Monday, 29 December 2008
Friday, 19 December 2008
Monday, 8 December 2008
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
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
Wednesday, 19 November 2008
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
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
Monday, 3 November 2008
Monday, 27 October 2008
Wednesday, 22 October 2008
Friday, 17 October 2008
More pictures at http://picasaweb.google.co.uk/Ironylondon/AngelaPaulSWedding
Tuesday, 7 October 2008
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
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.
Sunday, 28 September 2008
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
Tuesday, 16 September 2008
We arrived by train on Sunday afternoon and checked into La Sultana http://www.lasultanamarrakech.com/ 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 http://www.lescigognes.com/ 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 http://picasaweb.google.com/Ironylondon/5DayTripToMarrakesh
Wednesday, 10 September 2008
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
Sunday, 31 August 2008
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 http://picasaweb.google.co.uk/Ironylondon/3DayTripToFes
Wednesday, 27 August 2008
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.
Everyone has been incredibly friendly, helpful and welcoming as we struggle with our school French! Off for 2 nights to Fes tomorrow.
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
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
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
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
Monday, 28 July 2008
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.