Tuesday, September 24, 2019

From Cartagena to Gibraltar

We left Cartagena on Monday late morning. We were hoping for a package that was sent to us from Slovenija to arrive by then, but bad weather the week before made so much problems on roads that it didn't come. But after a week in marina we had to move and we arranged with the marina they will forward package to one of the other Spanish marinas where we'll make a stop.

Day was almost sunny, with gentle wind and sailing was nice. Not very fast, Captain wouldn't mind a knot or two more, but I was happy with it. In the evening we were approaching Garrucha, where we wanted to stay for the night. But sailing was such pleasure, that we decided to continue and to either drop anchor in one of the bays along the Eats side of Cabo de Gata or sail through the night to Almerimar. After couple of hours, it was already very dark, we decided to anchor in bay of Agua Amarga (Bitter water). Thanks to the radar and description in our pilot book we managed to stay away of field of mooring buoys with motor boats on them.

Night was not very calm, although there was no wind there were waves and I woke up several times because the boat was rolling from side to side. Captain had no problem with it and slept well. In the morning we finally saw where we were. This is the NE side of the bay.
The rocks were full of remains of bunkers and forts.
And this is the village of Agua Amarga - near Almeria there is also a place called Agua Dulce or Sweet Water.
We sailed towards South and the shore was rocky and wild and surprisingly undeveloped. And the views were much prettier that those of the high apartment blocks.

But we soon noticed that there were dark clouds on the South and we also heard the thunders. It wasn't forecast, on radar picture didn't look like much, and we had to go through anyway.
Wind was changing strength and direction, so for some time we motored and then sailed again, and then motored again. When we reached Cabo de Gata it was still cloudy, but the rain and thunders were gone, but what remained was a nice wind from the East.  So we could sail again.

Cabo de Gata also looks nice and rocky, but the photos would surely look better if taken in sunshine.
Still, the colour of water looked very nice even under clouds. This is the lighthouse on the South point of Cabo de Gata.
In the afternoon, after hours of fast sailing, wind started to die and last miles to Almerimar we had to run engine. We tied to our berth in the marina and in the evening went for a stroll. We still remembered much from the last time we were here 8 years ago. We made plan do some shopping in chandlery and in supermarket the next day.

There were surprisingly big fish swimming in the marina and also some ducks.
Next day Captain climbed on the mast to get the wind instrument that was having problem and brought it to the chandlery for some testing. In the afternoon the diagnosis was that it would be too expensive to get it repaired, so we ordered a new part that would arrive next morning. In the meantime I did some serious shopping in nearby supermarket, it was near enough even for heavy stuff like cartons of milk or beer. In the evening we met the crew of Dream Time and enjoyed a very nice dinner and a beer together.

Next morning the ordered part of wind instrument arrived, I did some more shopping, and then Captain climbed on the mast again to install the part. So it was already noon when we sailed off. The original plan was to sail to Marina Este and check if we could anchor there or go into marina and next day sail to Marina Fenguirola close to Marbella, where we would need to stay a couple of days to get the wind in right direction again to sail to Gibraltar.

There was very little wind and we motored again. We are not so fast under engine as we can be under sail, so we quickly realised that because of our late start we couldn't reach Marina Este in daylight, so it would be difficult to check the anchorages. So after a quick deliberation we decided to take it slow and do an over night sail directly to Gibraltar.

The Costa del sol is full of plastic, under which vegetables grow - they say they produce half of all the vegetables eaten in Europe. But it looks ugly, especially where the plastic comes all the way to the beach.

Most of the day we were motoring, we even stopped the engine to go for a swim in incredibly blue sea. In the evening a dragon fly came to rest on our bimini. I was wandering whatever happened to the five dragon flies that were sailing with us from Sardinia toward Menorca, they were still on the boat when the rain started but after the storm we didn't see them any more. I hope they have sensed the storm and flew away in right time.
The night was calm with very little wind, although both of us did some sailing on our watches. But most of the time we had to motor.

Morning was grey and cloudy, we could hardly see the ships that were sailing near Gibraltar until they were close. But what we could see were many many dolphins, we watched them almost for full two hours.

I think I said this before, some 8 years ago - British territory obviously has to had British weather. And another fun thing - there is a mosque on Cape Europa ( on the right on the photo).

This time we sailed to marina in La Linea on Spanish side. The Gibraltar marinas are a bit cheaper, but pretty full and our friends - Dream Time and Stabo were also in La Linea, so we had to go there as well.

On Friday we took it slow, had a nice afternoon with crew of Stabo and went to bed early. On Saturday we felt lazy as well, so except walking to the nearby chandlery and supermarket to get fresh bread, we stayed on the boat. Luckily we got some company, the crew of Dream Time came by. After a drink with them we had a nice BBQ to celebrate our wedding anniversary. It was a very nice day even though nothing spectacular happened.

On Sunday we walked to Gibraltar. We walked through border crossing and then over the airstrip, which is very unusual. The photo bellow is taken from The Rock in 2013, when we were in Gibraltar for the second time (you can find posts about our first visit in archive to the right under October 2011 and second under June 2013). So La Linea marina is the marina on the right side of the huge wave breaker and the airstrip is below.
I liked this school building, it's outer walls were covered with plants.

There were many pretty flowers...
...and blooming trees in Gibraltar.

North part of The Rock has as many holes as Swiss cheese.
We went to the Morrisons and I was able to get some British things that are not easy to get elsewhere - like lemon curd and ready made custard from carton. We also had a lunch in Morrisons, but we should have chosen some other place like I wanted, food was really not good.

We spent evening in good company again - this time on board of Stabo. Time just flew and before we realised it was past midnight. But it's so rare that we meet another Slovene boat so far from home.

On Monday morning we did some shopping in La Linea. We also stopped for a breakfast in Cafe Imperial and had some churros and papitas - the fried doughy worms that you dunk in hot chocolate. Churros are thinner and crispier and more salty and papitas more oily.
While it was nice, it was sooo oily we couldn't eat it up. We should have just ordered one portion. But then we wouldn't get to try both. Anyway, we were very full until dinner.

Weather was getting sunnier and it looked that wind was also right to leave Gibraltar on Tuesday. We left marina already on Monday afternoon and anchor in bay in front of marina, we thought we migh go for a swim in the sea. But there was still lots of wind and water was not very warm, so we passed. But I managed to go in the water today and it was still not very warm.

Today we checked the weather again and decided to stay two more days, wind would be on the nose and a bit stronger than we thought and Thursday looks like a good day to sail West. We will probably take some fuel tomorrow and check the anchorage in front of Tarifa and if it's too rolly return to anchorage in La Linea. And then we plan on leaving very early in the morning to take advantage of favourable current and sail directly to Rota. So that's our plan. If the wether doesn't change it.

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: http://dragonflypix.com/speciespages/anax_ephippiger_en.html#close )

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.