Monday, 31 August 2015

A lambency of gaff in looms


Why go to Cadaqués, I reasoned, one of the most beautiful Mediterranean towns: ex fishing village, a player in the surrealist movement, known for the astonishing quality of it's light; a technicolor clarity that contrasts exquisitely with the impenetrable black slate of the coast—sky, rock and sea all polished by the Tramontana wind. Why all this when I could go to a fag-end town renowned for mosquitos and an unenlightened attitude to bullfighting.

Solitude, in a word.

Cadaqués, at this time of year, is rife with bohemians, it's all white clothes and sandals and artistic noses held righteously aloft. And the water is the preserve of the those who think wealth brings entitlement across the board. Sant Carles de la Rapìta however, is just any old place—on the face of it. Actually it has some excellent restaurants and holds a claim to having played a significant role in Catalonia's maritime history. But I won't go into that here as I only went into town to buy ice for the cool box.

The locals may or may not be rednecks but there certainly aren't many sailors left among them. That's not to say there aren't a lot of boats. Whether they've seen you or not, don't expect anyone but yourself to change course. For self preservation alone it's worth assuming that nobody will adhere to any rules that you happen to know—take this as the principle rule for the coast in general. The port of Sant Carles is a hotbed of dodgy rope work—frayed ends and evil thumb knots abound. And the ramp is a dream for youtubers that post titles like, 'boat launch fails'. Out of charity I looked away and quietly got on with my own disastrous launch which left OB minus some bottom paint and my back out one degree to port.

I rowed out into the fray—a spritely force 3 over a short, steep chop and motor boats and jet skis fizzing about like mad wind-up toys. Anchored and hoisting the sails a boat hurtled by raising a low wall of wake that made me sit down fast. I gazed after them but none looked back so I assumed they weren't buzzing me to watch my boat wildly roll but were unaware of being boorish and uncivil. Most boats chose to stick close to the shore and, under full sail, I was soon in clearer water.

El Port dels Alfacs is a parallelogram-shaped body of salt water running more or less east west, Sant Carles being on the northwestern edge. The long spit of 'El Trabucador' protects the bay from the sea, swinging westward to form 'El Punta de la Banya'. I spent the afternoon tacking up to the northeastern corner where I got stuck in weed and mud. But here running aground is all part of the sailing and in a craft like OB, where you simply climb out of the boat into ankle deep water to lighten the hull and thus refloat, it is not a problem. A fixed-keel sailboat was in far deeper trouble than I and a motor boat was churning great gouts of mud skyward with no forward progress. In waters less thin I again lowered the rudder and sailed clean away from this treacherous corner.
La Punta de la Banya is a nature reserve and is all but inaccessible except in a shallow draft, flat-bottomed boat. Scrub and the odd tree were becoming silhouettes by the time I arrived and I cautiously approached a tiny beach, letting the boat skid sideways with no centreboard or rudder, making minor adjustments to the course, poling with an oar.

As the bow ground gently against the shell laden shore I was surprised to see a row of discarded umbrellas and walking sticks upright in the mud on the far side of some tall grasses. I hopped out of the boat to investigate and the umbrellas opened and took flight.
 A flamboyance of flamingos.




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