We have been hauled and relaunched, and are on our way

View from the Sant Carles de la Ràpita Marina towards the town and the surrounding mountains

We have not posted a blog since the end of October.  So let me catch up briefly.  After our car trip to Andalusia in October, we returned to Sant Carles de la Ràpita to prepare the boat for winter storage ashore.  As Laura was coming out of the laundry room in the marina, someone tapped her on the shoulder and said “Laura?  Is that you?”  It was Gesche, whom we knew from our first year crossing of the Pacific in 2007.  At the time, she and her husband Herbert and their 4 year old son Yannick were crossing on their catamaran Yara.  We met them either in the Galapagos or Fatu Hiva in 2007 and sailed with them in the Society Islands, the Cooks, and Tonga, and spent time with them in New Zealand at the end of the year.  We knew that they completed their circumnavigation in 2009 and returned to northern Germany.  The Sant Carles Marina is now home to a different and smaller catamaran that they sail during their vacations from full-time employment and school.  It was so nice to spend some time with them again and see a now grown Yannick.

Laura and Gesche in Sant Carles
Yannick and Mark on a hike above Sant Carles
View of Sant Carles

Sabbatical III was hauled in November without incident and we returned to the US for the winter.  We returned to Spain on April 2 to arrange bottom painting and to get the boat ready for what promises to be a long sailing season.  Roberto from Asnau Marine and his crew did an excellent job painting and waxing.  Gesche, Herbert, and Yannick were once again in Sant Carles after completing their first sail of the season.

Sabbatical III is launched on April 9 at the Sant Carles Marina

On April 18 we left Sant Carles heading southwest.  Our first stop was Peñíscola, a beautiful city with a fortified old town built on a rocky headland.  There is no marina in Peñíscola so we anchored to the south of the headland in a small and very shallow bay protected from the east by a small breakwater.  As we were anchoring, a procession of large steel fishing vessels came around the breakwater into the small bay from the sea at high speed creating a huge amount of wake.  Over a period of just 15 minutes, 25 to 30 such vessels came in as if in a hurry.  The last two fishing boats came in just as a siren went off indicating 4 pm which is apparently the deadline for unloading fish for the wholesale market.  After the siren, all was calm.  When these boats left in the morning, they did so slowly and we hardly felt their wake.

The old town of Peñíscola is charming and had lots of tourists even this early in the season.  We toured the castle and the gardens and had a great lunch sitting outdoors.

The walled city and castle of Peñíscola
The walled city and castle of Peñíscola
View from the castle, Peñíscola
View from the castle, Peñíscola
View from the castle, Peñíscola, with Sabbatical III in the background
View from the castle towards the lighthouse, Peñíscola
Castle at Peñíscola

The wind shifted during our second night at Peñíscola and we had to leave the next day.  We had hoped to spend time at the Columbretes Islands, a group of small uninhabited islets of volcanic origin off the coast, but the marine forecast was not right.  So we sailed off to the big city of Valencia.

Valencia is the third biggest city in Spain with a population of almost 2.5 million in the metropolitan area.   It has a beautiful old town, wonderful architecture and parks, and is famous for its food, in particular, paella.  It also has the largest container port in the Med and that container port is adjacent to the Valencia Yacht Port where we are berthed.  When we arrived after 5 pm on April 21, there was considerable clanking and noise from giant cranes piling containers just  50 meters away.  We thought about turning around and leaving, but there was nowhere to go.  Those first few hours were the noisiest.  It has been mostly quiet since then because they are probably unloading a ship at a different quay.  The marina is long and linear and we are at the far end so it is 2.5 kilometers to the front gate and when you exit, you are in a wasteland adjacent to the port and quite far from the city.  Two days ago we rented a car.  Now we can get around and explore the beautiful old city.  Parking is scarce and expensive in the city center so we devised a sensible plan.  We would drive to a metro stop on the outskirts of town where there was lots of free parking, and then take the metro (subway) into town.  We rely on “Ms. Google” (Google Maps)  to direct us around wherever we go and she has always done a great job … until now.  Yesterday, Google Maps sent us down a one lane country road through an artichoke farm that dead-ends on the wrong side of the train tracks.  So we had Ms Google suggest another route.  That route also turned into a one lane road through an onion field with a metro stop visible in the distance.  We decided to give up and find our way into the city with the car.  As we did so, we found the real entrance to the metro stop.  There was not even an office with a counter, just a ticket machine and a parking lot in the farm field.  A friendly metro employee helped us with the machine and we easily took a subway train right into town.  More on Valencia in a later blog.

Valencia: Old Town


PS San Carles is the biggest fishing port in Catalonia.  The large steel fishing boats come in late in the afternoon for the automated wholesale auction market.  Here are some photos of that process from last fall.

Seafood unloaded from boats, Sant Carles

Monk fish
Unloading seafood
Wholesale auction buyers look down at a conveyor belt and computer screens listing type and weight of seafood, current bid, and name of boat, plus a close-up of the seafood up for auction.