Underway again - Almerimar 36:41.80N 02:47.27W

Charles & Maggie Bevis
Wed 28 May 2014 21:03

28 May 2014 – Almerimar.

Our odyssey starts again in a few days when Maggie returns on board. 

We must confess to having cheated on you somewhat as ALKIRA was launched in Sant Carles nearly two months ago.  We did not keep the blog up to date.  So to catch up……

We returned to Spain by train using the Eurostar Service from London and changing to the TGV in Paris for a direct trip to Barcelona.  Comfortable and more enjoyable than flying and most importantly we were able to bring with us a considerable amount of baggage including food, clothing and replacement equipment.  To our delight when we arrived in Barcelona we found temperatures in the 30’s. We stayed overnight in a basic hotel right next to the station before travelling on the following afternoon, after a bit of sightseeing.  We arrived in Sant Carles where we were met by taxi organised by the Marina staff and travelled directly to the boat yard.

Alkira had survived the winter in good style, the covers were secure and undamaged and the boat was freshly anti fouled.  We quite climbed wearily on board and hosted our baggage after us and then went gratefully to bed.  Two days later, on 17 March, the yard travel-lift crane launched us back into the Med.

Overall, our general experience at Sant Carles was very satisfactory.   Every aspect of our stay was good and we can highly recommend the yard to anyone seeking to lay-up over winter in this area.   The only possible drawback with the area is the apparent absence of a sail maker.

On 19 March we left Sant Carles to begin our trip south to Almerimar.  Time was not on our side, we had 3 weeks to do some 300 miles and the spring weather is not always settled!  Our first day at sea found us with light (Force 2) East southeasterly winds and a calm sea.  Guess what? Motor sailing! 

We arrived in Castellon after eight hours and berthed at pontoons operated by the Club Real Nautico (€20 per night).  Castellon was not particularly memorable; we stayed an extra day in the hope of better winds.  We finally left at a very respectable 09:30 hours on 21 March.  Initially it was motor sailing on the passage South toward Valencia and by late morning the wind started to fill in.  By midday we were on a close fetch under sail at 6.4 kn. The wind died again as we approached the marina on the north side of the commercial harbour and we were all fast at 15:30 hours in the in the familiar surroundings of that welcoming town. 

Valencia is, so far, our favorite stopover in the Western Mediterranean.   While the marina itself is somewhat unremarkable, being modern but secure and sheltered with an efficient Port Captain and staff, the town itself is within easy reach and is an absolute delight. The architecture, the ambience, the wine and the food all conspire to make an enjoyable visit. The central market (Mercado Central) is a must – it is just awesome!   Needless to say we dallied for an extra day!  Marina fees were €24.4 per night inclusive of TVA water and electricity.

At 08:30,23 March we were underway again bound for Denia.  Seas were again calm and the wind was, as ever, too light to sail!  However, as the morning progressed the wind steadily backed around to the west and filled so by midday we had a pleasant west northwesterly force 4.   With the engine off and the wind astern we made a steady 5 to 6 kn. towards Denia.   Although we had found it pleasantly warm ashore in Valencia the evenings were cool and out at sea it was decidedly chilly - we were wearing fleeces wet-weather coats and boots! – We hadn’t expected to use those again in the Mediterranean!

Denia came up the abeam in the early afternoon but, with a long way to go to Almerimar and deteriorating weather forecast we decided to press on around the next corner toward Calpe.   The wind gradually failed after rounding the headland and at 17:00 hours we were approaching Calpe, motor sailing in a West northwesterly force 2.  Calpe is really identified by a prominent headland very reminiscent of Gibraltar.  The town itself straddles the isthmus and lies to either side of the rock with long tourist beaches extending to the Northeast.   The marina is tucked away against the East side of the rock.

We berthed on the east Jetty at €34 per night, excluding water and electricity.  In the height of summer this may be an attractive place but in the cool of the early spring and with 7/8 of the town closed we found it somewhat overrated. The marina is run by the Real club Nautico and was somewhat pretentious although the laundry facilities were most welcome. 

On 24 and 25 March we were stuck in Calpe as the wind blew.  On 26 March a brief break in the weather allowed the passage to progress and we sailed out 09:40 hours with a slight to moderate head sea and force 3 northwesterly wind. Sadly that did not last.  By 10:50 hours we were encountering southeasterly winds.  Within an hour the weather change dramatically again. The wind veered to the West Northwest and rose steadily in strength from force 4 to 5.  At 13:30 Valencia radio forecast northwesterly 5 to 6 locally decreasing 3 to 4 in the afternoon so we felt comfortable pressing on.  However, we steadily started reducing sail in increasing winds, rolling away most of the mainsail and half of the genoa.   By 14:00 hours three extra rolls in the genoa were required as our speeds increased to in excess of 8 knots. At 15:20 we were encountering 35-knot squalls – the log entry says “not nice!”   Further sail reductions were in order as we approached our destination at Torevieja before reaching the lee of the land where the wind, if not the squalls, moderated somewhat.   Charlie now became concerned about the prospect of berthing in these weather conditions but fortunately the slot we were directed to by the Club Marinero was relatively easy to access and we gratefully backed upwind to the jetty in good order!   A yacht that followed us in some hours later was not so lucky and ended up pinned across the bows of a number of yachts as it attempted to turn downwind into a marina slot!   Overall an exciting experience, A very rough ride with an average speed berth to berth of 7.2 kn. and a max and wind speed of 84 kn.! 

Marina fees at Torrveija were expensive at €43.67 per night.  We were not impressed and hoped we were not going to get stuck there at those prices!

Fortunately 27 March found more moderate weather conditions and at 09:40 hours we were again underway this time towards Cartagena. After the previous days excitement we enjoyed a leisurely sail in calm seas and light winds as we made our way South past Mar Menor and down past the next “corner”.  The wind failed shortly after midday and we ended up motor sailing towards Cartagena. With one eye on the weather and the other on the distance to go we again pressed on past our intended destination of Cartagena (keep that for next time) and onward towards Mazaron.  We were unable to raise the port on the VHF as we approached and made our way into the harbour and then to a new marina area.  There we found a British yacht and were advised to berth alongside astern of him; there was no sign of the harbourmaster/ port captain and the office was locked.   Staff eventually came on duty in the evening and we paid €37 for the night. 

 We thought Mazaron was a nice neat little port and a pleasant overnight stop. What it would be like in the summer with the quayside nightclub in full swing is another matter!

28 March found us underway bound for Garrucha some 37 miles distant.   Winds were east Northeast forces 4 that with the confused sea we were obliged to motor sail to keep a reasonable speed up.  After a very uncomfortable day rolling heavily in a quartering sea we arrived off Garrucha at 17:20 and made our way into an empty marina!   We again berthed alongside a pontoon, a novelty here in the Mediterranean.  

 29 March - After a comfortable night we elected to walk ashore to investigate the facilities. As noon approached we noticed the wind building from the south East and hurried back to the boat, which by then was pitching significantly, and being pressed onto the pontoon.   The harbour here is wide open to the South East and this is wind was the worst scenario possible. We moved berth as quickly as possible using springs and bow thrust to good effect to extricate ourselves from the leeward berth.   We chose the best of the several poor alternative berths, put extra long lines out with shock absorbers on the breast lines and then spend as much time as possible on long walks ashore while the boat did it’s thing.

 30 March – we were watching the weather forecast for the next and final leg to Almerimar.   Winds in the south of Spain seem to blow strongly from either the East or the West.  An easterly wind would be good; a westerly wind would be bad.  With steady westerly’s forecast for this day a further delay here seemed to be inevitable although there was the prospect of a short break on 31st March.

Garrucha is a port one could cheerfully miss.    The marina is wide open to be Southeast and can become very uncomfortable and possibly untenable even in moderate weather if the wind is from that direction.  There is nothing much to the town and the choice of the eating and evening entertainment is poor.   Add to that the unfortunate history legacy of an incident in the 1960s when a B-52 bomber crashed near the town while carrying nuclear material which, apparently, has never been satisfactorily cleaned up and I think there are probably better places to go.  Harbour dues were €22.34 per day.

 31 March, - We left Garrucha at 9 o’clock in the morning, motor sailing (again) in a calm sea toward Cabo de Gata, the last corner!  Sadly, the southeasterly forecast did not materialize and we ended up motor sailing the whole distance with no wind, arriving at 18:45 hours in the now familiar port of Almerimar.   We berthed alongside the Captinerie Office to check-in and then were directed to an awkward corner berth in Darsena 3, close to the workshops.

 Disaster!   After making all arrangements for a targa frame and new bimini last September we found that for personal reasons the principal, Regis, was obliged to stop work in the next few weeks to be with his wife in UK.   His colleague, Stuart was therefore heavily committed with work, ours included.  However, he promised to ensure that our work would be finished before he left.  Worse still, Colin the sail maker who was to make the bimini cover and side screens was involved in a kite surfing accident shortly after we arrived, and was admitted to hospital.  The only bright note, given that the boat was to lie here for nearly 2 months was that the harbour dues were going to be €10.37 per day.

 So we made it in one piece and on time ready for the flight home. Maggie had to go into hospital the following week and we were due to move house shortly afterward!   The boat was in one piece and there have been no gear failure.

 14 May - Almerimar

How time flies!   And me with it.  Easyjet fly to Almeria on a daily basis throughout the year but the flights leave Gatwick at an indecent time in the morning.  A now recovering Maggie was out of bed at 2 AM to drive me to the airport and, by 09:30 hrs. I was back in Spain!

 On arrival at Almerimar there were several shocks.

 On a domestic front, the supermarket we had been relying on for restocking, and the only supermarket of any significance in town, was closed for refurbishment. The nearest supermarket of any significance is some 11 miles away.

The boat was filthy and covered in dust/ Sand blown in from the surrounding countryside.

The interior of the boat was in chaos. Before we left we had moved all the bedding from the aft cabin and clothing from the wardrobes into the fore cabin, which, as a result, was stacked to the deck head.  Much of the trim in the aft cabin was down and cable mice were run everywhere ready for running new cables after the targa was fitted.  The only bed left available was the quarter berth opposite the forward bathroom.   Once I arrived with my bags the main cabin was cluttered too.

The old radar mast and aerials were gone and the array was mounted on the mast.  The stern deck was at last clear!!  However, there was no sign of the targa frame or of the new bimini frame.  

When I walked to the workshop I found the targa complete and ready to fit but minus the two solar panels.  Stuart professed to have no knowledge of the bimini frame order even though I was able to find it in his book and had sent two e-mail reminders since March.  Colin was still in hospital and Marco the electrician could not progress his work until the targa arrived and was fitted on board.an report

Two weeks later and I can report good progress.  The targa frame is on-board in place and secure and the aerials are all led down to the navigation station, connected up, and the instruments working except for the new Garmin unit, which was functioning and then died.  Fortunately, Spencer at Alamar Centro Nautico has arranged a replacement on a guarantee basis even though I did not buy the equipment from him.  The new solar panels seem fine and generate about 7 Amps at the height of the day (approx. 180W). Our standing max load is about 3 Amps so, as long as the sun shines, we have electricity!! 

The interior of the boat is now being cleaned (by me). However I’m quite sure that when Maggie arrives it will not be to her exacting standards – that’s life.   I am working to get things finished as far as I can before she arrives. 

All the major work has now been done. 

  • ·      The water maker is finally in place connected and tested, albeit using freshwater rather than seawater drawn from this murky harour.

  •       A wash-deck general service pump is fitted and running.  This can also serve as a emergency bilge pump and refrigeration circulation pump.

  • ·      The refrigeration pump is now securely mounted on new brackets and fitted with a vent so the pump can be purged when the filter is changed/ cleaned.

Doesn’t sound much but it all takes time!

It presently looks as though we will sail from here with the old bimini cover and frame and have to find a sail maker at some later stage.  The new frame will be finished and fitted but we wont get any canvas work done.

 Socially it has been great to meet up with New Zealanders Garry and Val on their boat Sparkles and Canadian Derek and Val who’s boat is in the Carribean. 

Well the wine is finished and it is time for bed.  I have just 3 days left in which to get the boat clean!