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Oceans and Seas » Pacific » Coral Sea
May 4th 2014
Published: May 4th 2014
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Almerimar and back again



Almerimar is a huge marina divided into about 4 bays containing some really nice buildings and developments that have been built but remain vacant. It is a real shame because the Marina has a really nice feel about it the beaches look manmade without character, are super windy and are lined with large hotels in various states of decay, new retirement villas are being built which are immaculate but the streets that surround them are uninspiring and empty. Unless you have a car there is little to do but it had a large supermarket which always gives us hours of entertainment trying to guess what is in the packaging when your dictionary only seems to contain the words you won’t ever need.

Stumble in and Stumble out tours

Booby man giving up sailing

Lovely stray do at Irish tapas bar

Chinese shop invasion

Chinese hat

10 day tummy bug

Transformation into a clean freak with all the special products due to booby man’s sparkly boat



We left Almerimar very well rested and headed to Cartagena which is meant to be a city full of history with marvellous architecture. After 4.5 hours of battling the waves, wind and currents from every direction and actually spinning like a top at least twice we decided to give up on our attempt to tour the Med on the way to Italy we had seen several boats turn round and return to Almerimar so we followed suit and it took us 45 minutes to return, the problem was that in the fiasco of our final spin the rope that controls the large front sail had whipped out of control and was taken under the boat by the propeller, the noise and vibration under our feet was like something from a disaster movie before a metal girder bends and gives way under the weight of a cable car or something – not a good or pleasant noise. Andy cut the rope, the noise ceased but it meant we would have to sail into the Marina against many conflicting currents and winds but this time with the obstacle of sharp rocks at the marina entrance. After about 20 minutes of fighting the elements Andy conceded to call the Marina to see if they could tow us in with a motor boat, while we waited we were being drawn sideways towards the moles and while male windsurfers in the smallest and most offensive speedos zipped about us without the notion we were out of control.

Andy went under the boat to cut the knot off the propeller (despite sound affects no permanent damage), he wouldn’t let me take a photo presumably because somewhere on our travels he has become an old git as I have pretty much gone grey. I think I need to stop asking for permission as I am not a child (I have frightfully distinguished grey hair) and just do and forget all that ‘obeying your husband blarney’, any wwwayy!!!! The knot was the size of 3 human heads, he didn’t want to keep it to show anyone even though I thought it could be an interesting door stop or cat scratcher.



We headed back to Gibraltar after a nights recovery, the trip was easier for the most part but around Gib again there are difficult winds, currents and waves all meeting which makes circumnavigating the rock hairy to say the least. Marina bay was full which we didn’t want to hear after a difficult sail, Queensway Marina ignored us despite having space, we filled up on duty free diesel and sailed for 20 minutes across the border to La Linea, Spain.



La Linea and Gib for the 2nd Time



Cold showers heavy petting with cleaner and security Music on tap

Nice buildings in Marina

Honking of horns from 9 til 130,3 hours to get through in car

Bar in Morrisons

Bethel Church and Methodist Churches volunteer work

ADELAIDE

Losing passport

Mercadona and Eroski

Prices of food go up and up

JJJJwow

CANARY ISLANDS – LANZAROTTE NOT LOS PALMAS DUE TO WEATHER (SAVED OUR SKINS)

Arrived after midnight shower, slept for 3 days/ puking therefore walked around marina until 0500 and then played cards

Pizza burned stomach due to puking

Not allowed to dry washing on Boat





CAPE VERDE

Starving dogs

Career beggars

Broken pontoon

Sea sickness on boat due to unbelievable rockiness

Lady hiding in the toilets leaving me unable to visit the toilet

Great music in the streets

Expensive food in shops gave us a insect infestation in the rice

Hot sauce on Pizza

Learning to cook Portuguese dishes

Chuck Norris on island with bumpy taxi trip

Catholic Church for Christmas

Portuguese Christmas dinner and guests

CARRIBEAN

CUL-DE-SAC LE MARIN

Dia shop with mothy everything

Using fridge magnet to start outboard



Crew 8 days in hospital

ANSE MITAN

Snorkel

Fort du france

Balata Gardens

Marina Pointe de bout – loud and outrageous one man show

Caribbean cooking books

Violet icecream

Vegetable that looks like a brain – Hannibal scene

Erica arrives and injection tourism starts – 4 euro bus trip 25 euro in taxi

ST LUCIA

Rodney bay – Chinese takeaway

Non Thai Thai food

Lovely showers lots of Americans, our boat looked like a dingy next to super yachts

Chedder cheese again

MARIGOT BAY twice with boat boys and blue heron

SOFFRIES

DEUX PITONS

It has become clear that haute cuisine makes Andy angry …’expressed by making the waiter or waitress aware in unhushed tones that he will be going to buy a pizza afterwards.



MARIN – pharmacy and filters for water maker and goggles

Anse Mitan again and alternator burns out – difficult time anchoring without engine.

Batteries still not charging sufficiently.

GUANOPOOP

Prostitutes

Space age latrines that wet andy’s trousers

Gunman with pillow standing next to me (fancied my chances with him instead of the mosquitos

ANTIGUA

DEEP BAY

JOLLY HARBOUR

MONSERRAT BY NIGHT TO MEND RUDDER

8 DAYS TO PANAMA



Firstly I must apologise for a complete and utter neglect of the blog, the more I left it the larger the task grew and it seems if I am not busy puking I am busier trying to keep up with the endless cleaning, dehumidifying and mosquito killing that dictates the life of a ‘reluctant sea gypsy’. I will fill in the gaps left in the blog but I have to start somewhere so here goes.

I am writing this on the 7th day of sailing towards the Panama Canal from Antigua in the Caribbean. Andy has said he is starting to reduce his cigarette intake, so his mood has changed accordingly which probably explains why I’m talking to you guys and our crew (explain later) are conspicuous by their absence on deck.

My body has not been gracious enough to get over sea sickness in fact it seems to be embracing it as a full time job with as much overtime as I can schedule. I have tried everything you can take orally; keeping them down seems to be a skill I am working to master. I have tried every remedy offered by other travellers, including an ear plug in one of your ears, special googles developed for training astronauts that work on 95%!o(MISSING)f the world – I kind of knew I was part of that lonely 5%!b(MISSING)ut you gotta’ try these things. I have had two sailing trips in the Caribbean where I didn’t even ‘feel’ sick which is an actual miracle and for a moment I thought “Yes, sailing is a nice way to travel”, but when the boat is being tossed around by the waves, you cannot sleep or keep still long enough to doze before a book or fish slice (spatula or any culinary tool you choose to imagine flying across the room)launches itself your way like a scene from Carrie, and the boat is so hot you could fry an egg on your forehead, you kind of think “I like land and I don’t care who knows it, bloody hate mosquitos though, and there are no mosquitos at sea after you have uncovered the sneaky ones that hide behind your books and in between your clothes.



The last 2-4 months have been truly exhausting, in a nutshell we took on a crew member in November from La Linea to the Caribbean to help Andy cope with the sailing whilst I was busy shouting Europe at the sink. He could sail exceedingly well and wanted to go to the Caribbean to skipper yachts he could speak English, French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese pretty much fluently and could teach me to cook Italian and Portuguese food; what a gift straight from God and he really liked Dudie my mentally disturbed cat which is pretty much unheard of!

Andy invited his girlfriend to also crew when she stayed with us at Christmas in Cape Verde, we arranged to meet her in the Caribbean after her exams had finished and would make sure she got to NZ to return for her next semester by September. Crew are meant to make your life easier, another pair of hands to divide the chores and sailing in return for paying for their keep. Having crew should give you more time to relax and be a tourist. This did not materialise in fact we became the crew. It all became ridiculous when Andy and I spent every day working on the boat in the Caribbean and our crew were busy sightseeing. Our only breaks were to look for supermarkets to reprovision, yep the most exciting thing I did in Guadapoop next to clean and cook was see a cow on the side of the motorway while we walked to the supermarket. Our guests are lovely people but not crew, Andy and I worked twice as hard catering and meeting needs and twice as hard sailing, in fact you could safely say Andy and I are exemplary crew. Yes I did have several sweet little ‘chatettes’ with them (against Andy’s wishes) but being British we were waiting for them to naturally think hmm, shouldn’t I be offering to help? If we had been sharing expenses and just sharing a holiday I am afraid our guests still didn’t share the work load. Soo ‘we were sacked’ when we got to Panama and our guests made arrangements to go and see the islands that we missed racing down to Panama to keep to ‘their schedule’ missing the exotic Sam Blass islands and Cuba which was a dream of Andy’s to visit. I was relieved; I don’t think I could have taken anymore exhaustion or strain on our relationship. We felt like an incredible weight had been lifted and Andy became happy again. I understandably started to fume (internally of course) when they told me of their plans to return to the Carribean and take in what we had missed! Did I say anything …….no, I am too British and would die of guilt if I got angry etc etc. When Andy played an April fool on me and said that our guests had returned from Panama city and wondered if they could stay on the boat again, in my heart I still wouldn’t see someone homeless – damn Britishness!!!

Anyway, “Enough I hear you cry no more griping, stiff upper lip and all that!”





Antigua to Shelter ‘Pay’ (Bay) Marina – Panama

Howler monkey, kinkajou, Lonely bear,big cat?,frigate birds, vultures, birds of prey circling like charred paper taking flight over a bonfire. Lizard with green tshirt, eagret, lots of pelicans on pacific side, beautiful large minor birds drinking pool water.

Fifty miles into our trip we stopped in Monserrat by night because the rudder had dropped and was making an awful clunking noise; it was both eerie and hairy picking our way between all the unlit boats to anchor with 2 up front shouting directions.

We limped into the Marina at about 0730 on day eight of sailing, the Genoa sail ripped in two in high winds which left us with one sail (the speed and wind indicators had stopped working in Cape Verde despite a new chart plotter being fitted).

After a desperately needed shower all round our crew sacked us; we allowed them to stay with us and keep using our supplies until they found a new situation. This was an immensely awkward time but we remained steadfast in our Britishness and only complained when there was no chance of being heard. We employed a French electrician to look at our wiring; water in the mast had shorted the wires to the speed and wind indicator. We were truly blessed to find a sail maker living on a boat in the marina, he found us a second hand sail to alter which saved us thousands on importing a new sail, Andy finally mended the rudder, we hope for good. I still had to dry the boat out because we had large waves getting into the boat on the trip down which filled all the bilges soaked the mattresses in both the bedrooms and filled the clothes storage boxes. Andy one night changed his clothes 3 times, I could hear in his voice how cold he was – not good.

Shelter Bay Marina is the closest Marina to the Panama Canal in fact we crossed it on our 40 minute spine crumbling bus ride to the local supermarket near Colon (yes the town lives up to its name). We had to do this journey repeatedly to shop like mad people in order to trade in the South Pacific islands where they still use bartering. We also had 5 months of tins and snacks to buy because this would be the last place to buy at a less than astronomical price. All this shopping had to be in the 2 hour slot before another 40 minute chiropractic ride from hell on the Marina courtesy. The first 4 days we spent looking for an ATM that would give us cash, Andy had his card stopped several times and with the 6 hour time difference to consider it would take 2 days to successfully restart the card, despite buying a local sim there was no signal for our phones so we had to use the very expensive satellite phone for any conversations. Andy opened an account with Western Union which also got barred because the card was stopped – ‘would you like some stress with your anxiety?’ – this was the only place we arrived without the local currency and we needed to gather currency for the next 5 months of island hopping where we are unlikely to see people let alone an ATM. Despite the spine changing journey much of which you are airborne, the trees you see are amazing, straight from the pages of the classic children’s book ‘Where the wild things are’. We were told by those who were happy to brave the snakes that you could see Kinkajous, Howler monkeys and a big cat with a bushy tail, in the sky you see birds of prey circling above the jungle and frigate birds circling over the canal. Once on our return journey in the supermarket van (we had earned a free delivery) the driver stopped for an iguana as it crossed the road, he didn’t stop when I shouted ‘tree’ and we lost a wing mirror infact he shaved 25 minutes off the journey by driving straight instead of following the bendy roads – my backside barely touched the seat, though I left nail marks in the ceiling trying to hold on.

Breakfasts are very cheap and very good here, the food is a fusion of North and South America, our favourite is ‘Huevos Rancheros’ which is fried eggs on 2 giant pringles with chopped tomato, onion and coriander and a strange mystery sauce which I think is mashed kidney beans. On our first day I had either guava or papaya smoothie which tasted faintly of stale breath with a hint of vomit so I’m staying well clear of the juice of the day. Service is dyer, the manager told us that when they employ more staff they all slow down even more, there isn’t a great work or service ethic. It is incredibly hot here,it is punishing ,the locals look and smell fresh, the kids even follow fashion and wear woolly hats and we just ‘meeeelllllt’. At dusk I have taken to cooling down in the pool while Andy enjoys happy hour. There are some lovely giant minor birds with fan tails that drink from the swimming pool in the evening and jauntily walk around the marina.

Quattro Alto – Shopping Centre

Every shop in the shopping centre has at least one armed guard. You really don’t feel safe, Colon is worse, we only took a trip in to the local western union and we had to pay a taxi to wait outside for us, the cleaner at the Marina had advised our guests not to visit Colon because you ‘will’ be stabbed for whatever you might possess. The shops are full of snide merchandise and despite the place being hotter than a pizza oven all the clothes are made out of Crimplene style fabrics which make me sweat just looking at them. The mannequins in the shops are hilarious with Lola Ferrari sized breasts. We brought a machete that was light enough for me to wield. The cool thing is the amazingly decorated local buses, they are adorned with tinsel fringing, colourful sharks fins on the roof and amazing graffiti style art.



Panama Canal crossing to Balboa ‘Yacht Club’

We met some great people in Shelter Bay it was a real shame to leave them, we met a wonderful girl from South Africa who went everywhere barefooted with a rubber fish handbag, despite their engine going kerplunk they remained in high spirits while they searched for a strong enough outboard motor for them to borrow to get them through the canal. She was on a 27 foot boat which had no facilities but the Canal rules require you to have a toilet so they had to borrow a chemical toilet. When they crossed the Atlantic they woke up at 0200 with guns to their heads and had everything stolen, the bare footed one had just finished her first novel and the only copy was taken despite this she is all smiles – what an inspiring person. This also makes me realise how much God has protected us from the nasties of the world on this trip.

The Panama Canal amazed Andy, I kind of could not get over how many people died to make it which left me nonplused, Andy was cooing over the gates and the hydraulics while I was as usual trying to take photos of frigate birds as they circled above us. We had taken the expensive but stress free route across the canal by employing an Agent to do all the paperwork his name is Roy Bravo (just that sounds impressive) and his slogan on the back of his laminated calling card is ‘Helping the world’ or blockbuster style words to that effect. Everything is expensive, everything has its price in Panama, you leave feeling that your wallet have been violated.

We paid for 3 line handlers and a pilot for the crossing, you are instructed to feed and water these guys and make sure all the pilots needs are met. They were very nice guys but ravenous at all times especially around crisps; the whole night I could hear rustling and crunching. Apparently normally people don’t feed them enough ….you don’t say - only we had enough snacks after shopping for 5 months to satisfy their cravings for salt and oil.

Pacific crossing to the Galapagos Islands

The mooring at Balboa Yacht Club was very expensive, we were rained on by burned paper and the boat was surrounded by what was likely to be holding tank emissions – we decided to leave instead of replacing our savoury deficit after a nights rest and putting the boat back to normal. The Bay of Panama (Pacific Side) was full of Pelicans, I was so excited I tried desperately to film them in flight but I tended to panic when I saw them and the films are plagued with camera shake and my complete ineptness to control my excitement and operate light machinery. Andy says the trip was very easy to the Galapagos but slower than the predicted 7 days, I still felt sick but managed to keep my dignity. My helming shift was 0430 in the morning which I managed to align my internal clock to without the use of the alarm. We saw about 4 boats in 10 days for fleeting moments so we managed sometimes to snooze in unison. One day from 0430 were surrounded by 100s of dolphins which stayed with us for about 10 hours and then we didn’t see dolphins again until we were in the doldrums 5 hours from the Galapagos islands – these ones we filmed as they were the biggest we had ever seen. When the waters were still on the last night we motored from midnight, in the morning I filmed the sun coming up and we saw quite a few different sea birds and turtles. The journey is notably hotter and more humid, everything stays wet and it is really difficult to keep pillows etc dry. The flying fish are a bit rubbish in the Pacific and are few and far between, you randomly see giant fish jumping out of the water to avoid a predator. Andy saw large rays leaping and one morning he found a squid on our sun shade! I think 2 flying fish died on our boat compared to an average of 12 a night when crossing the Atlantic.

I now understand why the Eskimos have 50 words for snow, if snow is all the weather you experience you are going to notice differences in texture, velocity of fall etc. with that in mind you will understand why I need at least 50 words for heat, at least. Scale of 1 to 10 is not descriptive enough. I have 50 unprintable words which fall out of me effortlessly when I have to make any effort to manoeuvre or blink, it’s just too darn hot to exist at the moment. If I had the guts I would have taken photos of tourist’s across the breadth of our travels in varying states of liquefaction. Tourists are easily spotted not for the stout walking shoes fresh out of the box nor for the cameras with robust travel bags or shapeless unflattering Beau Geste hats, we are the guys that can’t seem to manage to stop sweating despite our tendency to wear very little. The locals don’t glow they maintain dignity in the body odour department and sweat glands remain unchallenged while we on the other hand gather, wilting over the freezer section in the supermecardo contemplating bedding down next to the fish fingers. In Panama where the heat peaked, the expression of disbelief and inevitable coronary on our faces as we dissolve despite constant showering, drinks blah blah. It is no wonder equatorial countries are full of unfinished buildings, it is too hot sitting and drinking ice cold drinks; working outside even at night is crazy. Your mind becomes jelly, the only thing that matters is ‘must keep cool, who needs a house anyway, clothes are for crazy people!!’ Today I asked Andy if we could buy bags of frozen food just to ‘wear’ as we walked around.

We finally got to the Galapagos Islands at 0800 after 10 days of sailing; both very tired but had to clean the boat from top to bottom because an agent of Equador told us we would have the boat inspected to be accepted into the waters since the majority of the islands are national park. Exhausted we cleaned the boat and waited for the inspector, 5 hours later 8 inspectors and the agent returned looked everywhere including under the boat. We have to replace our flares and all our extinguishers and despite paying 2,000 for a sonic system on the hull of the boat to prevent winkles etc the frog man inspector found winkles and we have to travel 40 miles away from the islands to dangle Andy on a bit of rope under the boat with a fish slice a brush and a palate Knife to scrub the hull. We had to wait for a permit to leave before doing this and did so whilst running round trying to replace flares etc. Andy was not happy, but I think this is a wakeup call and a rehearsal for Australian and NZ waters. Lovely thing is we were first welcomed by a young sea lion, they are everywhere and we had a family of red footed boobies hitching a lift on the boat for 2 days on the way to the islands. Our entry into the Galapagos cost $695 for the privilege of an inspection, for people flying in by plane they only pay $100 per person. We get the impression they are trying to discourage yacht owners, they don’t think we spend enough money, we have been told the costs to yacht owners would increase next year.

Outrageously hot here, think a lot about shaving my head because my hair permanently looks like I’ve combed my hair with a banger; there is no looking dignified or stylish just degrees of melting and sweating like you are sitting in a sauna. The people are very nice, the animals are amazing, we are just mending all the broken boat bits at the moment, the water pump is playing up so the boat keeps making fart noises and leaking water. A sea lion got onto our swim platform during the night and bellowed at us, Andy slept through this but i was up waiting for the mosquitos with my electric tennis racquet.

We returned to the boat one day to find 2 large sea lions lying on the cockpit settees, I filmed the eviction but could not capture the smell they left, I still can’t get rid of the snot they left inside the spray hood.

Andy tried to clean the bottom of the boat but the problem is too widespread and we need new anodes - it would take him a week and by then he would be very sick from swallowing sea water. It was very dangerous being out in the ocean with Andy on the end of a rope with a makeshift breathing tube, he had already tripped on the boat earlier and lifted his toenail so it wasn't a good idea to go in the water bleeding because of sharks and infection. Basically we are too dirty for the Galapagos, the boat was clean in Martinique in Feb but since then nature has got very busy. Despite not cleaning the boat the same frogman went under our boat and said we had now passed. We remain confused as does our agent who we had just instructed to get our leaving permits! We haven’t managed to see all the wildlife we wanted to but I have managed to burn despite being covered in factor 50; I imagine the Galapagos penguin population are a similar colour to my shoulders all year round! We hope to realise our dream of swimming with the sea turtles when we travel the pacific. I hope we are able to upload all the images and films we can, the internet strength isn’t the best here. The Wildlife here is amazing; I will buy a book when I have a postal address so I can identify what I have seen. On another note you have to be fumigated before you get to the Galapagos and have a shiny certificate, the crazy thing is the minute we anchored the boat became a magnet from huge ‘land that time forgot’ wasps, bees and flies – unbelievable. You see dragon flies and lizards everywhere, the sea iguanas are charismatic and are black, the exact same shade as the rocks they cling to. The island is a mecca for surfers; the waves are impressive, when we went on a trip to snorkel with the turtles the waves were so ferocious the surfers were remaining on the beach. Final fact about sea lions, you can hear them under the boat, the bubbles jets trace the hull, I was told this is how they dislodge fish that shelter under the boats.

Despite the stifling heat that will not waiver all year round in several shops they display several stylish balaclavas – yep, what’s that about, I bought an Equadorian rainbow coloured ceremonial ski mask and a novelty woollen turtle head hat to keep my God daughter’s head warm next winter.

Any way we have 3,099 nm to cover, it should take us a month.

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