June 2003 Costa Brava
means wild or strong, and the northeastern-most stretch of the Spanish
Mediterranean coast is well-named. It's rock and steep cliffs and
caves, with occasional small coves, many of which end in small sandy
beaches and/or little fishing villages. It's incredibly picturesque
and often spectacular.
we left Barcelona, we had hoped to join our friends Sally and Barry
Kidson from London, who were in Perpignan France, but what with
the delay getting our new halyard and all, we were too late to get
near Perpignan without a mad dash down the coast -- which we definitely
didn't want to do. So instead, we spent 2 days in a narrow cove
with a tiny beach and small village at the end, visiting with some
friends from Barcelona (Jordi, the chandler who sold us the halyard,
and some mutual friends from New Zealand). We swam, ate dinner at
their apartment, and lay around, and Rob got to sail Jordi's Laser
both days. It was hot but not overly, and every day dozens of motorboats
arrived, attempted to anchor in the deep water using 1-1 scope,
and dragged around the anchorage. Fun to watch. One boat, whose
owner had swum ashore, actually dragged right into us, and when
we looked at her anchor line, it was hanging straight down -- the
anchor wasn't even on the bottom! The town (Sa Tuna) is a place
where Catalunians (as opposed to English or Germans) have vacation
homes, and the atmosphere reminded both of us very much of our childhoods.
Kids and grown-ups go to the beach it seems almost at random, and
everyone watches out for everyone else's kids. Very casual and delightfully
free of overconcern for security, safety, etc. Of course, one big
difference between here and the U.S. is the late dining hours, and
the fact that the kids stay up as well. We ate at around 11 p.m.,
and we sort of thought, since Jordi's 4 & 6-year old daughters
had had their grilled cheese sandwiches earlier, that they'd go
to bed before we ate our dinner of steamed mussels. But no, they
joined right in, and the 6 year old demolished quite a few mussels.
(The 4 year old had previously snacked heavily on green olives!)
dinner, the kids begged to go to the square, so they did, by themselves,
though we followed shortly thereafter for a coffee at one of the
bars on the square. Midnight. Families everywhere. Very Spanish.
are a couple of stretches where the Costa Brava flattens into a
river delta, and one of these is the site of an old Greek/Roman
trading post called Empuries. (It's generally not on maps, but is
just east of L'Escala, which is on most maps.) We went there, anchoring
off the beach in fine sand. There are massive archeological excavations,
and we toured them all. The Greek and Roman towns weren't built
on the same site (the Greeks were still there when the Romans came),
so there are two complete sets of ruins. The Roman town was pretty
big -- about 700 meters by 400 meters, with a real forum, circus,
etc. The tiled floors of some of the villas are still just as they
were in Roman times. Kinda cool.
after a one-night stop in a small cove with caves that we explored
by dinghy, we were off to Cadaquez, which had been highly recommended
by Sally as a "must-see." She was right! We were able
to moor there rather than anchoring, which is both less fuss and
more secure-feeling, and after a dinghy ride ashore we took a short
hike over the nearby ridge to Port Lligat, to visit Salvador Dalí's
incredible home. He took a fisherman's cottage, added on to it,
then added in another cottage and another, connecting them with
interesting passageways, and decorating it all in his own eclectic,
inimitable fashion (for instance, the entrance hall features a stuffed
polar bear wearing a beret and costume jewelry). Most rooms, especially
his studio and the dining and living areas, feature beautiful views
of the lovely bay, looking almost like paintings instead of windows.
Cadaquez is sort of touristy, but also a lovely fishing village
with whitewashed and pastel houses with bright blue shutters, and
a cathedral on a hill.
spent two days in Cadaquez, doing nothing much -- the one museum
we wanted to see, with an exhibit on Dalí and Picasso, was
closed (we later learned, because of investigations of art forgery).
The reason we stayed around was the Tramontane, a downdraft blast
of wind out of the Pyrenees. This wind is notorious in the northeast
Costa Brava and west half of the Gulf de Lions -- it comes on suddenly
(0 to 60 knots in half an hour!) and can blow at hurricane strength
for days afterward. Ours was much reduced from that; we never saw
more than about 30 knots, but then, we were in a harbor protected
by the foothills so high and rugged that for centuries there was
no way into Cadaquez except by boat. We took the opportunity to
change the secondary fuel filter and reattach the hose clamps that
hold the heat exchanger onto the engine block. These clamps broke
in half just as we were restarting the engine after the filter change.
We hadn't had the sink/counter top off in quite awhile, and found
a number of other hose clamps that had loosened from all the vibration,
as well as a hose that had got to rubbing against the side of the
engine compartment and would soon have developed a hole. So it was
just as well that we did it.
we left Cadaquez, it was raining, a real rarity along this coast,
but it soon ended as we rounded Cap Creus, the easternmost point
on Spain's mainland, and went into Collioure, France. On the way,
we cut through the corner of an underwater preserve and saw two
large pods of bottlenose dolphins, each with a boatload full of
tourists chasing it. Collioure itself has lots of castles and a
monastery, none of which we went into but several of which we stared
at and photographed; also the Fauvist art movement headed by Matisse,
who lived there. Its waterfront features a number of large blank
picture frames on posts. You look through them at the very picturesque
harbor, castles, towers, etc., then look at a reproduction of one
of the Fauvist paintings of the same scene. We had a drink in a
waterfront cafe and went to bed.
day, we sailed for Cap d'Agde. We started out in fog in the morning
and ended up with a clear blue-sky breeze that built from 7 knots
to 17. Before going to the huge marina at Cap d'Agde, we went into
the mouth of a nearby river, where the cruising guide indicated
that there might be free mooring along the bank. No joy on that
issue, so we put back out into the Med to beat up to Cap d'Agde.
was only a 2 NM beat under main and staysail, but it was glorious.
The short chop almost stopped us dead a couple of times, but most
of the time we were doing better than 6 knots, with spray blasting
off the bow and us snug and dry behind the dodger. People say "Gentlemen
[cruisers] never beat to windward," but why not? It's the most
exciting point of sail, and, even though we've done it for years,
there's still the wonder that the wind is blowing one way and we're
going the other way, using that same wind to get there.
occurred to us at that moment to think that we're doubly lucky:
First, of course, we've got the rare opportunity to do all this
exploring, and second, we have a home that beats to windward! Most
peoples' homes just sort of sit there. They have to go down to their
boats if they want to beat to windward.
couple of other boats were also clawing their way up the coast,
and of course we beat them all there, even the ones that started
ahead of us. Not that we were paying attention