Saturday, 28 June 2008

Fiesta time in Pt Alcudia

And now there are three of us! Kate joined us a couple of days ago. We’ve seen plenty of her as she works on a tan- “Will you put some lotion on my back please?” We’ve caught up on the stunning set of exam results, the conversations with Bryony, Hannah, Laura, Emma etc. We’ve inquisitioned her about the state of the house/Autumn/garden/shower tray that has a knack of blocking! But after all that there was nothing for it but to pull her into our cryptic crossword fetish!
She made various excuses like “I’m no good at this kind of thing”, “Can I do it lying down”, “I can’t find a pen”. But we had her hooked in the end and begging us to put it away a couple of hours later! “Novel about going after old mandolin. 7 letters!!!!!”

It’s been quite windy, but we’ve been out into the Bay for a magical sail and a swim in Alcanada. We’ve watched Spain beat Russia 3-0, with fire crackers going off each time they scored. Great atmosphere. Mum and Dad- Sorry to hear that Turkey didn’t get thru, but that means that Spain play Germany on Sunday. Given that Mallorca’s Germany’s Mediterranean state- officially there are 30,000 Germans living in Mallorca- it should be a great match.

Last night and all this weekend, in fact for most of this week!, there have been celebrations for San Pere, with fairs, market stalls, summer feasts for 6euros, traditional and modern music and dancing. Tonight they all go out in anything that floats to have their vessels blessed by the local priest, who is waiting for them out in the Bay. Apparently last year, the priest had one too many and nearly fell off his boat, mid-blessing! Judging by the amount of beers, with the odd half-dozen 7-up thrown in to make them look less alcoholic, this year promises to be an equally rowdy affair!

I watched the music and dancing last night. Young and old danced the sardine, bending and weaving, circling their arms, dancing close then spinning away. The younger ones are athletic leaping up and continuing until another contender runs across the floor to take over from him. Then the female is chased off for a rest to be supplanted by another “flirt” who makes a play for the guy, who is then pushed off by another, and so it continues. So the dancing for each person is brief and frenetic and totally mesmerising, unless you’re called Ian or Kate, who watched in the bar, from a distance, coming to join me just as one folk group swapped over to another. So there was then a pause of fifteen or so minutes filled with the usual sarcasm!!!

Really hot and settled today. Kate’s achieving a nice golden glow. We’ve got to hang around until 2pm for someone who’s coming to look at the boat, with agent. Should have come yesterday. Waited in. Boat as clean as a whistle inside and out. No-one allowed to park their bums on the toilet, clean teeth, stick their sun-lotioned elbows on my polished table, teak cleaned, chrome-work polished. No message! “Did Christine not ring you. She was supposed to ring you.”!!!

So we’ve/I’ve got to do it all again today. “Don’t worry we’ve got a set of keys” Yes you dummy but we’re here and we might be out of the berth doing something called sailing! I think our agent thinks we’re like a lot of these yachties who have an apartment here and a boat on the berth for jollies, but don’t actually sleep on it or go out in it!!!! Anyway as soon as they’ve had a nosey round, assuming they turn up, we’re off. Sorry San Pere but there’s only so much fiesta even I can take. We went to bed about 1am and they were still dancing and singing! Need to visit a nice quiet anchorage and watch the fireworks tonight, due to go off at 12.30, from a distance. Cos we’re definitely back here for the match.

PPPS Anj- BBQing the pimientos worked a treat. Boiled for 4 mins and then fried on Barbie in oil in a foil tray. Off to get some more today, as Kate is hooked as well!

Laura- How’s the exams going? How’s the fish tank going? How’s your garden growing?

Gran Marnier- Thanks for the message. Seems that you and Jack Rafter have started up a conversation! Hope all is well.

All- May be time for one more blog, but we’ll be home soon and looking forward to seeing you allXXXXXXX

Monday, 23 June 2008

BlueSky Blue Water Blue Washing OR Harry got a call re messin about on boats(9 letters)

So. What’s been happening here. The weather has been like Summer- really warm/hot and unbroken sunshine. Very little wind so we’ve been able to stay overnight in anchorages you wouldn’t touch if it was breezy. Picked up a buoy on two nights running in Formentor. They normally charge about 30 euros per night but haven’t got going yet, so we can sneak in and out unnoticed! BBQd on board both nights and spent the day swimming, cooling off, reading and doing cryptic crosswords! It’s so beautiful here and yet it’s just on the door-step.
Then on to Cala Molta for an overnight stay in heaven! Turquoise sea, the smell of pines, all self-sufficient with food for a BBQ supplemented with rice and peppers. The reason why BBQs are so popular on a boat is because it’s too hot down below to cook food comfortably.
Cala Molta has been adopted by mainly German naturists, so there are lots of little, and not so little, pink bottoms toasting in the heat! 5 Letters- Goes out with, to gather fruit- peaches and plums spring to mind!
We have a lovely calm evening, watching the sun go down, and all the little day boats are making their way back home now, so it’s getting much quieter. After a reasonable night’s sleep we waken to an idyllic, calm morning. Early morning swim, wash the sheets, to save on laundry bill later, and another look at the dratted crossword- “And, splashing in the bowl is sweet”- 7 letters. No idea!!
Off for a walk whilst it’s still cool. Over the hill to Cala Mesquida. Beautiful pine smells, with wild flowers and birds.
Off back to Alcudia, because Andrew’s reminded us of the Spain v Italy match. Great sail in the bay of Alcudia with the wind picking up in sea breezes.
Then onto our fav place, Can Punyetes. A young guy is trying to set himself up to play the guitar and sing for us. Seems like his problems go much deeper than the fact that he needs to entirely re-string his guitar before he starts. The waiters are extremely kind and helpful, but we can’t help noticing that he is using one of the restaurant tables opposite. Now this is really rubbing salt into the wounds! To put you in the picture- Opposite Punyetes, which is THE most successful tapas restaurant/ restaurant in the whole of Alcudia, there is another tapas restaurant. There are never any customers there. A few days ago, they tried employing someone to intercept passers-by and drag them in, and now he’s been replaced by not one, but eight menu boards outside. Sad but desperate. Ian’s trying to stop me from giving them some advice. Change to an English bar and sell fish and chips. You’d have a much better chance of success!
Anyway back to the poor unfortunate who has used one of their several empty tables to string his guitar on. With the help of the waiters and refreshed by a free bottle of water, he is on his way. I think another bottle of wine is called for! It’s very real and that’s the best you can say about it. The follow- up to this, is that two nights later we went back to Punyetes. Same guy appears but he’s looking much calmer. Checho, the waiter tells me in Spanish that the guy had had his guitar robbed, and when the waiter sympathised with him that he must have been very sad, he says “Es Igual” and promptly buys another one in Inca, far superior to the other. Busking obviously pays, and maybe he doesn’t have as many problems as it seems!!
Checho came to Mallorca when he was a little boy. He comes from Galicia, same as Hugo, yes Anj? When we say to him that we have been to this restaurant for 10 years but we don’t know his name, he corrects us and says it’s been 12 years, and he’s right, it has been 12 years and he’s noticed!
Once again Ian has spent his day familiarising himself with the fine details of the bog, not blog! After some suspicious-looking brown liquid seeped out of the base of the loo, it was clear that Ian’s hopeful efforts several days ago were just hopeful. 60euros later, he has replaced both valves and we seem to be up and running!
Spain won on penalties. Waiters tense. Then car horns sounding into the night. You’d think they’d won the trophy itself! I bet there was a good atmos where you were Anj and Laura. We tried to ring you but you seemed to be busy!!!
Off to Alcudia Market again, tomorrow, to buy more supplies and to see if we can cook pimientos de padron on the BBQ, cos it makes too much mess in the galley!

Saw you running in the official photo Anj- looked great! Hope you had a great night with Laura and Spanish mates watching the Match. Will keep you posted with the results of the pimmies! Simmer in water for 4 mins and then fry for about 10mins. Hugo might be from Galicia but us webbies know how to cook pimientos!!
Laura – Lovely to hear that you had a bonding moment with Anj helping you with fish tank. Can’t wait to see the progress! Plants still alive? Multi-task!!
Kate- FANTASTIC RESULTS. ALL-ROUND STAR!! Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow.
Doctor- Must be losing you soon! Have a great time in Barbados.
Ma and Pa – Glad you had a super holiday , lots of love and see you soonxxxxxxx.
Gran Marnier- Lots of Love and see you soonxxxxx

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Unashamed Mincing

Right, so what’s happened since we last spoke! Well those of you who are expecting to hear of new destinations, long hours spent at sea, ploughing into the waves, may as well turn off now and get back to work/ fitting out aquariums/taking part in fun runs/digging footings/tending allotments!
We’re still here in Alcudia. The “minutiae” of life here has suddenly becoming really interesting! Yesterday was the hottest day yet, just like an unbearably hot Summer’s day. Hard to believe that only a couple of weeks ago, I was scratching around looking for something warm to wear!!! But today with strong winds blowing down from Tarragona, later to be followed by a pinzcher wind from, yet again, the Golf of Lyon, we settle for staying in Alcudia.
I go off for a walk to the Market again, whilst Ian goes on his fav cami walk. The market is full of locals all buying incredibly cheap, incredibly fresh veg by the kilo, whilst me, worried that things won’t keep, am buying a cuarto kilo and medio kilo of potatoes for 50p and beans for 30p!
Father’s Day and two photos. One before and one after! Ian at our fav tapas bar Punyetes-“Where’s mi scran. It’s 7.01pm!” and later with a table full of food. Our favourite foods, and this is where I’ve managed to gain Andrew’s attention, are -Salpicon, a cold mix of peppers, onions, olive oil, vinegar, octopus and prawns
Pimientos de Padron, little harmless-looking peppers that you have to test with your lips first, ‘cos now and then you get a rogue one which blows your mouth away and ruins the rest of your meal!
Montadito de Lomo, pork loin on tomato and garlic-smeared bread, called Pa amb oli
Sepia a la Plancha, grilled cuttle-fish , which twice, different waiters have put it down and waited for us to complain that it’s not what we ordered, because it’s beyond the usual gambas al ajillo that most adventurous Brits order, and they’re sure we’ve got it wrong! But we have n’t and it tastes great! We came out here in April and were lucky enough to witness the Fira de Sepia, or Sepia Festival in Alcudia. Whole stalls given over to sepia cooked by a local restaurant, and nothing but sepia for sale, cooked in a variety of ways at other restaurants. At the end of the two day fira, the participating restaurants are awarded the treasured, annual ceramic plate which they then display, and you guessed it, it has arty pictures of sepia on the plate!
Ian’s just worked out that it’s a year this weekend since they cleaned up his ankle. Still seems to be a lot of crap in there though! Maybe he just has to be patient! Talking of patience- It seems that someone you wouldn’t normally think of as being endowed with that quality managed an amazing three and a half hours queueing to get Terry Pratchett’s autograph in a new novel. All for the woman he loves! WOW!!! Well Done Anj!!
Also on the subject of Patience- how much longer will Laura have to wait to have her aquarium inhabited!!
PPPS Thought you might like the sweet photo, below, of someone’s gran catching their supper. Thought we might send Gran Web off to Whitby to do the same!

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Home safe and sound in Alcudia

Safe and sound in our favourite place- our home port of Alcudia. Back to Punyetes last night- Great meal with pud and coffee- 33E. And Mum Florence- they do something for pud called Hojaldre con Salsa de Chocolate and it’s almost as good as Bertwistle’s Excellent Vanilla Slice!! Then back to the boat to watch the next DVD of Spooks- Ian’s favourite. We’ve still got something about Wild China to watch on BBC i-player. Wish Apprentice had been on BBC then I could have kept up with it. Our friend Richard off Sail la Vie texted us to tell us Lee had won. It was very considerate of him. Expecting to see them at the end of July, when we return after having been at home for most of that month. Just to remind you that we return with Kate on July 2nd.
Spain have just beaten Sweden 2-1 and we couldn’t have been more pleased than if we’d been Spanish ourselves! Incidentally, Ian’s just read about someone else’s plans ruined by the storms in Sardinia. Rooney is thinking of diverting to the Caribbean for his honeymoon, whereas we went to Barcelona!! So we don’t feel that we “gibbed” too badly, because Rooney “said so”!!
Having been couped up on the boat for 14days, looking forward to a walk today into the old town of Alcudia, where it is Market Day..
Laura- Thanks for the message. At least word gets thru to one of our kids! Yes I know my e-mails are a bit long but you have read at least one novel when you were at school- Pride and Prejudice! Re; Sunflowers. Water copiously and feed with fertiliser. In absence of real stuff- Liquid fertiliser will do. To make sure that you have the edge over Alma’s mum/ surrogate mummy, pay her an impromptu visit one night and wee on her nurtured sunflowers! It’s fantastic that you’re getting into growing stuff. My prayers have been answered! Next step- renting an allotment and growing your own veg! PS Hope the garden’s going well, and the lilies and clematis (ie vigorous mobster your mum gave you) are doing well. Have you ever read The Day of the Triffids by HGWells?
Grandma, your last missive was successful. Keep them coming!
Jack Rafter. You’ve gone mighty quiet. Busy with your footings!
Anj- Any chance of a message if you can be ars…d reading the blog?
Lizzie- Just read both Terry Pratchett books. Great!! Any chance of borrowing some. Will bring back Wyrd Sisters and Maskerade to give to you. “This week have been mostly reading “A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian” by Marina Lewycka!!!!
Ian chuckling away to Jeremy Clarkson’s “And Another Thing”.
Kate- =Kitten. Keep watering the potatoes- ie the green things that grow in the veg patch that look nothing like potatoes! How’s the job going? Paid off your overdraft yet?
Doctor- Don’t be intimidated by all these familial missives. Join in whenever you feel like it!
Dad- HAPPY FATHER’S DAY. ALL MY LOVE. Hope Crete was wonderful. See You SoonXXXXXXXX Give My Love to MumXXXXXX

Oh and weather’s picking up now. We’ve had two sunny days together, and they’re forecasting more to come. But the sea’s still a bit chilly for swimming!

Friday, 13 June 2008

Rocking and Rolling 2 - Thank Heavens for Dolphins

We woke up at 4am, even though we had decided not to set off then, then at 6am,cos we were nervous, and at 6.30am, thought let’s get going, and by 6.45am we were pulling away form Tarragona, not sorry to be saying goodbye, and not expecting to go back there. But on the way there, the day before, we did spot a beautiful campsite right down by the beach, nestled under a striking tower, with several campervans parked along it. A place called Tamarit. We made a note to look in on it one day, and by the end of today I think we both wished we could swap the boat for a campervan, and the busy roads for the empty, endless, swelly, choppy, miserable, boring sea!!!!
Steering 150deg all the way, with wind gradually increasing form 12k to 16k to a consistent 20k most of the way, and that’s about as interesting as it got for 9 hours!. Fortunately the wind was on our beam, so we were getting up a good speed of 6-7k all the way. It’s also not so scary because you’re being chased by the waves. But, and it’s a very big BUT, the swell was horrible. There’d been some terrible gales in the Gulf of Lyon, blowing F7-9 for a few days. An American couple we met in Tarragona, who I’d asked to join us when he said that he was relieved to hear English voices, recounted the tale of how people had been sick, as the cruise-ship they were on, had swayed around in the swell. (We felt quite smug that our decision to go nowhere near the place had proven to be the right one!)

Only trouble is the Med is just a dirty big pond, with the water sloshing around. A big wind 200 miles away can make the sea very uncomfortable. Not unsafe, but just very unpleasant for a very, very long time. “When I get back to Mallorca, I’m not going anywhere for a long time”, “If it calms down a little bit, we’ll make a cuppa in shifts!”, “Oh, I’ve really had enough now. I thought this wind was supposed to calm down!”, “Have we really only been sailing for 4 hours!”. Just some of the thoughts that spring to mind during our 18hours at sea!

Just as we were reaching a complete state of misery, only half way, at 55mls, after NINE HOURS, we saw bouncing towards us at speed, a pod of 6-8 dolphins, splashing about in the surf, gliding to and fro across our bow, almost touching the sides. Absolutely wonderful! The rougher sea seems to make them more athletic and frisky, shame I can’t say the same for me! They stayed with us for a good ten minutes. I sat at the bow of the boat, getting absolutely soaked as the boat ploughed into the waves. This was followed by another 4 sightings and close encounters with other pods of dolphins, and holding on tight, I managed to snap some photos of these lovely, playful mammals. Other than that, NOTHING TO SEE. Two distant tankers, a rig of some sort, Balearia ferry, but no other yachts, because they’ve all had the sense to stay in the Balearics. Don’t get me wrong. Barcelona was wonderful, and it was great to get there under our own steam, but next time we’ll go on Easyjet!! In our most fed up moment, Ian chirped up with “It takes Easyjet” half an hour to do what we’re doing in 18 hours!

Giving Isla Dragonera a wide berth, we finally arrived in Port Andraitx at 11.30pm. We’ve been here twice in total darkness, so we knew what to expect and where to go. Without this knowledge, you’d never come into this spot at night. But “seeing” places in the dark though a bit scary at first, is quite comforting after a long passage. Counting the flashes of lighthouses- 1 flash every 7 seconds- that’s Dragonera, 1 flash 5secs and then 3flashes- that’s the entrance to Andraitx. Red lights to port and green flashing lights to starboard coming in. We’re nearly there, and not a moment too soon, with the wind getting up in yet another thunderstorm, lightning flashes over in the West! Anchor down and plenty of chain out. All we’d eaten all day was biscuits, crisps, sweets, KitKats, and one of those wonderful stick-in-the-pan-and-leave-for-ten-minutes- tortillas (remember those Anj!). Whilst I had a wonderful shower, we made pre-cooked, partly-thawed paella with some added cooked chicken left over from the day before. Great meal at 12.15am!!! Both of us with our inner ears telling us we’re still on the move and rolling around! Slept really well and glad to be back on our favourite island again.

Woke up to heavy rain and thunderstorm with the prospect of more of the same tomorrow, with associated indigestion, aching and lethargy! Actually the rain’s past over now and it’s warming up nicely. Better make the most of it. Thought I’d attach photo of me at the helm, having a “bad hair day”, just to show my kids that life at sea isn’t all G&T and Skittles!

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Viva Catalunya!

Tarragona, formerly known as Tarraco, was the Roman base in Spain, housing 150,000 Romans. There are ruins dating back to two centuries before Christ. I would be able to tell you more but the best museum was closed on Mondays!! An amphitheatre, circus, governor’s (praetor) stronghold, forum, and remains of the city walls.. But let’s be honest, it’s not the spruced up, restored and cherished set of buildings that we’re used to in Mallorca and even Barcelona! It’s all a bit dark and depressing for all its historic realness.

On arrival at the marina, we called in on VHF Channel 9 to let “them” know we were here. We’d previously booked a berth over the phone. The marina receptionist said we would be met at D52 by someone who sounded like “the cleaner”! Surely I must have misheard! Surely it must have been a Spanish word that sounded like “cleaner”! I had asked for help getting off the fuel/waiting quay, as there was a fresh wind blowing us onto the quay. None came. It was a Sunday and we realised that the same “cleaner” couldn’t be helping us off the fuel quay, helping us into the berth, and no doubt sticking a brush up his posterior and cleaning the loos at the same time. As Ian calmly put it, “There’s a lesson in this, and that’s not to plan to come into marinas out of season on a Sunday”. It turned out that there were only two staff on, one on reception (who finished work at 3pm on Sunday) and one to berth all the boats. Not that it was busy and that should have told us something. Knees jumping up and down with nervousness, we successfully got the boat away from the fuel quay, and berthed, thanks to my umph pushing the boat off the quay, Ian’s super docking skills and, as it turned out, a Spanish cleaner, who was good at multi-tasking!

To walk into the city we had to cross a main railway line, sorry, railway highway! Bizarre! Cars, trains and pedestrians, all trying to stay out of each others way. The marina is in effect cut off from the rest of the city. There are a few struggling restaurants, and several closed, badly maintained, sixties monstrosities bars and discos, graffiti-covered stairways, and a sad, dilapidated look to the whole place. We needed a chandlery to repair a compass which wouldn’t light up in the dark, and was told by a very friendly German neighbour that you wouldn’t get anything like that there, because they only sold cushions and crockery, nothing technical. He said he was planning to move on because this marina was a “disaster”! I remembered reading somewhere that the mainland Spanish were not keen on you doing your own maintenance on your own boat, because it took away work from the local Spanish labourers, so maybe that’s why they only stocked “fluffy” things rather than serious hardware. The “old” days when yachties went out for a jolly day’s sailing and left all the grubby maintenance to some local Juan or Pedro!! Hang on a minute, that’s still happens now, but not with the Webbies!!

One fascinating aspect of this city, which is clearly not a regular tourist destination, is the total lack of information in anything other than Catalan, on Castillian Spanish, which we’re used to, and certainly no English or German. Road signs, restaurant menu signs and all public info signs. Fortunately I’d given myself a crash course in Catalan on the journey over. It seems a bit like Portuguese to me, in that when it’s written down you can spot a pattern and recognose some words, but when spoken you haven’t got a chance!
Anyway back to Mallorca tomorrow. Were thinking of setting off at 4am to make landfall just as its going dark, but the forecast is for some fresh winds to settle as the day goes on both here but particularly in Mallorca, so planning on leaving it to a little bit later. Showing next few days as thundery and showery, whilst I hear from Kate that you’re having lovely weather back home. O, Joy!!

Monday, 9 June 2008

Sauntering to Sitges and super sail to Tarragona

Yesterday we set off from Barcelona at 10am and had to motor all the way to our destination, Sitges, 18 miles down the Costa Daurada, which stretches from Barcelona to Tarragona and beyond. Sunny but cool wind at sea, so you arrive with thick jackets to blazing sunshine in a sheltered marina. Marina berth right under the torre blanco of the Capitanaria. Later had a lovely walk around a rather classy Sitges.
The Lonely Planet guide to Spain says that Sitges became established as a holiday town in the 1960s, and its loose attitudes openly challenged the rigidity of Franco’s Spain. Good on’em. It has lots of interesting art galleries, a Baroque parish church high on a hill overlooking the beaches, and a street full of white-washed old mansions. The narrow, traffic-free streets overlooking the sea made me think of Cornish villages.
Main drawback- the Spanish here eat lunch until 5pm, so restaurants are n’t open again until 9pm., so we grabbed an indifferent pizza! Suitably refreshed after a siesta, the Spanish have their evening meal from 9pm to midnight and then we could hear them, from our too-close berth, clubbing in the local bar until 3am!!!! Great music, so I found myself dozing and then wanting to stay awake and listen!!
So after a really crap night’s sleep, we set off for Tarragona, 30 miles further down the coast. Had a fantastic sail down right up to its “front door”, averaging a stonking 6-7knots all the way. Hardly a drop of diesel was used! Still took us 5hours! On the way, we had the opportunity of practising our “man-over-board” skills, for the second time this trip! First time we dropped the seat off the crappy dinghy in the drink. The temptation was to say “Sod it let’s not bother”, as the seat shortens what must be the shortest dinghy it’s possible to buy! This time it was something far more precious and greatly-loved! No, it was n’t me, it was Ian’s Tilley hat. He will insist on perching it on the back of his head “Clampit”-style, and refusing to do anything as sensible as wearing the straps under his chin like it says to on the “destructions”! So there it is in the water, disappearing at speed off to our stern, as we cream through the sea. “Quick, point to it and don’t let it out of your sight!” “No we haven’t got time to take the sails down, and you wouldn’t if this was a real emergency, which this is!” Motor on, and we turned around with the sails set in a disturbing way around the rigging. Ten minutes later a delighted owner and his soggy hat were happily reunited and we set off again, reassured that if a person fell over, who weighed approx 250g, either of us would have no problem at all in hauling him/her on board and giving them a quick shower!
Adventures of a Tilley Hat- jungles of Borneo, steaming heat of Aussie Outback, freezing temperature of Kilimanjaro, and bobbing along in the sun-kissed Med.!
We planning to be hear for two nights before we do the marathon 110miles back home to Mallorca, depending on the forecast here and there. At the moment things look better than they’ve done since we got here.
PS On the subject of forecasts, one of several that we use is a Navtex onboard, but it’s been unreliable lately. Latest message- “Weather General Shines Upon Then Becoming Veil and Stormy In Evening”. What on earth’s that about! Needless to say we’ve had no messages since and we’ve decided to ignore it!

Friday, 6 June 2008

Rocking and Rolling to Barcelona

After a beautiful day, the best yet, we decided to “go for it” and set off for Barcelona. The weather was benign and forecast was quiet. F6-7 in Sardinia and S France, so I guess that adventure’s out of the question, so Barca’s not a bad back-up, with a chance to go on the Gaudi tour. Set off at 4pm, with a good sail for the first couple of hours. As the evening drew on the winds dropped and we motorred. Sounds idyllic, but there was a confused sea for about six hours that eventually settled into a slightly sickening swell which kept going amazingly all the way to the port of Barcelona, a total of 18 hours. Totally safe but totally uncomfortable passage. The chicken, pepper and pasta meal only added to the nausea, and a packet of sweeties at 6 a.m. did n’t help much. Apart from that it was so damned cold. Waterproof bottoms on, Laura’s jacket, wind-surfing gloves, anything I could find to put on to keep warm! Flaming June, flaming cold. Never mind we landed in Barca at 10a.m and booked a berth for two nights, cheap at 90euros, for a prime position in the centre of Barca. A hot drink, egg butty and straight to bed for a couple of hours!!
A lovely sunny afternoon, so we walked into town, booked the Gaudi tour, ate tapas, and wandered around the Ramblas and the Gothic quarter. It’s five years since we were last here with Laura and Kate, on a journey from St Raphael, S France, when we collected the boat. It’s still one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but it must have one of the highest per capita for drug addicts, vagrants and poor souls with mental problems. Picture this, sitting in an edifying placa, drinking a coffee, still rocking from the journey over, when a woman walks past berating the waiters and anybody who pays attention. She’s Spanish but shouting in English which is weird in itself. Every now and again she flashes a harmless-looking black velvet heart-shaped purse strapped to her waist, which she hides under a very fetching, saggy black cardy! It seems that this “emblem” says that she is a” lady of the night”, or in this instance 5pm..
The waiters tease her and she shouts at them in English, “I am not rich, I am not beautiful, but I am an honest working woman”. After this a well-meaning young guy, cycling with one of these people-carrying banquettes in front, pulls up. She falls into it nonchalantly, happy that she’s stirred a few people up and got a reaction, and is driven off. A few hours later we are eating tapas again, and outside a nearby boutique, a shop-owner has apprehended a guy who is shouting indignantly that he hasn’t taken those “f… jeans” or the Spanish equivalent. His protestations fell flat when he open his jacket to reveal two trouser hangers! His girlfriend pulls out the jeans and hands them back. Meanwhile they’re joined by two policemen, and when the guy starts the old indignant routine with them, one of the police smacks his face!! Can you imagine it? In England, the blackest villain would be screaming assault and harassment from the rafters!! Meanwhile his girlfriend sneaks off down a nearby escalator!!!
In spite of all this, I still think it’s a relatively safe city, although Anj might beg to differ, when he got robbed here several years ago!! There are police everywhere!!

Today we went to see one of the architectural wonders OF THE WORLD!! Gaudi’s buildings- the most weird and wonderful constructions. The best thing about Barcelona. Covered in brilliant, colourful ceramic mosaics, often using recycled crockery, and glass bottles, built in the 1920s, long before recycling became popular!!
Casa Pedrera, Casa Battlo, Parc Gruell, and the awe-inspiring Segrada Familia- still under construction, due to be finished in about thirty years. Tops of spires covered in huge groups of oranges, bright fruits, golden crosses, a bright green tree of life covered in white doves, and so much more. Check it out on’t t’internet, or wait till I get back with my massive collection of photos. It was worth more than Ian’s life to try and stop me!!

Monday, 2 June 2008

Alles klar in Mahon

Needing fuel and water, we headed for Mao (Mahon), which actually IS the capital of Menorca, and not Ciutadella, as previously stated. Woke to a beautiful blue sky day with a gentle wind, and motor-sailed down to Mao, three to four hours away.
The last time we were here we couldn’t get in anyway and were glared at and gesticulated at all the way out of the port again, having to take shelter in a crummy little area just inside the channel. But today a choice of several dozen moorings. Eventually pulled up onto the main town quay, close to shops, traffic and numerous English people sauntering up and down. “What’s that boat from Poole doing in Mahon!”. Surrounded by massive new yachts and cruisers. Obviously the credit crunch is n’t biting here yet!
Heard from little Laura today, who’d just landed returning from Costa Rica, to a quick shower and off to work as normal. Good to see that she’s keeping up the family tradition of screwing up timetables and going for it! Incidentally I was really cold on the journey down from Fornells and was scratching around for something warm to wear (having left my only piece of warm clothing on a Costa cafĂ© chair in East Mids airport!), Anyway I managed to come across a Chilli Peppers ski-jacket that Laura used to wear when she was about 14. Silver grey and cream with a woolly grey collar. Remember that one Laura?. A bit snug but fits quite well. It must have been that era when you liked to hide in massive clothing or were you a lot chubbier than you looked?
Anyway lovely and warm now, but only problem is surrounded by large groups of wealthy Germans on amazingly huge boats!! I wonder when Germany will be hit by recession!!
You’ll be glad to hear that Ian’s unbroken record of spending at least 10% of the stay on the boat with his arm up the u-bend remains unbroken! With 2 heads or toilets he’s got plenty to keep him occupied. We’ve sprung a leak and as yet not plugged it!!! And in the course of repair I heard the classic line “Oh shit, no really!!!”. I did offer him a cloth from the safety of the cockpit!!

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Here we go again 2

Forget Soller. For those of you in the know (and for those of you who were n’t, because we were too embarassed to admit it), with the prospect of six unsettled days, four of which were rain all day), we booked a cheap flight home, going against the half-term traffic flow in both directions, and went home for six days of wet weather instead.
Anyway, flew back with twenty or so guys on a stag do, drinking the inflight service dry of, would-you-believe-it, rose wine, and after one sunny day spent sailing in the Bay, checking that everything was in working order, set off for Menorca. With a weekend of cloudy, wet and unsettled weather, we decided that that was as far as we dare go with a crap forecast!
As it was we had a cracking over 7knot all the way sail, right up to Ciutadella’s door-step. Ciutadella is the capital of Menorca, and prone to “resurgens” or mini tidal waves in SW winds. Today it was NW. About three miles off shore, we were escorted by a mother and baby dolphin who stayed with us for ten minutes or so, rocking and rolling up against our speeding bow, swimming away and then coming back again for more, and as they turned you could see their pale bellies. When they surfaced you could hear them click. We’ve seen them dozens of times and it’s still always wonderful. On arrival at Cala Santandria after five and a half hours, we put our anchor down in the middle of the channel, and tied a stern line to the rocky shoreline.. You’ll remember this one, Colin and childer. It’s the one where we picked up a disused metal power cable! Then the wind got up a bit during the night and Ian had to let go of the stern line because it was holding us across the wind.
In search of a better night’s sleep and a good, safe anchorage we motor-sailed, again over 7knots all the way to Cala Fornells, about three hourts. About as big as Porto Colom on Mallorca. We tied up to a choice of a dozen or so free buoys, whereas in the Summr you’re scratching around for the remaining few. One good thing about coming out of season. We’re here now and it’s raining again, that red rain that sets like clay and makes a terrific mess of the boat, the one which spent ages trying to remove red rain from when we landed the second time!
No fresh meat left so we might have to eat out tonight. What a shame! A chance for me to wear something remotely reasonable and then cover it up with big waterproof bottoms so that I don’t get soaked in our minute dinghy. Remember, Colin, and I think Alma, Tara and Melvyn have all experienced this bottom-soaking phenomenon,(“Who’s the heaviest?”, “God, you’ve put weight on since last Summer!”)
Better weather forecast for tomorrow, and then we can decide where to go next---- Port Vendres (SW France), Barcelona, Sardinia …. Who knows! One thing’s for certain it won’t be Luton this time!!!