|South of France to Gibraltar
Wishing you all an excellent 06.
Mid January in Marina Bay, Gibraltar.
Our last update was in September as we headed along
the south coast of France towards the Costa Brava.
Two months landlocked in the French Canals nearly
did for us. From Port St Louis, where we re-masted
into the Golfe de Fos, the grungiest bay of the Med
where oil tankers queue for refineries. Finally the
Rhone delta’s grey, silty water gave way to the
waters of the Gulf de Lion, the blue of the
Mediterranean. We began to feel re-energised.
Whereas in the canals we just plugged on, rain,
mistral or shine, back in the sea weather became a
factor once more. Whilst stormbound in Cap D’Adge
(arggh), the Blackpool of France, Seraphim was de-
canaled and readied for sea voyages. It was the end
of the summer season however, the marina provided
water, electricity, internet, a laundry, supermarkets,
and five, yes five chandleries. (Think Five Gold
Although the tatty shops and dire restaurants of the
tourist town left much to be desired, the old town, a
bus ride in land was full of history and narrow,
cobbled streets. And, lunch, Le Terisse, fish, prawns
in a ginger coconut sauce, was outstanding. And a
bonus, two fashionable couples, the girls in floaty
shifts led us to the town hall for an extremely chic
south of France wedding. The competition between
the mothers crackled. My final shots for the 06
Another bonus was meeting Serge.
In Moitessier’s Wake
Moitessier was a French yachtsman, writer and
philosopher with a love of the oceans, and seagoing
adventures. His gifted writing inspired many, “The
Long Way”, became a bestseller, for good reason.
Twenty three year old Serge Piat has the Moitessier
Serge is pictured here, in an early morning, “Do we
go now or wait for it to flatten out?” sea state
discussion with John.
Bi-lingual, Serge’s French-South African accent comes
from learning English from scratch at boarding school
in South Africa. Every so often a French or South
African colloquialism drops in. When we met, Manu,
his girlfriend was deciding whether to join him
sailing back to Mauritius. Meanwhile single handed he
had to get himself on his comparatively small boat to
Gibraltar. Equinox, Serge’s twenty year old, thirty
foot Beneteau was basic, it was about doing it, not
about frills. Tres Moitessier. As with us, all kinds of
circumstances and opportunities had fallen in or out
of place to set Serge on his way, and once away, to
keep going. Would Manu join him? More anon.
Collioure was our last French town and a delight. It
was Jack gave us a blood-draining shock.
Conquering the Companion Way
“The squawk bucket was heard below whilst Daddy
and Mummy excitedly splashed the new rib. Moments
after the launch of “Wings” John noticed his son in
the cockpit. The companion way, the steps from the
cockpit into the boat, had been conquered. We are
on anti-Jack device seven. Our attempts have ranged
from a swiftly mounted pillow, to the “bag-ricade”,
the buggy, Jack’s bicycle seat inverted in two
different ways, and presently the base of the cot
wrapped around the bottom of the companion way,
most simple and effective, as ever the KISS
That paragraph was taken from “Baby On Board”, an
article which Yachting Monthly want to use. The
following is taken from a short piece I wrote for Blue
Water Sailing about our favourite anchorages.
In A Matisse.
“The invigorating sail ended in a Matisse painting, on
the Franco-Spanish border. Artists have vied for
decades for the best angle of Collioure harbour and
we were in the centre, which ever way we looked
was gorgeous. Often there is a dent in the view, not
here. We dropped the hook beneath a 13th century
castle, built by a King of Aragon with the hills of
Provence as the backdrop. My skipper felt he
stepped back in time as he secured our dinghy to a
ring on the medieval wall.
For us in September the town was busy but not
packed. The mistral drove Van Gogh mad, but, this
skittish wind was taking a break leaving us an Indian
summer. It was a delight to wander the narrow
cobbled streets squeezed to bursting with artist
galleries, intriguing shops, and regional vintners.
Although the eclectic restaurants, particularly in the
evening, were tempting we ate on board enthralled
by the harbour at night.
From Collioure, the home of Fauvism (cousin of
Impressionism) we headed south across the border
along the unexpectedly magnificent Costa Brava to
Port Lligat, where our coast-of-art concluded with
surrealism in the anchorage below Salvadore Dali’s
Over thirty years, from a small fisherman’s cottage,
Dali extended up and around a hill. The sprawling
result is disappointingly less than its parts. The small
cottage, the entrance, reflects the young artist who
created such fascinating and bizarre work. The house
became more pretentious and ridiculous, diminishing
our first impressions. Room by room it reflected the
artifice which filled his life as fame and notoriety
took over. The views are glorious. Dali persuaded
(cajoled?) the authorities into creating a national
park around Port Lligat.
A gale threatened. We took a mooring in the next
door bay in Cadaques. Having seen out the storm we
prepared to explore the town which had thrived on
Dali’s reputation. However, as we were about to
lower the dinghy, a tousled Spaniard in a beaten up
rib demanded an outrageous 35 euros for our
mooring. That was why the other boats had left! Full
of indignation we up-anchored and headed off only
to realise we had no idea where we were going. The
rest of the Costa Brava stretched out before us …..
A day of cruising the breathtaking coastline along the
Bay of Roses, by far the most awe inspiring on this
trip, ended in L’Escala, typical of the generic blah
marinas along the French and Spanish coast but home
of an outstanding tapas bar, all the favourites cooked
to perfection. Mashed potatas bravas in clams’
tomato sauce was slurped and gummed by Jack, three
Whilst in L’Escala, despite my protests that it was
only for small loads, and it was late in the afternoon
John insisted on trying the new hand washing
machine. Result wet washing at sunset …And worse
the next morning with Barcelona in our sites, (and
with a boatload of wet t-shirts,) the propeller was
caught in a marina mooring line. John had to dive to
Finally we escaped of L’Escala. En route down to
Barcelona we took a left and headed for Menorca. A
hundred miles later, after an overnight we anchored
below a fort just outside Mahon. It was a gulp and a
deep breath to go off-shore again, with Jack. After
the first twenty miles heading away from the coast
the fear gradually dissolves, you’re out there, get on
MENORCA, ISLAS BALEARES
Not only was this a magical anchorage but we met
new friends, the “Toads”, on Mr Toad, and the
Antipodeans, on Pina Colada. As I write the Toads
from Teddington are settling into life in Melbourne,
and the Antipodeans are using “our” space in Freeman’
s Bay, Antigua. To complete this circle of world wide
friends, the Baggaleys who we first met in Cameret,
(Brittany), then Tenerife, St Martin and Antigua have
swallowed the anchor (boo), and bought a villa in
Menorca. Nevertheless, anchor-less, they spoilt us. As
ever it was a good to have local knowledge which
with friends became a was made a treat. This is a
picture taken on our mini cruise along the south coast
of the island.
Plans changed and changed again. Instead of returning
from Mallorca for Trafalgar Day, 21st October at
home, we decided it should be celebrated in
Gibraltar, near the actual battle which took place off
Cadiz, a day’s sail from Gib. From Menorca it was
seven hundred miles to Gibraltar.
We sailed from old town of Ciudalela in Menorca into
the dawn, along the tempting coast of Mallorca to
Formentera where we anchored overlooking Ibiza for
a few hours rest. On across to the Costa Blanca.
Despite being stormbound in Mar Menor (La Manga
(ugh)) we made good time, and even had the wind in
the right direction for a few days. Cabo de Gata is on
the south east most corner of Spain as one turns along
the Costa del Sol. We both felt it was an evil place,
and subsequently discovered it is littered with
It was in Almerimar, surrounded by polytunnels
growing vegetables, that via WIFI I caught up with a
scandal in the Archers, a BBC radio soap, which had
been brewing for a year. And, a bonus, Serge emailed
us as we were on line to say he was in Almerimar,
where were we? His face was a picture of surprise
when ten minutes later he saw us grinning on the
dock. Recalling Moonshine days, we sympathised with
Serge’s frustration. Off Cabo de Gato Equinox’s
furling gear (vital for the sail at the front) had been
smashed up in a 60 knot gust. He was now waiting for
parts. But the good news was Manu had packed in her
job, was selling her Parisian apartment and joining
Gibraltar was shrouded in thick fog. The radar
showed six tankers about to descend on us. Mile by
mile half the Rock appeared, and the tankers, which
were .. at anchor.
Trafalgar was celebrated in style with the unveiling
of a statue of Nelson, a commemoration at the
cemetery where several of the war dead from
Trafalgar are buried. Jack attended the party for
Gypsy Moth IV and secured an exclusive GMIV cap. For
a week we seriously contemplated joining the Blue
Water World Rally however, decided Jack was too
young, the weather too freaky, our favourite crew
were not available, and most importantly I’d just had
a crackling new hair cut which I did not want to
waste on the open ocean.
With the promise of a full English breakfast, John
turned out for Church. Sadly not displaying his usual
standard of sartorial panache, more Robinson Couture-
so. Following two smartly dressed folks we found the
Church of England Cathedral just as the Service
celebrating one hundred years of the Diocese was
beginning. The Bishop, the Governor, every
denomination of priest, Judges, double choirs, were
waiting to process into a packed Cathedral.
“Everyone” was there in their best Sunday best. The
Rodriguezes scuttled into the back just in time.
Since Jack does not have too many open spaces on
the boat, he climbs. His balance is remarkable and he
impressed us, more than usual when on his first day
back in UK at his baby-buddies party he just got up
and walked, not toddle, bump but walking. Realising
that Granny’s house did not rock, he was off. Whilst
still on balance, (where would a newsletter be
without a blatant segue) this is a photograph I caught
in Rouen in July.
Jack’s first birthday party was chaotic with several
munchkins tottering and crawling about. The Gibraltar
Chronicle printed an article, a double page spread (!)
about Jack and his life on board.
Our two week stay in UK was extended to two
months, but still not enough time to see everyone but
we packed in a great deal, including the Yachting
Monthly contributor’s party, up on the umpteenth
floor of the IPC building overlooking London.
Spectacular view and free flowing libation.
Ironically, the hydrovane which will guide us across
oceans presented a transportation dilemma.
Eventually Mr Sparks (a carpenter) built a wooden
box, the “coffin”, in which the hydrovane could be
transported from UK to Gibraltar. John, Mr Sparks and
his brother in law had a fiendish dis-assembling the
hydrovane. Jack’s Birthday and Christmas gifts and
accumulated extras were bubble wrapped and snuck
in too. All arrived safely in Gibraltar, and Seraphim
expanded once more.
Jack was remarkably well behaved on the flights, to
and fro, although his spirit of exploration was
dented. Whilst his parents were distracted Jack
began a totter down the aisle only to be flattened by
an express air hostess.
Gibraltar is a home from home. British Forces radio
broadcasts the Today programme, PM and the
Archers. The main supermarket is Morrisons although I
prefer the local market. Pictured here are my
favourite fruit and veg, and fish stalls. But the
weather is warmer and the skies are blue. The first
two weeks of adjustment were difficult. There were
tears and tantrums (from all three.) Gradually we are
finding an equilibrium between sailing, exploring,
writing and photography, and Jack.
The confines of a boat contain Jack however,there
are few places to put stuff out of reach. Walking
teamed with his agility makes his harness a must
when he is on deck. The seventh version of the anti-
Jack device remains un-scaled, so far ….
At the end of January we anticipate heading along
the Costa del Sol up to Barcelona and across to Ibiza
for spring. The Balearics and Corsica are in our sights,
before returning to Gibraltar in October to prepare to
cross the Atlantic in December.
February’s Yachting Monthly included pretty pictures
of our Christmas in the Bahamas in 03. And across the
waters Blue Water Sailing will be publishing a series
on our favourite anchorages, in Big Sand (Turks and
Caicos), Green Cay (BVIs), Freemans Bay (Antigua)
If you’d like to have a catch-up, text us and we’ll
“Skype” you back. It is a treat to be able to just
chatter for pennies, the joys of new technology.
Keep us in touch with you. The next update will be
on John’s Birthday, February 26th.
Nicola John and Jack.