Monday, 29 December 2008

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone!

We are ready to leave Tenerife for Senegal but currently have adverse winds (what a surprise!!!). It looks like they should be in a more favourable direction on the 1st so we hope to depart then.
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Friday, 19 December 2008

To see our pics from the Canary Islands go to

Still in Tenerfie

The problems with our rental flat are still not looks like we are going to be here for Christmas now.

We enjoyed our sightseeing tour of the island. The highlight was going up to the top of El Teide volcano. It's the highest point in all of Spain at 3718 metres and reached by a cable car up to around 3600 metres and then a climb up to crest of the crater. We were very lucky with the weather on the day we did it, we've had rain almost every day since.

Monday, 8 December 2008


We arrived in Tenerife on 29th November and are moored in Santa Cruz. I have made a flying visit to London to have some treatment for the prolapsed disc in my back and to collect some boat parts. We are going to again rent a car for a couple of days to explore the island and do our last provisioning before Senegal.

Unfortunately we have a major problem in one of our flats so we can't set out on the long passage to Dakar (it will probably take a week) and be out of contact until we are sure things are being sorted out. Fingers crossed we can deal with it and get going.

Friday, 28 November 2008

On to La Palma

It was a cold and rainy overnight sail to La Palma, not very pleasant. The cloud cover was so great that it was still dark when we arrived around 8am. We have spent a couple of nights in the new marina here which is horribly surgy. The boat is being thrown around all over the place and we've gone through a few ropes. The one benefit of the marina is free entrance to the Club Nautico here which has 2 outdoor pools, a huge indoor one and sauna, steam and jacuzzi etc. It has been the perfect antidote to the cool, wet weather.

The town of Santa Cruz is worth the visit. It's incredibly picturesque with pretty buldings in distinctive Canarian style - colourfully painted with lovely balconies. We hired a car and explored the island yesterday, exploring huge La Caldera crater and the smaller, more recent volcanoes from 1949 and 1971. We drove through acres of banana plantations and beautiful pine forests and ended the day with a delicious dinner in town.

We are leaving here this afternoon to return to Tenerife. We will be in the marina there to provision for our trip to Senegal. I am also flying back to London for a couple of days to pick up boat parts and have some treatment for my prolapsed disc.

Friday, 21 November 2008

A great day exploring in La Gomera

We rented a car for the day and explored la Gomera. It’s a spectacular island of high mountains and lush, green forests. Many of the steep hillsides have been extensively terraced over the centuries with stone walls; it is impossible to grasp just how much hard work must have gone in to this. We went for a couple of walks in the stunning national park enjoying the contrast of an earthy, green environment to our normal surroundings at sea. The clouds gathering across the mountain tops in the afternoon added to the moody atmosphere. Our second walk was more ambitious than the first, ascending a steep mountain with the promise of returning to the car via a tunnel. Unfortunately when we got to the mouth of the tunnel we discovered it was narrow and totally unlit. There was no way we could use it as it is 3/4 km long so we had a long walk back up again!

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Birthday and on to La Gomera

I celebrated my birthday at anchor with a champagne brunch. It was a clear, sunny day and perfect for swimming and chilling out.

We sailed over to La Gomera on Tuesday. We had a gentle start to the passage, just lots of dolphin around us, but about 10 miles off the island we were suddenly hit with F8 winds gusting F9. They aren´t joking when they warn you about the wind acceleration zones in the Canaries!

We are now moored in San Sebastian (Columbus set off in 1492 from here) and plan to explore the island by rental car tomorrow. We had an interesting sighting in the marina here yesterday - a stingray (over a metre across) which apparently hangs out here and decided to check out our boat!

Friday, 14 November 2008

Fast sail to Tenerife

We sailed over to Tenerife yesterday. After a couple of hours of motoring in no wind we were very suddenly in a steady F7 gusting F8/9 with the seas to go with it. It was a great fast sail (max 9.2 knots) but we were cold, wet and salty by the time we arrived! We had an incredible visit from about 20 dolphins who surfed the huge waves around the boat and were leaping out of the water, sometimes 4 or 5 at a time. It was an amazing sight.

On arrival at Los Cristianos, we were trying to get in all the sails before anchoring and found that a reef tie on the mizzen had knotted itself around the spreader. It took quite an effort from Nic to climb up the rigging and release it, involving the loss of a Croc shoe and a Man Over Board to retrieve it!

We are now a few miles up the coast at Pta de las Gaviotas. No tourist development here just a lovely sandy beach with clear water circled by some fantastic rock formations and caves, complete with trogladites! We even have a view of Spain's tallest mountain.

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Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Off to Tenerife

Well, our instruments finally arrived today - posted "priority airmail" from London on 21st October, arrived in Madrid on 31st October and here 12th November!!!!!

We are sailing across to Tenerife, either tonight or early tomorrow morning.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Still waiting..

Still waiting for our parts to arrive from England. We have been anchored in a bay on the south coast due to an westerly front coming through. Now back to Playa de Mogan hoping that the instruments will arrive, it's been 2 weeks.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Back at anchor

Nic's back from his dental visit to Ibiza and we are now back at anchor. At the moment we are just outside Puerto de Mogan because we are waiting for some repaired Raymarine instruments to arrive for us here. In the meantime we are enjoying the lovely settled weather. Next stop Tenerife.

Friday, 17 October 2008


We are now back in Gran Canaria after our visit to London for Angela's wedding. The day after our return, Nic had a major problem with his teeth and flew to Ibiza yesterday to see his very good German dentist. I am here in Puerto Mogan until he returns next Thursday.

More pictures at

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

On to Gran Canaria

After 2 nights at anchor, we set off yesterday morning for Puerto Mogan in Gran Canaria. We arrived early this morning with a Guardia Civil escort into the marina; they obviously thought we looked dodgy! The passage was uneventful apart from a sunset show from a school of dolphins last night. We are now tucked into our marina berth and concerned about our departure next week as there is no maneovering room at all to get out, we can practically shake hands with the boats on the opposite quay; should be interesting! Our flight to London for Angela's wedding is tomorrow morning.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Canaries at last

We left Rabat for Gran Canaria on 30th September. It was much later in the day than intended but various things conspired to delay us... We went to pay our bill in the office only to be told they didn’t take credit cards, the first we knew of it, which necessitated a long walk into Salé for a cash point machine (the bonus was a final stop at the patisserie shop there for some essential provisions! It was also the first day of operation for the new fuel quay which made for an interesting time but we were eventually following the pilot boat out into the Atlantic about 4pm.
After motor-sailing in light winds for longer than we had hoped, we finally settled into a good downwind sail. We had obviously been in the marina for far too long because it took me almost 48hrs to get used to the Atlantic roll, even Nic felt it a couple of times. With the sliver of the new moon ending Ramadan only briefly appearing, the nights were inky black but stunningly star-studded and the whitecaps were aglow with sparkling phosphorescence. The only downside was the cold which certainly didn’t feel like we were sailing south. I was wearing my ski trousers!
Frequently logging between 7 and 8 knots when I had passage-planned at 5, we made good enough time to make an unscheduled stop off the southern coast of Lanzarote on our 4th morning after covering 530 nautical miles.
We anchored off a series of lovely sandy beaches and coves in a nature reserve. A long walk ashore was very welcome as were a couple of indulgent ice-creams in the picturesque beach bar.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Still waiting..

The weather finally looks like it will give us a break tomorrow or Wednesday. We have to be in Gran Canaria on 7th October for our marina booking at Puerto Mogan and our flights to London on 8th October for Angela's wedding. So, with over 600 miles to cover it looks like we are going to have to sail past La Graciosa, Lanzarote and Fuertoventura.

In the meantime we have been getting on with some work on the boat - new guardrails and 3 new instruments in the cockpit. No change with my back problem - not much pain but I am still limping - which is frustrating.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Waiting for weather

Back in Rabat and itching to get off to the Canaries...unfortunately the weather is not cooperating. At the moment all reports are showing either headwinds or no wind for the next week due to some major systems circling around in the Atlantic.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

5 days in Marrakech

We spent 5 days in Marrakech visiting 2 spa hotels which we are very luckily reviewing for the Daily Mail, thanks to Anabel.

We arrived by train on Sunday afternoon and checked into La Sultana a luxurious 5 star hotel with 21 rooms created out of 4 riads. We were given the "Tigre" suite with a bathroom much bigger than our cabin on Irony! On Monday afternoon we went down to the Spa to have a hamman (a traditional steam room) where we had 2 girls rubbing us down with fragrant soaps. I then followed that with a oil body wrap and we both had relaxing massages. It was a struggle that night to drag ourselves out to a restaurant, although Nic was entertained by some pretty bellydancers!

After 2 nights we moved to Dar Les Cigognes smaller with 11 rooms and not quite so lavish (we planned it the wrong way around) but still great. Again we had a hamman and massage and sensibly had dinner in our hotel. It was specially cooked for us and we were alone on the roof terrace under a full moon, very romantic.

We managed to do some sightseeing although we are slightly od'd on carved cedar ceilings, tiled courtyards and ornate plasterwork, as beautiful as it all is. We hit the souks and did some present shopping. Marrakech also has some more expensive "designer" shops and I weakened in one! The famous Djema el Fnaa square was a little disappointing perhaps due to it being Ramadan. It is still quite a sight at night, packed with people and the storytellers and entertainers are there but it is very touristy and we had dry, tasteless kebabs from one of the foodstalls.

We returned by train to Rabat on Thursday afternoon, always an interesting experience as there is a distinct lack of signs or announcements so it's a guess where you are stopping and a challenge to get out at the right station!

Pics at

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Delayed by health and mast problems

Having experienced continuing pain in my right leg I decided to have it looked at...we ended up visiting a large university teaching hospital here. The specialist diagnosed sciatica and asked me to come back the next day for an MRI scan which confirmed that I have a herniated (slipped)disc. Not much I can do about it other than taken anti-inflamatories and avoid anything too strenuous. Another chapter in my continuing explorations of foreign hospitals!!!!!

Addtionally, we had a problem at the top of the mast - two of the pulleys had become detached. After consulting with ZSpars in the UK they said we would have to take the mast down to remove the coverplate at the top and re-attach everything. We hoped it might be possible to avoid such drastic action (certainly not possible in Rabat) and use a cherry picker or crane to access the mast. The marina here were really helpful and tried to find one for us but to not avail, despite the enormous amount of building sites around us. After days of being on drip feed with no results, Nic finally decided to brave being up a semi-unstayed mast and attempt the repair himself. It worked but he was up there for 3/4 hours and said it was the most difficult thing he has ever undertaken.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Visit to Chellah

We spent a lovely sunday afternoon visiting the old citadel of Chellah in Rabat. With areas dating from Roman times onward, the site has been uninhabited since the 12th century. Apart from very picturesque ruins, capped with enormous stork nests, there are some gorgeous tropical gardens to walk through brimming with a myriad of coloured flowers and huge leaves.

Sunday, 31 August 2008

3 day trip to Fes

After a day of rest we took a train to Fes and booked into a fabulous hotel, Riad Louna, for 2 nights. Approached down a narrow alleyway, only wide enough for one person at a time, the unassuming doorway led us into a fabulously restored house centred around 2 garden courtyards. It was a tranquil oasis of calm in the bustling old town, Fes el Bali and typical of the hidden nature of the city.

Settled by Andalusian and Tunisian refugees at the beginning 9th century, Fes has dominated Moroccan trade, culture and religious life since the end of the 10th century and was regarded as one of the holiest cities after Mecca and Medina. It was recognised as an advanced centre of learning in maths, philosophy and medicine. Today, the old parts of Fes show little change from medieval times, the only difference being the tourists and some modern goods among the traditional craftwork on sale.

It is an unending labyrinth of souks, mosques, medersas and fondouks and an assault on every sense. Everywhere one looks there is an formidable facade, intricately carved doorway or picturesque minaret. Behind the hidden doorways are elaborate and grand palaces with huge gardens and courtyards. The smell of spices and cedar wood dominates, mixed with floral perfumes, but one isn't allowed to forget the earthy smells of horses and donkeys, raw meats in the stalls and the potent smell of the tanneries. There is a buzz from the busy souks puntuated by shouts from the donkey drivers to get out of the way, calls to prayer and the sounds of copper being pounded or stone chipped away.

The first evening we climbed up to a vantage point over the city where we could see the many mosques with their varied minarets and the different quarters of the city laid out across the river. On our way back into town we checked out various palaces which are now venues for dinner. For a small tip to a porter at the Hotel Palais Jamai we were shown the Royal Suite, a spectacular set of rooms in the old 19th century palace. We decided on the Palais des Merenides and had a traditional Fassi dinner there our second night - expensive and we were hit with lots of unforseen extras but the setting was fantastic.

In the heat, the rounds of sights took their toll. We are somewhat overdosed on carved cedar wood ceilings and lintels, zellij tile work and fountains although they are all incredibly beautiful. The souks are picturesque but relentless, there is just so much on sale, it's quite overwhelming and was lovely to go back to our riad and chill out. We really enjoyed sitting in cafes, watching the world go by.

The most disturbing destination was the Chouwara tanneries. Fes is the pre-eminent city of leather production in Morocco and little has changed since the 16th century. There is a feudal ownership system and the jobs are hereditary. Looking down from a nearby roof terrace we could see the poor workers dipping the skins in vats of dye and pigeon dung, the stench is overwhelming. It is hard to believe that people still have to make their living in such terrible conditions. It was a graphic portrait of the extreme poverty we have seen everywhere.

We are now back in Rabat but have put our plans to visit Marrakesh on hold due to being laid low with some sort of stomach bug. We may now wait to do that trip from Agadir, probably our next stop with the boat.

pictures at

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

visit to Meknes

A first class train took us to Meknes for an exhausting but very interesting day of sightseeing. One of the imperial cities, many of its buildings were created by the tyrannical Sultan Moulay Ismail reputed to be responsible for over 30,000 deaths not including those killed in battle. The Bab Mansour, one of the finest gates in Morocco, was our first stop before visiting the Sultan’s beautiful Mausoleum (although one does feel guilty admiring it after hearing about his cruel exploits). We also stumbled on a gorgeous riad, hidden behind an unprepossessing doorway. There were also vast underground vaults to see which were granaries and storerooms to fend off the effects of sieges and droughts.

As interesting as the historical sites is to just sit in a cafe and watch the world go by, something we did quite a few times during the day to rest from the heat and all the walking we did (there are 45km of imperial city walls and it felt like we saw all of them!). We have seen a very eclectic mixture of dress from the most traditional djellabyahs to quite sexy western. Age plays a part in choice for the men (most young opt for western attire) but not so much for the women who can be in anything from a full-length baggy robe with hood to a shapeless kaftan without headscarf to western dress with headscarf to tight-fitting leggings and tops. It is not unusual to see both extremes walking together.
More pics at

Everyone has been incredibly friendly, helpful and welcoming as we struggle with our school French! Off for 2 nights to Fes tomorrow.

Rabat, Morocco

We set off on Friday morning from the anchorage at La Linea for Morocco arriving in Rabat the next day. With a considerable Atlantic swell the approach to Rabat was interesting - a river splits Rabat and Salé (where the marina is) and is replete with sandbanks and shallows. Our impeccable timing meant that we arrived just after low tide. After surfing into the narrow entrance of breakwaters, which funnels the waves nicely into the river mouth, we were met by a dinghy from the marina and guided up past the monumental city walls, a stunning sight.

After a preliminary check in on the police pontoon, we moored in the new Bouregreg marina (not quite finished). It is part of an enormous new development taking place here. They are reclaiming 6000 hectares of the river baisin and spending over $2.5 billion on waterfront marinas, commercial and residential areas including a new bridge and tramway to connect Rabat and Salé.

Rabat is a lovely capital city, easy to get around with striking sites to visit and a vibrant medina. The Kasbah is unbelievably picturesque. With the rise of the imperial cities of Fes, Meknes and Marrakesh, Rabat fell in neglect and was resettled by Andalusian refugees in 17th C. It entered into a famous period of international piracy and its corsair fleets, the Sallee Rovers, raided as far afield as Plymouth. Robinson Crusoe began his captivity in Salé in Daniel Defoe’s novel.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

St Michael's Caves

The Rock has an extensive network of natural caves and man-made tunnels. Part of the normal tourist route is to visit Upper St Michael's Caves - very spectacular and used for occasionally for concerts. We managed to organise a guide to take us and some other yachties into the lower caves.

What we didn't realise until we arrived was that we had to wear hard hats and that it was quite a difficult 3 hour excursion - crawling through narrow tunnels and openings and scaling up and down rocks with ropes! Quite a challenge but really worth the visit. The caves are enormous and absolutely stunning with huge stalactites and stalagmites. There is an underground lake at the end - 30x11 metres and 6 metres deep in places.

We are now at anchor at La Linea and fog permitting, will depart for Rabat, Morocco early tomorrow morning after high tide. More from there...

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Gibraltar, finally!

After Fuengirola we made a brief stop in Estepona to buy some flares (they are not available now in Gibraltar) and went on to anchor in Soto Grande. We woke up on Thursday morning ready to set off for Gibraltar only to find ourselves fog bound! it remained a pea souper all day so we finally headed around the corner on Friday morning.

We are now anchored in Queensway Marina and, weather, currents and tides permitting, will set sail for Morocco on Wednesday. Apart from numerous shopping excursions to Morrisons (to stock up on English food) and Sheppards Chandlery, we have done a bit of sightseeing. Gibraltar is a bizarre place, a bit like an English seaside town with sun! It is however an interesting place to be just because of it's long history and strategic position.

We took the cable car to the top of the rock yesterday and had spectacular views over Spain and Morocco. We then walked all the way down the Mediterranean Steps, hewn a long time ago out of the limestone rock and very steep and treacherous but a beautiful walk.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Our route from Ibiza so far

click to enlarge the picture

Elusive Gibraltar

The Cabo de Gata, just east of Almeria is part of a vast natural park with beautiful beaches strung between the arid cliffs and capes. The waters were crystal clear and, so far, we haven’t seen a single jellyfish since the Mar Menor. We spent a couple of days just chilling out, reading and swimming and then planned to continue south. Unfortunately the wind was not cooperating and we ended up retracing our track a little up the coast where we found a sheltered anchorage at Playa de Genoveses, all part of the national park absolutely stunning. It’s fantastic to see a long, sandy beach with no development, ringed by striking rock formations. At night, with no light pollution there were millions of stars to see and incredible phosphorescence in the water for midnight swims.

The last few days we have been trying to make our way to Gibraltar, only 150 miles but very elusive! We have continuously encountered either no wind or headwinds which have reduced us to doing 20/30 mile motoring stints each day and finding somewhere to anchor at night.
We thought that the coastline here (east of Malaga) would be pretty awful but it lined by the majestic Sierra Almjara descending to a series of lovely sandy coves where it is not unusual to find people camping overnight. The rocks are lush with greenery and in our last anchorage fresh water was coursing down the hillside which was cultivated with trees hanging heavily with a myriad of avocados and fields of ripening green peppers. The towns have avoided the concrete towers and, although dense, are conglomerations of white low-rise buildings and pleasing on the eye.

So, now we have to try to get some more fuel to ensure that we can make it safely into Gibraltar which entails stopping at Fuengirola on the Costa del Sol, not a stop we are looking forward to!!!

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Slow progress

We dropped off our guest, Womble, in Cartagena and then made our way down the coast. We had little wind until Sunday when we had a fantastic sail down to the Cabo de Gata...6 knots with only the mizzen and 9 knots with the mizzen and yankee! We have spent the last couple of days enjoying the cristal clear waters here (something sadly lacking along most of the Spanish mainland).

Monday, 28 July 2008

Visitors and Repairs

We are still in the Mar Menor! A good friend, Womble, has a flat near here in the La Manga Club and has flown out to see us for a few days. Before he arrived we took advantage of being in calm, flat waters and spent a couple of days clearing out, cleaning up and painting the inside of the forepeak. Hard to believe how much stuf we have stored in there and that we managed to get it all back in again (a few bits and pieces have gone to the basura!).

Unfortunately Nic discovered a crack in one of the engine mountings which has meant further delay. Hopefully we will get it welded in the port here tomorrow.