Finally the long overdue update. It is late because I have been flattened
with nausea and fatigue …. Yes. Splendid news. A brother for Jack in
Presently Seraphim is in Puerto del Alcudia, NE Mallorca, about to start a
gentle summer cruise of the Balearic islands. We are extremely relieved and
chuffed that we have secured seemingly the “last” berth in Mallorca. It’s
been rented for a year from the delightful and glamorous bi-lingual
Margarita. Evidently there are 3000 boats waiting for berths and the
waiting list is full for “years.”
The last update came from Gibraltar in January. Our evening return from
Christmas in the UK co-incided with celebration of the Three Kings, an
important Festival in Spain when presents are exchanged. Crowds lined
Main Street to cheer decorated floats.
After the excitement created by all the boats about to cross the Atlantic in
October, January was quiet. The boat could feel claustrophobic whilst
trying to entertain Jack on the third day of bad weather buffeting us
against the dock. Jack’s bedtime routine involved waving goodnight from
the end of the dock to the evening Monarch flight. One night the pilot
News of our friends who crossed the Atlantic “late” in December left John
feeling restless. I don’t think we’ll be wintering on a boat in Europe again.
You may recall Serge our intrepid 23 year old. He made it across the Atlantic
in his little boat, and anchored next to a “repaired” Moonshine in Grenada.
A bitter sweet feeling for us. Through a grim January we were industrious
writing and selling articles. Look out for the French Canals in Yachting
Monthly and Blue Water Sailing. YM also accepted a piece on life on board
with Jack which I re-worked for Practical Parenting, it was published in
May. (Had the Grannies pacing outside WH Smiths!) Australian publication
Cruising Helmsman has expressed interest. It’s more kudos than dosh but it
keeps us occupied.
With dock fever at it’s height by mid-February, after waiting for weather,
we dropped the lines and waved away by other wintering cruisers, “the
escape committee”, sailed forth. The departure sail was cold but
exhilarating with John setting up the sails to “Goose Wing”. Unfortunately,
our anticipated celebrations of John’s Birthday in Puerto Banus ended a
few miles short in Estepona with doctors (Matt Damon and George Clooney
look-alikes) visiting a sick Jack who was knocked out by an ugly stomach
virus. And the bonus? My laptop finally died which forced a return to Gib
since our Spanish is not up to instruction manual standard, and a Spanish
keyboard was out of the question. Most of the escape committee had
escaped, the rest were bemused. Whizzy new laptop onboard, John was
struck by Jack’s bug.
COSTA DEL SOL
In early March with a bug free crew and laptop we prepared to depart,
again. Just before we left Gibraltar we discovered I was pregnant (much
faster than we had anticipated). The whole cruise changed. Plans to head
east to Croatia or Turkey were put on hold. The Balearics would probably
be far enough. Where would we leave the boat when we flew home for
tests, and for the birth in Salisbury?
Dropping the lines, for the second time, Skipper was reeling from the
news. On a sunny Saturday we passed Goram’s Cave clearly visible on the
east side of Gib. Phoenicians worshiped there whilst on trading voyages
around the Mediterranean, sometimes as far as Britain. It is an invaluable
site of the local museum. As well as ancient glass it is a repository of even
more ancient skulls from a time that Gibraltar was on the edge of a wide
open Serengeti like plain.
Puerto Banus, one of the most expensive marinas in Spain was our first
port of call, for one night, just to say we had. The footballers wives and
golfers were out in force. Four miles on we persuaded a berth from the
reluctant staff in Marbella Municipal Marina. Ten minutes walk along the
beach to the Old Town, and excellent hot chocolate (blamanche) at Al
Horno next to the internet café, it was ideal.
Hoping to find British Forces radio we discovered REM, not the band but
Radio Europe Mediterranean which set a new low in bad radio particularly
Russ Caine’s (ex Capital Radio “Flying Eye” traffic reporter) inane morning
show. So bad I turned to our Spanish language CD.
ROCA on the ROCKS
However, the REM evening news was good, and provided us with daily
updates of the scandal which thickened daily during our stay. March 29th
the Mayor-ess of Marbella, Marisol Yague was arrested, along with Juan
Antonio Roca the corrupt head of Town Planning, and twenty three other
council officials. The Deputy Mayor(ess) was arrested in Malaga airport as
she arrived back from honeymoon (in Russia). Nightly, gripped, we’d listen
in for the latest juicy instalment. 2.4 BILLION euros worth of bribes
including 103 thorough bred race horses, 340 works of art, a helicopter and
5 kilograms of jewellery were seized by police. The Mayor was accused of
allowing 300 illegal sites (not buildings), sites to be erected. She claimed
she was a pawn and naive. Roca had described himself as “City Hall. I have
all the power”. Initial reports that the Mayor had been arrested whilst
recuperating from liposuction were denied by “friends” who claimed it was
a small tumour. A week later the ultra swish private hospital (overlooking
our marina) announced she had undergone eight hours of surgery under
general for … liposuction, and Madame Mayor still owed 32,000 euros …. The
next day the rumours that the Mayoress had been having an affair with the
Chief of Police were confirmed. He was under arrest on suspicion of
overlooking certain arrests ….. you really could not make it up. The high
point for us of Jack’s tourist train ride were the swarms of international
press outside the courthouse.
Over Mothering Sunday weekend at the end of March, my mother, Denise,
came to visit. In four days we completed a spin of the Alhambra in Grenada,
Rhonda, Puerto Banus and Marbella. The visit co-incided perfectly with the
orange blossom, a blissful scent in the warm evenings. Granny and the
Rodriguezes completed an exhausting but fascinating four hour tour of the
huge complex of 13th and 14th palaces and forts which make up the
Alhambra. At the end of the numerous steps and clambering the guide was
so impressed with my mother’s stamina he gave her a kiss!! John who
carried the increasingly heavy Jack in his Jack-pack received warm
Our hotel, the Casa Del Capitel Nazari, a converted merchant’s house in the
shadow of the Alhambra was also full of steps. The quirky, odd shaped
rooms were on all sorts of levels. (Another successful recommendation from
Time Out’s on-line Hotel Guide). Granny treated us to lots of delicious
lunches and dinners during which we indulged in paella, duck in sherry
salsa, swordfish, and beef escalopes with a blue cheese sauce - Cabrales
from the Basque region. John determinedly continued his hunt for the best
steak in green pepper sauce.
From Marbella we worked along the coast via a strange, little town Caleta
de Velez to Almerimar, a large ugly marina full of long term cruisers all
preparing to set off to the eastern Med. From this wintering international
community we sailed along the coastline covered in poly-tunnels, hot
housing fruit and vegetables, to Almeria. Stretching our legs in the evening
after our sail we came across our first parade of Samana Santa, Holy Week.
A more strenuous exploration the next day led us into the old town
climbing up to the magnificent Moorish fort and gardens. En route we
snacked on mouth watering tapas in a bar dedicated to Bullfighters. Even
though he was jowly and carving Palma ham, the barman still thought of
himself as a Matador.
CABO DE GATA
And onto Cartagena after rounding this often hellish cape, which took us
from the south around to the east of Spain. It was tranquil and sunny. The
previous journey at midnight in October left us severely rattled, it felt evil.
On shore there is a beautiful National Park. Beyond the cliff wrecks litter
Since morning sickness struck early and was particularly awful this time our
progress was slow. John was pretty well single handing so we could not do
the two or three overnights at a time which eats up 300 miles. Instead it
would be fifty miles, at most a day, Spanish coastal hopping. During the
early months of our first pregnancy we had sailed into the easterly winds in
empty seas from the Bahamas via the Turks and Caicos to Puerto Rico and
down the Caribbean chain.
Whereas in the Caribbean we could drop the hook, there are few
anchorages along the Costas del Sol and Blanca, particularly in the winter
when conditions are highly changeable. Finding a marina is important. The
Club Nauticos are established, private clubs with smart interiors, a bar,
restaurant and often a swimming pool. Marinas along the Costa del Sol and
Blanca usually claim to be full. “Attitude, Attitude, Attitude” is the key. So
far we’ve been fortunate, or at least shamelessly exploited Jack, and in
extremis mentioned that I’m “embarazada”. Despite hands up and “no
posible” shrugs, Club Nauticos without a berth have squeezed us in but
many boats have not been so fortunate.
In Carboneras, a fishing port (not a marina) we had to breathe in. John’s
experience manoeuvring in the French Canals paid off as Seraphim slotted
into her tightest spot ever surrounded by fishing boats. At five am the
next morning Jack, in pyjamas, waved “Adios” to the fishermen who
shouted “wappoo” (“gorgeous”) back.
Cartagena was an excellent stop for Easter, they take their Samana Santa
Processions seriously. The Maundy Thursday parade started at 9.30pm in
silence with candles. The only sound was the tinkling of the glass on the
massive floats. It was very moving. Easter Sunday included over twenty
floats, and hundreds of penitents and Roman soldiers (in brown ribbed
tights which slightly diminished the impression). The present day Army
spinning their rifles was riveting. Cartegena has been a military city for
Nearby Alicante draws off most of the international tourists leaving the
unassuming port of Campello to the Spanish. Whilst indulging in excellent
Spaghetti Carbonara at Marcos on the front we took in the people coming
and going. A relaxed and enchanting surprise for an over-night as we
headed north with the days ticking by and the need for a berth for our trip
home, pressing. Where would we find an affordable, safe place to leave
Where ever we stop John mounts his “can-tena” on the boom to pick up a
WIFI signal. (The can-tena being Jack’s milk-tin, which became his drum,
until his father acquired it for a quasi satellite dish.) Via WIFI we can email,
internet, listen to Radio 4, (the Archers) and use SKYPE for ultra cheap
In addition to our Jack, John and I have been spending a time with Captain
Jack Aubrey and his surgeon friend Stephen Maturin. “Master and
Commander” takes place in the waters in which we have and are sailing.
Patrick O’Brian’s storytelling, meticulous historical and characters are
enthralling. Twenty books to go!
TORREVEIJA, SE Spain
Pronounced Torreovecka we think parts were “Torreyucka”. As often
happens we were surprised by this unprepossessing town. But, in the Club
Nautico all was happiness. Wifi and a play area. Jack continued his survey
of the “Slides of Spain”. One Saturday morning an open air music
competition in the square outside the Club Nautico provided a goose-
bumpy version of Alison Moyet’s “Only You”, by a large choir, and an
exuberant collection of acapella salsa numbers by a Columbian group. The
next day we came across a dancing troupe from 200 km north of Madrid
performing in front of the Cathedral. That evening I heard their music from
the boat, a large crowd had gathered for their evening show. The complex
maze of steps and patterns reminded of my Scottish reeling and country
dancing days: spinning, dosy-doing and stripping the willow. At the end the
audience who had been singing along, joined in with gusto dusting off
dance steps learnt in their youth. To round off a loud cry of “Viva
Torrevieja!” went up. Yes indeed.
Another of the surprises was a Russian restaurant the Troika where Prawns
in Champagne sauce is a speciality. Superb. The wide variety of tapas along
the coast kept us experimenting: amongst many favourites - tigres, clams
with béchamel sauce, prawns in garlic butter, the old favourite fried
calamari’s, and potatas bravas, various.
Our plan had been to leave Seraphim further up the coast. The marina in
Alicante, north of Torreveija, is notoriously expensive and seemingly always
full. A bus trip recce confirmed this was true, to a point. It was expensive
and come what may berths were only available for two days. (Some
particularly burnt cruisers should have asked to see the tariff before just
paying out E100 a night.) Torrevieja was the place to leave Seraphim
during our secret trip home for baby tests.
GIPSY MOTH IV
In November, in Gibraltar we waved Sir Francis Chichester’s renovated
Gipsy Moth IV off on her worldwide cruise with the Blue Water Rally. In
April we were dismayed to read that she had been wrecked on a coral reef
in the Pacific. Thankfully she has been recovered from her potential grave
and is being repaired.
The May Fiesta in Torreveija began on the day we returned from baby-
tests. Extending our stay was a must. Sods law dictated that the usually
helpful girls on the Club Nautico desk were off, and we had to plead with a
gesticulating witch who faked bad English. We countered with (real) bad
Spanish. After much throwing up of arms from her side of the desk, we
The Fiesta was alive with local colour and flavours, literally. Flamenco
dancing and singing on the stage was surrounded by tented bars serving
local cuisine with dance floors where all could have a go. The evenings did
not really start until ten, however one afternoon horses and carriages with
locals in their Andalusian costumes paraded through the streets. Jack was
fascinated by the spectacle.
In between this excitement John spent a frustrating day replacing our
water boiler (calorifer). Fixing the boat but not in such an exotic place. As
ever the old fittings were opposite to the new, and worse an unforeseen
manufacturing fault almost ground the refit to a halt. Fortunately Denis of
Oliver Marine and the local plumber were there with extra parts, expert
know how and the vital horsehair and jointing compound.
Sailing past Benidorm between Torreveija and Denia we received the
splendid news of the tests. There was much loud music on the boat during
which John “played” the saxophone. Jack now does ditto.
With the good news of the baby the hunt for a berth intensified. Finally as
we approached the south of the Costa Brava the featureless coastline
interrupted by ugly tower blocks began to grow mountainous. Denia marina
is controlled by two Valkyries, one of whom I named the Oberfuher
Aubergine because of her attitude and hair colour. John emailed all
possible contacts for a berth. Peter and Tricia who were also on the Blue
Water Rally Antigua in October 02 entertained us at their view to drool for
villa, in the hills overlooking the coast.
Denia to Ibiza was one of our worst sails ever, nine hours of ugly bashing
and rolling. I felt desperately sea sick, an unwelcome side-effect of this
pregnancy. Stopping breifly in San Antonio we went ashore on a quiet
Sunday evening to internet. The signs of “Belly Buster Breakfast”, and
“Pint of vodka and red bull 6 euros” along with the low rent clientele gave
us a pretty clear picture of the horror of the summer. However, the
anchorage itself was charming, as was Portinaix in the north. Really
gorgeous but as with pirates on the high seas beware of tattoos and
England shirts ashore. Whilst waiting for weather we met the “Vintage
Mariner”, a fellow who had done exceedingly well in the wine trade in
France and was escaping, for a month. Still waiting for weather we took a
bus trip across the island to Ibiza Old Town for a quick preview, ahead of
our return later in the summer, although the narrow streets are already
clogged with tourists and wanna-be-hippies.
Jack waved to a large pod of dolphins as we crossed between Ibiza and
Mallorca, a truly magical sight. Again, tediously I spent most of the crossing
prone. Mal de mere is utterly debilitating experience I admire John for
battling with his sea sickness. I’d give up.
Our fourth Wedding Anniversary was spent in Andraix, south Mallorca, more
Italian Rivera than Spain. Still questing for the berth we sailed along the
magnificent west and north coasts to Alcudia.
And here we are preparing to explore the Balearics returning to the berth
every so often. There is a beach two minutes from the pontoon for Jack
plus a several chandleries for John. It has a reputation as a “safe” port with
three large breakwaters protecting the harbour, a good place to leave
Seraphim when we return home for the birth.
White blond Jack is often stopped in the street and greeted with “Rubio”,
“Blondie”. He is presently singing into a pink, plastic bucket. It reminded
John and me of some of our days working in television and advertising.
Come and visit us. It’s easy whilst we are in the Balearics.
Keep us in touch with you.
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