First of all, apologies for the typos in the last blog. My new i-pad screen seems to need a harder tap! Well that is my excuse, anyway. San Antonio has lost yet more of its charm as the Stags and Hens now seem to descend for a whole week instead of just a weekend as in 2009, or so it appeared to us. In the evening we were entertained by a very good 'Elvis' in a nearby hotel, his singing carried very clearly across the water! We went ashore for a full British breakfast, the full English didn't have bacon, and free wi-fi plus a bit of shopping. There was nothing else to keep us there so we upped anchor and headed north, to Cala Charraca, also spelt Xaracca. This is a big bay but most of it is far too deep for anchoring however we found a large patch of sand in 8 metres of crystal clear water, Nina anchored just south of us. On the headland to the northwest there is a hotel with Karaoke on Friday nights, it wasn't too loud. In the southwest corner there is a beach, a couple of substantial villas and a restaurant. That's about all there is, it was delightful. We took the dinghy into the old fishermen's harbour area and went snorkelling. The bottom was a mixture of rocky reefs, weed and sand; the fish life was equally varied. There were lots of very small, electric blue fish; a few small jellyfish, probably the luminescent type; several different species of bigger fish, some looked big enough to eat and finally, the icing on the cake, an octopus which we watched for a while. In the evening we went ashore with Steve and Lynda for dinner, the fish was cooked beautifully but the alcohol was rather expensive, never mind it was a treat! We spent a day at anchor doing various jobs then prepared the boat ready for an early departure for Mallorca. Thoughts of Ibiza: Beautiful, rocky scenery with the most amazing changes in strata. Many blissfully quiet, attractive anchorages. Some rather popular anchorages, spoilt by the 'toys' from the superyachts (very large motorboats) buzzing noisily around (RIBs and Jet Skis mainly). Clear water, except in San Antonio bay, and extremely crowded beaches just about everywhere. We only anchored in one bay which we had visIted before, and four others. Yet again, it was difficult to leave Ibiza but Mallorca and Minorca are beckoning! More soon.
Saturday was a domestic day, I got on with sewing the dinghy chaps while John did battle with the generator and water maker. The generator had been working perfectly, he turned it off and 10 minutes later it restarted but wouldn't generate any power. Careful reading of the manual suggested it might be because there was a high load connected when he restarted it, you are meant to isolate it both to start and stop it. The fix was to give it a 2 second blast of 12 volts then try again, it worked a treat. The water maker ran for nearly an hour before it stopped because there was a peak in the current demand which trips the circuit breaker. There is a fix, John just needs to talk to the helpful guys at Seafresh in Hampshire. Steve arrived with a new water pump and the old one with a recalcitrant gear wheel attached which needed to be swapped over. Between them they succeeded. Before heading across to Nina for dinner we went for a swim, or at least John did. The sea seemed quite a lot rougher than it had been yesterday, I didn't stay in. Getting into the dinghy was a challenge! After a very convivial evening we had to reboard the dinghy, harder than earlier as the seas were rougher. Approaching Starblazer it was obvious that it would be impossible to board at the stern so we tied up amidships and rolled onto the deck, under the upper guard wire once I'd released the lower gate. We had an uncomfortable night and the next morning was no better though there was very little wind, just a vicious swell causing breakers on the beach. The GRIB files suggested the wind would wander between south and north via west so we decided to head for the east coast of Ibiza and find an anchorage only open to the east. Our first choice was San Vicente, about 35 miles away. Unfortunately the new water pump hadn't fixed Nina's problems so we sailed in company. The wind started to die and it was obvious San Vicente was out of reach without an engine so we diverted into Cala Talamanca, just across a headland from Ibiza town. We motored around, checking out the available space for anchoring, then went back and took Nina under tow. We towed them to a suitable anchoring spot then anchored a little further off. A few hours later John and Steve set to work to trace the pipe work to find the heat exchanger. Bingo, it was blocked with bits of shredded impellers! Monday was John's birthday. We had a fairly lazy morning, went into Ibiza town to get a SIM and a 'Pay as you go' for an i-pad, bought a bit of food then returned to the boat to get dinner ready for Steve and Linda. Steve made a great sticky sauce for the ribs which I'd boiled with some spices. They were finished off on the BBQ after starters of garlic bread and grilled prawns. We had a great evening. Socialising, helping each other out, that is what cruising is all about. During the evening the wind came round to the east, there was very little of it so no worries about a lee shore overnight, however it is likely that the swell will build if the wind stays in the same direction so we decided to move on in the morning. The day started well with a gentle sail but the ind was so feeble we had to give up and motor. We went around the south coast and up towards San Antonio aka Sant Anthony Abad and anchored in beautiful clear water in Cala Tarida where we shared Taps on board Nina, another very convivial evening! We are currently motoring into the Bahia de San Antonio, if this gets posted today it means we found one wi-fi ashore. More later.
Before we left for the bus station John searched the Internet to find the address of the company advertising i-pad repairs in Alicante, it gave it as Marbella. Not useful. We walked to the bus station, bought tickets then sat in a bar with a drink. Next to the bar was a shop advertising Orange data cards (sadly John's phone is locked) and phone and tablet repairs. Yes they could fix the i-pad, collect tomorrow morning, €120. Result. The bus journey confirmed our decision to leave Starblazer in Torrevieja next month. The marina at Guadamar might be fractionally cheaper but it is much further from the bus station AND our bus was very nearly full and we left quite a few people standing at the bus stop! To be fair, the driver had already made a phone call once he saw the crowd waiting, presumably for a back up bus. In La Pola he didn't even stop at the bus stop where there were people waiting, he overshot before stopping to let a passenger off. Note I haven't used the word queue, it seems to be a completely alien concept to the Spanish (among others) though to be fair they do manage to queue at the ticket office and at supermarket checkouts. We finally left Torrevieja soon after 2.00 having collected the i-pad, failed to buy a data card and done a bit of shopping. John took a ticket for the fish counter, number 69 and they were currently serving number 18 so he has had to do without fresh prawns; we'll just have to try to catch some fish if any remain in the Mediterranean. He walked all the way to the Vodafone shop, no luck there either because the phone is locked....to Vodafone U.K. Now we have turned the engine off, but probably not for long, and are sailing in the right direction but the speed is rubbish. Later. 20 minutes later we had to turn the engine back on. It was an uneventful night and we anchored in Cala Jondal at noon, next to our friends Lynda and Steve on Nina. The bay was very calm except for the multitude of high speed ribs, jet skis and other 'toys' from the many huge motor boats in the anchorage. Mind you, they weren't all huge, there were lots of small motor boats and quite a few yachts.
We left Almerimar, having got the website up and running. It was the best Internet access we had found and it only cost €3 per day. Sadly, I dropped my i-pad inside the boat and now have a green and pink striped screen. The Internet access had run out so we went to a cafe with free wi-fi before we left to look up how to cure screen problems. As we only had a €50 note John felt obliged to order a full English breakfast! The suggestion to tap it with a hammer isn't that inviting so we'll take it to a repair shop in Alicante tomorrow. In 2009 we had probably our worst night at anchor just west of Cabo de Gata, I desperately wanted to get further! We motored all the way to Cala San Pedro though we had to tack as the wind really built to about 20 knots right on the nose and boat speed dropped to 2.4 knots through the water. This anchorage was something special, a bay totally surrounded by hills, almost small mountains. Imagine our surprise to discover the beach lined with small tents, with a few shacks and the remains of an ancient castle all built out of stone around the head of the bay and no roadway. The hills really did protect us from the winds and swell. We had a lovely peaceful night though our pilot book did say the hills can create sudden fierce winds! The next night, though we wanted to reach an anchorage near Mazaron that we'd stayed in last time, realistically we weren't going to make it without burning a lot of diesel as there was very little wind and we had a late start. Instead we aimed for Cala Bardina, another anchorage well protected from north to east by Monte Cope. We actually managed to sail for about four hours, blessed relief from the noise of the engine. Unlike Cala San Pedro, this bay had a town at its head, with mountains to east and west. We anchored scarily close to the eastern rocks to get shelter from the swell. Again we had a really peaceful night once we finally got the anchor to set. (Too much weed.) Our final anchorage on this leg of our odyssey was just outside the Mar Menor, an amazing inland sea, south of Alicante. The main entrance for yachts is Puerto Tomas Maestre. We had no plans to enter the Mar Menor because the lifting bridge only opens a few times a day and would prove rather limiting, however our pilot book and electronic charts all showed an anchorage just inside the breakwater. We carefully approached, it is very shallow and there is no rise in the tide to speak of to help out should you get it wrong. The entrance was nothing like the charts, one breakwater seemed to have disintegrated and there appeared to be new walls and pilings in the middle so we turned around, very carefully, and headed out. There was an anchorage marked just north of the entrance but it necessitated crossing a shallow bank. John navigated us in with his i-pad in one hand, the wheel in the other. The anchor set first time in the deep pool we had found and we had a very calm night. I started this blog with a question, this is why. The anchorage we used was marked on charts though it offered no protection from the wind in any direction, no protection from any swell, in fact nothing. On the shore, which is in fact a very narrow strip of land, there was a road and a number of apartment blocks very well spaced out. I suppose I could be generous and identify a small curve in the coastline at either end but it isn't what I would call a bay! From there we motored to Torrevieja. We have settled into Marina Salinas for two nights, last time we stayed in the International Marina. There are several advantages with this new one: its daily rate is lower and includes water and electricity, it is far more sheltered should a strong southerly blow in as it did last time, causing mayhem in the other marina and finally, it had non slip showers so no back eyes this time. Additionally, when John asked about a price for 10 days they were really helpful and are willing to give us them at the monthly rate! Our plan is to go to Alicante by bus tomorrow, to try to get the i-pad mended and buy some electronic parts so we can find out why the water maker won't run. Also we need to find out how to get to the airport for the end of August. After that we will head to the Balearics. By the way, if you are wondering why we plan to leave the boat here rather than in the marina in Alicante it is because their daily rate is more than 50% more than here and nearly triple what we have been offered for the 10 days at the end of August. To put it into context, tonight will cost us more than your average Travelodge so we try to anchor while we can, but then sadly no wi-fi! You can't have everything. So far our marinas have cost us between €27 and €55 (with discount!) per night. By the way, Starblazer is a yacht, motoring is not her forte. We burn between 5 and 6 litres an hour, making between 5 and 6 knots. We refuelled today, 250 litres of diesel at €1 .41 per litre. I'd rather be sailing. By the way, photos will follow when we have both wi-fi and a charged laptop!
Monday 15th July, happy nineteenth birthday Liam. Our plans in the Med are flexible except we have flights booked from Alicante for nephew Brian's wedding at the end of August. We need to find somewhere to leave the boat so are making Alicante our first target. Monday morning there was no wind and a flat calm so we motored about 50 miles and anchored just off Fuengirola. What is the point of paying for a marina just to tie up overnight? We had a very tasty fish (out of the freezer) which John barbecued. Sadly the fish in the Med do not seem interested in our assorted lures and the dolphins aren't friendly either, they wag a fin as they pass but don't stop to play. Tuesday was a rerun of Monday, just motoring, another 50 or so miles and we anchored off Castel de Ferro. Fireworks started going off, the huge bangs reverberating from the surrounding hills, then a procession of small boats came into the bay, heavily overloaded. Tuesday was the festival of Virgen del Carmen, the patron saint of fishermen and many villages celebrate by carrying the gilded effigy from the church, parading it through the streets then taking it to sea where they lay a wreath before returning. In 2009 we followed the procession back to the church in Duquesne. The sea looked very calm, we laid to anchor head to the current however there was what looked to be an insignificant swell on the beam. It was a very uncomfortable night. We didn't sleep well and got an early start for a another day's motoring to Almerimar marina. We stayed here for several days in 2009 and, when John checked in, discovered that Starblazer stayed here in October 1999. It is Med mooring here and John parked us beautifully stern to the quay between two boats. Our friend Steve from Nina was on the quay to help with the lines. At last we have good wi-fi for €3 per day though only one of us can use it at a time. John spent a whole day setting up the website. We have decided to stay a third night so we can really establish the website with lots of content. We went for a swim on Wednesday afternoon and I plan to go again today. Breast stroke with a crawl leg kick doesn't work, I tried snorkelling but the visibility was poor so the answer is to fin on my back; it's very good exercise for the knee, I can't get the breathing wrong and I don't freak out when I can't see the bottom! Slowly all the projects we worked on at home are becoming useful. We had already dug out the sun canopies to hang over the big hatches, now we have started to use the mosquito hatch nets though they don't seem to be a big problem here. The net curtains I made for the Bimini, to give shade, also give a measure of privacy with the cockpit right in front of a bar! When we went to the beach we installed the security bars in the hatches so we didn't have to close up the boat completely, did I mention that it is stinking hot here? John has assembled the two floppa-stoppers, we could really have done with them a few nights ago! They are basically a square framework with heavy rubber plates which you suspend over the side of the boat. When the boat rolls the frame sinks and the rubber plates lift then, as the boat rolls the other way, the plates flatten on to the framework adding drag, slowing down the roll. We have yet to test them. More soon.
The GRIB files and weather forecasts all suggested Wednesday should have lighter winds. We got up at an unreasonably early hour, to be ready to cast off at 0630 and made it! A couple of hours later we had crossed Cadiz Bay in quite strong winds and were heading down the coast when we heard another boat calling Tarifa Traffic for a weather forecast. "currently 7 to 8 gusting 9, seas rough. Moderating later to 5 to 6 with gusts." we promptly turned around and headed for Rota where are friends on Nina had spent the past six days. We tied up on the fuel dock and had coffee with Lynda and Steve. As the weather was moderating we decided to sail in company with Nina as far as Barbate, halfway to Tarifa. In fact sail is not quite the right word, we motored in windless conditions, then motored in quite windy conditions for a couple of hours. Needless to say, the wind was coming from our destination. We were allocated a berth alongside Nina and had a very convivial evening. I cooked Paella, Lynda made a strawberry pudding. Thursday morning was calmer and the forecast from Tarifa was O.K. Nina left earlier than us as they had friends meeting them in La Linea, though it meant they had to buck the tide. This was yet another long motor as the wind was coming from our destination yet again. As we rounded Tarifa for the last 12 miles into Gibraltar Bay the wind dropped, the seas smoothed and we made good speed. We even had dolphins visit us, right in the bay, surrounded by cargo ships at anchor. They didn't stop to play, preferring to show off to Farfelu half a mile astern of us! We made our way into Alcadesia marina at La Linea, just across the runway from Gibraltar. This new marina was opened in 2010, has generous space between pontoons and lots of spare berths. It is also the cheapest marina we have found so far. We spent a couple of nights in La Linea, shopping, jobs, walking into Gib to Morison's, and a superb meal with ten others at Gauchos, highly recommended! Eleven of us went for the Argentinian Fillet, large, tender, tasty, fantastic. The twelfth one opted for sirloin. We have decided we will definitely eat there again as we leave the Med in September. On Sunday morning we left La Linea for north Africa, to be precise a Spanish enclave called Ceuta. We actually had a cracking sail on genoa alone. The fun and games started when we entered the marina. It is Med style mooring here. You approach the dock, bow or stern first, then take a lazy line, usually filthy and slimy, to pull up a line to hold you out from the pontoon. Ideally we would go in stern first, much easier to get off the boat, but it was blowing old boots so we went in bow first. Luckily we are alongside a Westerly Typhoon who invited us to go across their decks and use their stern platform to reach the pontoon. It is a really interesting town with a number of beaches on the south side of the promontory, many lovely buildings and some really old fortifications. We'll probably leave tomorrow if the forecast is good.
We spent several days in Lagos getting jobs done on the boat. We now have speakers on the mast but can't find the plug to go in the VHF radio, marine band not BBC! We also have some bright lights shining down on the deck, more to repel invaders than to provide a working light because they would wreck your night vision. John spent a long time up the mast, first of all fixing the bits on then connecting them up. The final job was to feed the cables through lockers from the forward heads to the switch panel by the navigator's seat, no easy job. We removed the spray hood so that I could sew the zips back on as all the stitching had started to pop. On closer inspection I found that a lot of the seams had started to go so I renewed a lot of it. Once repaired I gave it a good scrub with some canvas cleaner followed by a thorough rinse. I was worried about refitting it as it was extremely taut, however if you fit it wet then allow it to dry the fabric shrinks back beautifully! We also had quite a sociable time. Thursday evening we had a pontoon party for those who were still in the marina then eight of us ate at a steakhouse where the fillet was extremely good and quite reasonably priced. Friday evening Annemarie and Steve from Freebooter came on board for a drink, we'll try to meet up with them in Gran Canaria when they prepare to leave on ARC + Cape Verdes two weeks before the ARC. Saturday evening we went out for dinner with Lynda and Steve from Nina which was very good, Spanish style tapas for starters then Portuguese main courses except for John who opted for spare ribs. Nina left Sunday but I'm sure we'll meet up with them again. Sunday evening Karen and Gary from Abraxas came on board for drinks. The next time we meet them will probably be in Gran Canaria for the ARC. Enough of the name dropping, now for the sailing. We left Lagos as intended on Monday and headed for Portimao where, apart from a huge marina, there is a large, sheltered anchorage with very good holding. We did sail as we were in no hurry and only had about six miles to go, there was very little wind and it took a most relaxing two and a half hours! The anchor dug in beautifully first time, the first time we have used that anchor, only the second time we have anchored Starblazer. It is quite a mixed up area, let me explain. The western bank of the river has a large tourist town, Praia da Rocha, which merges into Portimao about two miles up river. The east bank has a very pretty old village called Ferragudo which is riddled by very steep, narrow roads fit only for donkeys and the odd motor scooter. Removal men must find the place a nightmare! Between the two banks, just past Ferragudo, where the river becomes narrower is quite a large fishing harbour. We spent two very peaceful nights at anchor then set off Wednesday morning for Faro and Olhao. The intention had been to set out on an overnighter and make for Cadiz but unfortunately I tweaked my back restowing the dinghy on board so we decided to have an easy day sail of about 35 miles. Technically the word 'sail' is incorrect, there was no wind to speak of so the iron topsail did a grand job until about 8 miles out when the wind perked up a bit and we sailed slowly towards the Ilha Culatra. The entrance is 'interesting', thank goodness for the cockpit chart plotter. We anchored in a large anchorage between Culatra and Olhao, again the anchor set solidly first time. I'm really impressed with the Delta. Early next morning, well early for us, we upped anchor and were heading out of the anchorage by 0730. We motored the whole 75 miles to the Bay of Cadiz, first of all with next to no wind, but what there was came straight from Cadiz. Mid afternoon the wind started building and the last two hours were particularly unpleasant. As we closed in on the bay the wind was a force 5 gusting 6 and we reviewed our decision to anchor. Discretion is the better part of valour, they say, so we went into the Puerto Sherry Marina and tied up on the reception pontoon. By this time the gusts were reaching force 7, blowing us into the marina. It was not a comfortable night, the wind howling and a short chop constantly attacking the hull. Given the fetch was less than half a mile, between the training wall guarding the river entrance and the marina, it was really rather violent. Three days on, we are still tied up in the marina, it is still windy and very hot. The wind is a Levante or Levanter, a strong easterly originating east of Gibraltar and accelerating though the straits before fanning out, giving us strong south easterlies. The forecast for the straits was for gale force 8 for several days, not the sort of wind a yacht wants to beat into. The prediction is for the winds to finally go lightish on Wednesday so we are finding lots of jobs to do on Starlazer. Who knows, we might even go to the beach tomorrow. Yesterday we walked into Puerto Santa Maria, past the beach where the very strong winds whipped the sand up making it very uncomfortable.