Feliz Navidad… and ready, set, go west!

Goodbye Canary Islands; off we go….west!!

Today we farewell Europe and head west to the Caribbean. Woohoo!

Needless to say, there has been plenty going on here in Las Palmas!

Visiting friends, family, Viking Explorers rally revving up, Christmas, New Year, and the small matter of PREPARING TO CROSS AN OCEAN!! We will leave here TODAY, and the boat is as ready as it will be, after being upside down for the past week or so. The bilge is filled with food for an army, cabins stuffed with extras, and sails and rig sorted. We are heading first for Cape Verde, and then west. The anticipation has been building here on pontoon S at Las Palmas marina, and the buzz of final preparations is paplable! The local supermarket home delivery service has been very well utilised by boaters, and the boys in green uniforms trundling trolleys up and down the jetty have been running hot as they help 20 boats fill up with food for several months.

Current predictions forecast reasonably strong north easterly winds to help us move towards the equator.

Some new experiences have included:

  • Seeing Santas arrive en masse via paddle board… only in Spain, surely? (And BTW a VERY familiar looking Santa/Tomten with a gruff voice visited our neighbors boat at about 5pm Christmas Eve, just at the time Magnus popped out for the newspaper, or so the story goes…)
  • First Christmas on Almazul. Of course, it was a multifaceted celebration. We had Swedish Christmas on 24th December, Aussie/English Christmas AND the Captain’s birthday, AND the arrival of Magnus’s son Johan and partner Amelie on 25th, shared with new friends.
  • Formally meeting the Viking Explorers 2020 participants. The “Vikings” as we have labelled ourselves, are a group of 20 boats crossing the Atlantic together leaving 5th January. Together might be a strong word, because we are unlikely to see, or be in radio contact with each other after about day 1. However, we are coordinated by an experienced management team, who will alert us to inclement weather, and track our progress, and greet us in the Caribbean with rum punch in hand!
  • Presenting “Almazul” (including Captain and first mate) in public. As our boat name starts with A, we were the first cab off the rank… As well as having to talk about ourselves, we were privy to several informative sessions covering boat first aid, provisioning, communication/navigation, and safety. All sessions were well prepared and interesting, but for me actually practicing sutures on a pig trotter was the most memorable! After attempting to suture both the pig and a banana, the Captain and I agreed to buy a few more steri strips, and try to avoid any suturing en route altogether!

Weekly highlights:

BEST

  • Visitors! One of Magnus’s oldest friends and partner stayed with us for a week, filling the boat with laughter, and, I hate to say… Dalsland accents….! We loved the easy and fun company Anders and Therese provided, (accents excluded, obviously!) and hanging out with them off the boat for a change. And Johan and Amelie joined us for Christmas and New Year, also bringing us much joy. They enthusiastically joined in all the goings on on the jetty and beyond. A highlight was Johan dressed as a “man overboard”, and Amelie dressed as Tingeling (Tinkerbelle) for NYE, and their daily trek for fresh bread for breakfast was a very kindly bestowed luxury for us!!
  • Pre Christmas gathering on the jetty with the Viking contingent, Spanish Christmas with new English friends, and a NYE jetty party. I am LOVING the Swedish penchant for games at adult parties, and some clever augmentation from an English crew added to the fun!

WORST

  • Our bikes being stolen. We had heard that care was required, but the locks proved not enough. Since our loss, we noticed several other severed locks lying near the bike racks at the end of the pontoons…. it is annoyng in general, but also impractical. The laundry, grocery shopping, general running around all take much longer, and are more arduous. Carrying the VERY HEAVY laundry 2 kms each way is much less fun on foot, let me tell you. I have done this four times now, and will not miss this chore!
  • Wasting over an hour of my life on the WRONG BUS, at a time when that hour was already carefully accounted for, and no buses were included in the original plan… It was a stupid case of not sticking with my gut… instead taking the advice of a bus driver. (Although you ‘d think he’d know, right!?)

FUNNIEST

  • The familiar looking bearded Swedish Tomten was pretty funny….. especially when he gave some poor Norwegian kids a real grilling about whether they had been good to their parents, to each other, had eaten their porridge…. yada yada yada… just get on with the presents already!! The incessant questions were delivered in a VERY gruff voice… I was surprised the kids didn’t jump off their boat and run away, crying! But these kids were tough – at 4 and 6 yo they showed NO fear, and grumpy Tomten did get to the presents EVENTUALLY!!
  • NYE party fancy dress and games. The fancy dress theme was “Something you find in the sea” – Magnus was a fender, I was a manta ray, and Johan and Amelie stole the show as a man overboard and Tingeling. The best game of the night award must go a “forbidden word” game we played throughout the evening. We all started with a necklace each ,and if you could trick your conversation partner into saying the forbidden word, you proceeded to “de necklace” him or her. Just to keep us on our toes, the word changed several times throughout the night. The aim of the game was to collect as many necklaces as possible, and Magnus led until late in the evening, when he was blindsided by an innocent looking Swedish neighbor. (Because it appeared that Magnus had an unbeatable lead, the forbidden word was changed to my name to really try to trip him up. Mission accomplished, well done Camilla!)
Marking NYE with a Phillips Shiraz, imported from the Mornington Peninsula, thanks Dave!

Food and bevvy highlights:

  • Best prawns ever – in Spain, cooked by English people!! Thanks Lee and Kirsty!
  • Flamin’ Christmas pudding – a new one on me! Lee and Kirsty managed to heat up Christmas pud for 28 people … not a bad effort from a boat galley!
  • Swedish Christmas food – Magnus has quite a flair for preparing different sorts of sill, and the Janssen’s Fresetelsa….etc etc
  • Beer and wine blind testing… if we are taking wine and beer in the bilge, we need to be sure to take the very best cheap stock available!! Luckily the beer on special at 19c came up trumps… and the tetra white wine was quite good too!
Blind testing
Flaming Pud!
Christmas lunch aboard Delphinus

Boat work:

  • Whisker pole fitted
  • protective floor and table coverings installed
  • engine service
  • jerry cans aboard
  • boat stocked with food

Fun facts:

  • It is 860 nautical miles to Cape Verde, and then 2200 to the Caribbean.
  • As I packed our guest sheets and towels away, I was warmed by the thought that the next people to use them would be my daughters, express from Melbourne. xox

2/3 of the Viking Explorers 2020 management team; Oliver and Carlota.
Missing is Micke.

Crossing Countdown!

Jultomten (AKA Santa Claus) incognito?

We are still in The Canary Islands but picking up the pace now with TransAtlantic preparations. We sailed without incident from Lanzarote to Tenerife, and now Gran Canaria. We have generally found the Canary Island marinas to boast resort like facilities, with caravan park prices! Win win!

Currently Almazul is on land for some rudder work and general TLC prior to our long sail to The CARIBBEAN in January. (I am still quite chuffed every time I think about this!) Magnus has his mind filled with sail set up, navigation, and communication devices, and mine is filled with provisioning. (For an army it seems!) For some reason I am assuming that we will eat AT LEAST five times as much as we normally do, OR that we will be marooned on a desert island for months… While neither is likely; the grocery shopping nevertheless continues unabated….

Some new experiences included:

  • Salsa dance class – strictly Spanish speaking – but we did our best! The class was great fun, and hilarious most of the time but we really had to “get over ourselves” and just go with it as best we could. At one stage a VERY tall young man seemed to be attempting to break my arm, gently but determinedly. It seemed churlish to ask him to desist, despite the pain and awkwardness… After a slightly uncomfortable period of struggle, I realised he was attempting a yet unknown dance move in which he had to get his (very high up) head through a small (and comparatively low) gap between my shoulder and elbow, while having a firm grip on my twisted up hand. Success was not complete; obviously, but at least the struggle ended peacefully…
  • VERY INTENSE Spanish Cross Training classes…. again, no English to concern myself with. (If you have ever done cross fit you will understand that I have been unable to brush my hair, stand up or sit down, and or pick anything up from below knee height for some days now…. 15 euros for a month sounded like a good idea at the time….) But on the upside, I am getting stronger, and other people in the class have helped me figure things out, and my coach is very professional and welcoming and an inspiringly strong woman. As an added bonus, I am loving the immersion in normal Spanish life, and as a result my Spanish vocabulary in increasing in fits and spurts, as required.
  • Scaling Spain’s highest peak. Mt Teide soars almost 4000 meters above sea level, and the “thin air” was perceptible. I thought I was looking at some interesting face paint on a woman I passed on the walking track, but when the next woman appeared to be wearing the same very unusual green spotty face paint, I realised that maybe it was me….? Magnus did not see spots, but did puff like a train sometimes. Other than that we felt fine. The views from near the top were quite sublime. …..cloud high vistas of ancient lava tongues flung against aqua blue sky and cotton wool clouds…. we were completely spell bound. Part of our view was the “Sea of clouds” near the island of La Gomera to the south, which appeared as a thick fluffy doona pulled cosily up around the island’s shoulders. Apparently the hot dry air from the south acts as a sort of lid compressing the cool humid trade winds from the north into the luxurious sea of clouds that we gazed upon. Whatever the meaty meteorological explanation, it was a spectacular view.

Weekly highlights:

BEST

  • New cooking stuff – we conceded that to save gas, we should increase our cooking equipment to include an electric kettle (Hallelujah!!) and a benchtop grill thing. The novelty of different cooking options, as well as the practicality of these small comforts has given us a surprising amount of pleasure!!
  • Wearing gaudy Christmas earrings! I was a very late bloomer in the Christmas jewellery area – but once I started, I jumped right on board with all things gaudy and glittery! In fact I am a little disappointed that I forgot to pack my flashing Christmas tree earrings, but have been saved by a perfect gift from Anki and Janne – a pair of fluffy green bauble earrings to wear instead. Now the Christmas accessorising is sorted, its onto Magnus’s Christmas outfit….
  • Santa Cruz de Tenerife’s Palmetum – a botanic garden purely of palm trees, built on top of what was a pile of the city’s waste. A beautiful place to visit, and an effective transformation of the unsightly rubbish pile right in town. And as an interesting aside, we have a Canary Island Palm in our garden outside Melbourne! Apparently they are the most widely planted/exported palm in the world, because they are quite adaptable to cooler climes.
  • Santa Ana Cathedral in the old part of Las Palmas, Gran Canaria.
  • Gathering together with an increasing number of our new tribe: the Viking Explorers; with whom we will prepare and cross the Atlantic alongside. The momentum is gathering as the twenty boats gradually arrive at Las Palmas for the big adventure. We have met most of the friendly, warm, and efficient organising team, and are looking forward to the first formal event this weekend.

WORST

  • Well you know things are not too bad when the worst thing that happened was a minor bicycle crash…. a grazed toe and bruised elbow are really the only evidence I have of this non event. Even Magnus didn’t see it from his position far ahead in the distance….so apart from the telltale small abrasions, it is almost a figment of my imagination.
  • AND another funeral here – my 29 year old gym gloves were fatally injured during a particularly strenuous gym session. (I dug them out because the day before my hands were almost fatally injured by several pea sized blisters incurred by (attempting) what seemed like dozens of chin ups – chin did not get very close to the bar BTW… but STILL got blisters!) And …it must be said that my gloves have not exactly worked hard for the past 29 years.

FUNNIEST

  • Magnus and I having our pride dinted a little by realising that his Aussie accent, and my Yorkshire accent are not as good as we had led ourselves to believe. The only word to describe our pitiful attempts is “ATROCIOUS.” (Foolishly we brandished our terrible accents when having dinner with an English crew…) Enough said.

Food and Bevvy highlights:

  • As an initiation to life in the Caribbean; the veteran Caribbean cruisers aboard Dephinus served us our first taste of Rum Punch – a Caribbean staple apparently. Delicious, refreshing and fruity, I have a feeling we may have another one of those one day! The captain even shared his secret recipe. Thanks Lee!
  • Sushi. This was a real treat, because our boat budget has not allowed the exorbitant treat of sushi either in Spain or Morocco. So of course we swooped upon a cheap selection we found here, just near the marina. Woop woop!
  • Churros – freshly made, warm fatty and sugary in La Laguna.
  • Having as many cups of tea and coffee as we like! New kettle uses free elctricity!
  • An unexpected Swedish buffet at a Scandinavian klubben right here in Las Palmas! Many Swedes retire here apparently, and there is an active expat community.

Boat work:

  • We have fitted a generously donated BBQ to our transom, and look forward to cooking our next fish outdoors! Thanks Björn and Alice!
  • Changed sails
  • Boat survey
  • Rudder bearing re seated

FUN FACTS:

Every second person that we have met here is a Swede!! Either they have retired here, or have a boat or holiday apartment here, or are on a boat on their way to or from home. A good incentive to tränar more Svenska!

Also, I made a most useful discovery! The Captain happens to possess a working photographic memory of where every item available in any IKEA around the world is located instore. This talent has saved us many hours, as most Australians without a sever IKEA addiction will understand. (Lara who knew??)

Almost a recreation of a pic taken in Frankston, Melbourne, but 4000 m up, and about 18,000 kms NW!

Cool Canary Catch up!

We made our first landfall in the Canary Islands on Lanzarote. We were exceptionally pleased to see Arrecife emerging in the distance, as this 36 hour sail was our roughest passage to date. We think we were in 5-6 meter swell most of the time, with wind about 30 knots and no doubt gusting more. When looking at the wind map beforehand we carefully avoided setting off in such conditions, but when we were finally able to leave the quaint fishing harbour at Essaouria (our bolt hole for much longer than intended) we found ourselves in these seas. The best thing about the trip was that the boat felt good, and even though it was rough, we both took our share of tasks. No messy seasickness from me, and the Captain even slept!

Some new experiences included:

  • Visiting the Canary Islands! (only new for me) Magnus has visited several times, including with his family many years ago. Whilst here we had a historical tour of the popular Swedish family mecca at Playa Blanca, and recreated a scene with stones from long ago, albeit minus an eager 7 yo Johan, and a sprightly 73 yo farmor.
  • Walking up and around volcanos – these subtropical islands were formed by countless volcanic eruptions millions of years ago, and there is some volcanic activity still.
  • A guided tour of a super yacht thanks to a Swedish crew member. We were fortunate enough to have a 33 m racing yacht docked opposite us in a marina, and we were privy to a very interesting tour. It was preparing for the Transatlantic race, with 15 crew aboard, including several Aussies. The boat had a bathtub, but to keep racing weight down each crew could bring only 7 kg of luggage! The boat was to have its container of removed (read “heavy”) cruising comforts shipped to meet it in the Caribbean, as you do.
  • Playing paddle! Thanks to our compatriates from Västerås from SV Marie Louise; Anki and I tried a new racquet sport. It was super fun, and very good exercise especially for the abdominals. We were breathless with laughter much of the time, and were grateful that no passing tourists were concussed by wayward balls, which seemed to comprise about 50% of our total shots. The very kind and patient Marie Louise Captain and first mate were much better than us newbies!
  • Doing the grocery shopping and returning with the nutritious haul by taxi. So far our trusty bikes or less trustworthy legs and arms have borne our fodder requirements, but we needed a big restock this time.

Weekly highlights:

BEST

  • Having dear friends visiting. We had the pleasure of the warm company of Jan and Anki for a week. This couple truly scatter “joie de vie” around them like confetti – and their sense of fun is infectious. Their sailing expertise and energy were gratefully received, and I know Magnus appreciated Jan’s technical support with several unexpected electrical problems. On one of these occasions, I was hovering helpfully? nearby while Magnus had his head buried deep in the engine compartment, but fully understood when he instructed me curtly to go up and steer, and “send Jan down here!”
  • Reuniting with our fellow Västerås cruisers on SV Marie Louise. This lovely family live on same street as Magnus and departed Sweden just before we did. They have sailed all the way down to The Canary Islands, and have had many adventures on the way. We have kept in touch, and it was super fun to meet up and exchange stories and laughs, and share information.
  • Really nice sailing days, and some beautiful anchorages – the adventure has really begun!
  • Using our new anchor successfully. (The anchor is AKA the Captain’s stillnox…) Magnus slept on the first night, and by the second was snoring like a train. Tick.

WORST

  • Bidding a sad farewell to a well loved family heirloom… The dear 30 year old egg cooker began to flag a little this week, and was finally laid to rest in Marina Rubicon, almost 5,000 km south of where it began its faithful service to Magnus’s family long long ago. RIP little white egg shaped appliance.
  • The batteries fully dumping charge, and almost concurrently the engine not starting. They were independent problems, but occurring close together made it harder to separate and solve them.
  • Having to wade shoulder deep to clamber back into the dinghy from the beach. My pleasant shore expedition from the anchored boat ended in an unscheduled and quite chilly swim! This happened as Magnus faithfully returned to shore to collect me – (we have joked about this NOT happening, so as you can imagine I was somewhat relieved…) and summoning me to wade out to the dinghy as it richoched around in the chop a fair way off the sand. When I got to chest deep, holding the phone aloft, I had to stop and hope the dinghy may approach a little further. Not only was it pretty cold, the clumsy dinghy embarkation was hilarious for the people on the beach apparently!

FUNNIEST

  • Paddle….
  • MANY conversations over the week that were interrupted by involuntary bouts of giggles. We concluded that some of our crew were “part time senile”, which was bad enough, but also resembled Patsy and Eddie from “Ab Fab” more often than anyone would like to admit – albeit minus about 90% of their liquid diet.

Food and Bevvy highlights:

  • Undoubtedly all the Swedish goodies personally imported by our generous visitors. Our bounty included Swedish favourites such as smoked salmon and special sauce, kaviar, sil, plock godis, anchovies, marabou chocolate, HOLIDAY DIP etc etc etc and also some Christmas fare….
  • Glögg! How have I known a Swede for so long before being introduced to this special kind of beautifully spiced mulled Christmas wine! Jan and Anki made sure we had plenty of the special spice blend to make glögg when the real day for it arrives…
  • Delicious Italian food, complemented by the most gigantic pepper grinder I have ever seen!
  • The novelty of an enormous FRIED calzone…. the frying completely changed the texture of the wheaten casing. Who knew?
  • A early Christmas celebration, complete with Chinese food, Christmas decorations, music, presents, fortune cookies, and Swedish food!
  • Delicious Lanzarote cheese accompanying sundowners on Marie Louise when reuniting with the Västerås gang.

Boat work:

  • I hate to repeat myself here…. but, AGAIN auto pilot repair. The Captain says “the final fix.”
  • Upgrade to 4 x 100 Ah AGM batteries – we hope our power problems will disappear now.
  • Hot wiring option to bypass faulty ignition if required… why not? I am starting to wonder about Magnus’s (possibly chequered?) past.

FUN FACTS:

  • Many photo credits must go to Anki P H. Not only was she good company, she almost single handedly filled the role of Almazul’s chief photographer this week. Thanks Anki – AKA Patsy!

That Silken Sahara Sand…

We have dug our toes deeply into the silken Sahara sand…. quite a surreal experience, as only a few months ago we were scrubbing it from Almazul’s deck all the way up in Barcelona. The sand is so fine it is almost liquid; and I can well imagine it being carried for many miles on a stiff breeze.
We have sailed south from our first port of call in Africa, along the Moroccan coast – visiting some intriguing places along the way.

Some new experiences included:

  • Visiting the Sahara Desert – the vastness and beauty of the wind sculpted ochre dunes provided an almost spiritual experience. “We are but a grain of sand….etc”
  • Going on a real “tour” tour, like real tourists! On a mini bus and everything! (Magnus has taken to wearing a bum bag permanently, and me the occasional backpack, so we are definitely well qualified quintessential tourists!) We toured from Marrakech to The Sahara Desert and back, via the incredible Atlas Mountains, Todor Valley, Tingir, and Merzouga to mention a few.
  • Riding a camel – I don’t know why but I was very keen on doing this – and was quite swept away by the whole thing! (I think it was the compulsory headscarf that did it! One of our fellow tourists did not take hers off!)
  • Meeting a local young man in an unorthodox way, and learning about Moroccan life, and some of the inherent struggles.
  • Trying shisha! The decorative pipe that burns the very mild blend of herbs (mint in our case) and tobacco is beautiful in form, but looks illicit to me! Apparently not, and the pipe seems to create a centre for a social circle. So I wondered if we needed one for the boat to welcome guests, like a cool sangria in Spain? But apparently we don’t. 😂
  • Finally watching the film Casablanca. Of course we had to, prior to visiting its namesake city. Whilst there we tried to go to Rick’s bar – but missed opening hours. Maybe that was lucky, because I think the bum bag and backpack may have looked out of place…..🙄
  • A mint tea ceremony in a carpet shop of sorts…. what a novelty! (not really of course..) BTW no carpet was purchased, despite expert persistent targeted encouragement.
  • Turtles! Seeing a little turtle toddling around a hotel courtyard was pure delight.
  • Sale market – a part of Rabat that appears untouched by tourists – and we could go about our business without attention. It gave us the chance to actually look at things in the souk instead of marching along, eyes ahead, mouth fixed in grim determination!
  • Visiting Marrakech. In my youth, this was a destination of choice for adventurous backpackers, and I was looking forward to visiting. While we enjoyed the vibrant hubbub (snake charmers, hundreds of horses and carts, music, food, LIFE) we also were happy to retire to a cool tiled courtyard with some mint tea!

Weekly highlights:

BEST

  • Going to the Sahara Desert, hands down.
  • Visiting Casablanca‘s Hassan II Mosque – stunning beauty on an enormous scale. It is the largest mosque in Africa, and can accommodate over 100,000 worshippers! The MCG has about the same capacity- for a different kind of worship.

WORST

  • The first mate being seasick for a full 48 hour passage. 😟 I was functional, but almost completely non verbal…. This may in fact have been a relief for the Captain, but things did get messy for a moment! I guess it had to happen eventually…
  • Not having a hammam. I was looking forward to this essential Moroccan bathing/scrubbing experience.(well kind of looking forward to it…. you know the kind of heady anticipation thickly laced with trepidation…) The trepidation crept in when some fellow boaters reported a very vigorous scrubbing, along with a very thorough rinsing with forcibly thrown buckets of water, often at face height. They came away several kilos of dead skin lighter, and with the feeling that they should avoid the sun and wear soft clothes for a few days! 😂

FUNNIEST

  • Official whistling. We learned that if we heard a whistle being blown sharply and with purpose- it was not because we were near a basketball game, it was that we, or somebody else nearby was breaching an unwritten law, or broaching an invisible boundary, or generally unwittingly engaging in a mysterious misdemeanour. It was easy to clear up which particular misdemeanour you were accidentally performing by asking the guard, police officer etc. For us it was usually crossing an invisible boundary, say, on the way to a petrol station. (Stupidly we walked towards one when it was closed. Ensue furious whistling..) One day I was walking along the footpath, along with many other people. When I realised that the insistent whistling was in fact to me, I stopped. The police officer simply asked where I was going (the supermarche) and then helped me with directions. Oh good, no jail then!?
  • Magnus playing chicken with a mad 10 year old on a bike in a crowded souk. This could have ended in tears, but in fact ended with much laughter from both Magnus and the boy.
    We first met the crazy 10 year old as he skilfully slid through the humming crowd of bustling shoppers in a really busy street. It was difficult to squeeze through on foot, but he weaved his way through with confident precision- just almost brushing the Captain’s arm on his way past. A few minutes later we met the same boy in a less crowded street, and as he rode towards us, Magnus started to play chicken. (Oh God, really?!) The boy was right up for it – he accepted the challenge gleefully, and came like a bullet straight for Magnus, dodging him artfully at the last second. .. A happy ending all round, as smiling backward glances and chuckles were exchanged between the boys, young and old. (I however, was busy Pilates breathing… 😂)
  • Near death by taxi. I have almost met an untimely end several times under the wheels of a careening Mercedes taxi of 1970s vintage. However if I have to meet an untimely end this may be quite a fitting way to do it. This is because firstly; it is a distinct possibility at any moment; (TBH I think it must happen several times a day on average if you live here) and secondly; it ties in quite nicely with an assertion I made when I was somewhere in the vicinity of 20 years old. I told myself that one day I would drive a red Mercedes sports car. Times change, but I do think it would be quite appropriate if I were to meet my end under the wheels of a classic old Mercedes. (However, for the time being I am seeking to avoid being in close proximity to Mercedes cabs at all times, just to be safe!)
  • Being the only sailboat in a fishing harbour, and an authentic old fishing harbour used as a setting for Game of Thrones to be precise! We felt a little conspicuous, but the very friendly greeting and help from local people quickly made us feel at home. A second sailboat joined us the nest day, so we’re no longer “the only gay in the village.”

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Food and Bevvy highlights:

  • Receiving a Tagine as a very generous gift from our new Moroccan friend. I have been wishing for one – they are so beautiful and can produce such deliciously tender food, but of course not practical on a boat, so we could not buy one. However when one receives a gift….. serendipity at work 🧡
  • Sharing a boat dinner of delectable Chinese spicy chicken cooked by a fellow boater… she kindly only put four chilies in for our comfort, but truly delicious.
  • Getting through my list of Moroccan dishes to taste and cook while here. We have ticked off Zalouk, (eggplant dip/ratatouille), Harira (hearty lamb soup), Tagine and cous cous of course, pastilla…. nearly there!

Boat work:

  • Auto pilot failure, and repair again…. Magnus really thinks he has fixed it this time. Fingers crossed. He is growing his hair long, so as to disguise how much of it he has torn out while fixing this temperamental beast!
  • Batteries draining inexplicably – maybe one is faulty? Disconnected and trial in progress.
  • Printer purchased and in situ.

FUN FACTS:

Essaouria has reputedly been a setting for filming GOT and Pirates of the Caribbean, without much staging required.

Mad for Morocco!

We love using “medina” and “kasbah” in everyday speech, as you can in Morocco, as in “I’ll just pop up to the medina to get a few things from the souk, and meet you near the gate to the kasbah.” Oh no, we are not in Sweden or Australia any more. No more gazing longingly at Africa across the water…..we have crossed Gibraltar Strait and landed in Tangier, Morocco.

Some new experiences included:

  • Being in AFRICA! This continent is new to both of us – and further from the familiar than anywhere we have been together so far. The sounds, smells, sights, and daily rhythms are strange and enchanting, and we are throwing ourselves whole heartedly into the difference! We expected that Tangier may be quite touristy, but this has not been our experience, apart from the fact that of course the marina is full of foreigners, including a surprising number of Aussies!
  • Emerging intact after being lost in the slums of the drug capital of Europe, before leaving Spain. I was, and remain, very happy about that. As it turned out, I ended up finding the fishing supplies shop I was heading for! Win win I would say! (The being alive win is a little bigger in my mind, even though the lure I bought did land us our first TUNA!)
  • Meeting VIKINGS! You may think that bumping into a viking occasionally is quite normal for me, living with Magnus, but no. We actually met some others who will cross the Atlantic with the Viking Explorers in January as will we, all being well.

Weekly highlights:

BEST

  • Circumnavigating The Rock of Gibraltar on a bicycle before crossing the Strait.
  • Visiting the town of Chefchaouen. It is in the hills of NE Morocco 3 hours bus ride SE of Tangier. Much of the town is painted blue; the reason for which may be to deter mozzies, among other theories. The blue symbolises the sky and heaven, and serves as a reminder to lead a spiritual life. Simply stunning!
  • Visiting The Caves of Hercules, where the Greek God reputedly rested during his labours. The entrance to the caves is the shape of Africa!
  • Becoming familiar with the many interestIng places in Tangier’s Médina.
  • Meeting friendly, relaxed, experienced long term cruisers, willing to share their experiences, tips and a glass of wine. We have learned a lot, and met people who will share our journey south, and then across the Atlantic. As a bonus, we have had shared meals, day jaunts, supermarket trips….all the more enjoyable in good company.

WORST

  • Our ongoing power problem. Our brand new, top of the range wind generator appears to actually DRAIN our batteries…. aaarghh! Even the clever Swedish engineer Captain has lost some hair and sleep over this!!
  • THINKING we had engine failure in the middle of the traffic lane in Gibratar Strait! What we thought was the “engine off” noise was actually the newly installed AIS alarm, which unfortunately has exactly the same sound as the engine alarm! Several more grey hairs…. not to mention a defibrilated heart for the Captain!

FUNNIEST

  • Google mapping it around the medina in a remote Moroccan village – a little hit and miss as you can imagine! But all the richer for the dead ends, suggestions from locals, wild gestures, offers of assistance, you get the picture!

Food and Bevvy Highlights:

  • Pot luck group dinner to farewell to our new friends Paul and Lori. Delicious lamb tagine, curry, bbq pork, bread, dips…. perfect!
  • Beef Tagine complete with prunes
  • Moroccan crepes, kind of like roti? Delish, buttery, moreish, and obviously low fat 🙄
  • Khobz – round flattish bread with an almost brioche interior, and a sprinkling of crunchy semolina on top! We ate it compulsively like one would wolf down a fresh white knot roll from the bakery, slathered in butter. Clearly NOT low fat…
  • Tuna cerveche – recipe and fresh tuna provided by a French crew with an excess from a big catch; zesty, light and tasty. (and quite possibly better for our health than the crepes/khobz…)
  • Mint tea – fresh mint and chinese green gunpowder tea apparently, with lots of sugar, served in a glass. The higher it is poured from the better; it seems.
  • Taco, but not as we knew it! From a street stall, a soft roti/crepe STUFFED with a delicious chicken filling like we have never had before. When we asked the cook what this treat was (in sign language obviously, as neither Arabic or French are our strong suits!) he said “taco” – duh, of course!! This shoe sized taco must rank among the best we have had!
  • Incredible fresh produce from the souks/ markets. Fish, meat, dairy of all sorts, heavenly fruit and veggies….(we washed these with a vengeance… I am a little nervous about contracting something nasty here!)
  • SPICES! I loved buying spices from huge hessian sacks lined up in shops; the rich aromas and vibrant colours were truly intoxicating. And of course there is some fun in not being entirely sure what you are buying, and having to find out one way or another!

BOAT WORK

  • Wind generator taken down, put up, cajoled….etc
  • AIS alarm installed
  • More flyscreens produced
  • Hatch repair number 7 and counting….

FUN FACTS

The film “Casablanca” is reputedly actually about Tangier, but for mysterious reasons was named after the more southern town instead ?

The aqua blue taxis here are this colour as a reflection of the sea.

Some believe that it was the footstep of Hercules that forged the divide between Europé and Africa, resulting in the Strait of Gibraltar, who knew?

Star struck at Almerimar … and definitely on the rocks!

Well! We almost met some YouTube superstars and Magnus wore the pavement thin in front of their boat as he walked past at increasingly frequent intervals in case they were on deck to say hello to. Unfortunately not..
And as far as rocks go, Gibraltar is a good one to be on, and the rocks north west of Malaga are not too shabby either.

Some new experiences included:

  • Seeing a boat that we follow on Youtube in REAL LIFE! We saw Polar Seal, but unfortunately not its Captain or crew. (Although Magnus thinks he spotted the first mate huddled incognito under a cap at a bar, hoovering up the wifi, no doubt uploading Youtube videos that we will soon watch)
  • Cycling across an international runway, while migrating briefly to another country for dinner!! Gibraltar International Airport’s runway is built out into the sea, and to enter or leave the British Territory from Spain, you have to cross the runway as boom gates permit, just as we usually cross a train track. As you do.
  • Doing two incredible rocky walks – El Caminito del Rey, and scaling the Rock of Gibraltar! (serendipitously, we were on Gibraltar on the day I turned 51)
  • Steering Almazul by hand for more than 24 hours.
  • Meeting another friendly Aussie who is attempting to document some fun travels.

Weekly highlights:

Best

  • Walking El Caminito del Rey. I have been looking longingly at this walk since 2013, in a book called “1000 walks to do before you die” and so at 51, am glad to have another one ticked off! It is a one meter wide walkway along a narrow gorge near Malaga in Spain, and was known as the world’s most dangerous walk until its repair and reopening in 2015. (disrepair claimed 5 lives in about 2000) Its purpose was to service local hydroelectric plants, and it once bore the footsteps of King Alfonso XIII hence its name;”The King’s little path”
  • Seeing, breathing in, and climbing the Rock of Gibraltar. I remain incredibly impressed by this iconic monolith…. especially for an Aussie who has not seen seen Uluru…and have taken far too many photos. As we approached from the east by sea I was like a kid at Christmas time, and still feel like that as I look at it from the boat hatch each morning.
  • Visiting the ancient precinct of the Alhambra near Granada. Remarkably well preserved monuments from another time abound – some shrouded in that peculiar damp smell that shaded ferns and ancient stone exude. The hardy olive trees nearby growing under the harsh sun only exaggerate the softness of the ancient city I think… that’s Spain I guess. As an aside, I was especially taken with fine herringbone patterned footpaths, made from carefully sourced pebbles, placed meticulously side by side 1210 years ago.

Worst

  • Autopilot intermittent and then complete failure, near the beginning of a 24 hour hop from Almerimar to Gibraltar. Good practice for manual night steering though.
  • Straining repeatedly unsuccessfully to join a bubbling conversation with my family in Oz. Internet is a blessing – but sometimes raises our expectations unrealistically. 😮

Funniest

  • The monkeys on Gibraltar! We were delighted, curious and wary, but then I almost stepped on one, oops! When I noticed (oh pardon me!) and moved politely away, he followed me! I know, don’t run.. Easy to say. You try it! They were all over the place, and not shy. The Barbary macaque population in Gibraltar is the only wild monkey population in Europe – and we were very happy they were out in full force when we visited. 🙂
  • Seeing very British sights very far from the UK. English bobbies, red post boxes, Marks and Spencer, cobbled streets and very English pubs ad infinitum…. but the traffic is still driving on the RHS. Easy to be mowed down by a speeding scooter while wafting along in a daze of familiarity. 🙄

Food and Bevvy highlights:

  • Absolutely smashing fish and chips at The Stumble Inn at Almerimar. The fish was honestly the size of my shoe, and well encased in light crunchy batter. The fun conversation with a remarkably beautiful and interesting 68 year old Norwegian woman whose son lives in Sydney no doubt added to the flavour.
  • An enormous golden Cornish pastie and Cornish pudding eaten on a birthday morning in the centre of Gibraltar town before tackling The Rock – just the sustenance required! The Cornish pudding was completely new to me – a kind of moist apple blueberry rhubarb baked flattish slice/bread and butter pudding thing, with some white chocolate thrown in for good measure? Pleasing to the eye and the palette, but otherwise a mystery.
  • A crisp thirst quenching birthday Prosecco after a VERY big climb and quite a stressful day dodging monkeys! I was expecting Cava, a Spanish variety of sparkling white wine (now I know about it!) – but no, of course we had an Italian variety in a British Territory south of Spain. Duh!
The Captain has developed an unnatural attachment to a red Ducati bum bag…. don’t ask.

Boat work

  • Autopilot, autopilot, autopilot! Taken apart – of course everything appears in working order, despite the fact that clearly IS NOT. TBC no doubt.
  • Activated our Garmin in reach satellite communication tool, and established contact with Magnus’s friend and expert weather advisor; Anna.

There was movement at the station …. and it all went south from there.

The opening line from the poem The Man from Snowy River seems perfect: “There was movement at the station……” Because we’ve finally flown the coop. Leaving the familiar and cosy “neighborhood” of Port Ginesta felt both strange and exhilarating at the same time; but a necessary beginning to our journey south. Our progress to date is 400 nautical miles (nm) via Valencia to Almerimar.

Some new experiences included:

  • Setting off!! Still no sailing, but a good test for the motor – which it (almost) passed without a hitch. The azure blue waters of the south western Med have fluctuated between rolly and glassy so far. “Rolly” is a jovial sounding term, reminiscent of a jolly round red cheeked Englishman in a pub, telling funny kind jokes but no; the term rolly is actually used to describe a stomach churning multi directional multi meter undulation/rotation, like a fairground ride that you cant get off!! Luckily we both quite like fairground rides – so the stomach churning has been minimal.
  • Catching my first fish! We caught two Mahi Mahi enroute from Valencia to Almerimar, and of course a HUGE one that got away. (Don’t they all?) We also saw dolphins playing next to the boat, and for a few minutes had the company of a creature with a large fin that was definitely NOT a dolphin. Being an Aussie, my first thought was shark, but Magnus’s more optimistic opinion was that it may be our next meal – a very large tuna. We did not find out – possibly thankfully.
  • Walking part of a Formula One Grand Prix circuit. The Valencia street circuit includes part of the port precinct, and understandably so. The port and beach areas provide truly spectacular vistas of palm lined sand, boats and water wherever you cast your eyes.
  • Meeting some World Champion sailors, and of course only discovering their impressive credentials well after introducing ourselves in a somewhat unconventional method starting with “Hola, excuse me, we are about to CRASH INTO YOUR BOAT!” Not a promising start, but things improved from there.
  • Wearing long pants – cold may be too strong a word, but definitely a tad past mild!
  • Being invited for a “sundowner.” Sounds much for exotic than a drink! (By the lovely people we almost crashed into BTW!)

Weekly highlights:

Best

  • Western Med sunsets and sunrises over glassy water. I am relieved that my compulsion to grab the camera has lulled, and I can just gaze upon them with wonder and delight.
  • Mostly super calm conditions for our first legs, hence limited stomach churning.
  • Visiting the beautiful city of Valencia – the birthplace of paella apparently! (any excuse to sample another variation!) We loved the contrast between cutting edge new, and old – literally side by side. I remember my first visit here in 1991 only very vaguely – but do remember the lightbulb moment when I realised that this is where Valencia oranges came from! They still do it seems.
  • Arriving and exploring Almerimar in Andalusia. A beautiful port with a short history of resort development, so it is heavily anglicised. The first bar we saw was called The Stumble Inn. Apparently the nearby town of El Ejido is the fruitbowl for Northern Europe, employing the use of enormous green houses to maximise production of fruit and vegetables in this arid area.
  • Feeling that the boat is our self contained home that we can visit many places with, whilst always having a familiar base. This feeling fades a little for SOME of us when we run out of chips or candy though….

Worst

  • Auto pilot partial failure – no biggie under current circumstances, but yet another problem for the witty engineer to solve in his spare time. (Although we have both been pleasantly surprised at the engineering prowess a certain kinder teacher can display at times!!)
  • Engine failure at a REALLY crucial moment – not safety wise, but cost/face wise. After not missing a beat for 150 nm, our Yanmar stalled as we were in the process of docking at a petrol station, amongst several other boats, hence the unconventional SHOUTING introduction to the friendly Norwegians who turned out to be WC sailors, and super nice people to boot!
  • Some apprehension about coming into completely unknown places to dock, especially in the dark. So far so good! A little bit of cortisol never hurt anyone, surely? And we are still friends, sooo……. all good.
  • Best and worst all at the same time – leaving Port Ginesta, and necessarily farewelling the friends we have made, and neighbors we have met. In particular, Gerard and his team from Aurum Yachts, who sold us the boat, and have been unfailingly helpful from start to finish, and our dear boat neighbor and friend who has also been unfailingly kind, friendly and helpful from day one. There are many others too numerous to mention – but we are eternally grateful for the warmth and generosity extended to us in the port – and we hope to be able to pass those sentiments on in future.
  • NOT watching the AFL grandfinal, after spending quite some time researching possible places to watch the game. This was not easy because our likely location was really unknown until the last minute and when we finally knew where we MIGHT be at 6am on 28.9.19 – of course no pubs were open then. Any hoo….. it is interesting to observe my own heightened patriotism away from home.

Funniest

  • The captain has a belief that he espouses frequently; that pain is “only weakness leaving the body.” Good to know, but not really of comfort when the pain is yours. But this week he has provided more wisdom and much laughter by extending this maxim to language acquisition…. So actually I needn’t occasionally cry with pure frustration when I cannot understand or express myself in Swedish, those tears of frustration mean only that the English is leaving my body !! I wish I could use the LOL icon here because I really did laugh till I cried when he said this! I can only look forward to the day when I can speak more Spanish than a certain captain I know and love – (although I think that day came several weeks ago.?) so maybe I can use the same line; “don”t worry that it’s sometimes infuriating not being able to speak or understand – that pain is only the Swedish leaving your body” LOL… But on a slightly serious note, I had a small insight into the isolation one must feel when language is a real barrier to communication. Last year when I was really trying to improve my Swedish, we were speaking only Swedish for parts of every day. One day I just wanted to comment on some beautiful clouds above us but could not say even that simple sentence. Of course that was completely unimportant, but I was overwhelmed with the thought that I was actually mute, and that some people are unable to express much more serious things – imagine having a seriously ill child, and not being able to seek help? Or even make a friend that you could talk to in some depth, beyond weather etc. I am glad to have had that small moment of insight – I hope never to take language for granted in the same way.
  • On a lighter note, generally we are pretty grateful to be in reasonably good condition for age – to a point of course…. but we both had to laugh (quite hard actually) when Magnus mistook a digestive biscuit for a cork coaster and almost gave me a cup of coffee on it. Luckily his (not so ) keen eye noticed that one of the coasters was smaller than the other… (because it was a BISCUIT!!!) OMG I am still chuckling!

Food and Bevvy highlights

  • Fresh Mahi Mahi caught by the Almazul team, and cooked by the captain. Fish eaten within hours of being caught is really something! The only problem is that food experiences like that may cause a tendency towards “food snobbery” at restaurants… something an unaccomplished cook like me would NEVER expect!! But if we are lucky enough to go to a restaurant, we are very grateful – any snobbish tendencies are banished instantly!
  • Indian food at at the port of Almerimar – say no more. Nothing left on any plate.
  • Magnus’s home made popcorn when watching a movie on the laptop. He has a gift.
  • Valencian Paella – chicken and white beans, delish!
  • Prima plate served complimentary at an Italian restaurant – salami, prosciutto, olives, and bread, garlic and tomatoes, and of course the obligatory olive oil, sea salt etc. The bread was served toasted, and raw garlic for you to cut and rub on the bread yourself, and eat with fresh tomato. Soooo good. This is a traditional Spanish combination called bread with tomato,”Pan con Tomate.” Of course prompt and friendly service makes everything taste better, but this really was a treat.
  • Orange, mango, and blackberry icecream from a Heladeria. Just that.

Boat work

  • Holding tank installed in port bathroom – this is great because it means one can use the toilet on the boat even when in a marina. This is lucky because we have a bit of walk to the bathroom here in Almerimah – doable of course, but still…
  • Prior to leaving, solar panels and wind generator installed and connected and WORKING!
  • Life raft on, tick.
  • First Aid sorted, safety protocols version 1 completed.
  • Both fuel filters changed, after unexpected stall.
  • New mooring lines.
  • Prototype fly screen made – working well, minimal tweaks required.
  • Autopilot commissioned – apparently it was set up for a motorboat? Sea trial now required to see if the problem is solved.

Popeye and Olive Oil need MUCH more spinach!!

Almazul has been on dry land this week, and therefore so have we.

She now has a super slick bottom; sanded, primed, and antifouled –  thanks not only to our own elbow grease and grit, but to some shoulders stronger than ours. We must thank Aurum Yachts, and in particular a gentleman technician (let’s call him the GT) who has led the work and physical tasks and also gently guided us with humour and goodwill through many technical areas in Spanish and French, which are not our strongest suits you understand… Luckily he and Magnus “found each other” while bonding over the cantankerous dinghy motor in the workshop the week before the boat was lifted from the water, and so all the problems that inevitably arose this week have seemed smaller with his unfailing assistance.

I have discovered that sanding machines are MUCH heavier than they appear! After day 2 of sanding Almazul’s (suddenly gigantuan) 47ft hull, my deltoids were sore to touch, like one enormous bruise… (argh…pass the spinach!!) My daughter assured me that this did not mean that I am getting old, (the obvious conclusion…hello!) but instead that I am getting strong!! (soo kind and encouraging!)  I hope she’s right – thanks Lara xxx

The Captain was also a little weary…but the GT seemed unstoppable with the sanding machine! (he eats more spinach, obviously..)

Autumn has arrived in Port Ginesta….albeit it in short bursts, but there has certainly been a distinct change from months  of fairly consistent baking hot days. The cooler temps were welcome when we had the boat up in the yard, but the fierce wind from the NE made an impact on the final  paint finish I think.

It’s hot again now though. We hadn’t been to the beach for weeks, and the water temp has reduced significantly, not to mention the crowds! Now there might be 5 others in the beach at a time, as opposed to squeezing through hundreds of people to get to the water. The colder water is not good news for a slightly woosy Aussie. But I have to say that nearly 30 degree water temp is really something else!

Some new experiences this week included:

  • Working in the varadero (boatyard) alongside the pros!
  • Getting into the car without having to open the windows for several minutes first to allow the inside temperature to reach under 50 degrees, and the added bonus of not gently searing our thighs on the leather seats, or inadvertently branding ourselves with the seat belt clip. My childhood summers in a white Holden Kingswood HG station wagon have often come to mind.
  • Wearing a long sleeved shirt, and jeans, jumper, down jacket and SCARF!! OK admittedly I was probably the only one wearing a scarf, but 17 degrees is a long way from 39!
  • Sleeping in a camper in a carpark for a week. It was very kindly loaned to us by our generous boat neighbor. (fond memories of a European jaunt long long ago in a baby blue Bedford camper emerged from the fog…)
  • Buying fishing gear! We really hope to catch some tuna – no excuses now.

WEEKLY HIGHLIGHTS :

Best

  • Completing the boat work in the yard. It was hard work but satisfying, and we certainly know more now than when we started.
  • No damage to the boat during quite a severe storm while it was up on stands. Last time we had a storm our Bimini top was torn but we still felt we got off lightly, this time we were even luckier.

Worst

  • Absorbing an unhealthy amount of anti fouling paint through our skin, and sometimes our food, even from freshly scrubbed hands.

Funniest

  • Almazul’s blue soul seeping from our pores for days….The dust from the hull was EVERYWHERE and kept coming, even after very thorough showering! Magnus WAS Pappa Smurf – the skin, even the beard!
  • Friendly kids trying to high 5 me when cycling past on the esplanade on their way to football training. What were they thinking!? There I was, cycling along, minding my own business, when some crazy 10 year old rode pretty much straight at me, holding his arm outstretched!! It was all I could do to dodge him AND stay upright!! By the time I regained my composure (well balance anyway) I saw his brother, also aiming straight at me with arm outstretched, palm out. Aaahhh!! But then FINALLY the penny dropped, and I realised they were trying to give me a high 5 on their way past!! So I obliged as far as possible. My feeble attempt drew a cheer from the boys, and I wobbled crazily away, trying to regain my, ahem, composure! OMG I laughed and laughed afterwards, mostly with joy at not falling off, but also at my initial misunderstanding. (Because really I was picturing a call to Triple 0 (or 112, 911, you get the idea) to remove a grazed and bleeding 50 year old inconveniently causing a traffic hazard in the middle of an otherwise beautiful pedestrian esplanade beside the Med.) Luckily there was a happy, not a messy ending.
  • The Yugoslavian boat painter from the next boat in the varadero talking to me wholeheartedly for big chunks of conversation in Spanish. I repeatedly told him I was very sorry but I didn’t understand (in my best Spanish) but he indicated that either I could understand with my eyes or he could tell in his eyes that I could understand… whichever… Nuances are lost, obviously. But anyway, he kept happily talking and laughing, no problems. This was several days after we had exchanged in my broken Spanish that I am from Australia, and did not speak Spanish, but like to try. He told me he was from Yugoslavia, and no doubt many other things. 🙄
  • Inadvertently beginning a deep philosophical discussion in a local chandlery (boat supplies shop) while attempting to buy possibly methylated spirits. This happened when the GT suggested a solution to a BIG priming mistake I had made. (Note to self; apparently it is best to stay on ONE side of the masking tape…. ) After some lengthy hand gesturing, brow furrowing conversation – he suggested white spirits. So off I trotted to the chandlery armed with “trusty” google translate. Some staff speak English, some none, but all are super kind. This was a “none” day. Strangely, google translate did not really serve my purpose on this occasion, but did bring some midday mirth. Tony, one of the “nones” had to explain to me that he did not in fact sell any ethereal beings, so I was out of luck with the spirits!! Thigh slapping laughter precluded further talking, but luckily an English speaking customer kindly offered some translation, and I bought some dissolvent. Job done.

Food and Bevvy highlights

Because we were boatless, we ate out a bit this week. We had to leave the boat by 8pm every night, and being homeless, had some time to kill before retiring to the camper. So more restaurant highlights than usual!

  • Dinner at La Taberna de Port Ginesta – perfect! Casual, cosy, warm and the food! Pork medallions with Roquefort sauce and squid ink noodles with mussels and scallops. Mmm! Our meal finished with a cappuccino, because there was no hot chocolate, and according to the Spanish waiter they are “almost the same” anyway. The cap had a twist though – the brown powder on top was not chocolate, but cinnamon and nutmeg! Unexpected but surprisingly pleasant. The whole meal was delish AND cheap!
  • A very nice verdejo reminiscent of a Giesen or Stoneleigh Sauvingon Blanc at a local cafe called Rosados, and it was the house white! This accompanied razor fish, among other things. I had not had razor fish before Spain – but now we are both devoted fans of this delicate shellfish.
  •  Magnus’s near best hot dog experience ever! Another local port cafe specialises in hot dogs, and also have excellent hot chips. These are served with every condiment you could wish for – which has been a rare experience here? The first time I ordered the chips (with no glasses; rookie mistake) my chips arrived in a bag, on a plate. I had ordered “bolso de papas frites” not “patatas fritas” as intended. Another chuckle.
  • A banoffie cheesecake at an American style hamburger place – again, a little unexpected, but very good!
  • Lamb chops like I would cook on the bbq on my verandah in Oz…. complete with my “famous” potato salad (my kids are too kind) and a green salad with honey mustard dressing. ( a la my cuz Melinda) I had a real hankering for those familiar tastes and smells.

Contrary to the lamb meal, our food philosophy is to try to eat what other people do here, and not try to replicate or find things that are familiar – but sometimes this happens….. tomorrow we plan to drive to Ikea to stock up on Kalles kaviar before we leave here. We can only do our best!

 

Boat work

  • We learned that we have markers on the side of the boat where the slings to lift the boat should go. And that we need to know where these are. I thought that the boat yard guys would know, but it is our responsibility to know where the slings should be. Now we do.
  • Cleaned and sanded the whole hull.
  • Sealed exposed metal
  • Fixed glass and gel coat in bow prop hole
  • 2 coats of primer
  • 2 coats of Anti fouling
  • Replaced through hulls and valves

Piece of cake? But NEARLY ready to go! We are currently swinging between heading straight for Valencia, or going to Ibiza. We have strong encouragement from many locals not to miss the Balearic Islands, including Ibiza since we are so close… but we have not yet made a decision.

NB – I am not sure where my desire to use “NT News” headline like blog titles comes from, but I am running with it! Shame there are no crocs anywhere nearby… (well not really a shame, but this reduces the dramatic titles!)

(For the non Aussies, The NT News is a newspaper published in Darwin; the capital of the Northern Territory in Australia – and it always seems to have wildly attention grabbing headlines, usually involving an unfortunate incident with a crocodile. These incidents almost always involve foreign tourists BTW)

Crunch time for the man and the mast!

Making progress this week has felt a bit like wading through mud or trying to herd chooks! 🙄 Our jobs list is growing like Jack’s beanstalk at one end, as fast as we tick things off the other!!

We are preparing take the boat out of the water to paint the hull with anti fouling, replace through hulls etc – all the jobs that can’t be done in the water. We also hope that the frame to hold the solar panels and wind generator and dingy davits etc will be done this week.

Some new experiences this week included:

  • Aussie visitors! We had a super fun time with our first AUSSIE visitors, Per and Wendy! (Well Per may still be a little bit Swedish, but really as Aussie as they come after 30 years!) Our guests joined us over the weekend at the end of their trip through parts of Europe. By the time they reached us their step count for the month blew our minds- they had covered many miles on foot – and most of their walking miles included significant changes in elevation it seems!
  • Having legs waxed in Spain…..

Best:

  • Aussie visitors!
  • Visiting Llafranc, as suggested by Per. Llafranc is a beautiful little town about 2 hours north of Barcelona, with a pretty beach, and refreshingly cool water. The lively cafes provide a colourful backdrop, and lend a friendly vibe. The clifftop walk that departs the south side of the beach is truly spectacular!
  • Scaling the mast for real many times, and solving many problems with lights, wiring, halyards, windex etc

Worst:

  • Bleeding blisters from winching the Captain up the mast – not on my hands, but inside of right knee from bracing so hard against the cockpit wall … but I toughened up after day 1 – no more bleeding! (Also…. I went up more often, and let the Captain do the heavy lifting sometimes, shoulder permitting.)
  • Uncertainty about our possibility to actually cross the Atlantic after reaching the Canary Islands. So much is unknown for us with regard to Magnus’s shoulder recovery. Further injury would really be unwise for long term shoulder function, so we need to minimise risks as far as we can. We will know more as we begin to sail I guess. Uncertainty is of course part of the adventure, but there is a fine line between struggling with constant uncertainty, and embracing the exciting adventurous part of this unknown.

Funniest:

  • The Swedes cackling wholeheartedly at their own old Swedish jokes, and then cackling even more at their inability to translate them to make any sense in English. (who is Bellman anyway?)
  • Me still being a little chuffed that you can buy real Nikes at the supermarket!
  • Meeting a pet pig called Ellie in Barcelona on a Saturday afternoon, hanging around the leafy streets that surround Sagrada Familia, as you do!
  • Aforementioned leg wax, performed by the same technician who coloured my hair last time. I suspect he may moonlight as a sumo wrestler, because I think most of my leg hair was removed by the sheer force of his application of the wax ….he really put his back into it! The wax was dispensed from a squeezy bottle. Whaat? Because I am a newbie to Spanish leg waxing techniques, and completely at a loss when it comes to an added Vietnamese twist-I do not know where this sits in terms of normal procedure. However, I did feel the need to stay out of the sun and salt water for a few days – as I think my legs were missing several layers of skin post procedure! Cheap though!👍😂
  • Watching my friend Wendy in action, expertly working her cheeky feminine charm, with the occasional perfectly timed toss of her beautiful silvery locks to garner special privileges for us, most fortuitously access to a luxurious private hotel toilet – instead of having to find a one euro coin, and then a filthy public loo in Barcelona!! You go girl!

Food and bevvy highlights:

  • Fresh tuna, caught in the Mediterranean by our neighbour on her way back from Ibiza – cooked and eaten with jetty neighbors, accompanied by a very nice rose brought by another neighbour.
  • Seafood paella at Castelldefels in super company, and a seafood platter eaten in the same good company in Barcelona
  • Verdejo was our choice with the paella, and we discussed and trialled the merits of beer, a caprinya, or a cheeky Tempranillo with the fried seafood. Personal preference was the decision- all of the bevvies had something to add to the food.
  • Creamy chicken w pesto from the pantry…because cream is all you need, The Beatles almost said?
  • A dark Nestle chocolate “Dolca” accidently discovered in Carrefour, kind of like Old Gold? In the “amount you can eat at one sitting” measuring scale of deliciousness – it was half gone in one evening ….. enough said.

Boat work:

  • Changed engine prefilter.
  • Pulled muffler apart and with Per’s help, identified the source of a water leak. We will need to replace a part or the whole muffler
  • Garmin in reach arrived
  • Solar panels arrived
  • Harness arrived.
  • Mast work! We went up the mast probably 10 times? This was worthwhile though, because we got better at the process, and managed to replace the deck and motoring lights, and replace the globe in the anchor light, put up a new windex, and run another halyard. The light fixing involved Magnus solving a wiring mystery – which really required Sherlock Holmes like instincts!
  • Resealed front hatch, this is the second attempt to fix a leak. Also tried to sika some parts of the cockpit.

The Anchor! (man)

This week our most important purchase was a new ANCHOR! The Captain needs his beauty sleep – and a Manson Supreme 27 kg was to be his Stillnox. (A common pharmaceutical sleeping aid!) The New Zealand made anchor was highly recommended- but inversely proportionately difficult to actually get our hands on! (isn’t this often the way?)

Had we known just how tricky sourcing the renown anchor would prove to be, we would have purchased one when in Oz, and brought it over as odd baggage, as we have now done from England.

Anyhoooo…. the one we found in England travelled happily in the hold of a Ryan Air aircraft as we repatriated to Barcelona.

Some new experiences this week included:

  • Attending a Summer Soirée hosted by our dear friends Steve and Sonia at their beautiful home in Lymm; Cheshire, England. (Magnus has been a regular over the years, but it was an inaugural attendance for me) These people know how to throw a party – and are the most generous and thoughtful hosts one could have the fortune to know.
  • Meeting with highly recommended French and South African tradesmen; Magnus did not know whether to remain ambivalent about time – but was most pleasantly surprised that they were not only highly efficient and knowledgeable but also PUNCTUAL! 👍

Weekly highlights:

BEST

  • The annual Lymm Summer Soirée
  • Getting our dubiously wrapped 27 kg anchor onto a budget airline as luggage without a hitch!! Phew! and…but WTH? Normal luggage can be problematic…….!!👍😮😃
  • Magnus’s shoulder improvement. As a result of regular and consistent exercise, Magnus has been able to make real gains in strength and range of movement. His Australian surgeon and physiotherapist have been very supportive in extending their care and concern across the oceans, and the healing is no doubt hastened by their close direction. It is quite something to hear Doug the surgeon’s broad Oz accent booming through the boat at 7.30am on a Facetime consult!

WORST

  • The Ashes? Pros and cons I guess. While my cricket mad friends the Dallastas were visiting Lourdes, it was great that the first two days were lost to rain – so their Day 5 tix actually saw some cricket!! BUT, as a guest in the country… Oz doing well was both good and bad, as you can imagine….although just talking about the cricket in a bar as an Aussie apparently earned me a round of drinks..! 😉🙄

FUNNIEST

  • This has got to be Giant Jenga. OMG this is super fun, but a helmet may be recommended if the game goes on until the tower is above head height! Magnus and I were unfortunate enough to be initiated into the game by having to pit our limited Jenga experience against a team of professional Jenga sharks; AKA “J and Big S.” After each of my turns, which lasted 10 excruciating minutes of careful tapping, and painstakingly removal and replacement of chosen Jenga block… (under the professional coaching of an imported German expert Bianca BTW) Big S would saunter over and just whip one out, and casually throw it onto the top of the tower, which appeared to be built by the Romans when it was his turn!! Needless to say we were gracious in defeat, but the 4 yo boy who was  bursting to play cheered like mad!!😂😂
Imported Giant Jenga expert
The bar team and supporters

FOOD AND BEVVY HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Delectable Samosas especially from Coventry – apparently renown for super Indian food, and full assent from us!
  • Sonia’s homemade curry: a combination of two recipes, including a touch of Jamie Oliver; warm, full of flavours …. yummmm…
  • Costco carrot cake – don’t knock it till you try it! Even the non cake eaters hoovered it up!
  • English Sunday roast complete with yorkshire pudding in a shady beer garden.
  • Col lombarda in a jar! We were trawling through the pantry for dinner options, and opened a mystery jar. To quote Magnus it was “like candy!” Well maybe fibrous, vinegary, nutritious candy.. but delicious nonetheless! Who knew that humble red cabbage could compete with Marabou chocolate for our affections!

BOAT WORK

  • Quotes from several potential boat painting guys.
  • New dinghy bought and tested with oars, tick. Old engine being cajoled by Magnus, progress TBA. After a promising start with a clean carbie, the 4hp Yamaha just couldn’t deliver power under acceleration when in the water. Currently in the workshop for further attention.
  • New life raft purchased and on boat. Old one not yet removed, as we hope to do a practice launch and inflation with some other liveaboards soon.
  • Very valuable meeting with an experienced local to gain extremely helpful knowledge about local conditions, in particular the Mistral and Levante winds, which blow pretty much west and east between Barcelona and the Balearic Islands and can cause big seas, even when not very strong. He also gave us some good advice about common places for sandbars, and which marinas were good, including access. His advice was certainly gratefully received, and we have changed our plans about possible stops after considering his advice.  (For my kids’ sake, the Balearic Islands include Ibiza and Majorca!)
  • Sorting of starboard cabin, which has been a dumping ground for all manner of useful stuff. Now we have a loose idea of where most of the useful stuff might be.
  • Trying to document our safety procedures. This is a work in progress.
  • New ball fenders for the stern, or where ever they end up. Our old ones were flat, and the valves nowhere to be found. We heard a story about a person who was killed by a wayward valve that shot out like a bullet under the sudden extreme pressure of a large boat compressing the fender against a jetty. (as they are designed to do!) This kind of thing must be less likely than winning tatts/the pools, but to be avoided nonetheless?
  • ANCHOR bought and fitted – Magnus is STILL occasionally elated by the memory of this hard come by and unlikely success!! I will continue to call him “The Anchorman” to prolong the unexpected joy of NOT having to spend more money to adapt our current anchor set up to accommodate the New Zealander!