Two faces of Alicante

After Mattias left, we continued our sail north towards Alicante. And so it happened that we arrived in Alicante just in time for Midsummer, which is celebrated in Spain as the festival of San Juan. Although we weren’t in the party mood, it was interesting to see how the celebration of the shortest night of the year took place compared to how we celebrate in Sweden. Alicante is apparently the town that celebrate the most, and the celebrations include massive bonfires on the beach, which the brave try to jump over for good luck, thereafter washing hands and feet in the water for twelve months of good luck. Everywhere around the city massive sculptures in different themes could be seen, and I thought it was a bit funny that the one next to the harbour was called “Invadors” which was illustrated as Vikings. We felt very much welcomed 😉

All over the streets were street stalls, bars restaurants lined up for the party people, and there was even foam part going on in an alley in the middle of the day. Well, we were preparing for the passage to Ibiza the next day, and instead of enjoying the fun the usual tasks of filling up the water tank, cleaning the boat and doing grocery shopping filled our day and night. Since one of my friends had scheduled her flight to Ibiza just a week later, there was no time to relax. It was not the most convenient day to go grocery shopping, but since we knew that Ibiza would be expensive and not so easy to go shopping there really wasn’t any other way to do it. Besides that, we also needed to prepare some tax reports for the authorities back home. Big party pooper!

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I didn´t know much about Alicante before we went there, except that they have regular flights to Sweden, but I really liked the town and were curious about what it was like when the festival did not crowd the streets. Three weeks later we went back to Alicante from the Balearics, some experiences wiser and with a new goal – to head back home. The first night after our passage we anchored in the outskirts of Alicante, outside Albufeira and enjoyed a cool swim before watching the sun set behind the mountains. When serving some tapas onboard, we realized that the fish here were just like the Spaniards – they really like some matured cheese! With cheese as bait, I hoped that maybe we could catch some fish for dinner, but they were way to smart for me and the only thing I managed to do was to tangle up the fishing line and get frustrated 😉 The cheese worked better as a bait to get close to the fish and watch them eat, as you can see in the photo (the top right fish enjoyed the cheese a fraction of a second later).

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This time there was a bit more time to explore the city and there was one thing I really wanted to see before leaving Spain and Alicante – the castle on top of the hill in the middle of town “Castell de la Santa Barbara”. One evening off we went, after a full day of doing paint jobs on the boat in the heat. The perfect dinner was found in one of the alleys on the way up at Fast&Bio, where we tasted the different types of pizza, garlic bread and hoummus made with organic ingredients and a lot of love. The goat cheese pizza was delicious!

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Climbing up the hill was an effort, but there was much to see all the way up. First the narrow streets of old town, then the gardens on the side of the hill and finally the increasingly breathtaking views of the city, the sea, and the mountains. To walk up this steep hill in daytime would have been too hot, but on the other hand we were a bit late to actually get to walk around in the castle. The perfect way to enjoy it would probably be to bring a picnic and just relax the whole evening with the view.

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The last day I took a walk to the beach to get a few hours of relaxing sunbathing and swimming before taking off north. But it is hard to relax when you have somewhere to go. Next up, the weeks we spent in the party island Ibiza and every super yacht´s favourite – Formentera!

– Petra

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NOTES FOR SAILORS

The harbour in Alicante is a bit pricey, but an excellent place to swap crew or leave the boat to fly home. They have a rather large liveaboard community and people are friendly. There are also several anchorages along the bay that can provide reasonable shelter, especially East of Alicante. Alicante is one of the most common places to start a passage to Ibiza or Formentera, be sure to stock up on groceries before you go!


 

The first glimpse of Costa Blanca, a bay full of hippies and sailing Mar Menor with friends

After some busy weeks with hard decisions being made and us focusing on ourselves and getting the boat into shape for a sale I am now back in Sweden for a break while Jens continue to sail the boat. But before all these decisions were made we had some adventures that I would like to remember for the future, and of course share with you guys!

Leaving Almerimar in the morning with a hangover was a challenge, but we needed to take advantage of the first day of Westerlies in a long while, since we had visits from friends planned further up the coast. Of course, the winds were still not so strong, but at least they could hold out the sails. After just a couple of hours our sailor friend Stuart, who we partied with the night before on Pegasus, catched up and passed us on the way north. At least we made it around the Cabo de Gata which is the start of Costa Blanca and anchored up in a pretty sheltered bay among about 10 other boats by nightfall. When the new morning dawned we could enjoy the dramatic landscape, compared to Costa del Sol it felt like we were in the wilderness even though there were some people on beach who had arrived by car to enjoy the day. This day we sailed along Pegasus all day, and it was nice to not be alone at sea for once!

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The next stop “Cala San Pedro” just north of San Jose was meant to be a swim break together with Stuart, but we never really left. It was such an unique place – a good anchorage with an old castle and a hippie community. The isolated beach can only be reached by foot or by sea. The cove has a community of people who live there all year, built their homes with local materials and live disconnected from modernity and in harmony with the environment (read more here). Apparently the cove has a natural source of drinking water which enabled the inhabitants to live in isolation and it is a truly inspiring place, we were just sorry that we’re not good enough in Spanish to make some interviews on what it is like to live there…

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The landscape is dramatic, and from the anchorage it’s hard to see all the houses that exist here built into the cliffs and on the hillside, because they blend in and are sometimes covered by the vegetation. This is not a place for people who are convenient, but the creative and hardworking free spirits grow their own crops and build creative homes connected by narrow paths up the hill. The water is crystal clear and full of fish, the beach is full of naturists and tents from tourists that come here for a shorter stay and to party. One dinghy came over to our boat to ask who we were, what we were doing there and if we were coming over to the beach later that night with a bottle of rum to party with them 😉

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Continuing north the next day, the winds were not strong enough to take us to Cartagena, instead we stopped to sleep a few hours at Aguilas and then continued to the small coastal town of Mazarron. As the wind direction turned (of course not in our favor), we decided to stay one night and instead spend a day on the beach and get some stuff done in the cool office of the club house with their excellent WIFI. But with a friend arriving in Alicante just a few days later, we could not rest long. Jens took the night shift to get us up to Mar Menor, an inland sea between Cartagena and Alicante. This inland sea is the perfect anchoring spot, since it’s between 3-6 m deep all over. We spent the first night in the harbour and met up with Mattias and his brother the next day. It was nice to hang out with the family, go swimming and just relax. In the evening we dropped the anchor in Mar Menor, did some fishing and enjoyed some tapas together with Jens childhood friend.

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The next day it was time to head north and introduce Mattias to sailing. Since he brought some new gear we were fishing all day but didn’t have any luck – is there really any fish in the Mediterranean?!? We had a great day out on the sea and arrived at Torrevieja just in time for some dinner.

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On Mattias last night we celebrated with some ice-cream downtown. Thank you Mattias for stopping by and lighting up our stay at Costa Blanca! It is always interesting to share the cruising lifestyle with the people we love from home, hear what things they like and what they would not endure in this way of living. It is easy to imagine that the cruising life would be like an everlasting vacation, but unfortunately that is pretty far from the truth. The splurges we have done when we have visitors cannot be made every week, and most days it is all about sailing – longer hours and a greater distance than we would many times prefer. In all types of lifestyles you get a routine, a routine that can become dull and exhausting even though there are also many highlights. We have learned not to make any deadlines when sailing, but a life completely without planning is not so fun either, and when you know that bad weather is approaching there is no choice but trying  to get to a good place before it hits.

– Petra

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NOTES FOR SAILORS

To see the location of all the harbours and anchorages we stayed at on our sail along Costa Blanca click here. There are many good and beautiful anchorages along this stretch of coast, and we highly recommend staying Cala san Pedro. The harbours vary greatly in price, Club de Regatas Mazarron being one of the cheapest (16.19 €/night for us) and Aguilas being one of the more pricey (39€/night for 10 m boat).


 

Radical sabbatical – taking the leap and learning the hard way

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the thing you didn’t do than the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Samuel Clemens a.k.a. Mark Twain

Taking the leap and building resilience. I would not say that I am a coward. But I would say that I am very aware of what people around me think and feel and that I prefer safety before risk. If given a choice between taking a risk or playing it safe, I would probably play it safe. With one exception – taking risks together with someone I trust. The best thing with my close colleagues back home and my partner on the boat is that they are the kind of accomplices that I trust to take a route that has not been taken before. In fact, I might even be the one who suggests it.

But even though I have been fortunate enough to have friends, a partner or colleagues that make me more courageous, it doesn’t mean that it’s easy to make life choices. And as a researcher I know that we as humans don’t always know how to foresee what the future would become depending on what choice we make. I have learned three things:

  • Memory is a treacherous thing – we remember what stood out more than what was the usual. (Unfortunately we remember the negative events better than the good ones…)
  • A traumatic or stressful event (usually) make you stronger rather than more depressed in the longer run.
  • The grass always seems greener on the other side

So how then should we live our lives?

As a TED-talk junkie, one of my favourite talks is one on this very topic. “How to make hard choices”. Basically she says that when given a hard choice (one which is not easy to rationally just list pro´s and con´s), you have to go back to yourself and think – what kind of person are you? Or rather, what kind of person would you like to become? This doesn’t mean that the choice is easy, or that the life you choose will not be full of hardships, it just means that maybe those hardships are worthwhile because in the end you have taken a conscious decision on what kind of person you would like to be. Which really is all you can do.

The blessing and problem living in the society today is of course that we have too many choices.

One of the advantages with this lifestyle is that there are more opportunities to read than in an ordinary life, which is usually full with stress running in between job and other activities, plus the constant stream of TV and internet always accessible. On-board we don´t always have that luxury, so we talk, read, play an instrument or talk to people.

One of the books that struck a chord in me I started reading even before we left, and it seems a lot of it holds true for our journey – Radical Sabbatical. It tells the story of an American couple that left their hotshot jobs in Chicago and left for Costa Rica, where they rented a house to explore another side of life and see if they could create opportunities for the future there instead. They describe their journey like this: “It was the greatest and most dreadful part of our lives” – a statement I think both me and Jens can relate to when reflecting on the journey so far.

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One of the things I reflected on when reading the book was that a lot of times they had a really rough time. One of them got really sick, the house was a mess, they argued a lot, had culture clashes, it cost more than they thought it would and they were once on the verge of breaking up. But they also had wonderful nature experiences, met awesome people and learned a lot more about themselves and each other in that year than they would have spending five years in their ordinary life at home.

This journey, too, has been full of challenges. It has been much harder than we expected. We have doubted a lot of decisions and there has been many painful conflicts on the way. We haven’t been able to “sail in harmony” as much as we wanted to, even though we constantly tried to lower over goals and expectations. We have got great friends we would never have met otherwise, the nature experiences and sailing experiences have many times been magnificent and there is a luxury of having so much time with your partner. But what we really have learned from this experience? I don’t think we know yet. The end chapter in Radical Sabbatical offered their perspective which I would like to share.

“Most of us live within our comfort zones. Our training wheels are on. Do you remember riding around with those pesky little wheels? You’d have to stay on the beaten path. You’d look at your friends and see them having a blast, riding faster to places you couldn’t go. They had more guts than you. They were having more fun than you. But you couldn’t get yourself to take the wheels off until one day. All you had to do was to get the guts to do it, and then off you went – completely free.

If you’ll take at least three months to go on a radical sabbatical to a place where your geography and daily life are drastically different, you’ll see the training wheels that were on your life. The great thing is, once you stretch, you’ll never want to ride with them on again. In that moment, you’ll wake up every morning, like we do, immediately thinking on how you can take life to a place where you never have. Don´t worry. You don’t have to jettison to bats, scorpions, and reverse high-speed drives down mountains. But you will want to pick something that creates a good dose of healthy discomfort, preferably in a setting where you’ve always wanted to live.

“But where will we end up in five years?” you ask. To that we answer, “Exactly”. You’ll end up exactly where you want to end up. After a radical sabbatical, it becomes all about the journey, not the destination. And you know what? You’ll automatically have the courage to live this way because you’ll have seen that no matter what you go through, whether it’s life after Pair-o-Dice Village or the unexpected vehicle that came along to pull us out in the Serengeti after 15 minutes, everything always works out if you’ll have the courage to let it. Fear becomes your friend. The training wheels are off, and it’s awesome, thrilling ride. There’s magic in it. It’s a life without boundaries. It’s a life that’s yours”

Radical Sabbatical, 2013, page 332.

We will soon get an opportunity to reflect on our experiences. Because we are coming back home. I have extended my leave from work until 1st of October, and then our “radical sabbatical” will end for this time. We don’t yet know what we will do with the boat, where we will live, and where our lives will take us. But we know that we have managed to sail through the UK in winter, down the French coast as the first visiting boat of the year and hand-steered all the way to the Mediterranean. The comfort zone is definitely extended!

We are making an attempt at selling the boat from the Med, see the Swedish Ad here, and simultaneously looking for alternatives to ship the boat home. Please share the ad to anyone you think might be interested.

But I´m also curious about you. What would you do for a “radical sabbatical”? If you would forget about the (time/money/relationships) limits that you have in your life right now?

For more inspiration, watch this TED-talk “The power of time off”.

– Petra

Sailing with whales, a grumpy girlfriend and skinny dipping

One of the perks with cruising life is the nature experiences it provides, since you are not only immersed in nature but also heavily dependent on it. Of course, not all aspects of spending between 8-20 hours a day outside is positive. When there is stormy weather and huge waves to balance, or you get exhausted and burnt by the sun it is possible that a day at the office seems like a much better idea.

But let me tell you about a day in the sun, that was as much boring as exhilarating (yes it’s possible to combine the two!).

We knew we were almost not going to be able to sail at all that day. The rumours about the Mediterranean are true – many times the wind is too weak to hold out the sails. This meant a long day by the motor, since the batteries last so much longer at low speed. After some hours it was getting very hot, even though it was a cloudy day. I decided that it was time for a swim! While it sounded like a perfect idea, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. We still haven’t managed to install a swimming ladder on the boat, which means that you need to drag yourself up on push-pit and climb up by the rudder. Needless to say, eight months mostly sitting on the a** on the boat has not improved the physique and I barely made it up the last time I tried. After hesitating a while, we both jumped in.

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The water was crystal clear and refreshing. After a lot of coaching and help I managed to get up at the boat at the third attempt. Even though it led to a grumpy/frustrated face that lasted half an hour, the refreshing effect of the swim lasted longer.

A while later, I was cooking dinner when Jens called on me – “Get up here, there is something funny in the horizon, I think it might be whales!?”

I needed little more convincing. In a distance, we could see some large animals a little bit over the surface, sometimes diving up and down through the water. We steered a bit closer and tried to identify them through the binoculars. Was it whales? Killer whales? Or just another type of dolphins?

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When we got a bit closer we decided to turn of the noisy generator as well as the engine to not scare them off and enjoy the view in silence. It looked like several groups of animals, probably at least four groups of at least five individuals each. We drifted a bit closer to them, and they drifted closer to us. I got frustrated at first, “This is why I bought a superzoom camera! Now I only have this crappy 10-year old compact camera and the GoPro-camera that has been acting funny and not been working– why now!?” But those petty thoughts were soon dissolved as we watched the animals in awe.

After drifting next to each other on 1-200 meters apart, one group started swimming towards us. Their trubbiga noses shot out of the surface, and the black fin rolled through the surface. But most of all, it was the sound of their breathing that made it evident that we were so close. All of a sudden they were just some 20 meters from the boat, 10 meters, 5 meters, and then diving under the boat! There is simply no way of not being excited when animals as big as half the length of Mouni is swimming next to and under the boat.

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When I sat down on the side of the boat I could clearly see one animal swimming just a meter below surface straight towards the boat, just to turn as it was inches from Mouni and “slap” the keel with its tail! Soon they swam in group next to us, singing, bouncing into each other and making splashes and bubbles through the water. (We later learned that they were Long-finned Pilot Whales, closely related to dolphins and the baby whales swim with their mother the first three years.)

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Just like that we were now surrounded by these wonderful creatures, and the lack of technology to capture this perfect moment through just made it even more precious – to actually just be here and now.

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Later in the evening, the mountain line got glow from the setting sun, which finally turned the sky and sea bright red. The moon rose over the clouds and we could finally see the faint lights of our destination in the horizon.

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As a wise man once said – “Learn to appreciate cruising under two knots”

(We´re still learning)

– Petra

Passing the big rock of Gibraltar and sailing Costa del Sol

After Tarife the Mediterranean begins. It felt a bit special to cross the continental shelf that marks the entrance on the chart, and definitely worth a high five to have reached here 🙂 But it wasn’t until we reached Gibraltar that we really could feel that we truly were here. Gibraltar, this characteristic rock famous for its network of tunnels that have been under British rule for 300 years and still has importance as a military post in the entrance of the Med. Eight miles separate Europe from Africa at its narrowest point in the straits. On the other side lies Tanger and a bit further on lies Ceuta, a Spanish enclave in Morrocco. This time we didn’t have clear sight over to the other side, so we had to use our imagination to fill in the details on the Mountains rising up on the African continent. Just as we passed Gibraltar, a big pod of dolphins jumped towards Mouni making us feel welcomed to the Med (and of course it was fun that Lotta got to sail with dolphins during her sail with us)!

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As we had such a great sailing day, we didn’t want to stop so early, but continued towards Spain. The first impression of sailing in the Med was great, windy enough to give us a good speed but no waves at all! Passing the well-known tourist spots such as Marbella and Fuengirola, we then finally reached our goal – the huge artificial yacht harbour of Benalmádena on the SW end of Torremolinos. It was quite a different coastline then we are used to, in Costa del Sol there are hotel complexes all along the coast, and this harbour almost felt like a rip-off of Venice as we sailed in between the houses connected by bridges into our spot by a pier packed with restaurants and shops. After tying up the boat, we went for an evening swim to cool down and freshen up before dinner. The last night with Lotta onboard was celebrated on a Mexican restaurant and ended with some wine in the cockpit.

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In the morning, Lotta left for Malaga airport and Sweden, while we left for a day of sailing passing Malaga towards the bay outside Almuñécar (Ensenada de los Berengueles). We spent at least an hour trying to decide which was the best anchorage to give us shelter before the strong Easterlies would appear, but still ended up spending the night rolling back and forth and didn’t get much sleep. We swallowed our pride and went into the Marina del Este Puerto de la Mona the next morning, even though our pilot book listed it as pricey. When Jens got back from the marina office he carried the complementary bottle of wine that lets you know that you paid a high price, a new record of 43€ for one night! On the positive side, they had good facilities and just a short walk away there was a nice beach with a restaurant where we enjoyed a burger and beer. As the heat got overwhelming I tried snorkling for the first time since we left Sweden and they did have some nice fish, plants and sea cucumbers by the cliffs.

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The next night was spent on the hook by Playa de San Cristobal in Almuñécar again, since we didn’t want to waste all our money on marina fees while waiting for a westerly wind to come back. We rowed ashore with the (almost) repaired dinghy, and while I went to do some grocery shopping Jens swam back to the boat when we realised that one guy that was out swimming had climbed up on our boat!?! Jens had a challenge communicating with the Spanish man who didn’t know any English, but we think that he was trying to communicate that he had hurt his shoulder and was too tired to swim back to shore… In the end Jens got an invitation to his house, but he seemed a bit of a drunk so we didn’t take him up on that invitation 🙂

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Now the frustration of the strong Easterly winds and the weak westerly winds had gotten the better of us and we spent one day motoring to Motril and then the next day to Almerimar, a seaside touristy town resembling Benalmádena. The four days we spent in Almerimar was filled with social calls, boat work and anchoring. We got to know our French-Canadian neighbours on “Winsome Lass”, which Francis is sailing together with his girlfriend and their 2,5-year-old son some months per year. There has been a real heat wave here so we treated them to some ice-cream and discussed the endless issues of boat work.

We then got invited over for dinner to Mike and Grace on 2moons who have sailed the last 11 years (7 in the Mediterranean) and whom we first met in Motril. They confirmed what we still have not wanted to believe – that sailing here in “Motorranean” requires at least 70% going by motor since the winds are often too weak for sailing. This is not a good match with our electric motor 😦 It actually makes us question if it is such a good idea for us to continue further into the Med, as it can get hard for us to get out again in a reasonable time frame. Besides debating and thinking about how we should proceed, we also had a wonderful paella for dinner onboard Pegasus with Stewart. A wet night that got us just a wee bit too hangover to enjoy the upcoming sail to Costa del Blanca the next morning…

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Next time we´ll treat you with some snapshots from a powerful meeting with sea creatures half the size of our boat! Until then, hope you all are starting to enjoy the summer, wherever you are!

– Petra

 

 


NOTES FOR SAILORS

Sailing in Costa del Sol is easy – easy navigation, good order and help in the harbours and not so much fishing nets. But – beware of the weak winds! Too little wind is commonplace. We visited several harbours along the way:

Benalmádena – big harbour with (quite noisy) restaurants, bars and shops all around, a charter destination. We paid between 21-23 € per night.

Marina Del Este – medium sized harbour in a beautiful setting but very pricey (42,64€/night). You can rent bikes for free, but it is far to supermarket. A little bit west from Punta del mona lies the marine national park “Acantilados de maro Cerro Gordo” that seems to have really god snorkling/diving and is possible to anchor at dedicated space. We anchored by one of the beaches in Almuñécar, which is a pleasant town with narrow streets and big grocery store behind the big red apartment hotel building.

Motril – Good shelter and beaches nearby but not so much more to offer, unless you rent a car and visit Grenada or the Sierra Nevada mountains that is just north from here. We paid 30,25€/night

Almerimar – Big harbour with chandlery and repairs nearby. Popular (and fairly cheap) to leave the boat over the winter. Lots of restaurants and really nice beach. We paid 17.52€/night (incl electricity, they add cost both for electricity and water if you want that).


 

Enjoying Lagos and Barbate with family and friends

The days with our crew Stine was coming to an end. After the long slow passage to Lagos we had a couple of days before saying goodbye. The sole (a flatfish) that Stine caught on the passage was turned into a nice barbeque dinner on the beach nearby. Lagos is a popular spot om the Algarve-coast both for sailors and tourists, with beaches, caves and lots of sailing opportunities around the corner. The river Ribadeiro Bensafrim divides the modern part of town where the marina is situated from the old part of town with the surrounding town walls, churches and restaurants.

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On our second day in Lagos I got visit from my old friend from university, Cissi, with her baby boy who was born just a couple of weeks after we left Sweden. We strolled down the cobbled streets, enjoyed some lunch on one of the plazas and visited the beach “Praia do pi. Vhao” on the far end of the old town, which is beautifully surrounded by cliffs and caves. It is quite a luxury to have access to shade right on the beach even without the rent-out umbrellas that are very frequent on this coast.

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Then it was time to say goodbye to Stine, and we celebrated over three weeks of sailing together with a dinner out on the town. She left us early morning to fly back from Faro, and it truly was a bit sad to say goodbye, and we feel lucky that with our first attempt of trying on crew we have also made a new friend. In the guest book she left us a guide to the most similar flags that we always seem to confuse – Holland, France, Luxembourg (and Russia). Did you know that Luxembourg and Holland has the exact same flag, but only with different shades of blue!? 😀 Thanks a lot for these three weeks Rally-Stine, a.k.a. Danish_Deckhand, you are always welcome back to sail with us!

Lucky for us, we didn´t have to feel lonely for long, since Jens parents flew in the same day for a visit! They rented a car so the next day we could take a tour inland and out to Cape St. Vincent, the most westerly point of Continental Europe. The lighthouse provided stunning views over the landscape that we passed with the boat just a few days earlier. The steep cliffs have up to 50 meter drop down to the sea, and the stone ranges from beige sandstone, dark ancient rock and red sandstone layer on top. It was clear that we had arrived to an area popular among tourists, since there were street stands, buses and cars all around. In the evening we had some nice dinner on the restaurant on top of the Mercado in Lagos, and then it was time to say goodbye to Jens father who was just visiting over the weekend.

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The sail to Barbate you could read about in the last post, and since we didn’t plan on going there we didn’t really know what to expect. This small town across the Spanish border and just before the Med, is not as exploited as the Portuguese coast before, or the Costa del Sol which starts after Gibraltar. It is however famous for something else – the Bluefin Tuna (also called Red Tuna). It is caught in the “almadraba”, using an artisan method of fishing with labyrinth of nets, that’s more than a thousand years old. Along the beach in Barbate all the restaurants are bragging of their tuna specialties, and we tried it barbequed, boiled and pickled. They also have really good mojitos on the restaurants along the beach, which seem like the most common drink here after beer.

We also had a really nice dinner on a restaurant close by the harbour, and the last night we did our own barbeque by the harbour together with sailor-friend Stewart (who we first met in outside Porto) who arrived the day after us. The amount of foreign boats is steadily increasing (especially the British), even though we still see most the neighbouring countries such as Spanish, Portuguese and French boats.

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Next time we’ll tell you more about our sail through Gibraltar, and Costa del Sol!

– Petra

 


NOTES FOR SAILORS

Lagos is a sheltered harbour with good facilities for sailors. They have 460 spots but also very popular, sometimes called “Sticky Lagos” because sailors tend to stay longer than they expected. There is a very well-stocked chandlery by the fishing harbour next door, probably one of the best we have passed on our journey.

Barbate also provides reasonable shelter, we had strong easterlies when we stayed there but was protected by the large buildings by the harbour. It is a good place to stop between Lagos and Gibraltar. There are showers and washing machine, but no WIFI and a bit of a walk into town where you can stock up on the large supermarket just outside town. We paid 12,91€/night low season-price and 23€/night high season price (started 1st of June).


 

The many faces of sailing a longer passage

Hi there!

Generally speaking, we are day sailors. At least if you consider 12-hour stretches to be a day. But sometimes we want to get further and set out on a longer passage even though there are harbours along the coast that enable day sailing. The thing with longer passages though, is that they never really turn out the way we think when we plan for it. And afterwards, I always end up with “hindsight bias”, thinking that we should have known it would turn out this way and chosen another strategy. But no matter how much planning one do, there are things that you could not have known and that you just have to face and accept. Before telling you about our time in Lagos, let me illustrate the many faces of longer passages with two of the trips we have made the last few weeks.

Lisbon to Lagos –  163 miles, 55 hours

A racing start and rocking through the night. The goodbye to Lisbon was delayed since we realized that the technician who had been testing our systems left a bug that meant we couldn’t recharge our batteries. To get us in a better mood, I cooked some dinner and opened a bottle of wine, just to notice the technician walking down the jetty once more. And so it happened that we left Lisbon just before sunset, in a strong easterly wind. Leaving the river, a huge tanker blowed the horn and surprised us as it sneaked up just besides us in fast speed. The wind was fierce and decreased the sails. The wind decreased shortly thereafter, and soon it did not hold up the sails very well. The night felt incredibly long, a lot of sounds that kept us awake and you lie in bed trying to hold on as the boat is rocking back and forth. It was one of those nights where I wonder if it’s worth it, it is just so uncomfortable.

Close encounter through the hull. But then, when lying in bed trapped in ones own thoughts that sound appears – the sound of dolphins. It’s fascinating to lie inside the boat hearing the water rippling and knowing that just on the other side of the hull they are swimming next to us, those high pitch noises that they use for orientation and communication piercing through the hull. A sense of wonder appears and at that time it is all worth it again. The next day we are all in some kind of zombie mode, but being three onboard makes it easier to get some rest and the tasks are not so daunting when shared. When the second evening arrives we still have a long way to go.

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A few miles that takes forever. The whole day passes with a wind that slowly takes us south, but the low speed means that we don’t manage to get back into shore until the forecasted heavy easterly winds hits us. After fighting the north going stream and tacking for hours we finally arrive to shelter on anchor next to a beach on the last stretch of the Portuguese west coast. But don´t we have the best crew that decides to play some ukulele as we are beating against the roaring wind? 😀

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Fishing by the beach and arriving at the Algarve coast. We rest until sunset, and Stine manages to get two new types of fish on the hook which we can enjoy for dinner. When the wind has turned again we round the southwestern tip of Portugal where dramatic cliffs in grey, red and black face the Atlantic sea. Finally we pick up some speed, and arrive in Lagos at the same time as the drunk youngsters are walking home from their partying. The passage that we thought would take about 30 hours ended up taking 55 hours and there were three happy zombies who finally could get some sleep.

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Lagos to Cadiz? Tarife? Barbate! 190 miles, 42 hours

A racing start. The second passage was leaving Lagos and heading over to Spain, this time Stine had left us and Jens mom Lotta joined us onboard. We left around 10 o´clock in the morning and that first day of sailing was just perfect. The first 12 hours we had a mean speed of 6 knots and was racing east towards Spain and the Med.

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A close encounter with Spanish warships. The next day we still had some decent speed as we were passing through a lined area at the chart that I realized was a military area. There were some ships in a distance, one which were dragging something 20 meters after that looked like a red net? But we were leaving the area and no one had called us up on the radio. But then suddenly that was exactly what happened –

“Sailing vessel Mouni, Mouni, Mouni this is Spanish warship, Spanish Warship, Spanish Warship. You are in a military shooting exercise area, with NATO warships. Alter your course to 280 degrees and increase your speed.”

Bummer! Of course it was a course that decreased our speed on the sail, so we started the engine as well. Shortly after leaving the zone their exercise started BOOOM! And I realized that this red net was probably the target they were aiming for, and we were previously right in the middle between the target and the other vessels :-S

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Africa in sight! This became a large detour that we had not planned for, and once we got out of the Military area, we were in a totally different position. The wind died and we decided to change our destination once more – aiming for Barbate. On the other side of the bay we could now see mountains on the shores of Africa.

A Mediterranean sailor’s nightmare? On the radio they now started calling out a different type of message – Pan Pan – 10 people are drifting out at sea in a raft. We never got it confirmed, but since Africa was in sight it probably was one of the refugee rafts that you always hear about on the news. The problem with going on your own boat is that according to the law you are always obliged to help someone in danger at sea. But in a small boat like ours, there is danger in taking aboard a big bunch of desperate people that are more than the boat can take. We never did see a raft, but we did hear similar messages in the coming days, sometimes up to 40 people drifting out at sea. Such a tragedy.

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A new forecast that changed our minds. Out at sea we don’t have enough reception to update the weather forecast. But when we came closer we decded to try and update it via the phone and got some bad news. Tough wind from the East was approaching, and the harbour/anchorage we intended to go to was no longer a good idea. Yet again we needed to change our course and head towards a harbour in between Cadiz and Tarife – Barbate. Since the wind was to weak Jens and Lotta was sitting up all night and slowly approaching the harbour by motor and with help of the generator. Before arriving, there was a “moonset” as the moon climbed down from the sky and below the horisont. Beautiful!

 

So there you have it. Longer passages are the best and the worst of cruising. But one thing is for sure, something new will always happen…

– Petra