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Month: August 2014

Journeys End for Year 1 – Almerimar

Journeys End for Year 1 – Almerimar

Our sailing holiday is coming to an end for this year, as we moor up the boat at its final port of call for this year, in Almerimar. We set sail from Gurrucha on Tuesday 26th August heading for the pretty bay of San Jose about 6 hours away, the forecast was Variable 2 then becoming SE3, with a very calm evening forecast perfect we thought to anchor. However, the journey started well with a gentle wind and the sea was a mill pond as you will see from the fisherman picture below the calm of the morning, but a couple of hours later we had significant swell and winds up to 25 knots, but it was on the nose, making it a bumpy journey and the swell slows you down.

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As we reached San Jose bay, the bay was protected from the swell but the winds were still a factor although less, we decided as the forecast was so wrong we would not take the chance so we headed out again into the bumpy sea’s to Hudson’s horror. Hudson does not like it when you get the sea swell and it is bump, bump, bump. On route we found the most isolated house if anyone fancies it and an empty illegal hotel, the pilot book says it was built without permission so they can not open it – what a waste.

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So another very long 6 hours later we sailed into Almerimar, tired and a bit wet (sea spray, not rain). We had a very friendly welcome from Keith from Spirit 3 inviting us for a beer and Alice cooked us up a great and very much appreciated dinner; a nice way to spend our first evening.

IMG_9394So now the tasks start, with work being done to winterise the boat, repairs being booked in for the foresail and spray hood and desperately searching for a crate for Hudson to fly home, (not easy in Spain). The challenge now is to get the jobs done but still remember to enjoy the last few days, visit the beach and relax. It has been especially hot the last two days with no wind (typical no wind when we want it), it will be nice to have a cooler breeze, but I do like the sun and after a week back home will wish we had the heat again as I add layers of clothing to keep warm . Hudson I think is excited to go home so he can run free in the fields. By chance I found that Almeria (40 miles away by car) has a festival week and each evening they have bull fights & horse performances, so we have booked our tickets for tomorrow evening (Saturday 30th Aug) the final performance. I know it is not everyone’s cup of tea and i am not sure if it is mine, but it’s traditional in Spain and it is on my list of Spanish experiences.

We are told Almerimar marina has a good winter community here, as many people leave their boats here like us, but also many live on their boats here all winter. We have friends Tina and Tim from Shiraz living here all winter so they will keep and eye on our boat and Keith, Alice and Joe are also staying till October then heading off. So when we visit in November it will be nice to catch up again with our cruising friends.

We are here until 4th September; when the big journey home starts. It has been a great four  months and we have seen Portugal and Spain and have enjoyed many elements and learnt a lot ready for next years trip, in our minds we have divided the trip into four main sections:-

  1. English coast – Hamble to Plymouth
  2. Bay of Biscay
  3. Portugal coast with the ARC
  4. Spain

We will spend time over the winter planning next years trip.

Back in Garrucha – Monday 25th August 2014

Back in Garrucha – Monday 25th August 2014

To bring you up to date on our journey since my lost blog at Torrevieja; we set sail back down the coast to Cartagena making the 38 mile trip on Wednesday 20th August . The sea was a mill pond and you guessed it no wind, so we took advantage of the conditions and tried our hand at a bit of fishing on route, but we are destined to not catch and cook our own fresh fish, well not this year. I am sure Mark will buy some new fishing gear (note: to add to his already large supply) and try again next year.

We stayed in Cartagena for 3 nights, we used the time to walk round the town, do some shopping we found some great shoe shops and even better the summer sales are on, so a pair of shoes later a happy Debera and Mark even treated himself. The town was busy with four cruise ships visiting over two days, with three on one day and the noisiest ship when leaving was the British P&O cruise liner playing out across the speakers the Macarena so the whole marina had to listen. We sorted out our trip home and it’s all booked but it contains a number of elements as it is never simple with a dog. We start our journey home on the 4th September.

We left Cartagena heading for Garrucha (about 45 miles) on Saturday 23rd August, today we had wind a F4 – F5 but right behind us, but at least we could sail most of it. It was great the Dolphins came out to play again, typically just as Mark went below for an afternoon siesta out they came to play jumping through the waves, even Hudson jumped up to watch.

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Our initial plan was to only stay 1 night here in Garrucha as we wanted to head straight off to San Jose bay (which is so pretty and peaceful) and anchor for 2 nights, but the weather was against us so we decided to stay here until Tuesday (tomorrow) to ensure good conditions for anchoring in the bay with minimal swell and it all looks promising; so off I went today to stock up on fresh food.

On investigation Garrucha is nicer than we originally though, it has a large beach, which is not too busy and although it is a holiday town it is low rise houses and a nice promenade, which Hudson and I have jogged along each morning.

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Garrucha has two marinas’ a small harbour for the local small boats and the new marina we are in for larger boats, it is 90% empty, there is certainly a theme here, it seems the only busy marinas we have found on our journey were Gibraltar, Alicante and those that are the start point for Ibiza like Denia (although this was not full).

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I will leave you now and head off to the marina bar (just for an orange juice) for their WIFI. Then later this afternoon when it is a bit cooler it’s off to the beach for a swim. Later this week the temperature is forecast to get up to 35*c again, hopefully there will be a nice breeze in the bay, but at least if we get too hot there we can just jump off the boat for a swim.

 

 

Torrevieja Festival Time – Monday 18th August

Torrevieja Festival Time – Monday 18th August

We left Santa Pola yesterday morning bright and early with the aim of scooting the 15 miles down the coast to Torrevieja before the stronger winds forecast arrived. We plan to spend a few days here as there is more to do here; we found a berth at the Real Club Nautica, which is a nice marina and good club house (does lovely fresh orange juice) and it is right in the centre of town. They have created a nice feel to the club and it is used a lot especially helps as it has a swimming pool, which I hope to be testing tomorrow.

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Last night as the temperature cooled and with a lovely summer breeze, we headed out for a walk around the town and the sea front. Again as at all Spanish seaside towns we have visited, they love their beaches and sea front promenades. We found this great little family run bar, that when you order 2 very small beers, you get mini tapas to try free, they were so friendly. As we strolled around the town by chance we came across the Torrevieja festival, on the last day they parade down the main street, dancing to music and the ladies of the town dress up in traditional Spanish dress. It was only a small event but the whole town lines the street and there was a lovely carnival atmosphere.

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Today the weather is slightly overcast so much cooler at only 28*c to Mark’s delight, and mine as it does make it easy to go jogging in the morning with Hudson, although today he was a pain in the B.. as lots of left over food still about following yesterdays events. You can do more when it is a bit cooler, although the forecast says it should be back up to the mid 30’s next week again. As soon as the town opens following siesta time, we will venture round the shops as they do have plenty of good shopping here. We are staying here until Wednesday when we will set sail to Cartagena.

IMG_9325v2Hudson has decided to learn Spanish, but he has found that a loud woof works in all languages, especially at children. He is desperately trying to learn “Feed me” in Spanish.

 

The Slow Return to Almerimar – Saturday 16th August 2014

The Slow Return to Almerimar – Saturday 16th August 2014

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We left lovely Denia on Friday 15th August, heading back down the coast to Santa Pola a 10 hour sail away. The weather forecast a good force 4 NNE, but they got that wrong it was more SE and a force 3, however the direction was ok for us, as soon as we got round the first bay, we were able to sail with apparent winds of 13-15 knots on a close haul sail with full sail out we cruised along, getting to the marina about 5pm, so ahead of time. We were given the same berth as last time, they remembered us. It is good to be back, there is not much to do here but I like the marina here, good facilities, nice bars around the corner from the marina, great fish market and supermarket close, so ideal time to stock up.

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Night one was a quiet one as we had an early start and it was a long sailing day, we were all tired. We had booked to spend two days here then move on as more to do at the next port; however, the weather is forecasting strong winds until Monday, so looks like we will stay here till Tuesday when the weather calms down.

I am feeling proud of myself as I started the day again with a jog along the sea-front promenade with Hudson; it’s my new keep-fit regime as it is too hot to cycle during the day, so when I can I now get up early and go jogging with Hudson. Today was a domestic and relaxing day, with the washing done, although I finally lost some washing due to the gusting winds, so one towel now swimming with the fishes. With the strong winds forecast for a few days the temperature has dropped to a cooler 26*c – 28*c.

The fish market here is excellent, so I have taken advantage and stocked us up on some great very large prawns, white fish fillets (no idea what fish but looks good) and 2 massive pieces of tuna (which ended up free, as they forgot to charge me) so lucky me. As soon as the sun retreats for the evening we will stroll out and explore with Hudson.

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We are now slowly heading back to our winter port of Almerimar; we have seen what we wanted along the coast of Spain and Portugal for this year. We will stop off at a few of the pretty places on the way back and hopefully some anchorages (pending weather) with the aim of returning to Almerimar by the end of August. The plan is to spend a week or so preparing the boat for the winter then head across land via train stopping on route sight-seeing as we go, we still need to define the exact route home yet. But no more talk of home, we are still on holiday.

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Denia (Again) – Wednesday 13th August 2014

Denia (Again) – Wednesday 13th August 2014

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Following a great 4 days with Adam and Laura (read the last two blog entries written by Laura, who kindly wrote the blog from her perspective, with some wonderful creative text). So after a sad farewell Monday evening to Adam and Laura, Mark Hudson and I settled down to a quiet evening alone, sitting on deck watching the sun set with a glass of wine.

We left Calpe yesterday morning heading back to Denia, with the aim of spending a few days relaxing here and deciding where to go next. We are debating whether to sail for a quick visit to Ibiza this year or wait as originally planned to visit next May; when we plan to take a leisurely trip around the Balearics islands. So we will be reviewing the Pilot book and see what takes our fancy. Then we plan to slowly head back to our winter mooring in Almerimer stopping at as many pretty anchorages on route as we can. We both said today we feel we have seen the Spanish coast line now and achieved what we wanted this year.

On route to Denia we stopped off at a pretty anchorage for lunch, the same spot as with Adam and Laura although this time it was pretty empty, being a Tuesday. It is so nice to jump off the back of the boat into crystal clear blue water. I did check it out first as noticed a large jelly-fish swimming about, but it soon disappeared as we lay our anchor.

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Now back in Denia, sitting on the back of the boat, it must be 35*c today, it is hot; we were walking Hudson this morning and by 9.30am we were perspiring, but there seems to be a warm breeze which helps. Last night we ventured out to the old town, we got the little harbour taxi (more like a square tub), but it took us straight into the old town, where we strolled down the main street, which is as you would expect a bit touristy, but we then took the side roads and found bars and restaurants hidden away in little courtyards. We spotted a small restaurant in this Spanish courtyard, which had some great Tapas- we had calamari, stuffed mushrooms and garlic prawns delicious, then fresh fish, it was a lovely evening.

So here we sit in glamorous Denia, with its picture perfect view, a pretty marina with some very large boats Sail and motor and a backdrop of mountains. I think it will be the beach this afternoon to cool down.

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Denia and Calpi – 9th – 10th August 2014

Denia and Calpi – 9th – 10th August 2014

The next morning we set off early heading down the Costa del Blanca coast towards our next destination, a 7 hour sail to Denia. Good winds and an eventful swell had me bracing for a repeat of a fateful channel crossing a year earlier (not a pretty picture) but as Valencia shrank behind us, and the onshore winds subsided, so too did the swell and it wasn’t long before we were comfortably sailing across the bay, stomach intact. Having only ever sailed in the balmy waters of the Solent, where jumpers, gloves and often rain coats are compulsory attire, the prospect of enjoying the sea and the sun with the garments limited to fit in carry-on luggage seemed a world away. But, under Mediterranean skies and full sail it wasn’t long until we were sunbathing, fishing (attempting to) and discovering exactly why the Brits flock to the Med. Some siestas later and our destination came into view, a haze against the mountainous horizon.

Sailing into Denia you would be forgiven for thinking you had somehow reached Cape Town as the picturesque harbour sits glistening under a breathtaking table mountain, complete with long sweeping clouds which veil its lofty peak. The marina itself is a glamorous collection of luxury super yachts and statement power boats, dripping with bronzed bodies and colourful swimming trunks, pulsing with Ibiza tunes. It held an air of excitement, ambition and activity but above all it held the 34 degree heat which saw us retreating to the nearest beach in moments.

The beach was unlike any beach I have been on before. A wonderful scattering of bright umbrellas, a smudge of questionable nudity, mud like sand and a consistent depth of about 3 ft of 28 degree water, for at least 600m out from the shore line. It was one big shallow swimming pool with the exceptional pockets of slimy seaweed, much to Debs amusing horror. Ultimately it was the perfect conditions for disrupting what may have been a subdued, Spanish Saturday afternoon on the beach. We set about clowning around with head stands, cartwheels, belly flops and shark attacks, all to be immortalised on camera with Adam’s new waterproof GoPro camera, Mark and Debs perfectly timed birthday gift. Sufficiently water logged, we cooled down with a well ‘earned’ beer before retiring back to the boat for one of Debs’ wonderful cooked meals.

photo 5Sunday we awoke to witness the mass exit of life from the mainland as everything with a sail, motor or umbrella (see picture below) headed out to sea to enjoy the glorious blue skies and Sunday company. Eager to get amongst it we joined the parade, edging down the coast towards our next stop Calpe. With just 10 miles to our next mooring we had time to play in the sea, tacking our way across picturesque bays in search of a suitable anchorage in order to play in the inviting clear water. After negotiating a beautiful location sheltered by the wind we enjoyed an afternoon tossing ourselves from the boat, searching for fish and admiring the idyllic location we found ourselves in. Leftover bread from lunch, served as the perfect bait to send hungry fish flapping around a floating Mark as he observed the feeding behaviour of the still illusive ‘fish’.

 

Sailing onto Calpe was a breathtaking look at the dramatic Spanish coastline. Wonderful cliff faces drop straight into the ocean where brave villas cling desperately to the side, the precarious price to pay for a piece of this beautiful view. An unexpected afternoon event occurred as we came across a jet-ski party, far from shore, who eagerly waved at us as we passed by. We swiftly dropped the sail and headed over to investigate but under closer inspection it was not a rescue situation but rather some friendly Spaniards eager to communicate the joy of the glorious day.

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Arriving in Calpe, under the shadow of a towering rock face we took Hudson far a walk along the shore, watching Sunday afternoon in Spain unfold around us. An intoxicating scene off love, life, sun and surf as families and friends celebrated the beautiful elements around them – we were happy to be amongst them. As dusk set in and the hazing layers of mountains lit up with sparkling night lights we feasted on Spanish Rioja, local cured meats and crispy seafood. Bliss. Deborah and Mark have formulated the perfect way to experience an area. Avoiding the tourist traps, they seek out authentic moments of life, sailing inconspicuously and respectfully into an area, eager to peal back the layers of local life and fold them into their own. There is a wonderful sense of home they carry with them on Hapatoni and we were privileged to be welcomed into it..

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Valencia – 8th August 2014

Valencia – 8th August 2014

Thursday night we landed in Alicante to a wall of bronzed bodies, 30 degree heat and a very excited beagle, a far cry from the stuffy office and congested trains of London just 2 hours earlier. We swiftly barrelled into the relief of the car air-conditioning, destination Valencia, 1.5 hrs north east, where Hapatoni awaited. A dark journey through the night hills of Spain provided the perfect opportunity to catch up on the stories of the summer. It was wonderful to hear Mark and Debs relay the adventures across the Bay of Biscay and the news of Adams new job was discussed with renewed enthusiasm. Arriving in Valencia as the clock slipped past 2am, we collapsed into the swaying arms of Hapatoni.

We awoke late on Friday to blue skies and the rising heat of the Mediterranean. After a long lunch of conversation and prawns we headed into Valencia, caught amongst the throngs of tourists who also inappropriately thought it was wise to move under a midday sun. We quickly agreed that in order to survive such stifling heat, regular pit stops would be required. But man must live by a code, and when it comes to pit stops (strictly involving a cold beer) it is the code that separates us from the tourist! And so the rule was established (largely driven by Adam) “We must earn our pint!” – and earn it we did.

We were dropped into a square of activity under the shadow of the impressive cathedral [name] Flanked by alfresco restaurants, ice cream stands, buskers, beggars, tourists and geraniums; Valencia is the many faces of Spain. Naturally we headed for the cathedral. An impressive structure of high arches, stained glass windows and looming bell towers watching over the city. In our efforts to “earn our pint” we committed to climb the bell tower for a view over this new city. A stone spiral staircase wound us higher and higher up the steeple as graceful violin music drifted its way from the streets below through slight, lofty windows. As the sweat beads started rolling down our faces and the air in the narrowing stairwell thickened, these windows offered encouraging glimpses of the city as it fell further and further away from us. Arriving to the top, we were welcomed by a cool breeze and stunning 360 degree views across the city. The sea of terracotta roofs that sloped through labyrinths of narrow, restaurant lined streets were punctuated by blue church domes scattered across the city. Beyond the walls of the old city, modern day Spain sprawled towards the haze of the surrounding mountains. High rise, cement apartments blocks, heavy motorways and arches of modern architecture stand as a testimony to the progression of modernity and the juxtaposing struggle seen today in Spain. A wonderful way to breathe in the scope of our new location.

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Having earned our rest, the next hour was spent recovering over a cold beer as we watched life unfold around this picturesque square. The afternoon was spent meandering through the winding streets, each turn unveiling a new avenue of shops (often closed with the heat), alfresco tables, artistic graffiti and colourful buildings. A final beer stop, followed by a kaleidoscope of ice cream selections (including an impressive gin & tonic option) and we were back at the boat, bellies full and succumbing to the local need for a siesta.

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The evening activities appropriately restarted at 8.30pm as the sun sunk towards the horizon, bringing welcome relief from the heat. We headed back out to the old streets of Valencia which were transformed at night to reveal pockets of romantic dining squares, harboured under the arches of ancient trees and softly lit by water fountains. After an education in the surprisingly small size of single serve tapas we dug into a delicious spread of paella. Violin buskers complimented the idyllic atmosphere as we revelled in the drastic difference that 24 hours can make. What a privilege it is to live so close to such beautiful locations and how lucky it was to share it with such wonderful company. After draining another jug of sangria we headed back to base where a traditional night cap of whiskey, port and laughter sent us sailing into a deep slumber.

Valencia – Wednesday 4th August 2014

Valencia – Wednesday 4th August 2014

Valencia is a landmark for us as this is a far as we thought we would be able to travel on this trip and we arrived here on the 4th August, with 6-8 weeks of our travels left. The journey from Denia was 42.7 miles, and we left early (well as soon as the offices opened) at 8 am. The scenery on route was hidden by the heat haze and the wind was up and down so some motor sailing as well as sailing, but a very pleasant trip as Mark did some French practise, had a Knapp and I read my book. We arrived late afternoon and booked into marina Real Juan Carlos 1, we had heard it was a good price, which makes a change in this area (for our cruising friends £24 per night inc. tax, water and electric).

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A bit of information on Valencia: – Valencia is the 3 rd largest city in Spain, with a large commercial port and two pleasure marina’s. The marina we are in was built for the 32 nd Americas cup races, so it is a big marina and much of the space is dedicated to yachts over 30m. I think they hoped this would become a home for the “Super yachts”, but its empty with only a few boats in the main part. When you walk about the marina area it has the basic facilities but it could be so much more, it needs some nice wine bars, it needs to come alive. Close by is the beach area and beach frontage with some restaurants and bars, but the most interesting part the old town is a 45 mins walk away or take a taxi.

PaellaYesterday was a domestic day cleaning the boat and catching up with tasks, all in preparation for Adam and Laura joining us on Thursday eve. Last night we headed into the old town via taxi (it was too hot to walk), the old town is very Spanish with its shops, bars and restaurants on the street. if you walk of the main road through the back streets the town comes to life with the restaurants full and music playing, its a maze of back streets all full with activity. We had a lovely meal (Paella), with music playing and a bottle of sparkle it was a lovely evening.

 

I will take more photos today/tonight as these photos are only from my Iphone, so are not brilliant and I will update this blog again tomorrow, sorry for the poor images.

Puerto de Denia – Sunday 3rd August 2014

Puerto de Denia – Sunday 3rd August 2014

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Alicante  – After a short stop over in Alicante (we only stayed 1 night), we left Sunday  morning at 8am, heading to Denia a distance of 51.8 miles. As usual we started the day on engine but we were soon lucky when the wind grew to a steady force 4 for the remainder of the journey, so it was a lovely relaxing sail. Whilst I was relaxing below decks (having a knap), Mark watched an acrobatic display from the local dolphin pod.

Alicante is a big Spanish city, it has maintained some of its original charm with the narrow streets and some of the buildings are lovely. The mooring fees are expensive (the most we have paid so far). We had dinner on the boat watching the new Spiderman film then headed into town about 10pm, as it was cool to walk Hudson and get a weather forecast as the WIFI in these marina’s is useless. The town was busy as it was Saturday night and in Alicante it seems to be party night, the bars and restaurants were full, with everyone sitting in the streets, it was full of life. The marina area is not as quaint, but the area is modern and full of bars and restaurants although the restaurants did look of a good quality.

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Denia outskirts

We arrived in Denia on Sunday 3rd August about 5pm; It is a large fishing village with a ferry and commercial harbour as its one of the starting points for those heading to Ibiza, via yacht and the ferry service provided. This was only a short visit this time as we are aiming to get to Valencia by Monday evening, so we have a few days to sort a few jobs out. We will be stopping here again with Adam and Laura next weekend as it has a nice sandy beach, and the usual bars and restaurants, we walked Hudson around and it looks a nice town. I found a great little clothes shop in the marina, good quality items (you know me) and of course I had to buy something, will have to show Laura.

The scenery on route to Denia is interesting, with some dramatic cliffs, then a contrast with a place like Benidorm (the best way to see Benidorm is by sea and keep going). We found a few beautiful looking bays we will try out with Adam and Laura next week.

Photo below is benidorm through the heat haze, high rise central

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Puerto de Santa Pola – 1st August 2014

Puerto de Santa Pola – 1st August 2014

Puerto de Torrevieja  – We left Cartagena 28th July heading for Mar Menor, which is an inland sea, it is 12M long and 6M wide separated from the Mediterranean by a narrow band of sand. It has some high rise properties but it is only one road wide. We can only enter through the main canal under the lifting bridge, we had planned to anchor up for lunch and have a swim then spend the night in the Tomas Maestre marina. However, as we started heading down the canal the depth was reducing rapidly at less then 1 metre i got nervous, we could not get hold of the bridge or marina to get the bridge lifted or confirm the depth, so unfortunately we had to turn around and keep going to the next port. But amazingly we had dolphins performing and swimming with the boat just outside the harbour.

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The Dolphin photo represents what Mark watched not how good his photo skills are (sorry the image was borrowed)

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So we ended up in Puerto de Torrevieja, and again met up with Orion and Macnoon although at different marinas as the wind was up so mooring was more of a challenge. Torrevieja is a large tourist town, mainly Spanish holiday makers. It had some lovely shops; Linda and I had to visit a few clothes shops, whilst we put the men in a local bar (kept them quiet) so everyone was happy. The next day we met up with Orion for dinner and a few drinks. The weird thing we had picked out the restaurant in the day and as we turn up guess who is sitting there having dinner but Macnoon and their friends. I think this time it is farewell for a while to Orion and Macnoon as they now make haste over to Ibiza.

Santa Pola

We arrived in Santa Pola on Wednesday 30th July 2014, after stopping on route at a sandy beach at Bahia de Santa Pola. It was so wonderful to drop anchor and jump off the back of the boat for a swim then have a leisurely lunch enjoying the view and sun, this is defiantly the life, before heading into the marina round the corner for the evening. Santa Pola is a busy fishing village, with beaches on either side of the marina and the marina is right in the centre of town. They have fish stalls selling the locally caught fish in the evenings and a nice promenade.

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Yesterday started with a domestic morning, Mark repairing the gel coat on the stern, Linda & I cleaned inside the boat but then Linda decided to polish the crome on the boat, she did a great job but I think there was a lot more than she realised when she offered, John was the handy man, helping us all with jobs and i washed the boat. All finished in-time for lunch. The afternoon was the opposite to our morning, with siesta time, reading and i practised my Bridge on the new website Linda has recommended. Late afternoon we ventured to the beach for a swim, the sea was lovely and warm, a nice way to finish the afternoon. An evening walk for Hudson whilst we explored the town and a beer of course then back for fresh tuna on the boat drinks and cards.

We decided to stay an extra day here, due to the weather forecast, rather than sail to Alicante and we are only 10 km from the airport. Hudson and I were up bright and early walking along the promenade with the other dog walkers and healthy runners. Today is a lazy day, with coffee and cake mid-morning for some,(mentioning no names). We are currently sitting on deck in the breeze having a relaxing afternoon as its so hot then off for a final swim later, with a farewell dinner with Linda and John this evening. Then they head off to the airport tomorrow (Saturday 2nd August) and we will set sail for Alicante.