Monkeying around in Gibraltar

The characteristic rock of Gibraltar slowly came into view on the fourth morning after leaving Cartagena. It had been a really nice trip, with many dolphins and even whales around the boat. Nobody was seasick, and we had plenty of time to play the guitarlele and read. But at night the Spanish coast guard would call out pan-pans, asking all boats to look out for rubber boats that had been set adrift from Morocco with 79, 95 or even 130 people on board. We felt really sorry for the desperate people onboard, but never saw any of them on the water.

As we approached Gibraltar, the traffic of cargo ships got more intense and we made sure to stay out of the way until it was light enough for us to head for the marina of La Linea on the Spanish side of the border. As always, we were the smallest cruising boat in the marina, and we ended up all alone on the pontoon for small boats – but with a magnificent view of the rock.

We spent a day getting the boat and ourselves sorted, and then it was time to head to the top of the rock to see the apes. We crossed the border to Gibraltar – and suddenly we were in the UK, complete with British signposts and pubs. We found our way to the footpath that would take us up, and soon it was time for lunch next to an old cannon and with beautiful views of the Strait of Gibraltar all the way to Morocco. We walked past the entrance to the many kilometers of tunnels that carve through the rock, and which were used as a hospital and home for the soldiers during world war two. And soon we saw the stairs that lead to the home of the apes. They are fed in the same place every day, so it’s easy to know where to find them. As we walked up the stairs we soon saw the first pair of apes. We had to walk in between them and were a bit apprehensive as we weren’t sure if they would be aggressive. But we soon learned that that was not the case, and saw how they would crawl on the roofs of the taxis and even sit on the arms of tourists. Runa and Mattis spent a long time watching the animals, and when they were finally done, we walked the last distance to the top of the rock where a huge cannon used to be ready to fire at anybody trying to go through the strait. Now it has been converted into a small museum, and we learned how much work went into firing a cannon like this.

After the hike we naturally had to go and get fish and chips for dinner, not a huge hit with our strange kids, but the adults liked it.


And then the weather turned really bad, with strong winds and rain for the next week. So we stayed put in the boat, doing school, baking cake, watching movies. Mattis and Esben braved the weather and went to Gibraltar to buy an ipod for Mattis, and we even went back to the top of the rock so that Mattis could make his own pictures of the apes. And we also prepared for Halloween. Runa and Mattis carved a pumpkin head, we made a very scary chocolate-fondant cake and were invited to a boat-kid-Halloween-party at the marina. But finally the winds were in the right direction for us, so we ended up leaving just before the party started, hoping that we would be able to enter the harbor of Rabat before it was closed again due to too much wind. But that wasn’t to be…


Engine problems on the way to Cartagena

Time was ticking, and the weather was getting progressively rough in the Mediterranean, so from Ibiza we decided to make the trip to Cartagena on the mainland of Spain in just one go. So far we had only done trips of one night this year, so going for two nights was not only good for moving fast, it was also good to progressively make longer trips before the trip from Morocco to the Canaries.

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Hiking through lemon groves in Mallorca

Port de Soller was located only a few miles down the coast, so we sailed down early in the morning, and were soon anchored in a very crowded, but very nice and protected anchorage. Once again, the sun was out and we could go swimming in the warm water.

The area around Soller is known for it’s oranges and lemons as well as for some beautiful hikes. And since our kids love hiking we soon found a route that seemed to work for us. We took the tram from Port de Soller to Soller, and from there we followed directions we had found online for a nice walk, first to the small village of Biniarix and then on to Fornalutx. We walked on the old road through groves with lemons and oranges, slowly upwards, surrounded by high mountains. In Fornalutx we walked through the little alleyways of the town to reach the main square. We had brought some lunch, which we ate in the shade, while watching the many cyclists getting ready for a day in the mountains.

The walk back was even more beautiful, this trip took us through old walking paths, meandering back and forth between lemon and olive groves. The change in scenery around every bend meant that the kids didn’t get bored, and soon we were back in Soller where we had started.

After these first 9 km we should probably have called it a day and taken the bus back, but instead we decided to walk back, and at the end of the day we had hiked 16 kilometers. Not bad for kids 5 and 9 years old!

After a few days in Port de Soller the weather was changing for the worse again, and we decided it was time to move on to Ibiza. We prepared for a short overnight sail, by making pizza in the omnia stove top oven, and left late in the afternoon. The sail down the coast was calm and nice, and after dinner, the kids went down to sleep. Esben and I took turns with shifts through the night and early in the morning we arrived in a cala on the north side of Ibiza. We had chosen this place as it was protected from most wind directions, and we spent the next couple of days on the boat mostly, waiting for the weather to calm down again. We were becoming very aware that winter in the Mediterranean was approaching fast, meaning that it was time for us to move towards Gibraltar.

Crazy weather and beautiful landscapes in Mallorca

Finally we had enough wind to move by sails instead of by engine. Due to the last days’ mistral, the sea wasn’t exactly calm though, and since the wind was pretty much coming from the direction we were going, it became a pretty miserable trip from Barcelona to Mallorca. We started in the evening, to let the kids sleep most of the trip away. And while Esben got some sleep the next day after an uncomfortable night shift, Runa, Mattis and I slowly watched the mountains of Mallorca grow in the horizon. Late in the afternoon we anchored in a small bay close to Port de Pollença in the northern part of the island, surrounded by mountains. The anchorage wasn’t completely sheltered, as wind and waves came from different directions, but the clear water and sunny skies soon had us all relax and go for a swim. Continue reading

A spot in Barcelona

We motored down the coast over night to get to Barcelona before the mistral once again hit the coast of Port Lligat where we had been moored for the past few days. This time Runa and Mattis decided to join me in the cockpit, while Esben tried to get some sleep. Spending time in the cockpit might not sound remarkable, but for Runa it is, as she is normally lying in her bed throwing up in the beginning of an overnight sail. But this time we had a nice evening together, and as the kids woke up the next morning we could point out landmarks like the Sagrada Familia, as we were approaching the city of Barcelona. Continue reading

The European inner waterways in summary

Numbers are always fun, so here are a few summarizing our trip through the European inner waterways.

We had the mast removed in Breskens on the North Sea coast in the Netherlands on the 15th of July, and had it put up again in Port Napoleon on the Mediterranean coast in Southern France on the 23rd of September. This makes a total of 71 days, but only 35 days of sailing. Continue reading

The big rivers of France; the Saone and the Rhone

Having reached the Saone River, we were keen to finally put some kilometers behind us. The river was much broader than the canal we came from, and the banks covered in trees. The days became more relaxed as there were far fewer locks to go through, and we could prepare dinner during the day, and generally had long days of sailing. The biggest problem was finding places to dock where the water was deep enough. We stayed in Verdun sur le Doubs for a couple of days to get our laundry done and to check oil and change oil filters on the engine. Since Esben usually takes care of this, we had decided that it was my turn to do this. Not the most glamorous job, but good to know how to do these things – even if it would be easier with longer and stronger arms…

We soon made it to Lyon, where the Saone meets the Rhone. The sail into this big city was incredibly beautiful, as we sailed past old convents, beautiful castles and under numerous old bridges. We weren’t sure where it would be possible to dock in Lyon, but after coming past some very public quays we decided to check if the marina existed. It did indeed exist, and we ended up having a nice evening with the crew from the Danish sailboat “Troldand“, who are very experienced cruisers, and who could give us some tips for the trip ahead of us.

As we started down the Rhone the next morning, we soon encountered the first lock, which was much larger than the ones we had been through on the Saone – but very easy to navigate since it had floating bollards inside, meaning we could simply tie up, and then the bollard followed us down. On the Rhone we sailed past vineyards where the famous Cote du Rhone originated, and to Mattis’ delight we came past an endless number of castles. Runa spent whole days sitting at the front of the boat, just observing the landscape as we sailed by. We spent a night in the village of Vivieres, where we took a walk in the old city and visited the church. An incredibly beautiful place.

We had been looking forward to Avignon, but when we arrived we learned that the quay had been swept away by the floods more than 10 years ago, so we moored in an uncomfortable place, right next to a busy road. But Avignon, with the small streets and remarkable pope palace was impressive, and since we were moored right next to the palace, we walked up in the garden every evening (when the temperature became bearable). In the big food marked, the kids got to choose a cheese each, and we came home with probably the best olives we ever tasted.

And then we were finally there, at the end of our trip through the European inland waterways. Judging by our mood as we sailed into Saint-Louis-du-Rhone, one would have though that we had crossed an ocean – but then again, we did actually cross a continent in our boat! The smells had changed and even the sound of the water as it hit the boat. And we were so ready to get our mast back. But first we got our first taste of the Mistral, the strong winds that blow down through the Rhone valley and out in the Golfe du Lion. It kept us in the bat for a day, and then we sailed on to Port Napoleon, just around the corner, where our mast was put back on, and we prepared Chip-Chip for the Mediterranean.

Across the top of France

After waving goodbye to Torbjørn and Elise in Sillery, just south of Reims, we were on our own again, and ready to go into the small canals that would take us to the highest point of our trip across Europe. As we started, we soon got into a routine where Esben would throw the first ropes up over the bollard, hand them to me, and then get the front ropes on, which he controlled. Fairly quick and easy, and after a couple of days we had made it to Vitry-le-Francois, where the “Canal entre Champagne et Bourgogne” begins. Continue reading