Complaints of “tracker not on”, “no blogs” … It’s time to catch up!
Our last blog had us on the border of Portugal and Spain in Vila Real San Antonio at the bottom of the River Guadiana, having just dropped off Susie’s parents.
Sailing in the Solent we are sort of used to strong tidal flows, but the Solent has nothing on the entrance of the River Guadiana . Notes advise leaving and arriving at slack tide. That’s no joke, and best slack tide for our departure was 5am. Pitch dark and it wasn’t exactly slack thank you very much, but we handled it well and popped out of Portugal, destination Espana!
Our first stop was Rota opposite the usually more favoured Cadiz Bay. But we’d seen Cadiz before and Rota was an old hunting ground for us from Bauhinia days. With Cadiz attracting all the international sailors, Rota is a local town full of Spaniards with the usual mix of busy beach, grubby parts, and a lovely old town.
Spain of course means Tapas time. Now show me a person who doesn’t like tapas and I’ll tell you where Elvis Presley secretly lives in Rota! Ensue one tapas crawl. Now we’re used to London and seeing people dressing up and eating in trendy places desiring to look good. Well the Spaniards are even worse at it. One side of the street a slick looking tapas bar with smart table and chairs, full of smart looking Spaniards; directly opposite a large concrete room with barrels of sherry, a grill, a few tables, and totally chockers with ordinary looking people. As an aside, the ordinary looking Spaniards dress pretty much the same as you and me, as no-one in the world can match a smartly dressed Spaniard or Italian!
A slight look of scepticism from Susie and I as we try to suss if its a) safe and b) going to be any good. But we have a rule of mucking in with the locals and in we dived. 40 minutes later we roll out in a state of delirious happiness, having savoured 3 grilled salted langoustines, the most expensive item on the menu for a mere 3 euros, other tapas at lower prices, and Manzanilla at 50c a glass. In fact you can bring your own 1L bottles and they’ll fill it up straight from the cask! This place is good! Stroll across the street to La Trendy smart Spaniards tapas bar akin to home in Chelsea, get table service, a plate of small prawns for 9 euros, pricey wine list, and we know which tapas bar we’re going back to! (And bringing our plastic bottle to be filled).
We also squeezed in a visit to Jerez being sherry fans to follow up on our Port trip. Tio Pepe was the destination and while we were keen to learn more about the sherry making process, this proved to be more of a marketing campaign of what Tio Pepe produce and got our thumbs down! Can’t win them all.
After Rota it was time to strike out to Gibraltar with a stop over at Barbarate to break up the journey. A sail we dedicated to an old university friend of Tom’s, Marnie, who sadly passed away from cancer that weekend. It was nice to think back on some good memories of a caring and fun friend.
Barbarate in itself was a little surprise. No sights whatsoever, just a living Spanish town and to us that means local markets, great food, and just hanging out in the streets people watching while drinking a cortado (Tom’s favourite coffee) amidst the locals chatting away. Simple pleasures bring contentment.
Winds in Gibraltar meant another early 5am start which, with the sun coming up at 7.30am, meant having to keep a beady eye out for dreaded fishing nets. A large column of lights confused us initially but we eventually worked out it was apartments in Morocco, just a short hop and a skip away to the South.
Coming into Gibraltar we stayed in Marina Bay which is located slap bang next to the airport runway. Not many flights a day so you’re never bothered but this is surely as close as a yacht gets to a runway – indeed the closest we’ve ever been to a runway as people.
So we were planning to be in Gibraltar for 10 days doing boat work, collecting our spinnaker, and seeing some friends.
First visitors were some of Susie’s old work colleagues, Lucy and Kate and Lucy’s friend Alex. Lucy’s parents own an apartment 50 minutes away in Spain where the girls were staying so they drove over to join us for dinner onboard Adina, with a few late drinks on the water front. And they very kindly bought a bag of goodies – Manchego, good Rioja, and chorizo from Spain, and porridge, jaffa cakes, and hobnobs from England! Gracias – delicious! Not to mention bringing our spare starter motor!
Lucy had volunteered use of their washing machine and we had truly stock-piled. So off we went to the apartment which meant two full wonderful days with Lucy and Kate. Being warm in the car, the ladies decided they wanted ice cream. McDonalds was spotted (say no more!) and a drive through requested. Susie and Kate decided they would like McFlurries with smarties. Now Lucy has a positive ‘go for it’ attitude that I just admire. Clearly one must speak some Spanish to associate with the locals and Lucy dived in headfirst talking to the microphone. “Dos McFlurry con … (small pause) Smarties!” The “Dos McFlurry con” spoken in perfect Spanish and the Smarties in the very best of English accents. I wish I had recorded it! Our reward was a person who appeared to try and understand these mad English people.
Over the next two days Lucy was the prefect hostess looking after us and feeding us silly. She played tour guide as we got to see some of the Costa del Sol. It felt a bit odd knowing that our boat was in Gibraltar and this is where we would be next heading. First stop was Puerto Banus where I’m reliably informed stars from tv programmes something to do with Make It Up In Chelsea and That Way Is Essex go on holiday. From what I could gather these programmes are a combination of Big Brother and EastEnders and left me a little baffled. But a trendy marina it was with people trying to look pretty, and some good people watching was in order. Nice sunshine too! Next stop was Marbella and a tour of the old town and finding Churros for Kate to try.
Touring over we returned to Adina where the ladies decided it was time to experiment making a tortilla. Susie and I have started a recipe book where we want to add recipes from each country we visit and even encourage visitors to contribute to. It was all going swimmingly well until time for the big flip. Wisdom says you pick up the frying pan with afore-mentioned Tortilla, place a lid in the form of a plate on top, turn tortilla onto plate and then slide Tortilla back into pan on the other side to finish off. Wisdom says … A bit of discussion and then a “lets get on with it” attitude and lets do it over the sink to be safe. That was wisdom as said Tortilla fancied the sink more than the plate!
We bid Lucy and Kate farewell. We’d enjoyed their company and got used to being around them and it was sad to see them go. We even waved their flight off from the back of the yacht. Little shame that they sat in seats E and F and did not see us. Thank you for all you did Ladies!
The next few days saw us engaged in boat maintenance and day-to-day chores. Gib is just a perfect spot to get everything up-to-date including ticking off admin that needed doing back at home.
Then we had another old work colleague of Susie’s from Unilever days join us – Frida, her partner Jurgen and their daughter Leah. Frida and Jurgen were staying in Tarifa and moving onto Malaga making the most of their days sight-seeing. A perfectly timed holiday as far as we were concerned! A sunny evening called for outdoor eating and getting the BBQ out, accompanied by lovely wine which our guests bought along.
Leah, their 4 year old daughter, was just a bundle of fun – and very cute with it. We’re now used to having children onboard. The initial reaction is tad nervous parents keeping their eyes on said child, and the child being wary for 30 minutes and then growing rapidly in confidence and before you know it running around the boat with gay abandonment. Leah was no exception and soon games of hide-and-seek were in full flow. Tom knows a few words of German but this soon back-fired as Leah took him up on it and was waxing lyrical leaving Tom reduced to the meers ‘Ja, alles klaar Komissar’. As the sun set Leah decided Susie and her were going dancing. Ever so charmingly she bought out some clothes, dressed up, and took Susie’s hand and off they went to the front of the boat for a dance, shaking their bootie on the bow, so to say. I do feel for future boyfriends though – any looking by Juergen and me meant she raced back and gave us a stern ticking off telling us not to look. Frida, Juergen, thank you so much for making effort to come and see us, we had a great evening and really hope we see you onboard again!
One of the main reasons we were in Gibraltar was to take delivery of a spinnaker! Now I’m going to keep this light so as not to lose non-sailors. Adina is a heavy boat weighing in at 18 tonnes and downwind needs a good amount of wind to get her moving. A spinnaker helps you move! The vast majority of cruising sailors stay clear of spinnakers as a friend of ours aptly described sailing with a spinnaker being “like riding a twitchy thoroughbred horse”. But to be fair, that’s more on the racing front.
For our sailing friends, we had to work out whether we wanted a asymmetric (so called cruising chute), spinnaker or parasailor (spinnaker with a wing). All have their pros and cons and for people doing the ARC, we’d recommend reading the January 2013 Yacthing World to make your choice. After a lot of deliberation and given we’re planning to sail around the world with a lot of downwind legs, we opted for the parasailor.
Thomas Wibbereuz duly arrived with the prized parasailor and took us for a day of instruction. Thomas has been involved with the parasailor from its inception and was a truly excellent coach. We finished the day feeling very pleased with our choice. Now we have to get out on our own and use it. Slowly, slowly to start!
We’re still in Gib as a new depth sounder has got waylaid but hopefully we’ll be out of here in the next few days. Then its time to head for the Costa del Sol, lots of anchoring and some sight-seeing, before we head off for a slight diversion to our friends’ wedding in Morocco (by plane!), then onto the Balearics. Mediterranean here we come!
And finally – it’s Susies birthday on Sunday 26th May – Happy Birthday to the lady who makes me smile each and every single day!