Sunday, September 15, 2019

More Cartagena

On Tuesday evening we strolled through the town with our friends and found a great tapas bar. It was a really nice evening.

Did I mention I love balconies here?
On next days we did some boat projects, like cleaning the carburettor on our outboard, changing the pulleys in our boom where the reefing lines go through (two out of three broke, maybe because we use dyneema lines now that are not stretchy). But we also made a walk to the shop or through the town that day and also on next days.

Weather was pretty cloudy and windy and on night between Thursday and Friday we had so much rain it was unreal, combined with very strong wind. The papers called it record downpour with gale-force wind, apparently it was the most rain since it is recorded in this area of Spain. Unfortunately also six people died. On Heron it meant we were up at 2.30 in the night, and were putting down some pots and towels under leaking hatches. After some time we went back to bed, but it was difficult to sleep because all of the noise wind and rain made.

Friday was rainy and cloudy, but we all thought the worst was behind us. But in the night we got another surprise - the hale. It was luckily not big enough to make any damage to boat, hatches or even bimini, but again the noise it made kept us all awake.

Saturday was supposed to be sunny, but it wasn't. It was another grey day and we're slowly getting fed up with it. If it weren't for time spent with our friends and nice neighbours, there would be nothing to remember the day by. And we were hoping for a nice calm night, but there was some party in one of the bars nearby and they were making big noise till early in the morning.

On Sunday we thought the nice weather will finally arrive, but we had to wait until noon to see the sun and there was still very windy. Anyway we decide to see the fortress on the hill. We had a ticket for an elevator, but it was out of order, so we climbed up. It got hot and very humid, so we were quite glad there was still lots of wind. On the way we saw lots of mud and rocks that the rain washed from the hill.

I'm still impressed by the size of ficus trees here.
The view from the forth to the South over the marina and wave breakers to the sea.
These are remains of Roman amfitheatre, as I understand it was later used for bull fights.
In the fortress there are many artefacts on display, mainly from 15th to 17th century. There are some robes...
...even the wedding robes of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon (replicas of course).
They supported Cristopher Columbus financially in his expeditions to New World and this part was most interesting for me and probably also for Captain. These were the instruments the sailors used for navigation at that time.

It was all well worth seeing, not to mention the views from up there. To the West one could see Roman theatre next to the modern open theatre, and behind the part of the port occupied by Spanish navy.
Back at the marina I noticed several dragonflies flying around and although I only had my phone with me, tried to make some photos. Here there are two up against the sky...
...and this is the closest I got to one. Man they are fast!
In one of the many photos I made I was able to recognise a blue spot on their back and concluded they might have been the Vagrant Emperors (check the photo on this great site for dragonflies: )

In the evening we went into town again to eat some of the local dish called caldero, it is similar to paella, but Cartagena style. Restaurants usually have it only on weekends. First we didn't know that most of the tapas bars open their kitchen again at 7.30 or 8 in the evening, almost like in Italy, so we strolled the town for and hour and a half, before we found the place that had working kitchen, and that caldero is eaten for lunch, so in the evening they didn't have it any more. Anyway, we had a nice food and beers in our favourite tapas bar in town La Uva Jumillana.

Tomorrow we're moving on, probably to Garrucha, and then on Tuesday to Almerimar. Hope we have some wind in right direction and none of the rain. Although the weather forecast is not very good for this week either, we hope it will be better than what we just had.

Thursday, September 12, 2019


On Monday morning we woke into a sunny day. We had a very calm night and slept well and I am very thankful to the people of Torreviejo who are fighting against the ban of anchoring in their port. We sailed off before 9 and we still had some land breeze, just enough for nice sailing with full sails. The sea has calmed down as well, there was some swell, but it wasn't annoying. We sailed along the coast and by on Mar Menor and all the ugly tall buildings that are built right on the dunes. Near Capo de Palosa wind almost died, so we started the engine and rolled in both front sails. In hope of getting some more wind in the afternoon we left the main on, since there were no waves and very little swell.

Another photo for my light house collection - this one is on Capo de Palosa.
On the other side of cape the wind turned to South and we killed the engine and rolled out the genoa again. We again had just enough wind for a nice easy sailing. And then something magical happened. We got a visitor, a small bird. It first landed near the steering wheel and I thought: don't move, don't even breathe so you don't scare him. And grab your camera. I started shooting photos and the bird didn't seem to mind. Even more, he started exploring all the lines and spots on that part of the boat.
Later I researched a bit and I think it is a Common Whitethroat (rjava penica).

A bit later he got used to me and got more comfortable - he found a nice spot behind the spray hood and took a nap.
I didn't want to move too much, so we sailed slowly without any correction to the sails or sailing direction, even Captain had to stay away from the bird not to disturb him. After the bird has rested for a while, about two and a half hours, he flew away towards the coast. What a nice experience.

While we were occupied whit the bird, we slowly reached Cartagena bay. This multi coloured hill stands at the entrance to it.
And there are several forts in the bay.
At around four we were in the Yacht Port marina. Wind got a bit stronger for the last hour, what usually happens just when one is parking the boat. But it all went well with a help from helpful marineros and nice neighbours.

We were very happy to meet up with Catherine and Neville of Dream Time again, they were our neighbours in Otranto marina after a very rough night for us both in anchorage. We had a very pleasant chat in the late afternoon. Check their web page (you can find link on our page on the right side) and their many beautiful photos and Catherin's story about the storm they had in Mallorca on 27th August - I think it was the same storm that later the same day hit us East of Menorca. 

After another calm nigh (well, we are in the marina, so no more worries about wind shifting, anchor dragging and such) we decided we need some exercise. So after morning coffee we strolled into the town. Cartagena has many beautiful buildings, I particularly like the balconies.
Ficuses here are proper trees, not pot plants like at home.
Our firs stop was Roman Forum, where we saw lots of old Romans excavations and learned a bit about history. Cartagena was founded by Cartaghinians as they wanted a strong port to conquer Europe, at that time it was called Carthago Nova. It was soon captured by Romans and continued flourishing, also thanks to silver mines in vicinity. In the site of Roman Forum there are baths - on the small stone pillars there was raised floor that was heated from underneath....
...some paved streets where the tracks from carts are still visible...
...a Roman atrium house...
...with wall murals...

...and even the windows made of lapis specularis, a sort of gypsum.
And of course a parquet floor. Ok, it's made of stone.
The details on some artefacts were surprisingly well preserved.
Roman Forum was only opened in 2012 and the excavations are still going on right next to this site.

After that we strolled a bit further, along some pretty houses. Did I mention I love the balconies?
We made a stop in a restaurant and had a typical Spanish plate for brunch. Especially pata negra (to the left) was really good.
Then we walked some more and climbed onto one of the hills, again with Roman ruins on it. But also roses and trees.
Somehow we strolled by the Roman Forum again and discovered these graffitis.
Our next stop was Roman theatre. We did have some troubles finding the entrance, we didn't know the entrance was in a building couple of hundreds meters away from actual location of theatre, which we were seeing on Google maps. Sometimes it pays to ask a policeman or even to observe signs on the buildings, rather than blindly trust the navigation apps.

Here we learned some more about the history. The Romans considered Cartago Nova so important, they spent a lot of money for public buildings, like this theatre. Theatre was only discovered in 1988, because throughout the years there were always buildings standing on top of it. The work on theatre and on artefacts found on site are still in progress, some are exhibit in the halls and in the museum building.
The theatre was used for plays, apparently Romans liked the comedies the most, and for political gatherings. It had seats for 6000 to 7000 people.
The part where the stage was was mostly destroyed, but it was a magnificent building with columns in two stories.

In the post-Roman times lots of original material, as well as columns, were used for building of other structures. 

On one part of the theatre seats there was a cathedral built centuries ago, that was bombed in 1939 in Spanish civil war.
I'm glad we had the chance to see all this. When it stops raining, in couple of days, we have to explore some more of the town's more recent history.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

To ibiza and on to mainland Spain

On Tuesday morning, after another calm day on buoy,  we took some fuel and bought fresh bread in Portocolom and sailed off. We sailed South and then turn the corner towards West around Punta Salinas...          
...and dropped the anchor in wide bay Ensenada de la Rapita where some of the longest and best beaches are on Mallorca. Water was clear and we had a nice lazy afternoon, despite clouds that creeped in from North. 
Further down the beach we saw this sad view. Probably from the big storm a week ago that made so much damage on Mallorca and gave us such hard time East of Menorca.

Despite the bay being so open, it was rather calm and we slept well. Next morning we sailed further West, around Cabo Blanco...
...and across the Bay of Palma. We anchored in the bay Ensenada de las Porras in front of tourist development Megaluf. It really isn't pretty, so I didn't photograph it, it is like all tall buildings standing directly at waterfront elsewhere in Spain. But the small island on the other side, Isla de la Porras, was nice.
We didn't chose the bay for its beauty, but because we studied the weather forecast and thought it would be very calm for the night. And once there it looked like it could be. Until 11 in the evening, when the wind suddenly shifted from SW to NE and got stronger. We checked the anchor and realised it wasn't holding well. So we had to anchor again, this time we made sure it was holding better. I got very upset by all of it, it seemed so unfair that we always have to deal with wind shifts in the middle of the night.

The small island provided a bit of shelter and we slept well, surprisingly. Next morning we moved a bit more West, around the Punta de Cala Figuera...
...along the West coast... the SW corner of bay Cala Fornells.
Bay was not bad, but again we chose it for the protection for the night and we wanted to be at the good point for passage to Ibiza next day. We arrived there early in the afternoon and enjoyed the sun and warm clear water. After long time I went snorkelling and it wasn't bad.

All these are hydroids, relatives of corals, and they all have little tentacles with which they catch plankton.

This guy is called Sally Lightfoot (Percnon gibbesi) and I first saw it couple of years back in Adriatic.   I couldn't figure out what it was, and only a year later saw a photo of it that was taken on Tobago. I couldn't believe that a warm water crab could live in Adriatic so I double checked and researched a bit and found out it is an invasive species in Mediterranean, spreading also in Adriatic. It is obviously thriving on Mallorca, because I've seen couple of them under every rock, and some of them were quite big.
We had a very nice dinner and a good and calm night. Next morning Captain sailed off already at 7, sun was just rising.
Beginning of the passage to Ibiza was slow with little wind, but big waves. Sleeping was not possible, so I soon joined Captain on deck. After a while wind picked up and the sailing was fast, but the waves got even bigger. Wind was from NE, as forecast. But there was a strange thing about the waves. Most of them were also from NE or E, but I could swear I was seeing some ridges coming from North. The more I watched the more certain I was. Obviously wind from Gulf of Lyon was so strong that it sent waves around both sides of Mallorca and they met on the South side. Which made me worry were we will anchor on Ibiza. Since forecast for wind and waves was NE to E we were hoping to anchor in one of the calas (bays) on NW side. But we would need to wait to get to Ibiza and see how it really is.

Sailing was fast, but due to confused sea very uncomfortable, further from Mallorca waves got even bigger to 2 to 3 meters, pretty much like in Atlantic. Most of the day was cloudy and the ride was really not nice. In the afternoon we reached NE corner of Ibiza and while we sailed along NW coast we realised that even though the waves from E and NE were gone, there were still big 2m rollers from the North, travelling along the shore and into the bays. When we sailed past Cala Galera, that was going to be our anchorage for that night, we saw couple of sailboats in there, riding the waves and a motorboat escaping out of the bay and we knew we need to implement plan B. Which was to sail for another 14 miles along NW coast and either anchor in bay of San Antonio or go into marina, if we couldn't find a calm spot for anchoring. After 9 hours of sailing prospect of another couple of hours of sailing didn't cheer us. But since we had waves only from one side, we could at least make couple of sandwiches and had something to eat. I was not in the best of mood, but had to admit, that the coast with high cliffs was beautiful, even in cloudy weather.
At around 6 in the evening we anchored in NE corner of the bay above the marina. The sun appeared for couple of moments and created a rainbow.
Before going to bed we checked the weather forecast as we always do. To our surprise there was some seriously bad weather coming to Baleares in couple of days. While our plan was to stay on Ibiza a couple of days, we figured out that it will be very difficult to hide somewhere when bad weather arrives. So we changed plans and not happily decided to sail to mainland right next morning.

It is a good distance, so we started early. In the morning we still had some sun, and the islands and rocks around SW corner of Ibiza looked pretty.
Wind was taking time to start blowing, so we motored for couple of hours. Later wind picked up, but it was a bit too light for the waves we were having. Again, and again they came from North and this time around Ibiza from SE, wind was from NE. Ride was very uncomfortable, and we had to change the direction of sailing to get enough wind to prevent sails from flapping. It was not a day we enjoyed.

Our destination was anchorage behind the Punta de Morayra, we anchored there 8 years ago, also coming from Ibiza. That time the waves were not so big, but night was still not very calm (I know because I documented it all in my blog). So I was pushing to go straight into marina, after so much sailing in two days we deserved a good and calm night. Captain didn't agree, we had to sail into the anchorage and drop the anchor and wait a little to see if it is really so uncomfortable. We had a beer, and at that time it wasn't so bad, and I was too tired to argue, so I gave in.

We went to bed early. First time I woke up was at 2 and I was so tired and was thinking: oh, not again! I managed to go back to sleep and woke up at 3. At that time Captain was also up and suggested we sail off. He started the engine and lifted the anchor and off we sailed. Outside the waves were still big, but there was almost no wind, and boat was rocking and rolling from side to side. Sleeping was impossible. After some time there was some wind and Captain tried sailing and motor-sailing and when the ride got a bit smoother, I managed to get some more sleep. During the day we again had too little wind for the waves that were there. Heron can sail well with very little wind, but not in 2m high waves in confused sea. So we struggled with changing sailing directions, occasionally turning on the engine, for whole 13 hours and at 4 in the afternoon we sailed into the port of Torrevieja. Another mostly grey day I would rather forget.

This is the outer breaker of Torrevieja port, it is probably some 7m high.
This is how it looks from inside, notice how small the people on both levels are.

Behind the breakers it is very calm and plenty of space for anchoring. Even the sun came out and we had a very nice afternoon, with some resting and sleeping, and a swim. And afterwards a BBQ.
Tomorrow we still have a good piece of sailing to do, some 40 miles, we're sailing to Cartagena, and will probably stay there until bad weather passes.