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!

DSCF0208

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…

DCIM100GOPRO

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 😉

hippienegra

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.

marmenor

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.

DSCN0017

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

DSCN0025DSCN0026

 


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).


 

Advertisements

Hiking in Llanes by high mountains, dramatic coast and Eucalyptus trees

Spain was treating us well since we left Santander. There was sunny weather every day, making it pleasant to be sailing and to be land bound. It was a pleasant sail from Santander to Llanes. We really enjoyed seeing the high mountains that lies right by the coast, much like the Norwegian west coast. The highest mountains a little further inland is still covered in snow, whereas the mountains closer to shore is green and covered in trees.

DSCN1364

We arrived in Llanes in the afternoon, going through the mouth of the river and the tight entrance to the harbour. Just as you enter there is an artwork “The cubes of memory” where the artist Augustin Ibarrola has painted the big concrete cubes that shelters the harbour from the storm.

DSCN1387

We took a stroll through town in the evening, reflecting on the architecture here that differs quite a lot from the French. They have a cosy square and quite a lot of restaurants and shops with all the Asturian delicacies. The cobbled streets have buildings ranging from the 13th century until today, including the church Iglesia de Santa Maria which is one of the waypoints on the Camino de Santiago that runs along the Asturian coastline.

llanes

The second day we took a small hike around town and enjoyed the views over the town. Walking out of the town you pass the old defense tower and the old town walls. We then continued on the cliff walk El Paseo de San Pedro which provides a panorama view over town and also great views of the surrounding mountains and the sea.

DSCN1394

The tourist office lies just by the harbour and they gave us some directions for a nice coastal walk that you could take on either direction from Llanes. We decided to walk back towards Santander the next day. The hike took us through small villages, passing beaches and along small country roads with sheep, horses, cows or goats staring at us as we passed by.

hikellanes

Then the route turned upwards. One viewpoint was just above the perfect little beach, where we actually saw one man take a swim. It must have been rather cold in the water, but since the air was warm I still got a bit jealous. It was the perfect picnic spot.

DSCN1401.JPG

 

We continued down the mountains through the eucalyptus forest and some small farms until we got to a bridge over a small river and decided it was time for lunch. It was nice to wash the feet that were hot from hiking in the cold stream.

DSCN1415.JPG

The last part of the hike was right by the coast, passing a lot of “bufones” – holes in the ground that is shooting up sea water high up in the air when the tide is high and the waves are crashing in from the sea. We just heard the deep murmur, which I was quite happy about since of course Jens decided to climb down to it… When we arrived to the village Pendueles after 15 km hike we decided that we deserved an ice-cream and then took the train back to Llanes. The train in Spain is cheap! If you are ever close to Llanes, we really recommend walking a part of the “Senda Costera” walk.

DSCN1418.JPG


NOTES FOR SAILORS

The harbour in Llanes belongs to a boat club and does only have 1-2 spots for visitors (we could stay for free, but maybe it was because we arrived in the low season). You need to call ahead to confirm there is room and that you are welcome to stay. There is a  narrow entry where current depth is indicated on the pier on starboard side. Electricity and water is available on the jetty, but no other facilities. The tourist information next door has a toilet and free WIFI during their office hours.


Llanes really was a little gem and one of our favourite spots so far. Even if you don´t come here by boat, it is only a short train ride from Santander.

– Petra

Family visit and our first impression of Spain in Santander

It feels like we have spent a great deal of time here in Spain already. When we arrived to Santander Marina and announced on Facebook that we were staying right by the international airport my parents decided to come for a visit, and therefore we spent the first 10 days in Spain in the same marina. When we woke up the first day the sun was shining on these two tired sailors that felt rather happy to have arrived to a first sense of summer. The Marina de Santander has a magnificent backdrop of mountains and a friendly staff. As usual, we were the first visiting boat of the year. We spent the first day just enjoying the sun, cleaning the boat and doing some paint jobs.

DSCN1229

We soon realized that just because we arrived in Spain didn´t mean that it would be summer from now on. A couple of days later the weather was once more grey and rainy, but there was a regatta just outside the harbour and pretty fun to look at all the Spaniards racing. We spent the days doing some projects on the boat as we were waiting for my parents to arrive. As usual, it led to many new ideas on how we would like to re-design and renovate the boat for the future. The problem is to come up with a solution that decrease the problem with humidity inside the boat, makes it safe, convenient to sleep and easy to get stuff from storage under the bunks all at once. After some frustration I even decided to organize a workshop to see if we could come up with some new ideas. After much debate we have some new ideas on how to organize the salon and the bunks, but it is a large project that will have to wait.

DSCN1233.JPG

The first day after my parents arrived we decided to battle the rain and took the bus in to the city centre. The magnolia was in full bloom in Santander. One of the first stops was a market where we bought some nice local cheese for the evening and were amazed by the variety of meat (Jens found heart, lung and brain of sheep for sale) and fish available here.

DSCN1251.JPG

Not all parts of the city are in perfect condition. We wandered off in to some neighbourhoods where it looked like a lot of the buildings were abandoned and others where the beautiful old buildings are mixed with the new. The evening ended with tapas on-board Mouni, in the warm comfort of the heating fan, nice company and some wine.

santander

 

Some days were sunny and where the sun is it gets warm fast. We took advantage of these days by walking along the water and exploring the outskirts of the town as well. One of the best things with Santander is the nice backdrop of mountains that is always present, meanwhile they have nice walks and beaches along the water surrounding the city.

 

DSCN1298

We first took a walk out to the lighthouse at Cabo Mayor just west of the city, and then continued back to the centre and the Palacio de La Magdalena. It is a beautiful walk along beaches and dramatic cliffs, passing a lot of surfing schools and restaurants along the way. A lot of the restaurants has affordable menus where you can get three courses and wine for between 10-20€.

DSCN1308.JPG

Last but not least we also took a trip to Bilbao by bus to visit the Guggenheim museum on a rainy day. Apparently you were supposed to book tickets to the bus in advance, which we didn´t, but even though that resulted in us just having a few hours in Bilbao the museum is definitely worth a visit (Jens didn’t appreciate the art and recommends just looking at the building from the outside ;-)). I especially enjoyed the large sculptures inside and outside of the museum, as well as the architecture of the building itself.

DSCN1334
DSCN1355.JPG

It was great having mon and dad close for some days, even if family and friends are just a phone call away we do miss them all a lot!

DSCN1326


NOTES FOR SAILORS
There are several marinas in Santander. We tried getting a spot in the marina just by the city centre (Darsena de Molnedo) but was forced to move on since the guard told us all the spots were rented out. We continued upriver to the Marina de Santander, which is a big marina with all facilities including a nice restaurant with rooftop terrace (for our 32 feet boat the winter rate was 12,5 Euro/night, summer rate was 25 Euro/night). It is however a 15 min walk to the nearest bus stop, the bus to Santander goes every hour and takes about 20 minutes. The river is easily navigated since it is very well buoyed but beware off both big ferries and cargo ships that frequently traffic the commercial harbours in the river. As usual also a lot of fishing vessels. When leaving we had fairly strong winds which in combination with the tides created surprisingly rough seas and we had an uncomfortable bumpy hour down the river before getting out ont the open sea again. Even though we had no sails and no engine our SOG was still about 3,5 knots.


Hope you all enjoyed the warm weather that has been visiting all of Europe the last week! Our journey continued along the north coast of Spain to Llanes, which I think is one of our favourite spots so far, but that deserves its own blog post (P.S. Don´t you worry, the story of our Biscay crossing will come soon too).

– Petra