Dolphins everywhere!

Written by Jon:

We set off from Menorca with the goal of getting to Gibraltar by the end of September and we made it with a few days to spare.

Our last crossing from Motril to Gibraltar was uneventful if a little frustrating in the lack of wind. Keeping an eye on the weather forecast we picked an afternoon departure in in the hope of arriving 12 hours later in Gibraltar and, according to the forecast we’d sail about 80% of the way. The reality was somewhat different and we ended up motoring most of the way, with only about 4 hours of sailing in the middle of the night.

But! While the sailing wasn’t great, we were escorted by dolphins for almost the entire journey. As there was no wind, the sea was flat and we spotted the pod shortly after we left Motril. Deciding that we weren’t in a rush we just motored over to them to take some photos. We were amazed to find a huge pod, with well over 50 dolphins. Over the next hour we followed them as they played, jumped and chased fish.

We figured we should continue with our trip and moved on without them. But, over the next 10 hours they decided to follow us to Gibraltar. During the night we could hear and see them jumping and swimming beside us, occasionally disappearing for 15 minutes to do there own thing before returning to our bow.

Shortly after lunchtime we arrived in the busy port of Gibraltar, with the rock rising up from the sea and topped with clouds. Entry into the marina was easy and we were tied up by 1pm. After popping into the marina office to officially check in and clear customs (Teo made our customs Q flag out of yellow paper) we headed out to Pizza Express to treat ourselves to lunch.

We’ll be in Gibraltar until at least the 3rd, when Jon’s dad arrives to help with our next passage down to Lanzarote, which, weather permitting, should take about five days. Until then we continue to work on the boat, Teo’s school lessons, exploring the town and rock. Oh and even taking a trip to the top of the mast to change a lightbulb!

Carthagena, unexpected gem

Written by Jon:

Maybe it was the stark contrast to hideousness of Torrevieja, but the moment we stepped (or in our case scooted) out of the marina gates we fell in love with Carthagena.

Away from the commercial and industrial port, the city is clean, with smooth, clean streets perfect for a scooting family. The buildings are mostly from the 20s and 30s with a wonderful modern, almost art-deco style. Between and around these buildings is more modern architecture, brave and surprisingly complimentary to the older styles. And then there is the really old stuff, mostly Roman, which pops up in the most unexpected places around the city.

There must be over 30 museums to explore, the lady in the tourist information claimed you could spend two weeks visiting them all and I’m inclined to believe her. In the end we decided to spend a long afternoon visiting just four historical sites and within them a couple of museums.

But, back to the start. We got safely tied up in the marina after a lovely and enjoyable sail from Torrevieja. We got up early, around 3am to get the best of the wind and it paid off. The weather forecast was perfect and we sailed about 6 hours out of our 7 hour hop down the coast. Largely uneventful, with only a few minutes of concern as our minds started playing tricks on us near some large fish farms off the coast. We arrived in Carthagena late morning and quickly tied-up and headed off to explore the town.

Hungry we headed out looking for a bite to eat and were pleasantly surprised to find a city with a real ‘gastro’ feel to it. We had our pick from several restaurants, busy with locals having a late lunch, offering a ‘menu of the day’ for less than 10 euros. Some light shopping, exploring, sight-seeing and a little ice-cream followed; we collectively agreed to leave the museums for day two. We returned to the boat for a bite to eat and an early night.

Our second day was slow to start but packed with an afternoon of museums. Starting with a ride in a huge outside elevator to the castle that overlooks the whole city. We were greeted with a cruiseship worth of tourists and a few peacocks. Thankfully the tourists left early in the afternoon and we had the city to ourselves and the locals.

After the castle we stopped for lunch at a little Pinxos bar we’d spotted the day before. Halfway through the meal the restaurant was invaded by warriors in full battle dress. It turns out that it was the first day of a 10 day long fiesta, celebrating and reenacting the battle for the city against the Romans. Undeterred by the swords and horns, Teo, with the help of his mamma, approached the leader and managed to get himself conscripted into their army – with a badge to prove it. So, Teo is an official member of Uxama (it’s a town) army. He got to hold a sword and wear a fox on his head and everything!

After lunch we took a lovely walk around a covered, but outdoor, archaeological dig site of a Roman taverna and baths. The city has done an excellent job of integrating this city in the surrounding buildings and providing the perfect structure to house and protect the site. It was amazing to see original roman wall paintings and decorations from banquet rooms still visible today. The final museum provided an entrance to a tunnel which lead under the city, under a church and up into the original Roman theatre.

That evening we joined Stewart and Anne onboard Brighteyes for an early, and delicious, dinner of paella. After a lovely evening, chatting and great food we headed into the city to watch the opening ceremony of the fiesta. Teo even managed to find his army again and was welcomed as a brother in arms – albeit with an earlier bed time than most.

We were sad to go, especially since the battles would be going on and Teo was keen to help, but we decided to keep going west while the weather cooperated.

Leaving Addaya

Written by Mia:

Addaya became home for big parts of June and most of July and August. It is a beautiful place with many wonderful people and it was hard to leave, even though we were very eager to get on the road, or actually water again. As you have probably read earlier, hauling Itchy Foot out of the water and returning to her was a lot more work than we anticipated and we will probably not be keen to do that again any time soon. We did as many of the tasks as we could ourselves, with Jon even re-doing the anti-fouling and rewiring for the solar panels and maintenance of instruments. There were many long days of work starting early and ending after dark. The last week of this with Jon hobbling around on his second sprained ankle. We were unhappy with the delays and the way the work was handled in the end, but Addaya has a way with her magic and what we remember most is the lovely community, in other words the wonderful people we met.

Mari, Juana, Martin and Ernesto in the port office of course were amazingly kind and generous to us, and we all enjoyed our daily chats and all their help. We cannot speak highly enough of the people who run this marina, if you have the chance, visit them! I think they all have a soft spot for Teo offering often to have him in the office when Jon and I did something like relaunching Itchy Foot into the water and I think our little ambassador is the reason they gave us such a nice price, too. It is a wonderful marina to call home. We have already mentioned Stewart and Anne, and we will be forever indebted to them and their kindness and generosity. You will see them popping up in the blog from time to time, we have a common goal of Gibraltar by the end of the month. It is always lovely when we are in the same place. Through Stewart and Anne we also met Nick and Vanessa, who are fabulous neighbours with whom we shared a few days but the connection feels much stronger than that. Nick askedI Teo, “Are you good with a hose?” and Teo just looked up at him in awe and answered “I am GREAT with a hose” and they spent the next hour or two cleaning a dinghy and Jon and I got a LOT done in those couple of hours! We went food shopping together and enjoyed an afternoon at the beach around the corner and they took Teo to harvest Samphire, which is a really cool superfood (we got a little taste). We very much enjoyed their company and the conversations were lively. We were sad to wave them off, and we are very much looking forward to the next time we meet up!

During the last week we were in Addaya there was a pretty serious forrest fire and we got very lucky that the strong winds kept the direction they did. People were evacuated from the homes around the perimeter and we watched the progress through the night with our hearts in our throats. Our neighbours made cups of tea in the night and the guys checked the status of the firefighting with regular walks up the hill. In the end we just felt very lucky that everything was fine and that the fire fighting heroes got everything under control. We were almost happy to wash the ash off the decks. Dennis let us in on a secret, he has magic Granddad skills and Teo spent hours doing a jigsaw puzzle with him the day the fire was put out.

That evening Dennis and Gwen generously offered to take us to the fiesta in Mahon. We had a really lovely trip which included a parade with Giants and marching bands, Teo dancing around in front of a stage, a stroll through the charming streets of Mahon, pizza and pasta dinner and a trip to the bouncy castle for Teo. It was a wonderful evening and just the break Teo and I needed from all the chores. Jon rested his ankle and got caught up on email and research and so we were ready to go the next day. I don’t even want to think about what we would do without all these lovely people, neighbours in Addaya marina are an incredible bunch of people!

Itchy Foot welcomes aboard weekend visitors

Written by Mia:

It is hard to write this blog post because I am having trouble putting into words how wonderful it was to spend some time with friends, to share our new way of life with people who have known us for years. Please bear with me as I gush.

Clive started to mention an interest to come and visit us in September already way back in May or June I think. And he was very understanding that we would have to make plans at the last minute given that we couldn’t really say with any certainty where we would be at that point. There is a lot of truth to the adage, if visiting people who are cruising you can say when you want to visit or where you want to visit but not both.  As we made more concrete plans with Clive, I was cheeky and arranged for Sini to come at the same time. While we were planning to get to a certain place at  a certain time, it made sense, plus I was very much in need of spending time with people who know me well.

Finishing up our work in Addaya and getting on the “road” was harder and more time consuming than we had hoped and our schedule got squashed. Luckily, we managed to get there, even if it was on Friday instead of Wednesday. Hugs on the dock in Alicante after a two-night passage felt like a gold medal! Neither of our guests complained about our tardiness, just complimented our manoeuvres (Clive) and our home (Sini).

We stayed in Alicante the first night in the marina which allowed us to walk around town, checking out a pirate ship, which Teo is still talking about, having tapas dinner, thanks Clive! It was fabulous just being together and catching up, it felt like a dream and it was fun to get settled on Itchy Foot that evening.

Sini and I did a major shop, talking about a million things along the way. A taxi back to the boat was a treat! When everything was put away we left Alicante and got the sails up.  We anchored off Punta de Cala (San Juan) with a cityscape surrounding us. We went for a swim off the back and sat for hours catching up. Sini made amazing avocado pasta for dinner and Clive did the washing up – these were amazing guests to have onboard. Like Teo said, “Mamma I think they should just come with us to the Caribbea!”

The next day we had more sailing weather, and Sini and I did some sunbathing on the foredeck, hurra! Clive had researched a nearby place called Isla Tabarca and thanks goodness the pilot was wrong and it was allowed to anchor off the island. We weren’t sure and had a stressy moment when a marinera boat appeared and simultaneously two Spanish yachts pulled up anchors and left. We had lunch, but Nemo in the water and explored the island. It had a very strange vibe but was very cool, like a David Lynch movie, I think I will have to tip him off. By the time we were back on Itchy Foot we were the only ones still anchored there.

Sini brought Teo drawing things and a monster bag which he doesn’t leave the boat without and Clive swam with him every day,  taught him to play Battleship (we even played a paper version that Teo and Jon drew for us one evening) and introduced him to King Julian and Minecraft. Uh oh! That will be pricey internet! I am convinced that Teo thinks their visit was a present just for him. We were all in tears when they left us Monday morning. Having close friends visit reminded me to be in the moment and enjoy our adventure and it really drove home what a gift this is!

Off to Alicante, a two-night passage

Written by Jon:

Back in August we were contacted by a couple of friends from Oslo and Helsinki, Sini and Clive, who independently expressed an interest in coming to visit us sometime in September. We knew we wanted to start making our way westwards so rather than trying to join us in Menorca (since we really needed to start moving) we asked them to look for flights to somewhere on the Spanish coast, or maybe Ibiza. As it turned out, they were both free around the same time and could both get to Alicante relatively easily in early September.

So that was our goal. Alicante by the 7th of September! Trouble at the boat yard and even a forest fire delayed our departure, but in the end we let slip our lines at lunchtime on the 7th and the sail across to Alicante would take about 48 hours. Clearly our goal of arriving on the 7th wasn’t going to happen!

At 48h this passage was going to be our longest yet as a family of three. The weather forecast wasn’t perfect, but at least what little wind we were supposed to have should be blowing us in the right direction. We motored out of Addaya and Dennis and Gwen, a lovely couple we’d met in the marina in our last few days there even walked to the end of the headland to wave us off, yelling and cheering. Out to sea and the sails came out and the motor turned off. We managed to sail all that afternoon and evening, around the north east coast of Menorca and Mahon the capital.

The plan for the over-night watches was fairly simple and based on an idea we stole from our New Zealand friends Jim and Karin. Rather than formal watches over-night, one person stays up as late as they can and once they feel too tired they wake the other and switch. I offered to take the first watch, so after dinner Mia went off to bed for an early night. Teo, as it was our first over-night passage, was offered the chance to stay up as late as he liked.

So Teo and Pappa sailed off the coast of Menorca, towards the Islands of Cabrera and the south east corner of Mallorca. Once the sun had gone down I took down the bimini (the sunshade over the cockpit) and we could stretch out on the cockpit seats and watch the stars. It got to about 0130 and Teo start to complain that he was getting cold so I recommended he go and curl up with mamma – he figured that was an OK idea but insisted that he wouldn’t sleep as he wanted to keep us company all night. It was just to warm up – honest. Suffice to say that I didn’t see him again.

About three in the morning I went down to make coffee, porridge and to wake up Mia. We then stayed up together for an hour, chatting and discussing the ships and fishing boats you could clearly see on the AIS, a radio based navigation system and excellent addition to the boat. I went off to sleep on the sofa in the saloon where Mia could easily shout to throw something at me if she needed my attention. She woke me at about 9am and everything was fine. Mia’s first solo watch through the night had gone perfectly and she was lucky enough to enjoy both the stars after the moon set and passing by Cabrera as the sun came up about 7am. Her only regret was not snapping a few photos.

Day two went by without too much trouble. Unfortunately there was more motoring, we could have sailed slowly but we were eager to get to Alicante to meet our friends so on went the engine. We both managed to grab an hour or two nap during the day while one of us was on watch and keeping and eye on Teo. The second night went much like the first, Teo went off to bed nearer 10:30 as the novelty of night sailing had already worn off. I found it a little hard to stay awake but the audio edition of the economist kept me going – we need to find some good podcasts for our future night watches – recommendations are welcome! Once again Mia took over at 3am, but as we were crossing shipping lanes on our approach to mainland Spain she had to wake me for a consult a couple of times in the night. Still, I had no trouble getting back to sleep and all was well.

Time on the day of our arrival seemed to creep along, with a very strong sense ”Are we nearly there yet??” Shortly before we arrived in Alicante in the early afternoon we crossed the Greenwich meridian, moving from the east of the world to the west. Very poignant for our travels westwards. Also, we realised we don’t know when we’ll be back in ‘the east’ – maybe somewhere around Fiji?! Anyway, all west from here.

Our friends were waiting patiently for us on the dock in Alicante, and after a very tight entry into a marina berth we cracked open the Gin and Tonic and started to unwind. More about our time with visitors to come.

The Atlantic Odyssey

Written by Jon:

We try to sail without any fixed plans. We let wind and whim drive us from place to place and on the whole try not to tie ourselves to any fixed schedule. However, certain things need to be booked in advance and crossing the Atlantic as a part of an organised Rally is one of those things.

Why bother to join a rally at all? Well, there are a few benefits: sense of community, feeling of security and a sense of commitment to actually GO. But, for us one of the most important drivers was to try to find more kids boats, which is why we chose the Atlantic Odyssey which seems to focus on families, kids and ego/race free cruising.

Once we’d decided to ‘go for it’ and booked our place we started the process of finding more crew. Many couples cross the atlantic alone, even with kids, finding a sleeping pattern that allows them to survive for 20+ days and they do well. However, I felt we needed backup. If everything went according to plan then I’m confident that Mia, Teo and I could handle the Atlantic crossing alone, however we do not plan for ‘everything going to plan’ – certainly not when the passage is more than a reliable weather forecast in length. So, we started looking for two crew to bring us unto four adults and Teo: one experienced sailor and one keen competent crew were my minimum requirements.

With a little help (and reference) from John Neil who helped me find Itchy Foot we found our first crew member, Kevin. A lovely Canadian chap, retired, father of three, experienced sailor and generally a very handy many to have onboard. We got to meet Kevin for a drink at Newcastle train station as he was returning from a vacation in Scotland and immediately got on well with him.

Our second crew member is Tina, a 26 year old woman from Norway with an obvious passion for life and adventure. She has already sailed across the pacific, albeit when we was 5 with her mum and dad. She has strong sea legs with many miles of crew with her dad as a skipper. But more importantly she and Teo seemed to bond immediately when we had a lovely Skype chat with her. We’re hoping that she can even spend a little time talking to Teo in Norwegian to stop it from getting too rusty!

Together we should, weather permitting, be leaving from Tenerife on November 19th. Around 20 days later we should arrive in Barbados: tired, happy and with a great sense of achievement.

Tomorrow morning, all being well, we’ll cast off our lines from Minorca and start our long journey westwards.

Boat Radio Interview

Believe it or not, we’re on the radio. Unfortunately, due to the internet, this is a far less impressive feat than previously. Still, how did that happen?

Back in April when we were still in Palma de Mallorca I received an email from a chap who worked with which, as the name suggests, is an internet based radio station that was launching in July covering all topics nautical. I’m not entirely sure how he found out about us, but given the proximity and what we were planning he requested to interview us for one of the segments – This Aquatic Life. I replied, letting him know that we’d be around his way in May and suggesting that we meet up then.

So we met with Mike, a lovely guy, and he came onboard to conduct the interview back in May, which was released to the masses on their internet radio channel in August. Enjoy!