Garrucha, underway again

37:11.113N 1:49.010W Tue 13th Mar 2018

 

We have finally left our winter berth in Cartagena and are heading west towards Portugal for an April rendezvous with the family.  We enjoyed our time in the city and it did indeed have a wonderfully mild, sunny climate with blue skies to greet us on most mornings.  We had some great walks and runs up into the many hills which surround the impressive harbour and explored most of the ruined forts within reach.  We learned a bit more of the city’s early history under the Carthaginians and admired the way the place is restoring its heritage bit by bit.  It definitely feels more prosperous than it did on our first visit nine years ago and we wondered how much money the many visiting cruise ships now bring in.  When we first arrived in October there were as many as 3 huge ships in port almost daily and we would look out from our companionway onto a towering block of flats on the quay just beyond us! 

 

Looking back at Cartagena port from Castillo de San Julian guarding the entrance:

Our local beach, Cala Cortina, and the entrance to Cartagena’s naval and leisure port:

The southern headland:

 

As we were away from Goldcrest for 7 weeks, we only spent just over 3 months on board in the marina and felt this was long enough in the same place.  During our time here, we did acquire a fancy new mainsail, new mattresses for our cabin and a “tent” for the cockpit.  Our wallets are a lot lighter, but all three items were badly needed and the tent especially gave us a very cosy conservatory to bask in warmth away from the frequent strong winds.  We hired a car twice, on the first occasion to link up with old friends in Malaga and later to do some shorter visits around the area.  We spent a night in the fascinating town of Guadix with its 10,000 cave houses and a night in the port city of Almeria.  We marvelled at the ever increasing agricultural acres under plastic in this otherwise almost desert corner of Spain and wondered where all the water comes to irrigate it.  We also treated ourselves to a night in a  brand new Parador built inside the castle which overlooks the town of Lorca, famous for its Easter celebrations.  It makes a change, as David pointed out, to be able to view one’s partner from more than 2 or 3 feet away sometimes!   Finally, we had a day trip to Elche, famous for its 250,000 palm trees and also the site of the discovery of the iconic ancient Iberian bust from around 4th or 5th century BC, known as “La Dama de Elche”.

Cave houses in Guadix (the chimneys in the foreground show the whole area is honeycombed):

View from Lorca up to the castle and new Parador

Palm gardens in Elche

Copy of La Dama de Elche (original in Madrid)

 

Now we’ve been waiting a couple of weeks to get underway this season.  We wanted a leisurely set of day sails westwards to the Algarve via Gibraltar, but seem to be stuck in an unending sequence of strong westerlies, driven by north Atlantic lows.  We’ve had getting on for 50kts in harbour and not even a pair of days with winds less than 20kts (gusting higher) on the nose.  I wanted 2 days to get around Cabo de Gata to Almeria, a good port to wait out the next sequence of blows.  In the end we left under engine on March 13th and made do with a half day’s motoring in a calmer spell, only making 50 nm down the coast to Garrucha.  The winds picked up in the afternoon so we were able to test the new main sail for a couple of hours sailing hard on the wind in 20kts.  It’s hard to say how it performed because the boat was so sluggish from a winter’s growth on the prop and hull.  The new main looked pretty enough but did need a lot more halyard and outhaul tension than we are used to.

 

Our first morning in Garrucha was spent dealing with that lack of speed.  We got the Hookah diving gear out and I spent a couple of hours scraping the prop and hull of some of the worst fouling I’ve seen on Goldcrest.  We not only had the usual winter’s growth of soft slimy stuff but we also were suffering from extensive white wormy stuff – much harder to remove and a worrying sign that the Coppercoat may have stopped working effectively.  Suffering also from a sore throat & headache I only did half the job really, but hopefully enough to restore the boat to a respectable speed – I reckon it was costing us 1-2 kts.  Whilst I was busy underwater Lindsay was polishing the topsides accessible from the pontoon – she now looks very shiny (the boat, not Lindsay!).

 

Garrucha is a seaside town with lots of holiday flats, a very empty marina, a fishing port and a large outer quay where gypsum is piled high prior to loading on ships.  There is a very long, wide beach and over a mile of marble balustraded promenade.  The marina is not at all protected from the swell in our present high winds and the boats nod up and down quite violently.  We ate in the sleepy town last night to avoid some of the worst of the movement and were fairly jerked about overnight as well.