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Our longest trip yet: Part 1

October 20, 2011

Wednesday 12thOctober

Daddy settling in

I’m sure I’ll be able to write many blogs about our trip over the last two weeks, but for now I’ll go with some of the first half which saw us go from Frejus to Gibraltar.

On Saturday 1st October we picked up Daddy from the train station in St Raphael and walked along the front to the boat in Frejus. There was the promise of a breeze and the last race of the Voiles de St Tropez was in action and they seemed to be moving well out at sea. Once on the boat we showed Dad where everything was and by 1600 we were on our way. There was little wind however and Donkey was called upon to get us going.

We cruised along at 7 knots, keen to get through the Iles de Hyeres by sunset and into the notorious Golfe de Lions whilst the weather was good. Phil cooked us tuna and pasta for tea and shortly after we enjoyed a beautiful Provencal sunset, our last in France for some time. We chose to divide up the night into 3-hour watches, 7pm – 10pm, 10pm – 1am, 1am – 4am and 4am to 7am, surprisingly easy to settle in to! This meant that each night someone got two shifts but it rotated and was actually quite a reasonable sleep pattern. It was a busy night for traffic as we passed the islands, Toulon and the approaches to Marseille. Dad had two cruise ships on his watch, I had 1 and several ships and Phil saw another cruise ship in the early hours.

A rather large ship

Sunday dawned and was another exceptionally calm and beautiful day on the Med, thanks to the fantastic high pressure that was hanging over us. We had lost sight of land during the night and were now cruising (with Bob and Donkey) on towards Ibiza! We soon settled in to catching up on a few chapters of the latest book, a bit of sun bathing and plenty of wishing for wind! In the afternoon we saw fish jumping in groups. Maybe they were being chased or circled but it was fun to watch! We assumed they were tuna as they were rather large and had small tuna-like tails. Phil and Dad put the fishing lines out but we caught no fish as is tradition on this boat! I was cook for the night and we had chicken and mushroom risotto. Watches were started at 1900, quickly followed by another beautiful sunset and then a very quiet night with no ships or any other vessels.

Present Time

Monday was a special day onboard – it was Daddy’s birthday! Phil had the honour of the sunrise watch, possibly the first sunrise he’s ever seen! It was spectacular, the sky slowly lit up and became very subtly orange, and pink and yellow. Fairly quickly the colours dissipated and the sky turned blue. You almost think it’s done and then an upside down pink pyramid forms and where the point touches the sea, a big red ball quickly rises into the sky and quickly becomes a hot sun.

A beautiful sunrise

Shortly after Phil disappeared off to bed to catch up on some sleep. Once he had got up and everyone had had breakfast (and of course the cake was made!), Daddy had his presents and cards up on deck. A rather large bottle of wine Provencal red from Hannah, a card with things to do inside from the grandchildren, some new clothes from Mum; each item modelled, admired, de-tagged and approved! Lots of cards from friends and family were opened and a small celebratory Toblerone from Phil was quickly put out of temptations way – in two tummies!!

Birthday Cake

The fishing line was checked to see if a special birthday fish lunch was to be had, but rather than gaining anything, we found we’d lost the feathers! Something was either hungry or desperate not to be hauled in! We put out the hard-core set, wrapped in tin foil?! and enjoyed a lovely lunch with lemon and blueberry birthday cakes and curly candles!

After a relaxing afternoon at 1700 it all happened at once; 2 ships, 1 sail boat, and 2 dolphins playing in the bow wave! Of course we left the ships to it and watched the dolphins zipping in and out of the bow wave, ducking and diving under each other, breaking away and then returning at top speed under the others! A birthday tea of roast chicken, mash and vegetables was had and then an interesting night around Ibiza with lots of traffic to keep us busy on watch. We never actually saw the islands, just a couple of white navigation lights on the edge of Ibiza and we definitely didn’t get to join in any parties! Very disappointing!

Tuesday’s sunrise was not as spectacular as the previous couple as there was a bit of cloud around, hiding the sun from us until it had risen above the haze. With the cloud we hoped for some wind, but no, silly us, we forgot we were in the middle of a Mediterranean high! So Bob and Donkey were still working hard and pushing us ever onwards to Gibraltar. As we were using Donkey and taking advantage of the flat calm weather to push us along we needed to make a fuel stop. Although we carry 400 litres and can manage about 800 miles on that we hadn’t been as conservative as we could have been. A place called Santa Pola was chosen as we didn’t fancy busy Alicante. We pulled in (onto one of the 3 fuel berths!!) and filled up. The very helpful guy advised us to purchase a Spanish flag as the fine was extortionate for not having one and the police were around in their RIB. Daddy went off to find the shop and managed to return with cake (a rather large ginger cake that only cost him 2Euros!) PG tips (we’d run out on the first night which was disastrous!) and the smallest Spanish flag he could find!!New Flag

After an hour’s stop we were on the way again, Spanish flag firmly in place and enjoying ginger cake and proper tea as we played dodge the fishing boat!! We had meat balls and pasta for tea and were once again soon into watches. Again there were plenty of ships to watch and the bigger they are the harder it is to spot their lights and know which direction they’re going in! So lots of careful watching, not too much self-doubting or seeing things and we made it through the minefields around Alicante and Valencia.

Sunset over Spain

The trip so far had proven all rather easy; good weather; flat, calm sea; good watches; all those people who had crossed fingers, toes, legs, arms, knickers etc were doing a great job!! And so we looked forward to the rest of the trip…

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