Spoke far too soon …

•Monday, 15 August 2022 • 7 Comments

It’s been a week and a lot has happened – some good and some much less so! Starting with the good …

Absolutely lovely to have Oliver (known as ‘cabin boy’) and James (‘Chief Engineer and Security Manager) on board! Not as much sailing as anticipated for reasons to be explained below, but we travelled 333 miles moving from Aguadulce up to our second (third?) home in Palma. En route we had some beautiful anchorages, some great meals on board and on shore, with some swimming, paddle boarding and playing thrown in. We met up with my superstar nephew Tom, (England rugby player) and his girlfriend Ash, in Andraxt and had them plus another couple of friends of Tom’s join us for a day sail. Unfortunately, for all that Tom is ‘rufty tufty’ on the rugby pitch, not so much on a boat! Seasickness for him and Ash resulted in our cutting the day short and dropping them off by tender after lunch.

Moving onto the bad … how many things can go wrong with a bloody boat?? Day 2 of Oliver and James stay, the guest toilet stopped flushing. James (mainly!), Oliver and I spent 2 long sessions with our heads down the toilet changing the bellows and the base of the toilet. This is definitely not the glamorous life it can appear! No joy in spite of best efforts so the expert is booked in for tomorrow.

Generator failed … no air conditioning and no water maker as a result. Not a major practical issue as we were at sea with a breeze and we have huge water tanks which were full when we started but hey ho … parts ordered and due to be changed tomorrow after diagnosis with engineer over the phone.

Finally and most seriously, the mast furler popped at the top of the mast. We thought the main halyard had snapped … luckily the mainsail had already been furled so all was safe, but it’s not possible to use the mainsail until this is fixed. Obi-wan- kenobi guru Mike joined us on Saturday morning to investigate. It transpires that this is a serious failure and we may need the mast taken off the boat to repair it. Nightmare. No time, loads of guests lined up and finding Spanish workman who can deal with this at short notice in August is mission impossible. We love a challenge. And the story continues …

Readying Mistral (and ourselves) …

•Sunday, 7 August 2022 • 3 Comments

So far, so good … no disasters! We arrived safely on Thursday evening, back in the pretty port of Aguadulce.

I was thrilled that the man we had trusted with our boat keys (our life right now!) repaid our trust in kind – doing the jobs we had given him and best of all cleaning the outside of the boat a couple of times. It looked perfect! Oh so happy not to have to start a big clean in 37 degrees! It’s super hot here in Aguadulce – siesta needed between 1pm and 5pm.

It’s a testament to our greater knowledge that the discovery of a flat generator battery caused very little concern. Off to the marina, order a new one and best of all – change the battery ourselves! Definitely congratulated ourselves on that one.

We’ve spent the last 3 days preparing the boat and ourselves for sailing. Massive food shop with as much time being taken to stow it all … vacuum packing meat for the freezer, taking labels off cans and marking them up (we don’t want any bugs getting behind the paper) and searching out every possible nook for storage! Checking all the seacocks, cleaning inside and preparing for our trusty crew who are joining us for the sail back up to Palma … lovely friend James and godson Oliver. Can’t wait!

Moving home …

•Thursday, 4 August 2022 • 5 Comments

Yahoo … finally, the day has come! We shut the chalet, put away the garden furniture and bade our farewells to our lovely neighbours and friends … we are travelling to the boat. Yacht Mistral becomes our primary residence for the next 3 years starting this evening. The big adventure begins!

We had hoped to travel light but 46kg of checked in baggage along with 20kg of hand luggage later – we failed! Friends Jane and Ian dropped us at THONON station this morning and so far, so good … we have made it to Madrid and the bags are still with us (tracked by Chris who has apple air tags on all bags … you’d expect no less!)

Farewell BBQ chez les Parkers!
Thonon Station … you are only seeing the hand luggage!

UK Tour … not quite as planned …

•Thursday, 14 July 2022 • 2 Comments

Well … I had a fabulous plan for our trip … every day carefully scheduled to make sure we maximised social with family and friends as well as getting some important stuff done. We had booked a 2 day sea survival training programme and a 4 day marine first aid programme. I had to renew my passport and we had stuff to do on property.

All was going beautifully for a week – survived sea survival (a good sign!), spent a traumatic day getting a new passport but mission finally accomplished, and much more importantly, had a lovely time in London catching up with friends, drinking fizz, seeing art and inhaling all that London has to offer! The week ended with Max & Zoe’s wedding (my brothers youngest son). What a fabulous day and a really lovely family weekend. A really joyful occasion; everyone looked gorgeous and we will remember this very happy day for ever.

I had one final lovely day with Ruth and my sister Jane at Hampton Court Flower Festival and then Covid struck. I felt really poorly for the first 5 days. We cancelled all social arrangements and stayed with Jane and then in a hotel in Cambridge. Chris contracted Covid 5 days after me and has been poorly ever since. We are both still testing positive as I write. What a bugger. We were lucky enough to be able to spend the weekend with David & Kayleigh and our gorgeous granddaughters – they have all had Covid and were relaxed about our staying with them. We are now holed up in Norfolk in splendid isolation, house sitting for my sister Sara, who is in Australia following her youngest son, Tom (Freemen) playing rugby for England – super exciting!! It will be weird if we end up watching Tom on Saturday from Sara’s house!

Annabelle & Vivienne

Our plan is to go to Richard & Tamsin at the weekend and then down to Southampton for our course next week. Keeping everything crossed we are well and fit by then. Back to France at the end of next week … the big adventure looms ever closer …

Catching Up

•Monday, 20 June 2022 • 2 Comments

I remembered that I had been unable to upload photos for my last 2 posts (not enough internet) and have finally got around to adding them. Whilst I am here, a quick update …

Our trip back to Aguadulce was uneventful – I managed to damage one of the cars on the port side of the boat (a type of roller that adjusts where the lines are for the Genoa). Luckily, we were able to mend it ourselves when we reached port … feels like we might be turning a corner in terms of getting to grips with maintenance of the boat although I don’t want to jinx it! Aguadulce is pretty – 10 miles south of Almeria. We found someone to clean the boat and look after it in our absence and left for France happy that the boat is safe and we had 5 days of actual sailing!

At the chalet, boat preparations continue as we prepare food plans, book sea survival courses, prepare navigation plans and attend more seminars. We are also preparing the chalet for our absence. Having said that, I’ve had a lovely week with Jane and Janice and have managed swimming, hiking and gardening – favourite pastimes!

Back to UK on Friday for our final tour ahead of the big adventure!

En route to Aguadulce

•Wednesday, 1 June 2022 • 5 Comments

I got my promised swim, cocktail and sunset in Formentera … a beautiful spot off the north coast of the island. I remember why I committed to this sailing lark!

Thank you to everyone for commenting on my blog – it’s so lovely to know that we are in touch. Huge sighs of relief all round that you were not reading about more stuff going awry!

All continues to plan with our passage except the wind … which died on Monday as we left Formentera for the 70 mile trip across to the mainland. Unfortunately the swell did not reduce so I spent much of the day feeling queasy … popping sea sickness tablets and sleeping for the first 3 hours of the passage. All was well by the time we reached Calpe, a pretty port just north of Benidorm. We decided to stay in the marina to avoid a night of potential swell and having slept like a log, we swept off again for a shorter day down to Alicante. Glorious sunshine and no wind (again) but another gorgeous spot for the evening; super swim and fabulous sunset.

Finally – we are sailing!

•Wednesday, 1 June 2022 • 1 Comment

After 5 days of really hard work for everyone associated with Yacht Mistral, we set sail this morning at 8am … headed for Formentera and then over to the Spanish mainland. A glorious morning – gorgeous light, blue skies and sunshine; a force 4 wind; all the sails out and finally, the hard work and £££ are all worthwhile! I’m looking forward to dropping the anchor, having a swim and raising a glass as we view the sunset … but let’s not get ahead of ourselves … always plenty that can go wrong between now and then!

The list of jobs to be done on the boat before we make Mistral our primary residence in early August is not too daunting now. Largely finishing off on some electrical tasks, deep cleaning (by someone other than me!) and changing some of the metal work at the back of the boat to accommodate the new life raft (our old one disintegrated as it was being serviced and of course, no surprise that all new rafts are now bigger than when ours was last bought and fitted). The riggers finally arrived to check the rigging (only 2 months after their appointment!) so inevitably, we also have some rigging to attend to.

On the Spanish mainland, we will be leaving the yacht in Aguadulce (near Almeria) for 2 months whilst we go back to UK for our last trip ahead of our big voyage and spend a few weeks in France doing final, final preparations. It’s all feeling very real!

Back to the boat …

•Wednesday, 25 May 2022 • 1 Comment

Time is flying by … after a lovely break at the chalet (skied the last day of the season!), another glorious week with friends and family in the UK as well as having my lovely mum to stay in Seytroux for a few days, we are back in Palma for the final push to get the work completed for our big adventure. Not a very auspicious start – the boat looked like a workshop when we arrived on Monday evening with many of the scheduled tasks still not complete. I always worry when Chris looks worried … and over a very large G&T at Martin’s bar, he looked worried and not a little despondent.

Still … resilient and optimistic, we were delighted to see Mike, our trusty project manager bright and early on Tuesday morning soon followed by Benjamin and his team of electricians. A delightful team of 2 came along to polish the GRP all over the boat (all the white bits) and progress is being made. I have reverted to my usual role – chief bilge cleaner (another bilge cleaned and re-painted) and today learnt how to change the filter on the air conditioner. I am becoming expert on all things below the floor it seems! A visit from a toilet expert confirmed that I am indeed a toilet apprentice … guest heads now operational again!

Today, we also tested the second auto-pilot … such a crucial tool in sailing long haul that it seemed wise to have a back up. Sea trials successful – hallelujah!

Now sat on deck with cold beer – thank goodness for alcohol. Next stop shower and we wait to see what tomorrow brings …

The long way home …

•Monday, 18 April 2022 • 2 Comments

Back in sunny Seytroux, sitting on the terrace in the sunshine – just gorgeous! Feeling a little tired … think that I am still recovering from our time on the boat and the long way home. Talk about trains, planes and automobiles!

We decided to go from Palma to Barcelona by ferry – aiming to avoid piles of security. No such luck on the security; guards, machines and searches everywhere. A 6 hour ferry trip which started an hour and a half late! We had done well though with our hotel in Barcelona – in the Saint Gervasi area quite close to the Sagrada Familia. Fabulous restaurants and bars everywhere – delightfully, everywhere seemed more oriented for locals than tourists. Sagrada Familia was magnificent. A lot had changed since my last visit more than 15 years ago and with the exception of the security to get in, all for the better. We toured the key landmarks of Barcelona on a ‘hop on/hop off’ bus and had a second fabulous dinner in a local tapas bar.

Sunday didn’t quite go to plan. It transpired that the reason we were unable to book train tickets on line was that the train was full … also full Sunday evening and through until Tuesday. Flights to Narbonne were all via Paris so we bought coach tickets for Sunday pm, paying the extra 2 euros for a ‘panoramic view’ at the front of the bus. Not all bad, as I managed a Sunday morning salsa in the park and a trip to the modern art museum in Barcelona as we wiled away the day. Got to Narbonne 8 hours late and to Laura’s at midnight.

Fabulous 2 days with Laura in her beautiful home. Much great conversation, delicious food, wine and exploring the bucolic countryside. A 9 hour drive home – via our friends in Bezier to support them by driving their car back to Seytroux for our neighbours. Long story and long drive but ‘tout est bien qui fini bien!’. Home at last.

Laura & Zoe, the dog

I had my final day on the ski slopes with Fran & Sean yesterday – blue sky, full sun and very gloopy snow! It’s back to the UK next week for a few days. Truly the lives of international travellers …

Gorgeous sunny day with gloopy snow!

Heading home …

•Thursday, 7 April 2022 • 5 Comments

It’s the end of week 3 on the boat. Finally, I am sitting on deck in the sunshine with a beer after 3 weeks of cold, wet windy weather. All the people who work on the boats are overstretched and stressed … the spate of bad weather has prevented much outside work so everyone is behind schedule. This of course, includes us!

The old teak toward the bow of the boat has been removed but the new has not been put down. The work to the mast has not been started. Winches still need servicing. On the plus side, we have a new TV … Chris sneaked this in without my knowing. Bigger and better of course!

2 new motors for the toilets finally arrived at vast expense. It transpires that the motors are not quite the same size as the old ones so adjustments need to be made … so frustrating.

We leave the boat in Mike’s capable hands. He is in charge of galvanising all the various folk who are helping us and quality controlling all the work. We head off to Barcelona tomorrow for a couple of days of tourism. I’m excited to be going back to the Sagrada Familiar – the Gaudi designed cathedral in Barcelona and one of my favourite pieces of architecture in the world. After that, we are on the train to Narbonnes to collect the car and then a couple of days with our lovely friend Laura who is back at her home in Tillac in the Armagnac region of France. Back to sunny Seytroux next week.