

Ring necked parakeets
There are lots of live aboard boaties in the marina which is always nice both for a chat and to have a nosey at their boats.  There is also a lovely Whitbread racing boat which we have been admiring.

The Whitbread round the world race started 38 years ago and have now changed to the Volvo round the world race.  The Whitbread Heritage boat which is in the marina took part in the Volvo Legends Regatta in Alicante in 2011 and is the longest serving yacht.  The boat was originally called GB2 and was skippers by Chay Blyth with an original crew of paratroopers and the boat has raced 5 times  - 1973/1974, 77/78, 81/82, 85/86, 89/90.  For those of you who are fans of eighties pop music you might also want to know that the boat used in the Duran Duran video for Rio is Simon Le Bons boat, Drum which also raced in the Whitbread race.

Although we stayed in Almerimar a bit longer that expected we have quite enjoyed our stay.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Setting Sail for another adventure

We left Gib on Tuesday 13th March after over 4 months in Queensway Marina.  We wrapped up in our oilles, wellies and woolly hats, we hoisted the mainsail in the inner harbour and were already hit by gusts of over 25knots with full sail which was a bit of a shock after 4 months of no sailing!

The motor sail out to Europa Point was gusty but we knew it would be and were just waiting to see what would hit us when we round the point.  We were met with 18-20 knots of easterlies and some disturbed seas.  We knew we needed to head out to the shipping lanes before we could tack and make our way back into the shore.  After dodging a fishing boat we headed into the waves both glad we were able to keep our breakfast down! After an hour of slow progress we were close to the shipping lane with seas only increasing so we tacked.

An hour later were sailing along in moderate seas with 10-12knots of breeze and knew the worst bit was over.  We were then lucky to be joined by 2 bottlenose dolphins who played around the boat for around 30 minutes and just as they swam off 2 common dolphins appeared and had a play in the bow wave, we couldn’t have asked for more. Although it was still taking some time to lose Gibraltar and the Levante cloud which still seemed very close behind us – you can see from the photo below Gibraltar has cloud sitting on top of the Rock, this is common when the wind is blowing from the east, the surrounding area can be bathed in sunshine!

Gibraltar and the Levante cloud

The slow progress meant we did not get as far as we had hoped but headed into Fuengirola marina for the night – cheap and secure. The sun was shining when we left in the morning; we motored out of the marina with the wind forecasted to build.

Unfortunately the wind did not appear, it was baking hot as we motored along the pretty coastline, and we could even see the snow topped mountains of the Sierra Nevada in the distance.

Sierra Nevada in distance
After seeing no boats all day we suddenly looked up to see a Spanish customs boat looming very  close and noticed that they were loading into the Rib, within minutes they were alongside and we had the joy of them coming aboard.  They requested all the normal boat papers, passports, details of previous port etc but they also requested a sample of our engine diesel, not very easy to achieve.  When they agreed to take a sample from a spare container they tested to ensure it was no “Red” (industrial) diesel, which is illegal outside of the UK, all slightly inconvenient at the end of a long day but luckily we were only a few miles from our anchorage for the night.

We anchored in Ensenada de La Herradura which was a sheltered bay surrounded by the mountains, holding was good and the rolling was not too bad which was just perfect for our first night at anchor since October.

Ensenada De La Herradura
The next day we held out little hope when we set off with no wind, as the hours drifted on we managed to get the sails up on a couple of occasions but the winds were so light we still had to motor L which is always frustrating but the sun was shinning, the views were spectacular and we seemed to have the sea to ourselves – oh apart from the same customs boat we had seen the day before! One particularly odd sight along this coast is miles and miles of plastic sheeting which is used for growing veggies.

Not the clearest photo but all the white patches are the plastic sheeting
We were pleased to arrive at Almerimar and the very helpful marina  moored us up all ready to be lifted out of the water the following morning.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The final days in Gib

We rushed around for a few days washing and packing and tidying ready to set off the weekend after my parents left.  Had one final visit to see Michelle and the baby bump (3 weeks until the big day!) and another sad goodbye.

We then checked the weather and strong easterlies were forecast which meant any plans to leave were put on hold! So we waited and we waited and we checked the weather.

I did manage a few more relaxing yoga class and we both had lots of sleep! We manage one final lovely walk up the Rock with Chris (from Giselle, another beautiful Wauquiez) who had returned from the Isle of Wight.

We then made the decision not to wait for a westerly but to leave once the easterlies were slightly lighter, so just over a week later we were ready to go!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The tourists visit Gib

We are rapidly approaching our last few days in Gibraltar so it was really nice for my (Amanda) mum and dad to come over for a visit. Although my dad had been to Gibraltar many years ago whilst in the Navy my parents had not holidayed here.  It was quite a surprise to walk back from the shower block and find my parents sitting on Magnum even when I knew they were coming as it seemed so out of context.

As Mark & I have done most of the touristy stuff we set my parents up with a map, some tourist info and let them get on with it.  It was easy for them to get a taxi up the Rock to see St Michaels Cave, the Siege tunnels and the Apes Den, at £25 a person it initially seems a lot, but it is a dedicated tour and that price does get you into the Cave and tunnels.

The weather wasn’t as good as we had been having over the first couple of days of their visit but at least it was better than the UK. We headed out to Europa Point to see how blowy it really gets in the Straits and also to see the views of Morocco.

Europa Point with Rock and Mosque in background
After walking from Europa point to Rosia Bay (where Nelson’s body was brought to, stored in a casket of brandy) we made use of the free buses to get around to Catalan Bay, funny that when my dad had been year many years earlier the tunnels were still in use by the Navy and he remembers looking out over Catalan Bay. 

Next day after mum and dad had a educational visit to the Museum we all had lunch and went out to the Botanic Gardens although only small they are so tranquil and make up for the lack of green space in Gib.

Mum & dad under whales jaw in Botanic Gardens
Once most of the tourist trail was complete we hired a car to explore some of our favourite places in Spain.  As my parents had not been to the Costa Del Sol we headed up to Puerto Banus to admire the marina, funny I never manage to get any photos as there were plenty of people flocking to take photos of the posy yachts and cars. We sat and watched the world go by whilst having an over priced coffee!  That was our fill of the busy world and on the drive back to Gibraltar we stopped at Casares a pretty white washed village which also gave us some great views of Gibraltar.


The following day we headed west along the coast to Cape Trafalgar (yes, where the battle took place) the drive is lovely along the coast but we had bizarre fog all the way (bit like our first sail past Tarifa) so we didn’t get the views we had hoped.  The countryside is full of wind turbines and if you have not been here before it is quite a sight.

Our first stop was a lovely typical Spanish town/village, Vejer de la Frontera, we wandered up in to the town along the narrow streets full of orange trees and around the old city walls, it was not over run by tourists and was surprisingly nice as we were only really planning on passing through.

Vejer de la Frontera
A few miles inland and we reach Cape Trafalgar, the fog had clear, the sun was shining and with the westerly wind we were able to tuck in on the east side of the headland and enjoy our picnic.

Picnic at lighthouse at Cape Trafalgar
Beach at Cape Trafalgar
After Trafalgar we drove through Zahora which looked like a very sleepy surf town and then onto Barbate where we had moored back in August, not much to see but lovely drive along the coast with the sun shining and we had a clear view of the hundreds of wind turbines, it brought back on those special memories for Mark J

Wind turbines close to Tarifa
We had one final stop that day at Tarifa as this is one of our favourite places we couldn’t miss and it made a good coffee stop.

After such a busy day the next day we were going to have a bit of a shopping stop in Spain and then take it easy but we were caught out by a Spanish back holiday, so we headed off to Ronda.  Stunning drive although again we were bothered by the fog which did spoil some of the views but it was nice being up in the mountains and we did get to see some of the wildlife.  There must be over 100 storks that nest of the electricity pylons, every one is full.

Stork & nest on top of pylon
There was no fog in Ronda and the views were stunning.

Mum, dad & Amanda, views over Ronda 

Ronda views 
We walked from one side of the town across the amazing bridge which spans the gorge, we had our daily picnic in a beautiful square with the sun shining and we even had time to pop in the museum.

Bridge over gorge 
The final day with the car was a return trip to the shops! I managed to get a wetsuit from Decathlon which hopefully will be put to use when I am able to finish my Padi scuba diving course later in the year – big thanks to my very generous brother who bought me this for my birthday. I won’t share the photos!

We visited one final Spanish village which was Castellar de la Frontera, the old town which includes a castle (Castellar means castle in Spanish) at the top of a windy little road is very picturesque and peaceful.

Castle at Castellar
It over looks the Guadarranque reservoir, the original occupants of the village were moved out in 1971 and the village now has a small hotel in the castle (although did not look like it was open out of season) and what look like some smaller holiday properties, it would be a very remote location for a holiday as from what we could see there were not any shops, there was a small restaurant and a couple of galleries, we came across Riccardo Pasquini exhibiting his work which was really interesting as it incorporated different colour sands from all over the world, shame we do not have the space or the any money to buy!

So after a busy week there was a the normal sad goodbyes but we all had a lovely time,