Change of Blog….

If you have come back to this blog, thank you, but please see our new blog at manhattanpearl.wordpress.com

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Ibiza

We  spent a couple days on the southwest corner of Majorca, at Santa Ponsa and Port Adriano, a very salubrious marina which they claim is the jewel of the mediterranean!  It is split into two areas – one for day boats and in the last few years the marina has been extended to provide space for all the super yachts to pull in to…there are areas for boats up to 50metres and then some for 100metres plus..you get the drift!IMG_2072

IMG_2073 With the help of a friend who has a day boat here, we managed to secure the last available space for 2 nights.  Even then, we were dwarfed on either side by boats of 65ft apiece!  Every night during high season, the marina puts on a spectactular cabaret show, a fun parade which is completely free to watch, and although our boat was right next to the stage, we chose to sit at a bar on the first floor overlooking the show.  There were all sorts of entertainers, singers and dancers, acrobats and gymnasts – this woman made us all gasp…IMG_2078

as did this one – what a contortionist to make this shape!IMG_2093

All the actors and actresses were drumming up business during the day and having promotional photos taken – we were persuaded to join in the fun!IMG_2243

We had a good trip down to Ibiza, anchoring overnight in Portinatx before heading down the eastern side to Santa Eulalia to pick up Jacqueline and Chris who were spending 10 days with us. We circumnavigated the whole island, and despite having to avoid a tornadoIMG_2132

and dodging bays with jellyfish, we had a really enjoyable time with them, taking the new dinghy ashore to swim in the turquoise water,IMG_2129

and watching all the superyachts at anchor, mostly with just crews on board.  The latest must-have toy appears to be the water slideslide! IMG_2122

Yet another playboy’s toy!

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Whilst Jacqueline and Chris explored the clubs of Ibiza – Blue Marlin, Amante, Ushuaia, to name but a few(!) Brian and I hired a car for a couple of days and explored the interior of the island – we visited some extraordinary caves in the north of the island that had been discovered by pirates a hundred years ago to hide their loot, but now it has been turned into a fascinating tourist venue which even despite my fear of enclosed spaces I was persuaded to visit!IMG_2184

All too soon Jacqueline and Chris had to go home, and once they had gone, we set off back to Majorca to circumnavigate that too.  We had a great sail for the trip, and the charging unit, which had stopped working the day we picked up Jacqueline and Chris, miraculously started working again!  I think we were unfortunate not to have better weather whilst we were on Ibiza so that we could have seen more of the spectacular sunsets that the island is known for, and we could have anchored in some of the smaller, more remote calas, but there is always another time…

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Andraitx

We were up again early this morning, and headed south for the port of Andraitx.  Its a yachting and fishing harbour set in the most attractive surroundings  on the south west corner of Majorca, with a pleasant village close by and a larger, more atmospheric town some two miles inland.  As we left Soller we had a good downwind sail,  although the skies looked threatening from the north, but we comforted ourselves that to the south, it looked much more welcoming!  As we approached the Isla Dragonera and the Dragonera Passage, once again the skies looked rather threatening and we hoped to arrive before any bad weather or rain.IMG_1982

Once into the harbour, we were welcomed by an english speaking marineiro in a rib, who guided us to one of the few vacant buoys. We learnt that most of these are booked in advance on the internet – all very well if you can get a constant supply of wifi!  We decided that the dinghy needed some more inflation before our trip ashore, so pumped it up, launched it over the side and attached the outboard.  No sooner had this been done, when Brian all but fell through the bottom of the dinghy floor as it separated from the hull!  Was this due to too many empanadas me asks???  We quickly re-attached the halyard to the engine before it sank to the bottom of the sea, then hauled the dinghy carcass back on board.  Oh dear…….IMG_1991

Looks like we won’t be going out for dinner tonight!  However it was fortunate that this occurred when we were alongside rather than in mid harbour! Could have been a bit of a panic!   Back to ship’s stores for supper tonight…

We called our friendly marineiro (William) and aske him the best place to get a replacement dinghy.  He suggested getting a taxi to Santa Ponsa tomorrow, and he has arranged a marina berth for us which will help us enormously.

Oh what fun…….IMG_1989

We packed up the dinghy and put it away, and contemplated asking William to take us ashore for the evening in his rib, but once again the heavens opened and it poured with  rain – an hour later, and we are sitting out in the cockpit with G & T enjoying the tranquil setting of the bay watching the sun go down!

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Bad Weather..

We spent several days on the buoy at Cala Formentor, swimming and snorkelling, and watching the tourist boats coming and going, and generally chilling out. The tourist catamarans amused us…. on arrival, a whistle would blow and the majority of people on board would throw themselves overboard to chill in the water.IMG_1896

The deck hands would get out all the toys, and there would be a scramble for canoes, paddle boards, inflatables……and then an hour later, another whistle would blow and everyone would come back up to hand in their ticket for their drink and hamburger from the barbecue on the back…IMG_1899

…and then once the deckhands had packed the toys away, off they went from whence they had come!   It costs 29 euros a day to be on the buoy, and the 2 boat boys would come round early each morning to collect the money from us. We took the dinghy ashore to go for a walk along the beach, but it was crowded with holiday makers, and by the time they had gone home, so had the owners of the one bar and shop, and there wasn’t even a place open to have an ice cream!  A five star hotel was the only place open at the far end of the bay, but not open to visitors. We happily went back to Dignity and had a beer on the back of the boat whilst watching the sun go down, in company with a dozen other boats, some chartered super yachts trying to out do each other by lighting up their tall masts from top to bottom, some dayboats catching the last of the day’s sun before heading back to the marina at Puerta Pollensa, but mostly cruisers like ourselves, from France, Malta and a couple of other British registered boats.

One night, we had probably the worst ever night we have experienced at sea.  It was about 10.30 pm and it started with lightning flashes all around us in the hills but no thunder and, to begin with, no wind. This was our first encounter with the famous Tramontana, a strong wind that blows down from the Golfe de Lion – it can be dangerous because in as little as 15 minutes on a calm sunny day, with virtually no warning it can suddenly reach gale force.

The skies lit up about every 2-3 seconds, and the hills and mountains went from being the spectacular black shapes we saw at night, to the more familiar ones we were used to seeing by day. Suddenly the skies erupted with the crashing sound of thunder echoing all around us. Once again we put all the electric devices in the oven for safety! We swung around on the buoy, thankful that we had had the foresight to put on a secondary line to secure us, although even so, the rope chafed quite horrendously – a lesson learnt that in future we should use a length of chain or a carbon sleeve over the rope. The wind howled, and we swung round and round on the buoy 360 degrees.  There was not a lot we could do, but we both got dressed, with lifejackets and lifelines on, and torches at the ready.  I spent most of the next 2 hours sitting in the companionway, watching what was going on.

Next thing we knew, there was a massiv thud and we both went on deck to see what had happened.  The dinghy which we had brought up on deck earlier the previous evening, had been upended by a massive gust of wind,  and was hanging over the side of the boat, banging away on the starboard side.  Luckily we had tied it on well, and we quickly rescued it and tied it to the back of the boat.  Without warning,  a massive squall then hit us, and for about 15 minutes, we were engulfed in galeforce winds and horizontal rain that lashed us incessantly.  We could barely see the front of our boat.  Brian reckoned we had about 50 – 60 knots of wind. (We later heard in Soller when we anchored there a couple of days later, that they too had had the same storm and had experienced carnage amongst the boats, with boats crashing into each other, and masses of damaged being done to many of them.IMG_1903

The boat anchored next to us said that he measured 70knots of wind!)  Back in Cala Formentor, the storm lasted most of the night, and in the morning all was calm again! And all the while, a disco was going on at the beachclub for the 5 star hotel, the revellers presumably oblivious to what was going on outside, whilst they listened to the blaring pop music!

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To the Balearics..

We had  a long chat with Don Giovanni and Sylvia who told us the do’s and don’ts of where to go and where to avoid, from their many years cruising in the area, and after a day in Barcelona, and having provisioned the boat,and filled up with fuel and water, we decided to leave Port Ginesta and head for the Balearic Islands. It was about 8pm as we headed out of the marina and set course for the 100 mile trip to Majorca.  It was a clear night, and the stars were absolutely fantastic – it never ceases to amaze me just how many there are when you get away from the light pollution of the towns and cities, and both Brian and I saw several shooting stars falling from on high towards the sea.  I took the first watch, and although there wasn’t much in the way of traffic, just a few ferries making their way to Palma or Ibiza from Barcelona, it seemed to me that they were all on a collision course with us.  It was reassuring to look at the AIS and to see what course and speed they were making, and of course, they missed us by at least 1.5 miles!

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As we approached Majorca in the early hours, dawn came up over Menorca and the day progressively became better and better.  We were heading for Cala Formentor in the north of the island, and we passed up the north west coast, past the dramatic barren mountains that one doesn’t automatically associate with the holiday isle of Majorca.IMG_1853

We picked up a buoy in Cala Formentor, which reminded us of Norman Island in the BVIs, the only notable exception being that there was no Willy T’s floating bar  in the bay!IMG_1864

We liked the place so much that we decided to stay for several nights enjoying the tranquillity and remoteness of the area.

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Pyrenees

We set off in our hire car for a couple of days to the Pyrenees, where we had enjoyed a lovely driving holiday a couple of years ago and which we wanted to repeat.  We got as far as Barcelona before we had to turn back to the boat.  Brian had forgotten his passport, and we were sure we would need it for booking into a hotel.  As it happened  mine was sufficient, but better to be sure.  Hell, they might have thought he was an immigrant!!

The motorways are well laid out around the northern side of Barcelona, and well signposted and it wasn’t long before we were heading up the C16 out into the hills.  Brian had already done his homework before we’d left England, and we were heading for the town of Ribes de Fresar,  very picturesque and situated well up into the hills, where there was a rack and pinion train to take us up the final ascent through the mountains.IMG_1708

The train took about 40 minutes to wind its way up the side of the mountain, stopping at a couple of other stations on the way. Many people were taking the train up to walk back down again and were dressed as such in stout walking boots and with backpacks and walking sticks.  IMG_1711

You could see for miles and miles from the windows, and occasionally there would be a steep waterfall splashing down the rockface into the deep gully below us.IMG_1718

The train navigated through a couple of tunnels and finally we emerged into the sunlight to the base station of the Queralbs ski resort in the Vall de Nuria.

Queralbs

The snow arrives at the beginning of December and usually stays till the beginning of April.  During summer however, the area is a vast tourist area catering for walkers, hikers, and daytrippers, with pony rides, a boating lake and mini golf to keep them happy.

We booked into a hotel back down in the town of Ribes that night, and enjoyed a delicious local catalan meal – duck and chicken cooked with tomatoes onions and bayleaves.  The next morning we wandered round the town to see if we could buy any local delicacies,  but most things were canned or vacuumed packed.

Ribes de Fresar Catalonia

Ribes de Fresar Catalonia

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We drove on up the valley through the foothills of Catalonia, following by the side of the train track we had been on the day before.  There was very little traffic, save a few crazy cyclists, and a chapter of motor bike riders, as the road twisted its way along the hairpin bends through the mountain range.

It was  sobering to see the memorials to people who had lost their lives going too fast and disappearing over the edge… the signs at the side of the road showed us how steep we were climbing… from 1300 to 1700m  in no time at all, with snow poles at  intervals to remind us what it must be like in winter.IMG_1760

Round each corner, the view just got better and better. We stopped to take in the view, and were conscious of the complete silence all around us, save the tinkling of cow bells far down in the valley.IMG_1757

We turned off to head down the other side of the valley, and not long afterwards arrived in La Molina, a small ski resort.  It was not dissimilar to ski resorts in the Alps, with huge carparks at the bottom of the lifts to cater for skiers driving up from the valleys below, a couple of restaurants, and the Intershop with its huge selection of ski clothes, although at this time of year, it was full of hiking gear. We spied a sign indicating a cable car operating up the mountain!IMG_1764

Not a great one for heights, it didn’t take me too long to persuade Brian that this was a must-do!  The views were spectacular!IMG_1816

We saw a couple of eagles soaring and swooping on the thermals, but they were a little too far away to get a good picture.IMG_1818

We got out of the cable car at the top and although it was about 10 degrees cooler than at the bottom, we certainly didn’t need sweaters to wear. To get to the summit from the top of the cable car was a half hour of steep climbing up a rocky pathway. The reward for our perseverance was a cold beer at the summit!IMG_1788

IMG_1794At the top there were herds of mountain cattle and horses, all with their bells swinging round their necks on chains.  We came across a few intrepid mountain bikers who had brought their bikes up in the cable car and were intent on cycling back down – we even saw one guy who had cycled up from the bottom!

IMG_1793We hadn’t come prepared with walking boots, and every stone of the shale path seemed to press through the soles of my sailing shoes! Far easier to walk on the grass.   The descent was just as breathtaking,  and it made me realise just how much I have missed the ski slopes these past few years!!

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We carried on driving down the twisting turning roads towards the valley which led in turn to the motorway that would take us back to Barcelona and the airport where we  would drop off the car.  There was a bus at the airport which took us the few miles to Casteldefells, but unfortunately we’d missed the last bus to Port Ginesta so took a taxi.  It had been a wonderful two days.

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I love my mifi…..!!

Wifi has been all but impossible to get hold of in Spain, and even going to the local cafe with a wifi zone for a beer has not been very successful.  With hours to spare before our flight back to Barcelona,  we went to the local Three store and bought a PAYG mifi.  With trepidation, we fired it up when we got to the boat and….success!!! I can’t believe I didn’t get one earlier. Apparently with Three, the data and call costs in Spain are the same as in the UK – we will see!

This morning I had a disaster!  I must have knocked it when washing it up after breakfast!  IMG_1647

Having used our hire car to drive to the large supermarket to restock the boat, we decided to go to Sitges, about 10 kms south of here and apparently the gay capital of Europe! The road twisted its way around the coastline, clinging to the cliff edge with breathtaking views round every corner.  When we arrived, we found the beach heaving with bodies baking away in the sun, and plenty of people lunching in the copious restaurants.

IMG_1659The view the other way was much more pleasant!

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Before we flew home for July, we arranged to have the boat taken out of the water for a day to have the new depth sender replaced which we bought in Almerimar.  We have been recommended to use a guy called Giovanni 4 fingers (no prizes for guessing why he is called that) and he told us it would take 3-4 hours.  Monday morning came, and we moved Dignity round to the boatyard in preparation for the crane to lift her and rest her in a cradle whilst the work was done.  I never like seeing the boat in the crane – a boat should be in the water!IMG_1687

Giovanni spoke very little english (less than my spanish!)  but after pressure washing the hull, he told us to come back at 6pm and the boat would be ready to be put back in the water at 7pm. Rather than hang around the hot marina all day, we decided to explore inland through the country park. We drove up around 20 hairpin bends up from the marina to a wonderful vantage point where we could look down on the marina. IMG_1666

Brian planned the route and I did the drivingIMG_1668

Driving on very empty roads, we came across miles and miles of scrubland with very little habitation, no animals and only a firefighters helicopter searching for potential fire hazards for company.

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We stopped for a delightful lunch in the hills, but returned to the boat around 5pm so that we didn’t miss our slot on the crane.  Giovanni spotted us and gave us the thumbs up sign. Completo he said – finished! Rather surprised, we went on board to look….to discover that he hadn’t started on fitting the new unit.  We showed it to him, and the look on his face said it all…he had completely forgotten to fit it. Time was now racing away…he ejected the old unit and put the new one in,

The hole where the old unit came out

The hole where the old unit came out

 

but then he had to work the wiring out from one end of the boat to the other,

The wiring under the floorboards

The wiring under the floorboards

 

and then he discovered that the fixing on the new unit was incompatible with the old head unit.

The wiring at the chart table

The wiring at the chart table

 

Suffice to say that the boatyard had now closed up for the night, the crane driver had gone home, and Giovanni sheepishly suggested that we  would have to sleep on board Dignity in the cradle. We’d already sussed that out, and were a bit fed up with the whole situation, but there was nothing we could do to alter it, so after a good supper on board, we settled down for the night.  It was very hot on the boat, so as usual, we had all the windows and hatches open.  Suddenly in the middle of the night, we were awakened to the sound of the wind howling through the rigging, and the boat shaking in the cradle.  Thence the rain came, pummeling the deck and rattling on the coachroof.  Brian shot out of bed to close all the hatches,  but as quickly as it arrived, it had gone..no rain, no wind.  It was good to get up next morning and at 9.30 am sharp, Giovanni reappeared and the boat was lifted up by the crane, and we moved back to our mooring.  An hour later, he had brought an engineeer round from Raymarine to re-connect the wires into the back of the unit, and once more we were back to normal!!  We checked under the floorboards and there were no leaks either! Phew!

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Port Ginesta

Port Ginesta is growing on us the more time we spend here.  The morning after our arrival we checked into the marina office, only to be told that we couldn’t stay on the berth Mike had shown us the previous night.  Some of the berths on the marina are privately owned, and in a nutshell one of these has been rented out to us privately by a guy known as Don Giovanni, who has given us his berth, whilst he puts his boat on a friends berth who is currently away from the marina for several months.  The marina manager wasn’t too happy about this arrangement and called Giovanni up to the office to explain what was happening, but as ‘the Don’ owns several berths here, and also runs his businesses from several of the marina units on the site, let’s just say that it wasn’t in the Marina managers’ interest to argue with Giovanni, and everything from our point of view is just fine!! Giovanni’s dog can even be seen sitting on the pontoon on guard at the stern of our boat!

'Softie' - Giovanni's dog

‘Softie’ – Giovanni’s dog

There are several restaurants here,  chandleries, laundry facilities and a good shower block, but only essential food items can be bought at one of the chandlers so it’s a quick trip to the nearest town of Castelldefels, about 3km along the coast where you can buy almost  anything.  There is a bus which goes regularly from just outside the marina entrance which takes you either to Casteldefells, or on into Barcelona – both trips cost just 1euro!

There are beaches both north and south of the marina, one of which is small and select,

IMG_1511the other a long sandy beach about 5 kms long, at the other end of which are high rise apartment blocks and all the trappings of a holiday town.  The main draw  of the marina for us, however, is that there is not a high rise in sight, and the backdrop to the marina is a national park which is very easy on the eyes.

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Our arrangement with Don Giovanni is that we will keep the boat here for the month of July whilst we go home, not only to avoid the hot weather which we understand is unbearable in July and August over here, but also to start de-cluttering my mothers house to be eventually put up for sale in a couple of months time.  We also have two weddings to look forward to, and no doubt there will be wedding dresses to search for, caterers to enquire about and a myriad other things that will no doubt come to light!

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The Catch-Up…….to Port Ginesta!

So…..having spent a couple of nights in Sant Carlos, we decided that there was no more meat on us left to be eaten by mosquitos, so we headed out as dawn came up to round the delta and set off north again.

Dawn outside Sant Carlos de la Rapita

Dawn outside Sant Carlos de la Rapita

It was a chug for the early part of the journey, but happily the wind came up and we sailed north towards the holiday resort of Salou and the port of Tarragona where we intended to put into.  On arrival, we surfed into the harbour entrance. It was an awkward entrance with little space for manouevring inside, and the wind blowing hard behind us, but mid-afternoon, we tied up at the fuel berth and found the marina office, which was closed.  A marineiro approached us.  He spoke no english, but I managed to explain in spanish that we wanted a berth for the night.  He told us that everybody had gone to a big festival on in the town, and there was no-one in the marina office.  He could only offer us a much larger berth than we needed, at a much larger price than we wanted to pay!!  He even refused to give us the Cruising Association discount to which we were entitled.  Well…what would you have done?  We thanked him politely, untied the boat and headed off north again towards Port Ginesta, hoping anxiously that we would arrive before darkness.

It was about another 25 miles to Port Ginesta.  We telephoned our friends Mike and Ingrid who weren’t expecting us for another few days, but they turned up trumps, and as we pulled into the marina as light was fading, they were on the end of the pontoon directing us to a berth they had arranged through one of their friends.

Mike and 'Red' were there to welcome us

Mike and ‘Red’ were there to welcome us

It looked like it was probably the most weather-secure berth in the marina, and after mooring up stern-to, we were promptly invited back onto their boat Mojo for drinks and a scrumptious supper, washed down with copious amounts of vino!  What a wonderful end to the day!

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On towards Sant Carlos de la Rapita

We enjoyed Valencia, and it was also one of the less expensive places we have visited this trip at 25 euros per night.  Mind you, had we come whilst the Motor racing Grand Prix was taking place, we would have been excluded, as the minimum length of vessel allowed then is 20m, and costs FROM 1000 euros per night.  Yet again, we were watching the weather forecast, and decided after 3 days to head north again.  We slipped the mooring at 7.30 am after checking out of the marina.  We have seen very little marine life this trip, save for a few jumping fish, but no dolphins.  Today followed the same weather pattern, with next to no wind all morning.  We clocked up the miles, and at midday, instead of heading into port, decided to keep going towards Sant Carlos de la Rapita, a new marina run by the english company MDL.  It stands at the mouth of a delta, and the area is well known for not only its rice, but also the shellfish which it exports all over the world.

There are no instructions in the latest edition of the local pilot book, so we nosed our way in gently looking for the waiting pontoon or Reception area.  Nothing!   We eventually called them on the vhf radio, but they had an emergency and asked us to wait a while. Plenty of people on boats were willing to take our lines, or direct us to a berth near them, but having called the marineiros already, we were loathe to tie up, and then perhaps have to move again.  As it was, we were eventually directed to an alongside pontoon close to all the amenities.   Despite the lack of information on our arrival, the marina is very tranquil, and the nearby town is delightful, very spanish and not a highrise block in sight!  The marina even boasts an infinity swimming pool for use of all berth holders, including those like us who are just passing through!
IMG_1412We found out the big downside however… the mosquitos!!  They are everywhere, and this morning at about 6.30am we were woken by a plane flying low over the marina.  At first we thought it was someone having fun, but we later heard that he was spraying the area to try and kill the mosquitos – however he only succeeded in sending them into a frenzy and they were worse today than ever!

IMG_1420There was a much better picture on the video I took, but I haven’t yet learnt how to take a screenshot from a video……any help or advice will be gratefully accepted!The town of Sant Carlos is but a short walk away, full of bars and cafes, and as we approached the main square in the centre, the buzz of chatter rang round as the locals all met to put the world to rights!

IMG_1416The mosquitos carried on munching away at Brian as if all their Christmas Dinners had come at once!  They even took a pot at me which is unusual.  It was extremely sultry that afternoon, and a boules session had been arranged for anyone wanting to join in. Although we went along there was only one other couple, and because we were all being eaten alive, we decided it was a non-starter.  The swimming pool was a godsend!  That evening, we had an electric storm, which freshened the air considerably.  The lightning forked across the sky all around us , and as a precaution we put the computers and the GPS in the oven so that it acted as a Faraday Cage in case we were hit.

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