Puerto Deportivo Aguadulce is the third marina we’ve spent long enough at to say we have ‘lived’ here. It is our winter base this year. In early summer 2012 we lived for two months at Torquay Marina and between 2013 and 2014 we lived at Plymouth Yacht Haven for a total of five months. We’ve now been in Aguadulce for almost four months and will remain here for a little while longer.
As far as we are aware, we were the only live aboards at Torquay, and we stuck out like a sore thumb amidst the gleaming pleasure boats that never left the secure waters of the marina. These other boats were invariably only visited at weekends (if at all), when wine and champagne were quaffed for an afternoon, and then the boats were locked up again for another weekend. We felt incongruous with our laundry hanging out to dry, our bags of groceries lugged down the pontoon with complaining tired children in tow, and our frequent trips to the shower block. Though we think she is beautiful, many might not consider Carina the prettiest boat. She could have been the grandmother of the speedy sleek young boats that she berthed alongside and her scratched gel coating and weathered teak made her stand out in a not exactly positive way. We kept our heads down for those two months and tried to be as invisible as possible.
However, in Plymouth Yacht Haven and now Aguadulce, we have found marinas that are welcoming to and accommodating of live aboards and, therefore, there are live aboads aplenty. Like Plymouth, Aguadulce is home to a mix of people living this life. At my most recent count there are sixteen permanently occupied boats, although I’m sure there are more live aboards I haven’t yet met. Only the other day, at the shower block, I met a woman I had never seen before, and when I returned to Carina yesterday I found Julian chatting to a man on a bicycle that neither of us had met before. Both these people have been living in the marina this winter for as long as we have.
There are people living alone; there are many retired couples, ranging from their early 50s to their mid-70s; there’s one couple with their live aboard pooch; and there’s us. In addition, there are many more people who divide their time between the marina and their home country, and we’ve gotten to know some of those in their comings and goings. The live aboards here in Aguadulce are predominantly from the UK and Ireland, but there are others from Australia, France, Germany, Ghana, Holland and elsewhere. The crew of each boat has its own reasons for being here. There are some, like us, who are overwintering and preparing to voyage elsewhere when spring arrives. For those people, winter in a marina is a time for repair and maintenance, and for converting dreams into plans. Others live permanently in the marina, their cruising days behind them, and they treat their boats as floating apartments rather than sailing vessels.
There are many delightful aspects to marina life, the nicest being the sense of community that quickly develops. Live aboards look out for each other and for each others’ boats. We share advice, information, food, sailing books, novels, tools and equipment. Julian and the girls are going away soon, but I know that help is at hand if I need it from our kind and thoughtful neighbours. Though we all live on different size vessels and though our financial resources vary, we all live frugally and independently, and respect that frugality and independence in others.
In both Plymouth and Aguadulce we’ve also had the pleasure of getting to know the non-live aboard owners of other vessels in the marina (Hello Dee and Rex and Heather and Chris!!). Ray, an English man who has lived in a village in Las Alpujarras for nearly two decades is a frequent visitor to the pontoon, as he makes repairs to his boat. His generosity is limitless and every time he drives down from the mountains he brings us sailing books, Spanish language study books and, most recently, the re-mastered Pinocchio DVD. And, as I mentioned in a previous blog, Jesus, who berths his boat directly across the pontoon from ours, last week treated us to a bucketful of sea bream.
We know the mariñeros who work at the marina, patrolling on their scooters and ensuring the whole place runs smoothly. And we have gotten to know some of the staff of the cafes and bars around the edges of the marina. All of these different groups make up an altogether pleasant community.
We live much of our lives in the open, in public view. Breakfasts and lunches are sometimes eaten at the cockpit table in full view of anyone walking past mere metres away. All of Julian’s current deck maintenance is taking place on the pontoon in front of families out for a weekend stroll, the owners of neighbouring boats, and the marina staff. A couple of months ago, a woman stopped to take photographs of all the teddy bears hanging from the rigging. We can feel a bit like a zoo exhibit at times (homo sapiens maritimus), but we can’t complain. People are generally intrigued by the sight of two winged pink ballerinas gamboling about on the foredeck or hanging upside down in the rigging, and they smile, say hello and, occasionally, stop to chat. Lily and Katie have made friends with our neighbours, and chat to them with ease, rushing to tell them about a loose tooth (Lily) or a grazed elbow (Katie).
In a few months we will move on and, in all likelihood, we will never see any of these people again. Such is the cruising life. Friendships are made that respect the fierce privacy and independent spirit of cruisers. People help each other out, look out for each other and enjoy each others company, but respect the need for privacy when living in such a public and open-air way.
We all know that we will eventually move on and will meet other like-minded sailors at other marinas or anchorages farther down the line. We will develop new short-lived friendships that will endure in our memories of each place we have visited.