Tag Archives: Valencia

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.

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 ……

Outside Valencia

We didn’t spend our entire time in Valencia taking a couple of ‘day trips’ out of the city to look around. 

DSC_0017 - CopyOn the 12th we took a cab to Albufera, approximately 10 km or 20 euros south of Valencia where the paella rice fields are, or rather where they will be when they flood them in a couple of months.   We could have caught a bus but with four of us it was cheaper and move convenient in a cab. DSC_0020We were dropped off at a small jetty and took a boat ride across the Parc Natural d’Albufera de Valencia nature reserve to the town of El Palmar.   DSC_0021We had a pleasant stroll through the soon to be paddy fields, had a lazy lunch and then waited for the bus back as there were no cabs in town.

 

DSC_0038Port Saplaya is a small seaside town about 8 km north of Valencia and on the 15th we decided to visit, walking most of the way; we caught a bus for the first 1 km but then walked the rest!    Port Saplaya is a very picturesque town built around a large marina for small local boats, no yachts more than 30 feet were evident; think St Katherine’s Dock by Sea, you own an apartment and park your boat out front.   I reckon we could have squeezed Windependent in but the berths all appear to be privately owned.   DSC_0040

We didn’t stay too long as we had lunch booked at Casa Carmella, a way back towards Valencia; this is a wonderful Paella restaurant just over 3 km from the marina.   We caught a cab from Port Saplaya and Valeria gave the cabby directions in Spanish and he asked if we’d prefer to speak English.  ‘Sure, if you want to practice your English’ said Valeria, and the cabby responded in broad Sarf London having been born and raised in Southall to Spanish parents and then moved to Spain for a better quality of life ….. go figure!  We got a guided tour of the northern Valencian suburbs and countryside thrown in with the cab ride.

Casa Carmela is only open for lunch 6 days of the week and if you want Paella Valencian you have to book it in advance.   It was our second visit and Bob and Margret enjoyed the experience as much as we did.   We strolled back to the Marina to walk off our lunch! A mere 3 km!

Bob and Margaret – words and photos

les Dews

Bob and Margaret Dewhurst.   Valencia – 9 to 21 March 2016

This was our first trip to Valencia designed and beautifully project managed by Valeria (VMT stands for ‘Valeria Melo Thorne Tours’ now as well as ‘Valeria Mean Time’!). We eventually stayed with our lovely and generous hosts, Chris and Valeria, for twelve nights (they deserve a medal). I say ‘eventually’ because we had planned a trip inland but this fell through at the last minute.

Views in the City of the Arts
Views in the City of the Arts

Kind courtesy of our hosts, we spent the first few days familiarizing ourselves with 
this lovely city from its ultra-modern to the more traditional architecture.

6 oldAll this before the crowds arrived to see and take part in the famous Las Fallas. Despite reading about the Festival beforehand and hearing of it from the Valeria and Chris, nothing could have prepared us for the scale and delights of the Festival.

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Front of the Central Market
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Ceiling in the Contracts Hall of La Llonga

10 ninotStarting at the Museum of the Ninots and working through the ‘fires’(sculptures to be burned) as they were built in the days leading up to the four/five day Las Fallas extravaganza proper, we got some impression of how much effort and passion the Valencian people put into this annual affair.

12There must have been over 25 major constructions some 20m high around the city together with the associated ‘infantil’ versions for children. In all, a few hundred must have adorned the city and surroundings.   The messages they carried (either in signs attached to the individual ninots or intrinsically in the figures) 11were varied: political, satirical, comic and sentimental, erotic and sexual.  It has to be said that a certain lady politician came in for more than her fair share of stick in the political references (and even I recognized her from Valencian TV!).

Over the four/ five days of the Festival proper, there were daily mascletas (very noisy firecrackers being set off in their hundreds and sonic blasts at 2pm each day).  

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There were parades of beautifully dressed women carrying flowers, men and families and night time firework displays too.

16 fireworks still

And who could forget those lights – the length of some of the big streets and about 60m high!

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Lights at Falla Cuba

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After judging of the ninots by public vote (which we all contributed to) and the winning ninot and infantil had been selected for saving from the ‘crema’ (the actual flames of 21 Ayuntamientothe fires themselves), the huge constructions were burned all on St Joseph’s day (19 March) late at night. We joined the fire in the central square (Ayuntamiento) where there must have been half a million people.  Interestingly, crowd control, if there was any, was very light on the tiller and still all went smoothly. 

Robert on the Patio
Robert on the Patio

Away from all this, we were glad of the peace and quiet afforded by Windependent for our siestas and even the odd evening – the Marina Real Juan Carlos 1st being one of the very few quiet spots in the area over these days.

Quite street in Valencia
Quite street in Valencia

Neither of us had ever stayed on a boat before and, to be honest, we were not quite sure what to expect. The movement of the water seemed to help ne sleep and in some ways I likened the experience to living in a large but friendly sea monster with strange habits: odd creaks and noises being its hallmark.

Chris and Valeria were generous, easy-going and wonderful hosts throughout our stay and we had a great time. We seemed to laugh a lot too: words like ‘duck’ and ‘plasterer’ instantly dissolving into laughter by the end of our stay.

We enjoyed some excellent food too: Casa Montana, Casa Carmela and Habituel being particularly memorable. Having eaten Valeria & Chris out of house and ‘boat’, we left for home though our return was delayed by an unscheduled overnight stay in Dusseldorf airport (with a nice, varied bunch of fellow travellers) and our possessions arrived some 36 hours later.

We now need a holiday after all this excitement but a very big THANK YOU goes to Chris and Valeria for a truly memorable experience.

Ofrenda de Flores (Offering of Flowers)

Each year the various communities select their own ‘Fallera Mayor’, Queen of the Fire, and a Court of Ladies in Waiting.   Each year one Fallera is then selected to be the Fallera Mayor for the whole of Valencia; apparently a fiercely fought competition and expensive, the dresses alone cost many thousands of euros.  The Fallera Mayor de Valencia then presides over numerous event during the year as the face of the Fires.

DSC_0429Part of the Fires celebration involves making flower offerings to the Virgen de los Desamparados; the Virgin of the Dispossessed.  Each community joins a massive parade through the streets of Valencia ending in the Placa de la Virgen. Each of the women and girls in the parades bring a small bunch of red or white carnations which are used to decorate an enormous wooden framework statue of the Virgin constructed in the Placa de la Virgen.   DSC_0434All participants in the parades wear traditional dress and everyone is involved from the youngest to the oldest, it is quite a spectacle.  

These parades occur on the last two afternoons of the festival and involve 10s of thousands of people.

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Dressing the statue
Dressing the statue
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Statue of the Virgin, Placa de la Virgen

Las Fallas

The main reason for our visit to Valencia was Las Fallas, The Fires, a festival which traces its roots to the Middle Ages when carpenters and craftsmen burnt all their scrap wood in a massive spring cleaning exercise to celebrate the Spring Equinox.    Then the Church pointed out that for all those years they had in fact been celebrating the festival of St Joseph, the Patron Saint of Carpenters.  Good Lord, what a coincidence!!!

The original bonfires were similar to our Guy Fawkes ones, with kids going around collecting rags to dress the wooden statues they made to sit atop the bonfires, these evolved into the amazing ‘Ninots’ of today.   DSC_0088With the invention of cardboard, polystyrene, balsa wood and hot knives the current forms of statues arose.    These are works of art and very satirical in nature and absolutely no one is immune.    This year one female politician appeared as a Ninot on a large number of fires; who she is and what she’s done we have no idea but she’s obviously very ‘popular’.  The Queen and Charles even made an appearance on the one outside the Central Market!

Then having spent a year planning, fund raising (some fires can cost in the region of 500,000 Euros apparently) and building these structures they spend a couple of hours on the 19th of March burning them!   Oh, if you have qualifications in Health and Safety, or work for a local council Environmental Health organisation, look away now.

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Each village, suburb or area of town has its own organising committee, the Casal Faller, to prepare their fire and raise the funds in the community to pay for it.    The Fires, and some fantastic lighting displays are judged and awards are given.  The Fires, or rather the Casal Fallers, are ranked into various Divisions and although winners of various categories are announced I don’t know if you can be promoted or relegated as with Football.  DSC_0035The Ninots have their own individual competition and each Casal Faller will submit one to a public exhibition.  Visitors to the exhibition vote for their favourite and the winning Ninots, Adult and Childrens, go to the Fires Museum.

DSC_0036The size and complexity of these structures is what is truly amazing.   That they are built so close to buildings right in the heart of town is staggering, hence the H&S warning above – this would simply not be considered in the UK.   Once these fires are lit the fire brigade start wetting them down.   The final fire to be burnt is the one in the Ayuntamento and it is enormous, not necessarily the largest or most complex but still impressive.   And after this Nicht de Foch, Night of the Fires, the following day you would not even know it had happened, no debris, no barriers piled up on street corners, nothing.  And that applies city wide, not just in the centre.

Placa de l'Ajuntamiento -2011
Placa de l’Ajuntamiento -2011
2015
2015
2016
2016
Asociación Cultural Falla Plaza del Pilar
Asociación Cultural Falla Plaza del Pilar
Asociación Cultural Falla Plaza del Pilar
Asociación Cultural Falla Plaza del Pilar
Fire at Campanar
Fire at Campanar

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But this is not just a day time festival, many of the fires are best seen at night when flood lit and some are the centre pieces of amazing illumination displays.  One of the most impressive is Falla Cuba, which wins awards every year.

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Falla Cuba
Falla Cuba
Falla Cuba

Fireworks are the big attraction.    There are four days of competitive displays leading up to the final Nicht de Foch on the 19th, and unlike many religious festivals the date doesn’t change, at all.   There are day time fireworks at 2pm every day in the Ayuntamiento called La Mascleta, these start at the beginning of March.    And they attract enormous crowds, the Ayuntamento is rammed full and over flowing on most days, if you arrive late you don’t get in.   

The Falla Cuba
The Falla Cuba

Not that there much to see but it is all about the noise and sometimes coloured smoke – it is akin toan artillery barrage, you feel the explosions rather than see the fireworks, although if you are outside the square you miss the effect.     After a few minutes the smoke rolls across the square and you can’t see much of anything, and after a few more minutes you can’t hear much either!   Quite amazing. 

At about 1 am on the last 4 days of the festival the main firework displays are held; they are run as a competition and are impressive, really impressive.   Hundreds of tonnes of fireworks set off in 20 minute displays above the city and once you have seen these displays, every other display you see is simply ‘some fireworks’.   Again, the crowds are unbelievable.   You need to be in place maybe an hour in advance and once zero hour arrives there is little room to move, every area of the city within sight of the display appears to be full of people.

 The best place to see the displays is from the western end of the Puente de la Mar, the fireworks are launched from just north of there in the Jardin de Turia.

I used the GoPro to record a couple of the Masclettas and the night time displays but the footage simply doesn’t do the spectacle justice.  You have to go and see for yourself.

Valencia in photos

Valencia is a lovely city to just wander round, lively and full of cafes and restaurants and tapas bars and wonderful architecture.   The big decision here was which photos to leave out.

Placa de la Reina and the Cathedral

The Placa de la Reina is almost the geographical centre of the old city with the Cathedral on the north side of the square. Construction started in the mid 13th century and took almost 400 years to complete!   Behind the cathedral is the Placa de la Virgen and the Basilica de la Virgen de los Desamparados.

Placa de la Virgin
Placa de la Virgin
Altar in the Basilica de la Virgen de los Desamparados
Domed ceiling in the Basilica de la Virgen de los Desamparados

Valencia is very easy get around with a good bus and train / tram network. Although the Marina is a few kilometres outside of town the Marina tram stop is within 10 minutes’ walk.   Train / Tram lines 5 and 8 go from the Marina to the airport direct and stop off in the centre of town, Xativa, which is directly outside the main rail station and bull ring.    The station has one of the most ornamental ticket halls in existence!

Central Station
One wing of the Station Booking Hall

With the Fallas in progress the City’s population grows exponentially and the pedestrian traffic and road closures for the festival mean that cars and buses don’t really stand much of a chance.   At a guess we have walked anywhere between 5 and 8 km per day on average, stopping every now and then for beer and tapas obviously.

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Post Office, Plaza del Ayuntamiento

Possibly the most ornate building in town is the Palacio Marques de dos Aguas, renovated in a  typically over the top Baroque style.

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Palacio Marques de dos Aguas

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TDSC_0153he Central Market, opposite La Llonga was built around 1900 and sells an amazing array of fresh food.  It has a great tapas bar inside as well.

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Mercado Colon
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Wall painting in Carrer de la Tapineria

 

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Valencia, a bit of history

We have spent almost a month in Valencia, although Windependent will have spent rather longer there due to our continuing need to return home.   Instead of a blow by blow account of our time here, which would become seriously monotonous, I shall try and write something interesting and educational about the place.   Having said that Valencia is a lovely city without the added ‘complication’ of the Fallas; there is simply so much to see and do that there is so little time to sit a write about it!    But now we are home for a week or so I shall try to correct that.

In an effort to make this more readable I have divided it into ‘Chapters’, starting with a very brief history of Valencia.

Flags outside Veles y Vents building

Valencia is the capital of the Valencian autonomous region in Spain with its own language and customs.   The city was founded by the Romans on the banks of the River Turia in the second century BC.   It was overrun by Vandals and Visigoths and later the Church, and then in 8th Century AD the Moors took the city without a fight.   It was during this period of Moorish rule, in the 10th century that Valencia became a booming trading centre for paper, silk ceramic and silver; the Moorish influence is still very apparent in the skyline of Valencia which is littered with domes.

 Over the following centuries the city changed hands between various MTours de Quartoorish dynasties, El Cid held it for a while at the end of the 11th century and in the mid 13th century King James I of Aragon retook the city and expelled the Moors.The 15th Century saw large scale economic expansion; it was Venetian Bankers that lent the money which funded Columbus’ voyages.   Two of the original city gates from this period still stand, the Tours de Quart on the west side and the Tours de Serrano on the north, Tours de Serranoand the Porta and Puente de la Mar  and the line of the original city wall is preserved in the paths of the roads around the old town running between the two towers, to the station and bull ring in the south and then along the line of the now dry Turia River to the east and north.  

Porta de la Mar
Porta de la Mar
Puente de la Mar
Puente de la Mar

 

Sala de Contratacion
Contracts Hall

One of the major buildings from this period was La Llonja de la Seda, or the Silk Market. Built between 1482 and 1548 it  was the first commercial court regulating trade through the city and is one of the grandest buildings in the city which is not a church.  DSC_0181

 

 

 

Pavilion of the Consulate of the Sea
Pavilion of the Consulate of the Sea
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Ceiling of the Pavilion

 

 

With the discovery of America the trade routes shifted to the Atlantic and Valencia went into a decline, apparently forbidden to trade with America.  Ironic as Valencian bankers funded Columbus !!   This resulted in considerable unrest for the following couple of centuries.   The situation hit rock bottom during the Wars of Spanish Succession at the beginning of the 18th century and apparently the English made an appearance holding the city for a while in 1706.

Valencia lost its status as a capital and didn’t regain its influence or economy until the end of the century.  The French took the city in 1812 and it became the capital of French occupied Spain for a short while.   By the end of the 19th century Valenician influence was on the rise again and there was a revival of Valencian customs and language, but the 20th century didn’t start off too well.  WW1 did for Valencia’s economy again and during the Spanish Civil War the city became the capital of Republican Spain against Franco and suffered accordingly when the Facists took the city.

Jardin de Turia

The River Turia flooded twice in the 1950s, resulting in heavy loss of life.   In 1957 the river was diverted to the west of the city and the old river bed was turned into the Jardin de Turia.

 

“Just here!”

Since the 1960s Valencia has been ‘on the up’ again and in 1982 the Kingdom of Valencia we re-established with a Statute of Autonomy. Construction of the City of Arts was started in 1996 and it was partially opened in 1998.   It is still not entirely finished today.   See the Chapter on the City of the Arts.   In 2004 a momentous event occurred which was completely missed by all other histories of the city; Valeria, who had been working here on and off for a number of years moved to the city.  The City hosted the 32nd America’s Cup in 2007 and the 33rd in 2010 which resulted in lots of regeneration in the harbour area.  

Valeria has seen the Fires a number of times and we visited together in 2011 and 2015 and because we loved the city and Las Fallas so much we decided to make Valencia our first ‘target’ in our new lives aboard Windependent.

 

The push for Valencia

A phone call to the dealer I was put in contact with in Altea established he couldn’t do anything about our water-maker and so the need to call at Altea vanished; instead we decided to head for Moraria, another 24 hour passage to get there before anticipated bad weather came in. We could wait out the weather there and then ‘nip round the corner’ to Valencia on Monday.
So we set off from Garrucha at 9 am on the 24th. As we wanted to be in Moraria by the following morning we decided to simply motor as fast as we could. The engines will ‘red line’ at about 3200 rpm and we generally cruise at about 2500, up to about 2900, usually good for 6 or 7 knots. With the wind astern that turned out to be 8 to 9 knots for much of the way, even hitting 10 once or twice. That would have us in Moraria by the early hours of the morning.
We spent the day crossing the Golf de Mazaron and passed the Isla Hormiga, off the Mar Menor inland sea at 6. As we got closer to Moraria the forecast bad weather seemed to have stalled and we decided to push on and get around Cabo de la Nao, the ‘corner’ I mentioned earlier and make for Denia to get some fuel; in hind sight I could have, should have, filled up with diesel before leaving Garrucha.
Anyway, we arrived in Denia before dawn and tied up to an available pontoon in amongst the super yachts and close to the fuel berth. There was no one around so Valeria went to bed at 7 while I did some passage planning and scoured the weather forecasts for a window. Turned out to be more of a skylight but it was there!

By 9 the fuel berth was manned and, slightly rested, we filled up. The wind had risen and was about a Force 4 from the NW, the direction we were going in and we had the ‘go, no go’ discussion. Valencia was 50 miles away and although the winds were set to rise a touch soon they should drop away in the afternoon. Thereafter the long anticipated bad weather was due, if we didn’t go now we’d be stuck here in Denia until Monday at the earliest; so close and yet so far!

We decided to go. We slipped from the fuel berth and set off from Denia into a short, steep and uncomfortable sea making about 4 knots this time into a Force 4, sometimes Force 5 wind, looking forward to the predicted drop in wind speed at lunch time. It was an uncomfortable ride and we battered and bounced our way north under sunny skies and fluffy white clouds until the wind finally dropped away as predicted and as the sea died down we gradually increased speed to a more reasonable 7 knots arriving off Valencia at 5pm in calm seas, bright sunny weather and a gentle breeze, escorted by a fleet of sailing dinghies returning to Valencia after a pleasant afternoons sailing …
We booked in and we escorted to our berth. Phase 2 complete! We’d made Faro as planned and Valencia was our next target.
And rest.