Cartagena 37 35.815N, 00 58.796W
Result, we have finally left Almerimar!
Our extensive stay from April through to mid-June averaged at €14.35 per day including electricity and water, so we were pleasantly surprised and we signed out with the harbourmaster, who gave us a generous 20% discount on the final total on the condition that we return at some time. We fill the starboard fuel tank and two petrol containers (for the outboard engine) and departed.
10:15, Friday 13 June, saw us on our way on a fine sunny day with calm seas. Of course, the Mediterranean wind gods were playing with us and while initially we had a good sailing breeze to waft us on our way eastward, this quickly died leaving us little option but to start the engine, yet again, once the boat speed dropped below 2 kn!
17:30 found us anchored in Puerto Genoves , just past Cabo de Gata and south of Puerto de San Jose. We had reconnoitred this bay on our trip south in March and saw that although the anchorage was wide open to the east there was some prospect of shelter in the extreme southern end. Of course, that was in April and now it is June - what shelter there was in that southern corner was already taken by half a dozen yachts and powerboats, all rolling their hearts out in the low swell entering the bay. I reckoned that we would do just as well at the north end of the bay opposite a little white house on the beachfront. We dropped anchor in 2m. crystal clear water, reversed up towards the beach before laying our kedge anchor to hold us head up into the swell.
Actually, if I'm honest it wasn't quite as straightforward as that. As I dropped the kedge from the starboard side aft, we then drifted over the cable and the rope caught between the rudder and the skeg! A quick swim and that issue was resolved…. the water was surprisingly warm.
Initially, my cunning plan worked well and we had a comfortable evening meal watching the other boats roll heavily around us as we nodded to the swell - all that is except for a catamaran which arrived late in the evening and comfortably bobbed up and down.
Although we were anchored some 50 yards from the beach the fruit flies found us out. I foolishly left my wine uncovered and in the space of half an hour it collected about 50 of the little bastards! We both turned in at about 10 o'clock but then the wind dropped, the boat swung a little to port as the anchor lines went slack and we joined the other boats in their metronomic dance. I slept, of course, but Maggie didn’t! At 03:30 I sensed displeasure on the other side of the bed and got up. In bright moonlight and dressed only in underwear, I heaved the kedge in, lifted the main anchor and we got underway towards Cartagena. It was a balmy night with a full moon and we made the most of the calm sea to get some way toward our next port. Maggie arrived on deck once the engine was started!
By 09:00 a pleasant sailing breeze had filled in from the north and we decided to set the mainsail only to find it jammed in the furling system. This had not happened before! After some to-ing and fro-ing, huffing and puffing, we had managed to release the main body of the sail but the upper part remained firmly jammed in the mast slot. What to do? I attached the bosun's chair to the topping lift and Maggie gamely hoisted me up to the top of the mast. Even in the calm conditions I found it uncomfortable being bashed against the mast. However, I was able to successfully extract the sail and gratefully returned back to deck level. We test furled and unfurled the sail successfully but all did not seem well. What can have happened? After a cup of coffee and some further thought I realised that while in Almerimar we had adjusted the rig and set up the backstay so the mast head was pulled back leaving the mast with a nice curve to tension the forestay. Could it be that the furling gear could not accommodate the bend so induced. When I released the backstay the mast it straightened substantially. Problem solved? We will soon find out - watch this space!!
Puerto Gonovese to Cartagena is a passage of some 70 miles and our speed some 6 knots. We did some sailing but as our speed fell the prospect of another late-night was not attractive. (For those good at maths you'll readily appreciate that the passage was going to take some 11 hours, plus the time spent messing about up the mast). Maggie managed to get some sleep during what remained of the morning, and I had a nap during the afternoon - old age tells! When I awoke the wind had gone. The mainsail was furled and we roasted in the sun. Too hot! Up when the new bimini extension and we had shade! Time to bring out the rum punch!
The Spanish customs must have been aware of our activities as on our approach to Cartagena we observed a very military looking speedboat approaching from the port, it circled round behind us and it looked as though we were going to be boarded. Woops! we thought, with all this plonk on-board we may be in trouble and hurriedly hid our rum coolers! The launch circled back round behind and then, with a wave, went off to look at another yacht approaching the port. Big Brother is watching us! As we entered the port the wind came up from the South West, an effect of the shape of the port and the high temperatures inland.
We arrived in Cartagena at 16:30 where we were greeted by a man in a rib who directed us to the Yacht Port Cartagena and to a vacant berth on an inner pontoon. Having set the lines up for the usual stern to berth we found we were to lie alongside a pontoon - all very unusual for the Mediterranean and some speedy repositioning of lines and fenders required (done by Maggie who refuses to helm in strong windy conditions, especially if there are pontoons close by or a potential audience).
Charlie was dispatched ashore on a bicycle to try and find the Orange shop so we could get a data card for our mifi and restore our Internet connections, whilst Maggie prepared our evening meal. However, this is Spain and although he found the shop in a reasonable time it was closed! Saturday is early closing in Cartagena and on Sunday all shops are closed all day. The shop opened again for business at 09:30 on Monday, closing at 13.30 to re-open again at 17:00 until 20:30. You're probably thinking right now the same as us, which we do on a regular basis! Spain, recession, asleep half the day! productivity??? We had considered taking the Internet for one day through the marina but they wanted 4€ plus tva for the privilege, which seemed somewhat excessive. As a compromise, we walked ashore on Sunday morning for wine, beer and tapas, and had Internet for free at a local bar where we watched the locals in their Sunday best making their way to and from the local churches.
Cartagena is a delightful town although from what we can tell, not much happens. The old part of the city near the Roman theatre and the central fort is particularly good for sightseeing. The Roman theatre is an absolute masterpiece and well preserved. The old bull ring, which is in a precarious state, is by the look of things, undergoing renovation/ preservation - It's currently supported by unsightly steel frames, ties and braces, but they might have been there for a long time, and could be there for even longer! As the old buildings become uninhabitable in the historic part of the town, they are demolished, it seems as though they have long term plans for archeological digs, which have already begun in one area near the old Roman Forum. While the waterfront and the old part of the city are clean and maintained, the back streets are somewhat seedy and run down. There are multiple stalled property renovations evident. The new part of the town is typical of a modern Spanish city with boring concrete apartments and shops. So that's been our experience of Cartagena. Overall a very pleasant and a good stopover and not too expensive at €40/night incl services & tva.
Tonight we dine out Italian style at a restaurant recommended by our friends Tina and Ian. The meal I was going to prepare has been put on hold until tomorrow. I just hope the delicious looking apple tart we bought this afternoon will last until then as there's insufficient space in the fridge. It might have to be eaten for breakfast if it starts to wilt!
Sailing tommorro early as we have another 70 miles trip planned to Villajoyosa.