Category Archives: Sail Blog 2015

ROAD TRIP

Leaving Bella Luna in the marina in Denia, we started our 4 day car tour of the higher elevations of NE Spain. Pablo in the marina office was VERY helpful giving Roland tips and places to see. He told Roland most people do not go inland because of the higher heat. People want to stay at the coastline where it is cooler. So we packed expecting warmer temperatures.

We set the navigator on “scenic route” and the first 2 hours was all coastal farm land with a occasional woman sitting by the side of the road mid day in the heat. One was dancing. Roland understood why they were there, but I had no idea until he told me. Sitting out in the sun midday with no hat on, by the side of the road, waiting for business??? As they say in Sweden, my mouth was like a open mailbox. The village where we stopped for lunch was in the heart of farming so parked on the street was a mixture of cars and tractors.

Tractor home for siesta

Tractor home for siesta

We arrived to Albarracin, the capital of the Sierra de Aibarracin Comarca, in the providence of Teruel. The town is named after a Moorish family that had once dominated the area during the period of Muslim domination in this area.
The town or village is set among stony cliffs. Walking around all you could hear were birds singing and a nearby waterfall. Unfortunately there were no english tours available during our short visit. A enchanting place to visit. Oh, and the temperature that evening was 9c or 48F.

Albarracin

Albarracin

Hotel Albarracin

Hotel Albarracin

Albarracin by Night

Albarracin by Night

Empty streets in Albarracin

Empty streets in Albarracin

Back in Hotel after dinner

Back in Hotel after dinner

Our second day took us to a elevation of 1700 meters or 5.500 feet all through back roads and extremely small farming villages. We drove 2.5 hours without seeing another car. Absolutely stunning country and as I was raised on a farm in Eastern Washington I was surprised to see so much planted grain at these elevations. Obviously it does get very hot even at these elevations. High today 12c. Grass crops were being cut for hay which would correlate to all the MANY cow warning road signs we saw but did not see any cows, not one, the entire trip.
The colors of the crops set against the red rock cliffs and the reddish soil was stunning.ROAD VIEW-1-2ROAD VIEW-1

ROAD VIEW-1-3A stop at the Monastery De Piedra and a walk through the park offered gorgeous waterfalls, caves, rich flora, fauna and geological formations. We did not tour the Monastery.

Waterfalls in Monastery de Piedra

Waterfalls in Monastery de Piedra

Our destination for the day was Calatayud which is one of many wine districts in Spain. Again, the vineyards in the reddish soil with the red cliffs and rolling hills is so special. We arrived to a winery 45 minutes before they closed so purchased some wine and the next day visited a second winery.

Plaza Espana Calatayoud

Plaza Espana Calatayoud

Calatayoud view from Hotel room

Calatayoud view from Hotel room

Wine fields outside Calatayoud

Wine fields outside Calatayoud

After another day of incredible scenery we arrived Barcelona where we had a nice dinner with our friend Miguel, who has sailed with us many times, and his friend Merces. Although our time was short, it was nice to spend the evening with them. Next morning we made the 5 hour trip back to the marina.

MALTA

Returning to Malta feels like our third home. Everything is familiar offering a lot of variety in the grocery stores, restaurants, marine chandlery and hardware stores galore!

First on the agenda was the celebration of our friend Seiji’s 81st birthday and three nights of dining is some fabulous restaurants. The second night there were 12 of us seated a rooftop terrace in the ancient city of Mdina enjoying Arabic cuisine as the Super Moon rose above the walls of the citadel. A truly magical evening!

Birthday party at Royal Malta Yacht Club

Birthday party at Royal Malta Yacht Club

Our good friends, John and Amanda, left Seattle in March 2015 and sailed down the west coast of the USA, through the Panama Canal, into the Caribbean, across the Atlantic to the Azores, up to Scotland and finally crossing to Sweden in late September on their Hallberg-Rassy 46, Mahina Tiare. 

John & Amanda

John & Amanda

They decided to take a flight from Sweden to Malta for a visit and to see
a small part of the Mediterranean. In-between sight seeing, sailing, swimming, bicycling, hiking, and jogging they helped me with varnish. Amanda gave Roland some pointers on going up the mast, which is a task he never looks forward to. So while he is inspecting the first spreader, he hears a noise and looks around to see Amanda sitting on the opposite spreader. She had just free climbed up the stays as John was making monkey noises from the cockpit. It was a busy week and so wonderful to spend time with them.

Roland & Amanda

Roland & Amanda

The next day Bella Luna came out of the water at 0730 at Manoel Island Yacht Yard.

Art and Karen arrived from Fort Lauderdale. They use to own a Hallberg-Rassy 46 and later a HR54 and had spent a lot of time in Malta so came for a short visit and to spend time in one of their favorite places.

Bella Luna now has her winter cover on which ends our cruising for this season. Our return to Sweden was chilly at 5c.

Bella ready for the winter

Bella ready for the winter

SICILIAN NORTH COAST

We said our goodbyes to Karolina and continued west. The North Coast is mountainous and beautiful. The number of villages that sit on mountain peaks are fascinating and I contemplated possible earthquakes and the consequences. One peak in particular looked like it would just fall off like gelato from a cone.Sicily

Cefalu is a old fishing village that sits below a steep conical hill. Cefalu has retained its medieval appearance and is famous for its medieval monuments. There is a well preserved Norman cathedral that was started in 1131. The narrow streets are enhanced with elaborate architectural decorations. The village today is a busy tourist resort. We watched Kite flying on the long sandy beach in the early evening. It is comical to walk the narrow streets and listen to the elderly Italian ladies yelling back and forth to each other from their apartment balconies as they hang out their laundry. CefaluCefalu-2

Termini Imerese was our next stop and a very NON-touristic but authentic working town. It is here that Fiat cars were once built and a few models of the Lancia. We stopped to break up the long miles and lack of wind for sailing. We found one of the largest supermarkets we have seen in sometime and I just wandered around admiring the selection. In the evening we made quite a steep climb up many stairs to the upper town looking for a restaurant, which we finally found in the large cathedral square. As the days push on in September the villages become more quiet, less restaurants open, with the tourist season coming to an end.

Castellammare Del Golfo is a old town built on the slopes around the bay. There are many stairways, bridges, and steep alleys to navigate. We spent 3 days here and enjoyed the area very much but as a forecasted gale was coming we rounded the NW corner of Sicily, San Vito Lo Capo and retraced our route from 2 years ago along the west and south side of the island. We took refuge from the gale in Licata and met some nice people on the dock. This marina is popular for many to leave their boats in the water during the winter months.Castellhammre_ Castellhammre_-3

Now that we have circumnavigated Sicily, our favorite area is the north coast and our favorite city is Siracusa. Sicilian cuisine is centered around fish, vegetables and sweets, fabulous sweets I might add. The best local wines tend to remain on the island instead of exporting, therefore they are not as well known but are VERY good. We look forward to passing Sicily next spring and making some short stops to enjoy the wonderful food and wine and friendly people.

After a very long day of mostly motoring and some sailing we arrived to the port of Licata on the south coast to wait for the next gale to blow through as it was too early for us to arrive Malta with our slip reservation.

Licata lighthouse

Licata lighthouse

Licata

Licata

The storm produced some incredible waves outside the double breakwater to the port but inside we were comfortable and meeting many cruisers who were preparing to leave their boats for the winter. Departing the marina in early morning we were quite surprised to see the water temperature outside the breakwater was 16c when we have constantly seen temperatures 23c +. It was not until we were half way to Malta that the temperature increased again. The second half of the trip we had a great sail and approached the island of Gozo at 8.4 knots and enjoyed a swim when we reached the anchorage.