Tuesday, September 27, 2022

We are back in Gibraltar and on "boat time"

The last little while on the boat has begun to feel like life is slowing down a wee bit.  Our pace of travel through the Mediterranean was quick because we wanted to see lots of stuff.  Now, it's time to take it down a notch and spend a week or two in each place we land.  That will give us time to explore, get stuff fixed, and just generally relax.  The girls have started distance learning with their teacher in the Comox Valley (thanks Lisa!).  They are both really enjoying it, and have been very self-motivated so far.  Hopefully that continues!

About 10 days ago, we sailed from Cartegena, Spain and hopped our way westward along the southern Spanish Coast.  The summer is drawing to a close here in Europe, and things are much less crowded than they had been in July and August.  We had our first anchorage to ourselves a few hours east of Cartagena.  There was a short hike to a beautiful lookout which was stunning.

We were visited by numerous pods of dolphins on our way west out of the Med.  We hadn't seen any marine mammals for weeks, so this was a real treat. 


When the crew gets bored on the boat, it is very interesting to see what they can come up with to amuse themselves.  Here, Aria and Micah are dangling a piece of cauliflower on a string and trying to eat it without their hands.  Who needs screens?

Our eventual goal was to stay in a lovely family-run marina in Motril and head inland for a few days.  Lana had a trip planned to do some climbing in the Italian Dolomites with our friends Dawn and Chris (a separate blog post on that is coming soon - stay tuned!).  Stu and the girls made plans to meet up with some new friends in Granada.  Steve, Lisa, Farrah and Fletcher have also left the Comox Valley for a year to spend time abroad, and have chosen the beautiful city of Granada to call their home-base.  Their family has made a wonderful transition to life in Spain, and are learning Spanish quickly.  They were kind enough to tour us around and give us many recommendations of where we should spend our time while in their historic town.

We got to experience authentic churros & chocolate. They were super decadent and greasy, but oh so good!

There is a beautiful river hike that we did near Granada called Los Cahorros which winds through a steep ravine peppered with suspension bridges.  It had a very different flavour than most of the hikes we do at home.  In a good way.  The temperature was perfect for a mid-hike swim in one of the many swimming holes along the river.

In Granada, there is an ancient fortressed city called The Alhambra.  Its presence dominates the entire city and is staggeringly impressive in both its size and history.  Built on the foundations of an ancient Moorish Castle from about 700 AD, the "modern" history of The Alhambra dates back to its construction in the 13th century by the people of the Nasrid Kingdom.  These Muslim craftsmen created an unrivalled monument of security and beauty that lasted hundreds of years and withstood many sieges.  In 1492, the same year Columbus sailed to the Americas, The Alhambra was handed over to Spain.  The King of Spain continued to build on the site of The Alhambra, but kept many of the beautiful buildings created by the Nasrids.  Because of its continual use and restoration, the site is very well preserved and is the second most visited historical site in Spain (after the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona).  

The details in the tilework, scrollwork and the gardens was unbelievable.  Even the girls were impressed!

Stu, Aria & Micah said farewell to Steve, Lisa, Farrah & Fletch and headed back to the boat.  From Motril they sailed a couple of easy days to Gibraltar, where Lana would meet them in a couple of days.  Coming back to Gib (as its called by the locals) feels familiar and comforting.  Like a home-away-from-home.  We have some boat jobs to take care of, and some preparations to make before heading out into the Atlantic Ocean.  We are installing a new sail, repairing our headsail furler and doing a number of small things to make the boat ship-shape.  Oyai has taken very good care of us, so we need to take good care of her!  When we are not working on the boat, we have been occupying our time with lots of fun activities.

From Gibraltar, our plans will take us south to Morocco.  Tanger will be our first stop just a short hop across the Straight of Gibraltar.  This will get us past the wind tunnel of the Straight, and allow us to wait for a suitable weather window to make a break for the Canary Islands.  We may stop at one or two other places along the Western Moroccan Coast, but the easiest course may be to stay offshore for 4 days and make landfall in the Canaries.  We will keep you posted!

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Spain, Spain and more Spain. We love Barcelona!

 After making our way from France to Spain, we high-tailed it for Barcelona.  Our time in the EU is coming to an end because all of our efforts to get a visitor Schengen Visa extension have stalled out.  The wheels of the Schengen Bureaucracy turn very slowly and we don't think an extension is going to happen.  We also have to leave a few days (in our 90 day limit) for our stop-over in the Canary Islands before we head back west to the Caribbean.  

So, in an effort to maximize our time left, we wanted to spend a few days in Barcelona and really take in this beautiful city.  It did not disappoint!  The Sagrada Familia Cathedral was mind-blowing.  It was beautifully conceived by Antoni Gaudi, the architect of many buildings in Barcelona.  It left a real impression on all of us, including the kids!

Our days in Barcelona were very full and we visited many sights including the Lego Store and the Chocolate Museum.

With so much to see, we thought it would be a good idea to have some personal transportation.  So.... with the help of Decathlon (our new favorite retail experience), we bought Rollerblades and scooters.  Aria/Stu chose to play homage to the 90's with the Rollerblades, and Micah/Lana picked fun scooters.  We weaved our way through the streets of Barcelona and made use of their awesome bike lanes.

One of our favorite places in Barcelona was The Plaza of Catalonia which was always teeming with hungry pigeons.  The girls loved feeding the pigeons, and the grow-ups enjoyed learning about Catalan culture. 

We went to "Pigeon Square" everyday, and it was the kids' favourite place in all of Barcelona.

Before we came to Barcelona, we had no idea about the uniqueness of the Catalans and their struggles to keep their culture alive.  In fact, while we were in the city, we experienced the anniversary of a day of protest for Catalan independence from Spain - super interesting.  The Catalonian Flag was everywhere in the city.

The Barcelonis have a great fondness for Lana, as does the rest of our family.  They have the graffiti to prove it!

As part of our desire to expose the kids to some Spanish culture, we each took a kid to something they were interested in.  Micah and Lana went to a Flamenco performance while Aria and Stu went out for some traditional Spanish tapas.

Our time at Barcelona had come to an end, and we had to make a weather window for some safe sailing southwest towards the exit of the Mediterranean.  We sailed for 48 hours from Barcelona to Cartegena on the southeast coast of Spain.  It was an amazing city as well!  There were lots of Ancient Roman sights to see, as well as Moorish buildings and interesting contemporary buildings.  Cartegena has been a crucial maritime city in the Med because of its natural port, and its strategic position.  Many different cultures have used it throughout history for defense, including the modern Spanish Navy.  

 This was the partially restored Roman Theatre which was surrounded by the modern city of Cartegena.

We are having so much fun on a daily basis during this trip!  We try to keep busy and see as much as possible, while still making an effort to be spontaneous and relaxed as well.  It's been a good balance, and here are some random photos to demonstrate what we mean.

Right now we are anchored in a beautiful remote bay off the southeastern coast of Spain.  There is not a soul around, and it is incredibly peaceful.  We are the only boat here, and in mid-September, it feels like Europeans have gone back to work.  We are headed west towards Gibraltar tomorrow ahead of a strong low-pressure wind in the Med and will make it to Motril in about 36 hours.  Click the link to the right to see our path and where we are right now!  Stay tuned for more adventures and send some comments and subscribe, if you already haven't.  Its a great way for us to stay in touch!

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Making our way back west! The French Riviera, and crossing the Gulf of Lion back to Spain

Our time in the Mediterranean has seemed much too short, but all good things must come to an end.  Also, our standard visitors Schengen Visa only gives us 90 days in the EU before we have to leave.  That's just not enough time, with so much to see.  We will be able to stay in the area by visiting non-Schengen places, like Gibraltar and Morocco.  We will also visit the friendly immigration people in Barcelona to see if we can get the ever-elusive Schengen Visa extension.  Wish us luck!

We last left off the blog at the start of the French Riviera, Menton.  That city was beautiful, and the day trip to Monaco was very interesting, but we wanted to see Nice.  We did a quick hop of only a couple of hours in the boat and moored in downtown Nice, next to all of the super yachts.

Nice is an amazingly beautiful city, full of vibrant culture.  The traditional Mediterranean wooden boats were everywhere and added to the charm of the place.

The public places were fantastic, and the girls spent hours in the spray park which was immense.  It had over 100 fountains for running through in order to stay cool during the hot summer days.

We happened to be in Nice during the celebrations of the French Liberation from the Nazis in WWII.  US and Canadian Flags were everywhere.  It was very heartwarming and left us with a sense of gratefulness for the peace we now enjoy in the western world.

From Nice, we headed to an anchorage on an island just south of Cannes.  Like everything in Europe, this island was steeped in history and happened to be where a prisoner called "The Man in the Iron Mask" was held in the 17th century.  His identity has remained a mystery to this day, but he was likely some type of royal prisoner who was a treat to the French Throne.  We toured the prison, and the fort which surrounded it.

This anchorage at the historic island had a Pizza Catamaran that delivered directly to your boat!  There was also an ice cream boat that trolled the anchorage looking for excited, but hypoglycemic children.

The girls had been very patient with all of this history business, and did learn a ton.  But, it was time for some type A fun!  So we sought out some family-friendly play parks and found a place called "Fools Village" - Perfect!  It had endless play features, and we spent an entire day there.

Our next day was spent on a fun upwind sail towards Hyere, France.  There were many boat chandleries here to restock with various boat parts we needed.  Stu did the boat shopping and Lana took the girls to an inflatable play park on the waterfront.

The next couple of days saw us dodging thunderstorms (again!) and we took refuge in a marina while things cleared up overnight.  We were planning to cross the Gulf of Lion which is renowned for strong winds called "Mistral" which funnels off the French Mainland and wrecks havoc with a large swath of the Med.  While waiting for a good stretch of weather for this 24 hour crossing, we stopped at a beautiful anchorage in a skinny cove rimmed with Medieval Fortress Walls.  Unbelievable!

The favourite pastime in this amazing cove was cliff jumping.  The local teenagers put on quite a show, and our family got in on the action too.  Aria ended up jumping from higher than any of the local (much older) girls!

Micah and Lana got into the spirit as well and did personal bests right next to the boat.

The following day, we left at noon on our 24 hour passage west across the Gulf of Lion.  We had a beautiful sail most of the way.  The wind was on the port beam almost the whole way and we made land fall on the Costa Brava in Palamos, Spain.  

Our next blog post will cover our time heading south west along the Spanish Coast.  We plan to hit Barcelona, Valencia and have a few overnight passages to make time towards Gibraltar.  After that, Lana has an amazing hiking/climbing trip planned with friends in the Dolomites of Italy in late September.  During this, Stu and the girls will spend a week in a marina near Granada, Spain which is home to a mountain range called the Sierra Nevada.  Horseback riding and hiking is on the menu for that stop.  Stay tuned for further updates and post comments with anything you want to see more of (boat details, sailing footage, family drama(!)... anything you like).  A Google account is required to comment and follow, I believe, but its not too hard to set up :)  Until next time!

Goodbye Oyai & Hello New York City!

After leaving Annapolis, we explored the eastern shore of Chesapeake Bay for a couple of weeks.  We sailed to a quaint little town called St...