Friday, February 12, 2010

A Memorable Cruise, part 3

The Costa Brava

Traditional Open Boat at Puerto Olympic

About mid-day, after our arrival at Puerto Olympic, Linda bade us farewell. Then she set off for the airport by taxi. We continued our cruise, but this time we headed for the Costa Brava. We arrived at the Catalonian resort of Blanes shortly before 1900. From the sea we observed hillsides covered with huge areas of polytunnels, presumably for the production of horticultural produce; perhaps tomatoes, cucumbers, aubergines, courgettes, and the like. As seen from the sea, the hills of Blanes were quite pretty. On the downside, we found the anchorage uncomfortable, because of the motion of the waves. Consequently, sleep was impossible for much of the night.

For eight hours the following day, Wednesday, and 3rd June, we found ourselves beating into a brisk wind. We moored at the modern marina of Palamos, which is next to the Old Town. In recent times the resort has had large hotels and apartments built along the sea front. The place looked rather colourless because the sky was overcast, but the following morning there was a transformation, as the sun made everything sparkle.

I told Gordon I wanted to buy a piece of Spanish pottery for my wife, and he suggested that we should travel together to Girona, which is the capital of that region. I was pleased that Gordon was with me, because he was able to communicate with the locals, which made finding our way around easier. Our journey by bus was through uninviting, rather dull countryside. There was mile after mile of scorched farmland interspersed with the usual facilities for tourists: guest houses, bed and breakfasts, restaurants, cafes and petrol stations.

La Tirana was different by being not at all dull, particularly the Old City beside the River Onyer, straddled by many footbridges. We searched diligently for a pottery recommended by the Tourist Information Centre, but we could not find it. The heat was energy sapping. However, our reward for climbing the hill to the cathedral, which has one of the largest medieval Gothic naves of any in Europe, was well worth the effort - despite the sweat that poured off us. The tower is a splendid example of Gothic and Romanesque styles that have been satisfactorily combined. Inside the cathedral I was particularly attracted to a formalized marble statue of Jesus, which portrayed the moment after he had been taken down from the cross. I could not resist photographing it, as an ‘aid-memoir'.

The steps leading to La Tirana Cathedral

Sculpture of Jesus

We also visited the Museu D’Art, where there were fine examples of sculpture, stained glass windows and oil paintings. We couldn’t fault the high standard of display and presentation which worked well in the ancient building that had been adapted for that purpose.

On our return journey we stopped at La Bisbal, which is famous for the manufacture of ceramics. I found what I was looking for, in the form of a beautiful very dark brown, almost black fruit dish. Gordon liked it, and so did my wife when I presented it to her at the end of my holiday. That same day we sailed for Cala Tamariu, which turned out to be a disaster, because we suffered a very uncomfortable night, owing to the unrelenting motion of the waves. I did not get a wink of sleep. Without a doubt Cala Tamariu was truly beautiful with its sandy beach and nearby cliffs, but the bay was spoiled by rows of mooring buoys. We were ripped-off by a young lad who came out to us in his inflatable, demanding 3,000 pesetas (£ 12) for the privilege of a sleepless night. We felt aggrieved, but we had the consolation of experiencing a wonderful sunset.

Cala Tamariu Beach

A pattern evolved that no matter where we chose to sail, the wind would be against us, and Friday, 5th June, was no exception. Our planned destination was a resort called Roses, but because of the direction and strength of wind, it took us seven hours under sail, arriving there at 1440. We had covered 34 miles over the ground at an average speed of five knots. Gordon knew how to get the best out of his boat. However, it took me quite a while to learn how to do it nearly as well as Gordon. ‘Secant’ was quite different to other boats I had sailed. Being a heavy displacement yacht she took a while to build up momentum and I discovered that her wheel needed only very fine adjustments. Anything beyond that, she would slow down or fall off course.

She was not at all well-behaved when anchored in strong winds. The reason for this was because her bow would not stay put when she was headed into the wind. She would sail up on her Bruce anchor and flip it out of the ground before dragging it along on its side. This happened time and again. Gordon later exchanged the Bruce for a Danforth which proved more reliable.

Location of Roses

Roses Marina Chart

Roses was a pleasant location for relaxing and doing things that were not feasible when on the move. Gordon continued his boat maintenance. Meanwhile I caught up with my dirty washing and I had a look at the town. I also visited a nearby headland to examine the ruins of an old fortress, which were remarkable for their state of abandon. I was surprised to find among the dereliction a huge variety of wild plants, shrubs, insects and birds – most of them I had never seen before. From that vantage point I was astonished to see sewage being pumped into the sea by the headland which was only a mile from the beach where tourists and locals swam.

Our first day at Roses was sunny, but by evening there was a watery-looking halo around the sun. This was a sign that it was likely to rain the next day, which proved to be right. The heavens let loose and afterwards there was one of those atmospheric effects that reminded me of William Turner’s watercolours he painted when he visited the Mediterranean.

Roses Marina

At 0630 on the dot, Gordon would take an early swim. The sound of him diving in was the signal for me to get out of bed, but on the morning of Sunday, 7th June, I was very reluctant to do so. I had not been able to sleep because of music at a fiesta that continued into the early hours of the morning. However, with the skipper swimming briskly to the beach I had to motivate myself to use the shower and make myself ready for the day.

For quite a while Gordon had been expressing his disenchantment with expensive marinas, ribbon-development and constant head-winds. He therefore decided to head for the Balearic Islands. This thrilled me, because I had looked for adventure and secretly I hoped we would sail to the islands of Corsica and Italy, but the Balearics were a good substitute.

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