Valencia – 5th to 8th July

With Windependent in Valencia for so long I took the opportunity of having some more work done on her, opening up the starboard fore peak to make a sail locker, fitting a gangway, a shoe rack and getting the engines and fire extinguishers serviced ….. and of course I had to come back a couple of times to check up on the work.

My first visit at the end of May was pretty un eventful, with the work just starting but my return at the start of July was busier.

Starboard Forepeak - before
Starboard Forepeak – before

With the work in the starboard forepeak complete I have now acquired about 4 extra cubic metres of storage.  So my first job was to fit 12 large cleats in my new sail locker on which to hang mooring lines and control lines for my cruising chute and the Code Zero sail I am buying from North Sails who have a sail loft in Valencia.

Starboard Forepeak - after
Starboard Forepeak – after

Windependent also needed a good wash down.  First I found my compact expanding hose had rotted so my hard plastic hose came out and then I broke the handle of the deck wash brush. We had bought it with us from the UK and, realistically, it was never meant for scrubbing decks, more suited to gentle car washing. That said it did sterling service and has now been replaced with the marine version; you could pole vault with this version, it’s massive – apparently, with the correct attachment, it can become a boat hook as well!

The gangway was simple to fit but with the outer end resting on the pontoon it risks damage if the boat moves around too much, or we get to a marina where the boat is lower than the quayside – I needed to support the outer end.  So I have now fashioned a bridle which attaches to the Main Halyard (the rope that pulls up the Main Sail) which keeps the gangway off the pontoon, and a couple of guy ropes to stop it waggling about.  This is the working prototype and the design will evolve.

The other job that needed doing involved the washing machine. To keep it still it is anchored with a ratchet strap and previously it had broken free, the strap was secured to by 2 brackets and 4 small screws. I made some large wooden  brackets at home and have used some proper screws. Fitting those went well but I found the strap had worn badly at the brackets; it will fail soon but I now have a new one on stand by and will use bits of the old one to protect the new!

The fire extinguishers are only a year old and ‘as new’; however, they should be inspected and certificated annually, so I did. It’s like insurance, you’ll never actually need it, will you …..?

And so we can now look forward to our return on 1 August, to begin our life as ‘live aboards’. But there are 25 busy, busy days of down sizing to get through before then.

Roger and Jo’s wedding

Although my plan was to pitch up at Marbella or Fuengirolla in Windependent and give Roger and Jo a day out on a yacht for their wedding present it wasn’t to be. Our need to be in the UK required us to find a long term berth for the boat and Valencia was the only realistic place for that following our trip to Torrevieja. Mercifully, discussing this with Roger it transpired that an early morning boat ride on the Monday after a weekend of wedding partying may not have been the best plan in the first place, and so they accepted an open invitation to a longer visit later.
So, we hired a car in at Valencia airport and drove to Malaga on the Friday, staying with Tabatha and Rafael again. On the following morning we set off in search of the Hacienda San Jose and in the best traditions of Sat Navs we ended up in the middle of a field. (Mercifully marine sat navs don’t have to contend with those!) But combining the written directions with the sat nav we finally arrived.

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The venue was idyllic. A huge 10 bed house up in the mountains with stunning views, lovely gardens and a pool. The weather had been the main concern as it had been overcast and threatening rain; at least it was on my salty sea dog forecasts. However as the afternoon wore on the clouds disappeared and the sun came out and the weather was perfect for the rest of the day.

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The ceremony was held outside, very family orientated, and was followed with a traditional Wedding Breakfast BBQ.   All in all a great day and many thanks to Rog and Jo for the invite.  Unfortunately, with a drive back to Malaga and then a flight home the following morning we had to say our farewells long before the end of the party but it had been a great day and we wish both Jo and Roger the best and look forward to giving them their ‘wedding cruise’ in the not too distant future.
And so, back home for the final push to get away!

Calpe to Valencia

Our original plan had been to stop off in Javea, a mere 20 or so miles from Calpe, but we decided to skip that and get back to Valencia early so we could meet with the company doing the work I want to be done on the boat and have time to discuss it.   

Ifach from the north
Ifach from the north

So, we set off from Calpe on Sunday morning, bound for Gandia, under almost cloudless skies and were immediately under sail, south around Ifach and then north east towards Cabo de la Nao.   As soon as we cleared Ifach we had 20 to 25 knot northerly winds which had us sailing as close to the wind as we could at a quite impressive 6 knots with one reef in the main sail.

Tacking towards Cabo de la Nao
Tacking towards Cabo de la Nao

As the morning progressed the wind shifted clockwise, known as veering, to the north east.   This was exactly where we wanted to go and so as the wind was still strong enough to sail I practiced tacking back and forth in an attempt to make Cabo de la Nao.  The wind helped a little as it continued to veer which allowed us to sail more towards the ‘Cabo’.   Unfortunately, just as it got to a nice easterly direction and we could turn to head north west, the wind dropped away so we had to use the engines to help keep our speed up.

But the weather was still fine, cloudless blue skies and almost perfect visibility.   We could see the top of Ibiza as we passed Cabo de la Nao some 50 miles away to the east.

As the afternoon progressed the wind continued to veer and slowly increase to a healthy 15 knots, unfortunately from dead astern of us.   By this time we were looking at getting into Gandia at about 7 pm and although from a purists point of view we should have had the main sail and cruising chute up and been running down wind on a series of broad reaches this would have delayed our arrival, and Valeria was making more Bacalhao …… the sails remained down and the engine remained on and we arrived by 6.30 and were all tied up and cooking by 7! 

The forecast for Monday was good for us.  The wind started from north of east in the morning before becoming easterly and then more south easterly and building to 15 knots.   We left Gandia mid morning in gentle 9 or 10 knot winds from the east but in a very lumpy, confused sea left over from the winds of the day before.   With the winds being relatively light every time we slid off a wave the sails would bang, we were literally having the wind knocked out of them, and so we made a rather less than comfortable 2 or 3 knots towards Valencia; but with all day to cover 30 miles we were going to sail.

As forecast the wind veered towards the south east and increased and as they became established the seas followed suit and by mid afternoon we were doing 5 or 6 knots in a 12 to 14 knot wind from just behind us.   This gave me a chance to ‘test’ the cruising chute on this point of sail; unsuccessfully as the wind was not far enough behind us.   The chute worked but it didn’t give us any more speed than the plain sails alone, so we dropped it again. Good to know though.   With the sea a little less lumpy Valeria did some preparation for tonight’s dinner and we had sandwiches for lunch.

The weather for the whole day was fine and sunny, although a little cold in the wind.   Visibility was excellent again but the coast line north of Cabo de la Nao is rather flat and featureless as opposed to the magnificent cliffs to the south, in fact the entire coast seems to be one long line of buildings from the Cabo de la Nao to Valencia and beyond!    But as we got closer to Valencia we could see the familiar building in the City of the Arts as soon as they peered over the horizon.   

We arrived back in Valencia a 6.30, checked in and were put back on the same berth we left a couple of weeks back.  We then went through our, now well established end of day routines as I tidied up the sails and ropes and put away binoculars and radios and life jackets while Valeria made dinner.

And so we are now back in Valencia and plan to leave the boat here until the end of July while we return to the UK.  While here we intend to have some more adaptations done to the boat, primarily opening up the deck in the starboard fore peak (old floor in the sharp end on the right hand side) so it can be used as a sail and rope locker and we are going to invest in a gangway; it was either that or crampons!   By July we should then be fully equipped to tackle our exploration of the Med …… apart from the extra sail I want ……

Two days in Calpe

Calpe has been inhabited on and off since the Bronze age.   It occupies an area of strategic importance  on a route through the mountains and so merited fortification by its various inhabitants, Roman, Moorish and Spanish. Being close to the coast raids by Barbary Pirates were common and apparently in 1687 290 residents were taken to Algeria by said pirates and held for ransom for 5 years!   Fishing took off in the 19th century and tourism in the 20th.   There are still traces of old Calpe in the town but not much. 

DSC_0115The area around Calpe is heavily built up but still quite picturesque.   On Friday we had a leisurely morning on board then went for a walk.   Our first port of call was a salt lake close by which is the home to flamingos; not so many now as the town has surrounded the area completely but it was cool to see flamingos in such and urban setting.  

Penon de Ifach from Les Bassetes
Penon de Ifach from Les Bassetes

From there we walked 3 or so miles north along the coast to Les Bassetes, you may remember us sailing south passed this place the week before.   We walked along to the Reial Club Nautico de Les Bassetes, a grand title for a minute ‘harbour’.   It is the base for a couple of small sail and motorDSC_0093 boats and a local Diving Centre and having seen the waters from above I can see the attraction of diving here.  

Rock pool at the end of the Les Bassetes breakwater
Rock pool at the end of the Les Bassetes breakwater

We had tapas and a beer in the Club Nautico, with an audience, before walking back along the costal path which runs for almost the entire distance and it is very pretty. 

Reial Club Nautico de Les Bassetes
Reial Club Nautico de Les Bassetes

On Saturday we walked the opposite direction, west towards the centre of Calpe making for the reconstructed remains of the fort at the top of the town.   Another 3 miles or so, and a lot of it up hill.  

14th Century walls of Calpe
14th Century walls of Calpe
Streets in old Calpe
Streets in old Calpe
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The Spanish Steps, Calpe Style.
Nice mural, but wheres the way out?
Nice mural, but where is the way out?

DSC_0137You may be surprised to hear that we found a Tapas Bar for some light refreshments before heading back, down hill, to the sea front before walking back along the promenade to the marina.  We spent the rest of the afternoon on board chillin’, reading, blogging etc before getting a cab to Benissa, a town in the hills about 15 km above Calpe, for a religious festival, another flower offering.

DSC_0144Benissa is a modern town centred around the church in the town square, and it is a very impressive church to, apparently relatively modern.   The festival was another parade of folks in local costume bringing flowers to the church for a picture of the saint to be decorated.   We had a bite to eat and watched the processions and then the decorating but decided not to wait until 12.30 for the fireworks.   Unfortunately we’d been well and truly spoiled by the ‘Valencia Experience’!   DSC_0160All the same it was really good to see people of all ages so immersed in their local culture.   We got a cab back and waited up until the fireworks began as we would have had a ring side seat from the back of the boat.  Unfortunately the clouds had come down and it even rained slightly so although we heard them we couldn’t see the fireworks.

 

Torrevieja to Calpe

We left Torrevieja just before 9 with 55 miles to cover to reach Calpe, which doesn’t sound a lot but when your speed is only 5 knots that is 11 hours, not taking into account the time taken to get out of one port and iDSC_0054nto another which can add an hour to your day.   We set off in a moderate westerly breeze on our port beam (left hand side) reaching 15 knots, which gave us 5.5, sometimes 6 knots over the ground, so with sails set and engines off we glided north east along the coast.

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Navigation is now all electronic, paper charts, pencils and parallel rules are just so last century!  I do have them but they are in a glass fronted case labelled ‘In case of emergency break glass’.   This is a screen shot from the Helm Station display.  The chart is the easy bit to identify, the triangles are other ships with AIS transponders.   Top right is the ‘Sail Steer’ display, it is cut down to fit on this screen but shows basic wind information and the bottom right section is the Auto pilot display.    The right hand ‘margin’ remains present on all displays and shows Auto pilot details, SOG and COG details; that is Speed over the Ground and Course over the Ground, the boat’s sat-nav position, depth and time, the bottom grey section is of vital importance as it displays the input for the ‘car radio’.

shot004Our route took us north passed Santa Pola and the island of Tabarca, although by this point the wind had dropped off to a mere 5 knots and so to keep up the speed we were running one engine as well as the main sail and jib.

Cabo de Santa Pola to port
Cabo de Santa Pola to port
Isla Tabarca to starboard
Isla Tabarca to starboard

 

 

 

 

 

But ….. once clear of Tabarca with the wind building slowly to 14 knots from behind us it was time to swop the engine for the cruising chute and do some proper down wind sailing.

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The wind continued to build and within the hour we dropped the chute and continued under main sail and jib and were reaching speeds of over 7.5 knots in 22 knot winds as we passed Cap de l’Horta.  

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This is the full Sail Steer screen, True and Apparent Wind speeds and angles to the left, Waypoint information to the right and the green and red sectors show where we can and cannot sail, the green spot is Calpe and just inside our no go down wind area.   That was fine as I wanted to ensure we had plenty of sea room as we went passed the cliffs north of Benidorm. 

Within 2 hours we were ‘screaming’ up towards Benidorm touching 8.5 knots in 25 knots of wind from astern.

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As we passed the Isla de Benidorm we took one reef in the main sail which only slowed us down to 6.5 to 7 knots.   As we progressed north the wind kept moving around to the south, meaning that as we got closer to Calpe the wind was almost dead astern, a point we can’t sail.   Ordinarily we could have ‘gybed’ or changed course to put the wind on the other side and sailed a northerly course into the bay before changing course again to put the wind back where it was to approach Calpe, this DSC_0073would have added time to our day and we wanted to get there before dark, and, so we dropped the sails and motored directly for the last few miles, which as it turned out was the only actual way of getting there as the wind suddenly died away again and we arrived off the entrance to Calpe at 7, after only a 10 hour passage.

Calpe is a small marina run by another Royal Yacht Club.   As in Altea they don’t use floating pontoons but jetties on concrete posts and again getting on and off the boat a real mountaineering exercise, with a water obstacle.   We have decided that we need a gangway.

Once secure on our berth I went and ‘booked in’, Registration, Insurance and Passports, and then came back and tidied up the deck, covering the sail, coiling lines, stowing the cruising chute and packing away life jackets and safety lines, while Valeria made dinner – Bacalhau com Natas – Salt Cod and potatoes in a cream sauce.   Boca Nervosa de novo.      I say made, but that doesn’t take into account the preparation, all of which Valeria did while we were approaching Calpe as I was just sitting up on deck with the wind in my hair, through the vents in my Tarp Hat, obviously.  We ended our evening watching the rest of a film we’d started in Torrevieja and then turned in, quite tired in fact.

Torrevieja

The trip from Alicante to Torrevieja was straight forward and uneventful.  We set off in flat calm conditions and as the day progressed the wind picked up to an ideal 13 knots on our beam, about and hour from Torrevieja.

We’re here for repairs to the watermaker and some ‘snagging’ and the Lagoon dealer had reserved us a berth – it was just big enough for us to squeeze into with fenders each side, if the fenders had been bigger we wouldn’t have fitted!

On Monday morning the technician came to fix the water maker, a defective valve was the problem, but it all runs perfectly now.  While he worked Valeria and I undertook some much needed cleaning.  We then had lunch in the Marina and came back to do some laundry.   So far there doesn’t seem to be anything much of interest in Torrevieja and so our excursions ashore may just be limited to some light shopping.  .

On Tuesday, nothing happened as the Lagoon dealer here had to get Lagoon’s agreement that the door and leaking air con were warrantly jobs.   We went shopping.  We walked along the sea front and then to the supermarket.   From there we went to the Mercado Central which we’d hoped would have loads of fresh fuit and veg at reasonable prices – no such luck.  By Altean and Valencian standards it was very disappointing and more expensive than the supermarket!

Wednesday the guy turned up to finish off the ‘snagging’ and in the afternoon we went to a local shopping centre to do some clothes shopping.

A pretty un eventful visit really, but then Torrevieja only existed as an old watch tower, the Torre Vieja, in the early 19th century.  It was a centre for salt production for most of that century and in the 20th century began to take off as a holiday destination and was then inevitably ‘discovered’ by the expats.

But this now means we are free to set off east again on our return journey to Valencia, planning to stop in Calpe and Javea en route.

 

 

Alicante

Leaving Altea at a leisurely 9.30 we motor sailed down to Punta Bombarda and then turned south west along the cliffs north of Benidorm.   The wind was from the right direction to sail but as it approached the cliffs it turned parallel to them and so we were heading directly into them, until we got to the Ensenda de Benidorm, Benidorm Bay when the influence of the cliffs disappeared and with a slight alteration to the planned passage we hauled out the jib and motor sailed in towards the coast, passing north of the Isla Benidorm.  

Benidorm from the bay
Benidorm from the bay

The wind speed was only 10 knots which under sail alone, close hauled (as close to the wind as we can get) would give us 2 or 3 knots – we needed to make 4 or 5, hence the engine.  One engine in these conditions would need to run at 2700 rpm or more to make that speed, motor sailing we could run the engine at 2000 rpm.     Although tacking back and forth added a couple of hours to our passage, it did give me loads of practice tacking and using the auto pilot steering to the wind rather than a course, which so far I’ve not been able to do.   As we got down to Cabo de l’Horta the wind picked up from east of south and held steady at 15 knots, almost our perfect point of sail as we were heading just south of west; the wind was right on our port beam and we were making 5 knots under sail alone, as good as we’d have made under engines !! 

We arrived of Alicante at 4.30 pm and were safely alongside by 5.  More massive yachts and a bill to match!   The Capitania was like the entry lobby to a large hotel, although the facilities were rather basic and the internet only worked in the building.

Ayuntamiento
Ayuntamientothe town hall

The following day we took a wander around a bit of the ‘old town’ of Alicante.  The Ayuntamiento, the town hall, is quite an impressive building but the plaza outside is too small to be allow you to get the fiull impression.

Mercado Central
Mercado Central

We stopped off at the Mercado Central, the two story fresh food market, where we bought a large supermarket 5p carrier bag of selected fruit for 2 euros. 

Basilica de Santa Maria
Basilica de Santa Maria

We wandered assed a couple of large and impressive churches  both apparently from the 14 or 1500s.   Again the town had encroached so close to them that it was difficult to appreciate the magnificence and scale of the buildings.   In the both churches there were services in progress but the congregations could be numbered on the fingers of one hand, but it was a Saturday afternoon I suppose.

 

Concatedral de Sant Nicolàs de Barí
Concatedral de Sant Nicolàs de Barí
Calle Miguel Soler
Calle Miguel Soler
PLaza Gabriel Miro
PLaza Gabriel Miro

And then we had lunch in a tapas bar called La Barra de Cesar Anca just off the Plaza Gabriel Miro, and that is where the sightseeing plan faultered, well ended really.   The food was delicious and definitely not conducive to climbing the hill to the Santa Barabara Castle.   We managed to make it along the sea front esplanade back to the boat and that was it !

Passig Esplanada dEspanya
Passig Esplanada dEspanya

 We ended the day with washing the side of the boat closest to the pontoon, laundry and tapas for a late diner, with wine of course.

The area around Alicante has been inhabited for over 7000 years apparently, with the first settlement being founded by the Phoenicians, although with a day to explore we didn’t see much of that history.   My impressions of Alicante, based on this fleeting visit were rather disappointing, although I am probably doing the town a dis-service.  The old town is very cramped, three and four story buildings built side by side giving a rather cramped and crowded feeling.  By comparison Altea was more ‘traditional’ and Valencia far more beautiful, vibrant and interesting.

Altea

We sailed today, more than we motored ! We left Denia in a westerly Force 4, brilliant as we were heading south east so we sailed out from the coast with the wind in our port quarter, over our left shouder, for a couple of hours before turning south with the wind on the other side to run south. We were doing 6 knots at times!

Cabo San Antonio, south of Denia
Cabo San Antonio, south of Denia

Just after noon the wind stopped, as in died, before spining around to come from the south west, by then just where we were headed, so we motored.
Valeria wanted to do some sight seeing and get in close to Les Bassets, and by 2 the wind had shifted far enough round to enable us to sail into the bay under our Cruising Chute; I say sail, but it was more ‘drifting with style’.

The Chute in action
The Chute in action

The wind was light and fluky but we managed 3 knots at times and being under a half mile off shore we were the biggest, most colourful thing afloat; the Brasinglish are coming!!   I know you’ve seen this before, but it is pretty awesome!

The other use for the Chute .....
The other use for the Chute …..

We had a leisurely lunch as we drifted passed Les Bassets and had to motor out of the bay but as we turned west for Altea, although the wind was from the south west we could just sail close hauled in the general direction of our destination.
Upon arrival they only had one berth that we could fit onto and this was on a rather high quay.  Luckily it was on stilts as the only way we could get ashore was to drop Windy from the davits so we could get close enough (Windy fitted under the jetty) …… even then it was a mountaineering exercise to get ashore for dinner!
And what a dinner. Restaurant Oustau at the top of the hill right below the old church.   Delicious. Monkfish Mouse followed by a Steak with two-cheese sauce. OMG. I wanted to lick the plate. Valeria accused me of being “Boca nervosa’ …… think Pacman and you’ll get the idea.
So we had a full days sailing on every point of sail, tacking and gybing, with all our sails, and a well earned, awesome dinner. Tomorrow we have an entire day of sightseeing, and sampling the local cuisine ……. Pacman …… before setting off again.

Denia

Leaving Valencia we got the Chute up immediately and it would have been superb if we were heading for Mallorca ……. unfortunately we weren’t and so as the wind settled down to a brisk south-easterly we battered our way south-east under engines.

We arrived in Denia at about 7pm for an overnight stay; mercifully so as it was bloody expensive! Only got myself to blame though, the super yachts on the next door pontoons were a clue ….. we were the smallest boat there!  And so to bed hoping for “Fair winds and a following sea” tomorrow.

Sailing south ….

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