Sunday, 13 September 2020

Offbeat's Excursions!

August / September 2020

Offbeat's Adventures have stalled a bit this year, as we have focused more on doing all those odd jobs needed rather than going off sailing for the summer.  

We had planned to cruise either westwards towards Cadiz or eastwards towards Cabo de Gata, depending on which way the wind blew, but each time we made plans, something came up that scuppered it. Like diesel bug in the tanks, water leaking into the bilges and no wind!  Having said that, we have gone out for days and had some fun cruising along the coastline. 

Our first excursion out on Offbeat was on the 1st August.  Looking back, we can't believe we waited this long to take Offbeat out, but when your boat is your home as well, it takes a bit of planning and lots of stowing away.  

So, after a couple of days of putting tools, project work bits and odds and sods away, we were filled with excitement at the thought of going for a little trip and anchoring overnight.  Our plan was to go and find dolphins and then anchor in the bay of Playa del Cristo, which is just the other side of the marina.

Heading out of the marina felt so good, even though we were under engine, having a slight breeze caress your face and flow through your hair was so welcome.

Once out of the marina there wasn't enough wind to put the sails up, but it didn't really matter as we were just happy to be on the water.

And then, just as we heading north towards San Pedro, they arrived. The dolphins came to say hello. It was such a joyous sight and quite unusual for them to be so close but they were obviously hunting for food, so we changed course to follow them for a little while and then set anchor in the bay. We were so lucky that day as whilst we were setting anchor, another small pod came along. They were quite close to the boat but obviously feeding as we watched them heading south along the coastline. 

Was this a good omen for our first night out at anchor? We hoped so!

Jumping into the Mediterranean for a swim was a complete shock to the system.  This was not like the balmy waters of the Balearics, more like the Walton Back Waters on a sunny afternoon.  It was freezing (well, 19°). A quick swim around Offbeat and we were back on board for lunch and siesta.

By late afternoon an uncomfortable swell had arrived and as there was no wind to face us into the swell, Offbeat's preference is to go beam on. We have learnt that the swell is a bit of a phenomenon in this part of Spain.  Even if we don't have strong winds in our area, the sea swell heads from strong winds hundreds of miles to the East and ends up crashing along our coastline.  It is known as the 'Moron' by locals and can last for days, forcing red flags on beaches with no swimming allowed.

By the time dusk arrived we had decided to go back into the marina for the night. As much as we love sleeping out on anchor,  with the swell knocking us from side to side, it would have made for a very uncomfortable night.

We were treated to a gorgeous sunset and although the trip hadn't gone to plan, it was a good day out.

Our next trip out was exactly the same.  Lulled into a false sense of security with flat calm seas, only to find a nasty swell creeping in as the day progressed.  No dolphins this time either to lift our spirits and the sea temperature was down to 16° which put both of us off going in the water.

We had arranged to meet our friends Richard and Edita in the evening and raft up for a socially distanced glass of wine over sunset.   However, given the swell this wasn't possible so we just waved at each other at a distance and decided to head back and have drinks in comfort on our boats in the marina. 

Just as well, as the wind blew and the storm clouds rolled in! 

Mid August and I went to England for a week. Whilst I was away, Mark made the most of it and took Offbeat out for a sail (yes, there was enough wind!) And anchored out overnight off the coast of Duquesa in a nice little bay that reminded him - slightly - of the gorgeous anchorages of the Balearics.

After a restful night at anchor Mark had a lazy morning. He noticed the coast about 20 miles to the East becoming fuzzy and then a wall of fog appear. It soon became a race to see who could reach the harbour at Estepona first. The fog won by about three miles! A fishing boat overtook Offbeat as he was creeping slowly along the beach, following the line of yellow bouys that mark the swim zone.  He decided to follow it in, thinking if there was anything in the way, the fishing boat would hit it first! It worked out OK.

Our daughter Georgina came to visit at the end of August. She's not a great sailor as she suffers from sea sickness quite badly, so we chose a flat calm day to take Offbeat out and possibly anchor overnight (if no Moron) in a sheltered area further down the coast near Duquesa, where Mark had stayed previously

We headed out of the marina and took a course towards the fish 'factoria' - a maze of nets and traps - which is just north of Estepona.  Based on previous experience and watching the tour boats, we knew that dolphins sometimes hang around this area. Twenty minutes out and we were not disappointed.  With binoculars in hand Georgina and I were on dolphin watch at the bow of the boat and could quite clearly see dolphins playing in the flat calm sea, so we changed course and headed towards them. 

Unfortunately, so did another boat who, with engine at full blast, proceeded to go straight through the pod of dolphins and then chase them when they tried to flee.  It makes me so angry that people can't observe them from a distance and appreciate them in their natural surroundings. 

Upset and disillusioned by the experience,  we headed off towards our planned anchorage. Although Georgina had got to see dolphins in their natural habitat, it wasn't quite the experience we wanted her to have.

We had no idea what was to come.  Motoring south, we saw another pod of dolphins. And they heard us. And then decided to come and check us out. Mark slowed the engine down and wow, what a treat we had. Between 20 and 30 dolphins, of all ages playing and flipping in the water, upsetting the flying fish. We even got to see one female dolphin nursing a very young calf. The pod stayed with us for quite a while, before we had to change course towards our anchorage.

Our third sighting of dolphins was just past the entrance to our marina.  Heading south was a fishing boat trawling, and in its wake was a large pod of dolphins focused on feeding anything that escaped.   We could not believe our luck. One pod was a treat, but three pods in one day was absolutely awesome. 

Shows over, we headed to the anchorage for swimming and lunch. When we arrived we could feel a bit of a swell, but nothing too uncomfortable. Mark and Georgina went for their swim whilst I made lunch. I say swim in a loose context, with water barely reaching 20°, it was a lap around the boat and back on board. 

Following lunch, Mark went for his siesta whilst we went on deck.  For me it was sunbathing, which is bit of a rare treat and for Georgina it was an opportunity to practice her yoga on deck.  And then the swell arrived and yes, Offbeat turned beam on to it. With Georgina getting quieter and quieter, it was a sure sign that she wasn't feeling her best so rather than clean up later, we lifted anchor and headed back to the marina.

As it would take about an hour and we needed to do something to get Georgina to take her mind off feeling sick, we put her on the helm. There's nothing like being on the helm for the first time ever to take your mind off feeling sick.  She did a fantastic job and the look of concentration was a picture, although Mark wasn't so confident about letting her steer us into the marina.

Even so, it was a wonderful day at sea and gave Georgina a tiny glimpse of our cruising life and I think it's safe to say,  she was slightly impressed!

Offbeat's final day out so far was a spectacular sail in Force 6/7 winds. 

Mark, his friend Richard and his son Richie took Offbeat out, marooning Georgie and I on shore.  We had a lovely time by the pool at the gorgeous hose of Richard and his wife Edita, who have become very special friends. Meanwhile Mark and the Richards headed out to sea in strong winds - Force Six to Seven for you sailors. 

They started out reefed heavily but released more and more sail as they gained confidence. The waves got higher as they neared Gibraltar so Mark chose his moment to turn stern onto the waves and try to surf Offbeat! Yes, given strong enough wind and big enough waves Offbeat will pick up her skirts and break all theoretical speed limits on a boat of her modest type. 

We have seen speeds of nine knots from time to time and Mark gleefully reports, 11 knots once. OK, 14 or 15 mph sounds slow, but its the equivalent of deliberately aquaplaning a family saloon car at 60mph. A touch wrong on the steering wheel and you'll be off the road and on the roof! But the waves were just a bit too small and a bit too short between each other.

Next time Mark, next time....


Monday, 7 September 2020

Lakes, Mountains and a Rabbit!

June 2020

With lockdown restrictions removed and freedom of movement once again allowed, we were eager to get out and about.  During lockdown we had talked about places we wanted to visit and high on our priority list was to visit our family in Tolox. 

Caminito Del Rey from the aeroplane
We also wanted to visit El Caminito Del Rey, a beautiful walkway pinned along the steep walls of a narrow gorge near Ardales to the northwest of Malaga.  We had flown over this area a number of times coming in and going out of Malaga airport and were intrigued by the sheer beauty that we saw from the sky.

So, we contacted family in Tolox to make sure that it was ok to visit, hired a car and booked hotel accommodation.  The only part of our trip that we couldn't do was visit El Caminito as it was completely booked up until end July.  Not to be put off though, we still planned to visit the reservoirs and the town of Ardales.

Plan of our road trip
Heading off early Saturday morning, we collected the hire car and set off for the reservoirs.  The plan was to visit the reservoirs first, then head on up to Laguna de Furente de Piedra, a large salt lake renowned for its colonies of flamingos, come back on ourselves taking in Ardeles and then on to El Burgo where we were staying for the night.

Judging by the terrain on the maps, our journey should take us through some beautiful mountainsides and landscapes and as navigator, I just hoped I didn't get us lost as turning around on mountain roads is near on impossible!

Embalse del Conde de Gualdahorce
First of the reservoirs to visit was Embalse del Conde de Gualdahorce.  We knew that it would be special, but I don't think either of us was prepared for the sheer natural beauty before our eyes.

Whilst the photos are lovely, they do not do the reservoir justice as there is no way you can capture the peace and tranquillity or the smell of the trees or the gentle tweeting of the birds.  It was as if we had found a piece of paradise and neither of us could quite believe.

We could have quite happily stayed there for the day, but we were on a time schedule so as much as we wanted to stay, we had to press on.  Poor Mark, trying to drive whilst appreciating the beauty along the road was torture for him so we did make a few stops along the way so that he didn't miss out completely on the beautiful scenery.

Views and a rabbit!
By the time we reached the north of the reservoir we were ready for lunch.  We're not used to getting up early in the morning and it had come as bit of a shock to our system.  That and I'd only had one cup of coffee!

So, we stopped at a restaurant situated on the side of the road.  We didn't have high expectations but so long as we could get a sandwich and a drink we would be happy. 

How wrong we were.  The food was absolutely delicious and the portions were overwhelmingly generous.  I ordered what I thought was going to be a tapa portion of Paella.  No, it was a full on large pan of Paella for one!  Mark ordered rabbit.  Usually, when he has this it comes in either a stew or chopped and fried.  No, we were in the mountains of Andalucia at a restaurant clearly frequented by locals, so the rabbit came semi whole.  Basically, half a rabbit on the plate.  It came as a bit of a shock and it was a bit disturbing watching Mark eat it, but he assures me it was delicious!  Lunch over and we had a wander to stretch our legs and walk off a bit of lunch and appreciate the beautiful countryside.

Suitably refreshed we headed off to our next stop, Laguna de Fuente de Piedra.  This is a wetland, north of Malaga that is used by the greater flamingo for breeding and claims to have the largest colony on the Iberian peninsula.  Upon arrival, we climbed to the viewing point with a sense of excitement.  Mark had read up on the Laguna and had been looking forward to going there for some time and as it was a clear day and you could see for miles and miles, we hoped to clearly see the flamingos.  But, what a disappointment.  Whilst the views were incredible, the Laguna was almost dry and there was only a small flock of flamingos huddled together in a small area of water.

Laguna de Fuente de Piedra

Oh well, some you win and some you loose and clearly,  visiting in the June heat is not the best time!

Time to head to our hotel for the night in the small village of El Burgo, which is north of Tolox and on the northern edge of the Sierra de las Nieves mountain range.  To get there we would go through Ardales, a pretty little white village perched on a hillside and then up and over the mountains set behind it.

What we hadn't appreciated was that to get to the mountains the other side, you literally had to go to the top of the village, through very very narrow winding streets.  It was an experience!  To start with it wasn't too bad, but we knew it was challenging when we passed through a street and the people sitting outside a bar having a quiet drink had to move their table and chairs back so that we could get through.  You could feel all eyes on us and a sense of 'bloody tourists'.  Needless to say, with such challenging streets the opportunity to stop, park up and have a wander around didn't appear.  

On our way out of the village, we felt a bit better after we got stuck behind a local's car, reversing out of one of the side streets.  Back and forth he went trying to get round the corner without scratching the car.  Poor guy, his final humiliation was when he swapped places with his wife and with one manoeuvre she reversed the car out and zoomed off up the street.

Looking back on the lakes
The journey through the mountains to El Burgo was pretty spectacular, with constantly changing scenery and landscape.  There were a couple of times where I couldn't look because of the sheer drop down the mountain side, but most of the time I was able to enjoy the view.  They were so spectacular that we had to stop so that Mark could just soak up the scenery as well.  There are no words that can do this justice, so the photos will speak for themselves.

Looking forward to the mountains 

Road to Tolox
Next day we headed off to Tolox where we were going to stay for a few days.  Our plan was to spend a day catching up with family, a day walking in the mountains and then on our last day I had an appointment at the local town hall to get copies of my Dad's birth certificate and any other information I could glean about his family.

The journey to Tolox took about an hour and again took us through stunningly beautiful countryside, high up into the mountains overlooking deep gorges and valleys.  I always feel quite nostalgic when I near Tolox, knowing that my Dad would have walked these same roads and paths at some stage during his life in the village and even though I've only known my extended family for a year or so, I get a sense of joy at the prospect of seeing them again.

Ladies of Tolox!
We spent a wonderful day with the family at their 'campo' which is a small holding just outside the village and over a very long and lazy 5 course lunch, we got to know Juana and Jose's son Miguel and his three sons, Anna's husband David and their two daughters and Juana's sister-in-law Anna.  The food was superb, the wine flowed and the chatter, whilst at times was a bit stilted and interspersed with google translate, was lively and interesting.

Back in the village that evening Mark and I were having a night cap in the square, reflecting on what a great day we had had and how lucky we were to be where we are in life.

Up early the next morning, we set off for our walk in the mountains.  Anna had told us the previous day about a lovely walk we could take up to the Hermitage of La Virgen de la Nieves which is set in a large pine forest and which would take us about 3 hours there and back.  

Just a gentle stroll!
Leaving the village we decided to take the dirt track rather than the road as this way you get to experience more things and as it had recently been cleared, should be relatively safe.
It was a good choice, as it gave us glimpses of the mountains, streams and small holdings that would have been missed had we walked along the road.  Walking along the dirt track, with only the sound of birds and the occasional dog barking, there was a real sense of time standing still and a glimpse of how life would have been.

The hardest part of the walk was when we reached the end of the track and had to rejoin the road to access the hermitage.  With an incline of about 45 degrees, it was rather challenging on the legs and lungs.  

The pineforest and Hermitage
Walking into the forest was a welcome relief from the sun, but what hit us most was the smell.  Not the usual smell of pine, but more a cedarwood smell that wafted past us with the gentle breeze.  Taking time to sit in the forest, absorbing its beauty and views was a pretty special moment for us, particularly as we were the only ones there so we had it all to ourselves.

Walking back to the village along the road was a lot less spectacular, but it was a lot quicker as by this time we had worked up quite an appetite and thirst! 

Beautiful umbrellas of Tolox
That evening we had dinner with Juana and Jose in their favourite local restaurant.  Nothing too fancy, but a lovely family run place where everyone knows everyone and you get the warmest of welcomes.  Walking through the streets, we admired the beautiful crocheted umberellas that are made every year to brighten up the village and Juana had particular pride in pointing out hers to us. 

Next day we met Anna and headed up to the local town hall for our appointment with the Encarni, the towns registrar.  Anna explained that I was tryng to piece together my family history and wanted a copy of my Dad's birth certificate and if possible, any information on my grandparents that was available.

To appreciate the next bit, I have to set the scene.  In a small office there is a desk with a computer, keyboard, phone etc and at the side of the desk is a photocopier.  On the far wall behind the desk are bookshelves with leather bound folders and it turns out that each leather bound folder is the keeper of births, marriages and deaths of all occupants of Tolox, going back to goodness knows when.

So, asking for details of my Dad's birth date, his full name, the names of his parents and typing them into the computer to cross reference with the leather bound journals, I was able to get information on my family that went back as far as my great great grandparents on both my grandmother and grandfather's side.  I also learnt that my Dad had a sister who was born four days after the start of the Spanish Civil War and was named Libertad. My Dad had mentioned a sister who had died at a very young age near Barcelona, but I never knew her name. To say that all this information blew my mind would be an understatement.  I initially went in hoping for a copy of his birth certificate and came out with generations of family history and I will be forever grateful to this lady for giving up her time to give me all that information.

The story so far!

After a final lunch with Juana and Jose out in the countryside, it was time to head on back to Estepona, reflecting on what a road trip it had been and whilst it wasn't officially an Offbeat Adventure, it was none the less an adventure!

Thursday, 30 July 2020

The New Norm!

Summer 2020

Sunday 21 June 2020 we entered the realms of the new norm.  Spain was no longer under a 'State of Alarm' and regional Government's took back control of their regions.  Unless there was another major outbreak of CV19, all decisions relating to the management of the virus and the economy would be made at regional level.

Life in Estepona has gradually returned to some resemblance of normality.  We've seen friends return to work who had been shielding, we've seen restaurants and bars reopen and in the marina, we have seen more movement of boats both coming and going.  People are still very cautious though and facemasks are mandatory. 

It was funny,  but during the first few days of the 'New Norm' we saw fog engulf the beach and the paseo.  It was as if the mysteries of the universe was forcing the town to take things slowly.  Of course though, once the mist and fog lifted the townsfolk came out, but the beach was still empty.

The Spanish quarantine requirements were lifted on the 20 June and there was a lot of anticipation that holiday tourists would come flooding back to Spain.  Whilst some towns along the Costa del Sol have seen increased tourism, there hasn't really been a huge increase in Estepona.  There are certainly more people in the town, but nowhere near packed to capacity.  A good benchmark for this is the Sunday market at the port.  Once renowned for its vibrant hustle and bustle, it is still eerily quiet.

Unfortunately for us our summer has taken a very different route to what we had planned in January and revised in May.  We have not left Estepona, other than to have a couple of day trips out.  

Once we had entered the new norm and it looked as though there would be freedom of movement across Europe,  we changed the grandchildren's flight tickets to Malaga so that they could spend some time with us in Estepona. But, unfortunately the number of new cases of CV19 increased considerably and at the end of July the British Government recommended only essential travel to Spain and those returning from Spain would have to quarantine for two weeks.  We made the tough decision not to risk it with the little ones, so cancelled their holiday. I think it's safe to say we were all pretty heartbroken,  but hopefully we will see them soon.

It hasn't been all doom and gloom though, we had a lovely long weekend in the mountains and visited family in Tolox (more on that in a separate blog).  We've been out to sea with our friends Richard and Edita and Isaac and his family where we got to test out our inflatable unicorn, which was my Christmas present from Mark's sister Jo.  This turned out to be great fun and despite Mark constantly complaining about it, he seemed to enjoy it the most, especially when he realised he could fall asleep on it!

Being in Estepona over summer meant that we were here for the celebration of Virgin del Carmen, which is a big thing in Estepona as she is the Patron Saint of fishermen.  Usually there is a big parade of the Virgin del Carmen statue through the streets, with bands playing and singing.  

She is then taken to the waters edge and launched on a raft and taken out to sea surrounded by all the local fishing boats and anyone else feeling brave enough to risk it. This part is usually at sunset, by which time a lot of alcohol has been consumed on the fishing boats! Things then get really crazy. If you want to onow how crazy watch the short documentary The Passion of Andalucia. The scenes of the Virgin and the guys in the sea were shot in Estepona.

This year because all holy saint day celebrations and fiestas have been cancelled, it was a lot more sedate and involved just dignatories and the local priest on a fishing boat.  It was still enjoyable and there were about 15 boats that went out to sea, trimmed with bunting and flags, blowing horns and shouting their praise to the Virgin del Carmen when the blessing was given.  Although nowhere near as grand or crazy as previous years, it was really enjoyable and gave us a very small glimpse of what it would be like.


Thursday, 9 July 2020

Diary of a live aboard during lockdown - CV Week 14

Sunday 14 June to 20 June 2020

After working so hard over the last few weeks   we had a relatively lazy week, which involved doing some odd jobs but most importantly,  having some downtime. 

Sunset at Playa del Cristo 
We treated ourselves to a night out at a beach bar on Playa del Cristo.  It's a perfect place to go and chill, with good food, wine and service and is a beautiful romantic setting when the sun goes down.

Our other highlight of the week was being treated to a day out by a fellow sailor from our pontoon. Peter is a retired gentleman who has a yacht moored on our pontoon and who one day, had the misfortune to fall off his boat. I saw him fall and rushed to help him, but I couldn't do anything but push the boat off the pontoon to stop it crushing him and shout for help.  Luckily two Spanish guys heard me and came to help and along with Mark were able to lift him onto the pontoon.

So, by way of a thank you to me and to Mark who had helped him with some work on his boat, he drove us up into the beautiful mountain side of Casares, which is a picture postcard white village with a population of around three thousand and a view to die for. To say it is stunningly beautiful would be an understatement. The village is a tourists heaven, with white washed houses, the remains of an Arab castle and a church perched at the highest point of the village.
Beautiful village of Casares
What makes it even more enchanting though is that despite its beauty and stunning views, it isn't part of the coach tour carousel found in some of the other pretty white villages of Andalucia.

A real gem, but shush, don't tell anyone else!

Back in Estepona, the news and chatter was all about ending the State of Alarm and getting ready for the 'new norm'.  It would mean that from Sunday 21st June restaurants, bars, shops etc. could return to there normal capacities, albeit with strict social distancing and sanitary requirements and facemasks would still be required in shops and places where social distancing wasn't possible. 

For us it would be no more restrictions of movement across the country and we would be free to travel anywhere within Spanish waters.  It would also mean that and tourists could start arriving and the quiet tranquil life we had led for the past three months would all change.  Only time will tell if it will be for better or worse!

Tuesday, 23 June 2020

Diary of a liveaboard during lockdown - CV Week 13

Sunday 7 June to Saturday 13 June 2020

Monday morning and the whole of Andalucia moved in to Phase 3 of de-escalation.  For us it was a week early as the Province of Malaga had been held back a week, but as the number of new cases continued to decline over the course of the week, the Government agreed that Andalucia could move into the next phase as one.  

It would mean though, no restrictions on personal movement, restaurants could open 50% of their interiors, shops, shopping centres and cultural buildings could open to 50%.  This was it, we were reaching the end of lockdown and would soon move into the new norm, whatever that may look like!

To celebrate moving into the next phase, we took a long walk to the end of the promenade.  We hadn't done this walk since before lockdown as we were quite nervous going out to start with, but as we've progressed through the phases and we've observed how seriously people take the wearing of masks and social distancing,  our confidence has grown to venture further.  The view from the end of the promenade is one of our favourites and with a chilled glass of wine in hand, we were treated to glorious views of Gibraltar and Morocco. 

Work wise, we were in finish off job mode so we sanded and painted the galley splashback and small table for our cabin.  It's surprising how long it actually takes,  given the sanding and drying time in between coats, but at least it's done now, is in place and I'm really pleased with it. 

Another job we cracked on with was fitting our new cockpit cover. Mark had fitted one for our friends Peter and Leslie who are stuck in England and we were so impressed with it we decided it was time to ditch our worn out sunshade, curtain and piece of gazebo that made us look like sea gypsies and invest in something that would provide us with more space and look nice too.  We are really pleased with it, it's so spacious and airy, it's like have a shaded patio on board! 

Since we moved into the de-escalation phase, the weather has been glorious so Mark went out sailing with his friend Isaac for a few hours along the coast. He said it was great to be out on the sea again, under sail, a genuine feeling of freedom. He must have enjoyed it as they didn't return until after dark!

The highlight of the week for both of us was when we received a copy of an oil painting of Offbeat.  As a thank you for looking after his boat, our friend Peter had used a photo he had taken of Offbeat when we sailed to Ceuta and had painted in oils.  It looks absolutely amazing and we were so pleased with it we've made it our cover photo for our blog.

We really look forward to seeing them again soon and to hanging the painting on offbeat.

Monday, 15 June 2020

Diary of a liveaboard during lockdown - CV Week 12

Sunday 31 May to Saturday 6 June 2020.

The week started with the happy announcement that the province of Malaga would move into Phase 2 on Monday.  This was great news for local businesses as it meant they could expand their available seating areas and open the interior for 50% of normal capacity.  Just as well because the weather at the start of the week was miserable, rain wind and thunderstorms. Apparently not usual weather for the Costa del Sol this time of year, but certainly becoming the 'norm' for us!

The weather improved later in the week, which was just as well as we had bought a new sun shade for the fore deck and someone was eager to get it up and fitted.  I have to say, it does an excellent job and does look a better than the various bits of curtain and gazebo we did have up.  We were so pleased with it that we splashed out and bought a matching cover for the cockpit.  

One of the restrictions lifted in Phase 2 was accessing the beach.  Walking along the promenade over the last couple of weeks with the beach cordoned off had been quite a sad sight, so with no restrictions in place,  I expected to see the beach packed.  How wrong I was.  I walked along the promenade for a couple of miles and was shocked by the lack of people on the beach, bearing in mind what we'd seen in England.  In total there was probably a couple of hundred at most.  They really are taking the advice of slowly slowly serious!

Monday saw the fish dock spring back to life.  Over the last few months there had been some activity, with smaller fish boats going in and out but now, the big boys were back in business.  We can only assume that demand has increased now that restaurants are open and whilst not at full capacity,  they are certainly able to cater for larger numbers.  It wasn't until the dock sprung back to life that we realised how much we'd missed the noise and chatter of the fishermen. Hearing them again was very reassuring. 

Meanwhile,  back on Offbeat, it was time to finish off some jobs that had been hanging around.  Mark got busy finishing the aft cabin where we sleep. As much as I love 70s disco, you can only sleep with shiny silver insulation for so long.  So, to finish the cabin off and to get rid of the cork that had been hanging around for weeks, Mark glued the cork to the wall and ceiling. It does look nice now it's finished, but we can't make up our mind whether to varnish it or paint it.  Oh well, that's a project for next winter!

For my part, I was on sewing duty again.  We had to make some adjustments to the new foredeck shade, so whilst Mark was glueing and corking, I was sewing and hemming.

The week ended on a high again, as we celebrated our granddaughter Olivia's 13th birthday.   It's hard to believe she's now a teenager,  the years have just flown by, but she's growing into a beautiful young lady and we hope to be able to celebrate her birthday with her properly when she comes to visit. 

Saturday, 6 June 2020

Diary of a live aboard during lockdown - CV Week 11

Sunday 24 May to Saturday 30 May 2020

Estepona is slowly coming back to life as we ease our way through de-escalation and head into 'the new norm'. There was some disappointment by people around us that we hadn't moved into Phase 2 with the rest of the province, but as shops, restaurants, bars and cafes gradually start to open it is clear to see that the wearing of protective equipment and continued social distancing has been accepted by the majority.  

This was confirmed when I booked an appointment at the beauticians and received a message the day before my appointment stating that upon arrival I should wait outside until they were ready for me to enter.  Upon entering, I would have my shoes sanitised and my temperature taken and I was asked to wear a mask and gloves.  Hand sanitizer would be provided.  At the end of the message, it read "I will protect you, please protect me".I think that's fair enough and if it helps us all get back to 'normal' so be it.

With scorching sun and heat, we have been fairly laid back this week.  If there is work to be done, we tend to do it in the morning before it gets too hot.  Out of curiosity we took the temperature in the full one day, but the thermometer only goes up to 50°C.

The highlight of our week has to be our walk in the Cerro de la Matrona in the foothills of Sierra Bermeja. We set out early in the morning so as to comply with our time schedule and to enjoy the walk before it got too hot.  Our friend Edita was our guide and what was going to be a one hour stroll ended up being a three hour hike, but it was well worth it and the views across the hills towards Ronda and out over the Mediterranean were stunning. I can safely say that the walk was good for our souls and confirmed that walking in the hills and mountains of Andalucia this year will make up for not getting to Sardinia and Corsica. 

Mark's treat of the week was getting out on the sea.  Our neighbour Manuel, who has a beautiful Saffier 26 day boat moored opposite us on the pontoon turned up on Saturday morning to take her out for the morning and asked Mark if he would like to join him. Without hesitation and within minutes, he was changed and ready to go. As they set off, I took some video of them heading out into 20 knot winds. Mark came back after three hours damp from the sea spray, crusted with salt and a huge grin on his face. "That was fun" he said.

Hopefully if the rate of new infections and deaths continues to fall across Malaga, we will enter Phase 2 next week, which will mean more freedom for everyone: restaurants can open their interiors, markets can start up again, exercise times are less restrictive, the beaches open  and we can travel or sail across the province. 

Sunday, 31 May 2020

Diary of a live aboard during lockdown - CV Week 10

Sunday 17 May to Saturday 23 May 2020

Hurray, we've entered Phase 1 of de-escalation from Spain's Coronovirus lockdown. So, what does that mean in reality?

For us it means that we can go sailing with friends, but staying in the boundaries of the Malaga province which is south to Duquesa (12 miles) and north to Malaga (50 miles).  It also means that we can go out on our friends boats, which is exactly what we did on Thursday to celebrate our friend Richard's birthday.

Back on the sea at last!
Richard and Edita are moored next to us and over the last year have become good friends.  They own a 26 foot motor boat so when they invited us out for a whizz up the coast and supper at sunset, we jumped at the chance to get on the sea. 

It was a beautiful evening, perfect for an evening cruise and oh my did it feel good to be out there, with the wind blowing in our hair, spray on our faces and grins that a Cheshire cat would be envious of.  It made us both realise how much we miss the freedom of the sea!

Birthday girl!
We also celebrated our granddaughter Millie's 4th birthday.  We video called early in the morning so that we could sing 'happy birthday' and see her opening her presents from us.  Apparently she'd been up since 6am, but was still going strong.

It was lovely to see her so happy and I think it's safe to say she liked the Playdough Kitchen we bought her as we had to watch as she made us cookies with it. 

I'm really hoping that we'll be able to get back to England sometime soon, as much as I see the grandchildren on facetime, it's just not the same as having those little arms around your neck giving you the biggest hug.

Estepona comes back to life 
Moving into Phase 1 also meant that shops could open, albeit with strict distance and hygiene rules in place and bars and cafes could open if they had outdoor seating and could maintain the 2 metre distance rule.

Monday morning I headed off for my usual walk, but this time I could legitimately go into the town centre.  There were a number of shops open, but for me the best sight was seeing people sitting at the cafes having breakfast and talking as if nothing had happened.  Back at the marina, that too was full of life as fishing boats came in and unloaded their catches and large motorboats arrived at the boat yard.

The marina was bustling and noisy and by the end of the day, I was a bit emotional after seeing our beautiful Estepona slowly coming back to life and feeling a sense of comfort that things will get better.

Getting ready for the off!
Back on Offbeat it was time to check out the repairs we had done to the Ghoster sail - our lightweight, light-wind genoa.  Luckily we had a number of days with no wind (although by mid afternoon the heat was suffocatingly hot) so Mark could get it raised and check it thoroughly.  He also took the opportunity to fiddle about with its fittings so it raises and drops more easily. This sail is 40 years old - we inherited the original receipts when we bought Offbeat- and still works well for us. It was a beautiful sight to see the sail up and spurred us on to sit down and revise our plans for the summer so that we can get our fix of sailing and sightseeing. 

Our highlight of the week has to be our long lunch at our favourite restaurant La Escallera.  It is a fresh seafood restaurant set just behind the fishing dock and fish market and is always packed full of locals and some tourists.  It is so popular that you can't book a table, you turn up, put your name on the list and wait! 

When the wind did arrive at the tail end of the week, it was blowing a Levanter.  This is a problem for us as it means that the wind blows the smell of cooking from La Escallera straight over to our boat.  You may think it would be a fishy smell, but I can assure you it's not.  It is the most mouthwatering combination of fish, shellfish, herbs and cooking which, in combination with the happy chatter of diners, makes the place irresistible.  As we hadn't been out for 10 weeks, we owed ourselves a treat and boy did we have one. Octopus, squid and baby sole washed down with chilled Albarino.

If ever there was food porn, this was it!

Sunday, 24 May 2020

Diary of a live aboard during lockdown - CV Week 9

Sunday 10 May to Saturday 16 May 2020

No pasa a la fase 1 😣
After the highs of the previous week and the eagerness we witnessed of people getting their boats ready to go out and a few bars getting ready to welcome customers,  the week started a bit of a low.  The Spanish Government had announced the regions that would be moving into Phase 1 of de-escalation and whilst the majority of Andalucia would start to open for business on Monday morning,  the provinces of Malaga and Granada were not included. We are in the Malaga province.

Come Monday morning, there was a real sense of disappointment and a subdued atmosphere around the marina, but also quiet resignation that if we needed to be protected for another week, so be it.  We would move into Phase 1 soon or later

With the prospect of not getting out and about just yet, we carried on with some of our projects.  Mark's on bit of a mission now to reduce 'the stuff' (my words, not his) in his project box and reduce the clutter that he has accumulated.

In the meantime,  I've found a cunning way of getting my morning exercise in and do the shopping at the same time.  There is a lovely little greengrocer's about a mile away, that sells fresh produce from Estepona and the surrounding area.  It's great to be able to buy vegetables that are freshly picked and are not prepacked, plus we're supporting local farmers and businesses. So, each morning I head off to the shop with shopping bag in hand, just in case I get stopped by the police again!

Just a small job!
After one of my little shopping trips,  I came back to this.  Mark had decided that today would be the day to fit the extra flexible water tank in the bilge area under our bed.  We've had the tank since before we left England but had never got round to fitting it.  To fit the tank, Mark had to remove the mattress, drawers, wall paneling and bed structure.  

The boat was in complete upheaval. Previously when I've come back to this I've turned round and gone straight back out again, but this time I couldn't.  I therefore became the plumbers apprentice, making tea and handing tools whilst he had half his body twisted in the bilge or under the bed.  And I'm very pleased to say, the new tank is installed and working and the boat has been put back together.

Gibraltar and Jebel Musa
Although we are allowed to go out for exercise daily between 6am-10am and 8pm-11pm, we haven't really taken advantage of it as we don't tend to eat until late now because it is still so hot until the sunsets. However, we did go out one night for a short walk to the viewpoint which is about one kilometre away and has great views of Gibraltar and North Africa.
Maintaining social distancing 
It was a beautiful calm evening,  the sun was setting, the Starlings and Wagtails were in the trees making the last calls of the evening and the Seagulls were perched on the crane, observing the rules on social distancing!

Oh how we love Spain!