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.
Almeria also has an amazing Moorish Castillo,
which is the size of a park, complete with gardens, rills,
rivulets and fountains. Beautiful, but VERY windy at the top of the Castillo.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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.
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 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.