| |Charter editor Elaine Lembo enjoys the sunset on the downwind run back to the base.|
To close that annoying fetch that reaches from January to the Summer Solstice in New England, I planned a two-week trip of jam-packed adventure in Spain with a dear friend I met years ago, when I worked as crew on charter boats in the British Virgin Islands.
Indeed, after just a day, Veronica Champion and I indulged our senses ’til we were nearly senseless. We’d plopped ourselves, along with about 10,000 other fun-loving souls, squat in the middle of Valencia’s annual Fallas celebration and its renown 2 p.m. kickoff fireworks, called mascleta, at the Plaza del Ayuntamiento. At first, I struggled with the notion of choreographed booms and flares rendering a packed city square into a dust storm of gunpowder and heat (it was in the mid 70s), not to mention the party hearty atmosphere invoked by teeming crowds young and old casually munching potato chips and sunflower seeds while they swill beer, wine, mojitos, you-name-it. But then Veronica and I just let go and went with it, and we had a blast (pun intended).
| |The Ninots of Fallas in Valencia, Spain, whether genie or pirate, are known the world over.|
Once the mascleta was over, we regrouped, fortified ourselves with sangria and tapas, then ventured back out into the streets with the rest of the crowds. There we found elaborately costumed and bejeweled processions of young and old, musicians bursting into performance, and, the piece de resistance — the towering Ninots, colorful Disney-like papier mache sculptures whose characters make satirical social or political statement – at least, until they’re burned on the final night, the climax of Fallas.
While travelling, knowing when you’ve had your fill of a good thing is key. After walking off the jet lag (Veronica had flown in from her job running the restaurants at the international military base on the atoll of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean), getting a good night’s sleep, then spending a morning visiting the city market and La Lonja, a former silk factory that is now a stately UNESCO heritage site, we hightailed it out of Valencia and headed for Denia, on the coast.
| |Veronica Champion strolls the Alquila Vela docks; Castillo de Denia is in the background.|
I can’t imagine traveling anywhere that doesn’t include sailing, and given that Veronica has spent enough time on islands and boats herself, I figured she wouldn’t mind a bit of a busman’s holiday.
Thanks to the folks at Alquila Vela Charters, and some stunning coastal scenery from the Golden Triangle of Denia to Calple on Spain’s Costa del Sol, she couldn’t stop thanking me.
| |Guillermo Pons Oliver and Luis Hernandez maintain a fleet of more than 30 boats; here, they take in the view from the helm of Ocean’s Blue, a Lagoon 400 in their fleet.|
The brains behind this Spanish charter operation – Guillermo Pons Oliver, Maria Cisneros Cisneros, and Luis Fernandez – know a good opportunity when they see it. Having started the charter company a decade ago in Alicante, Guillermo responded to vacation sailors who wanted to be closer to the Balearic Islands and moved the mainland base to Denia, which is 50 miles and a bracing daysail from the small archipelago. Then he opened another base on Ibiza, one of the main islands in the Balearics group, and today, he, Maria, and Luis oversee a fleet of more than 30 boats, a mix of well-maintained monohulls and multihulls by Dufour, Bavaria, Jeanneau, and Beneteau. The average age of the fleet is three years and hulls are available for charter, management, and purchase.
| |We feasted on arroz negro paella.|
The bulk of the high-season business is focused on one- and two-week bareboat and skippered charters in the islands in summertime; shoulder season (specifically May and September) partial week itineraries from Denia feature a mix of lunchtime anchorages and overnight stays in either marinas or anchorages depending on the weather conditions and swell. On our brief charter aboard Ocean’s Blue, a Lagoon 400, we set out into the Golfo de Valencia, past the arid, rocky headlands of Cap de Sant Antoni and Cap de la Nau toward Moraira, where we stopped at a waterfront café for a lunch of traditional chicken and seafood paellas and a light Mantel Blanco. “So, do you like my office?” Guillermo asked. Si, indeed.
Alquila Vela caters to those who want and need the individual, conscientious attention a small company can offer, and we certainly fit into the category of those who needed the attention. After all, we weren’t experts on traveling Spain and neither of us is fluent in the language. But we weren’t going to let that stop us, and neither were they. Not only did they help us navigate the maze of air, train, and bus travel, they also gave us extensive tips on places, events, food and drink that were not to be missed, the lot of them quintessential to Spanish history and culture.
| |The cave at Cap de la Nau lures divers and fans of Stand Up Paddleboarding.|
“Just get your plane ticket and we’ll do the rest,” Luis told me when I called him. He means what he says: Fly in to either Alicante (known to sailors as the location of the start of the Volvo Ocean Race) or Valencia (Spain’s third largest city and host of the “authentic” Fallas festival), and Alquila Vela will arrange your pickup and transfer to Denia, if that’s your port of departure. Otherwise, fly to Ibiza, and the company will retrieve you and get you to the boat. Incentives, off-season discounts, sleep aboards and custom itineraries are available, so don’t hesitate to ask. The staff will also cater to inquiries about amenities such as nearby hotels, restaurants, hiking, and watersports activities. As a family friendly company, children are welcome aboard.
| |Ocean’s Blue heads back to the base at Denia.|
During our downwind sail back to Denia, Luis and Guillermo regaled us with more of the charms of this destination — the standup paddleboarding, the beaches and caves, the clear waters perfect for swimming, the lack of extreme tide and current, the pods of dolphins that greet your bow. By the end of the trip, what remained undiscovered, coupled with what we did experience – from the sailing to a night on the town and a lovely hotel stay — begs a return to the Golden Triangle.
For details about rates for partial and full term charters in shoulder and high seasons, as well as itineraries in the Golden Triangle and Balearics Islands, contact the company ([email protected], www.alquilavela.com).
Montgo Mountain Nature Park: trails, walking paths.
Castillo de Denia
El Raset Hotel: Pleasant upscale lodging steps away from the charter base on the Denia waterfront.
Casa Pepa: a delectable multi-course menu of regional delicacies and paired wines in a rural setting you won’t ever forget.