Barcelona to Cadiz, sidetrips to Rome,
Costa Brava, Balearic Islands
Aloha Captain Koo, July 22, 2007
I last wrote October 26 after arriving Barcelona, Marina Port Vell and taking marina space for the winter. It had been 3 years since I experienced winter on Jubilant. I forgot! Somehow I expected the Mediterranean Sea to be a warm place with beaches covered with attractive youngish women year round. Bad imaging. It gets pretty chilly here. Before winter ended I was running 2 electric heaters aboard. The temperatures were like northern California, but most days had blue skies. My moorage was just 1/8 mile from the gothic section of Barcelona. It is a beautiful spot close to history, art and interesting restaurants. I did a side trip to the wonderful 12th century monastery at Monserrat, one of the most photogenic spots I have seen.
The first week I overloaded on the sights. I did the history museums, nautical museum, crawled around the castle above Plaza Espanya’s many art galleries, visited the Gaudi designed buildings and strolled the varias plazas and ramblas. The next 6 weeks I got lots of boat projects started. New upholstery and Persian rugs got ordered. The engine room got a generator rebuild, paint, pumps, hoses, carpets and a high tech blocking diode system for the batteries. I went through a physical and lab tests and tested ok, but for custom food beds to help my high mileage feet. I arranged for a haul out in February and flew to Seattle for a 3-week stay.
I find I still like home, or at least the family and friends there. After 2 years away, my friends still seem happy to see me. My daughters were a real joy to be around. My grandsons, at 16 and 14, have moved up from kids to real interesting guys. I never tired of their company. In time to arrive for New Years Eve, I flew to Colorado to ski at Vail with Pal Wink Davis for 2 ½ weeks. As usual, everyone was great fun and Wink always makes me a far better skier than I would ever have imagined I could be. It was all a blast!
Returning to Jubilant January 20 got me into the heavy work. I hired a helper. We removed the carpeting and restored the cabin floors with 7 coats of varnish. The outside of the boat got new sheets and furling control lines, roller furling repair, rebuilt main goose neck, new console and Tack Tic wireless instruments to replace the old stuff, and an overall 3 day polish job. Repaired mainsail and restitched genoa were installed. February 15 started a 4 day haul out at Porto Olympic for new speed and depth transducers, a thru hull replacement and lots of very costly bottom paint. Back in the water the projects included a varnish strip an build, hydraulic steering checkout and service resulting in a new helm pump, installing a masthead wind transducer and replacing some hardware up there before needed, and replacing the cabin and head door hinges. Boat projects never end, but February even allowed some time for a spell of intensive dating.
After a trip to Rome with friend Cristina, we returned to welcome visitors for a couple of weeks. Rome was really wonderful. Better than I would have guessed. It was cleaner and more beautiful than I expected. The Vatican Museum is far more impressive than I might have believed. We were standing in St Peter’s Square, tired and looking at a long line to the basilica, deciding whether to give it up when we heard a New Jersey accent. A young man, preparing for the priesthood, was guiding a small group. He asked us to join at no cost, and we skipped the line. A handful of us got an expert private guided tour of St Peter’s Basilica. It was a knockout experience. Bill, the novice, was passionate, articulate, thorough and even funny. We even got finished in time to catch the flight back to Barcelona, barely.
Law school pal Tom Wampold and childhood neighbor Phil Geisinger arrived March 16 fell in love with Cristina and so the 4 of us did trips, she serving as Spanish language speaking amateur tour guide. So, the “boys” checked out Barcelona. We took train trips to Monserrat and Tarragona, a lovely small city on the coast between Barcelona and Valentia. It was an early Roman outpost that has well restored ruins just in front of the lovely town. Next we rented a car and toured the rugged Coasta Brava from Barcelona to the French border. There is a lot of tourism in the area, but the coast is rugged with villages tucked in pockets so it is still scenic. We stopped for a night in Genova, an ancient river city with a terrific Gothic section where we had a “no room at the inn” adventure that worked out well due to our linguist. The next night we were on the lower slopes of the Pyrenees at Besalu, a preserved medieval town built in the 1100s. It was great. Check the pictures. Returning to the boat, the lads and I checked out more of Barcelona and they headed home. It was great having them.
April was a bunch of get-ready time. Small projects at the end of a long stay always eat up the days. The boat isn’t perfect, but it has never been better. On May 19 I sailed the 120 miles to Porto Sole on Mallorca, Balearic Islands. This harbor is like a doorway in a rock wall. Very picturesque. There is a tram to the very nice town with a great town square and a train station where an antique train can be taken across the island to Palma, a city of 150,000. Mallorca is rugged mountains and the train goes through many long tunnels. Along the way are vistas of villages in small valleys. I shopped at a chandlery in Palma and returned to a very windy night at anchor. Winds gusted to 45 knots. Many anchored boats dragged. A 63 foot catamaran next to me had one man aboard and was swinging over a huge area, sometimes as close to me as 8 feet. The cat’s skipper and I stayed on watch, ready to insert fenders, until the wind let up about 3 am. My towed dingy flipped many times, but the wind was too strong to try taking it aboard so the outboard motor was soaked. Even as late as May, the weather in the Med can be less than stable and the water was a cool 62 degrees. After a couple of days I sailed to Porto Andraitx at the south end of the island.
The next morning gave me a nice 72-mile sail to Port Antonio on Ibiza, where I caught up with friends from Barcelona. We sailed in company around the island a few days later to Ibiza town, an interesting place. In 1234 the city of Ibiza already existed but the Cathedral and much of the present fortress town were completed. It is well preserved and the town within the walls is functional. It would be a very nice place to live. The views are great and the entire place is tidy/picturesque. For a town that has lots of tourism, I found friendlier people than usual and reasonable prices. Only 18 miles away is Formentura Island, a tourist island with some great swimming beaches. It was a grain-growing place in Roman times, later deserted. Almost attached is Espalmadore Island, which has a very popular anchorage, white sand bottom and nice swimming. I spent 2 weeks in the area moving from Ibiza to Formentara to Espalmadore. The boat population increased a lot while I was there. In spite of nice scenery and great swimming combined with good biking on Formentara I got restless and sailed June 8 for Calpe 70 miles away on the mainland. The anchorage at Calpe is striking behind an immense rock spire. The town was all recent apartment construction, so I stayed aboard and gave it a pass. After another 55-mile day where I anchored off another tourist town. Another day sail and I arrived Cartagena, a great town in a wonderful bay. It is an ancient city founded by the Carthaginians as a trading harbor. It had fortress walls even then. It has such a great harbor that it has been taken over by all the aggressors of the ancient world. The fortress and standing ruins now date from Roman times and since. There is a navy base here and a very friendly club nautique. It would be a fine place to winter. I had trouble deciding to leave.
I had good sailing, but after 70 miles encountered strong westerlies and started looking for shelter near Porto San Jose. The town marina was too shallow for me and anchorage too open so I anchored in Porto Genoves, a large undeveloped bay. Where I stayed for 5 days while the west wind blew 20 to 45 knots. Boats would come in from the west looking tired, wait a day and move on. Those that came in from the east, stayed, except for an 80+ footer that moved on. I watched his mast whipping like a fishing pole when he cleared the headland, so decided to stay and polish brass.
Fuel prices in Europe are pretty shocking so I was trying to run low and buy in Gibraltar at better prices, still over $4 per gallon. The strategy caught up with me off a nice harbor on the Costa del Sol called Marina del Este when the tank sludge clogged my fuel filters. I limped in, took on 100-euro worth in a clean tank and changed filters. It was a nice place with a great taverna, so I stayed 2 days. The Costa del Sol is loaded with harbors, but lacks anchorages except in settled conditions. I didn’t see many. My next stop was a garish Disneyland for Adults near Malaga called Benalmadena. It is a large marina with massive condo development and a risky surge that can be dangerous. I spent 2 days, thinking that with the surge so strong, it must be rough at sea. When I gave up and left, I found light southerlies and reached 54 miles through the Pillars of Hercules to Queensway Marina at Gibraltar. “The Pillars of Hercules” are Gibraltar and Mount Hacho 12 miles away on the African Continent where Hercules separated Europe and Africa. Passing through was pretty thrilling. The African side is Ceuta Town, a Spanish enclave in Africa.
Queensway Marina is very nice and reasonably priced. Gibraltar is undergoing condominium explosion. There is construction everywhere. It is still a very interesting place, loaded with history, tunnels, and great water catchment systems. It has withstood at least two great sieges, never folded since it has been British. Those tea and crumpet diets must make people tough. I stayed 10 days as a tourist, visiting with Red Sea pal Dave Ross, and doing projects. July 1st I had a fast, wet sail to Ceuta on Africa. I found this it be my nicest Spanish town. Ceuta has always been a treasured trading town. It has a defense history and many fortifications are still standing. It is a peninsula with the straits on one side and nice beaches on the other. The museums, shopping and marina are all very nice. Many of the workers are Moroccans, who cross the border daily, so it has an African flavor, but it is clean and there is no bakeesh apparent.
I double reefed leaving Ceuta expecting the easterly winds to accelerate passing Tarifa peninsula on the European side of the straits. Building from 20 knots the wind built to 52 knots as I passed Tarifa and saw a large catamaran anchored in the lee and surrounded by foam from the strong gusts. I was really flying. The wind dropped to 30 and 40, but I was a very tired guy and ducked into Porto Barbate Marina, snagging a side tie slip in 25 knots. The next day, July 6, a left in 18- 25 knots for a 45-mile hop to Cadiz. First we crossed Trafalgar Banks where Admiral Nelson finished off the power of Napoleon’s navy. He held them in the harbor at Cadiz by blockade. When they were finally ordered to sea, they only traveled 25 miles before he took them in the classic naval battle at Trafalgar Banks. His signal, “England expects every man will do his duty”, is a chiller. He did his, was killed on board Victory by a sniper, and returned to England packed in a cask of brandy to preserve his body.
I have been in Cadiz Bay now 12 days, presently in Marina America, sometimes at the Club in Santa Maria. Cadiz may be Europe’s oldest city, founded by the Phoenicians in 1150 BC. The city is at the end of a 5 km long tongue of land making for a great harbor and giving it strategic importance. It has therefore been sacked frequently, more recently by Sir Francis Drake in 1587 followed by Nelson’s bombardment in 1797. It was the port for trade with Spanish America during the conquistador period due to silting of the river to Seville. It became very rich. Much of the old city is standing. It is a short walk from Marina America or a short ferry ride from Santa Maria 5 miles across the bay. I loved the city. It has great climate and strong winds in the summer for cooling.
The Club Nautique Santa Maria was a great stay offering friendly moorage up the river and a large swimming pool. The small city is the capitol of Spain. The sherry bodegas are full of lovely gardens and worth touring. The city has long been prosperous and has a nice center boasting a number of manor houses from the 16 and 1700s. Christopher Columbus’ flag ship, the Santa Maria and named for the city, was built here where the yacht club is now. The skipper that sailed it from the shipyard was Chris Columbus. How about that!
We are now up to date. A crew guy arrives from England. We plan to sail for the Canary Islands in the morning if the weather is as expected and should have a fast 4 day down wind sail.