Thursday, August 25, 2016

Cadiz, Cape Trafalgar and into Gibraltar

We spent about four days in Cadiz waiting for the winds to turn from easterlies to westerlies, that all there is in the Strait of Gibraltar, it doesn't ever blow north or south , just in or out. The first two days we did not do any sight seeing we just watched Olympics.  We found some tavernas that would put up with our slow drinking so we could watch TV.  They did not ever try to give us the bum's rush and were more than willing to change the channel when we wanted.  We watched a lot of stuff we probably normally wouldn't have, for examlple, Spanish women's basketball, and Spanish women's badminton, we also saw endless replays of a male Spanish kayaker winning the gold medal in the 200m. sprint, we enjoyed watching the men's tennis where Raphael Nadal was featured in doubles, then singles, I was routing for him to go for gold, then bronze in the singles. It ha been very hot so we drank beer throughout the afternoon and evening while glued to the TV. 
We had to walk a long way into town but the view was always magnificent.  The last day before  left we  walked to the old town and looked at the sights. 
The cathedral was spectacular and a audio tour came with the price of admission.  It gave us a lot of information about the building, what was interesting to me was families adopted a chapel and then paid for the decorations in it.
The painting was from the 1700's as was the sculpture, works of art in their own right. 
The view from the top of the tower was terrific and once again the were no stairs just a winding cirucular path up to the top, how civilized. 
This is the old wall of the city, once through the the gate we wandered at will among the narrow winding alleys.  We stopped to have something to eat and managed to order the worst tasting meal we have yet had in Europe.  It was paella, which is a fish/rice dish with tomatoes.  It was ghastly with the taste of old fried oil permiating the meal, yuck!!
Once the wind changed we sailed away down the Strait of Gibraltar. On one side we could see Morroco, big hills fading away on the horizon.  On the Spanish side we passed Cape Trafalgar, the site of one of the greatest British naval battle of all time.  Lord Nelson was in command of the British fleet and his mission was to stop the combined French/Spanish fleet so that Napoleon would not be able to invade Briton.  The British caught the enemy unawares and decimated the fleet without losing a single ship, although Nelson succumbed to a French sniper hiding out in the rigging.  I always thought that Trafalgar was somewhere in the Mediterranean,for some reason, so this was an education,in itself  to sail past it while in the Strait of Gibraltar. 
Now I know why they call it the Rock of Gibraltar.  It truly is a big hunk of rock sticking out in the middle of the Strait.  It is attached to Spain, the British won it in the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 and have not given it up yet. You have to pass through customs when you enter or leave the end of the peninsula. 
Barry's hip/sciatic nerve has gone wonky so the cane has resurfaced. We went to the doctor the other day, he was in a lot of pain, and got some high grade pain killers and some anti-imflammitories.  He has an appointment to see a physio tomorrow so hopefully we can find out some interventions to make his life more pain free. We will have reassess our plans depending on whether or not he can get a handle on what is bothering him.  NOT GOOD.  

Monday, August 15, 2016

Possible Post Sailing Careers

Possible Post Sailing Careers
Barry and I have been watching a lot of Olympics and have come up with two possible post sailing career choices for us.  Barry thinks he could handle the job of the guy driving the electric bicycle in front of the individual pursuit in cycling. The althetes had to follow the bicycle around the track at least 4 or 5 times before they raced three laps.  It would be a highly skilled job because they seemed to go faster each time they went around.  You would need to be alert, drive on the line, and constantly monitor your speed, something Barry would be great at,  
I, myself thought there may be a future for me in the sculls holding job.  These people lie flat on their stomach's in a very skinny dock and hold the rowers before they take off on the race,  I think I could qualify and excel at that job, I am thin enough to fit on the board, I have good balance, I have some upper body strength so I could hold on to the scull and my reactions are quick enough I could let go in time so I would not impede my competitor. 
Yup, I definitely think these are possibly career choices! 

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Seville

Seville is a beautiful city, with interesting well kept buildings from the past, fountains in the squares and massive cathedrals that defy description. We spent three days visiting and could have easily spent another week wandering through the narrow streets and enjoying good food, sitting outdoors revelling in the fine weather. 
This is the main cathedral that takes up a whole city block, it is massive. 
The amount of artwork inside the Cathedral was astonishing and the gold leaf work was unbelievable. We got to walk up close to the top of one of the towers and views were stupendous. 
We walked up to the last row of big windows and there were viewpoints from all the other windows.  What was unique about walking up was that it was not a stairway, the tower was so wide that there was a slanted circular path all the way to the top.  We had to stand in line for over a half an hour to get inside but once you were in there, it was hard to realize how many people were there, it was so massive there was no feeling of being crowded. 
Later we walked over and took a tour of the big bull ring.  The colour of the sand in the ring was really really yellow. Originally bull fighting started as a way to train military soldiers to fight from horseback, they just used to do it in a square with people watching from their second floor balconies. It evolved into the sport it is today.  If you want to be a matador you have to attend a special school and train for many years and then be very good in order to become a professional. 

A matador's costume and cape
To finish off the day and cover all the Spanish tourist's must, first a church, then the bull fighting ring, we went to see some Flamenco dancing,  I was thrilled, Barry less so. 
Barry's hip has been bothering him so he did not want to go into town the next day, so I set out on the bus to see this building I was interested in. 

It was unbelievably ornate with inlaid tiles everywhere.  I did not do it justice with my pictures, it was a semi-circle with towers at each end and a big tower in the middle, so I am adding a picture I got off the internet.  It was called the Plaza de Espana and was well worth the extra trip into town. 
I also visited this plaza where some new architecture was on display. I finished off the day at another church it to was very ornate.
As I walked back to catch the bus I marvelled at the beautiful buildings just in ordinary use in Seville. We just don't have these type of buildings in North America. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

Finding out about Columbus

We decided to stay at a marina, it just happened to be close to where Columbus departed from. I was unable to find much info on directions etc. on the Internet.  With much trepidation we set out to find the location of replica's of the Nina, Pinta and the Santa Maria. 
We asked at a hotel to figure out where the bus stop was and then I asked the bus driver and we managed to get off at the correct stop. We then walked about a kilometre, some of which was in the wrong direction and we found the exhibition, I was so pleased. 
This is as close as I got to climbing up the rat lines, I have always wanted to do that, but safety concerns always seem to get in the way. SHUCKS. 
 Then after I got to the top I could come down like this guy, actually this has never featured in my plans!

The next day we headed down the coast and went up the Quadalquivir River to the city of Seville. It was not as nice a trip as up the Quadiana because it is really flat the whole way up.
  There are lots of fishing boats anchored in the river. 
We also saw lots of birds, herons, stork's and lovely white spoonbills with their large spoon shaped black beaks. We had to anchor half way up the river as the current changed so instead of having a 2 knot current with us we would have been fighting it. We stayed at a rather rundown marina about 15 minutes out of the centre of Seville, by bus. We stayed an extra day because we checked the weather for the Straits of Gibraltar and there will be a big against us until Tuesday, so there is no rush to get the. 

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Cruising the South Coast of Portugal.

The south coast of Portugal is all about beaches. There are miles and miles of them and the tourists flock from all over Europe to laze about on them, prices are reasonable and most people in the tourist industry speak a lot of English. 
This is a boardwalk across the dunes to protect the fragile plants that make up the landscape. 
We have been venturing around a few towns along the coast. Here is a church that has a stork's nest on the top.  It has been very hot here so the town's shut down about 1300 hours to have a siesta in the worst of the heat and seem to open about 1500. We stopped at one place and remembering the last spot we did not go in until almost 1600 hours.  Well in this place they decided to close at 1500 and not open again until 1800, you can't win for trying! 
We decided to go up the river that is the border between Portugal and Spain.  The first obstacle is a suspension bridge. 
On our chart plotter said it was 17 meters and in our cruising guide it was posted as 18M at sea level. Well our mast is 17.4M so the question was will we make it under? No problemo, we went under at low tide and it wasn't even close.  We cruised 18 miles up the river to where two small villages faced each other across the river and there is a castle on each side.  In the 16th century the Portugese bombarded the other side and took over the town. They did it several more times after that, now they just watch each other! 
We are on the Portugese side in their castle gazing across to Spain. It seems the Spanish castle has a distinct height advantage. 
It was a very hilly dry countryside as we motored up the river. 
We are relatively close to Seville and I was wondering if these are orange trees on the hillside. 
Little villages were tucked into the hillside along he river, many more on the Portugese side.   We came back down the river today, and were able to sail with the current.  It was marvelous to hear the birds chirping and singing as well as the farmers calling their livestock by banging on a pan.  It is not very often that we get to hear those types of sounds when we are at sea. 
We anchored at the bottom of the Rio Guadiana and went ashore in search of some fresh meat and veggies in Ayamonte, Spain . This statue on a balcony caught Barry's eye. 

Monday, August 01, 2016

Arrival in Europe

We arrived in Lagos, Portugal on July 28, 2016. Europe is the sixth and last continent we will visit aboard Cat's-Paw IV. The only one we have not visited in Antartica and Barry refuses to consider the possibility of going there.  Lagos is on the south coast of Portugal, it is a tourist destination for folks from the British Isles with lots of Irish pubs and we hear lots of English accents. 
These lovely cliffs were the scene that welcomed us as we rounded the western tip of Portugal and headed for the marina.  The European prices at the marina ensured that we only stayed one night.  We piled a lot into our first day in Europe, we hosed down the boat and cleaned up inside, did some grocery shopping, did the laundry, visited the chandlery, had a long blissful very hot shower and hit the hay to the accompianmnet of the band ashore. 
I dragged Barry out for a walk after supper.  I had the early shift the night before we arrived so he slept from 7:30 to 10:30 P.M. and then he did not wake me up until 0400 and then we were within 10 miles of our destination so he did not want to go to sleep, so he been awake since 10:30 the night before, what a guy, walking with his wife after his evening meal!! 
Today, we moved over to an anchorage inside a protected breakwater and took the dinghy ashore.  It was over a 2 nm ride. We discovered a very touristy spot with restaurants galore.  I found a place that sold pastries, and then a spot to get my hair cut.  
The Sisters are from the Ukraine and we had fun explaining to them the concept of living and tour no the world on our boat and hearing of their adventures setting up shop in Denmark, Kiev and Portugal.  I thought she did a great job on the hair as well. 
 


Architecture in the Azores

Barry said as we were walking down these streets that he felt like he was in a Jason Bourne movie.  The narrow streets with tall connected buildings made us feel that we could have been anywhere in Europe. 
This great example of interesting architecture just needs some tender loving care to restore itself t it's former glory. The small balconies with the wroght iron railings and the unusual facings around the fourth story windows drew my eye. 
This fully restored building just across the street offered hope that the first building might someday be looked after. 
This modern building, a municipal theatre, in Velas on the island of St. George is a stunning addition to this town. Just below the building they had poured concrete around a rocky bay to make a public swimming spot, there was no beach but they very imaginately used what they had to made a great a public swimming area. What a super idea. 
We found this building in the main square in St. George, it was a pleasure to look at. 
We are on our way to mainland Portugal at the moment. It has not been a pleasant passage, we have been sailing close hauled for a week, banging into the waves in over 20 knots of wind. Thank heavens the boat is as strong as a bull, the new sails are getting a rel workout. 

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Touring around Faial in the Azores.

We have been climbing every hill and mountain we have been able to get too. This first picture is of Horta from the west and the other from the east. As you can tell it is a very long bay with all the sailboats at one end and the ferry terminal at the other. 
Those are two shots of Pico mountain.  We took a ferry over a couple of days ago and climbed up.  It is the highest mountain in Portugal at 2351m. but we started climbing about halfway up the slope. It was a gorgeous day on the mountain, but down below everything was covered in clouds. It was an interesting sensation to think we were above the clouds. It looked as if you could jump on to the clouds and just laze about on them, as if they would hold you up. 

Barry scrambled to the very top. There are 47 markers and at about marker 26 I told Barry to go on alone as I was getting light headed, dizzy and nauseous.  After resting for about 10 minutes, I figured I could continue on and going at my own pace I managed to make it to the plain before the final peak which was my goal. 
It was a tough climb and I am going to treasure the certificate we got at the bottom to signify we climbed Pico mountain.  If you check out the footing you will see that there is a lot of twirly lava flow to contend with. The climb down was very treacherous because of the uncertain footing and the fact that the muscles in our legs were rebelling with overuse. It took be over 45 minutes to inch my way down the last bit and Barry missed his footing twice ending up with a very grass stained shirt and shorts the first time but was fortunately unhurt. Three days later and are legs are just starting to feel normal again. I guess if we want to do that again we will have to take long walks up hills on a regular basis!