#1 2011-09-26 10:21:55

David_Macgregor
Member
Registered: 1998-01-29
Posts: 13

VICTORIA ROSE’s Travels 2010 (V30)

From Seville to Cartagena

We received suitable admonishments from Peter and Ann for lack of reports on our travels in 2009 from the East Coast to the Western Mediterranean and had promised to do better this year.

Our son Joe, who accompanied me last year on passage from the east coast to Seville, is now at university but finding time for sailing in Scottish waters. Sue retired at Christmas so as we set off in 2010 it was just the two of us.

We flew back to Spain just before Easter to attend our eldest son Phil's graduation from flying school at Jerez, then on to Gelves, the marina outside Seville where Victoria Rose wintered. Very relieved to find her all ok but looking rather neglected after one of the wettest winters the area has had for many years. We spent a couple of enjoyable weeks washing, polishing, antifouling, varnishing etc - so much more pleasant in temperatures upwards of 25C and interspersed with occasional visits to the local bar.

We took some time off to enjoy the Easter festivities in Seville, impressive candlelit religious processions - very different to the C of E with strange costumes resembling Klu Klux Clan but are reassured they are not connected! The centre piece of each procession is an amazingly ornate gold encrusted float with huge effigies of Christ or the Virgin Mary.

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Procession

With Victoria Rose finally ready we then had to wait for the top of the spring tide to launch as the marina basin had silted up over winter and local authorities had insufficient funds to dredge. We slid over the mud with inches to spare to the deep water pontoon outside on the river.

We finally left Seville on the 21st April. We had Phil with us, as he was unable to get a flight home due to the volcanic ash disruption. Never an enthusiastic sailor, joining us was still preferable to a deserted flying school.

Phil finally returned home from Cadiz leaving us to shelter from the levante that blew for the next week. We used the opportunity to explore the city; amazing architecture and nowhere near as touristy as Seville despite the frequent arrival of cruise liners.

After Cadiz we headed to Gibraltar in time to meet our friend Alan. The marina is literally alongside the runway so we could watch his plane land and take a leisurely stroll to the airport arrivals to wait for him to clear customs. Gib is a caricature of England in the 60/70s with traditional British bobbies, red telephone boxes and a typical UK high street with all the usual names interspersed with off-licences selling incredibly cheap booze. The buildings are a contrast of new expensive developments and decaying structures from its earlier importance as a naval and military outpost of the empire. After the mandatory visit to the top of the rock and encounter with numerous Barbary apes we set off across the narrow straits to Ceuta, a Spanish enclave on the northern tip of Morocco. Like Gib, Ceuta has had a colourful history and has much to explore. We had now come to expect strong winds and rough seas as the Atlantic tries to push its’ way into the Mediterranean and this passage didn't disappoint.

We retraced our steps from last year visiting the Moroccan port of Smir and then taking a bus to Tetouan to visit the local market. According to the Sunday papers Morocco is now an upmarket tourist target but not in this area which retains all its local charm and is still a little intimidating to the European visitor. From Morocco we had a windy crossing to Estepona on the Costa del Sol and from there back to Gibraltar for Alan's flight home. During his stay we, or more accurately he, had repaired our outboard and changed a weeping gearbox seal.

A week later Sue flew home from Almeria to take part in the Moonwalk: a 26 mile night walk around London in aid of breast cancer. We berthed at Almerimar a little west of Almeria, a popular marina for English live-a-boards. Sue completed the walk but returned with a small injury that needed resting. That and more gales kept us in Almerimar for a total of sixteen days.

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Almerimar

Tourism and agriculture have competed in devastating the surrounding area. The landscape is littered with unfinished apartment blocks intended primarily for Brits. The Spanish building industry has collapsed and presumably the same fate awaits these buildings. Any remaining space is covered by plastic structures for crop production which have at least provided some economic benefit for a traditionally poor area.

Only a few miles inland you can see the snowcapped Sierra Nevada mountains and we spent two wonderful days exploring in our hired "Ferrari" (Fiat) Panda. Amazing landscapes and unspoilt villages. Winter landslides made the journey even more interesting as we regularly rounded tight turns on the mountain passes to find half the road missing

We eventually left Almerimar on the 27th May with the first favourable forecast and made our way towards Denia from where we planned to cross to the Balearics.

It was great to be sailing again after so many days in port and as the weather improved we were able to make better progress. The coasts of Costa del Sol and Costa Blanca have much to be avoided but there are still some amazingly beautiful sections to the coastline. We celebrated the first year of my retirement anchored in an especially beautiful bay a few miles west of Cartagena surrounded by mountainous cliffs rising straight out of the water. The sun was shining and we could see the anchor eight meters below us through wonderfully clear water.

Following recommendations from Caladh's log we visited Cartagena and can only confirm their view that it is "an attractive city where real people live and work". We spent a cultural day visiting the Roman amphitheatre, the castle and a sobering museum of the Spanish civil war.

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Cartagena

Cartagena is a major naval port and our departure coincided with the start of a NATO exercise; we left harbour accompanied by a submarine, destroyer and various ribs.

From Cartagena to the Balearic Islands

We had a pleasant sail along the coast towards Denia, visiting the Mar Menor, a large inland lake entered through a narrow canal. It had several marinas, all too shallow for Victoria Rose, but home to a large number of speed boats and jet skis. As we arrived at Denia the wind faded then suddenly returned with a vengeance leaving the mainsail requiring €165 of restitching. We were last in Denia fourteen years ago holidaying at a friend’s villa. Then there were just a few yachts in the harbour but now there are three marinas with more than a thousand berths.

After crossing to the Island of Ibiza on the 11th June we spent ten days anchoring in delightful bays around Ibiza and Formentera before crossing to Majorca.

As I was to fly home for a couple of days and our daughter Vicki was joining us we arranged to berth on the public quay at Puerto de Andraitx; some fifteen miles from Palma airport but rather more affordable. From there we set off along the north east coast of Majorca which is really stunning, very rugged with steep rocky cliffs with numerous inlets leading to yet more delightful anchorages. All with wonderfully clear water, some were quite busy during the day with visiting boats but usually deserted by early evening.

Our favourite was Deia. The village is a few miles inland from the bay along a hilly path through old terraced olive tree plantations. Though now home to many celebrities the village remains unspoilt and we thought it hard to disagree with its’ description in the pilotage book as the most beautiful village in Majorca. All met with Vicki's approval who considered it far more enjoyable than her rather rough trip across Biscay with Joe and I the previous year. She seemed a little reluctant to leave and return to city life.

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Deia

Joe joined us at Palma on the 15th of July. Sue had pleaded poverty with a sympathetic harbour master and managed to secure a berth for €50 where Victoria Rose spent a night nestled among gleaming superyachts. This gave us an opportunity to visit the city which is of course impressive, cosmopolitan and full of the rich and beautiful.

We crossed to Menorca on the 19th July but a couple of days later and with gales forecast, anchored in sheltered bay at Addaya on the North East coast. Sue left from there for her flight home while Joe and I waited another week for a break in the weather and a quick dash to Mahon, the capital of Menorca.

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Anchorage

Leaving Mahon was a rather more protracted event than we had foreseen. More adverse winds, an echo sounder that decided not to work and a fuel system that decided to leak kept us there another week. No great hardship as we were anchored in yet another lovely bay in the harbour entrance and just twenty minutes by dinghy to the waterfront bars with excellent tapas. Mahon is another lovely town and on which the British have had a major influence. Many of the older streets’ houses have sash windows and a very English appearance dating from our occupation in the 18th Century. Equally impressive are the massive fortifications constructed after our departure to prevent us returning.

We really enjoyed the Balearics and consequently lingered far longer than we had intended. They certainly contain some of the worst excesses of tourist development but away from these, large areas are unspoilt and provide a wonderful and varied cruising ground with stunning anchorages many of which we had to ourselves.

From the Balearic Islands to Tunisia

Joe and I finally set off for Sardinia on the 7th August arriving at Porto Conte on the northwest of the island some forty four hours later. Joe and I made the statutory visit to Neptune’s Grotto, a vast cave with amazing stalactites. We had a lively sail down the coast to Bosa and a crowded anchorage in a busy coastal resort. Back from the coast we found the lovely old town. During the early 20th Century Bosa had been a refuge for the displaced aristocrats of northern Europe. The crumbling villas and overgrown gardens are all that remain from that troubled period of world history. The town, like most others we had visited, came to life in the evening. We walked back to the boat in the early hours after a meal of pasta and Chianti past promenading Sardinians of all generations – all loud cheerful and animated.

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Joe

At Thurros we anchored off the ruins of a Roman city which made a wonderful backcloth for the night. We continued south to Isola di San Pietro and probably our favourite town, Carloforte. We spent four days exploring the countryside and wandering the narrow crowded streets in the evenings. In between we fitted in some boat maintenance, socialised with other yachties and had a haircut – the latter always worrying when you can’t speak the lingo! We would have liked to spend longer in Sardinia and visit other Italian and French islands. However with term time approaching for Joe and a winter berth arranged in Tunisia it was time to move on so the Ligurian and Tyrrhenian seas are on our agenda for a future year.

After leisurely cappuccinos, a dubious weather forecast and brisk northwest winds we set sail for Tunisia with a planned destination of Sidi bou Said on the north east coast. One of our best sails, two wonderful nights at sea, amazing starlit skies and dolphins! As the wind backed to the south east we were forced to divert to Tabarka, a fishing port on the north coast six miles from the border with Algeria. For the first time we experienced the hot, dusty winds blowing from the Sahara. We were met by port officials, customs, police and immigration officers. Several hours later all formalities had been completed and our stock of cigarettes (purchased for such eventualities) greatly reduced. Tourism hasn’t reached the north of Tunisia and it is all the better for it. The difference from European Mediterranean was dramatic and for the first time since leaving Morocco we felt a long way from home. A couple of days later, victualled with supplies haggled for in the street markets, we set about the formalities to leave harbour. Lengthy but less so than upon arrival.

Another yachtsman had chatted enthusiastically to us about the off-lying island of Galite so we decided to make that our next destination. We enjoyed another great sail before anchoring off the ruined harbour late on the evening of 22nd August. The island was uninhabited apart from a small army contingent and two police officers. There was an Italian community resident on the island until Tunisian independence and their dwellings are now overgrown and inhabited only by sheep. The water was perfectly clear but not enough for Joe to avoid a rather nasty jellyfish while snorkelling in the shallows.

On our passage along the coast we continued from Galite to Sidi bou Said. The town features on many holiday brochures; it is full of pretty white and blue dwellings and apparently the home of many artists though on our visit street vendors were far more in evidence. We travelled by train to Tunis, the bustling capital, got lost in the medina and saw the famous mosaics at the Bardo museum. Nearby Carthage is a must to visit for everyone sometime in their life. From nine hundred years before the birth of Christ it was the wealthiest and most fought over city in the known world and gateway to the Eastern Mediterranean. Rather belatedly there appear to be some efforts to preserve what remains. Joe and I were truly overawed by the magnificence of what we saw – temples, baths, a naval harbour; all to be revisited with Sue in the autumn.

To reach Hammamet, where we had arranged to leave Victoria Rose for the winter, we had to round Cap Bon, the north eastern point of Tunisia. It is famed for strong winds and rough seas and it lived up to its reputation. With force seven winds and a big swell we were flying along, Joe enjoying it immensely and smiling from ear to ear. As I provided him with a mug of tea one particularly large wave filled the cockpit and dumped a large amount of water in the cabin.

We broke our journey at another fishing port, Kelibia, with the wind still blowing strongly and spent the next day drying the boat. No damage other than a mobile phone that could not be revived.

Port Yasmine is a large European style marina surrounded by tourist hotels. It has little to remind you that you are in Tunisia but seems a secure place to winter and at a very affordable cost. Joe and I arrived there early in September. We had some further sails along the coast visiting Monastir, Sousse and El Kantaoui. We spent a few days carrying out routine maintenance interspersed with explorations inland by local bus. A friendly group of live-a-boards overwinter at Port Yasmine and we flew home on the 13th September reassured that they would keep a watchful eye on Victoria Rose.

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Port_Yasmine

Sue and I will return soon to Hammamet for a couple weeks, will tidy Victoria Rose up for the winter, revisit Carthage together and hopefully arrange a few days visiting the desert.

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Hammamet

We have had another great summer. We have covered two thousand sea miles, less than we had expected in part due to adverse winds but also a reluctance to leave some of the wonderful places we visited. The Mediterranean is a wonderful cruising ground but the winds are not always predictable and often very strong.

North Africa is special. Hot, dusty, smelly. Arabs, as much as you can generalise about any race, are kind, welcoming and most generous. They will share their meal with you but also steal anything you are silly enough to leave lying around.

Victoria Rose performed splendidly and though probably the smallest boat cruising the med proved more than adequate for our needs.

It has been lovely to return to the lush green of England but we are already making plans for next year in the warmer climes.

Happy Sailing from David, Sue and Joe

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Victoria Rose

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