Sunday 12 January 2020

Celebrations, coffee and chores!

Sunday 12 January 2018

The last week has been a mixture of fun and work.

The start of the week saw us celebrating Kings Night - 'El Noche de Reyes ' - on Sunday evening. Still suffering  from Christmas illnesses compounded by our, umm, enthusiastic New Year celebrations, we were not able to watch the grand parade in Estepona,  where twenty or more floats distribute 14 tons of sweets to waiting children and adults. We joined in the processions last year and know that they are great fun, but this year we celebrated on board Offbeat and listened to the celebrations going on around us.

Kings Night is a big thing in Spain, equivalent to Christmas Eve in England and most towns and villages in Spain will have a parade, which will end with children giving letters to the Three Kings, letting them know they've been good and what presents they would like.  Children then leave their shoes outside the home so that the Kings know where to stop and leave their presents.

Feeling better on Monday we joined our good friends Edita and Richard and their friends for Kings Day, the equivalent of Christmas Day in England.  Kings Day is a bank holiday in Spain and is the traditional day for having a sumptuous meal and giving presents.  We were blessed by having lovely warm weather so were able to enjoy drinks on the patio before lunch.

After a superb lunch we shared presents, ate far too much Roscon de Reyes cake (Kings Cake) and drank too much port and brandy.  The cake is ring shaped and decorated like a crown, topped with fruit and bursting with either vanilla or chocolate cream.  Buried inside the sponge is a figurine of a tiny king and it brings good luck to the person who finds it. We were rather greedy and ate two cakes, with Richard and Mark finding the Kings, so they wore the crowns!

Next day and it was back to work on Offbeat, but first a bit of planning for our summer cruise.  We have agreed that this summer we will leave Estepona at the beginning of April and head back to the Balearics where we will continue part 2 of our original plan.  Assuming we don't get sidetracked again, we plan to go to Menorca, Sardinia, Corsica and then back to Mallorca where our grandchildren will join us.  We will then head back to Estepona for September when we will meet up with  Mark's family.

With this in mind, we're both conscious that there's only 11 weeks till our planned departure date, so time to crack on. But first, there's friends to see and fishing to be done. So, I met my friend Elizabeth for coffee and croissants before she returned to Switzerland.   We had a relatively early start and with very few people about, we had a lovely long walk along the seafront. It was so warm and calm, it was one of those 'ahhhh' days.

Later in the day Mark went to sea with his friend Isaac in Polaris.  As it was still calm weather there wasn't any sailing to be had, but fishing to be done instead.  Having watched a beautiful sunset, they came back empty handed, they did have a couple of bites but they got away. So, next day off we go to the fishing shop to get new lures and stronger fishing line.  Maybe better luck next time!

And so onto chores. This week we've sanded down, varnished and painted woodwork, washed and dried sails, washed and waterproofed the tent that gives us a sort of conservatory and refurbished the lockers that hold our gas tanks for cooking. Doesn't sound a lot, but prepping for this sort of work is very time consuming and sometimes takes longer than the job itself, especially when you're preparing woodwork or if you have to cut half a dozenscrews to the exact length needed. 

Although there is still work to be done to get Offbeat ready for the summer, it does feel like we're getting there and whilst it may feel like all work and not much play at the moment, if our summer plans come to fruition, we'll have 24 weeks of playtime in glorious weather and spectacular locations. 

Sunday 5 January 2020

New Year, New Decade!

4 January 2020

Happy new year to everyone who reads our blog. We hope you had a wonderful Christmas and a new year to remember as we start a new decade.

At this time of year I tend to reflect on the year gone by and wow, what a year it has been. We sailed to lots of new and exciting places, connected with the Spanish family that I never knew I had, strengthened our bond with Estepona and the friends that we have made here, shared our life and home with family and friends who came to visit and built this whole experience together with love, Mark and me. 

Excited bunnies!
There were so many stand out moments that it's hard to pin down which one would define 2019, but if I had to pick one it would be bringing two of our three grandchildren to Spain for a weeks holiday. The joy and excitement on their faces when the aeroplane took off from Stansted will stay with me forever.  We had such a great time when they were with us and we really missed them when they returned home. 

Since arriving in Estepona in October we have been busy with working on Offbeat as well as travelling and visiting family and friends in England.

Highlights from our Ceuta trip
In October we joined our good friends Edita and Richard for the annual Real Club Nautico de Estepona sailing rally to Ceuta in North Africa. Unfortunately it was light winds, but at least that means calm seas. Our return journey through the Straits of Gibraltar  (one of the busiest shipping lanes in Europe) was in thick fog! But we managed to dodge the ships and later, when the sun burnt the fog away, our endurance was rewarded by a visit from dolphins.

Anma and Grandad day care in
Rendlesham Forest
Later in October we headed back to England for a week. It was wonderful seeing everyone again and catching up on family life.

We took the grandchildren to Rendlesham forest for the day where we played on the zipline, explored the forest and looked for deer but found hundreds of mushrooms instead.  Oh and built a den out of fallen branches.

Family in Tolox
In November we met my brother Glen and his wife Claire in Malaga and together we visited our family in Tolox. We met new members of the family and the welcome and love we received made me realise why my Dad always yearned to return to his village and whilst he never made it, I can ensure his memory continues to live on with our new family.

Mystical Sierra Bermeja
December and we had two trips into the Sierra Bermeja - the mountains just to the north of Estepona. First was with our friends Edita and Richard to Venta el Refugio which is a beautiful rustic restaurant at the top of the Sierra Bermeja, 1800 metres above sea level. Climbing the mountain in the car, we were treated to spectacular views but the higher we travelled the more we ascended into the clouds. Set at the top of the mountain, the restaurant is very rustic. There is no electricity, lighting is by candle and lamps, heating is by a roaring open fire and food is cooked in the kitchen by portable gas. It was a truly wonderful restaurant with the most delicious home grown and home cooked food we had tasted in a long time. We will certainly be visiting again.  After lunch (nearly 3 hours!) we walked along the mountain path, just as the cloud lifted and we saw the spectacular coastline of Costa del Sol. A truly perfect day!

The hills surrounding Estepona 
Our second trip was more challenging.  Our friend Edita drove us up an increasingly narrow and precarious road to an old forest guard compound from which we walked uphill to the waterfalls at Fuentes de Saucillo. The views along the way were spectacular and we certainly burnt off a few calories. The waterfalls were pretty, with pools trickling into pools for a hundred metres or more.  A place to return to in Spring when the mountains of Sierra Bermeja have absorbed the rainfall and moisture and is setting it free once again into the cascades that Edita described to us.

The Dream Team!
Flights booked for our Christmas return. I flew back on the 18th December and Mark flew back on the 23rd so that he could take part in the December regatta with the Estepona sailing club.  He crewed on our friend Isaac's boat. In strong winds gusting at 30 to 35 knots Mark, Isaac, Richard and Richie (Richard's son) had a blast, sailing Polaris to her limit and overtaking much bigger boats. Mark was still ecstatic when he arrived in England on the Monday and, three weeks later, Spanish aquaintances are still talking about the English crew forcing Isaac to have too much sail up. And Mark has learned a new Spanish word 'temerario' which means daredevil. Or reckless. Or foolhardy. Mark prefers the former.

We spent Christmas with family and friends. Christmas is such a magical time for me, I absolutely love it. I love meeting up with family and friends, eating and drinking too much, playing games and laughing until my face aches and mostly being with our children and grandchildren and watching the Christmas magic consume them.

I cannot believe how fast the grandchildren are growing and know it will only be a matter of time before the mystery of Christmas will be no more, so we need to savour and treasure these moments as much as we can.

Special day out with the Grandchildren 

Pre Christmas treats
Family Forever!

Growing up too quickly
Boxing day fun

It started so well!

We came back to Estepona to end 2019 and celebrate the new year and new decade in Spanish style with our Swedish friends Elizabeth and Tim. Oh my, what a night that was! 

As you can see by the photos, we started out sensible and then partied hard until the early hours.  We were the first to arrive and last to leave!

It was such a beautiful night we walked home and didn't see daylight until the afternoon! 

And so to 2020. What are our plans, hopes and dreams for this year? Well, truth be told, we haven't got a firm plan yet. Plan A is to finish off sailing round the Balearics then on to Sardinia and Corsica and Plan B is sailing along north Africa over to Malta and then Sicily. All we do know at the moment is that we plan to leave Estepona sometime at the end of March or beginning of April and return in September to celebrate Mark's mum's 80th birthday out here in Spain.

Work work work!
We have been working on a number of projects since arriving in Estepona,  and we still have a worryingly long to-do list before we set off on our summer cruise.  Things we have worked on include: improving the engine exhaust system, lots of work on the sails and rigging, insulating the fore peak roof against the summer heat and varnishing the outside woodwork. 

Cockpit mayhem
Often I will come back from a walk or shopping to be greeted by this sight as I step into the cockpit.  Good job I love him so much.
(Good job I love you so much, Mrs P,  that I want to make our boat strong enough to give you adventures on the high seas for years to come!)

As if this wasn't enough, Mark has also been helping his friend Isaac fibre glass holes and refit windows on Polaris. It's a peculiar vice he has, continually fixing things. And people are continually amazed at how many tools and spare parts are stashed away in Offbeat. 

As we move forward and maximise our remaining time in Estepona, Mr P has drawn upon his project management training and experience, created prioritised lists of jobs to be done and a time schedule of what and when we'll do them, a carefully calculated and, oh, whatever. Manana.

Offbeat 2020
Luckily at Christmas Mark was gifted by our granddaughter Millie a technical drawing of how Offbeat should look before we set sail in the Spring,  so we are working towards this goal. 

We think that an inflatable unicorn floating behind us might compliment the look as well. Oh, we now have one of those too. Thanks Jo!

On a final note for this blog, I'm not one for new year resolutions anymore. I can't be doing with beating myself up when I don't stick to them. So, this year I'm calling them aspirations. Firstly to try and keep on top of my blog 🤔, secondly to achieve my goal of doing a 5km run 🙄 and thirdly, to continue enjoying life to the max!