Madrid – 6-9 February 2018

We decided to take a trip to Madrid as you can’t spend time in Spain without going to the capital.  I’d been here twice before, for work, so hadn’t seen much of the city.  We had planned to drive but after further consideration decided on the train as parking is expensive.  So we let the train take the strain.  It was quite a long journey but that was mainly because the train didn’t go very fast for the first part of the journey.  We had left behind weather in Cartagena of about 15 degrees which is not to be sniffed at in February.  Madrid was another story.  We went through snow on the way and it was bitterly cold in Madrid.  I’m not after any sympathy, I know I’m not going to get any, with the cold weather you’ve had in the UK.

We had managed to find an apartment right in the centre of Madrid, just off from the Puerta del Sol so the sights were all easily accessible.  The square contains the famous clock whose bells mark the traditional eating of the “Twelve Grapes” and the beginning of a new year, not the easiest thing to do, we tried it when we were in Barcelona one new year.

Paseo del Arte is the art district in Madrid which consists of a number of museums, the one I think most people go to is the Prada Museum, so we decided on the  Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum.  We spent a lovely warm day wandering around the museum which has paintings from Dürer, Rafael, Titian, Rubens, Rembrandt, Caravaggio, Manet, Renoir, Cézanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Kandinsky, Picasso, Hopper, Rothko. These are just some of the impressive list of names that make up the collection.  Once a private collection it now belongs to the people of Spain since the Spanish Government bought it.

We always think a good way to get an overview of a city is to hop on a sightseeing bus.  We had no choice but to sit up top in the open air as downstairs was rammed as it was so cold.  It was freezing.  We hopped off the bus at the Royal Palace to find that it was closed due to an official function.  So we only got to see the outside which was a shame.

C2. Royal Palace - Madrid 7.2.18.

We also paid a visit to the Museo Cerralbo which is a 19th century mansion house which preserves its original décor, giving an insight into Spanish high society.

One thing that was very noticeable was the large police presence around Madrid although there wasn’t a policeman in sight when someone slipped my purse out of my bag, thankfully I felt someone touch the back of me so I caught them with it in their hand making out I’d dropped it, amazingly (not) my money had all disappeared but at least I got my purse back with my cards.  The other thing that is odd is that even when it’s cold, just a few degrees above freezing, people still sat outside restaurants having a coffee and eating.  Mad or what!!  If I’m sitting outside I want warmth.

Madrid is definitely worth a visit but I’d suggest you go when it’s warmer.  It was lovely getting off the train in Cartagena to warm sunshine.


February 2018





Cordoba – January 2018

Following our trip to Ronda we drove two hours to Cordoba.  The historic part of Cordoba includes the Mosque – Cathedral and has a Roman bridge which was originally built in the first century but has been reconstructed on various occasions since.  It has 16 arches and is 247 metres long.  For those of you who are avid Game of Thrones fans you may recognise the Roman Bridge as it was used for the Long Bridge of Volantis in series five.


The Mosque – Cathedral of Cordoba

Cordoba is well known for the mosque which has a cathedral in the centre of it.  The mosque is spectacular and the pictures don’t do it justice or make you appreciate its size.  It could hold 40,000 people in the 13th century which was quite incredible.

It is believed that the site of the Mosque-Cathedral was originally a Christian church dedicated to Saint Vincent the Third, which was divided and shared by Muslims and Christians after the Islamic conquest of the Visigothic kingdom. This arrangement lasted until 784, when the Christian half was purchased by the Emir Abd al-Rahman I, who then proceeded to demolish the original structure and build the grand mosque of Córdoba on its ground.  In 1236, Córdoba was conquered by King Ferdinand III of Castile, and the centre of the mosque was converted into a Catholic cathedral. The cathedral nave was installed in the 16th century.

The focal point in the prayer hall is the horseshoe arched mihrab or prayer niche.  A mihrab is used in a mosque to identify the wall that faces Mecca


Within the Cathedral is the renaissance high altar.  The 18th-century choir stalls, are carved in rich mahogany from the West Indies.  The carving , contain scenes from the Bible, the life of the Virgin and depictions of local martyrs and also a large number of decorative pieces: masks, eagles, centaurs, and a variety of stylised flora and fauna. The cathedral organs, of which there were two, were stunning and whilst we were there a young guy who was visiting played.

Outside the Mosque–Cathedral is the Courtyard of the Orange Trees.  In the corner of the courtyard is the Torre del Alminar is 93 meters (305 feet) high.  The exterior of the mosque was also highly decorative.

Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos

This the palace where King Fernando and Queen Isabel, first met with Christopher Columbus in 1486 who was putting his idea of looking for a Western route to reach India.  The Alcázar’s has lovely terraced gardens.  The fish migrated to any part of the pond they thought food might be coming.

An Enormous Castle in View

We were driving back from Cordoba and up in the distance off the main road was an enormous castle.  So being nosy that we are we just had to go have a look.  When we got out of the car we weren’t expecting it to be quite as cold as it was only 5 degrees, so we didn’t hang about for long.  We could see the Sierra Nevada too and there was quite a bit of snow on the mountains.

We discovered it was the La Mota Fortress or Castillo de Alcalá la Real  which for over 150 years, has marked the frontier between the kingdoms of Granada and Castile. Surrounded by several rings of walls, making its perimeter one of the largest in Andalusia, with seven gateways and three towers, so it was enormous.  It is 1,029 metres (3,376 ft) above sea level (no wonder it was cold). It dates back to the 13th-14th century, although some parts of the structure are older.


This was the end of our little jaunt for the time being.

January 2018

Ronda – January 2018

Car hire here  in winter months, if you collect and drop back to the airports, is very cheap so we thought we would take advantage of this and hired a car for a month (€70) and take the opportunity to explore some of the Spanish countryside.  Our first trip was Ronda which was a five hour drive from Cartagena.  The views going up were stunning.  It was a clear day and you could see Gibralter (see the ships waiting outside Gib in the photo below) from the roadside going up.

Ronda is set up in the mountains, 739m above sea level, and is situated above a deep gorge (El Tajo).  It was a lovely sunny day and quite warm, which we didn’t expect for mid January.

The Puente Nuevo (“New Bridge”)

The Puente Nuevo (“New Bridge”) is the newest and largest of three bridges that span the 120-metre (390ft) deep gorge that carries the Guadalevin River and divides the city of Ronda.  Construction of the bridge began in 1759 and took 34 years to build.

Plaza de Torres (The Bullring)

Ronda is well known for its bullring and although not the oldest it is the oldest bullring built entirely of stone and has a diameter of 66 metres (217ft).  It is unique as all the seating is under cover. The stands were constructed in two levels of seating with five raised rows per level and 136 Tuscan sandstone columns forming 68 arches providing support for the top level of seating and the roof of the Plaza de Toros.

A small number of bullfights are still held here, the Goyesca Bullfight is the highlight of the Pedro Romero Fair which takes place in early September.  Pedro Romero was a legendary bullfighter from the Romero family in Ronda, He was known as the first matador to present the bullfight as an art form as well as a display of courage.

And it wouldn’t be a visit without a trip to a church.  This is the Iglesia De María Auxiliadora De Ronda

We spent a couple of days here and then drove to Cordoba which was a couple of hours away.


January 2018

Granada and Murcia Christmas Lights

We were just four hours from Granada up in the mountains so decided to make a visit in early November.  We looked at various ways of getting there and the bus was the most direct route.  Trains go via Madrid so take twice as long.

The bus left Cartagena and then went on to Murcia before heading up to Granada.  The journey was four hours long on a nice comfy coach.  The hotel was about a 30 minute walk from the bus station so off we went and eventually found it down a small side street.

We dropped our bags and went for a walk around.  We first visited the “Palace of Dar al Horra” which was a moorish palace and the residence of the Sultana Aixa.

The weather in Granada was not unsurprisingly colder than it was in Cartagena.  In the evening and early morning (fairly early anyway) it was below 10 degrees so felt quite wintery but then we were higher up, being not far from the Sierra Nevada.  The views of the mountains were amazing.

Granada is home to the Alhambra which is a palace and fortress complex of the Moorish monarchs of Granada and was built in the main between 1238 and 1358, in the reigns of Ibn al-Aḥmar, founder of the Naṣrid dynasty.  The Nasrid Palace is quite spectacular and the engravings in the plaster work is so intricate.

The Patio de los Leones (Court of the Lions) is a court 35 metres long and 20 metres wide and in the centre of the court is the Fuente de los Leones (Fountain of the Lions), an alabaster basin supported by the figures of 12 white marble lions, which are emblems of strength and courage.

The Partal of the Alhambra includes the Tower of the Ladies and the Gardens.

The Generalife was the summer palace and gardens of the Nasrid dynasty that ruled Granada, Spain for many years. It was built in the 13th century.

The Alcazaba, is a fortress and one of the oldest part of the Alhambra, The first reference to the Alcazaba dates from the 9th century.

Granada Cathedral

The Cathedral is located in the centre of the Muslim area and dates back to 1523

Murcia Christmas Lights

Murcia is the capital of the region of Murcia and is about 30 miles from Cartagena.  On Saturday 2nd December they had the turning of the Christmas lights.  So we decided to go along.  We took the bus which left from Cartagena bus station and it took 45minutes there dropping off at Murcia bus station and an hour back as it went a longer route round.

The Christmas tree was 40 metres tall and has 60,000 LED lights on it.  There was live music from Ruth Lorenzo, who came 5th in the 2008 UK X Factor and a group called Siempra Asi.  There was quite a build up with a light show and music before the lights on the tree came on and then there was fireworks and snow (thankfully not the real stuff)!  It was spectacular and never seen anything like it.  It was on a grand scale but it brought thousands out to watch it.  The streets in the main area had lights too.

The evenings are getting cold now so it felt Christmassy so much so that I had to put on my winter coat and my gloves!

7th December 2017

Settling in for Winter 2017

Now when I say winter, well, we are surprised at how nice the weather still is, so doesn’t really seem like winter.  We have now settled in to life in Cartagena.  Ian has been busy “putting the boat away” which means all the sails are down and put away or covered up, mainsail cover put away, sheets and halyards replaced by string.  Rubber tube on the dingy washed and put away.  Anything affected by the sun is out of the way because the UV is not good.  Lockers have been emptied and cleaned.  Ropes have all been through the washing machine.  All the spinnakers and the storm jib have been aired.  Ian has been in the water putting bags around the props to keep the barnacles off.  It’s starting to get a bit cooler in the evening down to 10 degrees overnight but still quite warm during the day between 18 and 20.  It’s a bit chilly first thing and late afternoon but last week we put the cockpit tent down which actually made it too hot (I know your heart bleeds for me).  It has become our “conservatory”.  It’s lovely to be able to be outside at this time of year.

I’ve been trying to make the boat a bit more homely so have put up some photos from our travels, got some flowers (artificial obviously), a lamp and a curtain for the patio doors just for the winter to keep the warmth in and people nosing out.

Singing Sailors

Every Sunday a BBQ is held in the marina next to us.  You take your own food and drink and pay a few cents towards the cost of the coals for the BBQ.  We have a quite a few musicians amongst us.  Firstly we had two of the young children, Jessica and Olivia who played a tune on the ukulele.  A lady had set up her keyboard and amplifiers and sung a few songs.  Then there were people playing guitars, ukuleles, a concertina and a harmonica.  It was a really enjoyable afternoon.  This has now become a regular part of the Sunday BBQ.


There seems to be something going on most weekends in Cartagena.  There is a jazz festival on for the month of November with a free session in the main town on Saturday’s.  We’ve had an Artesian Market with stalls selling various crafts and food and drinks stuffs, all dressed in traditional costumes.  There were people dressed as soldiers enacting the capture of prisoners and also sword fighting.  But of course being Spain it does all close down for three hours in the middle of it all for siesta.  We had the Cartagena marathon the other Sunday which was very busy.

D1. Lee & Mel, cartagena, 21.11.17.

Ian, Lee, Lo and Mel, Cartagena 21.11.17.


We’ve also had a visit from Brian and Ann along with Ann’s cousin Steve and wife Sue as they are not far up the coast from us.  Lee and Mel Mac also dropped by and we spent a lovely day with them.




We are right by the cruise ship terminal.  The first few weeks has seen a lot of cruise ships coming and going but these have more or less stopped now, with just a few arriving in December and then nothing until March next year, so a lot quieter.  We had a submarine come into the harbour last week, something you don’t see very often.

F1. Submarine - Cartagena Nov 2017


We’ve, yes that is Ian too, (amazingly) taken up yoga.  We have a French lady who takes a class twice a week up on the boardwalk outside the other marina. So far it has been quite warm to be outside but let’s see as time moves on how this will be.

Val and Linda from the other marina were going for walk and invited me along so I joined them for what I thought would be a leisurely stroll.  Sun was out, nice and warm, ideal for a walk.  Well we took the longer route and thought we would go up to Atalaya Castle.  We walked along a dirt track path and found ourselves on the hilltop across from the castle, on we went then at another hilltop.  Finally we took the path to the castle however, the path soon disappeared and we were clambering up rocks which in places was quite steep, hoping that when we got to the top there would be a pathway down.  Thankfully there was and we finally made it to the castle.  The views were amazing.  The path down from here was concreted which we were relieved about.  We walked over 15,000 steps and 61 floors, no wonder my calves hurt so much for the next few days!

We have settled very nicely into life here in Cartagena.



27th November 2017

Heading off to Cartagena

It’s Thursday 19th October 2017 and we are now looking to make our way to Cartagena where Cuffysark will reside for the winter.  We left Fuengirola at 9.15am.  It was calm flat seas but overcast with slight winds of just 6 knots from the North.  Three hours in and the wind has picked up to 18-20 knots, north westerly so were picking up good speeds, 8.5 knots.  We covered 50 odd miles in 7 and a half hours arriving in Motril.  We stayed just the one night and set off the following morning at 9.30am.  The landscape along this coast is quite dramatic with it not being very far from the Sierra Nevada.

Ian had put the fishing rod out the back of the boat and actually managed to catch something.  We believe it was a King Mackerel.  I like fish but fish that has been caught by someone else and I couldn’t bring myself to gut it etc so back it went.

We had decided before we left Motril that we would stop at Almeriamar and then move on.  However, the weather wasn’t looking favourable after the next day so we decided to get a move on and get to Cartagena sooner rather than later.  We anchored up between two commercial ports at Carboneras at 11.30pm after 14 hours and 85 miles.  Had we realised we were going to head so far we would have left earlier!  Below are pictures of Cabo de Gata which we passed at sunset.

Our final sail of the season

We didn’t hang about,  we set the alarm and left at just after 6am and it was still dark.  There was no wind so we had to motor most of the way but it was another lovely, sunny and hot day!  The entrance to Cartagena is not that easy to see it looks like you are just heading for the mountains and it takes a while before the entrance opens up.  Once inside the entrance we found our way round to the Real Club de Regatas de Cartagena and found a space on the quayside and moored up.  The views inside are pretty good.  This is where Cuffysark will be until April  2018.

We were both very tired but thought we ought to have a bit of a walk.  We had been walking around the main town which was very busy for about half an hour but decided we were too tired, so we turned back and came across a procession with a very big statue of the Virgin Mary being carried.

F1. Cruise ships in Cartagena 23.10.17.

Stern of two cruise ships taken from the RCRC Yacht Club

As I mentioned we are moored up on the main quay, the Yacht club to one side and in front of us is the cruise terminal, there are some big ships that come in.  Boats moored up do attract people.  So we do get some people just walking by,  some stop and pose in front of the boat for a photo or a selfie and some stop for a chat, all nationalities.  It’s quite nice to see the world going by, at least so far it is.


Our first full day in Cartagena, Sunday 22nd October and we discover there is quite a big live aboard community here, mostly in the marina next door, the Yacht Port Cartagena.  It seems that people flit backwards and forwards to home over this time, some popping home for longer than others so there are always people around.  They have a BBQ every Sunday, Wednesday is tapas night which is a crawl to different tapas bars and Friday is happy hour visiting various bars around town.  I believe as time goes on there is other stuff that goes on, on an adhoc basis.  So we went off to the BBQ to meet some of our fellow sailors.  We were surprised to say the least at how many people were there, somewhere in the region of 40 or so.  It’s nice to know there are others doing the same as us.  We are not alone!

We also went along to the Tapas evening.  A lot of the tapas bars offer “Cana and Tapas” for €1.90 which is a small beer and a tapas, so quite reasonable.  We also went along to the Happy Hour on Friday and one of the women organised a meal which some of us went along to after a few drinks.

All in all we’ve had a good start in Cartagena.


2nd November 2017

Gunning for Gibraltar

We left Cadiz at 7.30am on 11th October heading for Barbate which was 37 miles along the coast.  The best winds for going to Gibraltar coming from the west are obviously westerly winds.  The forecast was easterly with up to 20 knots.  It was OK for the first four hours or so but we then got 35 knots for the next couple of hours.  The seas were short and sharp and so made it rough with 2m waves.  We had enough salt on the boat for putting on the chips for the feeding of the 5000.  To add to this the reefing line (the rope on the front sail which makes the sail smaller for you non sailors) on the genoa broke and so where we had the sail smaller it was now out full size and the only way to wind it in was to go up to the front of the boat to rethread a new rope.  The conditions weren’t such that you wanted to go anywhere near the bow of the boat, so this had to stay as it was until we got within spitting distance of Barbate.  It was not pleasant, quite scary.  We turned the corner into the bay and the winds dropped to 8knots and nice and flat, the difference was unbelievable but very welcomed after seven hours.

C1. Cuffysark at Queenway Marina, Gibraltar 13.10.17.

Cuffysark in Queensway Quay Marina, Gibraltar

Another pretty empty marina in Barbate.  We only stayed overnight and then set off the following morning for our trip though the Gibraltar Straits, at an unearthly hour for us, 5.45am, again with an easterly wind forecast of 20 knots.  The journey this time was better, the winds were again stronger than had been forecast reaching up to 30knots but we sat tight against the coastline which meant we didn’t have much in the way of waves, didn’t use the geneo and used a much smaller main sail.  Ian put both engines on so we could power through, something he never does, he normally only has one engine on at a time.   It took us five hours and we moored up in Queensway Quay Marina.

We were all tired from the early start so we did as the Spanish do (I know it’s not Spain) and had a little siesta.  The following day we took a ride up in the cable car just before the sun was setting and the views were quite spectacular and this is where you find the Barbary Apes.

B4. Barbary Apes - Gibrlater 13.10.17.

A Barbary ape drinking from the water fountain

We also visited Trafalgar Cemetery which has the remains of those who were injured at the Battle of Trafalgar.

Gibraltar has a thriving tourist industry and is actually smaller than Canvey Island.  Main Street is full of the usual shops and a bit like walking through the departure lounges of an airport selling VAT free drink, cigarettes and electrical goods.  Have to admit we did make a visit to M&S and also had some pub grub.

We had come to the end of our time with John and Prim so off they went on Saturday 14th October back home.  We’d had a great time and done lots and we could now visualise when Johnny talked about Moron what it was like.  The other place dear to his heart is Ronda, a place we will visit sometime in the next few months.

We waved them off and then made a trip to Morrisons.  We were like kids in a sweet shop, it is exactly the same as it is at home with the same products.  I know it’s sad but we were able to stock up on some things that we hadn’t been able to get for the last five months.  The following day more friends were arriving Graham and Lesley.  So the rest of the day we were changing beds and cleaning ready for their arrival.

Lesley, Graham, Ian and I decided to take a taxi tour of the island which lasted two hours and well worth it.  The driver gave a good commentary whilst taking us round the island.  We went first to St Michael’s caves.  The caves are used for concerts, quite an unusual venue.

We next visited the tunnels, there are 34 miles of them (no we didn’t walk them) which were built over the course of nearly 200 years mainly by the British Army.

We went up to the top of the rock where the Barbary apes are, they did make me a little nervous but they are fascinating to watch.

Finally we took a look around the Moorish castle.  Part of the castle was used a prison until it was relocated in 2010.

We left the following day for our next stop Estepona but not before filling up with diesel which is inexpensive in Gibraltar.  We had a pleasant sail, overcast when we left but by the time we arrived in Estepona it was lovely and sunny.  They have a bull ring here and a lovely town about 15 minutes away from the marina.  We had a big thunderstorm during the night here and lots of rain which I’m sure the Spanish welcomed as they had been suffering a drought.

We stayed overnight in Estepona and headed to Fuengirola the next morning.  About an hour before arriving we hit a lobster pot.  We couldn’t free it from the rudder so Ian had to don his dry suit, snorkel on and in he went to cut it away.  We decided to eat on the boat, so add music and wine and it’s a bit of party!  In the park there are lots of Monk Parakeets (they are green and blend in with the grass) who build rather large nests in the palm trees.

E1. Graham and Lesley 17.10.17


Time for the last of our visitors, Graham and Lesley, to leave after a fun few days.





30th October 2017