Archive for the the Mediterranean Sea Category

Panoramarama part 1

Posted in French canals and rivers, Photographs, the Mediterranean Sea, Walking with tags , , , , on May 30, 2011 by maidofmettle

Maid of Mettle is at sea, or possibly stopped somewhere without internet. Yes, this does occasionally happen.

While I will try and post occasional updates via satellite phone, they will not contain the number of photos you have become used to.

So should you miss them, please enjoy this brief pictorial interlude. Otherwise described as: I finally got around to finding a program to stitch series of panoramic photos together. Just left-click on the thumbnails to open a larger image in a new tab.

This is Valence, on the River Saone in southern France. We didn’t actually stop here, but the view passing through was quite impressive, especially the castle-topped hills overlooking the town on the left bank.

Next up is Lyon, on the River Rhone. We did spend quite a few days here – it’s not only a beautiful city, but also home to my friend (and former housemate / colleague) Caroline. The view is from the La Croix-Rousse quarter, once Europe’s silk factory. You can just see the basilica at Fourvieres on the skyline on the right- it was built in thanks after a medieval plague passed the city by.

The next couple are both from the top of the city walls in Avignon. The first looking north…

and the second looks east  across the edge of the town to the beginnings of the Alps in the distance. The most famous ~1/4 of a bridge in the world is unfortunately hidden behind a tree somewhere.

To continue the mountain theme we’re going to dash to the bottom of France, and then across the Golfe de Lion to L’Escala, just over the Spanish border. This time it’s the snow-capped Pyrenees you can glimpse on the skyline in the far-right.

Part of this walk was a bit creepy – I was going through some woodland when I saw a cat sunning itself in a spot of shade. So far, so good. But then there was another. And another. And another. The overall effect was rather disturbing..

Still, it was well worth it for the views of this tiny hilltop suburb and a beautifully blue Mediterranean.

And the mysterious phantom island on the horizon on the left. It really doesn’t look like a cloud, but I’m sure there shouldn’t be land in that direction within several hundred miles. Strange.

The next leap is to Barcelona, and the view over the city from Park Guell.

Next is a view of the west coast of Ibiza and offlying islands. San Antonio is visible on the right, but you can’t see the nightclubs from up here.

Still on the same island, here’s a long-distance view of Ibiza town itself, from the dunes by the Playa Las Salinas, named after the numerous salt-pans nearby. Apparently Jade Jagger and Kate Moss frequent this beach, but unsurprisingly not in February.

Finally (for now) a return to the Spanish mainland in Cartagena – the harbour and some of the city from a fort high above the eastern side of the entrance.

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.

Wind…what’s going on!?

Posted in Cooking, Fun, Photographs, the Mediterranean Sea with tags , on February 22, 2010 by maidofmettle

It seems the med is seeing a pretty bad winter. The area of Spain we are currently in has seen enough rainfall to last 3 years resulting in major floods and landslides. Velez itself has suffered a bit; the men’s toilet building overturned onto the path by the beach and a few trees fell in a big wind shortly after we arrived.

We have seen a bit of sunshine but the Easterly wind we need to get to Gibraltar and our date with the monkeys is remaining illusive so consequently we are still here. It has been a good opportunity to rest, explore and look into starting some of the jobs that need doing.

We have now experimented a bit with a horizontal lift system for a man (or woman) overboard. Using the smallest sail we have, you can create a sort of whole body sling that in theory scoops the casualty up out of the water using the winches on the mast. We are yet to try it in the water but it looks like it could work well. Given a few waves and the weight of the water we’ll have to see how it works on a sea trial when it gets warm enough for a swim.

Our friend Axel popped by the other day with his hire car and we had a lovely day exploring inland, including a picnic in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada (ski resort) and the gardens of the Moorish Palace the Alhambra. We didn’t like to think that it was only England who was enjoying all the snow.

In the mountains

Our snow creation

Due to popular demand and cries of “what do you cook whilst on board?” For an introductory bargain price of absolutely nothing per month (usual price £24.99 per month) we are proud to present part I of:

Cooking With MOM

– Your guide to making anything with an oven that wouldn’t cook a roasted quail.

Pete’s not very hot (but yummy) Tesco’s hot curry powder curry




Tinned tomatoes


Tesco’s hot curry powder (small quantity of)



Toilet disasters and other amusement

Posted in Fun, Photographs, Sailing, the Mediterranean Sea, Unfortunate events on February 15, 2010 by maidofmettle

After a few days waiting in Cartegena we left for our longest passage yet at about 41 hours. Having had a lovely meal (including accidentally ordered snails) at a Tapas bar we said our goodbyes to the crew of Elida and left in a strong wind that we hoped would get us a long way. It was sad saying goodbye as they had been so lovely during our short time there. We been treated to lunch on board including a big chocolate birthday cake and I even managed a mini music session on the electric drum kit which was really fun. We left about 10pm with 3 of the crew waving us off from the pontoon a la “Mamma Mia” (with flippers and snorkels) style…

Birthday girl

The mountains round Cartegena made the wind unpredictable and much stronger than we expected. It was quite rough with a lot of spray and leaving at night probably increased the worry about the gusts at the start. Every time a gust came the wind vane could not really cope sending the boat heeling over to the side quite quickly. This meant someone had to be on hand to sail by hand. Fortunately we soon reduced sails to only have one jib (front sail) up which made it a lot more comfortable and meant some of us were no longer wondering whether leaving had been a less than good idea…Chris had been blissfully unaware of the ‘excitement’ on deck, assuming the rolling was just normal sailing, not Pete and I frantically trying to overcome the horrible weather-helm!

Sailing into the night

 I can’t speak for the others but I could barely stay awake during watches on the first night. I’m not sure whether it was the newly aquired Biodramina (this time being trialed without caffeine because it gives you horrible headaches when you stop taking it) or the fact we’d had quite a busy day but I was so tired it made me feel a bit useless. In fact I (again) spent a lot of the watch falling asleep in the hatch but being rudely awoken by the boat rolling making me nearly fall over because I wasn’t ready for it. Fortunately Chris (who was still on the caffeine ones) stayed awake and very kindly kept his eyes open most of the shift. After a sleep for most of the following morning I felt so much better.

Night shifts are really difficult. We have all struggled with the waking up in the middle of the night bit…it’s horrible waking up after a nice sleep in a warm sleeping bag when it’s dark and cold and possibly raining outside. The rude awakening by the alarm, forgetting momentarily why you’re even waking up at 4am, getting out of the bunk (which by now has a lee-cloth that has been hugging you nicely to stop you falling out of bed) and getting dressed into waterproofs, hat, gloves, shoes and lifejacket is challenging to say the least when your whole world is unpredictably rolling about without warning. If you’re unlucky a big wave catches the boat and you are sent flying whilst standing on one foot putting your waterproof trousers on landing on some bit of the boat or other. We are slowly learning that you need to wedge yourself or expect to move about quite a lot. Also it is inadvisable to wear only socks on our nice varnished floor if you don’t want to do an impression of a dog on a tiled kitchen floor – legs and arms everywhere. Yes, now we seem to have overcome sea-sickness in the cabin with the use of drugs, now we need to overcome doing anything other than lying down whilst in there.

However, the best part about being out at night is the glowing phospherescence that looks like green jewels or little glow worms in any water disturbed by the boat, that and the prospect of a lovely sun-rise in the morning.

watch system for rainy days

Crossing the Cabo de Gato (something about an 80nm wide cat) we tried to stay fairly close to shore because it looked to be where we would be most sheltered. The waves on the way to our destination of Velez were the biggest we’ve seen so far (maybe between 2-3 metres) but actually quite fun because they were behind us and made the boat go nice and fast with a much less rolly motion than we’ve had before. Chris liked the waves so much he even let one in the hatch during one of his watches.

Some of you may recall Chris’ enthusiasm for “Nature’s Head”…our, up until now, ever faithful toilet. Let’s just say it’s lucky that someone noticed that a heeling boat and our composting loo may not go all that well together. Fortunately any major disaster was narrowly averted but only just. I’ll spare the details…

Probably be in Velez for a little while to wait for the sea to calm down a bit…Pesky wind!

Cartagena, Cartageeena…ahh Carta´h´ena

Posted in Fun, Sailing, the Mediterranean Sea, Walking on February 10, 2010 by maidofmettle

Possibly because we (at least Chris and I) haven´t yet got past day 2 of “Instant Spanish” we wondered how to pronounce the place we are now though we´d had a few days to work out various options.  It took a bit of sailing and almost a day of motoring to get here from Santa Pola not to mention a pretty but particularly rolly anchorage mid-way at Cabo de Palos.

On arrival at what turns out to be “Cartahena” (though with a g that sounds like an h) Chris skillfully drove into a ridiculously small space -in fact we almost literally had to barge our way in.  After a stressful mooring up process we then decided the 9 euro marina was cheap for a reason.  It was not very sheltered and we had been placed next to a rolling bathtub.  As a result of this we quickly decided to move around the corner to the Yacht Club (renouned for its superyachts) where we were rewarded with nice pontoons and no bathtubs to contend with.  The seagulls here are apparently  particularly talented at turning on the water taps in the middle of the night.

Speaking of super yachts Cartagena is currently a temporary home for a huge 130 ft yacht belonging to a Swedish Christian charity who take kids out during the summer season.  We met one of the crew in the internet room and were invited over for tea last night.  The boat really is huge and though it looks very posh from the outside is quite simple inside to make it easy to keep clean etc.   They even have room for an electric drum kit and small electric piano in their living room area (which is incidentally just a bit longer and twice as wide as Maid of Mettle)  I was quite space envious though when they have their summer camps they have around 70 people on board so the 16 crew are rattling around a bit over the winter!  Thanks to the crew of Elida V for showing us round and for lovely tea and hospitality.  We enjoyed the singing too, especially when they came round to sing Happy Birthday this morning!

17 in a little boat

Have done lots of walking.  Up to the top of a big hill with a fort at the top and to a castle up another hill.  The second had not only peacocks and lovely views over the city but also a dog in a pushchair being wheeled around.  I think the woman pushing it had forgotten something.

Dog in basket

Continuing clinical trials – Santa Pola

Posted in Sailing, the Mediterranean Sea with tags on February 5, 2010 by maidofmettle

Spanish mainland

Having spent just over a week in Ibiza we left when there was the slightest hope of getting somewhere by sail.  Axel, who we had originally met on the rivers, had been stuck in Ibiza for a few weeks so it was nice to meet up again.  We had a good time on the island and thanks to a football, a frisby, the inflateable kayak and Axel’s newly aquired x-box computer games console we had not been bored.  The former two games reminding us how unfit we are when trying to run anywhere.  If we are ever going to improve our cardio fitness by running whilst on board we will be needing a considerably bigger boat!

We wish Axel (and Eddie and Dirk who we also met in San Antonio) safe onward journeys (if applicable) and all the best in whatever they are planning next.  San Antonio certainly seems to be a close-knit kind of place, especially in the marina.

The overnight crossing to Campello on the Spanish mainland was reasonably windy at times and at others (namely first thing in the morning) frustratingly windless and rolling.  The rolling motion is particularly horrible and seems to arrive any time you are trying to do something…It knows, it really does!

However, the drugs trials for Chris and I were reasonably successful.  The clinical trials themselves were an entirely unfair test.  Chris decided to try some Spanish aquired sea-sickness pills (Biodramina with caffeine) and I opted for some I had bought in England (Travel Calm).  The Spanish ones were apparently pretty good though they did appear to affect sleep a bit and put Chris into “super alert meercat” mode.  He also wasn’t too sure whether to push it by trying to read or anything in the cabin for fear of the dreaded sickness.

Travel Calm (hyocine) had the distinct disadvantage of making it feel like I had eaten a whole koala bear and also made me feel a bit wobbly on land.  Even more strange was the fact I could not work out what was happening to my taste-buds.  Sweet things were less sweet somehow and the tinned beans and chorizo dinner we had tasted incredibly salty and unappetising.  This effect wore off a bit and on the plus side I didn’t exactly feel unwell so I would consider them a partial success.

Given that Chris’ tablets gave him minimal trouble I decided to try them today on our day sail to Puerto Santa Pola. This is where the unfair test comes in.  The weather today was ok and there were some times when the wind actually propelled us.  The sea was pretty calm mostly but slight at times.  We both managed to spend some time in the cabin without too much trouble.  Reading and doing fiddly jobs was ok for short periods but how much of this is down to the better sea conditions I’m not sure.  Still, I think we hit a milestone all the same.

Calmish seas

After a comment about how someone on the boat didn’t think that sailing was very good for you cardiovascularly we have started a competition to find out who can reef the main-sail (take down part of the main sail when it gets too windy) the fastest.  There is plenty of room for improvement for me at least.  I will have to knock 7 minutes off my time to get to Chris’.  Pete has yet to be timed.

The Spanish coastline is pretty spectacular.  I’d like to come back here.

P.S thank you Clare for our stained glass (glass painted) ship.  I put it on the hatch the other day.  It looks really good when the sun shines through.

Our latest artistic addition