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Thrice around the world: incredible mission of “Scorpius”

I’m sorry for interrupting my narrative about Atlantic crossing. But this encounter is worth telling and sharing.

To start with… I was never happy to meet my fellow countrymen abroad. The only reason for that: they usually appear to be “turistus vulgaris”. Preoccupied mother, shouting at naughty children, and half-drunk father. They take vacations once in a year and make a trip, thoroughtly planned by travel agency. They visit common see-sights and regard themselves extremely experienced travellers, when they get a bit further than Finland or Ukraine.

So I guess you understand why I didn’t jump from excitement, when Chris returned and told me that he met a Russian from Saint-Petersburg. But this was completely different case…

In Cabanga marina, where we stay, Sergey was searching for a yacht shop. Unfortunately, local administration doesn’t speak English at all. Chris found him, desperate in fruitless attempts to get any information from them.

Sergey was a sailor from a Russian yacht “Scorpius”. Her genoa got splits while Atlantic crossing. So they made out-of-schedule stop in Recife, Brazil, to fix it somewhat before solid repairments in Rio. Sergey was sent with a mission to find lines for trimming. Chris borrowed him ours, and this is how we met and I learned the story of “Scorpius”.

"Scorpius". Photo is taken from the site of "Scorpius" http://www.nizovtsev.net.

Crew of 30-meters sloop “Scorpius” makes the circumnavigation that, if successful, will become the longest in time and distance in history. Their route started in Sochi and lies through:

  • Mediterranean,
  • Atlantic ocean;
  • goes around Antarctica with possible entry to the Ross sea (!!!),
  • crosses Pacific ocean from south to north,
  • goes around Arctica, including Great Northern way (!!!)
  • crosses Pacific from north to south till French Polinesia,
  • Indian ocean,
  • around Africa through Mediterranean and back to Russia.

Ambitious? I bet you couldn’t imagine more than this! But only setting great aims, we can reach significant results, don’t we?

The owner of the boat and “father of a mission” is Russian ex-businessman, sailor and skydiver Sergey Nizovtsev. His business was “traditionally Russian”: he’s a fan of banya (Russian sauna) and organized production and destribution of… banya switches.

The captain of "Scorpius" and ideologist of the expedition - Sergey Nizovtsev. Photo is taken from the site of "Scorpius" http://www.nizovtsev.net.

When I asked Sergey, how the idea of expedition was born, he, with typical Russian modesty and sense of humour, answered: “Just once was sitting and thinking, what to do”. The further we dream, the further we get!

The crew of “Scorpius” is half-Russian, half-Ukranian, that practically all the same. Among members – experienced sailors and skydivers, some of them have been to Arctica and Antarctica before. Pleasant to realise that world is full of adventurous and courageous people.

Photo is taken from the site of "Scorpius" http://www.nizovtsev.net.

At day of departure Chris and me made a visit on board. The boat is modern with spacious deck and cockpit. Cozy living room, bedrooms and kitchen with microwave and a big freezer. Of course, the boat is equipped with all necessary electronics. Sails are rolled automatically too.

To track expedition and find more information you can here: http://www.nizovtsev.net/ – Official site of “Scorpius” expedition. It’s in Russian.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/OnlyScorpius

“Scorpius” and his crew made me recall that my motherland is a country of Semen Dezhnev and Ivan Kruzenshtern, Faddey Bellingshauzen and Mikhail Lazarev. Here in Brazil, I feel proud to be Russian.

Good wind and open ways to you, Scorpius!

Maybe, the next time I will feel happy to meet Russians abroad.

P.S. Semen Dezhnev – in 17th century opened the straight between Asia and America, 80 years before Vitus Bering;

Ivan Kruzenshtern – the head of the first Russian circumnavigation;

Faggey Bellingshausen and Mikhail Lazarev – admirals, whose expedition opened the continent of Antarctica.

Atlantic crossing: pirates of Atlantic

Day 7, 6th of November 2011

I’ve been watching perfect creation.

Brazilians poetically call it “nascer do sol” – “birth of the sun”. It was a birth, solemn, gorgeous. Birth of a God.

The ocean is smooth. It’s not a “mirror”, as we expected downdrums to be, but like a huge piece of noble-grey leather, wrinkled with slightly noticeable tucks.

Oh, if I were a bird, I would love to fly here alone and listen to silence, not interrupted neither by sound of engine, nor scream of a wind generator.

Horizon is fringed by dark clouds – guards of night. The sun infuses them with dozens of goldens spears, and they step apart, not able to bear its power.

No king ever wore these colours in his royal robe. And never will.

Under the sun, surrounded by thunderclouds, – light puffs, creatures of heaven. If angels were born, it would happen this way.

In response to this eastern beauty, north-west covers itself with tender pink flock. Sky and ocean, painted in the same colour, are contrasted by clouds. Another birth takes place there – birth of a rainbow.


… Some moments – and it’s gone. Beauty can’t be caught or fixed in time. It lives in a moment, free flight of a feather in wind. And that’s so sad for us, human beings, who tend to imprison everything we love…

In my rest time I was watching a movie in the cabin. Crawled out to get some water. And heard Chrisa’s whisper from a cockpit:
– Look to the kitchen!

There sat a small bird. Chris told me that little guy was searching shelter from rain. Without ceremonies the bird landed near the entrance to the cabin.
Chris, who had breakfast, offered him a piece of his sandwich. Little one ignored the gift, and, after short inspection of Crisa, went downstairs.

So there I found him. While he was exploring the room, I was hecticly guessing what our unexpected guest perfers from breakfast.
– He has long thin beak. Should be insects.
Unfortunately, we ran out of them yesterday.
– Maybe – berries?

I created “an offer of the day”: dry plum, piece of watermelon and fig. I put all gifts on a plastic bag and placed it in front of him. The bird didn’t pay attention. “Ok, baby boy, I’ll feed you” – I stretched my finger, giving him a ride. It was accepted eagerly.

Perking on my finger, he ignored watermelon, was scared by plum (and I understand him! It looked like a big cockroach) and found fig interesting. He tried a sticky seed. After a short fight he got it. He ate some seeds, had some water from a plastic cup and continued exploration.

He liked to sit on my shoulder: so I pretended I was a pirate with him, pretending to be a pirot’s parrot. I just lacked a wooden leg and had too many eyes.

He flew to my computer and landed on a keyboard. Me and Crisa, sitting on a deck, wondered, why he’d been staring on a screen so long. I went downstairs and discovered that the bird had just fallen asleep on a warm keyboard.

Soon he left. And now I miss this little bird and want him back. An hour together with little one was enough for me to get used to him. I’m just endlessly lonely creature deep inside.
Not to feel sad I imagine how little one flies freely above the ocean. His feathers are dry, stomach is full and I hope he found some rest on the boat. He’s free and hurrying now to his date or whatever : )

Pride costs much but only warmth and trust touch hearts.

When I returned to the deck I saw dolphins. There were eleven of them. They swam in front of yacht, crossing our way from side to side. Breezing air out with loud sound and fountain of drops, they jumped out of water. I heard their voices, they talked to each other.

Or, maybe, to me – too?
Day 8, 7th of November 2011

Night is charming. I feel myself inside the painting that is combintaion of Aivazovsky and Kuindzhi. The moon has been maturing, and soon will be full. It wakes up here early, and till the moment, when the sun goes down, already climbs half of its way through the sky.

Dark clouds slowly stroll, separated, each with its own dignity. In tandem with the moon they created an effect of patrol, poured on the sky canvas, – rainbow nimb around a yellow ball.

Clouds of incredible shaped as if carry a message:
…could be: “Guess, are we blessing or doom?”
…or: “Do you still believe the key to happiness is here?”
…as a variant: “Looks like your lucky star is absent tonight…”
…or, maybe, just: “You still bet it’s going to rain?”

I don’t. I CAN answer the last question. I am watching “Angels and demons” on the deck. And that’s provement I don’t.

Soon after the sunrise the sun starts to burn. If not a wind from the south that we has have the last two days, it would be hot as in oven. The sun is so bright that I can’t stay outside without sunglasses. White paper is painfully hurting my eyes.

In daily life and even while sailing I try to avoid wearing sunglasses. For me eyes are a source of meanings not less important than speech. Talking with a person in sunglasses I get him only partly, missing nuisanes. But on the south it’s different: the sun is ruthlessly bright here, and use of dark glasses is a necessity.

GPS shows 43 hours till we turn. That will be near the equator. Then – other 6 days of sailing. And – oi, Brazil!

I still kinda enjoy. Sure I will cross other oceans in some hazy future. Except Arctic. I prefer to be burnt than frozen. Poetically speaking : )

Sure I want to sail around glaciers of Iceland and Canada. But I suppose several days there will be more than enough for me.

Crossing in couple is not that bad, even pleasant. I’m happy to meet good people in my life, even better than I expect them to be. Sincerely speaking, I has never met bad people. And here’s the question: is it a matter of an attitude or luck?

Our picture of the world is black and white. We call it – statistics. We know well how many assaults or murders took place in last time, how much cheating or ignorance is around, but who ever counted values or compassion or help of people? Many bastards around, we know numbers, but who has counted good people?

We has entered a cloud and got some wind. Course 195. Some rain drops are falling. Little one, hurry up back on board, we miss you here!
Day 9, 8th of November 2011

Toady is my sister’s birthday and I can’t even call her…

Happy birthday, dear Masha!

This night was turbulent. Wind picked up on the evening before. It came from the south but was cold. And unstable: it’d been frequently changing from 10 to 20 knots. Wind brought waves against us. “Vagabond”‘s fore was jumping on them as a basketball ball. Landing back to the wave’s spine, the hull made a terrible noise.

The sky was low and full of clouds. They looked ominous on a dark grey background. Every time the fume passed above us, wind got stronger. We both couldn’t sleep. Downdrums are left behind.

It became a bit better, when Chris changed the course. Before we went to the south along African coast. Now we made a turn in the point that lays more to the west from the first plan:

01°24,3665N, 021°23,2031W.

Now we go straight to Recife, Brazil.

Atlantic crossing: birds of prey

Day 4, 3d of November 2011

…Night shift seems fun!
It’s calm outside: wind is insignificant so we keep going with engine. We haven’t changed sails for two days.
Perfect time for enjoying movie session ; ) From a back cabin I brought to the deck a long wire that is connected to a yacht’s battery.  It’s dark so there’re no blinks on a screen of my computer.

I wrap myself in a blanket. It’s not a mean of survival anymore, but of comfort. Nights are amazingly warm here, so I can stay the watch in light summer clothes. We’re getting closer to equator!

I watch Japanese cartoons and started a serial about a dead girl, who helps souls to get to heaven. It’s called “Dead like me”. And it helps me to kill time.

So at night in the middle of the ocean I’m sitting on a deck, wrapped in AirBerlin blanket and watch a movie about dead people. Could sound ridiculous but it’s fun!

… It’s 6:00, and the sun is up. It takes it not more than an hour to climb ¼ of the sky.  It wakes up early, right at the beginning of my morning watch. And goes down with the end of my day watch – 18:30.

This night I unexpectedly felt asleep. Now I have a slight hope that my sleeping habits will adapt to new conditions. Humans, not alike other animals, can get used to any way of living. That makes human kind so widely spread. Rats, cockroaches can do it too.
And we have hope that dies the last : )

…It’s still calm – just 5 knots wind. Perfect for that limited list of activities that are available for me here: sleep, eat, watch movies, write, study, take a shower. You say, perfect being? That one you have always dreamt about?  You kidding me!

Day 5, 4th of November 2011

The moon is so bright that stars are barely seen. A huge dark cloud crawls on it: first it looks like a caterpillar, then – like an old crooked man, and the moon itself turns his only eye. I imagine that the cloud is a fume from a burning battleship, which crew needs help and looking for SOS signs.

The rest of the day made me the most amazing present I could dream about here. Excited?

Unfortunately, I guess, all of you will be disappointed with the further story. But for me it was a miracle.

This morning I was bored: with endless water, studying, movies on a small screen, reading, nuts and chocolate and even sleeping (my organism finally adapted to a new schedule, thanks gods!).

I switched on my dull sense of humour and tried to figure out some fun. Idea to jump from a board with a rope around the waist was rejected by Chris categorically. Boredom continued. I took a sunbath.

Around 3pm we noticed a dark curtain of clouds on the horizon in front of us.
Looks like it’s going to rain…
“All right, some fun” – was my first thought. Tho I left it without being said aloud. Chris as the owner of the yacht and experienced sailor wouldn’t share my excitement.

So I stopped watching my serial and started to look forward thoroughly, awaiting for thunderstorm – big waves, strong wind and rain.

We were entering dark area…

Reefed sail was flopping annoyingly without wind. In Russia we say “Quiet before storm” – I almost rubbed my hands like bad heroes in cartoons          ( – What a stupid girl, welcoming nasty weather! – everyone thinks now. I do not deny))

And here he came… No, not a storm : ) A big bird crossed the sky above me.

She tried to cling on a stay. Circle, attempt, another circle. It was a birg bird, much bigger than all those we saw before. It was definitely a bird of prey.

At that moment I felt myself an acient priest, receiving blessing from Gods. I was a priest, as natural wisedom and power is what I believe in.

The bird was a hawk. What did he do in the ocean? Watching him returning from another circle, I rushed downstairs. He noticed empty cockpit and landed on a railing.

It was light rain outside. In order to escape water, he moved under “doghouse”. He perked on a winch and from there inspected me, frozen downstairs in fear to scare him.
In this silent position 10 minutes passed. Then he slipped from a winch and moved on a railing again. For a while we continued to watch each other.

My uncareful movement made him leave. Another round above the water. I climbed to the deck. He wasn’t afraid and returned to the railing. I pretended I read book. The hawk stayed calm, silently swinging from side to side with a boat. I turned to look forward – he didn’t mind.

Now it’s night, and he’s sleeping on top of the mast. Not the most convenient place but the bird of prey wouldn’t risk his freedom for comfort. Unlike most of people – they sell their freedom for much less…

Even if the hawk is not a sign, as a Greek prophet would tell us, but just a tired traveller who had found some rest on our boat – doesn’t it make all this meaningful?

Day 6, 5th of November 2011

All the night “Vagabond” is followed by thunderstorm. Light bolts are so frequent that interrupt each other.  It’s coming…

When I start to distinguish twists and curves of the lightning, I reef genoa. And wait.

It doesn’t happen. The wind from the south comes and throws clouds backwards. They continue chasing the boat, but she slipped from their sparkling fury, thanks to the southern wind. Keep your paws away of “Vagabond”, thunderstorm!

My happy hawk was sleeping on the top of the mast. I saw his tail swinging above navigation lights. In the morining he left. I wish him safe flight.

Light southern wind that accompanied us at night, at dawn turned into the wind “to the face”. Massive raincloud has arrived from the south-east. Waves rise, sails tremble hysterically.
This wind makes us to go almost 30 degrees to the right. Boat’s fore hits wave that comes with clouds. After 3 days almost without wind that doesn’t make us happy.

– Damn, we’re in downdrums, what a f*k is that?  – I thought (sorry for my French).

I turned off the engine. For half an hour we made 5 knots with wind. I tried to find the most painless course against messy wave.

Go 190.

This day my desire for swimming was fully realised. And who cares that I was already completely out of mood of jumping to salt water?

Chris wakes up and asks if I hear that sound of the engine has changed. Well, I would lie if I say I notice that. But the reason is: we wrapped a seaplant on the propeller.

So we roll genoa, Chris turns the boat against wind and I jump under the hull. It takes me 5 minuted and 2 dives to clean the propeller and check all screws.

Thought of the day: beware your dreams – they can come true.

Atlantic crossing: tet-a-tet with Orion

I can’t say I’ve ever dreamt or planned to cross Atlantic ocean. One day life exposed me to the question:

– Would you if you have chance?

– Why not? – I asked back.

So life gracefully threw an opportunity to my feet. And I picked the challenge up.

Here’s the diary of the crossing Cabo Verde – Brazil that took us 15 days.

Day 1, 31st of October 2011

It was sad to leave Cabo Verde:  almost unexplored, unlived. I felt my being there undone and neglected. But it’s time to go, the journey should continue.

The way between northern and southern groups of islands Cape Verde takes more than a day. We will pass between Bravo and Fogo.

First 24 hours comes to the end, but I still didn’t sleep a minute. Can’t even describe how I feel. And that’s only the first day of crossing.
We sleep in the back cabin. It’s impossible to stay in the front one: from time to time the boat hits the wave and its fore jumps madly.

Sunset diminished in a thick layer of clouds near the horizon. Sea is choppy and uncomfortable, and everything’s shaking. Waves try to invade the cockpit. Everything’s wet, including this notebook and my blanket. Salty drops on my glasses.

We go side-wind. Wind’s a bit stronger than forecast predicted: around 20 knots. We steered in order to save autopilot from excessive stress.
At the beginning of the trip I loved to steer. This way I involved myself in interaction with the boat and sea: watched the yacht response, wind and waves influence. I enjoyed feeling how one gentle move of a steering wheel return the boat on a right course.
I guess steering a boat somehow can get us feeling that we can control nature, make it serve, wherever we go. Dangerous state of mind! Fedor Konyuhov, Russian yatchsman who cruised around the world many times, once said: “When I lost my fear to the ocean, I quit. Otherwise, it would kill me”.
After that he switched on desert safaris, I guess : )

Vagabond in Atlantic

Day 2, 1st of November 2011

Night is half starry, half cloudy. I see a moon, it’s dim. But being veiled by clouds, it doesn’t obscure starlight.
Chris is practical, he prefers moony nights: moon acts like a torch that lights the ocean and all its dangers. I’m romantic, I love nights without moon, when stars are brighter.

Orion accompanies me for the whole night. It doesn’t happen in the northern part of the Earth – it appears only near dawn.  He’s my guardian, and even clouds can’t veil the shine of his bright three-star belt.
The legend says that Orion was a glorious hunter. Once together with his hinds he was chasing a deer. They ran through forests, fields and mountains, and no one of them was going to surrender. But Orion didn’t know: that wasn’t an animal he’s been chasing, it was a god under a guise of a graceful deer.  Divine creature jumped to the sky and continued his run among stars. Even then, in rush and ardor, the hunter didn’t stop and reached the sky after his aim.
So Orion is still there, chasing a deer in his infinite run.

In the light of uncertain sunrise we passed the island Fogo. It’s far away, I can see only silhouette of it. I hope one day I will return here: to explore the national park and climb the volcano that gave its name to the island. Now we go to the open ocean.

After midday wind and waving have calmed down. Now it’s hot outside and so is inside the boat. And, finally, not too wet.

Before going to bed in the morning I took a pill from sea-sickness. One of its side affects is desire to sleep. And that was I counted for. And – hooray! – attempt to fall asleep was successful. On watch 2pm-6pm I feel gorgeous. On the place of exhausting desire to sleep comes appetite. To delicious lunch, performed by Crisa, I added cake, some fruits and nuts.

Later I will discover that pills don’t really work in my case. I had been already too exhausted on the second day to stay without sleep longer.  Pills didn’t make any significant difference and I gave up.
I just need to accept the fact that I’ll have little sleep on this crossing, despite opportunity to stay in bed for 12 hours (4/4/4). Just keep going. I don’t care anymore.

Day 3, 2nd of November 2011

No wind. Little wave swings the boat. We reach zone of downdrums – latitudes close to the equator and known for absence of wind. We hope that waves will calm down too. In previous time Chris crossed downdrums, he said, the ocean reminded a swimming pool.

In the ocean even far from a shore there’s life. Birds are hunting fish, virtuously maneauvring in gasps of wind above waves. Bunches, flowerbeds and even fields of brown seaplants drift silently with tide.I’m watching flyfishes, hovering above waters. Huge groups, hundred maybe. They rise in front of the boat, moved by fear of unknown “sea creature”. They fly against the wind too, using a wave as a trampling.

But ocean carries not only life but death too.
At night Chris found a dead calamari on a cockpit: wave ruthlessly threw him from an ocean depth. At day I noticed a big flyfish on our starboard. She was already dead. I waited for Crisa to wake up and throw the fish away – he’s more courageous in “dead fish question”.

At night the moon rises. Here it’s turned upside down. Unlike in Russia, it grows up from bottom to the top. Now it looks like a bowl of ananas juice.

The moon doesn’t stay longer. But when it sets down, stars come on stage. There’re many of them tonight! For 30 minutes, while listening for Portuguese course, I “picked up” shooting stars and made wishes between “Escucha e repete” practice. Facing the sky, backed  by “doghouse” (a tent that protects cockpit from wind), I swung on a bench, murmuring Portuguese words. My beautiful shift time.

… To be continued ))

English Spanish

While travelling by yacht, I feel like a turtle: my house is always with me. Omnia mea mecum porto : ) That’s why some rare cases of inhospitality do not hurt.  But they can change plans much.

After Malaga we were going to stop on the corner of European continent, in Gibraltar. In this strategically important point the huge port is situated, supplying way between Eastern and Western hemispheres.

It’s 65 miles from Malaga to Gibraltar. We decided to break the distance and stopped in a town of Estepona for a night. Later, when we arrived to Gibraltar, we were grateful to ourselves for this decision.

…It was crowded there: dozens of huge cargo ships, we were able to see their silhouettes from far away. American, European and Arabic flags. Giants were staying side by side with small boats that loaded diesel to their depth. Passing between them, we read their names. Weird to see a clumsy and heavy ship poetically named “Aeolus”…

Soon we were close to a marina. Cris called them from VHS, asking prices in Spanish … and got the answer in perfect English.

–Well, – decided we, – it’s a huge port, where all ships stop before crossing Gibraltar. English is international language, nothing special about it.

We set ropes, put fenders and headed to the entrance of marina. “Queensway” was written on a wall. Queensway? Wat a fuk a queen is doing here? Hell, is it British territory? – was  the logical suggestion.

The next suggestion was about my visa: if Gibraltar is British,, as a citizen of Russia, I need visa to Great Britain that is not in a Shengen zone.  As you’ve already guessed, all suggestions were right.

That was pretty a surprise. We still had time to cross the straight – we left in the morning and there were just 20 miles from Estepona (thanks God, we stopped there. Otherwise, we could have two options: go back, or – cross the straight at night).

The wind was 25 knots, but bureaucracy didn’t give us chance to wait for calming down. We turned the boat and left inhospitable land.

The staight was tough: strong current + strong wind.  We needed to steer all way, ‘coz the autopilot said “Solve this situation by yourseves, guys. Adio”.

Finally, we needed to drop the main sail. Happily, the entrance to marina of Tarife was already in front of us.

We entered the harbour. There were no sailing boats in it. Noone. It was a fishermen harbour, not a marina. We were ready to leave it and go further, searching for anchorage. But another boat – a catamaran – had arrived, and their  captain, noticing our doubts, showed us a place to stop.

Parking was tough too. Wind gave no chance for a gentle arrival, pushing us to the shore. The nose of Vagabond hit the pier.

Even behind marina walls waves pulled and puhed the boat. Poor Vagabond trembled, held by mooring lines. The wind was moaning and shouting. We almost got used to listen to it all days long…

Dance, baby, dance!

Our “investigative” trip to Malaga gave me enough information to make a plan.

  • First – flamenco performance.
  • Then – the second biggest Arabic fortress in Spain – Alcazaba.
  •  Third – Picasso’s museum.
  •  Finally, like a cherry on a cake, – pleasant walk through the evening Old town.

I was in such an excitement. This curiosity about churches, fortresses, old towns, hundreds of which I’ve already seen, I hope I will preserve till the end of my life.

Cathedral of Malaga

Well, plans are on part of human’s mind, but reality is full of circumstances.

We planned to stay in the marina of Malaga. But SeaMax (a program for navigation) showed us an opportunity of anchorage. We were happy: No extra expenses : ) According to weather forecast, for the weekend this anchorage would suit “Vagabond” well.

View from an anchorage in Malaga

Anchorage in Malaga

36°42.7358 N, 004°24.7714 W (just in front of Playa de la Malagueta)

And it was good! Moreover, right in the city center, close to all attractions. So we cheerfully headed there –  and we politely asked to move by local sportsmen. Just for a couple of hours, till 20.00 – a boat competition was about to start.

Attempts to throw the anchor a bit to the side from the event ended with zero result – soil there was too hard. So we decided to stay on board till the end of the contest – watch the boat, and afterwards relocate it back to the chosen place.

I was in fury. Flamenco show started at 20.30! “We had no chance to be in time”, – I was grumpy and miserable. Actually, this restaurant – Liceo (Calle Beatas, 21, Malaga) – has flamenco parties “todos los dias” – every day, but for me was essential to see it on Saturday evening. I planned it!

The band Sonike in "Liceo". Author of the photo: Crisa

Finally we were on time : ) It was sparkling performance full of feeling. Actually, flamenco for me is not a dance, I never loved dancing. It’s a feeling that comes out with a story that body tells.Someone could say that every dance is a way of expressing yourself. And will be, probably, right: depends if there’s something to say, to feel or not. Flamenco is my way of telling the story…

Nature dances flamenco! Actually, he was just sunbathing : )

Put a tick in “flamenco” point – done!

Alcazaba – the center of the old town, the ancient fortress of 11th century.  For a Russian its name sounds funny: it’s not typical for Spanish and has its roots in Arabic language. Originally, it was founded to protect surroundings from pirates of Mediterranean, but after that changed many hosts.

At night Alcazaba dreams of "Old good times", when it was a formidable fortress of an empire, not just a touristic attraction...

Alcazaba used to be connected with the castle Gibralfaro on the nearest hill. Actually, the castle looks much more like a fortress. Such a playfield for children!

Alcazaba ft. Gibralfaro

And well-known Alcazaba looks much more like a place to live – full of gardens, fountains and decorations. And the palace is an amazing pearl of Arabic culture. Here’re some photos, enjoy : )

By the way, on Sundays from 2 pm the entrance to the fortress and the castle is free.

Another tick, and Alcazaba is done!

I’m definitely not a fan of modern art. Yes, art should be innovative but not every new approach becomes art, I hope you would agree with me.

Picasso with his new canon of beauty, the way to see beauty could be a philosopher for me. His talent is apparent. But for me his courage to show his attitude with the use of the most ambiguous tool – arts – is even more significant.

Probably, my mind is stick in classic canons. Probably, I’m not too brave to discover the other way of seeing things.

Picasso’s museum  – done!

Alcazaba is surrounded by cathedrals and castles, remains of ancient walls that are left from Phoenician, Roman, Visigothic, Arab and Spanish dynasties.

The bullring at Plaza de la Malagueta

This part of the city is a museum on the open air, full of splendor and spirit. The cinema, where we watched “Midnight in Paris”, is a neigthbor of a Roman theatre that is… 770BC! Near the place, where ancient tragedies were performed, today people drink beer in bars and listen to street artists. Thinking about that, I stop counting years but start to count centuries…

This theatre is almost 3000 years older than me!

Charming old town is full of laterna light in the evening. Busy tavernas, where between tables wander, in wait of regard, Spanish guitar players.  Violins send their tunes through narrow streets, and statues on ancient cathedrals listen to it solemnly. This is how I feel Malaga in evening – between old and new, past and present.

The plan is considered to be accomplished!

I see… rhinoceros!

Splashes over the board. Spines and bubbles show on the surface – it looks like someone fights under water. Would love to write now some horror about monsters of Mediterranean (tremble, Englishman!), but I will be frank – these’re just fishes, who are our neighbors in marina in La Caleta de la Velez. Marina’s quay is a popular spot among locals, who come here to feed – not to fish! – sea dwellers. Probably, this “pet” role is a reason, why some of them reach impressive size.

Marina in La Caleta de Velez

36°44.8021 N, 004°04.3394 W

Today is 3d of September… autumn has come to Spain. We feel it here from the first day of the month. Not only because of note on the gate of aqua park that says: “10.09 – el ultimo dia” (10th of September is the last day). But because of clouds and cold at night and in morning. September in France the last year wasn’t much different from summer.  But how precise Spanish climate is!

On Wiki page about Malaga is written that average temperature from December to February is 17 degrees at day and 7-8 at night. I feel as if it’s already December, despite that fact that during the day can be pretty hot.

On Wednesday we rented the motorbike (dream of my fiveteen : ) and went through the coast road to Malaga. First we visited a small town to the north – Velez-Malaga, famous for  its monumental ancient churches and a castle on the hill. The castle we saw from far away. Velez-Malaga appeared to be a lovely town with thousands of narrow twisty streets and secret corners, where it’s so easy to get lost.

After that – 40 minutes along Costa del Sol, passing picturesque rocks, pretty white houses with flower fences, long beaches with fishermen boats (some of them are barbeque bars).

It’s always pleasant when impressions turn to be more delightful than expectations. That happens rarely, and that happened in Malaga to me.  Look forward to the story about the magic city – it is in the next chapter.

Just a couple of words about our cinema experience in Malaga. “Midnight in Paris” – charming film about present and past, made with feeling, funny and philosophic, performed by awesome cast. “And see rhinoceros”, – Adrien Brody in part of Salvador Dali is brilliant (as always, indeed).

"I see... rhinoceros!"

I just advice you, my friends, if you have some free time and want to see light and thoughtful movie , that’s the right choice, you won’t be disappointed   ; )

Into the wild 2

Almeria met us with feria! We arrived there on Saturday (27.08), and weekend promised to be full of impressions.

Marina in Almeria

36°49.8475 N, 002°27.8880 W

Torro!

Almeria is “an edge” of Andalusia, the biggest city on the east of it. Anyway, I had already expected to find flamenco and horses : )

…We were walking along green and wide “paseo, crossing the city. – La Rambla. There, we were told in info center of San Jose, we could find stages, prepared for feria. We passed the pottery market – I love places of this kind so much! Simple and variously colored, statues and pots, clocks and plates – whatever you soul desires you could find here. Freedom of choice, imagination and arts.

We passed tents with games and entertainment for children, admiringly watched go the horse carriage with flamenco singers, passed a club street – nothing spectacular… Finally, we decided to rush to the edge of the city, where on a huge field main feria took place…

…And there the greatest disappointment waited for us. It was just an enormous dimension full of trivial attractions, popular singing, bars and (mostly!) fun places for children. For me, who was dreaming about romantic folk culture of Spain, that was a disaster. Drop the curtain.

The fortress in Almeria

The next day we stopped in La Herradura. But before… before I was stunned by nature of Spanish coast.

Costa del Sol, coast of sun, one of the most poetic coasts I’ve ever seen. Huge rocks come out right of seas. Green subtropical plants feel comfortable on inhospitable slops. And so do people! Numerous white houses nest on their top.  Have you heard about “The road of white villages”? It’s to the north. But how many white villages have we seen on the incredible coast of southern Spain!


La Herradura

36°43.7292 N, 003°43.3726 W;

36°44.0099 N, 003°45.6231 W

During the day I made a challenging walk around the outskirts. Sometimes I ask myself – does it really please me to climb wild rocks and slip through subtropical forest full of thornes, or it’s just the way to splash out the energy that doesn’t find a way out in our calm yacht being? I suppose, the truth is somewhere between.

So, despite the availability of “civilized road”, I climbed another wild hill and got the Torre de Cerro Gordo, the tower, preserved from ancient times. There’re many of them, perking on coastal rocks all along the Spanish shore. They were used to defend it from enemies and to send messages from one side of empire to the other.

Romantic and beautiful way of communication! Just imagine, at night, one after another, fires were lit on the top of these stone towers, sending to each other not only light, but a message. In several hours it could reach another end of Europe.

Torre de Cerro Gordo - remains of the romantic past

When I reached the top of the hill, I found myself in middle of clouds. They were passing the range, covering everything with thick voile. When the pause in their endless movement appeared, down the hill I saw a huge estate, with gardens and a park. The neighbor hill was also occupied by fashionable houses.

The entrance to the estate down the hill... I felt myself a fairy there...

The way home laid back, through the same road that led to Cerro Gordo and that I ignored already twice. “No excuses”, – was my thought and I went down the hill through thick forest.

Every forest is full of life, and that means – of paths. “The problem” is that sometimes these paths belong to very little animals. So, imagining myself someone not bigger than a goat, I explored this mysterious roads of wild nature for almost an hour. When with a hundred of new scratches on arms, I was finally on a human-made road, I was quite happy that my tet-a-tet with nature is over.

Forest house

Actually, for  the next hour nature and humans together prepared another pleasant surprise for me. Walking down the road, I found a stable. With the horse we shared an apple that I took from “Vagabond”.

So…finally I’ve found horses. But not flamenco! And that means…

…To be continued…

San Jose chronicles

So – changes in weather allowed us to continue our way to the west, avoiding Cartagena (hoorrrray!).

After sailing along the beauriful spanish coast we arrived to a small town San Jose – the last stop before desirable Almeria, that is already Andalusia!

San Jose

We didn’t have time to discover the town because the first and the second concerns we had were interntet and supermarket. The third and the last one – to get out of there before the sunset, or the night promised to be bumpy and sleepless.

The bay, where we stopped, was surrounded by hills, dry and thorny. The sea was blue, and there was a beach with some naked and dressed sunbathers.

Vagabond in Spanish land

We arranged a walk to the top of the hill, where we found a strange cube-cylindre construstion. All we could do was just to climb it make a photo : )

Cris on the top of the Spanish hill

There’re was a road, leading in unknown direction. And that raised curiousity. So we went up, following the path, without aim, without any certain idea.

From the hill road we could see secret corners of Spanish coast : ) Not deserted, unfortunately.

No place for loneliness seekers in Europe...

Not far from San Jose there’re caves but already occupied by commercial firms. But we were satisfied with coastal grottas.

Update: 28.08.2011

Now we’re in Almeria, right now going to see ancient Alcozaba. Tomorrow leaving to Nerja or Velez-Malaga. Pretty long way, 65 miles, about 14 hours of sailing… See you there : )

Nude mood in Idyllic Spain

What I was expecting from Spain? Andaluse horses, dancing on narrow streets of old idyllic towns. Romantic hidalgos, playing Spanish guitar at warmness of southern night. Passionate flamenco dancers, firing hearts with love and suffering.

Well, for this moment I haven’t found them even on pictures of ad prospects. My first impression was Cartagena  – a port, the industrial center of Eastern Spain. Cranes, fishing boats, blocs of houses.

Still I preserve my hope to find horses and guitars on the south-west from here. And thanks to Cristiano, he kindly tries to make a plan that will meet my dreams, if the weather and prices on marina allows us.

On parallel 37°59.9430N we crossed the Greenwich meridian, and our way now lays to the west.

Yesterday we were “attacked” by a small fleet of racing yachts. We were “lucky” to get on their way (it was a film shooting) and just in time run away before our ass was kicked (sorry for my French!).

When such a company rushes right on you, the first wish - to get out of here, the second - to make a good photo : )

We’re anchoring in a quite bumpy place, and “Vagabond” was sighing sadly for the whole night, because of waves, pushing him.  Anyway, the landscape is beautiful here. Moreover, yesterday we discovered something that, probably, will make me to go back to this small bay, lost between mountain edges…

On the other side of the rock, where we anchor, there is another beach, where we headed in search of internet. That beach appeared to be …a nude beach, and it was full.

From a lovely bay, created by amazing rocks, we entered the nude town El Portus!!!

Actually, this place – Natursta El Portus (region of Murcia) – is a camping, where people rent a tent, or a house on wheels, or a small simple house or come with their own staff.  Most of people here do not wear clothes. They are relaxed and friendly. Near the houses there’re beautiful flowerbeds with toys and statues, trees are decorated with colorful threads and even fenders (from where do they get so many of them? Catch from Mediterranean those that are lost by yachts?).

Fender trees that "are bred" in El Portus

We walked through clean streets, watched houses, shadowed by trees, fences, covered by flowers. Mountains protect this idyllic piece of the world with their mighty slopes.

I heard French speaking, and there’re many books in Dutch and German in a small library of the town. There I’ve found a new book to read, and Cristiano left some of Vagabond’s tonight. The evening we spent in a bar, where people come clothed and naked, even with dogs. But all of them – with good mood. In front of the bar there was a cinema session under the open sky.

Kayaking, beach volleyball, dances – this is how “natural” people spend their days.

Vibes of this place are very positive, and I would love to spend more time here. So – hurry up to write down coordinates : )

37°34.8792N, 001°04.1636W

Punto del Moco. Naturista El Portus.

Internet address: http://www.elportus.com

 

Don’t worry, be naked))