Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Memorable Cruise, part 2

Sagrada Familia

Linda's Cruise, the Costa Dorada

On Tuesday, 26th May, we were joined by Linda who had been invited by the skipper as an additional crew for a week. There was the possibility that she could be a future crew for Gordon. She wanted to accrue sea time and experience for the Royal Yachting Association's Competent Crew Certificate. Her short-term aim was to get hands-on experience of all practical aspects of seamanship involving an auxiliary yacht. Unmarried, and in her early thirties, she was a much travelled lady. Adventure-hiking was her main hobby and source of inspiration for journalism. She described a trek through a swampy jungle with native guides when she became a victim of leeches. Once she suffered from food poisoning. Her stories gave me the creeps.

Castelldefels Castle

We went for our first sail on Monday, but instead of heading east as Gordon had originally intended, we motored southwest to Castelldefels, on the Costa Dorada. Linda volunteered to do the steering. Normally the Autohelm 2000 would have been used to keep the yacht on her course. Linda also had a go at keeping the ship's written log and the appropriate chart work. That evening we savoured macaroni cheese that had been cooked by the skipper, and we enjoyed Penadas wine.

That first day was typical of so many to come, being almost windless with unrelenting sunshine. Even the locals said it was hotter at that time of year than usual, but we heard that in England the weather had been dismal with much rain. I noticed that Gordon greatly appreciated the sun, and he would sunbathe for hours at a time wearing only his shorts and a yachting cap. Conversely, I usually tried to hide under the bridge deck while covering myself with a long-sleeved shirt, endeavouring to avoid the sun, but sometimes in the late afternoon I would allow the sun’s rays to shine on my fair skin, in the hope that I may capture a light tan to show my wife. I had to be careful, because I was susceptible to sun rash, which later affected me.

Our next port of call was Taragona, with its new marina and beautiful, monolithic, stone cathedral, situated on the highest part of the town in the old sector. This ancient city with it narrow streets, terraced houses, balconies, tiles and shutters, is an artist's paradise. That evening all three of us had a meal to remember at the La Tuela restaurant. We discussed many things, but the most significant in my opinion were the subjects of faith and trust in Jesus, and the nature of being a born-again as a Christian. Just as I expected, my testimony was met with skepticism, but I hoped and prayed that a work of grace would be done in the hearts of both of my companions.

Taragona Marina


Early the next morning I used one of the marina’s showers to freshen myself, but it was first necessary to pass through a high-security gate. I forgot to press the disarming button, which caused a high-pitched siren that woke the whole yachting fraternity! Two guards immediately appeared from their hide-away to discover what all the noise was about.

Later that morning the sky became overcast and a cool wind blew from the land. By early evening we found an anchorage at St. Carles dela Rapeta, where we were boarded by Spanish customs. We think they visited us out of boredom, or perhaps because they wanted to put something in their logbook. At first, their attitude was threatening, especially as their leader was equipped with a revolver. They were dressed in denim uniforms resmebling those worn by the SAS, but within minutes, the atmosphere of apparent hostility changed to one of civility.

One of their crew occupied Gordon with a mountain of paperwork, while the others made a cursory inspection of the yacht. We could have hidden half-a-dozen immigrants in the engine room, or we could have stashed away tons of drugs in lockers. I personally think they were more interested in Linda than what may have been hidden in the ship’s stores. They may have been attracted to her fair hair and dimples, or they could have been beguiled by her charm, especially her smile.

The next day, Saturday 30th May, we made a start at retracing our track, but we diverged from it by putting into L'Ampolla, which is an almost land-locked bay bordered by sand dunes. It has a lovely sounding name, the meaning of which I know not, but it matches the tranquility and beauty of the place. Immediately after setting the anchor, Gordon and I enjoyed the first of many swims we were to have during the course of our holiday. The water was colder than we anticipated - considering the bay was shallow and enclosed, and lacking any appreciable tidal currents. Linda declared it was far too cold for her. She was content to watch male lunatics trying to put on a nonchalant show of manliness. In my case the whitening of my fingertips, as they reacted to my inherited Ranaud's Syndrome, didn’t help. This unpleasant condition causes loss of circulation, and it has to be kept under control by not prolonging exposure to the cold. Those who have not suffered from the condition do not appreciate the irritation and pain that can be felt, even when being subjected to mild exposure. The victim can suffer from a mild tingling to the sensation of severe pain after circulation has been restored.

The Costa Dorado

We set off for Vilanova on the morning of Sunday 31st. The wind was strong enough to rotate the propellers of huge wind generators sited on the ridge of a high hill overlooking the sea. The wind farm was not unique, because over the course of our holiday we observed others strategically placed on high land overlooking the sea. Such use of the wind makes sense, because onshore breezes occur during the day and the converse take place at night. This policy of utilizing non-polluting natural sources of energy is evident elsewhere, such as on the island of Tabarca where the majority of the island’s electricity is generated by solar cells.

Because we had the wind in our favour we made a smart passage to Vilanova, arriving there shortly after 1830.

Very early the next morning, the Guardia Civil paid us a visit in their noisy launch. They ordered us to take up our anchor and moor alongside the fuel pontoon. This prevented us from having an undisturbed sleep. Linda and I met further hassle when we were prevented from leaving the marina by a young guard who detained us for 15 minutes until he had permission for us to leave. We assumed the reason was because Gordon had not been able to pay the berthing fee because the marina office was closed. ‘Secant’ had to be moved from her temporary berth within an-hour-and-a-half, but this did not give Linda time to buy a present for her mother. The only plus point gained from our short walk to the shops was that we had exercised our limbs.

Our next stop was Puerto Olympic, a second, but attractive marina at Barcelona.
From there Linda could take a taxi to the airport. Our track lay across the passage used by big ships entering and leaving Barcelona's main harbour. As we approached the passage, we found that ‘Secant’ was on a collision course with a freighter, but in good time we made adjustments to avoid a catastrophe. Normally the conceding vessel would turn to starboard to pass astern of the one having right-of-way, but Linda steered ‘Secant’ to port; then steered the yacht to make a complete circle before passing astern of the freighter. It was not a textbook example of how a collision should be avoided between two powered vessels on converging courses.

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