21 April 2017 – Family, Friends, Food and Wine

Ibiza (ESP) – Nice (FRA)

When a light breeze picks up, Luci calmly turns into the wind. Tied to a mooring, the wind moves her like a flag behind its pole. She seems to say “Come on guys, time to move on!” We abide by her call and start departure preparations. We remove the sail covers, store all loose items and switch on the electronics. Still at the mooring, Floris pulls op our mainsail. Ivar checks the map to avoid a shallow rocky area in the beautiful and well-sheltered Cala Salada, our last stop in Ibiza.

Floris releases the mooring line, setting Luci free. Ivar pulls in the main sheet and the wind fills our mainsail. Slowly, Luci picks up speed. While Ivar steers out of the bay, Floris pulls up the mizzen and rolls out the genoa. As we sail into deeper water the color of the crystal clear water turns from light blue to dark blue. We pass steep cliffs painted yellow-orange by the afternoon sun. A few hours later, we can see the entire island behind us. Its green mountains remain clearly visible for the rest of the day. When darkness falls, the Conillera lighthouse bids us farewell with its four bright white flashes every twenty seconds. The beauty of Ibiza and the lovely people we’ve met already make us long for a return.

Banana course
A gentle southerly wind pushes us forward. Instead of a direct, downwind NNE course to Barcelona, we steer a NW course. It gives us more speed and comfort. Also, the wind is forecast to become N later, which would make it impossible to reach our destination in a straight line from Ibiza. Our “banana-course” tactic proves to work when the wind indeed becomes N during the night and we can approach Barcelona on a comfortable course.

During our night shifts, we watch the documentary “Cooked” by Michael Pollan. A beautifully filmed and fascinating story about the origins of food explained using the four basic elements: fire, water, air and earth. The episode “Air” is all about bread. It is highly relevant for sailors, as a fresh bakery is not always nearby. Ivar, who baked a loaf before leaving, is riddled to learn that no yeast is added. No yeast? How is that even possible? “Natural fermentation has been used for thousands of years. It takes time, but allows all the nutrients of the flower to become available to our bodies,” says Michael. Intrigued we sail on, eager to try this traditional, natural way of bread making ourselves.

Barcelona
We look forward to a stopover in this iconic city on our way to France. Floris’s brother has planned to visit us with his family and we are also keen to see friends who live there. But stopping there is easier said than done. There are no anchorages. The three marinas don’t have many visitor berths and are expensive. Floris has spent quite some time searching the internet and trying to make online reservations. Luckily, we get a confirmation from Port Olimpic, at a low season rate.

At sunrise, the mountains from the Spanish mainland come in sight. It doesn’t take long until the sun warms us and we can take off our sailing gear and sweaters. Before we can see the city, its presence is already indicated by the increasing shipping and airline traffic. In the evening we pass the industrial harbours, while the wind slowly dies down. The distance to the marina decreases, but so does our speed. We finally reach Port Olimpic just after midnight, check in and get what looks like the last free berth. Content with our preparations and trip, it doesn’t take long before we fall asleep.

The next morning grey clouds cover the sky. We go out for some grocery shopping and are positively surprised to find a well-equipped organic store nearby. On our way back to the boat it starts to rain. The rains last all day, turning into real downpours in the evening. “That saves me washing the salt off the deck,” comments Ivar. We stay indoors, catching up on blogging and vlogging.

The weather clears just in time for Floris’s brother Johan, his wife Cornelia and their son Bastiaan to arrive. It is a lovely reunion after nearly 10 months. And what a change to young Bastiaan! The week flies by, where we enjoy walking around the city, visiting the sea aquarium and are generously treated to delicious tapas and Spanish food. We even spend a day at the beach. Naturally we miss our family and friends while travelling, but spending time together abroad makes up for it in some ways. We also catch up with our friends Helena and Quito, who just moved here from Madrid, and our Dutch friends Jannica and Eric.

Through a friend we meet Andrés. He’s the owner of Somorrostro, a restaurant in Barceloneta that uses local and organic ingredients. He’s linked to “Slow Food Barcelona”, a branch of the “Slow Food International” movement that originated in Italy. We’re glad to learn he has a successful business using diverse ingredients that are directly sourced from local fishermen, local farmers and their own organic vegetable garden. Our lunch experience with “Slow Food” is certainly delicious! Stay tuned for more information on this sustainable nutrition solution.

A week does not prove enough to see all our friends, so we are tempted to stay longer. Yet the weather forecast is brutally clear. If we don’t leave now we need to stay for another week. With heavy hearts we leave in the afternoon for an overnight trip along the Spanish coast. In a scenic bay near the eastern most cape of the Iberic pensiula, “Cap de Creus”, we await favourable winds to cross the Gulf of Lion to Marseille. It’s a stunning area, both in natural beauty and cultural highlights. We visit Salvador Dalí’s house and picturesque Cadaqués, before we set sail for France.

Marseille
After an uneventful overnight trip we reach France in the early morning. We anchor at the Frioul archipelago, just outside Marseille. The white cliffs and jagged shapes of the rocks give the islands a rugged feel, so close to civilisation.

We prepare for our next expedition, the search for sustainable wine. We don’t want to leave the boat at the anchorage so decide to safely park Luci in a marina. Marseille’s marinas are all fully booked. Oops, we haven’t heard that in a while. The high season is clearly approaching. Fortunately, the marina on Îles du Frioul has enough space. We take the ferry to Marseille from there, pick-up a rental car and off we go!

We spend the next two days exploring the spectacular Provence countryside. Our mission: to learn if wine can be produced without the use of finite and unhealthy resources like synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. Our first stop is at a monastery, “Monastère de Solan”. The nuns are somewhat surprised to see us – the best way to contact them is to write a letter. Still, they make time for us and are very nice and helpful. “We are religious people, so we don’t harm nature. We use only natural, organic methods to grow the grapes.” Our second stop is at a family farm: “Domaine de la Gasqui”. Owner Jean is clear about his grape production methods. “I inherited this domain from my father, who inherited it from his father. We never used chemicals because we never considered it safe for our own health”. He uses only organic fertilizer a few times a year, and selectively uses plant extracts mixed with water to protect the grapes if necessary. Our third stop is at “Château Marqüi”, a large estate that also exports wine. The owner took over the estate around 15 years ago and decided to go organic to supply this growing market segment. All three vineyards claim good grape harvests, and all are certified with the French “Agriculture Biologique” logo, indicating organic production methods. Naturally, we did some tasting, too and can happily confirm that these organically produced wines are delicious. Stay tuned for more details on sustainable wine production.

Calanques, islands and the Côte d’Azur
A day after our expedition Floris’s sister Eline with her sons Luc and Julian come to visit. The summer-like weather and island setting set the décor for a happy reunion. After storing up on groceries we move to a nearby anchorage and enjoy swimming and kayaking. For the first time in months we’re not alone in a bay. Many locals have sailed here to enjoy the sunny weekend and visit these islands. The following days the weather remains calm. In daytrips we sail eastward via the spectacular Calanques and beautiful islands close to the coast. At Île de Porquerolles we take time to hike and explore the island. On one’s own anchor the Côte d’Azur proves to be very affordable.

Nice Easter
As we approach Nice, Floris’ preparation and booking skills prove useful again. His “American parents” Evelyn and Fred are visiting us and we aim for a spot in the city centre marina, “Port Lympia”. We’re very lucky with the marina berth, they offer us their last spot. Evelyn and Fred generously sponsor the costs. We indulge in the city’s cultural highlights with them, enjoying the Matisse, Chagall and modern art museums. Judging by all the delicious food we enjoy together, we celebrate Easter a full week.

There is even time to venture out in the countryside and Italy. We take Evelyn and Fred to Piedmont to visit Pietro Zucchetti. He’s the founder of the Italian permaculture institute, and has successfully applied permaculture principles to grow grapes. He enthusiastically explains how he uses diverse plants to improve both the soil and the plant’s health. Without a doubt, it represents the most sustainable form of grape cultivation.

For our farewell meal we stay in Italy. In Alassio we indulge in local specialities while a live band plays songs from the 80’s. It marks the end of our wonderful time with Evelyn and Fred in the Mediterranean, and we look forward to visiting them in Baltimore, by boat of course.

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