We are now feeling the first signs of winter in southern Spain. Our heater has been used a couple of mornings, the snow cap of the highest peaks of Sierra Nevada are now permanent and we’ve also had a couple of gales. But everything is relative – with a few exceptions we are still wearing the “cruiser uniform”, i.e. shorts, t-shirt and sandals. It is kind of funny to meet the local Spanish population dressed as for a cross country ski trip. So what have we been up to lately? Firstly we have got a rental car for a really good price for two months. A car makes a big difference to quality of life as Almerimar is slightly isolated, especially as we have no bicycles, yet. We have also done further maintenance, installation work on the boat. We plan to have a section on this blog about “the boat” including technical stuff. Not so funny was my stupid mistake when installing “The Wirie”, a Wifi complete antenna and access point solution only requiring power. Part of the background was the painful bureaucracy having to wait about 4 weeks on customs processing in Madrid. My mistake was to connect the Wirie to 24V so it crashed, especially stupid since I very well knew I had to use the 12 V voltage splitter I ordered together with the kit. So maybe by Xmas we have this gear installed and working. What it does – it is a “WiFi sniffer”, looking up available networks, claiming a 3 km reach, which I doubt. We have also been social – we try to meet up with the “Scandinavian community” once a week, a mixed group of sailors, golfers and retired expats. Last week we were invited to our neighbors in the marina, Ulrike and Peter from Munich, Germany. We had a very nice evening enjoying good food and sharing experience from past sailing; especially valuable was the information about Croatia which we hope to see next year. This week we spent two days in the lovely town Nerja to celebrate a couple of anniversaries. More on Nerja in a later blog post.
Close to 30 years ago, sailing with our first sailboat, a B24 “Skärgårdskryssare” built 1924, we had a scary accident. Sailing downwind we made an unplanned gybe, with my head hitting the boom. An accident that can easily kill you but fortunately I missed some nasty brackets and cleats on the boom - so it was wood against wood :-). Anyway, a lot of blood and an expensive taxi to hospital for stitches. This summer cruise has been mostly downwind, and even if all gybes have been planned, there is a lot of power that takes it toll on the boat, sail and equipment. At least three blocks have been damaged.
Therefore we decided to buy a “boom break”, a device that uses the friction of a line wound around a metal cylinder to slow down the gybe. Simple design, the fewer moving parts the better. We plan to have a sea trial tomorrow. Here is a youtube clip from the manufacturer.
We have met many long time expats here in Spain who have a hard time get a menu translated. We decided to make an effort to at least get the basics right – so Eva decides a daily menu of 5-10 spanish words to get used to. To make it more meaningful, there is usually a theme. Monday we returned a rental car so we needed to learn how to pronounce “when does the bus x go to y”, “where is th the bus station”, “when does it leave” etc. This weeks training was about dehumidifiers, power consumption, performance (liter per hour), external output of water etc. Most important was the spanish word “Los Deshumidificadores”. Trying this word in real life today at “Corte de Ingles” was the ultimate, scary test if we are getting beyond the basics. And we passed. After carrying a bulky load on my bike for 10k we have now a dehumidifier that we have longed for the last 4 weeks.
Sunday was spent with our good friends Jörgen and Soffen who visited us from Alicante. Great to be able to reconnect after almost a year. The day after they gave us a lift to Almeria where we picked up a rental car for a week. Our “mini vacation” was loosely planned but we wanted to see Guadix, a small town amongst other things famous for its many caves, used as living quarters. It seems these “houses” have many benefits, eg mediating temperatures and, of course, extending your house with an extra room only requiring a shovel and a bucket. We couldn’t resist trying out a cave apartment so we checked in for a night at the cave hotel Tio Tobas. We both had a good night sleep, even though it felt a bit strange to think about having maybe 5 meters of soft mud/gravel/sandstone above your head.
Next day we followed another tip from long time resident Swedes – Trevelez, a small village south of Mulhacén, the highest peak of the Sierra Nevada. Besides being one of the highest town/villages on the Iberian peninsula, this is also the “heaven of cured ham” or Jamon Iberico. The altitude (~1500m) seems to be perfect to produce the best quality air dried ham in Spain. Fantastic place this time of year with the valley facing south, day tems reached 25C. Fresh walnuts, citrus trees, etc. Only scary thing with this place are the roads, narrow, steep, crazy hair needle curves and amazingly large trucks passing by with F1 speed. This place will definitely be worth visiting again. For Jamon Iberico lovers, here is a great link to do a deep dive into ham stuff.
September 2014 Gibraltar to Spain ( Almerimar)
We spent quite some time in Gibraltar, having no hurry to get into the Mediterranean and there is a lot to do on this small rock. We bought some new electric equipment to sort out our charger problems, since the chandlers and electrical shops were close by and very knowledgeable. It was between 25-35 centigrade and sunshine every day. We went snorkeling on the east side, long walks with Pub visits to cool off and also some work on the boat ( Peter). One of those days we took the Mediterranean stairs to the top. Don’t do that without water. We barely managed it…. However the views are rewarding and you’ll find a nice waterhole on the way downJ
Over the high cliffs we saw numerous big birds. We think, after checking all our books, that it was Golden Eagles ( sv.Kungsörn). They are flying between Africa and Europe depending on winds. Marvelous sight!
For the first time we also saw it necessary to make sun-shades for the windows on our fixed spray hood, so I (Eva) made a prototype of some shower curtains that we had. Will have to be professionally done later next year. It works fine and also gives us some privacy.
Monday Sept 8 we finally took the tour into the Med. Passing between Gibraltar (400m high) and Morocco ( 800 m) is breath taking. It looks so close and from a distance it is difficult to see that it is water (the Straight) between them. On our way to the first harbor, Duquesa, we came across some schools of Tuna that were hunting. Big jumps with the whole fish showing above water made it possible to see the fins and by that decide that it was Tuna and not Dolphins. They were BIG. No hooks or lines ready of course….
Duquesa was a nice little harbor. Rather shallow (we had difficulties going out 2 days later) but we got a nice place in the middle of the harbor, very close to a playa with shining clear water. Still no big water temperatures, but at least closer to 20 degrees. We stayed for 2 days doing some walks along the paved beach promenade and eating a very good Chinese dinner. Duquesa is mostly built up around tourists but it is small and therefore rather cozy.
Next stop, by motor, was Fuengirola. Here we managed to cast anchor inside the piers but outside the marina. Rather sheltered. Only some waves when the fishing boats were leaving in the morning and a minor swell. The town did not look that inspiring, so we stayed on board and took some swims instead.
40 nM to next suitable harbor. We started with no wind and a lot of swell (from the side of course) which made it rather uncomfortable. However the wind picked up in the afternoon, which seems to be normal here. That also made it impossible to anchor outside the marina del Este, so we took a berth in the small harbor. We found it OK pricewise and the harbor itself is a beautiful place. The water is crystal clear both inside the marina and at the playa. We did some really good snorkeling the 2days we were there. Marina del Este has a couple of restaurants, but unfortunately the owner of the supermecado had recently taken the money and disappeared so food was not to be found, unless you took a promenade to the village on the other side of the mountain. We did that once, but it had to be taxi for the way back.
September 13 we entered our winter harbor (Almerimar) for the first time. First impression OK. Harbour sheltered with plenty of space, but is supposed to be filled by October. Lots of marineros to help with mooring. Almerimar is a village built around a nice golf course and the harbor. The nearest “Town” is El Ejido, with approx. 50.000 inhabitants 45 minutes by bike from Almerimar (uphill of course).
After 4 months of sailing and moving were we happy for just staying in one place for a while. We have used the time so far to get to know the surroundings by foot or bicycle. Guess we have done 2 hours exploring per day. We have also done some job on the boat, ensuring that she will be “ship shape” when we leave in end March. There is a Scandinavian community who meet once a week, so we have visited them twice.
El Ejido got a visit the other day. First time we tried we got stuck at the motorway roundabout, which we did not dare to cross. Next time we had checked the maps, had helmets and took us all the way to the city center “Plaza Mayor”. Ej Ejido is a young town, but it has the shops needed and we also found, (for the first time since Göteborg) the CO2 gas we needed for the Soda Streamer. We have decided to drink the tap water as far as possible, instead of carrying bottles from the spuermercado, so bubbles are important.
Last week we found the bird sanctuary close to Almerimar. Lots of different birds: white and grey Herons, strange ducks and of course flamingos. Impressing to see them live.
So: we will stay here for 6 months, eventually doing some tours with the boat to the closest harbors if the weather permits, but more important hire a car and do some trips inland. Andalucía is more famous for the mountains and small villages inland than the coast and the food is supposed to be more interesting too. We will go on exploring the surroundings (especially the bird natural reserve) and of course test our way through all the tapas. For this we also see the need to find new books for defining flora and fauna. The ones we have is not covering enough.
- Strange small fishes (seen when snorkeling). Looks like different types of Weevers (sv. Fjärsing) ( black, yellow and some sandy brown)
- A sort of coral, deep orange
- Golden Eagles ( sv. Kungsörn)
- Egret Heron ( sv. Silkeshäger) and grey Herons
- Kites ( sv. Glada)
- Tapas: all sorts of tapas are included in the price of a bear or a glass of wine
- The Mercadona (grocery store) has a fantastic assortment of fish and shellfish which we will explore. We will also be able to get fresh vegetables at a good price since Almerimar is the biggest producer in Spain. (The surroundings are filled with plastic greenhouses, which makes the landscape look a bit peculiar)
Until next time – hasta luego
BR Eva, Peter
After 2600nm at slow pace we have now after 4 months of sailing / motoring arrived at Almerimar. Last blog post came from Gibraltar where we spent in total 11 days, mixed anchoring (La Linea, Spain) and mooring (Queensway Quay Marina, Gibraltar). Gibraltar delivered what was expected from an old British enclave, except driving on the right side everything is super british. At Morrison supermarket you get everything from UK that you might miss. We had a pleasant time, enjoyed social life with friendly british marina neighbours, and tried to work out the rich food by hearty walks. Last day we embarked on the “Rock” walk, 400m+ vertical, rather steep walk to the highest part of the cliff using the Mediterranean steps. Not for the faint hearted!
Between Almerimar and Gibraltar we anchored close to Fuengirola and stayed a couple of nights at Marina del Este. Fuengirola hasn’t and will never win any landscape architectural competitions. As a contrast, Marina del Este was a gem of a very secure, well hidden and picturesque harbour. We have gradually got used to Tina Princess becoming relatively smaller and smaller to yachts in southern Europe. Here we moored next side to a 100 foot, beautiful british ketch. The water inside and outside the harbour was crystal clear and the area seemed to be a major diving centre.
We have now signed a 6 month mooring contract with Almerimar Marina. Determining factors choosing this marina were safety from adverse winter weather, liveaboard community, 3000 hours sunshine/pa, costs for mooring and a living, albeit small, village offering what we need. We obviously hope to be able to sail during the winter months, as we have the last 18 years, weather permitting.
We started beginning of August with some anchoring in the Nature Reserve Islands between Ria Arousa and Ria Pontevedra. We visited the Isla Salvóra, where we found out that the “castle” was not a castle but a building for making salt. Do always check before making assumptions what the old buildings were used for J.
Next stop going south was, the Ria Pontevedra. We went for a marina and ended up in Sanxenxo. ( In northern Spain you will expect to find a lot of “x” in all villages names). Anyway, Sanxenxo is a main city in the area and by that also the gathering for festivals and DISCO!!!!. We had a not so pleasant night close to the base drums. Day after was rainy. Fortunately we had not being hit by many of those. We took a stroll in the closest area and, as most times in Spain, ended up in a small restaurant eating tapas. This time we also managed to find Goose Barnacles. Tastes like crab legs. Looks very special and when you as a sailor know that barnacles are things you like to avoid, it is interesting to find that they are costly!
From Sanxenxo we sailed to Conbarro (a tip we got from a sailor in Vilagarcía). We anchored 75 meters from the village center on 3 meter. Good holding. The village center is a 1000 year old fishing village, nicely restored. Small “streets” and pubs/restaurants like “holes in the wall”, close to where grannny is hanging her clothes to dry after washing. Definitely a place not to be missed. We spent 2 days just enjoying the scenery. Sunny weather, warm, but still cold water (+16 degrees).
On or way to the next Ria ( Ria de Vigo) we stopped at another of the natural Islands ( Islas Cíes). For the first time we had clear water: anchoring at 7 meter with total visibility. Good holding as always. Some swimming and a late stroll on the beach. Next day was not so pleasant. Wind change and a lot of “dust” in the water, some coming from all fishing boats harvesting “something” close by. We decided to move on to Baiona.
Baiona is an old city with remains from Columbus. A replica from “Pinto”, one of his ships is there for show. The old town is small, crowded with Spanish people on vacation and filled with nice small restaurants and pubs. A big castle from 1400 century lies on a cliff at the seafront.
Even if we still had “all time there is” we felt it was time to head for Portugal. Still motoring, no wind, and after some hours we ended up in Povoa de Varzim. OK marina, decent harbor fee ( € 18,50) and some Swedish boats again. One of the harbors sponsoring ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers). Close to the showers you find a nice library where you can exchange books. We found that one of our books, left in Baiona, had travelled before us and was now to be found on the shelves here. (Important to make stamps in the books you leave so that you can follow where they have been….)
We stayed in Varzim for 4 days, spending 24 of those hours listening to the foghorn… One day we took the metro to Porto. A beautiful city! Down by the river Douro you find all old Port vine houses, plenty of restaurants and a nice net of old intertwined streets. Peter took a photo of a taxi driver who managed to exceed the speed limit of 10 km. It’s really an achievement to manage something like that among the old houses, streets, stairs and restaurants!
Further south towards Lisbon. The swell forced us to go by motor. Since we have been in Lisbon before, we stopped in Cascais, after a nice 65-70 nM with a combination of sail and motor, calm and 7 knots and some dolphins making us company outside the Cape (Cabo da Roca). We had read that the harbor fee in Cascais was terrible, but we found it OK considering the service and closeness to a nice town. We also expected some extra wind to come later during the week so a safe harbor was needed.
Cascais is a pleasant town, small streets, old and new houses, a lot of azulejos (tiles painted in different colours and pictures) both as decoration on facades and on the streets. We also found a nice outdoor market where we bought vegetables and spices ( a piri-piri plant and basil). Both of us made jogging tours (Peter most of the time) in the mornings and then the days went by strolling through the city or doing some shopping. Friday and Saturday it was Cascais´town festivity. Music, eateries etc. Happy for having the harbor a bit out of sight for the music, so we had some pleasant days ( and sleeping nights) there.
Next stop down the Portuguese coast was Sines. A sheltered anchorage close to the small, old, village. It is far between the possibilities to anchor down the Portuguese coast so we started to recognize some of the other boats coming in. At day 2 we were 4 Swedish boats there! We ate a nice dinner (baby swordfish for Eva and Sea Bass for Peter) in a family type restaurant in one of the narrow streets. Not any foreigners as far as we could see, just Portuguese families out for Saturday dinner. We spent an extra day for sun and swimming. Water clear but cold. Still around +16 degrees.
As mentioned it is far between marinas and anchorages. To Lagos we had a motor/sailing of 75 nM. During the calm part of the journey we got company by Common dolphins. Always welcome! Passing Cabo Vicente, the wind picked up and we had good sailing to Lagos.
We staid in Lagos for a couple of days, looking at the old city and doing some bunkering. The marina was rather expensive but well sheltered for the winds expected.
When weather became calmer we moved to Faro, anchoring inside the sand islands surrounding the nature reserve. Pretty spooky at high tide, since most of the small sandbanks disappeared and we seemed to be in the middle of nowhere. The outer island with the two small villages is beautiful. Long beaches, small houses and restaurants. We stayed close to the village in south west and took a long walk to the one at the other end. There was also a small harbor with some people living on their boats all year. We found this village a bit more “worn down”, but still it was here we found 3 storks walking between plastic bags and other “left overs”. On the web we could read that storks migrate over land rather than water, and these were most likely on their way further south for the winter. So were we. Having time enough to make some stops before Gibraltar, we sailed to Mazarón. Good sailing with some visits from the dolphins and Eva managed to catch 4 mackerel for dinner. Peter posted a nice picture of that in our blog. Mazarón harbor belongs to a chain of marinas owned by the Andalusian government. They have the same fees – rather expensive – close to 50€ per night for our boat ( 15 x 4,40) . We took advantage of their service and asked them to book next stop for us. We knew that the next harbour Chipiona – a small, old, holiday town could be crowded this time of the year, so we thought that was vise to do. (We did the same going to Cadiz, later).
Chipiona: don’t miss it! It’s a beautiful old town (as most of the ones we have visited). Semi-large harbor, well kept, English speaking marineros. We stayed for 2 nights wandering the small streets, enjoying the atmosphere. We found a vine company/cellar for the Muscat grape. Tested different variants from sweet, raisin testing red wine (Peter) to white dry wine (Eva). Tapas eating of course, swimming in the now 27 degree water, enjoying ourselves. Number of people on the beach exceeded everything we had seen until now! Umbrellas, chairs, cool boxes, toys to last a day from 9 in the morning to 9 in the evening. Here we started to feel the heat. Temperature was now up to +37 degrees going down to maybe 27 in the night. Even Eva spent the days in the shadow. We started to experiment with open skylights/hatches, Mr. Notemann’s (he owner before us) blinds for the skylights and being in enclosed marinas having open windows helped. We took lots of pictures of tiles, making that the main story and pictures of this month’s blog.
Having more time to spend on our way to Gibraltar, we decided to visit Cadiz, even if we had been there by car some years ago. We don’t regret that. Cadiz is a fantastic town. 3000 years old (!), small, narrow streets, marvelous market for fish, vegetables and meat. We found the place where we many years ago were having dinner with hundreds of hams hanging from the ceiling, the 23:rd of December. We also stumbled upon an interesting event taking place Monday to Thursday on the pier to the marina: trumpets, drums and horns, training for what we think is the eastern festival every year. If somebody knows something about this, please mail us. It was at least 100 persons every night.
29-th of August we anchored in La Linea in Spain, having passed Gibraltar Strait, entering the Med. Fog and a lot of ships made the entrance interesting. Africa very visible with a mountain 800 meters high on the Morocco side and Gibraltar 400 meters on the other side. Very narrow strait. We anchored outside the marina in La Linea and I (Eva) had to ask for depth since the sea floor was visible at 7 meters. Fantastic water quality in a bay with an oil refinery at the inner shore. We have been here by car a year ago so we know what to look for: tapas, Gibraltar cliff etc. 30-th of August we took a berth in the Queensway marina in Gibraltar, for a week, waiting for spare parts and enjoying the easy English life here.
All in all:
For those who wonder why we are going through all harbours and anchorages: we have enjoyed other sailor’s descriptions of where to go and where to not go, and we like to add to that information.
One thing is obvious: don’t leave the Rias in northern Spain too soon. They are special. Easy to find shelter, marinas mixed with sheltered anchorages. Old villages, lots of shellfish. Here we spent 60-70% at anchor, enjoying every day/night. We spent nearly 4 weeks in the Rias.
Cold water: the temperature in the water on the west coast is 16 degrees, nothing else! If water is clear you still don’t do a long swim around the boat.
VAT in Portugal: coming in to Portugal we found the marinas a far between and some are expensive. The fee is shown without tax (23%) and could give you a minor heart attack when paying your way out of a marina. Having said that, the cheapest marina since Rendsburg in Germany was Varzim with 18 € per night.
Azulejas: the tiles in Portugal are marvelous. We are adding lots of photos of how they use painted tiles in Portugal. Moorish, Spanish and Portuguese influence. They are called azulejas because they were only blue (azul) and white in the beginning. The Moorish tiles are non-figurative but the Portuguese ones are used as paintings, explaining fishing and other “normal life” events.
Enclosed marinas: to stay in enclosed marinas is a major plus since we in the south of Portugal and Spain did experienced +35 degrees and had to have all skylights/hatches open, night and day.
Fish nets: southern Portugal and especial Spain is filled with fishing nets and fixed equipment for fishing. That makes day sailing a “must”, or you have to go far out to sea.
- Water temperature: colder than expected at the west coast of Portugal and Spain
- Storks: found in Faro
- Dolphins (common and bottle nosed). We have seen them many times. However, the bottle nosed are “less curious” as the Common dolphins
- Parrots: small parrots imported and escaped are living well in the area of Cadiz. You will hear and see green birds in the trees that most likely belong to some other country further south.
- Eucalyptus trees are now handing over to pine trees.
- Hibiscus, Nerium and Bougainvillea are still sparkling with colors
- Goose Barnacles ( Sp, Percebes) We managed to find them at last. Looks strange but taste like crab legs.
- Wine: in Porto we tested port wines but the best was a red wine from a winery more famous of port wine, Kopke.
- Sardines: there is a season for sardines, July to September. We found it in Porto and ate Sardines there and also further south.
- Chicken Piri-Piri: a Portuguese dish where the chicken is marinated in hot (!) sauce.
- Spices: in Portugal we found hot spices again. We had been looking for chili, ginger, basil and other spices. We even found live piri-piri that we are now taking care of for later harvest.
Until next time / hasta luego
BR Eva, Peter
Shouldn’t complain – reports from Sweden talks of torrential rains and 12C temps. I guess we are still in need of some calibration to cope with the heat. 300nm north we still complained about 16C water temp. Now we have 26C and 37C mid day air temp. Experimenting with ventilation and all kind of “bimini” shelters. We are now in Cadiz, a fantastic, 3000 year old town. Key features are the narrow streets and a million tapas bars but we have also spotted one mysterious feature of the town. Every evening, about 100+ “young people” (according to our norms, ie 20-25 age) turn up with either a drum, a trumpet or a horn. At 2130 they start playing a rather military march sounding tune with serious conducting until approx 2300. Strange. We tried to get some insights by talking to some folks but are still in the dark. Some googling suggest Easter festivities preparation, but sounds a bit premature, sure these kids shouldn’t have to wait 8 months to perform. At that age I knew more funny stuff to do in the evenings…