Almerimar revisited

We stayed anchored in Cala San Pedro for two nights, John spent the intervening day getting further with the installation of the pod on the binnacle which houses the new forward looking sonar. I got on with an inventory of the food under the starboard saloon berth. To be honest I have not got very far. A catamaran called Durango hastily pulled up their ARC flag when we anchored not far from them. Ours is looking a bit faded, theirs was pristine! We had yet another cracking sail, this time from Cala San Pedro to Almerimar, only taking the mainsail down just before the entrance channel. We spent three nights here, enabling John to complete the installation of the instruments on the pod. We now have an Autohelm steering compass, a working forward looking sonar and a repositioned command mike for the VHF radio. Additionally, John has now connected the speakers on the mast to the radio so we now have a loud hailer! I did a mountain of washing and made several visits to the excellent Mercadona supermarket. We nearly didn't leave on Tuesday morning, or at least we nearly went back. There was a horrendous swell from a little south of west but very little wind. Where were we heading? You guessed right, a little south of west. At times the boat struggled to motor at 2 knots. We did the sensible thing, other than turning back that is, and altered course a little north of west and made for the anchorage off Castell de Ferro. The worst of the white crested swell didn't creep round the headland and we had a fairly comfortable night. The stop off Castell de Ferro, only about 35 miles from Almerimar, means that the trip to Gibraltar will take three days but who cares? The next destination should be the marina at Benalmadena, just south of the fleshpots of Torremolinos. Again, we set off in little wind but on the nose and less swell than yesterday. The wind built but the swell didn't so we arrived just before 8.00 p.m. We thought about anchoring but the swell put paid to any such parsimonious thought. Benalmadena is the most expensive marina we have stayed in this trip, €54 per night. Tomorrow we should get to Gibraltar, hopefully the one can of diesel together with what is in the tank will be enough to get us there. As John pointed out, €1.44 here or 80p in Gib? We'll hope to sail but the forecast is for less than 10 knots but we'll see! Roll on the reliable (?) trade winds.

To or Towards? That is the question. 12/9/2013

At the top of the page of the ship's log there are two spaces, one titled From: the other Towards: this does give cause for thought. We know where we are leaving from, no problem, but how far can we travel? No wind means you can motor straight towards your intended destination but you might not reach it in time because an adverse current or unfriendly swell might reduce your average speed. Lots of wind, good for sailing, might also be from the one direction you don't want and this together with current can seriously hamper your progress. Sea conditions might change making a different destination better than your first choice. So far we have had to change plans because of each of the above examples. Today we had something completely different throw a spanner in the works! We left Cartagena at 0900 as planned, heading 'towards' Cala San Pedro. About an hour and a half out a Spanish warship announced exercises in a radius of 8.5 miles around a certain position, and that all vessels should keep clear. We were just outside the circle but our intended track would have taken us almost straight through the middle so we had to change course to skirt around the outside. This also meant that the weak wind which was helping us would come from dead astern, causing the genoa to keep collapsing and slowing us. Today we were lucky. Once past the exclusion zone and on a direct course the wind veered and picked up a bit and we rocketed on towards our intended destination. We arrived in the isolated, interesting Cala San Pedro at 1830, early enough to be able to spot a sandy patch to drop the anchor. On the way we had one worrying episode. I was in the galley pouring some squash, John came down to get a cable for the i-pad. I was aware that the boat had heeled gently in the other direction then there was a clatter from the headsail and John leapt on deck and grabbed the wheel. Starblazer was sailing in a circle! When I looked at the autopilot control there was no data, ditto on all the other Autohelm instruments. Not unnaturally, I jumped to the conclusion that we had lost them. John then calmly said: "I must have knocked the switch off when I got the cable." How I wish all equipment failures and misbehaviour were that easy to sort out!

Cartagena 12/09/2013

What a wonderful, interesting, historic town it is! Four years ago we missed it because the new marina was for superyachts and the yacht club allegedly had few spare moorings. This time we were encouraged by the experience of our friends on Nina. The superyacht marina is now welcoming to all, but it is Med style mooring. The yacht club has few spare berths however there is now another marina, Yacht Port Cartagena, which is reasonably priced, has good security and finger pontoons! The washrooms leave a bit to be desired but the new toilet block is nearing completion and looks good. Just outside the gate to the marina is the underwater archaeology museum. We spent a fascinating couple of hours there learning a lot about the maritime history of the area. The highlight of the museum is the replica phoenician ship which was discovered in Mazzaron bay, not far from Cartagena. Many of the interactive displays describe how wrecks are found, surveyed, protected on the seabed and eventually lifted and preserved ashore like the Mary Rose. There is also a large display of the artefacts which have been found in various wrecks from different eras. From the museum we entered the walled area of the town and stumbled upon the Roman theatre, it took a while to discover the entrance a block away. The Roman remains had been buried over time and built upon. The theatre was discovered by accident in 1988 when they were digging foundations for a building on the site of an existing grand house. Excavations were completed in 2003. They have replaced missing stonework in places and rebuilt columns but it doesn't detract from the spectacle, especially when you see ancient carved tops of columns set into the ground after the theatre fell into disuse and became a market place with small shops. From the entrance you follow a passage under a road and under a derelict church which was also built on top of part of the theatre. It is truly amazing. Not far away we found the Roman baths, Atrium building and site of the Forum. The visitor centre has only been open a since 2012, the area having been excavated in 2008-9. There is clearly a lot still to be excavated between these buildings and the Molinete Hill which has been laid out as an archaeological park. Slightly younger than these remains is the Castillo de la Concepcion right at the top of a hill overlooking the harbour, 230 ft high. Somewhat foot weary we were glad to find a lift up to the top, until we saw it! I don't like lifts and John isn't keen on high level walkways. The lift looked like a tower crane with a jib hanging over a void to the lower walls of the castle. Actually I felt fine, possibly because it was described as a panoramic lift with excellent views all around. The walkway to solid land was a little worrying but we made it! The castle was built by the Moors in the 12th and 13th centuries then extended and altered through the centuries until it was abandoned in the 18th century. It was developed as a tourist attraction and opened in 2003. Again, it is an interesting historical display. Lest you think Cartagena is all dusty ruins there are many beautiful Baroque buildings as well as modern ones. The streets are a mixture of ancient narrow passages and broad avenues. It really is an interesting town to visit. Photos will follow once we get a wi-fi connection.

Starblazer is on the move again 11/09/2013

Our ten day stay in Torrevieja stretched to fifteen, mainly because the forecast was for rain or thunderstorms. No, we don't mind a bit of rain but we would prefer to do our sightseeing in the dry so we spent the time doing jobs. The trip home was useful (shopping!), the wedding lovely, meeting up with friends and family really great but now we must continue our journey westwards. On the jobs front, we started with a lift-out and high pressure wash off. The hull cleaned quite nicely. We also had the propeller greased as it had been sticky, John provided the grease gun, grease and knowledge but a mariniero had to do the work! Back on our mooring, we got on with more jobs. The wheel now has a smart new grey leather cover but I must relearn how to tie a turks head knot at the top. The audit of stores in the foreward cabin is complete, now I have a record of how much of what is in which locker. Two replacement wind display units have been installed as has a new engine room fan; the old one expired three days before we returned to the U K giving us time to get one ordered and delivered to Cathy and Jamie before our return to Spain. John installed the transducer for the forward looking echo sounder and has mounted the instrument pod on the binnacle but nothing is connected up yet. Finally, John has polished some of the stainless steel of the arch and the bimini frame while I washed the bimini and the cockpit cushion covers. We still need to spray the waterproofing stuff on the bimini because it leaks like a sieve! I supposed an accurate description of a bimini is a parasol, not an umbrella. We finally cast off from Marina Salinas in Torrevieja Tuesday morning for a boring motor to Cartagena. At least it didn't rain. More soon.

Return to the mainland 26th August

This time we decided to avoid an overnight trip by heading due west from Formentera to make a landfall between Calpe and Denia. Our original thought was to aim for Calpe but the wind came up and with it the swell. We had a cracking sail for nearly six hours averaging nearly seven knots. The only anchorage which would not be subject to swell from south or southeast was Cala Sardinera, a few miles south of Javea. It is a very popular Cala, with lots of mooring buoys well inshore for the many smallish motor boats that come here for the day. It is overcast today but at least 30 buoys are occupied and some boats are anchored but overnight there were only four yachts here. We have now lost two glasses overboard. The first one, a glass of gin and tonic, fell off the coaming when the boat was hit by a severe gust at anchor in Cala Egos, I heard it hit the deck, John found the slice of lemon but there was no sign of the glass. It must have bounced over the toe rail, an upstand of about three inches. Yesterday evening John lost his whiskey and acrylic wine glass. This time he knocked it off the coaming with the same result! He did threaten to dive for it this morning but the many jellyfish rather put him off. Can't say I blame him. Confusingly Javea is also spelt Xabia in some places for example the port buildings! It's quite a sprawling built up area with a harbour and marina at the northern end, a two and a half mile dinghy ride from the anchorage. We tied up in the marina to visit the Vodafone shop to buy more data and minutes for John's PAYG sim for the i-pad. Their Internet connection was down so they couldn't recharge the sim. We found a small supermarket and bought some salad and cheese then returned to a nearly empty anchorage. Saturday we moved on to Calpe, hidden behind the amazing Penon de Ifach. The anchorage stretches about two miles but the most sheltered area is close to the harbour. It was quite full when we arrived so we dropped the hook in about 10 metres in the swell. Once all the motorboats and most of the yachts had left we moved much closer to the sea wall for a far calmer night! There was only one other yacht there though another two had joined us by morning. The only rolly bit was when the fishing fleet left. The trip towards Alicante crossed the Greenwich meridian so we are now back in the western hemisphere. We had identified a reasonably sheltered anchorage a couple of miles north of Alicante, which would hopefully keep out most of the swell from the east. It was quite busy when we arrived but by 9.00 p.m. we were the only boat left. A peaceful night ensued. This stopover left us with just 25 miles to Torrevieja. Now we are getting ready to return home for a wedding. The boat is booked in for lift-out and high pressure hose to clean the hull. John also needs to grease the propeller as one of the blades is a bit sticky and doesn't always spin out to the correct position. The boatyard want to do the work (typical of Spanish boatyards) but John doubts they have the right connector. We'll have to wait and see what transpires. The prop is, after all, the main reason for getting a lift-out now rather than waiting until we reach the Canaries. In the last month, since leaving Torrevieja, we have covered 500 miles (plus a quite a few when the log stopped working), visited 4 islands, anchored in 15 bays and picked up moorings in 2 others. We have had a lovely time.

Ibiza? 22/08/2013

We left Cala Egos on Mallorca as planned, aiming for the east coast of Ibiza. We were rather surprised by the swell which was quite high and confused, quite unexpected given the general lack of wind to sail by! It was obvious that all the calas on the eastern coast would be open to the swell and rather uncomfortable. We decided to head for Formentera, playgound of the rich and famous, or so I am told. It also has shelter from swell from northeast round to southwest though not from any wind as we are anchored behind a narrow sand spit. Among the many very large motor yachts the Prince Abdulaziz stood out a mile, looking rather like a small cruise liner. According to the AIS it is 147 metres long and registered in Jeddah, obviously the plaything of a rich sheik or someone similar. Many of the boats here are around the 50 metre mark which makes our 13 metres look pretty small. All the small motor boats had left by the time we arrived but they'll be back again tomorrow, towing the inevitable doughnut, jet ski or some other toy to disturb the anchorage. I'm not really complaining but we could do without the noise and rock and roll caused by them. This place is idyllic and peaceful in the evenings. Subsequent research on the web showed I was nearly right. Prince Abdulaziz is the fourth largest motor yacht in the world, owned by the Saudi royal family. Another Saudi boat is here as well, somewhat smaller and older, the thirty third largest motor yacht! We have been surrounded all day by super yachts, both motor and sail, their crews and guests. We had a domestic day, cleaning and auditing stores. It's a hard life but it needed doing. It's a good job Starblazer is only 13 metres, I still have a lot to clean inside and I haven't started outside. The stores audit is important for two reasons: to find where I stuffed things and to find out exactly what I brought on board. I think John was rather surprised at some of the ingredients, now I'll have to get on and use them. We ran the generator this evening to top up the batteries so I took the opportunity to make up a batch of dough in the breadmaker. I'll cook it in the oven tomorrow so fresh bread for lunch, yumm. We had an early start, for us anyway, with engine on and anchor up at 0800. Bread is baked, the water maker ran for over an hour (over 50 litres/11gallons) and by 1120 the wind came up enough to sail. We could have sailed earlier but eta at the anchorage would have been after midnight. Ibiza is now just a hazy lump behind us. We are sad to leave the islands however since Sunday all our journeys have been westbound and will be, more or less, for the next few years! The adventure continues.