How to get a sore bum in one easy lesson, a hangover and other tales.

October 17, 2012

Well, we’ve been here in Sant Carles for 3 weeks now so I thought that perhaps it was time to write a new blog for our readers.  After all, there’s so much going on here and it’s so long since the last post that you’re all bound to be suffering withdrawal symptoms by now.


Where to begin?  Perhaps a bit about Sant Carles Marina to start with.  The marina is a relatively new one and opened for business about 4 years or so ago.  It is managed by MDL Marinas, who have a number of marinas on the south coast of England as well as a couple out here in the Med.  There are 2 bits to the marina; the ‘expensive’ side to the north of the marina offices, which are floating pontoons and have finger berths and the ‘cheap’ side with the more familiar fixed pontoons and stern to mooring.  No prizes for guessing that “Rampage” is moored to a fixed pontoon! 


We are all of 5 metres from the nearest wifi repeater aerial so reception is excellent and we are often able to watch UK TV on the computer.  Skype is also up and running since I spent a fun afternoon reinstalling windows on our laptop computer; the netbook is just too slow to cope with a video link on Skype.


The ablution block is one of the best we’ve found with very good showers and there is a laundrette, with dryers should the weather be too wet to hang things out.  To round things out, there is a really quite good café bar with views over the marina to the lagoon beyond.  J has also enjoyed the use of the swimming pool and in the process, she and our friend Sheila have taught one of the children who live here to swim, much to the delight of them all.


Harvey the dog visits “Rampage”. Once he’s been invited over a passerelle he regards that boat as ‘his’…. Thankfully, he doesn’t do steep companionways, so this is as far as he gets!

To the south of the marina is the town of Sant Carles.  It’s been here for quite some time; it was intended to be a port town for the export of produce from the Tortosa valley and the Ebro delta but for one reason and another this never happened.  There is a fishing fleet based here and a fish market but the town itself has sort of spread along the coast for a mile or so either side of the harbour.  The old bit of town is the usual for this part of the world: narrow winding streets and the odd little square; beyond this is the normal pattern of development of low rise flats and houses.  The local shops are good and we can get most things needed to keep us happy within easy biking distance of the marina.   We seem to be welcomed by the local residents and we’re looking forward to exploring more of the town over the coming months.


The Ebro river delta stretches away from us to the north.  The delta is a triangle of land sticking out into the sea, about 10 miles or so on a side.  Most of the interior is given over to rice growing with the more marshy bit round the outside being a nature preserve.  According to the local tourist office information it is one of the most important wetlands in the Mediterranean and one can easily see why this might be.

A view over the Tancada lagoon. Last time we were here, it was full of flamingos.


Now we come to the bit about getting a sore bum.  Part of the attraction of the delta is that it’s flat.  It is therefore great cycling country and added to that there are miles (and miles and miles) of cycle paths that meander their way across the delta between the paddy fields.  We went for a short ride round them not long after we got here but I was foolishly persuaded by Julia to join Sheila and Patrick from “Shecat” for another trip on Sunday 7th October.  Part of the impetus was an event to mark the rice harvest in one of the ‘interpretive centres’ in the middle of the delta; another element was to see flamingos.  Without really thinking to check what the plan was, we gaily set off into wide open spaces of the interior.

Miles and miles and miles …… of delta.


After going far further than I had thought we were going, we stopped at an elevated hide to look at the birds – lots of birds but alas no flamingos.  Then back on the bikes and on towards the distant horizon, buoyed up by the promise of a beer stop before too long.  We stopped again before exhaustion set in but no beer – yet another bird watching hide with lots of ducks but – you guessed it – no flamingos.  Onwards once more, I began to feel a little like a soldier in the Foreign Legion marching towards the top of yet another sand dune – well not quite but you get the idea.

Patrick, Sheila and I have a ‘where the hell are we’ moment, somewhere in the middle of the delta.


Yet another ride and finally, we got to the ‘interpretive centre’ where the rice harvest event was in full swing.  There were men giving a demonstration of how the rice was harvested before the arrival of machinery; sickles to cut the rice, a horse pulling a sled though the paddy field to collect it and so on.  I thought that the beer stall looked inviting but was dragged past it to take pictures of men up to their knees in thick mud and small carts being pulled by Thelwell-type ponies before, finally, I got to sit down and have a well deserved cold beer.

A muddy rice paddy with old Spanish blokes showing how they used to harvest the rice with wickedly sharp sickles.


I thought that having now made our way into the middle of the delta we would be heading back towards the marina and more cold beer.  No it was not to be.  Instead we headed further north and east until we reached the sea shore before we finally started heading back towards the marina.  By this time my backside was letting me know that it wasn’t happy with this treatment but luckily help was at hand.  A couple of miles down the road, we stopped briefly to look at some more birds and finally, flamingos (well 3 of them anyway).  Then just round the corner was the town of Poble Nou, ( I kid you not – it means New People).  There we found a bar which sold food as well as beer so we made a long stop for a belated lunch before pushing on the final few miles back home.  I walked a bit like John Wayne for the next day or so, which led to the next adventure.

Flaming flamingos. There’s a large egret in the foreground but if you click on the picture to enlarge it there are flamingos in the distance – no really there are.

More Spanish blokes in a paddy field, this time with a horse and sledge, showing how they used to get the rice to dry ground.


I decided that if we were to go on any more cycle marathons (and J seems determined that we will – there’s another scheduled for tomorrow,) then I needed to address a certain lack of padding in the saddle area.  As luck would have it, Patrick knew that there is a branch of Decathlon in Tortosa, just a bus ride away.  So on Wednesday we rose early and caught the 9:20 bus from Sant Carles.  Sheila and I both share a lack of enthusiasm for early mornings, so not much was said on the ride but there was coffee and croissants on arrival at Tortosa market which helped things along.  We walked round the town looking at the old Jewish quarter, the town walls and strong points and the cathedral before stopping for lunch at a café.  We then walked out of town to Decathlon where I bought cycle shorts and a padded saddle cover before we hiked back into town and found a bar to drink beer in until the bus appeared to take us back to Sant Carles.

The strangely unfinshed looking Tortosa cathedral.


The only other major event took place this last Sunday, when we hosted a pontoon party for anyone who wanted to attend.  We found that these parties were a really good way to get folks together when we were in Barcelona and J sold the idea to the other people living on DD pontoon.  We put up posters and a notice on the Sant Carles chat forum and sat back to see what happened.


Pontoon party on DD pontoon. Loads a lovely food and a bit to drink too…..

It was a great success.  I reckon that there were about 40 people here on the pontoon having a great time.  There was lots of food and plenty to drink.  Things kicked off at 2pm and the last guests left at about 7pm.  Apparently splinter groups then continued the motion, some in the bar and others on various boats including the catamaran “L’Albatross” where J and I wound up.  I retired in due course and went to bed but J appeared much later, very much the worse for wear – how she got over the gangplank we will never know!  J

Party girl at a party…..

spent much of the next day taking things very gently, talking in whispers and wearing dark glasses.


In between long cycle rides, trips to local towns and the like, work on the winter jobs list has begun.  Apart from one day of heavy rain culminating in a spectacular thunderstorm, the weather has been glorious since we arrived here, so much of the time has been spent sploshing about with water.  I dived on the boat a couple of weeks back to remove the folding propeller and replace it with the original, fixed one – lavishly anti-fouled; the fouling here is very heavy and there have been instances of boats being unable to move after the winter due to the condition of their props.  We’ve also washed the sails and taken them to the local chandlery for minor repairs, J has cleaned all the fenders and we have serviced the winches.  In these latter two tasks, we have been supervised and assisted by a certain young liveaboard from our pontoon who is now officially Grease Squidger in Chief.   This particular young lady is also notable since it was she who has recently learned to swim.

A deeply happy skipper cleans the mainsail.


There are two families over-wintering here with children and we also have Harvey the Dog living on this pontoon.  Harvey is a lively, friendly small dog (terrier-ish) who reckons that all the boats on his pontoon should be visited on a daily basis, although coming as he does, from a catamaran, he doesn’t do companionways so gets no further than the cockpit on “Rampage.”  Harvey and the children between them certainly keep this place lively.   


So, what are our plans for the winter and next year?  We will be returning to the UK for a few weeks from 25 October, so we probably won’t post again until we get back out here in mid November.


We then have a few weeks here before we fly to Dublin for Christmas with Naomi, Ken and the family.  In between times, we’ve booked to hire a car for the month or so,  and intend doing a bit of touring round Spain, as we’ve only ever really looked at the coast and the bit round Barcelona.


After Christmas, we will celebrate New Year here in the marina where the bar runs a party with a considerable reputation – watch this blog in due course.  Then we will have to get serious with the winter jobs list, which now covers 2 sides of A4 spreadsheet.   With the level of fouling here in the marina, we will probably have a brief lift out to scrub the bottom before we set out back to Greece.  Timings will, as ever, be dependent on the weather but we would like to be back in the Ionian via Malta by early June.  We will then probably head around the Peloponnese again to escape the crowds in July and August. 



  1. Yes, I recognise that ‘just a few more minutes this way’ type of bird-spotting trip… Hope the bottom is recovering, Skipper! Glad to hear you’re both setting the pace for Partying on the Pontoon. That reminds me that J may need her morning after kit for the Stunning Ruins Tour.
    At least you saw flamingos.

  2. Again sounds like good fun, so glad that J keeps the end up ont he party front. Hope your bum is better and see you both on about the 6th Nov, thats when I will get home XXXXXX

  3. Great post. You have a wonderful family. I hope to do the liveaboard thing one day.

  4. I stumbled upon your brilliant online diary on a cold wet miserable afternoon in the UK. Sounds like hard work but a lot of fun. We are flotilla sailors who would love to live the dream but for now we will read about your adventures instead. Keep posting!

    • Thank you so much for your very kind comments. We do sometimes wonder if it all gets a bit tedious for anyone other than ourselves, and possibly just rather self-indulgent. Comments such as yours encourage us to keep going as it takes up quite a bit of time. It’s not so much writing the text but more trying to select suitable photos from the hundreds that we take and then modifying them for download to avoid the process taking simply hours. We are just on the point of publishing our latest blog and hope you will enjoy it. Julia

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