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!

Monday 18 May 2020

Diary of a live aboard during lockdown - CV week 8

Sunday 3 May to Saturday 9 May 2020

With the entering of Phase 0 of the de-escalation plan (still can't understand why Phase 0!) we saw the gradual return of familiar faces to the marina as Isaac, Richard and Pedro all took the first opportunity available to come and check their boats.  Mark was in his element. And, if I'm honest, I was just a little bit emotional hearing the sound of mens chatter and laughter and the roar of engines as boats were kicked back into life. Perhaps the 'new norm' wouldn't be so bad after all.

Before and after
One of the improvements I've been suggesting ("nagging" in Mark's words) for some time is to have a splash back put in place on the worktop between the galley and the saloon.  You would not believe the amount of times I've been chopping veg or cutting fresh crusty bread, only to find that half of it ends up in the saloon sofa or floor.  

Well, my wish came true as Mark cunningly recycled a shelf from the galley and fitted it with brackets and installed it between galley and lounge.  It isn't permanently fixed, so we can take it out and clean and it still needs painting and varnishing, but I am so pleased with it and it really makes a difference when preparing and cooking food.  Funny how it's the little things that bring you pleasure! 

Another job that came to fruition this week was the unveiling of the cockpit sunshade.  Over the winter months I had spent hours sewing binding onto the edges to reinforce the strength.  As the sunshade is about 7 meters long and 4 meters wide, there was a lot of sewing but, when we put the sunshade up and saw it in all its glory, it was well worth the work.  It was also nice to receive compliments from other boat owners although we do think we look a bit like sea gypsies at times, especially with the washing on the line!

Our week ended on a real high as our new barbecue arrived just in time for the weekend.  Those that know me will know that I have wanted a boat barbecue since before we left England.  Mark had made the mistake of showing me a picture of one that sat in a stainless steel holder made by the same guys that made and fitted our grab rail.  But, we had never got round to buying one as our boat budget was always swallowed up by things like engine parts and nuts and bolts. I never gave up hope though.

Just one of many beautiful sunsets
Anyway, last year whilst on our summer travels, it became far too hot to have the cooker on in the galley, so we mainly lived off cold meats, cheese and salads. A barbecue would have been perfect for cooking whilst enjoying a chilled glass of wine as the sunset on another hot balmy Mediterranean day. 

Whilst planning for our travels this year, we did quite a bit of reminiscing,  talking about what worked well, what wasn't so good and what could we improve to make life better. The subject of a barbecue came up and Mark suggested that it would be great if we had a portable barbecue which we could use on the boat, but also take ashore if we wanted a barbecue on the beach. And, there was enough money in the budget to buy it.  I thought it was a wonderful idea. Eager to close the deal before he changed his mind or more engine parts were needed, I said let's get it ordered as soon as so that we have it for when lockdown is lifted.  Mark ordered it from a marine store in Malaga and it arrived within a couple of weeks. We have used it quite a few times already and the food is delicious.   

I think it's safe to say it was a good investment and will certainly see a lot of use over the coming months.

And someone certainly seems pleased with it!

Sunday 10 May 2020

Diary of a live aboard during lockdown - CV Week 7

Sunday 26 April - Saturday 2 May 2020

The week started to the sound of children's chatter and laughter as they gradually returned to the port to enjoy the freedom and sunshine and to ride their bikes or scooters and feed the fish.  After six weeks of eery silence, it was a beautiful sound. A bit like the dawn chorus on a spring morning. 

I can only imagine what it must have felt like for the children of Spain, especially those that live in apartments. At least as adults we could go out to the shops, but for some of the children their only escape would have been a balcony. And having witnessed first hand how sociable and family orientated local families are, this for them, would be like the first shoots of Spring.

Happy birthday 
Other joyous occasions during the week was celebrating our daughter Victoria's birthday (affectionately known as Pip) and my brother Glen's 60th birthday.  Both were celebrated via video call with a glass of wine to raise a toast.  We are dearly hoping that once the 'new norm' settles in and we have a better insight into how travelling by aeroplane is going to work, we can go back to England to see our families and do some partying!

Social distancing rules observed!

We also had a visit from staff from the marina to formerly thank us for choosing their marina to stay in.  I'm not quite sure why they gave Mark the wine, they obviously don't know me that well, but it was a lovely gesture and it made good headlines on their social media.  And you'll be pleased to know the wine wasn't too bad either.

Views from Playa del Cristo
In response to the falling number of new Coronavirus cases, the Government announced that as of 2 May, everybody would be allowed out for exercise or walking, but only within a given timeslot and for those walking, within 1 kilometre of their home. 

So, Saturday night, with masks and gloves in place we headed off to the mirador overlooking Playa del Cristo.  And what a treat it was. A beautiful warm evening, with clear skies and as the sun set, it illuminated north Africa beautifully. It reminded us once again why we love Estepona so much, with its pretty town, friendly people and views across to the next continent. 

Just visiting! 
On a final note, our week was completed by a visit late one afternoon by these gorgeous but bedraggled Swallows that we think were migrating north.  Sitting below in the cabin, with hatches all open, we heard the very loud sound of birds chirping away.  Tentatively getting up to have a look, I found these four, sitting on the guard rail next to the open hatch, singing away. They stayed there a good few minutes and I was so lucky to get these charming photos of them. 

Moments like that are so precious in these strange times.

Saturday 2 May 2020

Diary of a live aboard during lockdown - CV Week 6

Sunday 19 April - Saturday 25 April 2020

I think we lost our mojo a bit this week as for us, it's been a relatively low key, lazy week.  No major projects, just admin and pottering around.

Happy Anniversary!
Except that we did celebrate our third wedding anniversary, albeit it very tame for us. No big night out, just a nice meal and a bottle of wine.  Crikeys, I can remember the days when we would party hard until the early hours but at the moment it all seems very sensible.  I know that they say life will never be the same, but I hope the spirit of some things return. Most likely when our Swedish friends Elisabeth and Tim return!

Admin took the form of preparing a shopping list of things to order now that some of the shops in Spain are open and Mark found out that his favourite Ferreteria delivers.  

We also had a serious look at what we could feasibly do cruising wise this summer.  Whilst we would dearly love to go back to the Balearics,  we were both in agreement that given that this was looking less and less possible.   Whilst there is talk of easing restrictions in Spain, we don't know what that will look like and when the maritime restrictions would be lifted.  Some say that aviation and maritime will be the last to be lifted, who knows!

So given the uncertainty and how the situation is in Spain, we have decided to stay in Estepona until at Spring 2021.  We have agreed that if we can go out sailing we would still like to do that, but no further than 100 miles (24 hours sailing time) from Estepona.  If there was to be a further lockdown  in Spain we would want to get back to Estepona where we know the lay of the land and feel relatively safe.

Cruising ground 2020
This still leaves us plenty of places to explore though.  We have mapped out that we could go as far as Cabo de Gata, which we absolutely love or to Melilia on the North African coast.  Then there is Morocco itself or even popping out through the Gibraltar Staits to visit Cadiz. Only time will tell where we'll end up!

Latest figures published for Spain indicated that the virus appears to be coming under control.  Whilst the totals are still shockingly high, with 223,759  confirmed cases and 22,902 deaths, the rate of acceleration of contaigon and deaths is slowing.  However, the Spanish Government are not yet ready to take the risk of relaxing lockdown as the extention to the State of Alarm was approved until 10 May.  The only concession the Government has made is that minors under the age of 14 can go out with one parent for one hour a day within a 1 kilometre radius of their home.  Eveything else stays the same for the time being.

On a happier note, we have been enjoying the company of our new friends, the sparrows.  I feed them twice a day, morning and early evening and even bought them some seed to give them a bit of variety. In return, we get a dawn chorus in the morning which, at 6.30am, I'm not sure if it's to thank us or wake us!