Sunday 22nd February
Depart La Manga under 10 am bridge, forecast looks good with NE3-4 and sunshine. They got the sun bit right but wind is more SW2 and looking like we could be heading the wrong way. Motor sailing to Cabo de Palos things don´t look any more promising rounding the headland. Fishing rods come out to relieve the boredom of the engine, another hour on and still no wind or fish. Nearing Portman the wind decide to play ball , backing and increasing to F3, we sailed into Cartagena to make a brief stop to collect some paperwork. About to come alongside Antonio hurls a package at us and waves us on, attracting quite a bit of interest from onlookers.
Joking about what could be in our package, we set sail for Mazarron. Were having a cracking sail down with sightings of dolphins and whales, but still no fish! About 3NM from Mazarron, we were plunged into darkness with total power failure, with various craft around us we decided that being seen was fairly important, especially as we had acquired a strange package on route and did not want to be seen acting suspiciously. I conceeded and on came the engine taking us into harbour wth no further ado.
The normally bustling town was quite and as we crept in under the cover of darkness, the Marinero seemed glad to see us.
Following a good nights sleep we slipped the lines and laid a course for Garrucha. It could not have been a more perfect day on land, a nice sunny day with not even a breeze, finally the wind picked up around Aguilas and we goosewinged our way down the coast, more dolphins, still no fish. At last something tugging at the lure, only instead of dinner it was a young black tipped gul, We had to bring it aboard to free it, operation seagul complete the creature lived to see another day. Arriving in Garrucha the staff were helpful and efficient, the facilities are basic but the showers are steaming hot and construction is underway to create another 300 berths. Heading into town for a beer we struggled to find anywhere open as being a monday the town was closed for business and not a true reflection of whats its normally like. Returning to the boat the Guardia Civil paid us a visit, I started to get a bit nervous but they just wanted paperwork.
Hooray, wind in the morning. After fueling up we set sail for San Jose, excited about the prospect of making it under sail. The forecast was still for NE winds, we currently had W3 but were under sail, up went the spinnaker and things were looking good. Sailing can be a cruel sport and the wind backed and eased, eventually we conceeded and started the engine. At last our first fish, unfortunately it was only small so we put it back for another day, chugging along the coast we decided to pop into Carboneras and see what was there. The answer is basically not a lot, the harbour consists of a basin and lots of fishing huts with no facilities for Yachts and if stopping overnight you take your chances lying alongside a fishing boat.
Back enroute to San Jose we were making good time and scrapped San Jose in favour if rounding Cabo de Gata, the wind picked again and we were again goosewinging down the coast, with the wind increasing near the Cape, two Guardia Civil boats passed us but there was little other traffic, cruising down this stretch of coast I had forgotton just how rugged it is and how many abondon watch towers lined the hill above. Gata radio gave out an Easterly gale warning so we carried on to Almerimar which according to our pilot book gave the best shelter. Entry in the dark was an interesting exercise as the leading lights put your over the line of temporary buoys laid to avoid the shoal areas. The entrance silts but still read 3m on the depth gauge, we spent the night on the fuel quay, once secured we headed for a nightcap and somewhere to warm up.
Booking in we checked the forecast and the warning was still in place, resigning ourselves to spending a day or 2 here we transfered to a transit berth. Mid morning the wind started to pick up and it looked like the weather man had got the forecast right. Fortunatley Almerimar is a lrger marina with plenty to do and good facilities, sitting out the day also gave us the chance to look into our battery problem. Tracing through the system we found 2 faults, feeling confident we had located the problem, I turned off the battery charger overnight before turning in. The wind blew through the night and with vibration in the mast and snatching lines not many of us slept.
Groggy but awake I pried myself out of the bunk and went straight for the Voltmeter, shock horror back to 10.8volts on the batteries, more investigation required. With no sign of the wind easing we set about some small maintenance jobs before attending a talk by one of the liveaboards about cruising in Italy, very interesting and an excellent way of sharing information.
Hoping to leave Friday and head into Almeria bay before setting a Northerly course back home. Next weather forecast 22.00 - fingers crossed.
Forecast NE 5/6 easing E4, we put one reef in the main and set out, within 5 minutes we had another reef in and was thinking about turning back but the boat now seemed settled and the waves gave way to a swell. 2 hours on we had covered about 2 NM and Aguadulce was looking like an epic journey, finally round the headland we spotted the town of Roquetas de Mar ahead and gradually mangaed to increase our SOG, by the time we were level with Roquetas we were doing 6.8 knots under a handkerchief of a headsail and 2 reefs, not bad.
Entry to Aguadulce was straightforward and the staff helpful, pulling into our berth the Marinero handed us a ground line and by the time we had it on the bow we had acquired 4 other lines, the previous occupent had managed to leave us a pile of spaghetti. One of the lines got tangled around the prop shaft, fortunately we had the sense not to engage the engine, once we had the boat semi tied up, it was on with the wetsuit and in for a swim, other than getting wet it was all resolved in a couple of minutes. Tomorrow is a fiesta Dia de Andalucia and the forecast is still not good to round Cabo de Gata, looks like we may be staying a day or 2 here. Been having lots of problems with our internet connections but managed to Skype my niece in Australia and wish her a happy birthday, what would we do without the internet and Skype.
Had a cracking sail along to Almeria, popped into the Club de Mar and had a look around before sailing onto San Jose, we managed the entire leg under sail with the wind increasing to S5 as we rounded Cabo de Gata. San Jose is very pretty although small and expensive, after stretching our legs ashore we returned to the boat for a BBQ. Overall it was a restless night with the wind building and clanging halyards (not ours).
Another cracking days sailing with S5 sweeping us the coast, with a building following sea. Reefing down made little diference to our speed and we arrived quite quickly at Aguilas where there is a new marina. After locating the marina we tried to call as there were no visible boats inside, fearing that it was not yet open and adding to the breaking surf culminating in the harbour entrance we decided to play safe and go onto the old harbour. Hoping for calmer water as we entered behind the outer wall, imagine our dissapointment to see all the masts impersonating pendulum clocks. Fear of another sleepless night got the better of us, we set sail for the protection of Mazarron and continued up the coast, the sea and wind was starting to ease and we tied up around 22.00hrs in total calm, feeling bushed a quick beer and Kebab was all we could manage.
Total calm, the forecast for the next few days was cold and strong NE winds, wanting to clear Cabo de Palos we set off under engine. With flat seas and little to do we set the rods out hoping for a nice fish supper, that was before the Guardia Civil came over to check us out and run over the lines, more lost tackle and still not a meal in sight. The wind was just not playing and we motored the whole way back before passing under the 16.00 hrs bridge. Safely back in Tomas Maestre it gave us a chance to reflect on the trip. We had a right mixed bag of light airs and gale force winds, but overall had covered in excess of 220 Nm, visited some interesting places and had a fantastic time.