Category Archives: 2017 – Spain

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.

Cartagena

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

Exercise

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

 

Hola Spain, Again – October 2017

1st – 10th October 2017

We had our final few days in Praia de Faro and had some amazing sunsets.  We took another trip into Faro and actually saw a stork in one of the nests, we’d only seen empty nests previously.

John and Primrose were joining us and we were planning on going from Faro along to Gibraltar.  We spent a night anchored at the entrance so that we could get off fairly easily in the morning.  We sat on the front of boat on that evening 3rd October, appreciating what we had and made a special toast to Ian’s brother Steve on which would have been his 54th birthday, who sadly passed away earlier this year.

We spent the following night at a marina on the Portuguese side of the Portuguese/Spanish border and left swiftly the following morning for Mazagon.  On arrival in the marina at Mazagon we were surprised at home many empty berths there were, one side of the marina was completely empty.  The only ones pleased about this were the birds and there were plenty of them and the mess they make too!

We walked into town which was very quiet and found a very Spanish restaurant.  John was feeling rather smug as he asked the owner if he could put some Flamenco music on and he did!

Christopher Columbus and the New World

We took a trip to Monasterio de Santa María de La Rábida (Monastery of Santa María de la Rábida) which is where Christopher Columbus spent a year putting his case with the help and influence of two of the friars,  Fray Antonio de Marchena and Fray Juan Pérez  for funding for a voyage to discover a western route to Asia which he didn’t get to as America was in the way.  Columbus set sail on 3rd August 1492.

Also here are replicas of the three boats that sailed the voyage the PintaNiña, and Santa María.  They are very small!

Cadiz, Moron de la Frontere and Jerez (7-10 October 2017)

We crammed a lot into our four nights here.  Cadiz is a lovely city, lots of small streets with tall buildings, a little similar to the Old Town of San Sebastian.  There are also a number of squares with bars and restaurants on each side. We visited the Cathedral here.

Cadiz isn’t far from Moron de la Frontere, which is where John regularly goes to play flamenco with his gypsy friends.  So we hired a car and took the two hour journey staying at the Gran Hotel Moron which we had heard so much about.  It was better than expected albeit a little outside of town.  We took a drive in and I was pleasantly surprised at how nice it was.  It had a lovely square which we sat in and had a beer and some tapas.  The town was home to Deigo Del Gastor who is a renowned flamenco guitarist.  He played a very personal style of flamenco guitar. He referred to it as “toca gitano” (to play gypsy).  There is a memorial to him in Moron de la Frontere.

C3. Penya - Moron 9.10.17.John was hoping to be able to take us to the Peña, which is where people meet to eat, drink and play flamenco.  Unfortunately it wasn’t open, hence the look of Ian and John.  Obviously Primrose and I were devastated.

We went back to the hotel for a freshen up and then went back into town to the Bar Alemán.  John made a couple of phone calls to his gypsy friends inviting them for a drink.  Obviously they were somewhat surprised to discover that he was in town.  We had a great evening with Alberto and Paco and his wife Poppy.  Even though Ian, Prim and I speak no Spanish, Poppy no English, Alberto and Paco can speak some English and John who says his Spanish isn’t that good, (but it absolutely is) we managed to chat all evening and more or less understand each other.

Andalusion Horse Show, Jerez

Prim loves horses and we had been told by a couple we met in Cadiz, Marie and Dave, that there was a horse show in Jerez.  The Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art is devoted to conserving the ancestral abilities of the Andalusian horse, maintaining the classical traditions of Spanish baroque horsemanship, preparing horses and riders for international dressage competitions, and providing education in all aspects of horsemanship, coachdriving, blacksmithing, the care and breeding of horses, saddlery, and the manufacture and care of horse harness.  Unfortunately we weren’t able to take photos of the show.

Jerez is also home to a number of sherry houses.  A well known one, (I’ve only heard of it because John drinks it from time to time) Tio Pepe is based here which is produced by González Byass.  So we next made a visit here where we took a tour.  Not as good as other tours we’ve been on, we felt we were on a bit of a sales pitch.

We had an early start the following morning as we were leaving for our first hop to get down to Gibraltar, more about that in the next blog!

23rd October 2017

Adios Espana

Vigo to Baiona

We left Riveira for Vigo on Monday 7th August 2017, a leisurely start at 11.30, with overcast skies and winds of about 13 knots in a north easterly direction.  Winds got up to about 20 knots and we were surfing on the waves with our fastest speed being 13.5knots.  On the way out of the Ria we passed this fishing boat who was swinging his net round in a circle.

Vigo is a big commercial port.  We only stayed here the one night as we needed to visit a chandlers for a few bits and pieces to ensure we complied with Portuguese safety rules.

We left the following afternoon and took the short trip to Baiona.  Baiona is stunning, set in a small bay and very sheltered.  It wasn’t what I’d expected.

Ian had visited here about 30 years ago and as you can imagine the change was dramatic.  There were no marinas back then whereas there are now three and it is much more developed for tourists. There was only the fuel jetty, the castle and the yacht club back then.

We visited the replica of the “Pinta” ship which was commanded by Martin Alonso Pinzon.  Baiona is significant as it was the first port in Europe to know about the discovery of America when the Pinta arrived there on 1st March 1493.  The ship was surprisingly small.

C4. Tiller on the Pinta - Baiona 9.8.17.

The boat was steered from down below where the tiller was so it wasn’t possible to see where you were going from there.

The ship brought back various items from America including three natives, one of whom died on the trip.  The main product they brought back was cotton however they also brought various plants which at that time weren’t known to Europe including corn, sweet potato and tobacco.  There was also some wildlife.  Sailors generally slept on the deck of the ship however, they discovered the hammock in America and so had a much more comfortable sleep on their return.

We had a spot of lunch “menu del dia” in the old town and then went for a walk around the fort, “Fortaleza o Monte Boi ou Monte Real S X XVII”.

We visited the local yacht club “the Monte Real Club de Yates de Baiona” which overlooks the bay and so we had to stop for some refreshment.  King Juan Carlos II of Spain sailed from here.  The club has also made several challenges to the Americas Cup and had a number of entrants to the Whitbread Round the World Races.

We left Baiona on Thursday 10th August for Portugal just as the sun was rising.  As the morning went on their were lovely blue skies, northerly winds of 12-14 knots, perfect conditions, idyllic, for sailing yes but land is definitely warmer than on the sea. I had my jacket on and a towel wrapped around my legs for most of the day as it was rather chilly.  As some of you know our cockpit is covered with a bimini so no getting into the sun and out of the wind there but I have been told on numerous occasions that I’m going to be grateful for that bimini when it’s hot! There was me thinking by the time we got to Portugal I’d be stretched out on the front of the boat.  It’s forecast 26 tomorrow and we’ll be ashore.  Hurrah!

Modern technology

Oh how grateful we are for technology.  We have discovered the app Google Translate, thanks to Julia.  So wherever we go now we stand with a phone hovering over menus, signs and such like and the phone shows you the translation through the camera.  Amazing!

 

17th August 2017

 

 

A Coruna to Riveira

27th July to 6th August 2017

We arrived in A Coruna in the pouring rain on Thursday 27th July.  The following day we took the train to Santiago de Compostela which was just 25 minutes.  Here is the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela which is one of Spain’s biggest attractions.  It was built over the tomb of the Apostle Saint James and is the last stop for the Camino de Santiago (the way of St James) which is the route for Pilgrims.  We arrived just after mass was being held.  We queued to get in and they stopped letting people in two people in front of us.  We eventually entered half an hour later and there was another service being held.  Pilgrims had carried a statue of the Virgin Mary from their local church and the priest made a blessing.  It was quite a sight to see.

On Saturday we had a long bike ride around the coastal road.  We went along to Torres de Hercules which stands 180 feet high and is the oldest Roman lighthouse still in operation.  It was originally built in the 2nd century AD but it was rebuilt in the 1800’s.  We viewed it from the outside rather than take a walk to the top.

From here we moved on to the Spanish Rias, first to Caraminas where we anchored for the night.  The rias are very picturesque and even more so if the sun is shining.

We had another visit from dolphins just before we passed Cape Finnestere.  There was a family of them.  It doesn’t matter how many times they come by the boat you can’t help but get excited.  They are such lovely creatures.   We arrived at Muros which is in one of the Spanish Rias where we spent a couple of nights again on anchor.

Riveira – Wednesday 3rd to 6th August

G. Entrance to Riveira 3.8.17.

We left Muros and it was foggy again, visbility was about 300 yards.  We headed to Riveira in the Ria de Arousa using the Paso del Carreiro which is quite narrow.  There was still fog but it was gradually lifting.

 

Another 5 miles to Riveira and the fog had lifted and it was a lovely sunny afternoon.  However by about 6.30 the fog started to roll in again and by 10 o’clock you couldn’t see anything again.

Most of the places we had been to has a fishing industry.  Riveira is on a different scale to what we had seen before.  There were lots of warehouses and artic lorries rolling in and out with their loads.  This was going on at all hours.

Now they do like a celebration in Spain and we had arrived in Riveira when there was one to be held at the weekend “Festas do Veran”.  This is dedicated to people of the sea.  There was a very large funfair, stages at both ends of the main street with music being played.  Once the music started which at one stage wasn’t until midnight people started appearing and they danced.  This was mainly the older generation.  Nothing begins here until the earliest 10pm.

On Sunday 6th August there was a procession we didn’t know exactly what it would entail but had been told it was at about 5/5.30.  Me, Ian and John (of Bonaire) walked from the marina up along the warehouses.  There were people dressed in Galcian clothes practising the bag pipes.  Further along by the fishmarket there were people hanging about, again it was mostly the older generation who were in their Sunday best, so we thought this looks like where it will be.  We waited for half an hour or more then, some doors opened and everyone swarmed to them and in they went.  Curious, we had a look.  The fishmarket had been transformed into that of the inside of a church with lots of chairs and the statue of the Virgin Mary at the front.  We decided that we would stay for mass.  After 45 minutes it was Holy Communion.  We departed at this stage and waited outside.

J1. Fiesta service 5.8.17.

The procession entailed the Statue of the Virgin Mary being carried out by six guys who took her to a waiting fishing boat where she would be taken out to sea along with the priests and various dignatories who made a blessing.  This was the same ceremony we had seen at Castro Urdiales however this time we got to see the whole thing.  Accompanying her was a brass band and the people playing bagpipes.  It was quite a sight.

Once this had all finished we had a wander round the town and in the main street outside the church came across some youngsters doing some street dancing.  It transpired that they were a religious group attempting to get their message across through dance.We know this as they tried to convert us!

During the rest of the evening there was another two stages playing music which went on until the early hours.  On Sunday night the finale, there were fireworks, which didn’t start until Midnight which we watched from the boat.  We were glad we stayed for the weekend to be part of it.  We had a really enjoyable time in Riveira.

 

 

8th August 2017