Friday, February 19, 2010

A Memorable Cruise, part 10

Costa Blanca

Shortly before 0700 hours on Friday, 19th June, the yacht's engine was turned on, and it remained in use until late that evening when we arrived at Morayra Harbour on the Costa Blanca. We had travelled 70 miles under a baking-hot sun, over a rather featureless sea, and by way of interest we only saw a large motor yacht and a few fishing vessels. Disappointingly there were many plastic shopping bags floating at frequent intervals, as if some perpetrator had purposely left them as markers for us to follow.

Aerial View


Pollution of the Mediterranean should be of great concern to all, because in the long run, unless it can be eliminated, it will destroy nature's beauty, the essence of what makes the Mediterranean attractive to visitors. Pollution of the water is one thing, but along the mainland coast of Spain developers have committed murder by destroying what was once a beautiful coastline. That malignant festering sore of ribbon development pours more and more puss into the sea. When will commonsense bring a halt to wholesale destruction of nature’s resources? Incidentally, we didn’t help by laying a trail of carcinogens by burning diesel in the ship’s engine.


On Saturday, 20th June, we left Morayra. There was enough wind for us to sail to Altea, but when we arrived there and we saw the limitations of our proposed anchorage, we continued to Villajoyosa. To do this we had to pass the ‘lager lout’ town of Benidorm, and what a visual catastrophe that place is! The town planners could not have had an overall concept, with the result that the resort is a miscellany of unrelated steel and concrete structures. Each architect has done his own thing without considering neighbouring buildings.


Villajoyosa is smaller than Benidorm, but it has a similar discordant, chaotic appearance. According to Gordon’s friend Douglas, we were expecting, “a pretty little place”; therefore our first impression was one of disappointment. The next day we separately stumbled upon the ‘old town’, with its ancient church and narrow streets, comprising an area that perhaps could be described as “pretty”. At the far end of town there was what could have been an attractive valley leading to the sea, but instead, there was a trickle of a river, strewn with rubbish. For very little effort and expense it could have been transformed into a an attractive nature reserve.

Villajoyosa Waterfront

The resort brought both blessing and sadness for me: Sadness, because I was propositioned by a young man, which I found highly disturbing. I was sorrowful because of his predicament, and I was concerned for his well-being, but I was blessed by God's providence the following day, which was a Sunday, when I inadvertently stumbled upon an Evangelical Church. As I was exploring the main street I saw a sign with the words, ‘Iglesia Evangelica'. The morning service was about to start. Spain being a Catholic country meant that the chances of finding such a church were few and far between. My brothers and sisters in Christ made me very welcome, and I had a most precious experience celebrating the ‘breaking of bread' with them. Before leaving the meeting they presented me with a Spanish/English New Testament and a number of evangelical tracts for me to distribute on my way back to the Marina. I recollect the look of astonishment when I handed a policeman one of the tracts. “For me?” he enquired in Spanish, “Yes, for you!" in English I replied.

If someone mentions the names of places I have visited, I usually recall images, scenes, sounds, or smells associated with them. I shall always associate Villajoyosa with swallows, because for some unaccountable reason when I was there, millions of them congregated at the old town. As they flew around the ancient buildings they made high-pitch shrieks of delight. Their speedy manoeuvres required great skill. Few birds could match their ability as they moved through the air, whirling, wheeling, diving, while flying wingtip to wingtip with their mates. What joy!

Colourful Houses at Villajoyosa

By contrast, I have a less joyful memory of Villajoyosa. It was of a putrid, stinking trickle of a dried-up river, seeping its way to the sea, after passing through a narrow valley of debris and rubbish. There, amongst the plastic cans, bits of old bicycles, a rusty iron bed and putrid weeds, was a large brown toad croaking loudly. He puffed himself up to attract his mate, oblivious of a baby rat wading in the sludge nearby, looking for choice morsels. I had no desire to have a part with these creatures as I had with the swallows.

On glancing behind, I was startled to see a strange-looking man only yards from me. He was gaunt and tanned as old leather. He was unshaven, dishevelled, wearing dirty trousers and a stained shirt. In his hand he carried a plastic bag. Eye to eye contact brought a shiver down my spine. What was his intent? Good or evil? My intuition told me there was something sinister about him. It was time to be off, but not without a silent prayer for his well-being. God had made us both in His image. I was no better than him.

Villajoyosa is known for its production of chocolate. There were indeed several shops selling delicious chocolates, but on my travels along the coast I had not seen any dairy farms for the production of milk which posed the question, “Where did the makers of the chocolate obtain their milk?” A few years ago I almost become a ‘chocoholic', Mars Bars and Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate being my favourites. Fortunately, I overcame my addiction and today I can eat chocolate without craving more.

Villajoyosa is also famous for traditional wooden boat building. I enjoyed looking at a newly-built fishing boat at a yard close to the Marina. Her sweet lines with curvaceous sheer, voluminous bilge, upright stem, and jaunty stern, combined with a straight keel to delight the eye. There was joy and satisfaction for the shipwright in knowing that his skills were required in this age of mass-production. The saw, the adze, the caulking iron and the mallet, are the tools of his trade. Skill of eye and hand, combined with craftsmen's knowledge brought about a unique vessel for the harvesting of tuna.

Before leaving Villajoyosa I desperately needed a haircut. I was beginning to feel and look a little wild, but I did not want to tie my hair in a ponytail. I was getting desperate after finding six hairdressing salons, all of them closed. Finally, I found a ladies' salon that was open! My desperate need required a desperate action; therefore I boldly explained to the proprietor by using sign language that I needed my hair cut. She agreed to do it for 1200 pesetas; that’s about £ 5. Her assistant did a very good job.

Local Fishing Boat

In my absence, Gordon had been working in ‘Secant’s’ spacious engine room, replacing a generator belt. When the belt had been fitted it was time for us to leave and sail for Alicante. Before saying farewell, I photographed a tiny lateen-rigged vessel on display at the Marina. She had once been used by local fishermen. After taking the photo I examined details of her rigging, but as I did so, I was reprimanded in Spanish by the Marina’s manager who was displeased with me for walking on the lawn where the boat was displayed. You can imagine my surprise when only moments later, I saw him and his assistant where I had been.

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