Ceuta to Mallorca Part 2

Costa Blanca coast line
Costa Blanca coast line

Saturday,  9th April brought more gentle weather and winds so we set off for Benalmadena for a second time in rather less fraught circumstances than before.  The winds were so pleasant and light that I was able to cook coq au vin en route!

Predictably, by the time we arrived in the enormous marina the wind had picked up to a healthy 20 knots however, we managed to park on the waiting pontoon without incident.  Half an hour later we were squeezing into the smallest space between two motor cruisers, juggling fenders on either side.

What a strange marina.  It is an enormous basin within which are islands with apartment blocks topped with turrets and rounded edges, covered in twinkling tiles and bits of broken mirror; with arching road bridges so that cars can drive directly into the garage areas underneath.  It’s very Disneyesque!  It does mean that just to walk out of the marina onto the main road for banks, supermarkets and so on takes about 25 minutes.

Similarly, a walk to the Capitania’s office takes about 20 minutes so when I went to pay I was dismayed to hear that I had to go back to the boat to retrieve the receipt for the key in order to be given my €20 deposit back.  It’s all good exercise.

We set off to Caleta de Valez.

The minute we rounded the breakwater the wind was strong.  The shelter of the marina giving the impression that it was a calm windless day.  Sneaky! The waves soon got up and we had three reefs in the sail again. This time the wind didn’t abate and as we neared the marina we came across an unmarked fish farm ahead, which we just managed to avoid.  The height of the waves making it difficult to see the yellow buoys marking the four corners of the farm.

I can explain the strength of the wind at this point by telling you that there were wind surfers everywhere!  One of whom found himself on the wrong side of us!  Luckily, he was able to steer away.  I was on the helm as Ian pulled down the last bit of mainsail, and I had no idea what to do to avoid him!  Phew!  Next thing..how to get into the marina with a very strong following wind and no clear idea of where we were to go.

After a few shouts down the radio and incomprehensible responses because of static, we saw a man in hi-viz waving at us.  We parked up at 1715 in gusting winds, bows to on a pontoon near the boat yard.   Fantastic.  By 1815 all the wind had completely disappeared! Typical.

So, trundled off to the showers and thence to a bar for a drink and wifi and sat there catching up with the world whilst gradually becoming more and more aware of the unpleasant conversation unfolding between four Brits behind us in the bar.  The content of their conversation became more vulgar, graphic and inappropriate and finally Ian, in his own inimitable style, called across to them to ask them to stop.

One of the men thought that Ian was threatening them and suggesting a fight.  He made as if to stand up but his friends pulled him back into his seat and calmed him down.  However, minutes later he was up and out of his seat and moving towards Ian with his fist drawn back.  I grabbed his sleeve to stop him punching and his friends, two Spanish men, and the bar tender were all trying to hold him down.  Ian’s woolly jumper had a huge hole pulled right out of it. It was all very horrid.

As the man was dragged away by his friends, disappeared into the early evening night shouting about how he was going to kill Ian 

Minutes later, the friends came back and said that they had put the man on his boat and that he was fast asleep.  They explained that he was ex SAS soldier who had fought in Iraq.  Further, it transpired that he had been given an antidote to Anthrax, which was a biological weapon that was thought to be in use in Iraq.  This antidote had caused great problems with the psychological and bodily health of the soldiers.  Even now, this man was having monthly blood transfusions and psychological counselling to help him.  The cocktail of drugs that keep him alive and relatively functional can cause great disturbances in the delicate chemical balances in his brain when mixed with alcohol!  Great!  We just happened to be on the receiving end of his complete lack of inhibitions and his excessive aggression.

We left Caleta as soon as we could; firstly to be sure we didn’t bump in to Crazy SAS Man and secondly because a pneumatic drill had started up in the boat yard next to us.  After a brief altercation with a lazy line of the boat next to us, we were clear and setting off by motor as the wind was non-existent.  All the upset of the night before disappeared as we saw loads of dolphins near one of the fish farms.

Soon, the headland of Marina del Este came into view.  We were given a bottle of wine on arrival at the waiting pontoon, which slightly softened the blow of having to re-park. We had another snagging of a lazy line on the way in but the calm and relaxed assistance of the Brit on the yacht next door made it bearable.

We met up with our Dutch friends from Ceuta on their boat Skadi for a quick drink, which was nice, and then the next day had a visit from Pim, the previous owner.  He was in the area looking at flats to rent and very kindly offered to come over to answer our queries about the boat now that we had sailed her a bit.

Later, we walked, the long way round to Herradera the nearest town, where we saw at least thirty para-gliders
bobbing about above the headland.  The marina and its setting is certainly the prettiest we have stayed in, with cute little white apartments gathered all around the edge and a huge limestone outcrop protecting the seaward side.

We left Marina del Este at 1000 in light winds and swapped the Genoa for Genevieve, the large genaker sail, which is about as big as a tennis court.  With the wind behind us it is a fantastic sail to push us along quickly in light winds.  However, we should have realised that the winds would only get stronger. Having run through a verbal ‘what would I do if Ian fell off now’  scenario, I tried to pull down Genevieve’s snuffer myself from the front deck.  In the strong winds that had built up, this is like trying to pull a narrow tube over a plate.  The power in the sail is massive.  At the point when my entire weight was being lifted up of the deck, I decided I just didn’t have the strength!

So, Genevieve has gone away in her cupboard; only to be used in LIGHT winds.

Arrived in Almerimar in 23 knots of wind from the SW so surfed into the marina!   Parked in a quiet and windless corner only a few boats away from our Dutch friends on Skadi.

Had a day in this massive marina for shopping and chandlery.  Ian spent €75 on a bow fender which took the both of us two hours to fit!

On Friday 15 April we set off for Aguadulce.  The winds were wonderfully light in the morning so we tried a little fishing and within five minutes had caught our first fish.  A spiked little orange thing with a wide mouth!  I unhooked it from the rusty hook, and threw it back in and then I dropped the lead weight and hooks back in to the water.  Unfortunately, Ian had only a lot hold of the fishing line and the swivel stick.  So the whole lot was pulled out of his hand and plunged down into the sea below!

I cracked on with jobs and covered three fenders with neat and tidy fender socks.  Ian did some polishing.  See my other blog regarding ‘Routine’.

Soon after this incident, the winds picked up from a nice 10 knots to 20+ knots.  We arrived in Aguadulce and had a bump with the fuel jetty putting a bit of a dent in Linea’s side and stretching the top guard rail.  Oops!

Nice and safe in Aguadulce, and after phone calls to Andrew Lowrey and a lovely chat, it seems unlikely that we will be able to get together this time.  So we caught the bus to Almeria and visited the most fantastic municipal market.  There were polished vegetables and fruit, hams, olives and fish.  It was an absolute education watching the fishmongers, fillet, de-scale and de-bone the fish.  There were astonishing displays of sword fish swords, whole tuna and massive lobsters, langoustines and prawns and glistening examples of every kind of edible fish.

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Moorish arrow slit

Almeria also has an amazing Moorish Castillo, 

Castello Almeria
Castello Almeria

which is the size of a park, complete with gardens, rills,

rivulets and fountains.  Beautiful, but VERY windy at the top of the Castillo.

Castello Almeria
Castello Almeria
Castello Almeria
Castello Almeria

After our sightseeing day we departed fairly promptly for a big sail to Garrucha.  With decent winds predicted we were sure we could make it.

Goosewing
Goosewing

We put the second reef in the mainsail and with the wind right behind us we sailed on a perfect run with the sails goose winged.

Garucha
Garucha

Garrucha is a commercial port and has the most enormous breakwater surrounding its Northern and Eastern extremities.  It can shelter the huge cargo ships that come in to load up with enormous quantities of concrete, sand and gravel.  There are around 60 lorries an hour delivering quarry loads of stuff to an area at the end of the breakwater.  A team of ten man-sized diggers scoop the stuff on to conveyor belts that pour the piles into the holds of the ships.  Gradually, the water line creeps up the sides of the ship and they are not so towering after all.

Anyway, I digress, as Ronnie Corbett would have said.   This particular day the waves were crashing against the breakwater and spikes of water were firing right over the top and jabbing into the piles of stone.  I imagine that the wall must have been four, or even five stories tall. It dwarfed the lorries as they beetled back and forth along the road towards the loading area.  And yet the sea was so big that waves were crashing up against it and coming right over!

We left Linea in her sheltered position and took a trip to a little hilltop town down the coast.  Mojocar. 

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Old circular tree canopy in the square at Mojocar
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The view from Mojocar

We jumped on a bus but it was only going to the beach.  We walked back to another bus stop and found the right us to take us up. To the top of the peak…Mojocar.  Hmmmm a funny kind of place and most definitely a tourist attraction.   But why?  A beautiful ancient tree, a church, a statue, a peak with views, narrow streets, but other than that, not a great deal.

We took a bus back down and walked along the front, with waves crashing to our right, back to the marina.

After a day of jobs, we set sail again, this time to Cartegena. 

Cartagena
Cartagena

Another big day’s sailing heading for Yacht Port Cartegena. The entrance was most confusing; we were directed by the Guardia Civil, in their motor boat,  as to the correct course to take to enter the harbour.  It appears that the cruise liner pier is being extended and the preparatory work is to drop tonnes of rock and debris in the harbour.   Unfortunately, it is not clearly marked off and we skimmed the very edge of it!  How pleased was I to have completed 49 miles and parked up in strong winds, next door but one to Skadi!  I needed that hug from Peter and Annelies!

More culture was to be had in Cartegena. We visited the superb museum of Sub Aquatic Archeology and then walked around the city and up to the castle.  It is the most amazing collection of eras. 

Moorish, Roman, Christian.  There is an incredible amphitheatre,

Amphitheater Cartagena
Amphitheater Cartagena

a bull ring (being renovated), and loads of fantastic buildings in the historic centre. There is much clever and considerate renovation going on, where the facades of numerous houses have been preserved and the building that used to support it is about to be replaced with a modern equivalent.

It’s probably a city to visit In another five to ten years.  They are on a mission.  The museums are interactive and impressive. No expense has been spared in the presentation of artifacts and information.  The centre is compact and attractive.  The views are amazing.  The history, incredible.  You can imagine the hive of activity that there must have been years ago when Cartegena was the hub of commercial activity of ships from all over the world and also an important port of refuge for war ships.

We left Cartegena for Santa Pola, Marina de las Salinas.

We had to motor today as there was virtually no wind.  We arrived and as directed in the Pilot Guide and we headed for ‘the cheaper of the two marinas’.  Where we paid €50 (!) including electricity, water, wifi and car parking space!  Oh, and the added privilege of being directly under the flight path of the local airport. Ouch!

After leaving San Pedro we headed further north to Altea, our final stop on the Spanish mainland  We knew that if was a fair way and that if we got there today we would have two days to provision and do jobs before David Heane’s arrival on the Monday.

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God’s fingers at sunset near Altea

So,  we decided to crack on which meant another night sail.  We passed Benidorm and noted the high rise skyline, reminiscent of Hong Kong.  We managed to clear the headland to Altea Bay as the sun went down so we could see where we were heading.  Our French friends on Moriannee were anchored in the bay….we contemplated a drive by… briefly.

We motored straight to the marina by now in pitch dark.  We radio-ed in and asked for a berth.  We were allocated P12.  Which is fine, if you know where P12 is.  By now, the wind had completely dropped so we were able to hover until we saw a man waving a torch.  We headed to that spot and parked up bows to.  We were handed lines to attach and a lazy line to fix the stern: Proper!

Altea
Altea
Altea blue roof's
Blue tiled roof tops in Altea

Altea is pretty; narrow streets, hills, churches with blue tiled rooves, quaint squares, stunning sea views, a long promenade, yellow beach and cute shops.  Well worth a wander round the steep and narrow streets of the historic centre.

So glad we are here for a few days of jobs and recuperation before the next big leg to Ibiza and Mallorca.

Ceuta to Mallorca Part 1

Aiming to arrive in Mallorca by the end of April to meet up with friends from Yorkshire we began our journey of some 600 miles by setting out from Ceuta.

Ceuta
Ceuta

We waved goodbye to new friends, Peter and Annelies on Skadi and Elio and Maria on Sela and headed back out across the traffic separation zone towards the East coast of Gibraltar, and the Mediterranean proper.  The wind was strong so we reefed in the mainsail and veritably whizzed across.  No dolphins this time.

Skadi scoots past-us
Skadi scoots past-us

We were overtaken by Skadi who were trying out their new ‘laminated’ sails.  Very fast.

We arrived in Estepona and since Peter and Annalies were anchoring, we figured we should try that too!  So we dropped the pointy heavy thing off the bow and spent a night bobbing around on the swell in the bay.  Ian had his new App working which tracks your movements on the anchor during the night and sets off an alarm if you start to move away from the anchor.  The App is wittily called “Drag Queen” and in her capable arms we had a fairly peaceful,  if rolly, night.

Keira & Ian
Keira & Ian

Next day, we set off to Marbella and found a nice marina to the Eastern side of the town where we encountered a Harrier hawk in town to scare off seagulls reducing bird poo on the sails. After a circuit of the marina she perched on our boom, and left a present.

Scaring seagulls
Scaring seagulls

We were able to enjoy a long walk down the promenade, people watching and then wandered up into the delightful historic centre to make our way through narrow and attractive lanes to find The Farm Restaurant which is owned and run by the people we had met in Ceuta.

The Farm,Marbella
The Farm,Marbella

Elio and Maria were most welcoming considering we had only met up briefly on the pontoon a couple of days before.  We shared a bottle of wine and had a platter of delicious cheeses and meat for our supper.  The restaurant was simply beautiful, with a secret garden at the side and tables set on the pavement square out front, as well as a lovely room inside.  If you are ever in Marbella, I can recommend it.

Marbella
Marbella

The following morning we were up early to take Keira to the bus station to catch a bus to Malaga airport for her flight home. We shall miss having her aboard.

Determined to try and find some wifi for weather reports and other vital communications we set off to a little restaurant we’d used the day before.  Somehow, between us, we managed to leave our wallet on the wall outside.  On returning there ten minutes later, it, and all its contents, had disappeared. So, the next hour was spent phoning round to cancel cards.  Not only was there our credit card and cash card there were our newly arrived EHIC cards and Cruising Association membership cards!  Very annoying.

So we were even more down in the dumps after that.

We decided to set off to Benalmadena for a change of scene and a change in fortune.  After a few hairy moments when currents and wind were pushing us towards the huge concrete pontoon we set off relatively smoothly.  By the time we rounded the renowned Cabo Pino at the half way point the winds were quite ferocious.  Gusting up to 30 knots.  The direction of the wind (NE) would mean an uncomfortable beat into the wind for the last leg.  Fuengirola, the nearest post of call, is more difficult to enter on a strong NE wind. Not being sure really sure how the weather was going to develop we decided to turn back.  We zoomed into Marbella for a second time on strong winds.

This time we parked bows to to make getting on and off easier.  We have also learnt that it is important to prepare strong lines for whatever the weather might throw at you.  Everything tidy and sorted BEFORE the beers come out!   And that there are simple preparations to do in port prior to leaving that make things a lot less hairy than trying to do them in 30 knots of wind!

Lots of lessons learnt.