We are now in Baiona, Spain, close to the Portugese border. We arrived yesterday, 30 August after a two day passage with an anchorage in between. Don’t ask me about that anchorage – we made 10 attempts just to get one that took! Arghhhh!!! Bloody sailing!!! But what upper arms I am developing…!
Anyway the first thing to say is that it is hot. Oh at last! We arrived yesterday around 1800 hours. It was still 21 degrees yet by 2100 hours it was cool. The perfect climate in my book. Duvet still required – I like that…it must be the northern hemisphere alive in my veins.
It was quite bizarre how we noticed the heat. Somewhere during the passage it suddenly felt hot. As we started removing outer clothing so too did we realise that we truly were in the south or at least starting to be. We had crossed a line. Where that line lay was imperceptible. All we could say is that somewhere between N4425 W0902 & N4207 W0855 we had crossed it. As a result the jumpers are being packed away. The sun dresses are tumbling out of lockers. Crumpled and a bit damp, soon to be bone dry and faded I imagine. The suncream is being lathered on. The mosquitoes have moved in – Olive they find very juicy as she has about 8 bites poor poppet. But at least her jeans are gone.
I would like to say, so too is this moody coastline with it’s unpredictable weather and perilous contours. More than enough times whilst in mid deep water did we see smudges of white spray to indicate reefs or rocks. Even until the last moments of our approach to the breakwater here we were carefully plotting our way through, reflecting every word of the pilot book with our avid attention. We were taking fixes every 3-5 minutes as the channel commanded. This is nothing compared to the approach / exit of our last (10 attempts) anchorage where the channel was down to 300-400 metres with rocks and reef either side. I am continually reminded that there by the grace of a higher force do you go. The superstitious nature of sailors, fishermen, folk of the sea., I GET IT NOW. Ben is no different. He insists that certain words, items and even people are not allowed in the boat. He is still anxious by the fact that we have on board a parasol for the buggy (umbrellas are forbidden). Even Olive is not allowed to call Peter Rabbit Peter Rabbit…she must ask for Peter Bunny (rabbit is not a word that can be uttered…I still don’t know why). I even sought Captain’s permission to be writing of these things whilst aboard! Even I am getting superstitious…Anyway all I know is that you can’t take anything for granted…do I keep saying this? Sorry. Anyway I must stop rambling on about this, it is not like anyone forced me here…so back to the headlines.
We are anchored in the bay of Baiona. It is beautiful – it looks something like this…
And this is the view from the boat
It is hot. It is balmy. It is all bikinis and pecs and gold chains. As Ben said today ‘baywatch meets monaco’. It is an entirely different scene on the water and ashore compared to the land north of Finnestere – man are we so glad to get that bit of coast behind us. Baoina bay is dotted with beaches big and small. Green wooded hills sit above the town and there is water all around. The town also sits in the shadow of a 17h century fortress which is vivid and still alive and you can almost see knights on horses clattering through it’s walkways. It is pretty awesome to say the least. We walked 3km of its ramparts today and were staggered by the beauty of the coastline and the incredible robustness of the fortress. Could have been built yesterday…except it wasn’t. Check it out.
Anyway everywhere there is sun and flesh and colour and melons and ice cream and coffee. All of which reminds me not the slightest of home other than by contrast. It can only highlight how we in ‘the north’ are compelled to live due to our weather. Inside. Behind closed doors. In close quarters to each other (or no-one)…this must explain so much of our culture, our humour, our history, must it not? Oh there I go digressing again; back to the streets of Baoina. So a snapshot; restaurants with windows the size of your TV behind which are water tanks bubbling away with real live lobster, crab and shrimp. Olive was totally confused by this today…I parked her pram in front of said TV and asked her what she saw…after a moment or two of cogitation she said ‘crab mummy’ followed by ‘get one mummy’…at that point I wheeled her away with a vision of her with crab claw hanging out of her mouth and me with a pain in my wallet.
Restaurants with white clothed tables on wide street side terraces covered by deep awnings to keep you cool. Elegant folk drinking espressos or beer or wine eating tapas. Young and old all out on the street. All of them in various degrees of dress. Many of them semi naked. Not in your intentionally provocative kind of a way (although of course, it is), rather in a state of dress designed for the heat. Swimming costumes under loose shirts, drapey dresses flowing over nut brown skin, big bellied men in small fitting t shirts, grandparents cooing over their kin in cool white buggies, old men in flat caps under trees sitting and talking or simply sitting silently…smoking, lots of smoking.
One thing that has alsp really struck me is the very obvious presence of people above the age of 65, or thereabouts. And also the fact that it is usually men, in groups, not with their other halves (assuming they have them). But where there are women, they too are with other women. In either case, they are not just out. But alive. Not dead yet. Even the ones that look like they are not far off. Having picnics with their friends. Baring all on the beach. Strutting down the main drag in full get up…I’ve seen some very cool septuagenarians who should be on a Dolce & Gabana catwalk. So too did I see a bunch of three old women on the beach remove their simple dresses and stand knee deep in the sea. With their dark skin and wirey grey hair and wisened old faces that told a thousand stories. No sooner had I noticed them did they approach me as I held Alfi in my arms. At this moment I could see Ben out of the corner of my eye trying to corral Olive who was naked in the sea throwing seaweed around being excited again totally starkers with her dimpley bottom winking at the world. Anyway back to these women, they came toward me and asked me with semi toothless grins if Alfi was a girl before stroking her and muttering sweet spells like witches…it was a rather strange encounter as usually I do not hesitate to speak back in Spanish but the language whispered from their lips sounded more like portugese which confused me. Anyway I just grinned and Alfi gave a toothless grin back and the women walked away still muttering. They put their dresses back on and headed back to wherever. It was all rather peculiar and wonderful.
The girls are attracting attention wherever we go…strangers do not hesitate to stop and stare and touch and stroke. Children are treasured…how wonderful for them to be permanently met with smiles and coos!
The other thing to report is we are for the time being travelling in convoy with two French boats. La Desirade, owned by Micha and Linda who are the parents of Eden (Olive’s new friend) and Jaya the dog – see earlier pic. Notre Dame de Timedouc owned by a couple Antoine and Lors. What is strange and unique about all of us is that we are all under 50 Ben only just). Whilst of course ther are cruisers under 50 or so…usually the boats out there are owned by people who have retired. Usually it is a man and a woman, a neat little team. Who have neat little shower bags and efficient little dinghies and all mod cons on their boats. They have every courtesy flag needed and all equipment that would be necessary. They all have toilets and showers aboard and the appropriate clothing. They have worked hard all their lives and are now reaping the rewards. Good for them. However we do not fall into this category. We have worked hard all our lives but we are in the middle of them. We make the sacrifices such as no loo, small boat, no mod cons as we feel lucky to even have what we have and are able to do without as we havent done with such that we cant go without. Am I making sense? Anyway all I am saying is that in my limited experience I think it is not that common to meet people at our stage of life capable of owing a boat and to be living like this. So to have three boats like this is pretty cool and two of them with kids under 3 on board is pretty damn cool. A wonderful friendship has sprouted. We are all heading south whether we will all go together or not doesnt matter, we are sure we will bump into each other here and there even if we split up in parts.
What is also cool is the mixed up language we are all speaking. Ben never had a problem with French having parents that live in France and having worked there for a time. Me on the other hand, whilst I studied it, I also studied Spanish which I preferred. I spent a year in Chile and as a result I am more comfortable with making myself heard in Spanish than French. I have realy enjoyed speaking it and am pleased that I seem still to have the knack. Unfortunately only one of the French speaks Spanish so I am trying my best to speak French. This is a very confusing exercise as we are in Spain. My poor brain is getting very confused. When I go ashore my Spanish is confused by the French in my head and when I head back to the boats, my French is confused with Spanish. Then when it is just us on our boat I find myself speaking to the girls in French! Or that international English one speaks when with people who don’t speak English fluently. Or simply English with a French accent. Its quite amusing. I am also teaching Olive as much as I can. She is like a parrot and will repeat whatever word I tell her. She is now very adept at saying ‘gracias’ as we leave shops smiling her big grin showing her funny teeth. She is still missing about 8 teeth…when oh when will they appear…?
Alfi is hilarious – she just wants to laugh all the time…say boo or sneeze or just laugh at her and she will laugh right back – such a cutie (and still GINORNOUS)!! I am telling myself that her chubbiness is her preparing for lift off. I keep finding her pushing herself up on to her knees and wobbling or rocking back and forward…she is sort of doing that backward suffle that babies do before crawling proper…but we could be weeks away. Anyway laughing is her main occupation…
Alfi’s laughing sessions occur particularly when Olive is having a tantrum (these are increasing). Olive is most definitely very squarely in the terrible twos phase. No is her favourite word. No to clothes. No to plaits. No to lifejacket. No to putting on pyjamas. No to taking off pyjamas. No to suncream. Yes to suncream if she can smear it on her and me and the boat. No to drawing on paper. Yes to scribbling all over Daddy’s cockpit. I kid you not, we have red pencil scribbles all over the place. On passage she becomes a moody surly teenager, refusing to leave her bedroom whilst demanding Octonauts or Sarah & Duck – isn’t this 15 years too early? I am reassured by Eden’s parents, Lynda and Micha…that Eden is the same on their boat when they are on passage. However once moored somewhere Olive is a different story. She is at present sat next to me in the saloon trying to get her postman figuerine to wear his lifejacket (a piece of silver paper). Yesterday she had a ball. We had the French for lunch and the dressing up box came out. The we all walked along the ramparts of the Fortress (absolutely stunning) where Olive and Eden ran about like marbles thrown down a hallway. After that she stripped off on the beach and finally got her much awaited swim in the sea. She finally collapsed fully clothed in her bed around 7.30pm. She has not fallen asleep before 10pm for weeks now…what peace reigned in the boat last night.
So things are finally pretty normal with not a lot of drama (bit boring to read probably). Not much to report other than we are in a great location, anchoring for free, eating beautiful fruit every day – Alfi is loving the nectarines and melons and frankly anything she can get her sticky mits on. Today is our 33rd day at sea in which we have travelled a total of 737 sea miles. The plan is to keep heading south. Next stop Portugal.
Please keep your comments coming – it is so great reading them and knowing that you are right behind us. I cant always confirm that I have received your comments as there is usually no time / connection to do so. It’s been a mission to post this for lots of reasons. Just know that we do get your comments as soon as we get internet and once we do we love reading them. So to my mad Aunty Clare – we did get yours and loved every word and are sorry we have not said as much. More please !! And to the people we have never met before!
Sat phone users…the phone we have is second hand and a bit clunky. Please keep texts short. To scroll through messages I have to scroll through each letter (!) which is a total pain. Long texts/emails seem to get cut off too. The sat phone is really an emergency device and whilst we can access internet email or comments on the blog is the best way to talk with us.
We shall be here til the wind turns up…none til Friday it seems. So tata for now – xxxx