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!)
- 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….
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.