Part 2 – I came to live in Spain.
On passage from Vilamoura to Gib.
I called into the marina in Gib, to do some shopping, but Brit food stuff that was not available in Spain in those days such as Marmite and Coleman’s mustard. Next door to the supermarket was a sailing school office / yacht brokerage.
Do you know anyone who wants to swap and yacht for property.
Yes I do.
It turned out, he used to be the skipper of a large yacht, which spent the winter in the Caribbean and summer in the med. His wife had kicked him out for being an alcoholic, he wanted a base, so he had purchased an apartment in Marbella. Later a friend approached him and suggested that they started a yacht brokerage / sailing school in the new Marina Bay complex. Travel time from Marbella to Gib in those days was very slow, it was not practical to live in Marbella when working long hours in a new business in Gib, so he had rented a local flat, then I came along.
I took a day to think about it, which included seeking advice my Father who knew about buying property in Spain, having brought his first property in Mallorca in the early 60’s, he sold it when Palma airport was built and hordes of ‘common grockles’ arrived, his words not mine and brought up a decent size chunk of sparsely populated island, Ibiza.
My Fathers advice was, “If you must live on the Costas, Marbella is the place to do it”, he added “whatever you do, make sure you get the escritura”, yes Father. In te sixteen years I lived in the apartment, I never did get it.
After a week of negations which included a visit to the apartment, a deal was done, a private contract was drawn and I was now the owner of a property in Marbella.
I did mention the escritura and was told it would be forthcoming within a few days, then weeks, then months. In fact I was the sixteenth ‘occupier’ of the property, the escritura was in the name of the original owner who had since died, all ‘sales’ after the original were completed by private contract, a system used to avoid paying taxes, this practice has since cease. I benefited from it when I came to sell.
The broker did not want Morvoren, he just wanted to put her in the marina and sell her, however he did not even have to do this as I sold the yacht for him. As he had no interest in Morvoren, it meant I could sail her to Puerto Banus, take my tools and personal things off and drive them to the apartment ten minutes away. The yacht was sold in a ‘sail away’ condition.
A brit had arrived in the marina who was heading to Australia in a totally unsuitable yacht, he had realised it was on his way down from the UK. I suggested he purchased Morvoren, he did and the last I saw of Morvoren she was heading for the Canaries on her way to cross the Atlantic, I never heard from him or her again until the 12 January 2021 when I received a surprise message attached to this article from a person in the Republic of Palau, which is in Micronesia to the west of the Philippines. He purchased a yacht, some paint scraping revealed the name Morvoren of Kernow, he googled it which took him to this article. It is my old yacht which I last saw sailing from Gib bound for Australasia in the early 80’s. She was wrecked apparently, submerged for sometime and is now being restored.
I later received further news of Morvoren
“I managed to contact the people mentioned in the previous email, Patti and Mark Rojec, and here is their story:
“We bought the boat from a British man named John Smith. He was a widower and was fulfilling a dream of travel and sailing. I believe he was 72 in 1991 when we bought the boat from him. He arrived in Palau, and at the urging of his daughter decided it was time to give up single-handed sailing. He posted this note on the bulletin board of the Royal Belau Yacht Club (I don’t know if this organization or Abby’s restaurant still exist in Palau). We bought it from him for $30,000 to fulfill our own dream of travel and sailing. He stayed with us at our apartment after the sale, and we took him to the airport to fly to Australia to visit his daughter. We did not hear from him again. As you heard, purchasing the boat promptly ended my infertility, and we returned to the US to have our first child.
In the six months we were in Palau with her, Mark replaced the cabin sole with reused teak from Edna’s boat after a remodel they did. He replaced a rotted beam under the cabin floor. I sewed new covers for the settee cushions. We did a lot of cleaning. The boat was in a bit of disrepair. I remember all the sails smelling of diesel fuel.
The yacht was registered in Britain and was named Morvoren of Kernow. Morvoren is Celtic for mermaid, and Kernow is the Cornish name for Cornwall. There were wooden mermaids on the bow of the boat. Picture below. I will look for more pictures. Mark registered the boat with the US Coast Guard as “Dugong”. Dugong is the Palauan word for a manatee, and there is an old sailors legend that when sailors saw mermaids they were actually seeing manatees. The story became even more prophetic for us when I became pregnant. There is a Palauan legend about how dugongs came to from a pregnant woman jumping in to the ocean”
Morvoren in the Pacific
Back to Spain :-
309 CAROLINA PARK MARBELLA
Carolina Park was a garden complex of six blocks of low rise apartments maximum height allowed was three floors, they cheated the regulations by having attic apartments in the roof space. The apartments were mainly studio and one bedrooms, most aimed at holiday market. In my block at the end of two of the floors, there were double size studio plots with a large lounge dinner, kitchen, bedroom and two bathrooms. They were designed for permanent living.
309 was in good condition, it had had a new kitchen installed and marble flooring through out. The window two aircon did not function, so I made it a sale condition that they were repair. I got an electrician to give me a report saying they were unrepairable and an estimate for cheap replacement units, I was given the cash and purchased on good one. Later I modified the kitchen with an opening to the lounge with a breakfast bar. Had the windows replaced with double glazed patio doors.
Summer 1993, a song Macarena by Los Del Rio was being played everywhere, bars, markets, radio etc. It took a further year to get to Dubai and the Uk, where it was also popular, but not to the extent it was in Spain.
I used it for six weeks a year while I was working in Dubai After my marriage broke up I decided at some stage I wanted to live in Spain full time, but in the country, not Carolina Park, I tried for a year but the apartment was too small and I did not want to live on a holiday complex full time, I had lived in the county most of my life when not a sea.
I started looking inland Marbella, all way too expensive, I did not know how much I would get for 309, as it turned out a lot more than I thought I would, it being unique in that there were only about eight highly desirable similar properties on the complex.
To escape the crowds I used to take off for camping trips to Tarifa or inland to the mountains. One year I was staying at Cazorla national park an incredible beautiful area. I wanted to return to Marbella by a different route, looking t the map of Andalucia, I saw a large lake, I thought I would return that way taking in the Subbetica national park. The lake was Embalse de Iznajar, this was in about 1997. When looking I remembered this camping break and started looking in the area, I wanted some where with good communications, Iznajar had it, close to two airports and the major road network, in fact it was better in this respect to Marbella.
I had found the area, now all I had to do was find a house. I made a list of ‘must haves’ a sent it to a couple of local agents. The list included mains electricity and water, phone or mobile coverage, had to be located on a tarmac road, decent size living-room suitable for open plan living. It was to get. At the time I was driving a BMW Z3 2.2, hence the need for tarmac road, the Z3 was shortly replaced with a Landrover Defender D90 Tomb Raider, a totally unreliable car, replaced with a Volvo Cross Country as soon as the three year warranty coverage ended. It did take me to Morocco on mainly off-road camping expeditions, without breaking down.
The agents arranged views, I got there a day early in order to explore Iznajar and the area. It seemed to be pleasant and had all I need in a town, one thing I could not understands but was ok with, was the lack of foreigners and motor vehicles registered outside Spain, this was before the “have £15,000, then buy a house in Spain and do it up“ TV programmes, the result of this being 100’s of people purchased, unregistered county properties, which could never get planning permission for a reform, which later they could not sell. Most seemed to have left their brains at Malaga Airport and were under the impression that they could do what the wanted to their newly purchased properties without planning permission or any other sort of permission, they could not do it in their own countries, so why should Spain be different, this had not occurred to them.
I quickly found out that anyone can set themselves up as house agents, without any qualifications, or knowledge of the country and its property laws. The two agents I had contacted fell into this category. They just wanted a sell, the properties I was shown, had none or few of my ‘must haves’ instead I was told that, “the thrashing circle would make a nice swimming pool”, “I do not want a pool, where is the water supply? Can I see some documentation showing that the property has been registered”, this request resulted in puzzled expressions from the ‘agents’. It was a case of the properties having been ‘sold’ by private contract by a member of a large family, who jointly owned it (some of which were deceased), little or no chance of all members the family agreeing to the sale, mean no chance of getting it registered to a single owner. After the hassle with 309, I wanted a property that was fully registered, where the registration could be transferred to me without a problem.
I was about to give up when I found an agent that was different, she was Irish, had lived in Spain many years, her Spanish partner was a corredor, a property broker, the person you went to see when your were thinking of selling your property, they never accepted a property that wasn’t fully registered. She sent me details of two properties close to Iznajar, the photos showed they were worth viewing. The first wasn’t, nice setting in a valley with a stream running through it. The house was newish about sixty years old, poorly constructed, six brick pillars with the holy bricks (bricks with holes in them, not blessed ones) filling in the gaps between. Cold in winter, hot during summer. The outlook from the front terrace should have been a view across the small valley, but was of animal houses. I said it was unsuitable, “let’s view the other house”, she replied, that “I would not like it, no one does”, I said that judging by the description its close, so let’s go.
MOLINO DE GATA
Molino = mill : Gata = a female cat, also the name of the steam running through the valley.
The property was an ex flour mill / bakery / farm / winery with the owners cottage attached, plus a whole lot of land, olive trees, small vineyard and varies fruit and nut trees, (almond and walnut).
The cottage followed the standard Andalusian format of living-room with animals on the floor above. Extensions had been added at each end giving a bedroom at one end and kitchen plus dining / tv room at the other end. There was no bathroom in spite of a large family having lived there for over fifty years. Originally a trough outside was filled with water, then mains water and electricity arrived. Going back years a stream fed into a mill pond at the rear of the cottage, this powered the water wheel down below in the mill itself, when they wanted to mill, a sluice gate was opened allowing water to flow down to the water wheel. The steam ceased to exist and mill was powered at first by a Petter diesel, then by 400v three phase electricity. There were two supply 400v for the mill and 220v for the house. A water butt provided water for the kitchen this was topped up each day by a hose. One of the first things I did was to put a ball cock on the supply.
After looking at the cottage and definitely turning it down, I went down to the mill. It comprised of two large rooms. A floor had been added above the largest of the two rooms, this provided three bedrooms for the daughter and her family. Above the other room was a large ham curing room and the daughter’s sitting room. At the far end of the smaller of the two rooms, was a huge built in wood powered community oven, supplying bread and baking facilities for the local area. A bathroom was attached. The mill was in a terrible state, rain water was pouring down the walls, electric wiring hanging everywhere, several walls near too collapsing. I told the agent no way, “I told you so. No one wants with that mill and it cannot be legally separated from the house”.
I set off back to Marbella, half way there it occurred to me, I was getting two homes for the price of one and that I could live in the cottage while the mill was being converted into my home. I stopped phoned the agent to tell here to contact the owners to tell them I would return the following day, told her there was no need for her to attend as I had enough Spanish to talk to the wife, the husband spoke broad Andaluz and was incomprehensible to me. The next day the first thing I wanted to see was the documentation, it was registered, to the lady who had been the sole owner for over fifty years. Lots of local properties of this type and age, ‘belonged’ to several family members, all transfers by private contract. To get the property fully registered all parties had to agree, making it impossible to register in most cases. Foreigners came along to purchase, they were shown an escritura with no registration endorsements, by the agent who informed them that this was the ‘deeds’. They went ahead and purchased. No ‘search’ had been carried out. Most were unaware of an ownership problem until they came to sell. Times had changed, private contracts were out, fully registered properties were in. Private contracts do have their advantages though, as I never legally owned 309, I did not have to pay taxes on the sale. The escritura was transferred from the original deceased owner to the person I ‘sold’ it too.
After sighting the documentation, I went down the mill with camera, notebook and tape measure. The owners could not understand why I was spending so much time there and little in their “desirable cottage” where they had lived for such a long time. I agreed to purchased and not following the most important piece of advice, asked them if they knew a solicitor we could share, they did, and that she would follow all of advice we gave her. It actually worked out very well, as I intended to change the mill from an industrial established to a dwelling place, I had them insert antes (before) every time the word molino was mentioned in the escritura, this was the accepted. Their only stipulation was that they wanted to be paid in cash. So I had agreed to buy a property, with little money in the bank and 309 to sell.
I approached Carolina’s Community President’s wife and explained I wanted to sell, could they find me a buyer. I was informed that they had a waiting list for my type of apartment, I explained that the escritura was not in my name, no problem they would ‘fix it’, her husband had ‘connections’ in the town hall, this resulted in 309 being sold by the original deceased owner to the person I ‘sold’ it to. As I had never owned the property, I did not have to pay taxes on the sale. Although I had been paying all the community charges and my share of a new roof. So the deal was done, I contacted the owner of mill and asked her to set up meetings with a lawyer and notary, as I was returning with the cash.
Money quite a lot of it, was collected from my bank in 50’s and from the buyers in 100/200’s this was done in back rooms. I walked the kilometre back to my car carrying my life savings in two supermarket carrier bags.
Back in Iznajar at the notary’s office, a contact was signed, I was presented with a cheque to sign for half the agreed price, which was duly notarized. Later at lawyers, I handed over the two carrier bags with the full amount and the cheque was destroyed. Hand over dates were agreed upon for 309 and the Molino, by which time both properties would be legally owned any their respective new owners. The price I got for 309, was the exact cost of the mill. The mill being referred to as being in pesetas, as was the custom at the time.
I MOVE TO IZNAJAR
Three week before the moved, using the local English newspaper I booked a British owned removal company, mistake! two weeks before I asked for confirmation and got it, a week before and subsequent days, no reply. They had given me a quote which seemed to be low, my guess is that they looked the location of the mill and cancelled the move without bothering to inform me. Using Yellow Pages I managed to find a local (Costa del Sol) company who would do it with only two days to go. The day of the move it rained and did not stop for a week. I explain that there was a strong possibility the Landrover would not make the 90 minute journey, I said if it didn’t, I would dump it and hire a car and join them for the last bit of the trip, this is what happened. My processions were packed into three lots. The mill :- furniture unit dissembled and fridge freezer, Cottage :- what I needed to live on. The garage :- the rest, plus my Triumph Bonneville bike.
The rain carried on non stop. My spirit were low, I sat down for breakfast, sawdust fell onto my Cornflakes, every beam in the kitchen was completely rotten the floor separating the kitchen from the animal space above, was eventually replaces. Beams throughout both properties had all been affected to varying degrees. I could hear the beetles chomping away. I went down the outside bathroom adjacent to the mills entrance door, it was fully equipped, toilet, bath, basin, bidet. I had a number two and flushed, there was a noise outside the bathroom window, looked out and there it was lying next to the washing machine outlet, toilet matter was washed away into the stream, each time she did the laundry. No cesspit or septic tank. I then went into the mill looked at the beams, my knife sunk into them, very little pressure was needed.
I went back up to the cottage I was very ‘down’, I had given up nice comfortable flat for this! I decided I would do the minimum amount of work and sell. That was in 2001, I am still here. The sun came out, I drove the bike into Iznajar, and people to be very friendly, I was a rarity a foreigner, people were just curious as to what I was doing in their village, not being nosey just curious, They all knew the mill, big place so expected to have a big family; no just me. I went to the post office asked if there was a MAFRE agent in town, as I wanted to transfer my house insurance. The postmaster locked up the postoffice and took me to see him, we had a coffee and chat before he returned to open up the postoffice. After the incident I decided to stay.