Lesley & Derek Mercer
Wed 28 Sep 2011 06:28

37:33.9N 01:15.4W


Have reached Mazarron, about 15 miles from our final destination of Cartagina, where we go tomorrow and plan to keep IOLA for the next 6 months.


It has been a heavy two days.   We left San Jose at lunchtime, and the winds behaved as predicted, i.e. very strong to start with, but slowly easing during the day.  It made for a very slow passage to Garrucha, were we stayed the night.  I had to go into each bay along the coast to gain some protection from the adverse wind and current, and crawled round each mini headland, sometimes at just over 2 knots (2 miles per hour).  It was a dull day, except at one point Lesley came into the cockpit to take some pictures, and was standing at the back on the port (left) side.  I had just finished saying to her that there were some large waves, when one smashed into the starboard (right) hand side of the boat, splashed over the coachroof, and promptly drenched her!  I won’t tell you what I had to bite my lip not to say!  Although sitting in the helm seat on the starboard side, I was still as dry as a bone, but Lesley had to go and change.


When we reached Garrucha, the pilot book says this is a busy fishing harbour with a small marina in the NW corner.  In we went, to find that they are doing major works.  There were lorries delivering sand and other materials to the mole which acts as a breakwater.  They were very large lorries, and as they reached their destination they reversed up to the wall and tipped their load out of the back.   They drove off, and a JCB then scooped up their load.  Within a minute, another lorry would appear and do the same.  I am not sure what they are up to, but it is clearly a significant undertaking.  They are also half way through providing a further 250 berths, and there are buoys with odd flashing lights all round these works.  The net result is that there is no space!  As I circled round in the gathering dusk, I could only see 1 vacant berth, and I had seen a Spanish yacht coming up to the marina behind us, and thought it was probably his.  I didn’t want to tie up, only to find I had to move 20 mns later.  I had just decided to go onto the fuel pontoon, when two people wandered down the pontoon and stood beside the fuel pumps.  As we approached it became obvious that they were the marina staff, and they confirmed that I should tie up to the pontoon for the night.  They were very nice about the whole thing, but did explain that they were supposed to finish at 8 pm.  Anyway, we dealt with the paperwork, and we were able to go ashore for some well earned tapas.


Evening approaching Garrucha:



We set off at dawn on Tuesday, as I wanted to get as far North as possible before the predicted strong winds scheduled to arrive Wednesday morning.  With the land breeze I was able to motorsail for most of the morning.  At one point, I came across a yellow buoy in 50 metres of water, and about 5 miles offshore.  It wasn’t on the chart or in the pilot book, and I was even more confused when I saw another in line half a mile further out.  The penny suddenly dropped, and I realised that there was a fish farm there, and had to make a sudden sharp turn towards shore to miss it.  Later that morning, as we trundled along, we were buzzed by a military helicopter.  It flew just over us and on the same course as us, and then turned sharply right and went off towards some warships I could see in the distance.  It made me realise that I had forgotten to switch my VHF radio on, which I promptly attended to, but no one appeared to be calling us.  Later, at 12 noon when the Spanish coastguard transmit their “all ships” (fortunately in English as well as Spanish), I tuned in to discover that there was a torpedo exercise going on, and I had just skirted the exclusion zone.  About half an hour later, I heard the warship calling, in Spanish, a vessel that was obviously in the zone.  They kept calling vessel in position ABC, XYZ and asking them to respond, all in Spanish.  Eventually, an American voice came over the VHF and said they were the sailing yacht “Elegance”, and was the warship calling them?  They promptly replied in perfect English, and asked them to switch to the working chanel, chanel 72.  Being nosy, I listened in.  It turned out they were heading straight for a submarine, and the warship asked them to reverse their course.  The American explained they were on their way to Gibraltar, so the Spanish asked to steer on a course of 120 degrees for 5 miles to get out of their way.  The American said as they were a sailing vessel they couldn’t “go against the wind”, and at this point I realised they were telling porkers.  They obviously had an engine, and the wind was coming from 040 degrees.  Any sailor knows you can sail 80 degrees off the wind, in fact it is quite easy, but this would clearly take them off their chosen course.  After some discussion, they agreed to steer 180 degrees for 6 miles.


All this happened as we crossed Vera.  That is the Golfo de Vera of course.  Malcolm  needs to be aware that the leaflet given to us by the tourist office in Almeria states: “A walk through Vera is not easily forgotten.  Vera also boasts the only fully nudist beach…..”