Quarantined in Saint Martin (Chapter 2)

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Grand Case Beach

Days go by without us realising it. If I still have a rough idea of time is because of one of these reasons:

  1. We need to update our waver daily before going out for shopping or exercising;
  2. My data allowance is automatically renewed the first day of each month so towards the 20th of the month, I enter panic mode and start checking how many days I need to survive without Netflix!
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View from the boat

It seems like only yesterday that we arrived here from St. Barts with the idea of stocking up on food and then moving on to the BVIs (we wanted to go as far north as possible before heading back south to Grenada to spend the hurricane season there) and we have now been in Saint Martin for over a month!

When we first moved to Grand Case from Marigot Bay, we were a bit scared at the idea of the place not being safe – according to Chris Doyle’s guide, the bay has got a bad reputation because of dinghies’ thefts and even some boats being broken into. 

The bay has turned out to be nice and (so far) safe. There are fewer boats around, locals are very friendly and we normally see their faces popping up just before sunset when we all go out to exercise, walking or running, up and down the beach.

 

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Grand Case Bay

Being in lockdown is mentally quite tough and right now we can’t even move from one anchorage to the other. We are stuck in this bay feeling a bit like outlaws with the police questioning your every move ‘on land’, the gendarmerie checking on you ‘at sea’ and rules not always being clear.

Take swimming, for example: here in Grand Case, our neighbour was fined 135 euros for being in the sea scrubbing the hulls of his boat. The gendarmerie themselves told us we were not allowed to swim as the water had not been tested and might not be safe – which to me sounds like one of the things Trump would come up with!!

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Signs of Hurricane Irma still very visible in Grand Case

Few days after we were told we weren’t allowed to swim, the French navy came round and asked us boaters how we were doing (how nice of them!) and when questioned about the ‘swimming issue’ they said that boaters were allowed to swim within a 20 metres radius from their boats. Then we read that in Martinique – another overseas French territory not far from here – people are allowed to swim within a 50 metres radius… Not that we’d go around swimming with a tape measure ;)….we just don’t know who to believe anymore!

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The dinghy dock

The truth is that while feeling super lucky for not being in a small flat in London or Milan, we still find the lockdown quite hard. The worst part is the uncertainty about the hurricane season. If no other island will allow us in (which is the status quo), we’re right in the middle of the hurricane belt.

Saint Martin was very badly hit by Irma only 3 years ago and it’s still showing the wounds.. with dozens of sunken boats all over the lagoon, run-down buildings waiting to be fixed and villages still looking like ghost towns.

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Walking around Grand Case

Restrictions on the French side should start to ease up on 11th May with some shops and small businesses hopefully reopening. The Dutch side has been in total shutdown for over two weeks as they’ve had many more cases of Covid 19. People are not allowed out at all unless it’s an emergency and shopping is delivered straight to their houses.

All we can do right now is hang in here waiting for borders to open up in order to start our great escape Southwards.

Stay strong, keep safe everyone!

Sunset

Quarantined in Saint Martin

When the first cases of coronavirus appeared in the Caribbean (I believe the very first ones were registered in the Dominican Republic), we started to talk about how the pandemic might affect the sailing community.

Our biggest fear was that islands would no longer allow boats in and we wouldn’t know where to go.

It didn’t take long for such fear to become a reality.

We were in St. Barts enjoying pricy meals and drinks on the island of the super-rich-and -famous, when the first poster appeared on the customs office’s door saying that only 2 persons at a time would be allowed in to clear customs, due to the spread of the Coronavirus.

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Excursion around Colombier – St. Barts wit hour friends from Heaven 47!

We followed the new rules and queued outside waiting for our turn to get in. Armed with hand sanitizers and germs killing wipes, we dared touch the keyboard and checked out of the country: next stop Saint Martin, where we would stock up on food and prepare for the worse.

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Food shopping these days……

Saint Martin (or Sint Marteen in Dutch) is renowned for its good provisioning with a variety of supermarkets on both the French and Dutch sides. Yes…for some weird reason this small island belongs to two countries! Apparently, the relationship between the two was so friendly that the border was amicably set one day by a Dutch guy drinking gin and a French guy drinking wine. They started walking towards each other and drew a line where they met. Rumor has it the Dutch guy got drunk sooner than the French and that’s why the French side is bigger :)!!

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Gc interacting with fish…. the only form of interaction still allowed!

Twenty four hours after our arrival in Simpson Bay, on the Dutch side, we were told that the other islands around us were already in the process of closing their borders. Things had started to change rapidly.

We had to hurry up and make a decision. Where should we go and spend the next x number of months? The BVIs and Antigua seemed two good options with their beautifully clear waters and many anchorages, but what about their health care system?

After pondering the pros and cons of a list of islands, we decided the wise choice would be to stay in Saint Martin. Here the main reasons why;

  1. It’s a European island, with one side being French and the other Dutch and as Europeans, we thought we might have a bigger chance of meaning something to them :);
  2. Good internet connection! Who can face a lockdown without Netflix!?
  3. Good provisioning, actually the best in the Caribbean so far in terms of quality/price ratio; with Carrefour, Super U, and many other markets and boulangeries available;
  4. There is a big sailing community with a VHF radio broadcast happening every day Monday to Saturday at 7.30 am on channel 10 – anyone can chip in and listen to general announcements, people selling and buying things, sharing knowledge and helping each other with bits and bobs. Quite reassuring in difficult times!;
  5. We thought the health care might be decent either on one side or the other – due to the close connection with Europe;
  6. We (erroneously) thought we could find shelter inside the lagoon should the weather take a bad turn. I say erroneously because we soon found out that the bridge that grants you access to the lagoon on the French side is not working due to maintenance…!

We had just about enough time to make an informed decision and check in on the French side – which is cheaper than the Dutch side – when the lockdown started, with people allowed to leave their homes (or boats in our case) only to go food shopping or buy essential goods such as medicines, and to exercise within 1 km from their houses.

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Our friend Barry the barracuda with one of its best smiles! He likes to spend its days under our hulls 😉 Courtesy of Simon @ Heaven 47

After almost a week in Marigot bay, we decided to move to Grand Case. This is a much nicer bay with clear waters and a sandy beach dotted with bars and restaurants…all shut at the moment.

It’s also a great spot for snorkeling with friendly fish getting really close to you and many turtles feeding on seagrass.

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One of the many turtles in the bay – courtesy of Simon @ Heaven47

Life is very slow these days and we’re trying to get into a routine. From Monday to Friday we do some work on our business and then exercise on the beach.

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My pizza….. &
Eater cake
…Gc’s Easter cake (Umbrian recipe)!

Weekends are dedicated to cleaning and cooking with Gc baking Easter cakes (in preparation for next week!) and me specializing in pizza dough and perfecting my bread making skills. We’re fine and lucky to be in such a beautiful place (even if in lockdown). We have some friends around us and that definitely helps during these hard times. Stay safe out there!

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Gladan in the beautiful sunset light – thanks to Giulia from Living Daylights for the picture :)!

 

From Portimao to Morocco (Sept/Oct 2019)

After wintering in the Algarve, we were ready to move to our next destination: the Canary Islands. Several things happened during the short and cold days of the winter period.

First of all, a few additions to Gladan;

  • our electric scooters – essential to move around the town and go food shopping;
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    Great stuff!!
  • a new steamer so that our shower could turn into a Turkish bath (we haven’t tried it once since GC installed it, but apparently we needed one badly!);
  • a second jib, a carbon copy of the one we already had on board;
  • new trampolines (I almost fell through once in Salina, with 40+ knots of wind, while trying to close the code 0 and lift the anchor, so it was about time ;);
  • we changed the rigging, which, of course, was a major job and, it goes without saying, an expensive one. Gladan was deprived of her mast for 5 days and looked as naked and frail as never before. Someone (clearly not Gc) even said that she looked quite ugly (agreed!).
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The riggers at work on Gladan’s mast in the yard

Secondly, and most importantly, we decided to cross the Atlantic and build our new nest in the Caribbeans!

Yes!! Gladan will take part in the ARC and set sails from Las Palmas on 24th November en route towards St. Lucia! 

mastdownMast back up!

Once the main works were completed, we were ready to go to the Canary Islands. Our departure, though, kept being postponed. As it always happens on a boat, things break at the worst time possible. The “victim”, in this case, was the pump of our watermaker (quite an important piece of equipment!) which had ceased to function, and so we had to wait for a new one to arrive from Turkey. When it did arrive, the weather forecast looked terrible and we had to wait for the right window to be able to set off… So, instead of leaving sometime in August as planned, it was 5 am on the 23rd of September when we finally lifted the anchor and sleepily waved goodbye to Portimao in the dark. 

DawnGoodbye Portimao! First lights of dawn.

20 miles down the line, the sun shining and the sea breeze caressing our cheeks, Gc was staring at the forestays perplexed, sighing and rolling his eyes. It didn’t take long to understand that something wasn’t right…

When questioned on the nature of his troubles, he mentioned that the forestays were too loose and he didn’t like that at all. He sent a video to the riggers and 15 minutes later Gladan was changing her course. Instead of pointing towards Rabat, with its medina and casbah and the delicious tagines and veggie couscous that were already making my mouth water, we were now heading back to Portugal!

Once we got to the marina of Vilamoura, the riggers jumped on our boat and we went for a test sail just outside the port. They tightened the forestays, checked the mast and sails and jumped off Gladan 1 hour and 30 minutes later.

As a result, six and a half hours after our alarm had gone off, we were still quite close to Portimao. The only consolation to this long delay was a gigantic school of dolphins surrounding us and playing with us to lift our mood.

Dolphins – so many of them!

What looked like a reasonably sized incident at the time though had triggered the classic snowball effect. Because of this quite significant delay caused by the loose forestays, we missed our chance to enter the marina of Rabat 27 hours and 190 miles later. The marina of Rabat can only be accessed at high tide as the entrance is very shallow. Besides, you can only enter it if you’re escorted by the pilot boat as the waves break at the entrance and it can be quite dangerous to get in without an expert guide. Because of this quite significant delay, instead of spending 4 days in the beautiful marina of Rabat, we ended up in the industrial port of the refinery of Mohammedia!

MohammediaRefinery – Harbour of Mohammedia

The small (and apparently also quite expensive) marina of Maohammedia (12 berths) was fully booked and they didn’t even bother to answer us on the VHF when we got there around 8.30 pm.  

The only thing left to do at that point was anchor off the breakwater outside the refinery, as advised on Navionics. Once there, we called the Port authorities on channel 11 to inform them that we had arrived and asked for permission to spend the night there. Permission granted! I was so happy that we could finally stop and sleep that I didn’t care about the surroundings: the smell of gas and rotten fish and the massive cisterns around us. It all looked great after 40 hours of navigation!

On our way to the harbor, we didn’t see any fishing nets. Before embarking on our crossing to Morocco, I read on many blogs that approaching harbors at night could be a nightmare because of the myriads of fishing nets spread all along the coast – as far as 30 miles off the coast. Someone even said 100 miles off the coast!

We definitely didn’t see any when approaching Mohammedia at night. It was all clear …and the following day I would discover why ;)!

To be continued….

News from the Atlantic, for family and friends!

Gladan’s crew caught 3 mahi-mahi! That’s a really good start, especially considering that there is a bet between Gladan and two other sailing yachts on a) who catches the first fish and b) who gets the biggest one. I heard something about a 12-year-old bottle of rum being up for grab as the bet prize…DSC0950 The crew is in good spirits and making good progress despite the light winds. That’s all for today! 29th November 2019 Gladan has lost a few positions and it’s now 5th in its category. The crew is having a great time: they caught two enormous fishes yesterday and are probably eating more than they should! Temperatures are rising so they’re also getting rid of a few layers 😉 There is little wind at the moment, so they are considering heading a bit more South. DepartDeparture day – Gran Canaria 3rd December Latest news from the middle of the ocean! The crew caught another Mahi Mahi and they now have over 30 kgs of fish onboard!! No chance of them starving, really! Over the past 24 hours the wind has picked up (last night they had a constant wind of 21 knots with gusts of up to 25 knots) and Gladan’s speed has increased to a maximum of 7.5 knots. Gladan is behaving very well and the skipper is heading back North after briefly detouring southward to chase the wind.  1630.9 NM still separate them from St. Lucia… Go Gladan!! Goodbye for now. I’ll leave you with a picture of the skipper’s mum’s kiss on departure day 🙂
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The Kiss!
6th December Over the past week, the wind has picked up and Gladan has been making good progress with an average of 155 nautical miles sailed daily. Unfortunately today the generator broke down – luckily they can still make water. The only problem is that they’ll have to start kneading the bread dough by hand as they won’t certainly be able to use the bread maker for a while! They also have a hole in the genoa and a couple of broken battens from the mainsail. Luckily they have a spare genoa, so they can always replace it if necessary. Some of the boats (the very big ones of course!) already reached St. Lucia. Galdan is now 7th in its category, Multihull B. Go Gladan, we’re waiting for you!!!

ARC 2019 – Gran Canaria to St. Lucia

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ARC 2019 Pre-departure PARADE

We spoke about it for years.

We dreamt of it after watching countless videos every night before going to sleep.

We read blogs of other adventurers and listened eagerly to the stories of the many sailors we’ve met along the way. Starting with the anecdotes of Amaltea’s crew (we met them in Leros, Greece, where our sailing adventures started from), who sailed around the world twice passing through Cape Horn and Good Hope aboard a beautiful 21 meters ketch; and ending with the tales of an 80-year-old man, Mark, who keeps crossing the Atlantic accompanied only by his beautiful green-eyed cat, Sheela.

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Sheela relaxing onboard a sailing yacht – Marina de Portimao. She’s the black spot through the ladder’s steps 🙂 Apparently, Sheela belonged to another boat, but one day she jumped on Mark’s boat and didn’t want to leave, so she got adopted by him or, as he likes to say, he was chosen by her. We used to see them walking side by side along the pontoons of the Marina de Portimao, faithful companions of adventure :)!

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The crew ready to depart from Las Palmas

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Fishing gear ready!

Well, after so many years of planning and dreaming and sharing other people’s stories, the time has finally come: Gladan is crossing the Atlantic!

We signed up for the ARC 2019 and together with other 200 boats, Gladan has set sails from el Muelle Deportivo de Las Palmas on 24th November at midday and is currently on its way to Santa Lucia, in the Caribbeans!

Over the past year, Gladan has been getting ready for the big crossing, undergoing a complete change of the rigging as well as several checks of the safety equipment on board (liferaft, lifejackets, EPIRB…).

She also got a new folding propeller – somehow we managed to lose one between Morocco and La Graciosa…but that’s another story!- a new watermaker pump, a Jordan drogue, a second jib, a John buoy, all kinds of anti-chafe materials, sails repair pieces of equipment and bits and bolts that were compulsory in order to participate in the ARC.

It’s been a long and tiring process but now Gladan is on its way!

After 2 full days of navigation, Gladan is positioned 3rd in its category with roughly 2,490 Nautical Miles still to go.YB

The Skipper, GC, sent me a message yesterday, after the first 24 hours, to say that the crew is in high spirits and that they were making good progress.

I’ll keep you posted with updates from the Atlantic! Fair winds to all the ARC sailors!

If you want to check the boat progress live, download the YB app on https://www.worldcruising.com/arc/arc/eventfleetviewer.aspx

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ARC Dress UP party!!

 

Here we are, Portimão!

We set off from Sancti Petri (10 miles East of Cadiz) quite late in the morning as we had to wait for the tide to rise to be able to leave our anchorage without risking to get stranded on a sandbank. The sun was shining and the scenery was gorgeous: white sandy beaches with dunes and desert-like vegetation.

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Sancti Petri anchorage

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Beautiful surroundings

We could have spent the day basking in the sun and exploring the marshes, but we were so close to Portimão now that the ‘home-fever’ took over us. All we could think of was getting there as quickly as possible.

It was past midday when we hit the road again with the idea of stopping somewhere close to Faro for our last night at anchor, before reaching the ‘motherland’.

We arrived at Faro in the middle of the night and anchored off Barra Nova in shallow waters, around 6 metres deep. There was a big swell and we barely managed to close our eyes for a few hours, until daylight, before taking off again.

“Thirty miles and we’ll be home” – this thought kept us going despite the sleep deprivation. During our sail from Faro to Portimão, we were able to admire the beautiful rocky coast which had been levelled out and carved by the elements over the years. The result was an incredible landscape of grottos, sinkholes and secret hideaways, which we couldn’t wait to go explore!

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Marina de Portimão

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Gladan’s home

The other thing we noticed along the way was the incredible amount of fishing boats out at sea – easily spotted due to the grey mass of seagulls hovering over them.

A few more miles and we saw the entrance to the marina: finally we were home! At least for the next 5 months or so…

Portimão’s marina sits on the bank of the river Arade, in a very picturesque and colourful setting; its perimeter is surrounded by ochre and coral semi-detached flats with little wooden topped balconies; on the opposite side of it, Forte de São João dominates the beautiful sandy beach of Praia Grande.

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Forte de São João & Praia Grande

A few minutes away from the marina, there is also the breathtaking beach of Praia da Rocha, considered one of the best in Portugal.

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Praia da Rocha

Our first impression of the marina was very good and we were satisfied with our choice: the location looked great, catamarans pay the same fee as monohulls, winters are supposed to be very mild, and Faro airport, which is only 45 minutes away from the marina, is very well connected to the UK and Italy, with direct flights to both destinations. Considering that it used to take us 2 days to reach our marina in Leros (Greece) and at least half day to get to Capo D’Orlando’s Marina (Sicily), this time it seemed almost too easy!

More about Portimão and our adventures around Portugal in the next post!

Gibraltar & sailing towards our winter destination: Portimão

After almost a week in Malaga it was time to leave. It wasn’t easy to say goodbye to our friends; for quite some time Gc’s face was the only one I’d seen on a daily basis and as much as I like it, I have to say that spending time with other familiar souls had been very invigorating!

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Malaga – Port

The weather was getting more and more unpredictable and we were eager to reach our winter destination and get back to having a routine. After a month and a half at sea moving around all the time, we were looking forward to having a ‘stable life’ for a little bit! Things like knowing where to go food shopping, where to have the best espresso and nicest meal, having more than one conversation with the same people, were becoming more and more appealing to us.

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Sailing towards Gibraltar

While sailing towards Gibraltar, we heard several warnings on VHF regarding the presence of tree branches and trunks floating at sea. The previous days Malaga and surroundings (Estepona in particular) had been battered by a storm which had caused devastating floods and left one man dead. The torrential rain had stripped trees and canes which had reached the sea through the overflowing rivers.

It wasn’t long before we started to see the first branches and canes. We slowed down and tried to avoid the big trunks which could have caused serious damage to our propellers and rudders. The extent of vegetation floating was such that the sea had turned brown…we were sailing through the woods!

Couple of hours before reaching the famous Rock of Gibraltar, the fog started to settle in. The sea was dead still, mirror-like, there was zero wind and no one around. It felt like we were sailing inside a sound-proof bubble; such was the silence around us.

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Approaching Gibraltar in the fog

By now we should have been able to see the coast but there was no sign of it: the fog was too thick. I felt a bit uneasy, as it seemed unusually quiet. Couple of dolphins showed up and played with our bow for a few minutes before diving in with a touch of their powerful tale and disappearing into the deep blue.

It was just after sunset when we finally managed to see the Rock of Gibraltar and a few shipping containers, anchored out at sea a few miles away from the coast. The scenery was enticing: the top of the rocky promontory towered over the sea, peeking through the fog.

We spent the night at anchor inside the Bay of Gibraltar in a very protected spot, just outside the Marina of Alcaidesa. The anchorage though is not as safe as it looks; we read that some people got their dinghies stolen overnight…

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Anchorage – Sancti Petri

The morning after, we departed straight after breakfast – our dinghy still with us!-  and made our way to Cadiz. It was while looking for a safe anchorage for the night that it occurred to us that from now on there would be two more elements to factor in; tide and current! We were now on the Atlantic!!

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Sailing at 10.4 knots!

The waves had become longer and we had the current in our favour, Gladan was doing 10.4 knots! After another night at anchor in the beautiful area of Sancti Petri, only 120 miles separated us from our winter destination: Portimão.

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Sunset – Portimão

 

Malaga & ‘La Dispensa Italiana’

We left Cartagena and made our way to Malaga where our friends, Stella and Fabri, were waiting for us.  The initial idea was to stop at Cabo De Gata- a beautiful natural park along the coast of Andalucia- for the night and continue towards Malaga the day after. While sailing though, we got in touch with two other boats via VHF and found out that we were all going the same way and that they would be continuing the sailing throughout the night, without stopping.

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Strong winds were expected the coming days and weather alerts had been issued for Malaga and surrounding areas: ‘the sooner we get there the better’ – the other sailors said. Personally, I was really disappointed! I really wanted to see Cabo de Gata, which I was told being absolutely gorgeous. I reluctantly agreed with Gc that stopping there for the night was not ‘the right thing to do’, and I acted very adult-like by holding a grudge against him for the following 5 to 6 hours. Someone had to be blamed…

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We sailed side by side with another catamaran all day and almost all night. It was 5 am when we departed from our sailing companion to get to Almerimar marina: we were almost out of fuel and needed an urgent refill.

We dropped anchor outside the marina and went to sleep for a few hours, while waiting for the fuel station to open at 7am. Seven hundred litres of diesel and 900 Euros later, we set sails again: destination Malaga. We were so excited to see our friends and visit the shop they’d opened the previous year, La Dispensa Italiana, that we forgot how tired we were and kept on going.

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The best Italian shop in Malaga

Before our arrival in Malaga, we had been trying to reserve a spot for Gladan either at the port or at the marinas nearby. Apparently it’s not their custom to book places in advance: you have to show up and find out for yourself if there is space or not. Which is totally fine in settled weather, but very unpractical when you’re expecting strong southerly winds. Where are you going to go if there is no space anywhere?!

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Malaga.. finally!

Thanks to our friends, we finally found a space at Caleta de Velez, a small marina in a fishing village 30 miles east of Malaga, and rented a car to reach the city.

After 4 nights there, we learnt the hard way that if you want a place at Malaga’s port you just go there, moore inside, and wait for the Policia Portuaria to come and “approve” your stay. Don’t bother calling them as the following will happen: they won’t answer the phone and if they do, they will tell you that they are fully booked even if they are not.

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Gladan entering Malaga’s Port

After trying hard, we did manage to spend a night inside the Port, and paid 100 Euros with no water or electricity. The port is quite beautiful, with bars, restaurants, shops and museums all around; you really dock in the historic heart of the city.

It’s a real shame though that a port with so much potential and one of the most important points connecting Europe and Africa it’s so badly managed!

We loved Malaga and enjoyed every minute we spent with our friends, not to mention the mouthwatering truffle mortadella and pecorino cheese we tried at La Dispensa… If you happen to stop in Malaga go and try their delicious Italian produce!

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Malaga – Cathedral

 

 

Menorca to Cartagena – the bad weather is following us!

It was a Friday afternoon when we finally got our port engine back.

The mechanic, Santis from Nautic Centre, did such a great job with it (the engine was all clean and shiny and had even been sprayed with some Volvo green paint), that I swear I saw some tears forming in GC’s eyes when, with the help of a crane, the engine was lowered back in place.

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Having thanked Santis and his team for the great job done, we set off from Mahon as quickly as possible: it was already 4pm, and we didn’t have many hours of daylight ahead of us.

We spent the night at anchor in Cala -en-Porter (famous for Cova d’en Xoroi, a very popular disco set in a cave, with a breathtaking sunset bar), ready to go to Mallorca first thing the following morning.

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Coves d’Arta’ – Mallorca

On our way to Palma, we stopped twice along the coast: first at Coves d’Arta’ on the NE side of Mallorca and then at Es Caragol, a superb spot on the S side.

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Es Caragol – Mallorca

When we finally got to Palma,  we only had the time to drop anchor before being welcomed by a thunderstorm. The weather was changing and heavy rain and storms had been forecasted for the coming days both in Mallorca and Ibiza, our next destination.

An important decision laid ahead of us: did we want to get wet in Mallorca or in Ibiza?

We agreed we’d get up the next day and decide there and then.

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Cumulonimbus clouds

The day after the weather seemed ok: the sky was clear and the sun was shining, so we decided to make a move to Ibiza. We were half way through, when we started to see a dark wall of cumulonimbus clouds ahead and behind us.

The weather was rapidly changing and we were exactly in the middle of the storm, closing onto us.

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Whirlwind at sea

We turned the radar on to see the scale of it: it was huge and approaching at incredible speed. The rain started to hit Gladan with rage, the sky was turbulent and lighting was striking closer and closer. Maybe leaving Mallorca had not been such a good idea after all…! 

We pushed the foot on the accelerator, so to speak, to get away from it. At full throttle, we tried to outrun the storm and get to Ibiza before sunset. It was getting late and we had to find a sheltered place quickly. We didn’t like the idea of being at sea at night in such stormy weather.

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After checking Navionics repeatedly, I found a very protected bay, Portinatx, which seemed a good spot for the night.

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Portinatx – Ibiza

It was almost dark when we finally dropped anchor in the bay. We were very relieved to have escaped the full brunt of the storm, and were feeling grateful to Gladan for being so nippy.

The day after, we found out about the intensity of  the storm, which had hit Mallorca very badly: a river had overflowed and 13 people had died as a result. 

We stayed a few days in Ibiza waiting for the weather to get better and then made a move to mainland Spain.chart

After two nights at anchor along the Costa Blanca, we got to Cartagena. But the bad weather was following us!

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Mar Menor – sliding bridge

Strong winds of up to 50 knots had been forecasted for the day after, so we moored inside the port. Storm Leslie was making its way to Spain after battering Portugal, forcing hundreds to flee their homes. 

Leslie kept us company for a full day: strong winds, torrential rain, bent palm trees, boats pushed and pulled in all directions… 

All of a sudden though, the rain stopped, the clouds disappeared and a fierce sunset put the sky on fire.

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Cartagena – Port

Menorca &… we’re left with one engine!

We ended up staying in Menorca for 2 weeks, instead of the planned 2/3 days. Why?

Just before starting the crossing from Sardinia, GC checked the engines as he usually does before setting off: oil levels, water levels etc…. On this occasion though, he spent an unusually long time inside the port engine room and when he finally re-emerged from it, he was carrying several screws and bits of metal; his hands totally covered in aluminium powder and his face saying more than words could…

Having recently replaced the coupling of the port engine (basically the part that connects the engine to the sail drive), the presence of such parts was very very troubling.

One of two things could have happened:

  1. those parts belonged to the old coupling, and had been left behind on the floor by the mechanics (small negligence)
  2. those bits belonged to the newly replaced coupling and had been spitted out through the inspection hole. Which meant, in short, that the engine could eventually blow up! (not so small negligence)

After a few phone calls with the mechanics that replaced the coupling in Sicily, we were now almost sure that the latter was the case.

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Finally competent mechanics at work!

As soon as we got to Menorca, we therefore decided to have the engine checked. We contacted Nautic Centre, who are Volvo dealers and very competent mechanics, and had the engine taken out and looked at. Their assessment of the situation? The Sicilian mechanics had not read the instructions when assembling the new coupling and had used screws which were longer than they should have been. As a consequence, three parts had been severely compromised and needed replacements.

The parts had to be sent over from Italy as it was the previous mechanic’s responsibility to fix a job not properly done (to say the least!), which had damaged other components of the engine and might have resulted in the engine itself blowing up.

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So we were stuck in Menorca for two weeks and, I can assure you, it’s now number one on my list of places where to get stuck in! Nature is absolutely gorgeous: the island is full of stunning bays, little coves (Cala Galdana, Cala Mitjana, Calescoves, Cala en Porter, Cala Pregonda, just to mention a few), beautiful villas and walking trails (Cami’ de Cavals) moving along its perimeter and stretching trough a wild scenery. 

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El Jaleo

While on the island, we strolled along the roads of Mahon and had some tapas at the Mercat de Pescados; had a proper espresso at the Club Nautico de Ciutadella with a view over the picturesque old port; went to Alaior and witnessed the El Jaleo – a feast celebrating the special relationship between Menorquinos and horses, in which riders dress up in typical costumes and demonstrate their abilities by rearing their horses up on their hind legs, making them jump and dance to the rhythm of traditional music played by a brass band, while the crowd around tries touching them for good luck. 

Jaleo
El Jaleo

In terms of food, I do have couple of recommendations in case you decide to spend a few days in Mahon: Bar a Vins in the centre, with tables on the square and a great selection of charcuterie boards; and Mestre D’Aixa along the port, serving fusion gourmet food that is definitely worth trying. Accompany your meal with a Rioja (Crianza, Reserva or Gran Reserva – depending on how aged you like your wine)  and you’ll feel very happy even if you have got only one engine left!

drink Menorca
A happy sailor!