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!


 

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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