Dec. 2005
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Week ending 3 Dec 05 (Bob)

Inspiring Anniversary - Over the weekend we had the very good fortune to be invited to the 60th Wedding Anniversary of our friends John and Peggy who have helped us so much while we have been in the UK.  They are truly an inspiration to us and the other 20+ guests who shared a great meal and a little bubbly with them.  They met during World War II while John was on leave nursing an injury, and at the end of the war they married.  For 60 years they have raised 3 charming daughters, lived in several homes in Southern England, ran their own business and led a married life that we all admire.  In their 80's, they are both mentally sharp and physically active and family members visit all times of the year.  We wish them many more happy anniversaries!

Similar Countries, Different Cultures - As we spend more time in England, we have been struck by the similarities with life in the US (fast food, good roads, similar products, etc.) and yet surprised at many of the differences.  England's culture stretches back a couple of thousand years and many of their traditions are still around, whereas the US, with a short history and 'melting pot' tradition feels somewhat different.  Some things we have noticed:

  • More Socialist - Many of the important institutions (hospitals, pensions, schools, transportation) are Government owned and operated.
  • Thatched Roofs - Many older homes still have grass-thatched roofs, they look quaint and apparently are safe and dry. Finding a practicing master thatcher is expensive but still possible.
  • Wigs - Not on the streets, but lawyers and judges on the bench still wear white wigs as they argue their cases.
  • More Thoughts, less Fast Action - The TV shows frequently involve thoughtful and involved dialog and long scenes rather than chase and shooting scenes so common in the US.
  • Stones - When was the last time you knew how many stones you weighed?  ALL scales here weigh in stones and kilos, not a pound in sight.

Ferry Booking - We have finally made a commitment to leave England for a while - we have booked a ferry from Portsmouth to Bilbao (northern Spain) on 19-21 December.  It won't exactly be a luxury cruise but it will save 1600 km and 25 hours of driving.

Week ending 10 Dec 05 (Bob)

Fighting Cocks - This is just one of many quaintly-named pubs in the area.  We dragged our friends Rory and Sandra from NZ out on a pretty autumn day to drink the local brew, watch the ponies wander in the road, and talk about old times in New Zealand.  They are both authors and are circling the globe selling books in England, the USA, South Africa, and Australia-New Zealand.  This is a business they run out of their sailboat in NZ - check a recent issue of INC magazine to read more or their website at

Upholstery Saga Completed - Getting the cushions and seats covered was pretty painless once we selected the material and found a contractor.  Three days after dropping off the old cushions the new ones were ready - the driver/passenger seats took 2 more days.  They are much brighter and we are very happy with them and hope they will help the next owners of our mobile home offer us a good price when they decide to buy her.

More Planning - We are in the process of fleshing out our plans for the next couple of months.  We may divert from Spain to Morocco for an exotic view of another Arabic country.  Plus, our friend Sandra will be going to Paris in February for a fashion event, and Judi signed up to join her in a flash - so by mid-December our dance card for the first 3 months of 2006 is rapidly filling up.

Week+ ending 20 Dec 05 (Bob)

Cheating on Dates - Usually we update on the weekend, but this time we did not have the chance, so we'll update our journal mid-week, from the comfort of the Pride of Bilbao, a ferry taking hundreds of pale-faced Britons to the sunny climes of Spain.

Being Ferried to Bilbao - To get from England to Spain by vehicle one can either cross the English Channel and drive through France and over the Pyrenees, or take a ferry from Portsmouth or Plymouth to the north coast of Spain.  We chose the latter; more expensive but it saves 2-3 days of driving and finding caravan parks in the winter, plus we would not have to cross the Pyrenees in the middle of December.  The Pride of Bilbao is a 37,000 ton car/truck/passenger ferry operated by P&O making round trips between England and Spain year round.  For about $500 we transport ourselves and the motor-home to Spain in a small but comfortable cabin.  The ship has 5-6 restaurants, exercise and sauna facilities and a solid mobile phone connection.  Kids have video arcades and gamblers can stick their change into machines that are happy to keep most of it.  All in all, it looks to be a good way to catch up with or friends in southern Spain for Christmas.  We lucked out with the crossing as the weather is beautiful with blue skies and calm seas - not a Force 9 gale as one might expect for this time of year.  When we left Portsmouth the temps were about 35 degrees, but upon waking in the morning, they have come up significantly and are about 50 degrees now.  We are really looking forward to warm, sunny Spain.

Quiet Week - Again - Otherwise the week was fairly quiet with last minute Christmas shopping, penning (or emailing) our yearly newsletter plus a break to see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire; perhaps the best Potter flick yet.

Week ending 25 Dec 05 (Bob)

Crossing Spain - Unfortunately we did not tarry in Bilbao, despite its beautiful Guggenheim Museum, but rather we stumbled our way through the road maze outside of the port and found ourselves on the highway to Madrid and beyond.  Along the way:

  • Aranda de Duero - We stopped for the night at Camping Costajan, a nice, wooded site with one other camper also headed for the warm, southern coast.
  • Madrid - We did not stop this time, but crawled through crowded roads and construction sites - we must return when we have more time.
  • Granada - We stopped for the night at Las Lomas Camping, our favorite spot in the Sierra Nevada and had night views of the city, a lake, snow-capped mountains and a crystal, clear sky.
  • 800+ km - That's how far it is north to south across Spain, and the roads were good all the way.

Aguadulce - It has been great to catch up with our friends Micael and Ligia who used to sail S/V Quest.  We sailed in loose company with them (usually behind) from Malaysia to Thailand and then to Turkey from 2001 until 2005.  Now have had the good fortune to share Christmas dinner with them in their apartment in Aguadulce, near Almeria on the south coast of Spain. Judi and Ligia prepared turkey with all of the trimmings and we ate until stuffed (us, not the turkey!)

We Take A Humble Bow - We receive a few emails each month with questions and corrections (we just had to correct our Turkey page due to an alert Turkish ex-pat).  So we were very gratified to receive the following note from cruisers on a beautiful yacht in Australia - it speaks for itself:

Hello Judi and Bob,
After having looked so many times at your site in the
last 2 years, I decided today I would let you know how
much I admire it and its authors. It is a fantastic
site, clear, logical, concise, complete, pleasant to
view. It is perfect! Congratulation. I am an avid web
surfer and have looked at hundreds of sailors site,
yes hundreds. Yours is really THE BEST. How you do it,
it baffles me! It has been very useful to us. It is so
useful we downloaded it so that we can consult most of
it without having to connect to the web...


We thank them very much for their opinions, and now we'll have to work even harder to live up to these kind words.

Week ending 1 Jan 06 (Bob)

Cabo De Gata - On the weekend Micael and Ligia took us for a drive to one of their favorite spots, Cabo De Gata (Cape of the Cat) a wilderness 'reserve' east of Almeria.  We put the reserve in quotes because parts of it are covered in plastic - these are illegal farms where the owners pay a small fine whenever the rangers demand it, otherwise they continue operations as usual.  The salt flats have flamingos, ducks, and a myriad of other waterfowl and the coastline is pretty.  We had a great outing.

New Year's in Aguadulce - We had a quiet evening with Micael and Ligia, sipping the local bubbly,cava - the Spanish equivalent to champagne, and popping party poppers or pseudo-fireworks, while the local kids set off real firecrackers and rockets outside.  Overall our welcome to 2006 was quite low-key.  One of the highlights of our visit has been the nightly movie at Micael's Cinema as we select our daily title from our host's 900+ collection of DVDs and VCDs and settle back with a glass of wine to view the latest from the world of entertainment.

Ligia stirring pot for dinner

Ready to tuck in

Micael pouring Cava (champagne)

Preparing to go further South - We have decided to give Morocco a try, so we are almost in cruising mode as we plan our route, stock up on provisions, decide what spares to take, and read other people's accounts.  We plan to cross the Mediterranean near Gibraltar, tour Morocco for about 3 weeks and return in time to visit forlorn Long Passages in Italy in February.  Much of Bob's spare time was occupied getting our iPaq to talk to its dedicated GPS and soliciting Micael's help in downloading road and topographic maps of Morocco. These maps, now that they are calibrated, will be used to track our position as we explore small villages near the Sahara desert.

Whiling Away The Winter in Southern Spain - After 2 weeks along the coast, we can see why so many Britons and Germans escape the cold and snow to bask in the sun of southern Spain.  In the 10 days we have been here it has been sunny every day and even though the temperatures have dipped into the 40's at night it is normally near 60 during the day.

Mike in Galle, Sri Lanka back in Business - When we sailed from Thailand to Sri Lanka in 2003, we landed in Galle, Sri Lanka and met Mike who, with his brother, runs a small business helping cruisers with provisions, internet, and tours.  He was very honest and we enjoyed meeting him very much.  When the tsunami hit Galle in 2004, he and his family survived, but his business suffered severe losses and we were glad to have been able to provide some assistance to help him get his business going again.  A few weeks ago we received the following email from him:

Hi Bob & Judi,

        So how are you?  I think you and your family are well. first of all i would like to thank you to help me after tsunami  we are rebuild our bussines from your help. now every thing is o.k.galle habour also now in good now you can come to sri lanka again.please kindly pass this message to your other friends also. marry X'mas   &   Happy New year to your family.

Best wishes from mike .

So those cruisers heading to the Red Sea, East Africa or even Chagos, Galle and Mike are back in business.



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