The Dedegol Mountains, Isparta, Turkey. This year’s challenge?

5th to 8th December 2007
2nd Part of the voyage out Valencia to Salerno

Valencia Old Town

Day 7 Wednesday 5th December Valencia

At first light astern we could see the familiar shape of Mount Mungo with Denia in the foreground. During breakfast we were hove to outside Valencia waiting for a pilot. The management was very impressed, the ship being positioned at 45 degrees to the wind and the engine set to keep her in exactly the same position. We can do this with Hobnob by balancing with the sails but it has to be much more difficult with a ship of Grande Anversa’s size.

Visitors on holiday in Spain hardly ever see the mess and pollution the Spanish have caused in their large towns and cities. It was a lovely sunny morning with a pleasant breeze and yet Valencia was covered by a dome of pollution. As we entered port the smell was like that in London in the 1960’s. The Spanish have a vibrant manufacturing and construction industry. All very inspiring but not really compatible with being a holiday centre for Europe any more than it would be in Weymouth.

The ship’s tannoy had announced that the clocks were going forward one hour onto European time, according to the management the time any sensible European country would adopt though the stoker disagrees. This time of course excludes the UK and second world Portugal. This phrase describing Portugal was given to us by a young Portuguese student when we toured there in 2003.

We left the ship at 11h00, following the Spanish lady bureaucrat suspiciously carrying 400 Marlboroughs under her arm together with her clipboard. We guess it all oils the wheels and enabled us to go ashore more quickly. Maria, 3rd Officer and the only woman member of the crew, lent us a map of Valencia. We had not expected to call here so were not prepared. The roads on the map however bore little resemblance to those in and around the port. A new yacht harbour had been constructed for the America’s Cup but the rest of the area is a huge confusing construction site full of container lorries roaring around.

Using what navigation aids we had and with great care we headed for a green linear park encircling the city almost from the coast around to the north west. It is a dry water course and well maintained and cultivated. We have seen these in many Spanish towns and have never found out what happens after rain. Perhaps it never does fill with water……yet. All the paths were shared by pedestrians and cyclists with no conflict at all, something which appears impossible in the UK but is achieved in every other country we have travelled.

We left the park at the ancient Puente Serranos and locked the tandem after passing through the gate of the same name. We explored the ancient part of the city which is picturesque, in stark contrast to the mayhem, mediocrity and near slums of the port area. We thought we were lucky to find a free wifi connection near the youth hostel and managed to get the emails down but unfortunately could not send. We searched for an internet café but, like many sailors home from the sea, we fell for the delights of the land. A nice meal and a bottle of wine were more appealing than coffee and computers.

Grande Anversa’s crew are forbidden alcohol and drugs while onboard. We are not but, apart from liberal quantities of warfarin which the crew would not envy, we have refrained from partaking in front of them. The consequences were that a bottle of wine made us fairly wobbly and quite merry.

When we returned to the tandem we found a note attached as follows:

Never leave a bike like this with just a simple number lock. Sadly in Valencia many bikes are stolen everyday! Better 2 or 3 hard locks. Enjoy your visit! There was a picture of a U lock and a smiley face.

We thought this a very kind thing to do especially in our own language. We have had to think our security policy through carefully. As at home we use a good quality combination lock and thick spiral wire. We think this stops the casual thief and is not too heavy for us to carry. It would not stop a professional thief but then no lock yet invented will do that. We also lock the bike in the most public place we can find, preferably on the outside of railings on a very busy road. We suppose if the tandem is stolen we would be sending a very urgent order to our friends at St John Street Cycles. But let us hope it does not happen.

Navigating back to the ship may well have been improved by the wine. It also helped to have a GPS trail to follow. Had we not had the GPS we think the Master would have been sending out search parties. Even the management’s notorious sense of direction alone could not have saved us from Spanish road building mania. We are sure the Master is a man who would not willingly lose any cargo, human or otherwise. We also feel sure that having recovered it some kind of subtle punishment would follow. There would be no reoccurrence.

 Sunset over Valencia

Day 8 Thursday 6th December at sea

It does not seem a week since we left home even though we have had so many new experiences. We departed from Valencia after dark last night and we now have another day at sea. An early visit to the bridge discovered that we were just north of Barcelona. Maria was on watch and said that we would be going inland into the Bay of Roses because otherwise we would arrive at Livorno, our next port of call, at 01h00. Our ETA is now 08h00 which will enable cargo handling during the day.

Spike’s death, even though he said he was ill, was such a sad loss to the world. If only he had had the opportunity to comment on the trade of this ship. Most of the time there are somewhere between three and four thousand little tin gods on board. At every port we go into they are lined up ready for loading. One lot comes on board and another lot are disembarked. It can be hard to avoid the enthusiasm with which this happens, death or injury can be just inches away. Grimaldi provides a comprehensive service to the motor industry.

So what service do the motor trade need? They could of course just leave their car gods where they are when they fall off the production line. All it needs is for each place to be happy with the badge on the gods they make. As far we can see from the interminable car parks at the ports the badge is about the only difference. Spike may well have seen the similarity between this and the difficulty his generation would have had fighting a war if the opposing sides had no uniforms.

Not transporting cars could cause all sorts of problems, not the least being no ships. But this can easily be solved by filling up ships with cars and running them subsidised around Europe. As oil gets more expensive and global warming sets in this could be best. Think of the cost savings, no need to load or unload………………and more.

There is a danger, having stopped wasteful transporting of cars, that their even more damaging unnecessary use could be challenged. But not unfortunately before we join with Spike wherever he is.

Day 9 Friday 7th December Livorno

We arrived at Livorno before we awoke. When we did wake the view from our oblong porthole was a sea of cars rather than a sea of sea. Worse, the background was not lovely Tuscany but unlovely industrial dockland. The North of England looked and smelled like this pre Thatcher. We suppose some good came from the despicable.

The stoker conversed with the Master who, having arrived in his home country, is now behaving like an Italian. After much hand waving and such we eventually went ashore for a couple of hours. Our plan, if we had had all day, was to go to Pisa for the leaning tower. As it was we had to be back by eleven so we cycled into Livorno town. Livorno is a bustling untidy town without visitor attractions for which it is all the better. A degree of firmness was required by the management when dealing with traffic but we coped. Car drivers here are used to cyclists, there being many of them with few cycle lanes.

Back onboard and we had two oval shaped tugs and a pilot to get the ship stern first out of the car park. Because of this lunch was an hour and a half late. No one eats before the Master sits down and he could not come till the pilot left. As dinner is early this could involve wall to wall eating. Still it is always that way on cruise ships and this is much more fun. The wait gave us chance to vote three times for Connect2, one from each of our UK sim cards. We did not vote on our Spanish sim in case this was misconstrued by the Big Lottery Fund.

Following the stoker’s conversation with the Master this morning we have given up any prospect of planning and no doubt He will advise his exit strategy for us when the Monaco Royal family who own the ship tell him.

We arrived at Civitavecchia after dark and after being turned round by tugs the ship berthed on a cruise ship dock. This was not easy because the gate to the dock was locked preventing the longshoremen taking our lines until someone found the key. There was then much banging before a crew of people turned up to unload vehicles. This confused us. We had expected them to do cargo tomorrow while we had a run ashore. When we went to bed there was still the usual whizzing of white van men going to and fro.

Management and Ship

Day 10 Saturday 8th December Salerno

In the early hours we were awoken by being thrown around in our beds. The ship was obviously at sea and furthermore it had not been this rough since the Bay of Biscay. It was marginally disruptive of sleep but nevertheless still annoying when the alarm went off for breakfast.

After breakfast we carefully packed, trying to put most of the weight in the rear panniers while only needing as little luggage as possible for overnighting. The coast line here in southern Italy is spectacular and the ship came in close to islands and the shore. The weather was poor but while this is not good for photography it makes for atmospheric views among the crashing waves on the rocky coast.

We felt strange and slightly apprehensive leaving the safe haven of our comfortable cabin to find a hotel in Saverno and to brave the roads of Italy. The sail down has gone surprisingly quickly but we are pleased to be moving on.

We have sailed 2,370 nautical miles on Grande Anversa since leaving Portbury and are very grateful to Master Alessandro Rocca and all the crew, in particular the cook Girolamo Amato and steward Vaibhav Ramesh Telgote, known as Rambo, for an enjoyable voyage of discovery.

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