Route: Estartit – Barcelona – Torredembarra – Oropesa – Valencia – Cap d’Or – Torrevieja…our stops during a week
No wind, so we changed to motor and enjoying the ride.
After leaving Estartit, winds dropped to 2bft and even less and so, with a flat sea surface, we enjoyed looking at the clear blue waters surrounding us.
Navigation by our inboardmotor, makes us lazy…the autopilot just does the job and what about us?
Just hanging about, listening to the ‘Los Quaraintas’ to improve our spanish. How much ‘zero-zero-zero-zero-zero-zero-uno’ or any other series of identical numbers can you hear in 1 hour of radio? The spanish companies do like their phone numbers with identical numbers.
A splash in the water nearby and our attention is drawn!!
Yes yes yes, smiles appear on our faces as we spot 4 dolphins at the surface about 100mtr away. Will they come to us, to our bow and ride the bow-wave with us? No other boat around, we are the only playmates out here. How can they resist? And guess what, they don’t! Within seconds, the dolphins cover the 100mtr and even before we get from the cockpit to our new installed ‘delphinière’ (*), all of them are already riding our bow-wave.
Karen is first to make videos and in the clear blue waters, she sees 2 adult dolphins and 1 youngster swimming in front of the boat, regularly surfacing for a breath in a super controlled swim maneuver. At those moments (and so many others), the autopilot is a real gift, as I can also leave the cockpit and join Karen for the dolphin show. The dolphins go left and right, take some spinner jumps and finally disappear into the blue waters, leaving us with a feeling of happiness, gratitude and worth a few hours of conversation on how fortunate we are to encounter them on our second day of travelling for so many years to come!
We might encounter 100’s or even 1000’s of dolphins in the coming years, but these “first ones” we will never forget.
The delphinière, how could I forget! (*)
During our stay in Port Leucate and all the preparations we did, we also changed/added some things to the boat. As we needed to install more solarpanels, we added a ‘portique’ or frame on the back of the boat to carry the solarpanels on top, but also to use this frame to lift our “Bubble” our dinghy/tender out of the water while travelling on the ocean (instead of towing it behind the boat all the time).
A local welder, DC Soudures, was the specialist and I must admit, what a fabulous job did he do!
After installing the frame, my brother Jean-Marie and I installed the solarpanels on top and to finish with the details, we made sure that the electrical wires of the panels went through the frame-tubes into the boat to make the necessary connections to charge our boat-batteries.
It sounds easy, but believe me, the 2days that we have spent on that part, are not that easy to forget.
Now, back to the story of the Delphinière…as we were so happy with the back-frame, we asked Didier (DC Soudures) to ‘improve/change’ our front side of the boat and to come up with a adaptation to be able to sit on the bow, have more/easier acces.
This adaptation is called a Delphinière, as it creates the most easiest place to observe dolphins cruising in the bow-wave…and that is what we did!
Thank you again Didier for this magnificient piece of work as just in 2 days after leaving Port Leucate, we could test our Delphiniere and it proved itself perfect for the job!
You are for sure 1 of the technical people active Port Leucate (his workplace is in Port La Nouvelle) that has stolen my heart in the way you operate and handle your business!
Barcelona and San Juan, a party that relights your fire!
Little protected anchorage is possible travelling along the spanish coastline and so we decided to call onto the port of Barcelona. Yes, a large city with a lot of noise compared to the calm of the seas but why not, a short city-trip is always nice. After arrival in the port and fixing the boat in the provided berth, off we went for a walk surrounding the harbour.
Crackers left and right, I mean, firework crackers(not the biscuits) and my god, what a noise! Police cars left and right, spaces blocked with fences? Where did we end up?
A small question later and we understood that we ended up in the middle of the celebration of the holy San Juan and that party was celebrated with an abundance of fireworks. 10.000’s of people were gathering on the beaches and as soon as it got dark, the crackers were joined by the flares illuminating the skies. I guess it must have been thousands of flares skyrocketing during the next hours to come as at 3am, we were still seeing a sky filled with colors of exploding fire rockets. I mean, what a welcome did we get arriving into Barcelona…
The next morning, we took our electrical steps (guess we are very practical with these, but for sure, the steps have proved to be very worthy while in Port Leucate, for shopping, getting to places a little faster then by foot) and now, city tripping.
Barcelona’s most known visitor attraction most be the Sagrada Familia, designed/created by Gaudi. Still under construction after starting the built in 1890, this grotesk structure is being built by the financial gifts of visitors. Even after Gaudi died in 1923, the artwork construction continues following the plans thet Gaudi left behind. As it is a known tourist place, we decided to leave the boat early in the morning so we would find the place quiet and relaxed and so it was.
We took all the time it took to see the structure left, right, front and center and witnessed a local streetartist (in a wheelchair, he was missing his 2 legs) perform a dance that moved us to the deepest of our souls. The dance was done with that much passion and skill, so early in the morning, with so little tourists there, that you could feel he was not performing just for the money, he was performing for the heart and the soul. I dance to remember, as dance never to forget (…song by…)
Barcelona came back to life after we sailed away again, back to the quiet sea and silence of the day. We didn’t really needed more of Barcelona, maybe we just took those few memories with us that were important and soulfilling.
As the wind didn’t return, back on motor towards Torredembara to spend the night. A very small port with some small bars and the taste of Sangria was soon discovered. It makes you sleep well and early next morning, back on the sea towards Oropesa del Mar. Again no wind, so our diesel engine was doing the hard work and another lazy day for us.
So what do you really do on these lazy days?
Well, there is always work to be done and in between looking around to identify other ships, fishing buoys and you never know what, the stainless steels needs cleaning (a ever returning job), the decks need washing, the crystal windows in our cockpit protection need salt removal, etc. The day rushes by and honestly, I am surprised on how fast time sails away onboard!
The little or heavier tasks get paused by a meal, a lot of time for travel planning, checking wind & weather forecasts, travel distances, possible anchorages and reading up on the pilots telling us usefull information on the ports ahead of us.
When entering a port, you have to pay harbourfee, that generally includes the berth, the use of water and electricity and the use of the sanitary block (toilet/showers of the port). All ports have different charges, depending on size of the yacht aswell. As Barcelona was the biggest port of the Spanish coastline,we thought that it would be the most expensive…well, it was not! Compared to the small ports like Torredembara and Oropesa, Barcelona (and later Valencia) are very cheap. Average we paid between 70-95€/night in a small port, while we only paid 32,50€/night in Valencia.
Oropesa Del Mar came up on the horizon and just before the sun soaked the horizon, we entered the port. Oropesa took me back about 25years as it was that long ago that I was here. I remembered the little bridge next to the port and the steep drive down to the port. 25years ago, I visited a belgium family here (that had taken their dive courses with me) and I remembered the names. A quick look on Facebook and a friendly message sent and contact was established. No, they didn’t live in Oropesa anymore, but the memories remained; I took some pictures and send them out by Messenger instantaniously. In moments like these, one must enjoy the electronic wonders of instant possibilities as 25years ago, that would mean taking pellicule pictures, getting them developed and printed and sending them by postal mail to Belgium (after acquiring a paper envelop and a postage) to only arrive their after 5-10 or even more days to an adress I did not have and people I would not even had found back wasn’t it for FB… Oropesa, I could write a book about the adventure I had here 25years ago. Maybe 1 day?
Valencia, Valencia, Val…
During the days travelling towards Valencia, Karen had already expressed the desire to visit a local Flamenco show. During the many past years, Karen herself danced Flamenco and performed in Flamenco shows in Belgium but actually never visited a Flamenco show in her life.
So, on the way up to Valencia and thanks to internet on the boat, we did some research and found some places that offered flamenco performances, some combined it with a dinner. Some places more fancy (bigger) as others, we called for a reservation in a smaller place, more local. It was a perfect choice! It was so surprisingly good, that I wrote a comment online (during the show) because I did not wanted to forget all that was happening at the same time while being there!
Excellent food, no tourist trap, excellent wine and most of all, a Flamenco show NEVER to forget!
The sparkles that came out of Karen’s eyes, the rythm that was pounding in the small restaurant, the clapping of the hands in contra-rythm unique to Flamenco, it was all there at once, from the beginning untill the end.
The walk “home” (=back to the boat), drunk on emotions and some wine (to be honest), was needed to be able to digest it all. How totally crazy was this, how lucky were we to be ending up in that place and enjoy what Karen had in mind: Flamenco to the fullest!
Valencia towards the south, passing Cabo el Nao
After our visit to Valencia and a day to recover from Flamenco and some wine, we left port again (as for our reference day June 28th 2021) and next destination was Cabo D’Or, not a port but a bay that should protect us from the swells and give us some time to sleep during the night.
Planning ahead, planning course, direction and distance, takes up several hours of our day. Yes, we use all modern navigational equipment, GPS, internet and still books are around (Pilot guides RCC) but still, we have to be able to change plans during the day as we are dealing with nature, wind, waves and a boat!
We determine every day a next ‘point’ for the evening to arrive and we would prefer it to be a nice bay with no swell, no waves,no rocking boat and no no no, but mostly it is Yes yes yes and some more yes. The eastcoastline of Spain little protection to offer for boats travelling along the coast, so most options are the use of their ports, with all facilities to take a shower upon arrival after a salty sailing day on the sea, having a cold beer in the local Marinero-bar after a alcohol-free day of sailing or even enjoying a warm meal, sitting on non-moving chairs after a rocky day. You get the picture? So what could be the disadvantage to all this luxury?
Well, in that RCC guide, there is a description about every harbour, with all the advantages and only (sometimes) a mention of the harbour-fee! And that is where the fun ends… The harbour fee in the guide is divided in 4 categories and exactly 1 word is used to tell it all:
Untill now, 10 day ‘on the road/euh sea’ and using abaout 8 ports, I must say that the only port with ‘low’ fees was Valencia and all the other ports were always ‘high’. A low fee means 40-50€/night and high fee means 80-85€/night.
Untill now, we have managed to stay away from the ‘very high’ fee ports…
All these port fees are eating away your travel budget and we do not need to be in port every night! We carry plenty of water (and can produce our own water with our onboard watermaker, a machine that takes the salt out of the seawater and by doing this converts it into drinking water), our solarpanels produce all the necessary energy we need to keep the refrigerator and freezer running, to charge laptops (I am not writing these blogs on paper) and cellphone (yes, we still have 1) and the lights we use during the nights (and for the smart comments: during the day, the solarpanels charge some big batteries we installed onboard that store the solar energy which we then reuse in the night).
But tonight is going to be F.O.C. (Free Of Charge) as we have found a bay to anchor, double checked it 8times on the 3xW (Weather, Wind and Waves) and it should be all good!
Surprises are never announced! No wind to sail, engine is running and we are doing 8knots/hour.
For those getting confused here:
1 knot = 1 mile (nautical mile and not land mile…)
1 nautical mile = 1852meters
So speed: 8knots = 8miles = 8x1852mtr/hour = ????
So, now you understand the speed system used on boats!!
During the day, we noticed several UFO’s (Unidentified Floating Object’s) and with our powerfull marine binoculars ( a very important tool to have onboard), we changed them into IFO (Identified Floating Objects).
Inflatable matrass, a beach ball, another inflatable toy…where was that beach party??
Another object caught Karen’s attention and sharp eye and not immediately knowing what it was, she turned to me.
Was it a fin sticking out of the water? It looked like it!
This was more then enough to get us both very very and even more very interested. I jumped to the steering wheel, changed course and slowed down, let us call it a soft approach. The ‘fin’ remained at the surface and as we got closer, we identified a larger almost circular form on the surface!
That could not be a shark fin, so what is it?
Even more cautious, we approached a little more untill Karen shouted, it is a Mola Mola or Moonfish.
Now to me, that would mean the world, that would mean: awhhhhhhhhhh (*)
And she was right! There, in front of us, was a Mola Mola (MM) of 1m50 ‘sunbathing’ at the surface. The MM lives in very deep waters (at that moment we were in waters that were very deep, down to 2250mtr) and come up to the surface sometimes, to ‘burn’ parasites of their skin. We caught this unique moment and did not wanted to disturb this important moment for the MM. So, we stopped the boat and just ‘hung’ around, slowly drifting on the sea. The big fish was clearly intriged by our presence and started swimming very slowly towards us. We took some pictures and some more and even some more (like every meter the MM approached us, a new picture was taken) and it looked like the MM was not about to give up on sunbathing!
Time for the 2nd part of the encounter: grab mask and snorkel, waterproof videocamera and get into the water!
You would think, that is so easy! But in reality, not so!
Realise this: in the middle of the sea, on a sailboat, with some wind and currents, you are never in a ‘stand still’ but always moving. Jumping of the boat would mean that I had to be able to keep up with the boat or Karen had to come back and get me wherever I was going to be. (Several interesting and some less interesting Hollywood movies have been made regarding this subject…)
My energy and wild mind was not to be haltered by the possible ending ‘being left in the ocean’ and even more, my 200% trust in Karen’s ability to come and fetch me by boat was actually all I needed and within some minutes, I was floating next to the boat, observing the MM next to me.
A dream, a lifelong goal, a unicorn-moment that was on my list for some 25 diving years (or even more?) There are stories to be written or told about me ‘chasing after MM encounters in Bali, Galapagos, etc, but you know, other time/other place. MM and me…what more did I want?
No other boats, no other divers, no crowd, no noise, just us!
I took a short video and MM had a look at our keel and after possibly enough surface time, MM decided to call it a day and dove deep down into the -2400mtr abyss. Gone here, but deeply engraved in my memories, forever!
Surprises never come announced.
Cabo d’Or, bay for the night.
Hours still to navigate after the encounter with the MM, hours that didn’t matter, hours that went by like seconds with the biggest smile on my face.
During the hours to come, we even plucked an inflatable toy out of the water, a clear inflatable tube with golden sparkles on the inside! Again, it will make an nice gift and thus will make some kid happy during the next days to come.
Upon arrival in the bay, it was back to reality: we had to prepare for the night (on anchor). That means that we need to make sure that we have good holding ground for our anchor so we do not drift away during the night!
I went back into the water and checked the position of the anchor. Nicely tucked away in the sand, although with some help of me and karen. I dove down (freediving) to put the anchor in a good spot and Karen used to boats engine to pull the chain and dig the anchor some deeper into the sand and ready we were. We had dinner and enjoyed the last moments of the day including the sunset on our foredeck. You know, life really does taste differently when having a cold beer or glass of wine, into the sunset, while sitting on deck, floating in a bay on anchor! We realised our fortune again and again and today was 1 of those days never to forget.
The dark hours of the night were upon us and time for bed. Tomorrow is another day… I was convinced that MM would reappear in my dreams. A new day, new challenges and a new destination: Torrevieja.
Next port on call was going to be Torrevieja, some 60miles to navigate. And this time, the wind was going to be there, to give us a hand or better a handfull!
As we had checked the 3xW, we knew to expect winds up to 25knots during the afternoon. So sailing would be great as the winddirection was ‘from behind’ compared to our course. With 2 sails up, we were running at a speed of 6,5knots, very comfortable.
But the wind was not going to settle with 20knots and soon, we were up to 25knots and being under full sail, that is just too much for the boat to handle. The waves were also increasing from 1mtr to about 3mtrs high and we knew, that we had to decrease our sails, taking a reef! Luckily, just before leaving Port Leucate, we practised this procedure and even adapted our sailsystem to do this more fluent, more easy (thanks again Thierry, SY Ornella for helping is with that part).
Just a few moments later, we took aboout 1/3th of the sail down (1st reef) and continued our path. The wind picked up some more up to 30knots and this called for a new measure: 2nd reef. We also shortened our genua and soon after, with 35knots of wind, we smoothly ran at 5,5knots speed in 3mtr waves towards Torrevieja.
How different these 2 days can be on the sea…from a sunbathing MM to a wicked and wild windy day!
Torrevieja came visible on the horizon and we were looking forward to arriving, a shower and oh yeah, that cold beer/glass of wine. Are we getting an alcohol problem??
Upon arriving in the bay of Torrevieja and lowering our sails, I noticed a dangling line… It did not take me long to figure out that the line should be holding our lazy bag and so, while lowering the sails, the mainsail fell partly upon the maindeck, nothing to serious, but it looks like a mess. There is always another day and tomorrow, that would be needing to get fixed. The local boatshop in Torrevieja would for sure have some new rope for me to buy and to install, after all, we hadn’t been ‘working’ on the boat for 7 days now (after 3 months of preparation).
A nice walk in the town, a sunset and a quick research, that shop I needed was around.