Saturday 5th June 2004 - Southsea, England

Our big adventure is about to begin - we both finished work last Friday and have spent the last week getting ready to go. It has been a busy week and we have not had much time to spend updating the website - hopefully we should be able to do more once we are underway.

We move out of the flat and onto the boat tomorrow and plan to set off for Falmouth on Monday or Tuesday. We expect to be in Falmouth for a couple of weeks (of serious partying!) before heading down the French coast to Spain then Portugal then left into the Mediterranean. That is the plan at the moment anyway. We will try to update the website as we go.

Thursday 10th June 2004 - Falmouth, England

We arrived in Falmouth yesterday morning at 0600 after setting off from Southsea at 1530 on Monday afternoon - had a mixture of pleasant sailing in light easterlies and motoring directly into stronger westerlies. Had to make a detour to avoid naval firing and submarine exercises between Start Point and Falmouth - a brief phone call to Naval Operations in Plymouth assured us that we would not be fired at! We both managed to get some sleep on passage but still slept until 1430 after arriving.

Went out for a few beers and a curry last night and are spending today doing a few jobs around the boat.

Will try to add a few more pics at our next update.

Wednesday 23rd June 2004 - Falmouth, England

Al with Ashley and Melissa in FalmouthStill in Falmouth and it looks like we'll be here for a couple more days - yesterday we had torrential rain all day and today we've had gale force 8 - occasionally force 9 winds! This is not supposed to happen in June! We are planning to head for Camaret or Brest in Brittany and studying the long range forecast it seems Sunday will be the best day to set off - this is a bit later than we hoped but at least we'll be able to see the England v Portugal match!

We've had a great time in Falmouth with numerous visitors and lots of eating and drinking - we'll have to stop spending so much money otherwise it will be a shorter trip than we planned! Also had our first technical hitch - the alternator packed up. Fortunately there is a Lucas electrical centre just around the corner - they have overhauled it and it seems fine now.

We've spent the time here doing lots of last minute jobs - marked the anchor chain (thanks to Fran and Rich for the green cable ties!), fitted a new tap in the galley and then fitted it again to stop it leaking (lots of swearing!), connected the kedge anchor warp to 15m of chain with an anchorplait splice (lots more swearing!). Also spent ages with the SSB radio receiver and the laptop practicing receiving weatherfax broadcasts - it's great when it works!

We've done a few touristy things aswell - quite a few walks along the coast which is quite spectacular and boat trips across to St. Mawes and up the river Fal to Truro. We've also bought a fishing lure which we will probably try out in France - it is about 8 inches long with large hooks attached - Al is concerned that we will catch a huge fish and not know what to do with it - I'll be happy if we catch anything! Being complete fishing novices, we are now trying to find a book on fish so that if we do catch anything we can find out what it is!

Next update will be from somewhere in France (hopefully).

Wednesday 30th June 2004 - Camaret, France

Moody 376 - Strummer - sailing from Falmouth, England to Camaret, France.Well we made it to France as planned - left Falmouth at 1130 on Sunday and arrived here in Camaret (just south of Brest) at 1600 on Monday. Force 4-5 westerly winds made it a reasonably quick crossing as far as Ushant (NW corner of France) when the wind dropped and we motored the last 30 miles. The swell from the Atlantic was quite big so the crossing was a bit more bumpy than Al would have liked.

Camaret is a small town with a few bars (they do not close at 2300!!!) and restaurants. We are trying to get into the habit of eating on the boat and not spending excessively (obviously this excludes money we spend in the bars). We are managing to find our way around the French shops quite well - the wine and beer is easy, but the fromage blanc we thought was cottage cheese turned out to be cream cheese! Need to brush up on the vocabulary - it is long time since we did O-level French.

We had a quiet day yesterday to get over the voyage - got up late and had our first French croissants for breakfast. In the afternoon we celebrated our arrival in France with a bottle of champagne and a bag of Cheesy Doritos (we know how to live well - it was a large bag!). The weather was not so good this morning so we had bacon and egg butties for brunch (used 50% of our bacon stock!). Al did some alterations to our wheel cover with her miniature sewing machine - we can now use the cockpit table without removing the wheel cover (this might not seem important to you, but it will be to us if the weather improves). I spent the morning messing about with the ssb receiver and the PC trying to receive weather faxes again - couldn't get anything to start with, so I knocked up a cable to connect the aerial socket on the radio to the backstay - it's now receiving quite well but unfortunately the weather for the next few days does not look too good.

Our plan now is to start heading south - our next port will probably be Benodet which is about 60 miles down the coast.

Wednesday 7th July 2004 - Sauzon, France

Moody 376 - Strummer sheltering in Sauzon, France.Here we are sitting out a severe gale again! This time we are in Sauzon on Belle Ile - I'm sure it is "Belle" when the weather is better. We spent last night on a mooring ball just outside the harbour, but with the storm approaching we moved into the harbour and are now rafted up with a French yacht attached to mooring balls fore and aft. It is fairly calm in the harbour but the wind is howling through the rigging. If we look out of the companion way we can see straight out to sea - HUGE waves with white crests and flying spray. If the mooring balls give way, that's where we'll be!

The passage here from Camaret was fine - about 27 hours - another overnighter but we did see our first dolphins of the trip. Al thinks I plan overnight passages to save money on mooring fees. (Whilst underway we had an extremely tasty beef stew prepared by Al before we set off from Camaret - a recipe sure to develop as our journey continues. (Al added this bit)). It looks like the weather will be better on Friday and Saturday so we're planning to head for La Rochelle - about 115 and overnight again!

Saturday 17th July 2004 - Gijon, Spain

It has been a while since our last update and there is quite a lot to report. We managed to survive the gale in Sauzon and sailed down to La Rochelle as planned arriving there on Saturday 10th. We stayed in a massive marina (3500 boats) at Les Minimes which is about 30 minutes walk from the old town of La Rochelle. The old town proved quite a happening place with lots of street theatre and lively bars. We decided to splash out and go out for a meal (our first since Falmouth) - Chicken Palak and Fish Madras with basmati rice and nan bread at the Sri Krishna Indian restaurant - typical French fare! Got the folding bikes out for the first time and went to the Supermarket for provisions - it is the first time Al has been on a bike for years. She managed OK but refused to cycle along the pontoons with me in case she fell in.

We are now in Gijon (Northern Spain) having sailed direct from from La Rochelle. We motored most of the way due to light winds and a large swell in the Bay of Biscay. We saw a whale (which Al was a bit scared of) and loads of dolphins (which she wasn't - they were great fun playing in our wake). This was our longest passage to date taking just under 48 hours so we were quite tired when we arrived early yesterday morning. Felt fine after showering and sleeping all day so we had our first night out in Spain and sampled some of the local customs. The first was drinking the local cider - a bit like scrumpy. The locals buy it in large bottles with a pint glass - the technique then is to hold the glass in one hand, as low as possible, with the bottle in the other hand as high as possible. You then start to pour and hope some goes in the glass. When there is about an inch of cider in the glass, you drink about half of it and then discard the dregs on the floor (along with that you spilt when pouring). The process is then repeated until the bottle is empty - interesting to try, but very messy. The second custom is going out late - the bars are quite empty at 2330 and then at about midnight everyone comes out and the nightlife really gets going - so we had quite a late one last night and are planning to do the same again tonight!

The plan now is to make our way along the coast towards Portugal. We'll try to do some shorter passages and stop in marinas or anchor overnight so we can get more sleep!

Tuesday 27th July 2004 - Bayona, Spain

Nige dreaming of bigger fish in Bayona.It's getting hotter! We are now in Bayona, the awning is over the boom and the wind scoop is over the forward hatch trying to keep the boat as cool as possible. We've been in shorts and T-shirts for the last couple of days (even when sailing) and we'll be eating in the cockpit again tonight.

After leaving Gijon we sailed to Ria de Ribadeo where we anchored overnight before continuing on our way at 0400. Did not sleep that well as it was quite windy and there was some swell in the anchorage - kept worrying about the anchor dragging and ending up on the rocks or drifting around out at sea. Happily we were still safely anchored in the same place when we got up. Continued on to Ria de Cedeira where we anchored again - a much better anchorage - very sheltered, picturesque little place and we had a great nights sleep. Next day we continued on to Marina Sada in Ria de Coruna where we stayed for a couple of nights to restock the boat with with beer and wine (and some food) and to do some washing. There are a number of other British yachts around including another Moody 376 - Ian and Yvonne on "Nicola Jane of Dartmouth" (I think). They were in Ria de Cedeira and then in Marina Sada at the same time - we managed to get together for an hour for a beer and to compare notes.

After resting in Marina Sada for two nights we sailed about 60 miles further down the coast to Corme where we anchored for the night again - it seemed quite a dreary place but it was very sheltered and another great nights sleep was had. Next day we rounded Cape Finisterre in quite strong winds with two reefs in the main. That night we anchored just north of Muros in another great spot - had chicken curry and a bottle of Cava for dinner. Woke up the next morning with two old Spanish blokes fishing from a small rowing boat about 3m from our cabin window.

The last couple of days we have had a number of flies in the boat - they seem to appear out at sea rather than at anchor or in the marinas. Fortunately I bought a fly swatter before we left England - 1 from Robert Dyas in Southsea - absolute bargain! I wanted to buy two but Al said one was enough - she is regretting it now!

Next stop Portugal!

Tuesday 10th August 2004 - Cascais, Portugal

Quite a while since our last update, so there is quite a lot to report including a major incident in Leixoes - more of that later.

On Thursday 29th we left Bayona and sailed down the coast to Vianna Da Castello - a fairly uneventful day (apart from crossing the border from Spain into Portugal) with very light winds until we turned into the river to approach the marina (just what you don't need!). The marina here was small and full with local boats - just a couple of spaces on the main pontoons for visitors. Wandered around the town in the evening and had a few beers - quite a nice place.

Al in Porto.Next morning we set off again for Leixoes - a large commercial port with a yacht harbour close to Porto. Our plan was to spend a couple of nights in Leixoes and go into Porto for a day - things didn't quite work out that way! We berthed in the yacht harbour - really friendly marina staff - gave us two miniature bottles of Port when we checked in. On Saturday morning we caught a bus into Porto - really interesting place. We went on a town tour on a tourist train - included a stop at one of the Port caves where we were told about the development of the Port wine trade. Free samples were included of course! Later we had a wander round and visited the Taylor's port caves - better than the first caves with more free samples. We thought about visiting a third cave but decided we should head back to the boat instead as we were planning an early start the next morning. Caught the bus back to Leixoes without any problem but as we were approaching the port, the bus was diverted by the police. Everyone was babbling away in Portuguese - which of course we couldn't understand, so we got off the bus and decided to walk back to the yacht harbour. As we got closer we could see a column of black smoke rising above the buildings (did we turn the gas off???) and then a police cordon and fire engines everywhere! We continued walking towards the yacht harbour but were stopped by a policeman - fortunately he spoke good English and explained that a fuel supply pipe from the oil refinery to the port had exploded and was now on fire. Apparently there were about 50 fire engines working to contain it. He explained that we could get to the marina by going through one of the local yacht club buildings and that we may then be able to get back to our boat. We managed to get to the side of the marina (the opposite side to our boat), Leixoes, Portugal. Fire in the marina!and could see that our boat was still there and appeared to be OK - the fire was quite close but on the other side of the harbour wall. The top floor of the building that we checked in at the night before had disappeared - completely burnt away! Most of the other visiting boats had left - we were one of about 6 or 7 remaining. The Policia Maritime guys took us back to our boat in their dinghy and recommended that we leave the yacht harbour - they said we could anchor in the outer harbour with the fishing boats. When we got back to the boat we found it was covered in black ash, the air was full of acrid fumes and there was fuel floating on top of the water - not a pleasant situation! So in traditional English style, we had a cup of tea while we discussed what we should do. We decided that moving to the outer harbour would not get us away from the fumes and that we would leave straight away and sail overnight to Figuera da Foz - our next planned destination. So we set off on another (unplanned) overnight passage - this time in quite poor visibility which meant that we both stayed on watch all night trying to avoid the numerous lobster pots and fishing floats along the way.

We arrived at Figuera da Foz at about 08:00 the next morning in thick fog - we couldn't see the harbour entrance until we were less than half a mile away. We were just about to turn back out to sea when one side of the harbour entrance just started to appear out of the mist! Quite scary! Stayed just one night in this large seaside resort with huge beaches before sailing down to Nazare for another one nighter. Nazare was like a down market Blackpool and the marina was quite small and right next to a large fishing quay where boats were landing their catches late into the night - quite interesting but not easy to sleep. Next stop was Peniche - another marina located in a large fishing harbour where the visitors moorings are renown for lots of wash from the fishing boats and the ferries as they come and go. We had been warned to put all our fenders out and make sure we were tied securely to the pontoon - this we did, but as it turned out we had a quiet night and slept really well. We think this was due to the festival that was going on in the town where all the fishermen were probably getting drunk!

After all these one night stops we arrived in Cascais - just outside Lisbon - where we decided to stay for a week and have a rest. Cascais is a really nice town and the train into Lisbon is frequent and cheap. We've been into Lisbon sight seeing a couple of times and walked along the coast to Estoril. Found an Irish pub in Cascais (O'Neill's) that sells pints of Guinness, Carlsberg and Strongbow - just like home (but cheaper and they open late!), so we've spent a couple of evenings in there. We've spent a couple of evenings with people we've met on the way down here who are also stopping for a rest in Cascais - Steve and Carol on "Double Bill", and Robert and Brenda on "Paprika". We spent last night on our boat drinking with Robert and Brenda, so we're having a quiet day today recovering from our hangovers. Robert is a hairdresser and this morning cut Al's hair on the pontoon next to their boat for €7.50 - I thought this was great as she was thinking of going to Toni & Guys in Cascais where it could have cost €60!

We're moving on again tomorrow so it will be a quiet night tonight (maybe just a couple of pints in O'Neill's) - down the coast to Sines for a night then a fairly long sail to Lagos on the Algarve the next day. When we get there, we'll have done the bulk of the trip to the Mediterranean, so we'll probably do shorter sails and slowly work our way towards Gibraltar.

Sunday 22nd August 2004 - Ayamonte, Spain

Once again sorry for the gap between updates - sign of the good time being had!

On Wednesday 11th we sailed down the Portuguese coast to Sines. The pilot book said not to be put off by the chemical plant chimneys prominent on the approach as round the corner was a picturesque village - it was but it still smelt like there was a chemical plant next door. We spent two nights there before setting off again to Lagos on the Algarve.

Party in Lagos, Portugal.The sail to Lagos was all going to plan - a bit of Atlantic swell but sunshine and reasonable wind - until we reached Cape St. Vincent (the bottom corner of Portugal). As we turned east to head along the Algarve coast it started blowing a hooley! Winds up to force 7 blasted us to Lagos - we have since found out these occur most afternoons on this part of the coast so decided to do our sailing in the mornings (well we're cruisers not racers!).

Lagos is a lively town with lots of bars - so we had a big night out - making it back to the boat in the early hours (apparently). We also found a pie shop so stocked up on sausage rolls and pork pies. Then Paprika and Double Bill arrived in the marina along with Trooper sailed by Ian, his son James and their two soppy dogs. We all went round to Paprika for pre dinner drinks - except dinner got forgotten as 9 bottles of wine and 40 bottles of beer were consumed (thirsty dogs obviously!).

The next day (Tuesday 17th) we sailed just 7 miles and anchored off Portimao - a quiet day was needed. Unfortunately the shelter was not good and the swell made the boat roll all night. So we headed off again at first light (Wednesday 18th) to Albufeira. This brand new marina is surrounded by multi coloured (mostly empty) apartment blocks and villas - Portuguese taste presumably. The marina shops and bars have also yet to open so we walked into the town, decided it was another Portuguese Blackpool and had an early night in on the boat.

On Thursday 19th we sailed towards Faro, and anchored in 'Canal de Olhao' for two free nights - the prices of the marinas on the Algarve are similar to the South coast back home so you make the most of good anchorages. We went ashore in the dinghy to buy bread and were surprised to find that the shacks on the sandy spit hid a small village of well kept houses, a few restaurants, a supermarket and a sports shop (?!). The next day who should arrive - Paprika and Double Bill. The dinghies were much used between boats but drinking was more restrained than on previous occasions - staggering along a pontoon is one thing - getting back to your boat in a dinghy is rather more bothersome!

On Saturday 21st we weighed anchor and sailed to Ayamonte - back in Spain (hooray!). We moored up at the marina and then realised it was an hour later than we thought and it was Saturday so the supermarket would be closed the next day. So off we dashed to stock up - we had been down to the free sachets of coffee so things would be desperate otherwise. After dinner and showers we headed into town at 11:30pm. Families were still out eating at this time but the bars soon started to get going - another good night out was had.

Today (Sunday 22nd) is swelteringly hot with little wind. We are doing jobs around the boat - including preparing the chicken we bought in the Supermarket - from 'farm fresh' (ie plucked but still with its head and innards) to 'oven ready' - well done Nige!

Tomorrow we set off towards Gibraltar - stopping in Mazagon, Chipiona and Barbate on the way. We should get there by next weekend in time for our first visitor (Al's sister).

Sunday 12th September 2004 - Marbella, Spain

Getting even lazier at updating the website - have written quite a lot this time though.

As you can see from the heading we have moved on a bit since our last update and have made it into the Mediterranean. We left Ayamonte as planned and headed down to Mazagon - not much to say about Mazagon - a small seaside town with a marina - we only stayed one night. Next day we set off for Chipiona - a larger and quite popular seaside town - so popular that the Marina was full and we had to go another 10 miles along the coast to Rota in the Bay of Cadiz. The Marina in Rota is next to a large US Naval Base, so we spent our first night in Rota drinking in an Irish bar (They seem to be everywhere!) that was full of Americans. We met a Dutch couple on the boat next to us in the marina who had spent the last couple of years in the Med. They gave us a lot of tips regarding the marinas in southern Spain - they will generally tell you that they are full but will let you stay for one night. The next day you ask if you can stay another night and usually it will be OK - then you stay for a few more nights and so on.

We stayed two nights in Rota and then carried on down to Barbate - a large fishing port and seaside town. Our Dutch neighbours in Rota had told us that Barbate was not very nice and that the walk from the Marina was not too pleasant. They were right! We walked into town that evening past the back of the fish docks - dark and intimidating with dogs roaming around. When we got into town we wished we hadn't bothered and after a quick walk around we went back to the boat.

Next morning the forecast for the Straits of Gibraltar was Easterly force 3-4 - not ideal but we decided we would go anyway as the time was right to catch the tide through the Straits. About 12 miles out of Barbate the wind started to increase until we had a force 6-7 headwind with increasingly large waves breaking over the boat! Thought about turning back to Barbate but it was such a dump we decided to continue towards Tarifa - about 8 miles further on - where we could shelter if the wind did not decrease. It didn't, so we anchored in the lee of the headland just west of Tarifa. Apparently Tarifa is the windsurfing and suicide (due to the incessant strong winds) capital of Europe. We saw plenty of windsurfers enjoying the strong Easterly wind but no suicides. That may have been due to the fog that appeared as the wind died away that night. It was so thick that we could no longer see the coast or the lighthouse that were only a couple of hundred metres away - like being encased in cotton wool - weird!

The following morning all was clear again and now with fairly light winds - just had to wait for the tide to turn and then set off again for Gibraltar. Really liked listening to the weather forecasts on the VHF from Tarifa Traffic Control - they monitor all shipping that transits the Straits of Gibraltar. "The wind in the Strait is currently Westerly force 2 and the sea state is slight ..." pause while they look out of the window ".... visibilty is moderate". Managed to sail part of the way through the Straits until the wind died away completely - quite something looking to starboard and see Africa in the distance (seems like a long way from Southsea).

We were looking forward to seeing the Rock of Gibraltar and getting some good photos - unfortunately there was thick fog in the Bay of Gibraltar and we couldn't see a thing. It was so bad we had lifejackets on and the EPIRB and grab bag sitting in the cockpit. We could hear Gibraltar port control on the radio directing large tankers to move frighteningly close to our position! We decided it would be wise to call them up and check that they knew we were there. They were very helpful - asked if we could find our own way to the marina and said that they would Moody 376 - Strummer - sailing into Gibraltar.monitor our progress on their radar. Fortunately as we got closer the fog lifted and we made our way between the larger anchored ships to Marina Bay. After clearing customs and refuelling we called up the marina and were allocated a berth at the end of one of the pontoons right next to the airport runway. According to the pilot book the proximity of the airport was not a problem as there are only a handful of flights per day. That was until a squadron of RAF Tornado fighters was relocated from their base in Scotland due to bad weather around the UK. The BA and Monarch Airlines flights landing and taking off were fine, but when the RAF boys decided to play with their planes it was really LOUD. (No, it was LOUD, LOUD, LOUD!). It was however great to be so close and to watch them practising for the air display that was scheduled for later that week to commemorate the 64th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

We had a busy time in Gibraltar and also had our first visitor - Al's sister Fiona who also brought a bag of supplies from home. Went shopping at Safeway's and bought bacon and pork pies! Went to the top of the rock in the cable car - great views and monkeys. Walked down (and then up again much to Fiona's disgust!) to St Michael's cave and then walked along to see the tunnels dug in the rock by British forces to protect the Rock from the Spanish during various sieges - quite a tiring day that one. We also met up again with our friends Robert and Brenda on Paprika - they were in Queensway marina so we went over there one night and had a great Indian in one of the marina side restaurants then back to Paprika for drinks. Quite enjoyed Gibraltar but found it expensive compared with Spain (despite being duty free) and the pubs close early.

Fiona flew back to the UK on 4th September and the following day we had a great sail up the coast to Estepona. Nice marina with a number of bars and restaurants around the perimeter and a small town about a mile away. Spent a fairly quiet five nights in Estepona apart from the night that Robert and Brenda plus Ian with his son James and daughter Rachael from "Trooper" came over to our boat for a few beers - turned into another good night! We had all met up in various locations on our way down from the north of Spain but will probably not see each other for a while - Robert and Brenda are heading off to Cartagena and their new villa in La Manga while Ian,James and Rachael are thinking of renting a villa near Estepona and trading in their boat for something larger (Rachael is a new and somewhat unexpected addition to the crew so they need more room!) We have decided to spend some time along the Costa del Sol and are looking forward to our next visitors in October - Fran and Rich from Harrogate (professional boozers who like to go out early - could be a problem in Spain where no one really starts drinking until mid-night!).

Sailing in Southern Spain.We are currently spending our third day in Marbella - didn't know what to expect before we arrived but it turns out to quite a nice place. There are lots of British ex-pats here and obviously lots of cash about. This does mean that there are loads of bars and restaurants around and it is a really lively place. Some of the restaurants are expensive but there are plenty of Tapas bars around. We did our first Tapas night last night - moving from bar to bar having one or two small dishes and a beer in each bar - Great!

Our Dutch neighbours from Rota are also in Marbella - funny how we keep meeting the same people. They were absolutely right about the marinas - when we arrived we were told they might only have space for one night - we've been here three nights now and will be staying for another.

That is about it for now - more news soon (or maybe later!)

Wednesday 3rd November 2004- Almerimar, Spain

We are still afloat! Have not been able to update the web page as the laptop crashed - I've re-installed it from scratch and we should now be operational again. Hope to have a more detailed update posted in a couple of days.

Wednesday 8th December 2004 - Almerimar, Spain

Moody 376 - Strummer - in Almerimar.We arrived in Almerimar on 21st September and have booked in until the end of January. We had not planned to spend the winter in one spot, but having booked flights back to the UK for Christmas we had to find a place where we could safely leave the boat. Once booked in we were also free to come and go knowing that our berth was reserved.

This is a well known wintering spot - there are 1200 boats here in three 'Darcena's'. There is a large liveaboard community, both travellers stopping for the winter and retired travellers living permamently here on their boats or in apartments. Almermar itself is a purpose built resort with bars, restaurants, supermarkets and even a launderette. The nearest real town, El Ejido, is a short bus ride away.

Every morning at 10:00 the "Cruiser Net" is broadcast on the VHF. This is run by a team of liveaboards and anybody can contribute with local info, details about social events, etc. There is a weather forecast, a 'treasues of the bilge' section for selling off stuff or borrowing tools, and often a 'thought for the day' which may or may not be amusing. After the "net" the day starts. There is pool on Monday night, boules on Tuesday, the market in El Ejido and quiz night on Wednesday, ladies coffee morning and spanish lessons on Thursday, and craft fair and boat jumble on Sunday - it's all go!

Surprisingly our friends, Fran & Rich from Harrogate, who were flying out to Malaga to visit us, were less than excited by the above and so, on 4th October, we sailed overnight back to Marbella to meet them. We stayed in Marbella for three weeks; four days with Fran & Rich, then a week alone before Al's sister, Fiona and her boyfriend, Simon, arrived.

Nige and Rich Bullfighting in Ronda, Spain.While Fran and Rich were here we hired a car for a day and went up into the mountains to Ronda - great views and an exciting drive. We went to the bull fighting musuem and Nige and Rich pratted about in the bullring (no surprise there then - there were no bulls so they decided to pretend).

During the week between visitors we managed to keep ourselves amused - revisiting the bars just to check they were still going. In particular "The Tavern" in which we met a crowd from Nottingham. Later that night Nige took a dip in the marina (unintentional!) while checking the mooring lines - scary to think what might have happened as it was three in the morning and there was no-one around. The first Al knew about it was when she found Nige's wet clothes in a pile in the sink the next morning.

Fiona and Simon arrived to enjoy the glorious sunshine - apart from one night when it chucked it down and we were stuck in an irish bar watching football and eating burgers. All was not lost as we did tapas one evening and went for a spanish meal in a 'locals' restaurant recommended by the live-aboards in the marina on our last night in Marbella. The next day they drove to Almerimar (4 hours) and we sailed back (20 hours). They checked into an apartment overlooking the marina for the remainder of their two week stay. We enjoyed its facilities - washing machine, hot power shower - as well as making the most of their hire car to obtain the components to make a passerelle. (boarding ladder - see photos). Unfortunately this was only completed on the day they were leaving - but it is now ready for future guests.

We drove to Granada to see the Alhambra (and stayed in an interesting hostel run by an Osama Bin Laden look alike). The Alhambra is a spectacular moorish palace but Nige also enjoyed the gardens - standing in front of the many fountains so that it looked like he was ......... well you get the idea!

After Fiona and Simon left we got back into the swing of life in Almerimar - helped by making friends with Bob and Liz on Yanina. They had also met Rob (the hairdresser) and Brenda on Paprika along the way who had recommended us to them and vice versa (not sure exactly what for but drinking was certainly mentioned). We formed an enthusiastic team on quiz nights (we'll go if you go) - even winning one week with help of a few friends.

Rob and Brenda are wintering further along the coast in Cartegena as they are having a villa built near there. They came to visit us for a weekend (on the bus) and the six of us had a murder mystery evening aboard Yanina - fancy dress of course (see photos).

A week later we (Nige and Al) went for a return visit to Cartegena - no murder mystery but a great time was had by all!

Bob and Liz have many talents including drawing cartoons (to create Christmas cards to sell on the Sunday market) and playing guitar and clarinet - Bob was the star of the jam session one Saturday night and has been booked for a similar gig on new year's eve.

We have been learning spanish, attending weekly classes in the marina. Before coming home for Christmas we had progressed to the intermediate class and plan to continue when we go back in the new year. Hopefully this will be useful later on as we do not have much call for it in Almermar.

Friday 17th December 2004 - Brighouse, England

We flew back to the UK on 15th December for Christmas. Looking forward to seeing friends and family - thanks to Fiona for the loan of her car.

In 2005 we plan to sail east along the Spanish coast as far as Alicante, then head across to 'The Ballies' (Yottie speak for the Balearics - that is Ibiza, Majorca & Minorca for those whose geography is not too good!), and back up to Barcelona by late spring. After this we will continue to Nice, then head south either along the Italian coast or via Corsica to spend the summer on the coast of Croatia. We plan to spend next winter in Corfu - but this could all change - and probably will.

For now we are just looking forward to Christmas and then returning to the sunshine - Bob and Liz kindly texted us to tell us how warm it still is in Spain - Thanks a lot!