And we are sailing again!
So our engine broke down and we had to exchange it for a new one, remember?
Those almost 3 months between beginning of November and Mid-January were tough on us, financially and morally. Being stuck on an island tucked away in the South-West of Sardinia, not knowing how everything would turn out and if we could go on with our adventure.
But we kept going and as I’m writing this we are berthed in the port of Tanger, Morocco (terrible berth by the way) and for those who are interested, this is the route we took to get here.
Starting from S. Antioco our first stop was Carloforte (the pretty island we returned to after our engine breakdown on our way to Menorca), just 22nm away – don’t forget: we had a new engine and a new autopilot system and both needed some testing and getting used to. Better do this before our next try to get the Baleares, we said. I’m still wondering if Giuseppe of Marina Sifredi in Carloforte looked a little horrified seeing us come in again. After we had left for the opposite island to get our engine installed he was probably relieved to see us take off. Well, lucky him, we only stayed in Carloforte for a night (he didn’t even charge us, darling) and after having gained some confidence in Super Mario, our new Volvo and Captn Hardy, the autopilot, we set sail the next day for Menorca. Or Mallorca. We weren’t sure at that point if the good weather would last long enough to go all the way to Mallorca.
A rough trip
However, the first 10 hours were awful: a choppy sea, gusty wind, some rain and above all our psychological state (we were all nervous) plus the fact the we somehow forgot how to store things properly (everything flew around and this noise makes seasickness worse) we all ended up seasick. Even Ric fed the fish more than once, also Jari (Yannick was still in Germany at that point) wasn’t well and myself, well. Let’s just say not many of my airplane sick bags were left after these 10 hours. I was so unwell, I couldn’t move, I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t as much as turn my head. To end my misery I took seasickness pills for the first time. Since I had to throw up again only a short while after taking them I wasn’t convinced they’d had the time to have an effect so I took another one. The next thing I know was waking up in Gibraltar. No, just joking, but I seriously knocked myself out and for a couple of hours I couldn’t keep my eyes open and I even think I drooled and I never drool, scary.
But when I woke up from my self-induced coma I felt better and I could see that the rest of the crew was back to their old selves.
The second day was perfect sailing, cold but with sunshine and dolphins. I sent Ric to bed and had a long and beautiful watch outside in the cockpit, listening to podcasts and music. This is what I suffer for, these beautiful sailing days when there’s nothing except the sea and the wind around you and your thoughts.
Since the weather looked promising we decided to skip Menorca (with a very heavy heart) and sail straight to Mallorca.
Money trouble in Mallorca and family reunion
Mallorca, well, all in all was a mixed experience. Palma is certainly beautiful and interesting, lots of art deco houses, culture, nice cafes and restaurants. Which we couldn’t afford anyway. We met my friend’s sister, her husband and baby (and dog and cat) who’ve lived there for years and we had the most lovely time (thank you so much for taking the time to show us around!!).
At the same time we felt strangely out of place amongst all these fancy boats and ships and prices were undermining that (1 night in the marina 70 Euros in low season, just for reference in Cartagena, mainland Spain, we payed 20.). Plus we got mugged, very strange story: We had rented a car for a couple of days (which is funnily super cheap) and drove around the island. Beautiful scenery and picturesque villages, we have to give Mallorca that. Although it sometimes feels a little museum-like when a village is obviously mainly occupied by foreigners with a holiday home. So in winter there are rarely any people living there and some of the most beautiful villages seem rather dead.
At one of the numerous miradors (viewpoints) we made a stop and hiked up some stairs away from the car.
After returning we noticed the back door being unlocked, which was strange because all of the other doors seemed to be locked just fine. I didn’t give it another thought until I needed to pay the tunnel toll and I realized that all of my bills were missing (the purse was still there with all cards and coins). We looked everywhere and traced every single step back from when we left in the morning but nothing. The only explanation was the viewpoint and the unlocked door, at not other time I had left my bag inside the car.
Another thing people tell you over and over again: Don’t leave valuables in the car. And of course Rike has to learn the hard way, as always. 180€ gone, the money I had taken out of the ATM just before we went (I NEVER have that much money in my purse) to pay the marina, great. And that 2 days before my birthday. Mallorca was dead for me.
In short for fellow sailors – Mallorca:
The bay of Palma de Mallorca is ok for anchoring, there are decently protected spots at Las Isletes (a bit to the West) and directly next to harbor pier next to the Cathedral (in calm conditions, the swell can be very annoying for monos).
It is strictly prohibited to berth inside the harbor anywhere else than inside one of the pretty expensive marinas. For our 13,80m mono marina La Longa charged us almost €70 per night. The other marinas were slightly cheaper but not much. This was in January.
Soller in the North looked like a good and protected spot for mooring and from February on there is a picturesque train connection to Palma de Mallorca. We didn’t have the time to go so we spent some days near Santa Ponsa. Santa Ponsa itself has a very protected but very expensive marina (price almost the same as in Palma) but just around the corner to the South is Port Adriano. The Philipp Stark designed posh marina was surprisingly much less expensive, €34 per night incl. all facilities.
Car rental is at its cheapest in Mallorca. We had a medium sized car for 5 days and payed less then €40. There were much cheaper offers than that but then with strange extra conditions.
The Spanish mainland: More friends and a road trip
When the weather finally let us leave we went straight to Alicante. My best friend from when I was in grade 5 and 6 lives there now with her fiance and their daughter and I hadn’t seen her in more than 20 years, what a reunion! Together with my parents who flew in to post-celebrate my birthday we were quite a troop.
We liked Alicante and we would have stayed even longer but it was still winter in the Mediterranean and the weater dictated our itinerary so off we sailed, next stop Torrevieja (totally not worth mentioning, one of the most boring places I have ever been, sorry Torrevieja. Even the girl in the tourist office said that there was nothing to see in Torrevieja except the sea and the salt, well that says SOMETHING). But Cartagena completely reimbursed us: Very charming seaside town tucked in a natural harbour rimmed with old air raid shelters from the Spanish Civil War and the marina was super cheap! We had the best time exploring and walking around, filling up on tapas and „verlegen“ school into two of the towns interesting museum: the Civil War Museum (set up in an old bunker) and the underwater archeological museum – a very cool (inexpensive) hands-on museum right at the waterfront.
Jari’s oldest friend’s father had just bought himself a little house near Marbella and we decided to sail there and say hello. Also I had my next job coming up and Malaga is a good place to catch an airplane.
We ended up staying in Fuengirola (bland, extremely touristy and hence convenient old fishing town near Malaga) for 2 weeks. My wonderful friend Marta came down from Madrid with her family to see us and we had the best day together.
After they had left we rented a car and explored Andalusia: Ronda (absolutely loved Ronda, such an amazing setting), Seville (where we visited the famous bullfight arena. Interesting, but still nothing I’d like to see ‚live’), the Sierra Nevada (which was indeed ‚nevada’!), Guadix (live-in caves) and Granada. In Granada we got really lucky with our hostel (White Nest Granada). They gave us their nicest room on the top floor with direct view of the Alhambra!
The Moorish Invasion, Spanish Inquisition and Spain’s colonialisation of the new world were school topics during those 4 days, I don’t even know who learned more, us or the boys!
In short for fellow sailors – Spain, Mediterranean cost:
Alicante: expensive marina, beginning of February they still charged something between €60 and 70 for our 13,80 mono. We opted to go to Santa Pola instead. Not ideal because you need a car but the Club Nautico there was much cheaper, just €28 per night including all facilities. It makes to rent a car in Alicante if you have your boat in Santa Pola and want to get around, public transport is not good.
Torrevieja: Forget about Torrevieja. Apparently it used to be a good spot for anchoring inside the protected harbor but anchoring is not allowed anymore although at times tolerated. Also with the relatively new Salinas marina (€35 for in February) space for anchoring has dwindled considerably. We didn’t think there was anything to see there anyway.
Cartagena: A popular place for yachties to winter aboard and rightful so, Cartagena is super charming, the harbor is very protected (natural harbor) and marina prices are low. We stayed in the RCRC and payed €20 including everything. We’d come back anytime!
Fuengirola (Malaga): Malaga marina was too expensive for us (I think I remember something around €40 per night) and we were looking for somewhere to stay at least for 2 weeks. I had to leave for a job and we wanted to do some inland traveling. Fuengirola is a bit South West to Malaga and has a convenient connection to both Malaga and the airport. (35/35 mins respectively). The night there cost us €23 including everything in February. The town itself doesn’t have much to offer. Interesting fact: It has the biggest Finnish community outside Finnland. Menus are in Finnish and you find Finnish real estate agencies on every corner.
Gibraltar: Monkeys, tunnels and fish&chips
Another storm kept us longer than we had anticipated and when we eventually arrived Gibraltar it was already beginning of March!
And we liked Gibraltar very much, it’s just such an interesting place with so much to see even though it’s really only this rock. Being part of the U.K. we could finally stock up on all things British: tea, clotted cream, crackers, cheese, lemon curd, curley wurley and more tea. And pie. Shortbread. Walker crisps. Gibraltar’s old town (surrounded by a strong fortress-like wall) is a curious mix between Mediterranean and English architecture and very charming.Of course we needed to have fish and chips. And walk up the rock to see the tunnels and the monkeys. Pity we only had little time, the rock offers so many cool hikes!
In short for fellow sailors – Bay of Gibraltar:
In Gibraltar you can either stay on the Spanish side (La Linea, Marina Alcaidesa) or in Gibraltar (Ocean Village or the other marina that I don’t recall the name right now. Sheppard Marina and Marina Bay don’t have been incorporated into Ocean Village Marina.). Since we arrived beginning of March Alcaidesa in La Linea was cheaper for us (€18 excl. water and electricity). In theory La Linea and Gibraltar are very close but the marina is quite big and you still need to walk across the border to Gib. After that it’s another 15 minutes to the center and Gibraltar is not a nice place for pedestrians. In the end we moved the boat to Ocean Village Marina which is literally next to the airport runway. Sounds like much noise but not many planes leave and go to Gibraltar so it’s more spectacular than annoying. We payed 23GBP excl. water and electricity for our 13,80 mono. If you come between November and February Ocean Village is cheaper than Alcaidesa, 12-15m boats only pay 12.50GBP!! Great place to winter.
Anchoring is now prohibited next to the runway, unfortunately. If you want to anchor the only option is in the bay of La Linea (for example next to the marina pontoon). Uncomfortable for monos with swell. Dinghying to the Gibraltar side is allegedly forbidden, you have to leave the tender in La Linea. Best to put the tender inside the marina (with a low fee) because La Linea seems to be infamous for Dinghy theft.
Diesel is super cheap in Gibraltar (60c/l)!! So make sure to fill up especially if you heading East into the Med. It’s even cheaper than in Morocco (90c/l)
Crossing over to Africa
But of course, the weather, our old friend, urged us to go on, cross the Strait of Gibraltar to get to Ceuta and Tanger before the Westwind would set in. And we got to Ceuta just fine, we even had to switch the motor on, there was so little wind. Ceuta: another interesting place, being one of the two Spanish enclaves at the Moroccan coast. We took the boys to the border to discuss immigration. After Gibraltar that was the second very curious frontier situation they had seen and it really got them thinking.
In short for fellow sailors – Ceuta:
First of all: Ceuta marina is comparably expensive (€45.- for our 13,80 mono in March). It’s the only marina and the only possible place to put a boat inside the harbor. Anchoring is possible on the other side of the peninsula near the Moroccan border but only in calm conditions and then I wouldn’t leave the boat alone.
Tricky Strait of Gibraltar
According to the weather forecast we should have had the same calm conditions the following day but guess what – the weather had a different plan! Muhahaha. We packed up and motored out of the Ceuta marina only to find a rough see and strong winds from the West. Now you try and go West through the Strait of Gibraltar when there’s West wind. Remember there is a constant strong current going into the Mediterranean as well, so we literally treading water, sometimes even going backwards. We gave up, anchored off the South of Ceuta (Ceuta’s only marina is really expensive because well it’s the only one) and tried again the next day. Again to no avail, it was even worse than the previous day because the waves were higher and we couldn’t use the engine. We gave up again and crossed the Strait once more to go back to the Bay of Gibraltar. Which was the only course that was left if we didn’t want to go back to Mallorca.
Finally then after our third attempt to get to Tanger we made it! And that’s where we are now. Originally planning to only stay 1 or days and guess what. We are stuck again. The one bad day that was predicted turned into 3 very bad days. First because of the storm and then even more for the surge that was pushed into the port by the Poniente, the easterlies (yes, that’s right, NOW we had wind from the East, thank you very much) and that let Ponyo jump up and down and tested here cleats and ropes to the maximum. Our railing wire broke, we almost lost one of our fenders and we spent 2 nights to keep Ponyo as calm as possible, safe our ropes from chafe and the cleat from ripping out, lovely. And Tanger’s port office has the nerve to charge boats more than 20€ for this berth (without electricity, water or any other facilities).
However, Tanger is fascinating to us, especially the medina with its little alleys, markets and buildings from long gone colonial times. Spy movies (not only) are regularly set here and I totally get why. Of course in those flicks (Jason Bourne Ultimatum, Inception, Spectre…) you’ll only ever get to see the medina, the old town, never the much bigger, modern part of Tanger. But the old part is just exotic and chaotic enough to be the perfect backdrop for a spy movie. And it’s close to Europe and convenient for production I guess.
Jari fell in love with Tanger right away which I thought was funny because he normally prefers orderly and structured. When I asked him about it he said: You know, there’s just still so much Taiwan inside me and this feels like home! The kids, a constant source of surprise…
Next stop Rabat, stay tuned!
In short for fellow sailors – Tanger, Morocco
There is a marina currently being built in Tanger and allegedly it’s going to open this summer (2017). It looked pretty done when we were there so maybe that’s realistic. Otherwise you will have to stay in the harbor and that can get very uncomfortable if the conditions aren’t right. We had 4 terrible days with strong Easterlies where our railing wire broke and one of our cleats almost got ripped out. For this we still payed 250DH (Dirham, about €23) per night!!!!!! But if you are there don’t miss out to have lunch at the fish market opposite, delicious. And don’t get talked into a guided tour upon arrival. We ended up paying him (he said he was the new marina’s translator, no idea if that was true) 250DH for 2 hours and at the end of the tour (which was interesting) he took us to a overpriced restaurant (780DH for the 4 of us is much too expensive for Morocco).