Monday 24 June 2019

Javea to Formentera

Thursday 23rd May 2019

At 03:30 we dropped our lines at Javea marina and as we were waved off by the duty Marinero, we headed into Javea bay under engine.

It was a beautiful clear night, the sea was calm, the wind was light and the moon was shining bright to guide us on our way.  The lights of Javea were twinkling as we made our way across the bay towards our first weigh point off Cap de la Nau, which we had grown very fond of over the last couple of weeks.

We were both feeling very excited, despite the early start which was a shock to our system!  This was really it, we were heading across the open sea to new adventures. We weren’t sure what the summer would bring, but if it was anything like last year, there would be lots of fun, laughter, adventure and fantastic memories.

As we headed out of the bay at Cap de la Nau, with the wind blowing from the east, we were able to raise the main, staysail and foresail and turn the engine off.  Hurray, at last the weather was in our favour and we were sailing!  There was a slight sea swell, but nothing to bother us.

Although we'd been up and about early, we agreed to both stay on watch until we had passed the shipping lane.  As it turned out, it was a very quiet night in the shipping lane with only one vessel heading south.

By 06:00 we were halfway across the shipping lane. The wind was still with us and Offbeat was making good speed. With the awakening of dawn, Mark noted in the log book “Dawn is glowing pink to the east. Is there any better feeling in the world than your boat going well to a new island, the weather being kind and your heart being at ease". Safe to say he was a happy bunny!

An hour later we were through the shipping lane so we altered course for the Balearics, which had been in sight since sunrise.  By now, the wind had dropped so we were motor sailing but still making good progress.

For the next few hours we continued to motor sail.  With the exception of a quick visit from two dolphins, we had the sea to ourselves.

By 11:30 there was just enough wind to turn the engine off and sail at between 4 – 4.5 knots.  Still not a lot happening, other than a couple of super yachts go bombing past in the distance.  Obviously wanted to be in Formentera for lunch! It’s always amazing how the time flies by at sea even when there's nothing happening and nothing to do.

By 13:45 the wind had picked up and we were reaching 6 knots under sail, which for Offbeat is good going. The weather was still being kind, clear and sunny and a slight sea swell.  Was this a good omen and a sign of things to come?  We certainly hoped so as by now we could see our final destination and were buzzing with excitement.

We arrived at our final destination at 15:55. We had chosen the anchorage of Cala de Sahona on the west side of Formentera to shelter us from the easterly wind. And wow, what an anchorage. The sea was aquamarine blue, the sand was white and the cliffs sheltering us looked like layer cake.

As we opened the champagne (thanks Chris) to celebrate our arrival at our first island, it would have been easy to mistake Formentera for paradise!

Costa Blanca Revisited

Monday 13th May to Thursday 23rd May 2019

After heading out of Javea marina on Monday evening, we had no definite plans of what we would do other than revisit the coastline between Javea and Calpe.  We headed over to Cala Sardinaria, where we stayed until Wednesday and then headed off to explore.

There were a number of spectacular views and highlights during our ten days, but these are the ones worth a particular mention.

Not quite Jaws!

Heading towards Isla de Descubridor, which is just south of Cabo de la Nau we disturbed what we think was a shark, basking in the sun. Mark had spotted it and told me to have a look through the binoculars  and tell him what I saw. I couldn’t believe my eyes.  There, laying in the sun without a care in the world was a shark!  We were lucky enough to manage to get within 20 metres of it before it turned lazily and dived down.

Another highlight was the afternoon we spent on a bouy at Cala Granadella, just 1.5 miles west of Cabo de la Nau.  It was a beautiful little cove, with a tiny beach and a few houses and a bar.  It was a very hot day and with clear and crystal blue water, we took our first swim off Offbeat and tested our new swim ladder, which worked perfectly. Unfortunately as the cove is easterly facing and we were expecting a 1 metre easterly swell, we reluctantly left before nightfall.
First swim off the back of Offbeat!


We sailed along the coast, down to Calpe, to see the rock. Seeing it bathed in sunshine was amazing, with the spectacular cliffs framed by the mountains.  It really is amazing how that stretch of coast remains relatively unspoilt, but once you hit Calpe, it's all high rise hotels.

Montgo peeking above the cliffs
Tuesday we headed back to Javea. We planned to stay in the anchorage next to the marina on Tuesday evening and head into the marina first thing in the morning as there were a few last minute jobs before we headed off to Formentera on Thursday.

As we motored across Javea bay, I spotted a fire on the hill.  The smoke from the fire was clearly visible and as it's mainly woods, can soon get out of control. We then spotted a firefighting plane drop water onto the fire.  As we watched the plane, it headed towards us and picked up water from outside Javea harbour, where the wind and sea were very calm. The second time it picked up water from only half a mile ahead of us and passed very low directly over us.  It felt like it skimmed our mast as the plane was struggling to gain height with such a heavy load of water. The fire fighting must have been successful after that load of water as the plane headed inland. We saw a helicopter drop a small load of water and then the ground crew took over, presumably.  There was no more signs of smoke, anyway.

We picked up a buoy around 19:00 to the sound of church bells calling the faithful to mass, feeling that we had done justice to this spectacular part of the Costa Blanca.

Sunday 16 June 2019

Long weekend in Javea

Thursday 9th May to Monday 13th May 2019

After spending the night at Cala Sardinera, watching the spectacular sunset over Monte Mongo, I was really keen to get into the marina and meet up with Claire and Glen. 

We arrived at Javea marina at 11.30 and were directed to the smallest gap imaginable. The poor Marinero had to hold onto the ropes of one of the boats to the side of us so that it was pulled in enough for Mark to reverse into the gap. All those years of practice paid off and Mark moored us stern to perfectly. 

We set about tidying everything away on Offbeat when we heard voices calling to us from the pontoon. When I went to see who it was, it was the Guardia Civil (bit more important than the Police).  They had come to check our papers and passports, but they didn't want to talk with me, it had to be El Capitan!  Papers checked and everything in order, they were happy and left us to it.

This caused us some mild amusement, did we look like immigrants or drug smugglers? No, turns out there office is on the marina and as there aren’t too many foreign boats using the marina at this time of year, they had to make the most of us coming in.  Oh well, they were happy and it keeps them busy!

This put us a bit behind leaving, so we called a taxi and got to the villa at about 13:30, just in time for lunch.

It was really great to see Claire and Glen.  As much as we love the life we are living, there is a part of me that will always miss my family and friends, so any opportunity to see them is taken, even if it means sailing 300 miles to get there.

They always say there's no such thing as a free lunch and so, with lunch over we set about helping to clean the villa so it would be ready for the summer.  It will sound mad to anyone reading this, but I actually enjoyed doing some housework. Although I clean Offbeat regularly and wash the decks and cockpit, it's not the same. I haven’t cleaned windows and frames for nearly a year and it was very rewarding seeing the difference it made.

We were well rewarded at the end of the day, with a lovely meal and wine, lots of talk and catching up on events over the last few months and sipping liquors with a fantastic view of nightfall over the mountains and Mongo. 

Oh and hot showers and a double bed to stretch out in!

Friday we headed into Javea as Mark had an appointment with an Osteopath. He has suffered with back problems on and off over the years and unfortunately it had gone before we left Estepona.  He did see someone there, but it was only a short term fix and had gone again as we were heading up the Costa Blanca.  Whilst Mark was at the Osteopath, it gave Claire and I chance to have a look around the shops.

Jobs done, we headed back to the villa, where poor Glen was still power washing the patios. However, he'd finished by mid afternoon so we were all able to kick back and relax, which included having a swim in the pool.  Bit cold, but worth it!

In the evening we went to the seafront in Javea for dinner.  I have to say that the promenade at Javea has to be one of my favourites. It is a mixture of bars, restaurants, shops and stalls, with an eclectic mix of people from families eeking out the last bit of sun on the beach, to families dressed up to the nines ready for a great night out.  People watching at it's best!

Saturday we had promised to take Claire and Glen out for a sail on Offbeat, so we slipped our lines and headed out of the marina.  We had been told of dolphin sightings off Cap de San Antoni, so we set a course and headed there. 

It was a beautiful clear and sunny day, with a 10 knot northerly wind so we raised the foresail, but kept the engine on to keep up speed and control.  There was a yacht race taking place around the headland of Cap de San Antonio, which was really interesting to watch and took a bit of navigating through by the helmsman.

Unfortunately no dolphins, but we did have a great afternoon and I think Claire and Glen enjoyed it.  It was great to get out on the sea and going back along the coastline that we'd missed because of the fog.  Seeing it properly made us more resolute about revisiting it the following week.

Saturday evening we went to a lovely restaurant near to the villa, where we were treated to a sumptuous meal by Claire and Glen.  The restaurant is just off the main road and the walk to and from the villa is a bit precarious, but boy was it worth it.  The tables outside are set in glorious surroundings, with smells and colours to treat your senses and the food and wine was exquisite.   The steak just melted under your knife.  It was also a treat to get glammed up!

Sunday came round too fast, and after breakfast at a pretty restaurant overlooking the sea and with tears in my eyes, it was time to say our goodbyes.  

I always hate this bit and get quite emotional when I have to say goodbye to family and friends, so to take my mind off it, we went for a lovely long walk and explored Javea old town. 

The town has a lot of history and the surrounding area dates back to prehistoric times, first inhabited 30,000 years ago by cave dwellers on Montgo.

Mark had jobs to do on Monday so I took myself for a walk. Set in the backstreets of the port is the Iglesia de Nuestra Senora do Loreto (the church of Our Lady of Loreto). The church is an amazing structure as there are no corners and the walls in its upper part terminate into small windows.  It has a red pine roof in the form of a ship's keel and was built in 1967 to resemble a fishing vessel bursting through the waves. 

The legend goes that one night there was a bad storm at sea and the fishermen's wives, waiting for the safe return of their loved ones, made a vow that if they returned safely, they would build a church to honour their safe return.  All the men returned and the church was built.  I don't know if this story is true or not, but the church certainly has strong connections to the port and the fishermen who still work and live close by.

By early evening on Monday all jobs had been completed, orders placed at the chandlery, cupboards stocked and we were well rested so we headed out of Javea marina to spend a few days exploring the coastline of Costa Blanca. 

Wednesday 5 June 2019

Last Leg to Javea

Wednesday 8th May 2019

La Mina to Javea

Our plan for the final stage of our journey to Javea was to sail up the coast of Costa Blanca and to anchor somewhere between Cap Negre and Cap de la Nau. We anticipated that it would take us about 4 hours, but knew it would be under engine as there was only a light southerly forecast. We would then sail the final 10 miles or so the following day. 

It was a beautiful morning when we slipped our line from the mooring bouy and with a sense of excitement at being so close to our final destination and meeting up with Claire and Glen, we headed out of the pretty cove into FOG! WHAT? Where had this come from? This wasn't forecast!

The Fog!

As we cautiously nosed out into sea, our visibility was really poor and we could only see about ¼ mile around us so we had to make a choice. Either go for it or turn back and wait. 

We looked at each other, talked about our options and decided that we had been in worse conditions in Galicia and coming down the coast of Portugal and, at one time, we were very close to the busy shipping lane and the infamous Cape St Vincent with visibility down to 50 metres and we lived to tell the tale. So after checking the weather forecast again and checking our route carefully to make sure there were no other surprises, we decided that so long as we put the tracker on so we could find our way back if need be, we would carry on.

Sailing in fog is a very surreal experience. You are totally cocooned in your own little space, you can’t see anything else, nobody can see you, but you know there's life out there. In our case, we knew that there was a bloody big fish farm off our starboard side so with great care we manoeuvred past it, glimpsing one of the marker bouys as it glided past in the gloom. 

We made sure that we noted our position and filled in the log every 30 minutes.  We had our AIS on to check that there were no other vessels around and put our navigation and steaming lights on so that we could be seen. Both Mark and I stayed on deck keeping watch and listening for any noise from approaching vessels.

At 12.15 exactly we crossed the meridian line and went from west to east. It was a big thing for us as we'd done the reverse last year, when we'd gone from east to west and it reminded us of how far we'd come.

Unfortunately the fog was still with us and visibility on our bows and to land was still down to ¼ mile although it had started to clear out to sea. There is a marina along the Costa Blanca called Marina Meridian as it is situated directly on the meridian line and I had hoped to get a photo of it. 

Perhaps on the return journey! 

Look hard!

By 13:00 we were approaching Punta de Ifac (Calpe Rock), but the visibility was still poor, so we didn't get to see the splendour of the rock, just a hint of it looming through the murkiness. 

By 14:00 we were 5 miles off Cap de la Nau and the fog had started to clear. By the time we passed it an hour later, it was clear enough to take photos. The coastline looked amazing and we knew that the mountain ranges behind it would be stunning as we had driven through them on a few occasions.   We promised ourselves we'd come back and explore the coastline properly before heading over to the Balearics. 

Our original plan was to anchor in a little bay just behind Cap de la Nau and finish the final few miles the next day.  However, as the fog was lifting and visibility was ok, we decided to push on and get as close to Javea as we could, having one last night at anchor and then head into the marina the following morning (I’d already booked in advance). Looking at the map, there was a small cala on the opposite side of the bay to the marina that would be perfect.

Monte Mongo in the background 

As we headed up the coast and Monte Mongo came into view, we had a bit of a moment. Mark and I had been to Javea a few times and had some great memories, staying with Claire and Glen in their villa that overlooks Mongo, but to see it from the Mediterranean in our own boat, which we had sailed all the way from Ipswich was really something else, especially for Mark.

Cala Sardinera
We arrived at Cala Sardinera at about 15:45 and were really pleased that we had pressed on.  It was a pretty little bay, very sheltered and peaceful, with a dozen or so mooring bouys in place and only two other boats.  The water was so clear you could see the fish as they swum around Offbeat, checking her out.

By sunset the other boats had departed and we had the bay to ourselves to watch a spectacular sunset. 

A perfect end to the day!

Point to Point

Tuesday 7th May 2019

Punta de la Huertas to Punta de la’Albir

When we arrived at Punta de la Huertas it was a lovely calm evening, with a slight swell from the east.  However, later in the evening the wind turned to a light southerly which meant we had the swell on the beam (the side of the boat) and in Mark's words written in the log book, “rough night sleeping,  Offi rolled like a drunken sailor and still is 12 hours later despite flat calm/light southerly wind and tiny swell from the east".  

Needless to say, it wasn't an early start and we pulled up anchor at 11:30, heading north with calm seas and a slight swell still from the east. Oh, and the engine on!

By 13:30 we were able to raise the yankee and the mainsail but still kept the engine on as it was only just hitting 3 knots with no engine.  Poor Mark, he gets very frustrated having to keep motoring and is known to mutter on occasions “thought this was a sailing adventure”!

It didn’t help that a long stretch of the journey was along the coastline between Alicante and Benidorm, which is just mile upon mile of holiday resorts.  There are mountain ranges behind the resorts, but you don’t really appreciate the beauty of them with high rise hotels in the way.

On we motor sailed towards our anchorage, passing Isla de Benidorm at about 15:00. It's an amazing island, which rises up steeply out of the sea as you approach it from the south and is in stark contrast  to its backdrop.  Little did we know, it was a taster of things to come.

When we had been planning our journey to Javea, we knew that a lot of the coastline was going to be holiday resorts and high rise apartments. So it was totally unexpected, that from that point on the scenery was absolutely stunning, with dramatic rock faces and small waterfalls cascading into the sea.  It certainly made the rest of the afternoon a lot more interesting and put a smile back on our faces.

We reached Punta de la'Albir and our anchorage at La Mina late afternoon.  It was a tiny anchorage enclosed on three sides with very high cliffs and although there was no beach, it was well protected from wind and swell, so we picked up a mooring bouy and sat back to enjoy the view with a glass of wine! 

Short jaunt to Cap de la Huertas

Monday 6th May

Short jaunt to Cap de la Heurtas 

Our plan for the final stage of our journey to Javea was to head on up the coast to Cap de la Heurtas which is just past Alicante and would take us between 3 to 4 hours. We would anchor there for the night and do a full days sail on Tuesday and Wednesday, aiming to be at Javea Wednesday evening giving us plenty of time to meet Claire and Glen on Thursday.

So, with plan set we slipped our lines at Santa Pola, filled up with fuel and headed towards Isla Tabarca for a quick nose at the coastline of the island. The island is very unassuming, with under 100 inhabitants on the island but is extremely busy with ferries taking tourists backwards and forwards.

What makes it so special is it is a protected marine reserve and has been declared a zone of special protection for birds, the first of it’s kind in Spain. This was granted mainly due to the posidian prairie that surrounds the island, which has an extraordinary ecological value in terms of marine fauna and flora. Hence very specific areas for anchoring and very hefty fines if you anchor outside of these areas. And ignorance is not an excuse!

As we got closer to the island we could see why it was so special, but unfortunately didn't have time to explore too much as we needed to get going to arrive at our anchorage at a decent time.

We headed north and set a course to Cap de la Heurtas. The wind was not with us (again!), so we were under engine although Mark raised the foresail for extra drive so we could cut back the engine a bit.

We arrived at Cap de la Heurtas and spent about 30 minutes looking for a decent spot to drop anchor and at 19:00 dropped the anchor just off the beach. 

Sunday 2 June 2019

Sunny stay in Santa Pola

Wednesday 1st May to Monday 6th May 2019

Sunny stay in Santa Pola

We intended stay in Santa Pola for a couple of days and then head out to Isla Tabarca on Saturday for the weekend before continuing up the coast towards Javea.  However, our plans didn’t quite work out and we spent longer in Santa Pola than planned.

When we arrived in Santa Pola, the weather forecast for the weekend was a nice southerly with a southerly swell. That was perfect for us as Isla Tabarca is a protected island and you can only anchor in one of two designated places, one of which was the north side of the island, just the side we wanted to be on ready for our departure on Monday.

As we’ve come to realise, the weather forecast in the Mediterranean is only as good as the moment you are living in and can change quite quickly.  Our nice southerly never appeared and instead it was a Force 6 easterly, which with the southerly swell, would have sent us hurtling round on the anchor like we were in a washing machine again!

So, we spoke about our options and decided to stay in the marina.  Decision made, we set about exploring. 

I had done a bit of research on Santa Pola before we arrived and was looking forward to exploring the town, as it sounded like there was lots to do.  

Santa Pola is a quaint little fishing and tourist town that is nestled in the foothills of the natural park of Salines de Santa Pola and is adjacent to a large salt evaporation pond (the salines).  It's not a particularly pretty town and there are a number of areas that are really neglected.  This is in stark contrast to the very smart new marina and promenade, with its bars, restaurants and shops. In a way, it's a bit like Ipswich, huge investment developing the waterfront and hope no one ventures into town!

That said, it met our needs, we did the washing, stocked up on food, beer and wine, bought bits for Offbeat and went out for a lovely meal at an Argentinian steak house. The town also had a wonderful market where I lost myself for a couple of hours!

The town was originally settled over the ruins of a Roman village and we visited the ruins of a Roman villa which is situated in a local park.   There’s no security, just a chain link fence to keep the public out but you could see the remains perfectly.  At one end of the remains there was the most stunning mosaic tiling, which is totally exposed to the elements and just shows how things were made to last.

We also visited the 16th century fortress, which has been lovingly restored and which houses an archaeological museum covering the different phases of the towns history. It is situated off a pretty town square, which had an ice cream parlour that sold fantastic home made ice cream. 
We strolled along the prom, watching the fishermen go about there work, loading vans with the days catch and laying out nets to dry in the sun and the tourists coming off the ferries looking like lobsters after a day in the sun on Isla Tabarca.

We did try to get to the salt marshes to see the flamingos, but it was one of those places reached by car, unless you wanted to cross the dual carriageway and clamber through through shrublands, which I wasn't really feeling given I had sandals on!

By Monday, with the wind back in our favour, we headed out of Santa Pola, had a quick look at the island and headed up the coast towards our anchorage for the evening.