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

“Whoah! We’re going to eat pizza”

Posted in Fun, Photographs, Sailing, the Mediterranean Sea, Walking with tags on January 25, 2010 by maidofmettle

Ahoy there Chris. Bye bye Barcelona

We took the 150 nautical mile trip from Barcelona to Ibiza having decided that we might be better off heading there instead of going a bit further along the Spanish mainland.  The decision was ultimately made when the weather forecast mid-journey looked to be potentially getting worse…that and the fact that we liked the idea of sailing to an island.

The journey took us from 5pm Friday evening to about 2.30am on Sunday morning where we arrived in San Antonio to the sound of the local clubs blaring queen at us as a welcome.     It was a lot nicer than the previous long journey and certainly not as rough.  Chris and I managed a bit better in terms of sea sickness but we still have some improvements to make.  More than anything, trying to work up the enthusiasm to do anything whilst feeling a little nauseous was the most difficult thing but we did at least manage a bit more sleep this time.

Passing Mallorca in the early morning of Saturday

In the words of Chris “It’s taken me 12 hours to work up the enthusiasm to tighten up the spinaker haliard that’s flopping about” and I can sympathise as I felt a bit like Basil (Clare’s dog) looks when he lies on the floor looking like no-one’s ever taken him for a walk when in reality he’s only just been for one.  Now I can sort of empathise with Ellen Macarthur on some of her video diaries!

We were extremely lucky in the early hours of the morning on Saturday.  I was pretty drowsy on the watch from 6-9am so was positioned sat on the top of the steps leaning (in said Basil-style) against the hatch.

All of a sudden there was a bit of a splash and what looked very like the body and fin of a dolphin about a metre away from the boat.  That was the last I saw of that until about 20 minutes after I excitedly woke Chris from his dozing at having seen another dolphin swimming towards the boat diagonally.  It too got to the boat then disappeared without doing a flipper impression or telling us that someone or other was stuck down a mine-shaft.  I am looking forward to seeing more of them as we sail on.

San Antonio is a bit cloudy and rainy but has some nice hills around it to explore, not to mention the most impressive Chinese meal for €7 (about £6.50)  That was for a lot of food.  So much so, it felt a bit like we were robbing them when we came to pay.

San Antonio with random boats beached

Caroline in a hole

Pete and Caroline looking out over San Antonio

Speaking of water…The flexible water tank under Chris’ bunk (that had been sent as a replacement after it broke) broke for the second time.  Chris is not amused at Plastimo who make them.

“It was the [second] time that we met…Barcelona!”

Posted in Fun, Photographs, the Mediterranean Sea with tags , on January 21, 2010 by maidofmettle

Contrary to the words of Freddie mercury back in 1992 when the city was host to the olympics, Chris and I were lucky enough to come to Barcelona in the summer last year so we have enjoyed seeing some of our favourite sites for a second time and acting as tour guides (a bit) for Pete.

We did a few days of motoring (and occasional sailing) mostly in no wind to get here and in the absence of a great forecast for moving on (and the fact we wanted to stay for at least a day) we have had plenty of time to see things and relax a bit.  It can be a bit difficult knowing from day to day what you’re going to be do and if you are still going to be somewhere because our lives are dictated somewhat by what the weather chooses to do.  The uncertainty is going to have to be something to get used to even if it is a struggle.

On the way in to Barcelona

About 3 miles from our intended port in Barcelona a motor boat came from nowhere out of the mist and head directly towards us…we moved, they moved…we moved again, they moved.  Hmmm we thought, what on earth are they doing maintaining a deliberate collision course?!  It was only when they got a little closer that we realised they were in fact the Spanish police on the look out for boats so they could check our passports, the boat’s papers and have a quick look around the boat presumably to check for drugs.  I suppose they might have wondered why anyone would be out in the misty, damp and slightly cold Mediterranean winter so were pulling boats in to the nearest port, which then added at least an hour on to our original journey plan.  The police let us go having checked everything and then refused Chris’ kind offer to take their photograph…one of the three claiming he was too shy and the other two looking slightly scary at the prospect of having their photos taken!  Anyway, we got one of their boat instead.

The guardia with another boat

It’s a little quieter than when we were here but the city still has appeal in the form of a lots of giant things… a giant fish,  a giant gherkin,  a woolly mammoth and you guessed it…the giant ostentatious cathedral courtesy of Gaudi who never actually finished making it in his lifetime.  The people of Barcelona are still finishing it but even now it is incredibly impressive and resembles a scene out of melted wax on one side and angular on the other.  I like it.

Just one of the giant things in Barcelona

The unfinished cathedral

We’ve eaten out a couple of times, both of which were very nice.  We bravely tried “carpaccio of beef”, which on its arrival turned out to be very thin slices of raw beef with a salad.  I had wrongly thought it might be some kind of beef wrapped in pastry parcels…still we have learned now and it was actually surprisingly good if a little disturbing.

Today, walking down the main tourist street Las Ramblas we spotted someone who likes vegetables even more than Pete does…

Anyone for garlic?

Viva Espagne

Posted in Fun, Photographs, Sailing, the Mediterranean Sea with tags , , on January 13, 2010 by maidofmettle

I’d love to say we had an amazing sail for the 100 or so nautical miles from Port de Bouc to L’Escala in Spain.  Although in reality I was excited to see land for many more reasons other than it being a different country to explore!

The sailing started out quite nicely with calm water and a reasonable amount of wind.  We’d had an excellent looking forecast for 48 hours that would be more than enough to cover the journey across the Gulf de Lion that separated us from Spain.

In fact it wasn’t all bad at first…I practised a few things such as plotting navigation markers on the chart, reefing the main-sail to make it small enough to use as the wind increased and generally gaining confidence with crawling around on deck whilst on the move.  Our new crew member “Horace” the Hydrovane (self steering device) got its first outing and was impressive, encouraging the real crew to be more rested and concentrate a bit more on navigation and so on.

We saw the sun set and with some trepidation continued sailing into the night.  I was particularly dreading going into the cabin to get to sleep after feeling slightly off colour since the afternoon.

Sunset before the waves came up

The night was uncomfortable to say the least.  None of us expected the waves to be breaking (occasionally jumping over the side and landing on the poor people in the cockpit) and though it wasn’t too bad, the sea did seem a little rougher than I expected from the forecast.

Having said that, both Chris and I had our minds put off the waves by feeling horrendously ill for the whole night.  Sea sickness is not fun and whoever thought it would be Chris who succumbed to it first!  Luckily Pete seemed to be oblivious to the rocking motion of the boat in the waves and appeared as if by magic to carry on as normal.  Anyone who can go into the cabin and act normally by reading charts and managing to do anything without any ill effects is amazing if you ask me.   Needless to say we got through the night but it was difficult to sleep and pretty cold outside too.  The choice between being cold and being ill is a tricky one especially when there is a chance of being both when you’re outside in the dark without a clear view of the horizon…yay!

The night sailing did have some advantages.  We got an amazing view of the stars and some glowing phospherescence in the water.  Lots of little bits of green something or other that looked like little glow-worms flicking about in our wake and occasional breaking waves of green.

Almost as soon as it had picked up the wind died down again to almost nothing in the morning which meant we had to get the motor back on to make sure we didn’t have another night at sea.

After about 30 hours of sailing we arrived extremely tired into L’Escala and negotiated some tricky mooring…just what you need when all you want to do is go to sleep.

This morning we took a well earned lie in and then explored a bit.

beach and copper boy at L'Escala

It’s nice here and we found our first beaches since Calais.  Need to pick up some Spanish.  Between us I think we can say hello, thank you, two beers please and can I have the bill.  It’s bizarre too that it would be now that we start thinking in French and dropping in French phrases by accident.