Nicole and I have started the first leg on our six-month journey, sailing from Spain to Turkey this spring and summer.
Supporting this trip, I received a contract from Harmony Books (Penguin/RandomHouse) to write another book, The Mediterranean Method, a Plan to Help You Lose Weight, Prevent Heart Disease and Memory Loss, and Support Your Gut. My goal during this trip is to search for local, delicious, and easy-to-prepare recipes and health tips.
Our plan has been to sail north along the Mediterranean coast of Spain, east along the southern coast of France, sail around Corsica, and then down the western coast of Italy. Next, sail across to Greece and on to Turkey. This is truly an amazing trip, something that has been on my bucket list for decades, and I have to pinch myself from time to time to confirm that it is really happening. Next summer we hope to sail the boat from Turkey back to Spain via a different route, and then next winter from Spain to The Caribbean Sea.
Nicole and I spent the first week on the boat cleaning and organizing. We had to re-raise the sails, treat and polish the chrome, wash down the dusty decks, set up all the safety equipment, have the engine overhauled after the winter, swap the filters on the water maker, restock supplies, and make the boat ship shape. We had very busy 10-12 hour days.
We should be used to it by now, but we are still amazed by the quality of the food (and it costs one third to half the price that we pay at home). The seafood is amazingly fresh, the produce is fantastic, the wine is far less expensive, and most of the dairy products are organic. Our boat mechanic arranged for us to tour a greenhouse in the region (this part of Spain produces much of the vegetables and fruits during the winter for all of Europe). During that trip, we received a whole box of the best tomatoes that we have ever tasted, with flavors that literally explode in your mouth. We have been finding new ways to eat tomatoes over the last 10 days.
They have a fantastic offer at local restaurants in this region of Spain (Almeria). Order a glass of wine or a beer and you get a tapa dish for free; tapas, like the rest of Spain, are typically a small plate appetizer. And a good glass of wine here doesn’t cost $6-10 US either—typically it will be about two Euros, which is $2.30 US. Along with all the boat preparation, we went out to eat tapas at least once per day to explore new recipes.
Last week was our planned departure from Almerimar, Spain. There was a front coming in with 30-35 knot winds, so we were trying to get out of Almerimar and get up the coast out of the way of the high winds that can last a week or more, essentially trapping us in port.
We took off early from Almerimar as planned. The forecast was for 15-20 knot wind on our nose, but instead we ended up with 25-30 knot winds start the day and it was a bit pounding, with 1-2 meter seas, not quite what we were hoping for our first day back after six months on land. The boat performed very nicely. We sailed for 11 hours to get far ahead of the coming high winds in the straight, and the next morning we had sunny skies, a trace of breeze, and were moored in a pretty fishing port with fantastic food, called Garrucha.
We spent a couple days in Garrucha riding our bicycles, shopping, and getting some rest. Many restaurants in the town were having a special competition (Who has the best tapa?). Order a glass of wine or a beer, and get a tapa to go with the beverage for 3 Euros, about $3.40 US. I love these wonderful food and drink deals. We floated from restaurant to restaurant, trying various specials.
Then we sailed on to Cartagena. Again, we were expecting 15-20 knots, and we ended up with 25-30+ knot winds with 2-meter seas, this time, fortunately the wind was behind us. The boat performed beautifully, and because we were sailing downwind (actually surfing hitting 9-10 knots), it wasn’t pounding. We were very happy to sail into the harbor and tie up to the dock for the evening.
Cartagena is a beautiful city with inspiring architecture, although it has also been the most touristy city we have visited by boat in Spain, as cruise ships also stop here. We really enjoyed seeing the ancient Roman theatre in the city center, and shopping at the city market here in Cartagena—it is loaded with amazing food options.
We will be spending 3-4 days enjoying the city before we continue north. We’ve picked a couple of days when the wind should be calmer (we are hoping for 8-15 knots this time), so we’ll see.
I feel blessed to be on this adventure and look forward to sharing health tips and recipes with you along the way. I hope that you have a dream trip planned sometime in your future and that someday you’ll make sure it happens.
I wish you the best of health!
Steven Masley, MD, FAHA, FACN, FAAFP, CNS
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