Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Gibraltar, English territory in Spain – There are many milestones we’ve hit all along our trip and Gibraltar is definitely one of them.  As the “gateway” between Africa and Europe as well as between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, for us being here symbolizes yet another phase in our trip:  the Med.  It has only been a few days since our last posting, but Gibraltar merits one of its very own.

We left Cádiz with a bad taste in our mouths.  Throughout history Cádiz, similar to Venice, had been an important point for trade back in medieval times.  Let’s also please not forget the fact that Cadiz is one of the three main cities for flamenco in Spain, famous specifically for the palo called alegrias, which are songs commonly about the sea.  Because of these reasons we were excited to see it for ourselves.  And because the city center is beautiful with its winding pathways, Moorish influences, outside cafes, and old cathedrals, we were very surprised to have had a little incident” there.

On our last night, we decided to anchor in the river that borders the town of Puerto Santa María, across the bay from Cádiz. As most of these towns we’ve experienced in Spain along the way, a summer night in town means musicians in the town squares, people dining outside, families strolling and loud music or motorcycles late, late into the night/early morning.  We have gotten used to trying to sleep with all this activity outside, but were surprised to have been awoken at 5am by some loud thuds which sounded like Begonia’s anchor may have dragged and we bumped into a wall or another boat or something. 

Sebas and I shot up to the cockpit to find a group of drunken boys/young men throwing large brick-like rocks at our boat.  We were really only anchored about 15 feet away from them, so the force of these blows was strong, almost cracking our windows.  Luckily, the window coverings we had made in Puerto Rico protected the windows; otherwise we would have had yet another expensive repair to deal with.  Sebas asked them to stop saying that we were a family with kids.  One of the guys said, “You’re lucky I don’t shoot you with a shotgun.”  Very harsh, and even a little hairy.  We are hoping that it was just a stupid prank done by some stupid young punks who were drunk.   Whatever the reason, we pulled the anchor up and left as soon as the group went away. 

The 50-mile sail to Gibraltar was spectacular.  We could not believe our eyes that we could clearly see Africa on our right side and Europe on the left.  Africa is so close, with ferries motoring back and forth between the straight all day long, to and from Ceuta and Tanger.  Gibraltar is a British territory, a promontory, off of the Spanish coast.  It is not clear the purpose of having this British enclave here today – other than providing us with some fancy phrases like “you are my rock ofGibraltar,” “solid as a rock,” and giving Prudential a logo - but Gibraltar has been in British hands since the 1700’s. I always pictured this location with just the rock and a military base of some sort, but there is actually a bustling city in the foreground of the rock.  English is the official language spoken here for street signs and businesses, but you can hear Arabic, English and Spanish spoken on the streets.  You can find the traditional red phone booths from England, pubs serving Guinness and cider as well as double-decker buses. 

We were surprised to see that in order to go to the promontory; one must pass through immigration and customs with a passport as if you are truly going to another country.  It is a unique situation because today not even from country to country within the EU do you need to show your passport on the border, so we were a little confused but came with passports anyway.  The currency used here is not the euro, nor is it the pound sterling, but the Gibraltar pound – a separate currency altogether only used in this 2-mile wide zone.  We realized this too late when we used an ATM to take out our monthly cash allowance and ended up with all this currency that cannot be used in any other place but here!

We did what most tourists do, and that is to take a tram up to the top of the mountain.  Up there is a really neat cave, which houses an inside amphitheater and tunnels in the rock created by the Brits way back when and reinforced in WWI and WWII, for the purposes of hiding ammunition and housing troops.  The tunnels were made to house troops for up to a year, so there were storage areas carved inside the sides of the tunnels for food and water, etc.  From the outside an enemy would not be able to know about the entire goings on inside the rock, but from the inside you can clearly see that the tunnels provided the Brits with a 360-degree view of the water, as well as a perfect hiding place for cannons, etc.

Then, of course, there are the monkeys…. Some say these monkeys are from Africa and arrived in Gibraltar through some underwater caves or tunnels.   Others say the monkeys were brought by the Moors as pets.  No one knows for sure, but whatever the reason, there are now hundreds of monkeys all around the mountain top of Gibraltar.  This provided us with hours of amusement because these monkeys are everywhere!  There are signs all around saying not to feed them nor get too close because they may bite.  We did see a monkey jump onto a little girl and grab the ice cream out of her hand, others sneak into a restaurant and steal some food off a table, and one even jumped onto Sofia!

Next stop:  Málaga, about 50 miles up the Costa del Sol.
Getting there
That's actually the coast of North Africa (Morrocco)!! Just a stone's throw....

Begonia and The Rock

Excuse me, do you know where Gibraltar is?

British phone booth

Tram to the top of the rock

Will it jump on me?
Look closely and you will see windows carved into the rock which the Brits used to shoot their cannons from inside the tunnels they carved.

Jail inside the tunnels

Streets of Gibraltar

Moorish castle

Visiting the tunnels 2km long

Our home taking a break


Downtown Gibraltar

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

No More Port Wine on the Portside in Portugal

Cádiz, Spain – We are now officially 100% in Andalusia, after having gone back and forth between Portugal and Spain in the last month. After our last posting and before arriving here, we spent a week or so travelling further down the west and south coasts of Portugal, and now southern Spain.* I feel we have been “all over the place” recently, I can’t remember the exact details of everything so I will give you a few highlights here…. A lot of working on the boat, cleaning, taking care of business matters, homeschooling and a little fun!

Sailing south along the western coast of Portugal was very uncomfortable so we were thrilled to have rounded the Cape of São Vicente (the most western point of Europe) to the southern coast (the Algarve) where things were much, much better weather-wise, swell wise, etc.  It was sunny, clear blue skies and smooth sailing.  There is a plethora of dolphins around the cape and on one day of perfect sailing, we spent about 45 minutes playing with a pack that was swimming back and forth the bow of Begonia. Sebastian almost touched them while leaning over the side of the boat. The kids really enjoyed this and I have to say it was better than Seaworld!  It was the most exceptional day sailing we have had yet on this entire trip.

In the Algarve we met up again with our buddy boats TinFish and Soleil and celebrated a birthday, played volleyball on the beach, went swimming and the kids went sailing in the dinghy. The weather has been great so far and all we could wish for after having experienced colder temps in June and July. 

In Punta Umbria, we anchored on the Rio Odiel for about 10 days, and dedicated much of our time to fixing the boat. We are starting to realize that having a boat is a complete money pit! We needed to repair the seals on the sail drive since some salt water had seeped inside and mixed with the oil. This repair required us to take the boat out of the water (mucha pasta! as they say here in Spain, which means, “mucho dinero”) which has also taken some time to coordinate with August being a very important vacation month in Spain, the religious holidays and the businesses being closed from about 1:30-5pm every day.  But, alas, MacGyver fixed it, while the kids and I spent the day in Huelva.

It was a pleasure to take this long breather in Punta Umbria to hang out with Gustavo Diaz, yet another one of Sebastian's sailing buddies from Argentina. Gustavo, his wife and two boys built their own catamaran years ago in Patagonia, sailed it back and forth to Spain for the Expo in 1992 and participated in all the celebrations for the 500th anniversary of the Discoveries as a representative of the sailing community coming back to Spain from the New World… All very symbolic and a wonderful opportunity.  After returning to Argentina for a few years, they decided to come back to Spain and have been living here - on their boat, the Gandul, for the last 10 years. Gustavo has always been somewhat of an idol for Sebastian, having received his Captain's license through Gustavo who is an excellent sailing teacher. But more importantly, Gustavo has been a role model Sebastian for his courage to take this trip and lead an alternate lifestyle.

We backtracked a little and spent another couple of days on the Rio Guadiana which separates Spain and Portugal, where we visited the towns of Alcoutim on the Portuguese side and Sanlúcar on the Spanish side. In order to use up some time while we were waiting for specific part for the sail drive fix to arrive we spent a day back in Lisbon where we had to return to pick up Benjie’s new passport, as well as another day in Sevilla where it was very hot…. 42 degrees C or 108 degrees F!!!

We aren’t complaining about the weather though!  It has been great to again be able to jump off the side of the boat for a quick swim, and to bathe outside under the moonlight with a solar shower.  Since we have anchored in rivers with strong currents we have had to be extra careful about the kids swimming.  After a couple of scares where the kids were pulled away from the boat and got nervous about trying to get back, we have required swimming with life vests as well as tied a buoy way off the stern that the kids can grab onto.

The new school year for the Begonia Boatschool officially started a couple of weeks ago and Benjie is now in Kindergarten, Sofia in second grade. It has been much easier to have them both formally in classes, whereas before it was mostly Sofia and Benjie participating in a few activities. We are in a better groove and the promise of swimming and sun when the kids finish their work is the best incentive. Back in Galicia, we were given some workbooks that are actually used in elementary schools in Spain and have been using these rigorously. But, the ones in the Gallego language I have decided to forego!

It has been nice to sink into a routine again.  The kids usually do a quick swim after breakfast, we do homeschool until lunch, eat lunch and then go into town.  Since businesses and people aren’t out and about until about 4 or 5 in the afternoon, this is when we hit the town and come back to have our dinner on Begonia or maybe we will go out much later, have a bite in town and walk around and people watch.  It is still very light out, and of course perfect temperatures.  Even if we were to leave the boat earlier, everything would be closed, there would be no one walking the streets and it would appear like a ghost town. In Spain everything happens so much later.  Tonight while walking around Puerto Santa María at 11pm, we overheard a child ask his parents if he could have ice cream, and the mother responded, “not until after we go home and eat dinner!”  Only in España!!!

So, for now “no more port wine on the port side in Portugal.”  It is now “sherry on the starboard side in Spain!!!”

Next stop:  Gibraltar and rounding the strait. 

*Specific cities we visited in order:  In Portugal - Sines, Sagres, Olhão/Ilha Culatra. In Spain - Isla Cristina, Punta Umbría, Huelva, Sevilla, Alcoutim, Sanlúcar, Puerto Sherry, Puerto Santa María and Cádiz.

More Dolphins!!!

Sebita playing with the dolphins

And more dolphins!

The "Begonias" on the trampoline dolphin-watching

Cabo de Sao Vicente

Rounding the Cape

Birthday Breakfast

Guys setting up the volleyball net....

Birthday Party Time!

Celebrating with Tinfish and Soleil

The three first-mates

The three captains

The kids helping me blow out the candles

Ilha da Culatra, Portugal

All fun and games heading back from Olhao in the dinghies....

...Until low tide and we were stuck without water and had to carry the dinghies almost all the way to our boats!

Downtown Olhao

Next Koziura Construction project?

Olhao fish market

Olhao farmer's market... the lettuce and tomatoes were amazing!

Back in Spain.... putting up the courtesy flag.

MacGyver puts a new trampoline net up....

MacGyver cleans the hulls....

MacGyverette repairs and sews "Smarty" the horse.

MacGyverette sews her first stuffed animal...

Replicas of the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria in La Rabida, Huelva.

Columbus checking the charts on his way to "India..."

Yes, that was Columbus' first reaction too upon arriving to the New World!

Now Sevilla

The Jewish Quarter was our favorite part.... very pictoresque....

Janey, the horse, meets her relative sevillano...

My dream house will have this Spanish style...

Keeping hydrated in 108 degree weather!

Didn't I mention that even the grocery store is a cultural experience?  Leg of ham anyone?

Despite what it looks like, the cured ham is actually quite good!  I just don't understand why they have to keep the hoof intact?

Water parade for one of the religious holidays.

Back in Lisbon.... the navigators.

Kids playing a game trying to find different countries on the map.  Great geography lesson!

Gandul and Begonia together at last...

Hermanos patagonicos reunidos!

Gustavo and Ofelia from Gandul

Benj steering us up the Guadiana

Nice calm afternoon

Just arrived at 9:30pm and jumped in the water to cool off

Two courtesy flags since we were on the river border of Spain and Portugal

Picture taken from Alcoutim, Portgual overlooking the Guadiana River and Sanlucar, Spain on the other side.

Andalusia and the Algarve are famous for their "white houses."

What a surprise!  Here comes Gustavo up the river with a group of people who chartered his boat!

Having fun in the river...

The trimaran Benjie and Peter rebuilt together...

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FOUNTAINE PAJOT ATHENA 38 CATAMARAN FOR SALE – After our wonderful experience, BEGONIA is ready for its next sailing family – with or without children!  Please contact sebastiankoziura@hotmail.com for more information.