Sunday, 28 November 2010

Some new additions ..... Nov 2010

Skipper removing obsolete cabling  

25 November 2010

I haven't been too idle. There's a couple of additions below. On this years Cruising Summary - Cruisin, Boozin & Snoozin 2010, (either arrow down or click on Yearly Roundups in the Labels) I have now added a map of all the anchorages for this season. You can click on the anchor and get a brief description of the anchorage.

I have also added the "Cost of Cruising" at the end of that blog post. This covers all our cruising related expenses for our 2010 Season.
Fat Freddy the Fender, winner of the best
 dressed fender competition

Also added is another Balvenie Blog (as if one isn't keeping me busy enough). This is our Cruising Info Blog for those behind us that love all info but don't need all the great pictures and stories when they want to print it off. So if you are one of those take a look at

I am very receptive to feedback on both my blogs so send us an email (with Balvenies blog in the subject) with anything.

Now back to the sewing machine, in the middle of 9 new fender covers, running a little short of fabric so have commandeered a rather over-sized sweatshirt for our big fat ball fender, he is now looking so dapper I'm not sure he should be put back into service!!!    Meanwhile Skipper is playing in our 'spaghetti junction' removing all the wiring related to the obsolete equipment we have removed, we are nearly up to 200 metres removed!!!!  - what fun
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Sunday, 14 November 2010

Valencia Excursion and Moto GP finals ..... Nov 2010

Old town Valencia by night
05 - 08 November 2010

It was finally time for our first Spanish excursion.  Our good friend Tony off  Tactical Directions has wintered his boat in Barcelona  so we looked for a half way rendezvous point.  The deciding factor on Valencia was that it was also hosting the final round of the World Moto GP, Tony and his friend Jackie are big fans - so Valencia it was.

We left at 9.15am and caught the bus from Cartagena to Murcia, the regional capital just 45 minutes away.  There was enough time for a coffee before getting onto our connection and by 3pm we had arrived in Valencia.  The scenery enroute changed from the flat alluvial plains growng many various crops and the odd vineyard, to a more undulating landscape further north, all very colourful with orange trees almost as far as you could see.
Mark, Tony and Jackie at the Moto GP 

Last time we visited Valencia was in June 2007, another sporting event, the final of the America's Cup between the Swiss Defenders - Alinghi and the New Zealand Challengers -Emirates Team New Zealand.  Our days and nights were full of yacht racing - watching it, talking about it, reliving each race, celebrating the wins, drowning our sorrows in the loses. We had had a great time in Valencia, despite not winning the cup.
We had done some sightseeing then, but being based near the Cup Village on the shores of the Med, we hadn't ventured downtown at night. This time we were staying in the centre and getting out to see Valencia by night.  Getting accommodation for the weekend had been difficult, not only was the Moto GP on but also a major tennis fixture, hotels were very busy and rates had at least doubled.  We had booked the Hotel Turia,  conveniently located adjacent to the bus terminal, opposite a huge shopping mall, metro station and about a 15 minute leisurely walk into the centre of the spectacular old town . 
Boy these bikes make alot of noise 

After catching up with Tony and Jackie we had a siesta (I had the most wonderful bubble bath, somewhat of a luxury when you live on a yacht) then explored the old town,  trialling the best looking tapas bars along the way.  By 9pm we decided to stop for dinner, things were pretty quiet, it was Friday night in Valencia - where was everyone??  We had a superb meal in a little place whose name unfortunately I lost, and it was tucked away in a rabbit warren of lanes.  When we left around 10.45pm the place was overflowing, all tables taken, people standing eating at the counter, the few tables out in the cool night air occupied - and this was the scene at every eatery we saw on the way home.  The Spaniards come out to play very late.

Saturday was Qualifying Day at the Moto GP.  I had not planned to go, its not really my thing, but it was a beautiful day so after a leisurely breakfast at the tiny cafe opposite the hotel we walked to the train station and eventually got ourselves sorted as to how to get to the track.  I was happy to sit in the sun watching the bikes go round in circles, while others around me appreciated the finer points of what was happening.  The noise wasn't too bad, and it does come and go. 
Made it round the first corner

Back to the hotel, more bubble baths and siestas then out for tapas a little later this time.  Well, when in Spain !!!  We  found another good cafe for dinner, the evening was a repeat of the previous, empty on arrival - but this time 9.30pm and absolutely pumping after 11pm with people queueing for tables as we left, its a tad hard to get used to.

Sunday dawned...race day. Clear and warm, breakfast at the hotel then back out to the track.  All looked much as the day before to me, I had not been converted but the others seemed to enjoy it and the stands were full of supporters from all nationalities. Tony and Jackie (clad in Aussie flags) the real petrol heads amongst us, were cheering for the Aussie Casey Stoner who finished second behind the Spanish world champion and the locals went loco. The noise and speed of the bikes was impressive even for this novice. It had started clouding over on the train ride back and by the time we went for dinner it was pouring down, we found a Chinese restaurant just a block away and enjoyed an excellent cheap meal before an early night.  Tony and Jackie had an early start on Monday, ours was more leisurely, we had booked on a direct bus at 11.15am and were home to Balvenie by 4.00pm.  Although I wouldn't go to another Moto GP, I can say I've been there done that but don't need the T shirt. However we had a great weekend  catching up with friends, sampling the local delights and visiting Valencia again.  

Excursion Info to Valencia:-
Bus -
There is an almost hourly service between Cartagena and Murcia. 3.50E pp ow, 45 minutes on the express.  From Murcia we went by ALSA   to Valencia, and got a direct bus back to Cartagena (just two per day) The return tickets cost 72E for both of us, including the Cartagena/Murcia sector. 
Hotel - Accommodation was at an absolute premium, as were the prices.  We booked through at The Hotel Turia.  It is a 4star, 95E a night, their weekend rate is normally around 53E.  Buffet continental breakfast was 6.50E pp extra.  The rooms were spacious and clean, but for a 4 star where were no extra touches you may expect. was an easy site to use and you are not required to prepay, and we could cancel without charge up to 2 days ahead.  
Sightseeing - Valencia is a beautiful city, the old town has some outstanding buildings - worth seeing by day and night, just walk around, get lost and enjoy all the nooks and crannies.  Last time we visited we went to the Science Museums area, adjacent to the Americas Cup village, this area is worth a visit, if not to see inside the buildings, then to view the modern architecture 
Eating Out -   You will not go hungry.  There are hundreds of tiny tapas bars, cafes and upmarket restaurants for every budget. Some don't even open for dinner till after 8pm and many close on Sundays.  Most have their tapas on display, be brave, go inside, point at all the ones that look good and enjoy!!  Spain is cheap for eating out, most tapas plates are 2E or less (the size of a saucer), raciones around 4E (about the size of a bread and butter plate), bread is normaly extra.  Meals range from about 8E upwards, and Menu del dia (3 courses and a drink) from 8E upwards    

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Our first month in Cartagena .... Nov 2010

Mark playing hide n seek in the engine room! 
08 October - 04 November 2010

It is hard to believe we have almost been in Cartagena for a month already.  The days seem to be rolling into each other, we have got used to bright blue skies and warm sunshine, there was a windy patch last weekend when a low passed through but otherwise it has just been perfect, we keep thinking we should be out cruising!!!!   It's cooling down a little at night, but still haven't needed to put a heater on, and its cooler in the shade during the day, but in the sun it's still shorts and teeshirts weather,  not bad for November.
Having fun polishing the stainless

We haven't done any of the 'official' sites of Cartagena yet, but we have certainly pounded the pavements and discovered almost every cafe and tapas bar in the vicinity and we have completed an extensive tastings survey to ascertain the best, cheapest, and most authentic - its been quite some challenge - so that has been keeping us busy and getting us familiar with our new winter home.

The list of dreaded 'boat jobs' is keeping us busy in our spare time, as I write this I am listening to the angle grinder whizzing away on the stern, where Mark is cutting up our stainless steel framework, removing an arm that holds some obsolete aerials to make way for 2 new solar panels we have ordered, he doesn't quite look the part, wearing a snorkeling mask in lieu of safety goggles - at least he has removed the snorkel.    We have been doing more painting and yesterday completed repainting the area between our teak deck and toerail, it looks great and has finally been crossed off the 'to do' list after 7 years, what an achievement. 
What a fiddly area to try and paint

Lots of little jobs are out of the way now too, the dodger has been resewn to mend shreaded stitching, broken zippers replaced to keep the cockpit snug in winter, then the cupboards have all been sorted out, bilges cleaned.  While I have been doing all these minor jobs Mark has been working on the Volvo, changing oil, replacing fuel and air filters, cleaning the lift pump - all in an effort to rectify an 'irregular heart beat' it developed late in the season, and to try and discover why we have engine coolant in our turbo charger.  He wasn't successful so we called in the experts, we are up to 22 hours of labour (not looking forward to the bill), the engine is all back together but neither problem has been solved, there will be more installments on this one.

Looking through our cabin hatch to the QE
 Of course dealing with all of this in a foreign country and using a language we can not speak does not make it easy, but slowly we will get there, we hope!!
The Queen Elizabeth & Balvenie

The angle grinder has stopped, another job completed.  Tomorrow we go on holiday for a long weekend to Valencia to rendezvous with our good friend Tony off Tactical Directions who has his boat in Barcelona.  The boys are off to the final Moto GP of the season,  I think I will opt for something a little less noisy!!   

Today we have the brand new Cunard Cruise Liner, the Queen Elizabeth in port on her inaugural voyage, we also have another cruise ship - they have been relegated to the freighter docks.  We have been getting 3 or 4 a week coming through, the town certainly livens up with the extra people, it must be a huge injection of cash into the local community.

So thats our first month in Spain, our Spanish is NOT coming along in leaps and bounds, although we are very good at ordering our tapas, think we need to try harder.