Archive for March, 2010

Boat time and decisions…

Posted in Fun, Planning (or pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey) on March 25, 2010 by maidofmettle

Boats are interesting in a way.  Over the last few months we have been learning to experience what I have come to affectionately call “boat time”.  Boat time is a sort of unknown factor in trying to work out how long anything will take (for example, to make something/get something fixed/get something delivered etc), how long you might stay in a place or how long it might take to get somewhere when you leave a place.


Although publishing a plan seems unwise just yet we have been considering what to do next.

Looking at options for where to go next and how long to continue our trip for, we have been talking to people, reading books about possible places and thinking about how boat time will affect us.  We have it on good authority that Madeira is worth a visit and also the coast of Portugal so we are thinking we will try to go that way when the weather forecast looks hopeful for a long-ish trip.

The idea behind going to Madeira is that it will enable us to get a good experience of what the Atlantic will feel like and then when we get there we can decide whether to turn left (to the Canaries) or right towards the Azores and UK.  We haven’t had all that much experience of a long trip so before we can make any big decisions about extending the trip beyond this summer we need to get more miles at sea under our belts.  We all naively thought we’d be out of the Med and in South America by now….!!

I don’t think any of us feel certain about what we should do next especially when you think about all the people you miss and the things you might like to do back in England.  It’s impossible to make any decisions though when we haven’t been out of the Mediterranean yet.  The thought of that is daunting but seems less so when you think about it broken up into smaller pieces.

At the moment we are waiting for an Easterly wind to get out of the Straits of Gibraltar and then for this to continue for quite a few days to get us to Madeira or Portugal if we decide on there.  So now we need to avoid the nasty low pressure systems coming in…who knows how long that will take.  This is another example of boat time in action.  It seems most likely that we will do some smaller trips out of here before heading to Madeira given the unpredictable weather at the moment.

In the meantime we have continued to enjoy Gibraltar including the lower St Micheal’s caves tour.   The tour started via a secret door that had to be locked behind us.  It involved lots of climbing up slopes with ropes and trying to avoid clonking your head on low hanging bits.  We were glad of the helmets and of the lighting in there!  The sound some of the stallegtites made was amazing and it felt like we’d entered a different world.  The tour ended at a lake that was very like one from a Harry Potter film when our guide shone a torch over it.  I almost expected something to crawl out of it but apparently the caves have no life in them except for a bit of moss where the lights make it warmer.

Food Glorious Food

Posted in Cooking, Fitting out and maintenance, Fun, Photographs, Walking with tags on March 15, 2010 by maidofmettle

Us on the bow

We are currently still in Gibraltar, waiting for post (we could be waiting a while), doing a few jobs and trying to decide what to do next. In amongst all that we have had some more time to explore, enjoy a definite improvement in the weather and well, eat…a lot.

Given that Gibraltar is a bit like a mini England it has all the things you might miss food-wise. We have been very cultured, throwing ourselves into the Gibraltarian way of life as much as possible…

We have enjoyed a Pizza Hut buffet

A huge carvery.

A nice drink outside a real (not one of those fake French/Spanish bar places labelled wrongly) pub! Shortly before this was taken my phone took a swim in a pint of coke but survived…until now at least.

Not forgetting a wonderful trip (or two) to the legendary Morrison’s that has provided us with all the things we have been missing. St Morrison did well with his arrival in Gibraltar. Spot the items we did not aquire there.

Treasures from Morrisons

After all this eating we were lucky to find out that one of the local swimming pools runs free swimming most days so we have taken advantage of that as well as taking a few more walks, this time to the Great Seige Tunnels (from when the Spanish tried to take back Gibraltar around 1779), St Micheal’s Cave (which was spectacular) and a Moorish castle halfway up the rock. All these places were of course good for catching another sight of the famous monkeys.

St Michaels Cave

The Spain/Gibraltar border town La Linea was worth a visit for it’s impressive beach and the novelty value in walking across the border. On the way out noone really took any notice of us, on the way back in to Gibraltar our passports were checked twice at least. There were loads of people queuing just inside Gibraltar trying to get hold of duty free to take back to Spain presumably.

The rock's not that big...see!

We now have a gang plank to enable us to get on and off the boat (thank you Pete). I’d say ‘easily’ at this point, but to be honest it is taking some getting used to and is a bit tricky whenever the boat is moving back and forth due to the fact that we are now quite far back from the pontoon. Anyway, for the most part it is working well and at other times we rely on careful timing. The photo below shows it in it’s ‘up’ position before anyone wonders how we climb off without falling in.

The scary gang plank

As well as taking a very long trip up the mast to fit our new tri-colour (red, white and green light) to the top of it, Chris had the unenviable task of trying to sort out our leaking toilet. It’s not as bad as it sounds and fortunately the leak was between the two sections and nothing managed to get out and cause any havoc elsewhere.

Speaking of things causing havoc, I’m hoping to keep the mossies at bay if and when we find them with some bespoke netting crafted using a hot melt glue gun. I remember using them at school when we made little elastic band powered cars and had to glue the axels on. We are yet to work out how to fit netting to the main hatch but at least so far they hopefully won’t get in the dorade holes.

mossie net

We also said farewell to our friends Michelle and Guido who have gone towards the Canary Islands. Hopefully their latest attempt to leave Gibraltar has been more successful than the last.

They're off south

Cooking with M.O.M part II

Chocolate Blancmange
(courtesy of Caroline’s mum)

A useful way to use all the cornflower you brought with you and still haven’t used because you don’t know what to do with it.

1.5oz (42g) Cornflower
1 pint of milk
One large spoon of cocoa (more if you like, I just guessed)
1 oz (28g) sugar

Mix a small amount of milk and cornflower into a paste,
Add the rest of the milk and cocoa
heat up and boil until the mix thickens then leave to set (preferably outside on a rocking boat so you get a blancmange with a jaunty angle)

We served ours with chocolate on top.

Monkeying around – Exploring Gibraltar

Posted in Fun, Photographs, Walking, Wildlife with tags on March 9, 2010 by maidofmettle

We have had a couple of interesting days in Gibraltar now.  The weather has cleared up a bit on and off and we have had some chance to explore the place a bit more.  So far we have been impressed.

To start with it’s a bit like stepping into an English town with its M and S, BHS and so on -I’m still looking for Millets!  There are people speaking English everywhere, bobbies on the beat and red post boxes and everything but then you have lots of palm trees dotted about, loads of duty free shops and of course a whopping great rock.  It’s quite a strange mix of meditteranean meets Margate but with customs officials and a border control.  I quite like it.

Yesterday we walked up the rock along the mediterranean steps.  A fabulous walk that led to the upper rock and the monkeys of course.

Mediterranean Steps path

We had a good view of Africa and the monkeys (officially Apes) were well worth the trek.  Chris nearly took one home when a young one tried to grab the webbing on his bag.  I think they have been given a bad name for being nasty though having said that we didn’t take any food up with us and were careful not to look too interesting.

"Me Ape, this is my rock"

I hope that the tourists don’t do too much damage to them by feeding them and getting too close but you can see why you would want to.  They are adorable, especially the young ones.

would I steal from you?...

"No, but I might climb on your car"

We had no trouble, in fact they seemed generally calm apart from the odd scrap between themselves and the odd funny look from an older one we walked by!

Two monkeys!

In the evening we had a very kind invitation for dinner. Thanks to Jackie and Jim for their kind hospitality and lovely food.

The wind got quite strong as we were walking home so our early morning (until about 3.30am) was spent battling the wind and nasty swell that looked set to make us feel ill until it calmed down, not to mention making it look pretty scary to get back over the gang plank onto the boat.  We were lucky…another boat was struggling to sort its moorings out in the early hours.  Pete got stuck in helping despite the conditions, all of us having just arrived back to see the entire marina bouncing around like a bunch of toy boats…

After resting a bit in the marina office we finally got to bed at 3.30 am and awoke to sunshine!

Giberdycrickets! We’re in Gibraltar!

Posted in Sailing, the Mediterranean Sea with tags on March 6, 2010 by maidofmettle

I can hardly believe it…

We’ve made it to Gibraltar!

Gibraltar rock

So far, we’ve basically been boat-bound because it’s so windy and raining.  In fact it was so windy today that this morning the boat hit the pontoon at the front a couple of times in a gust.

It's raining, it's pouring but at least we're in Gibraltar

I’m worried the monkeys might have blown away…we will all have to wait a while to see each other.

The rain in Spain falls mainly on…Marbella

Posted in Sailing, the Mediterranean Sea with tags on March 3, 2010 by maidofmettle

We are glad to have spent some time in Velez but it was definately time to leave for somewhere new. Not even the tat shops were enough to keep us there…

We left Velez about 7pm on Monday evening aiming to get as far along the coast as possible in some Easterly wind before it was set to turn against us again. It started out quite nicely, no wind and a very flat sea before the wind built up a bit around 11pm. I succeeded with my first night watch alone (mostly awake) whilst the other two slept. Luckily, there wasn’t too much to do other than finally switching off the engine so I spent most of the time keeping a watch out for other boats and doing ocassional plots on the map (chart if we’re being nautically picky), whilst looking forward to going to bed at half past midnight. The other two were slightly less fortunate, having to be disturbed after my shift so we could all decide where we were aiming for given weather conditions. It was bliss to have just under 6 hours of sleep instead of 3.

The reality of the wind didn’t seem to match the forecast all that well and the sea had built up quite a bit from the East so we ended up using the motor for much of the journey. The swell wasn’t all that kind to us and unfortunately Pete joined in with sea-sickness fun, having missed out on previous trips. However, he did appear to make a miraculous recovery afterwards and declined any seasickness drugs*. We are now in Marbella and it’s raining. The good news is that we are only 34 nautical miles away from Gibraltar…we can almost smell the fish and chips…and monkeys…

In other news

Whilst in Velez we found ourselves investigating uses for velcro around the boat. So far we have an exciting holders for the ipod, a pencil, suncream and notepad. The possibilities are endless, as it seems is our enthusiasm for velcro.

Our lifejackets have all been checked by pumping them up…it was a good job as one of the lights appeared to have been left on the wrong setting so probably wouldn’t have gone off automatically. It was a good excuse for a silly picture anyway…

Chris found a supplier of Robersons lemon curd…I’d lost hope that we’d find any of that outside England 🙂

*We should be sponsored by Biodramina…other drugs are available.