Canary Islands: Lanzarote.
20 September 2016
Photo: Jardin de Cactus, Lanzarote
We left Agadir Marina at 07:30 on Sunday 11th September. We had checked out of Morocco the previous afternoon and had to wait for the local police to return our passports on Sunday morning. It was again foggy as we left, apparently the locals told us the fog has been a regular occurrence this year since about June, not the normal weather pattern for Agadir. The sun finally came out when we were 40nm off the coast, great to see it and gave the boat a chance to dry out from the moisture and dampness of the fog. The rest of the 216nm trip was uneventful, we did have to call one ship who altered course, with several pods of dolphins. One pod was particularly playful, with one of them going for the high jump record as he continued to jump out of the water, higher each time. We finally dropped the anchor in Playa de Francesca, Isla Graciosa, Canary Islands at 15:15 Monday afternoon. A pleasant bay in the shadow of a volcano.
Thursday 15th, we left the anchorage and sailed down to Marina Lanzarote, Arrecife. Not sure how, but we managed to pick the windiest day so far, 20 – 30 knots from the north with quite high seas, oh well it tested the boat and us, luckily it was down wind sailing. As we approached the channel to the entrance of the marina, we were puzzled by what we saw in front of us. The breakwater with a green, starboard marker at the end of it appeared to have an additional boom attached and extending further out. As we got a little closer we could see that it was in fact an extension of the breakwater itself, solid concrete, awash at high tide with a red flag flying in the middle of it. There was another green starboard marker at the far end, some 2 – 300 metres away. On our way out of the marina some days late at low tide, we could clearly see the concrete extension to the breakwater.
Lanzarote Marina was full with Jimmy Cornell’s Barbados 50 rally boats, all flying bunting, very colourful. They had a series of seminars during the week and also a helicopter rescue demonstration in the harbour, the rally will cross the Atlantic in November. We enquired at the marina office for an auto electrician to have a look at our alternator which had failed in Gibraltar. Within 24 hours we had a new alternator installed and working perfectly. Once the alternator was installed we went for a walk into Arrecife town, a quiet, non-tourist town with not much happening the days we were there.
The Canary Islands are volcanic, Lanzarote is the lowest lying of the Canary Islands with many volcanos and the landscape is fascinating. There was a major eruption in 1730 that lasted 6 years and destroyed most of the island, leaving behind rich, fertile, volcanic soil. As there is not much rainfall, the island gets its water from large desalination plants.
With Lynn, Dick and Bill we hired a car for two days and toured the island. We started at the Jardin de Cactus. The cactus garden was wonderful, very well laid out with a large variety of cacti. We were all impressed. From there we drove to the Aqua Caves, a natural water filled cave that was formed by volcanic eruptions. Inside the cave is a lagoon were a species of white crabs live, they are blind and not found anywhere else.
Next was the Lava Caves, a walk through part of the 8 kilometre lava caves and tunnels. Unlike the limestone caves we have seen in Spain and Gibraltar, there are no stalagmites or stalactites in these caves, no moisture, although there was a small pool in one of the chambers which when the water was still gave a wonderful reflection of the surrounding walls, it looked like a giant chasm.
We then drove through the wine area of the island, San Bartolome. The vines are planted in black volcanic soil on the ground, in small pits that have north facing, semi-circular walls around them. They are not grown on trellises. Unfortunately at this time of year we assumed the grapes had been harvested as most of the pits were empty.
Casear Manrique was a local artist, sculptor, who lived on the island and was passionate about it. Everywhere you go there are examples of his artwork, sculptures, paintings, all the roundabouts are landscaped and many have his sculptures at the centre. He was an activist who campaigned against high rise buildings, for only white houses, no billboards and much more. After lunch in Orzola, we visited his house, which is now a museum and has been left the way it was when he died in 1992. Then it was back to the marina after a full day, for dinner and to see the helicopter rescue demonstration.
Sunday we set off for the National Park, stopping first to look at the Campesino sculpture, by Caesar Manrique in honour of the poor. The National Park is on the west coast of the island, you take your car in, having paid the €9 per person entry fee, park by the information centre and then board a bus for a 30 – 40 minute drive around the park, complete with commentary on the history and landscape. It is easy to see the lava trails that lead to the ocean, the area is desolate, but stunning at the same time. Nothing grows, there are volcanos, volcano vents, lava rock and ash that stretches to the coast. It was well worth the visit.
Time for lunch, we headed for Marina Rubicon and Playa de Blanca, the tourist area on the south coast. This area was a total contrast to where we had just visited, it does have semi high rise, lots of resorts, hotels and shopping malls. There are also many beaches in this area and a ferry that goes across to Fuerteventura. It was then back to the marina for drinks and dinner, we also said goodbye to Bill as he heads back to USA till the end of November.
Monday morning we left Lanzarote marina and motored down to Rubicon marina, where we will leave the boat for a couple of weeks while we visit Gail’s parents and family in Liverpool, UK.
We are starting to do the checks and get work done for our Atlantic crossing. The sails are all off the boat, gone for main baton pocket checks/repair, UV strips on the Yankee and Staysail, minor tear in the gennaker, all will be done whilst we are away. One thing we have found difficult in the Canary Islands, and is still unresolved, is where to get our LPG bottles filled. It appears no one on Lanzarote can do them, we hope we can get them filled in either Gran Canaria or Tenerife.
Morocco – Marrakech and Atlas Mountains
10 September 2016
Photo: Village in Atlas Mountains
Tuesday morning after breakfast, we set off to continue exploring, with a busy day planned. We only got as far as the parking lot when a man, who told us he worked at the Riad, said the Palace and museum were closed for the day due to roadworks (we had seen them on the way in the previous day) and that today was the last day for the Berbers, Atlas mountain tribal people, at the tannery and workshops. He offered to show us the way when we looked bemused with his directions, and off we set through a labyrinth of streets, alleys and markets wondering if we would ever find our way back. It was fascinating to see donkeys being used to carry goods, remember there are no cars in the Medina although there a lots of motorbikes. The common call is “keep to the right” to avoid being run down by a motorbike, they travel at fast speeds at times. After a while, the guy passed us off to another guy who took us to the Tannery. The Tannery is an open area where animal pelts are treated in ammonia baths, the smell was horrendous, even with the sprigs of mint they had given us as ‘gas masks’. It was extremely hard work and the workers’ health suffers, we did not stay long. From there we went to see the finished goods in the shops, and spent several hours looking at rugs and leather wares. We don’t know how, but between 5 of us, we ended up with 3 rugs and 6 runners, all “for a good price”. As we left, the guy from the Tannery and the guy who had shown us the way, were waiting for us and wanted money. Another lesson learnt, if someone offers to show you how to get somewhere, they expect some dirhams in return.
Having negotiated our way out of the Tannery area, we visited the Koran School, Medersa Ben Youssef, the Maison de Photographie and the Museum of Marrakech, all of which, despite being wonderful buildings, did not have sufficient artefacts or story boards with information on how they worked or what they were used for. The building themselves were very elaborate, the carvings on the wooden ceilings, the mosaics and masonry were amazing, they were just not what we expected of a museum, maybe that was our naivety or lack of understanding of how Morocco works.
It was back to the Riad by 16:00. Lynn and Gail had a Hamman booked for early evening. The Hamman is a steam room where ladies pour warm water over your body, then apply a black soap, which is then rubbed over the body with an exfoliating mitten, followed by more water and Argon oil. Argon oil comes from a fruit which is eaten by goats who then excrete the pip, which is picked up by the women and ground to extract the oil. It is apparently high in vitamin E and very good for your hair and skin. The Argon oil is left on for 5 minutes then washed off. We followed the Hamman with a massage, a very decadent afternoon, Dick and Brian also had a massage but not the Hamman. At 21:30 we were picked up by Pierre’s driver and taken to dinner at a Moroccan nightclub which had belly dancers. An interesting evening.
We set off again on Wednesday morning more prepared for what we would see. Again we had not gone far when someone tried to tell us the museums were closed and that today was the final day for the Berbers at the Tannery and showroom, we were not taken in again. We had decided to explore more of the Souks, they are arranged loosely by the wares they sell, e.g. Woodwork, fabrics, spices, metal work etc. We did manage to get slightly lost but eventually found our way out and visited the Palais La Bahia, a sultan’s palace with a harem room. Again a lovely building but not enough information on how it was used, it seems for the palace you are supposed to get a walking guide. After the Palace we split up as we wanted to see and do different things, so we said farewell to Lyn, Dick and Bill hoping we would all meet up later that evening at the Riad.
Having spent all our time in the Medina, we took a taxi to the Grande Café de Poste, outside the Medina walls for lunch. The café felt old colonial, wide staircases, palms and lounge chairs, very nice. We then walked to the street which has a Mosque on one side and a Catholic church on the opposite side. Even though it was 44 degrees Celsius, we decided to walk back to the Medina through the modern section of Marrakech, which is just like any other modern city and quite a contrast to the Medina. On our way back we stopped at the wood workers souk and bought the backgammon set, however when we saw the counters we were disappointed so the old guy offered to make new ones, “better”. We watched him make one and arranged to come back later to pick up the backgammon set and counters. Dinner was again a traditional Moroccan dish at the Riad.
The following morning we said goodbye to Pierre and Reslan and with Pierre again showing us the way on his motorbike, headed out of Marrakech for the Atlas Mountains. As we drove through the streets we came across one worker in the middle of a busy intersection, breaking up the tar seal with a pick, no protection or guard rails around him, you could barely seem him for all the traffic.
We eventually found our Auberge, guesthouse, after again getting lost. We had been looking for Ourika, not realising that it is a district not the village, however we stumbled across a Visitor Information office who put us on the right track. We put our bags in our room and headed off in the car up the Ourika valley towards Setti Fadma. This valley is very touristy, there were dozens of cafes set out in the river bed with guys all along the road acting as parking wardens to get you to pull over and park. We continued to Setti Fadma and saw local women cleaning rugs in the river and then carrying them on their backs, home. We were disappointed in the Ourika Valley, it was not what we were expecting.
The following day we checked out of the Auberge and headed up the other arm of the valley to Oukaimeden, a ski resort area. This was more like what we were expecting, villages clinging to the side of the mountains, rich red soil, children playing with hoops, footballs and donkeys walking up the trail. Oukaimeden is 8620 feet above sea level, it has a modern ski lift that was installed 2 years ago at the base and 6 other lifts. The small village has ski lodges and a hotel, where we had lunch. Unfortunately we were the only foreigners in town and were harassed by locals trying to sell fossils, Agates, geo stones and honey, one guy trailed us halfway up the mountain to try and sell us things. We had to be very forceful in saying “No” to enable us to leave.
Back down the mountain and onto the highway back to Agadir after 4 wonderful days. However our adventures were not over. Approaching the toll road we were pulled over by the police who said we were speeding, having no luck proving it they eventually fined us 300 dirhams (30 euro) for one person not wearing a seatbelt in the back seat. (If only they had realised none of us in the backseat was wearing one!!) Back on the road we made good time to Agadir, seeing a herd of camels crossing the over bridge of the motorway linking one side of the desert to the other, we could not see anyone with them so don’t know if they were wild or domestic.
Saturday, after waking up to fog, we had a quiet day on the boat, doing laundry and chores, we plan to leave for Lanzarote, Canary Islands on Sunday 11th September. We are pleased we came to Morocco and experienced this wonderful week.
Morocco - Marrakech
10 September 2016
Photo: Riad Adika
We left Ocean Village marina at 07:30, Thursday 1st September for the 432 nm trip to Agadir Marina, Morocco. We anticipated the trip would take us 3 days/nights as we wanted to arrive in daylight. Dropping the lead lines at Ocean Village, we anticipated this would be the last time we would be med moored and therefore left behind on the dock our Passarella, “free to a good home”. As we have mentioned before, although we have become good at Med mooring, we are not fans.
Leaving the marina, we hoisted the main with two reefs, anticipating strong winds going across the Straits of Gibraltar. The Straits are the narrow stretch of water, separating North Africa from the Mediterranean, about 12 miles across at the narrowest point, ideal conditions for strong currents and winds. It is also a high traffic zone for shipping entering and leaving the Mediterranean. We hugged the Spanish coastline to Tarifa Point and then called Tarifa Traffic control to let them know we would be crossing the traffic separation zone heading towards Tangiers, Morocco. Tarifa Point has winds in excess of 30 knots for 300 days of the year, the most we saw as we crossed was 34 knots.
Day one was a great sail, wing on wing down the Moroccan coast, unfortunately for us we then motored or motor sailed the next 48 hours. We passed quite large fishing trawlers which surprisingly did not have AIS (Automatic Identification Systems) on them, so needed to be vigilant. At 03:00 the second night on Brian’s watch the fog rolled in and stayed until we entered the marina at Agadir. We had to motor sail, trusting our radar and AIS to ensure we did not hit anything, as large container ships and cruise liners work this coast. This was a challenge as quite small, wooden boats with people fishing did not always show up on radar, we were very lucky not to hit one boat which suddenly appeared meters way on our port side out of the murk. The 3 guys on board seemed happy as they waved to us and showed us their catch, we took a deep breath, thankful we had missed them. Shortly after this encounter, a bird landed on the deck, it looked like possibly an Osprey, it was exhausted and stayed for a couple of hours before flying off. That evening we phoned the marina in Agadir, via our Iridium Go, to inform them of our early ETA arrival Sunday morning, approximately 07:30. “No problem we will be here”, they also advised us to stay 15nm off the coast to avoid the fishing flags. As we were then 6nm offshore, we altered course to take us 15nm off by dark. Lucky we did as we started seeing the fishing flags, it was like being back in Thailand. The following morning as we were heading into Agadir, a bird emerged from under our dinghy on the foredeck, it was a different bird from the day before and who knows how long he had been there for his free ride.
We arrived in Agadir at 07:45 Sunday morning, went into the marina and safely tied up against the pontoon, no med mooring here. Customs arrived at the boat shortly after, and cleared us into Morocco, we had to get the Atlas out to show them where New Zealand was. They were amazed how far away it was. That afternoon Lynn and Gail got onto the internet and booked a Riad (guest house) in Marrakech while Dick, Brian and Bill walked to a nearby resort to book a rental car. It was a long story when they returned but they did have a car.
Monday morning at 08:00 we all piled our luggage into the car and set off for 3 nights in Marrakech and one in the Atlas Mountains. Dick was the navigator and soon had us on a mountain road insisting it was the correct way to the motorway. The route took us through small villages and mountain terrain and we all agreed it was much more interesting than a highway as we passed donkeys and saw children playing alongside the road. We eventually joined the highway which turned out to be a toll road, no problem except no-one had been to an ATM to get Dirhams, the local currency. That problem was soon sorted as we stopped at a service stop for breakfast/morning tea and exchanged Euros for Dirhams, it seems most places will take either currency. Most Moroccans speak French with a little English along with Moroccan, luckily for us Lynn and Dick both spoke French so communication was not a problem. At the service station we had our first taste of Moroccan tea, it is hot water poured over mint leaves, very nice. We also had our first experience of the local people coming up to us trying to sell their wares, at the service stop it was eggs, the children were cute and very persistent, a taste of things to come. We set off and came to the toll exit we wanted, paid and let Dick concentrate on getting us to the Riad. Riad Adika was in the Medina, the old walled part of Marrakech and we knew we could not take the car all the way, but Pierre the proprietor had given us instructions to the nearby parking lot. We ended up going around the same block 3 times, the traffic was busy, noisy with horns blaring and no-one appearing to take any notice of road signs. At one point when we were stationary a motorbike fell into us causing a scrap along the car. Thankfully we had taken full insurance. Getting frustrated we pulled in and called the Riad. Pierre answered and told us to stay put, he came and found us on his motorbike and guided us to the parking lot, which wasn’t far away. A local then piled our bags into a cart and pushed it through narrow alleyways and low arches to the Riad 5 minutes away, we wondered what we were heading to.
We need not have worried. Riad Adika is truly an oasis in the chaos of the Medina. Like most Riads or houses, it was built around a central, covered courtyard which had a pool. Riad Adika has 8 rooms that all open onto or overlook the courtyard, the rooms are all the same size, spacious and decorated in local design, the rooms have no outward windows; the light comes through the courtyard. Once we had been shown our rooms, Pierre and Reslan, our hosts, sat down with us with a map to explain where the local attractions were and how to get to them. Armed with the map we set off to explore, it was 3pm so we decided to take the direct route through the Souks, market stalls/shops to Jemaa el Fna square. The Souks are narrow alleyways crammed with stalls, shops, people, donkeys and motorbikes, it is an assault on the senses, we loved it. It was hard to go past the stalls and not look at what they had, but we quickly learned that if you stopped to look or point at something, the owner was quickly trying to bargain with you over price and offering other suggestions as what to buy. We were not very far into the Souks when we came to a stall were a man was making wooden items using his feet to turn the lathe, we watched him and admired his chess and backgammon sets and also his variety of boxes. We promised to return the following day. We finally made it to the square, Jemaa el Fna is lively, more so in the evening when the food stalls are set up and local musicians and artists are performing. When we arrived only the last of the snake charmers were around and they were disappointing. Across from the square is La Koutoubia mosque, unfortunately not open to non-Muslim. We wandered around, had a drink at the French café terrace which gave us a panoramic view of the Souks and then started making our way back to the Riad for dinner. We managed to make it back without getting lost.
After drinks in the common seating area, dinner was a traditional Moroccan tagine, slow cooked meat dishes, which was served at tables alongside the pool in the courtyard. It was then drinks and retire for the evening after a very busy day.
31 August 2016
Photo: Rock of Gibraltar
We arrived at the entrance to Gibraltar at 14:30, 26th August, after an uneventful 53nm motor sail. To enter Ocean Village marina you have to motor alongside the airport runway and port marker buoys, they close the channel if a plane is landing or taking off. Our berth is med moored against a high fixed pier, getting on and off the boat will be a challenge, which we managed to solve by putting the dinghy in the water and the outboard on the bracket.
Once checked into the marina, we walked to the border with Spain, across the airport runway. There cannot be many place in the world where there is s two line highway and pedestrian walkway across the only airport runway. We walked through the exit point in Gibraltar, waving our passports at the official, same again on the entry to Spain, then across the road to the exit border control to Spain. This is where we asked the official for a passport stamp, to officially end our stay in Schengen, he took some persuading and called for his supervisor, but once we explained that as we were non EU citizens and we needed a stamp, he was happy to stamp them. It was then 50m down the road and repeat the process crossing back into Gibraltar.
The following morning we watched the All Blacks defeat the Wallabies again and Liverpool draw with Tottenham, then explored Gibraltar main street and supermarkets. Wind Pony arrived later in the afternoon and Scallywag on Sunday.
Gibraltar is an interesting place, there does not appear to be a one square inch of land or water that does not have something on it, it is almost a concrete jungle. The main street is pedestrian free, tree lined with jewellery, liquor and cigarette stores on either side along with many familiar British stores. We found a Holland and Barrett that sold EziYo yogurt mixes and will be stocking up before we leave, the Morrisons supermarket has Roses lime cordial another good find. It takes a while to go anywhere in the marina, everyone is so friendly, there are a lot of Aussies, Kiwis, Americans and English, all ready to lend a hand with jobs or swap stories.
Monday was a public holiday and most of the shops in Gibraltar were closed, so after Brian had done an oil change on the main engine, we headed across the border to La Linea and the chandlery. It was small and we only managed to find one thing we wanted, so we headed back to the boat and Brian went up the mast to install the new radar reflector. That evening we went out to Charlies for dinner with Dick, Lynn and Bill “Wind Pony”, Gloria and Paul “Scallywag” and Melinda and David “Sassoon”, a great evening.
Tuesday was not such a good day. Our new house batteries were delivered in the morning and then the electrician came to review the alternator, six hours later he was still here. The final scenario is our smart charger to the house batteries has an issue which has caused the alternator problem. We have decided to disconnect the smart charger and the alternator, (it was getting way too hot) and have it repaired or replaced in the Canaries.
Wednesday was a busy day, we took the boat around to the fuel dock to refuel at 08:00, Duty free it is 0.39 pence, then it was washing and out for a trip up the rock. Gibraltar is only 6kms by 1.5kms with land reclamation continuing, the permanent population is 30,000 but there are 50,000 visitors each day excluding the cruise ships. Many people who work in Gibraltar are Spanish and live across the runway in La Linea. We visited the Pillars of Hercules, St Michaels Caves, the monkeys and a lookout. We think Auckland has traffic problems, all the roads in Gibraltar are grid locked, it is probably quicker to walk but up the hill and in the heat, sometimes a taxi is what is needed. After the trip up the rock, we went to Morrisons, the big supermarket and provisioned the boat. Then it was back to Dol to bake and make passage meals as it looks like we will be leaving tomorrow, Thursday 1st September.
We have enjoyed our 3 years in the Mediterranean, but it is now time to head south towards the southern hemisphere and the Caribbean. There are many things we have enjoyed about the Med including the people, different cultures, history, the stone fruit has been superb, Greek and Turkish yogurt and so much more. We will not miss the dirty rain, med mooring (although we have become good at it) including getting on and off the boat using the passerale, having to take the Schengen rules into consideration for our cruising seasons and smokers in the cafes and restaurants.
Balearic Islands – Mallorca, Formentera, Spanish coast
25 August 2016
Photo: Palma cathedral
We left Porto Colom on Monday 1st August and had a great wing on wing sail in 12 - 22 knots of north east wind down to Sant Jordi along the south coast of Mallorca. A shallow anchorage and one of the few we have had difficulties finding a suitable spot to anchor, but after a couple of attempts we found a spot in nice sand. We stayed 7 nights in the anchorage, went into town a couple of times. The town was basically a tourist town with cafes, beach shops and lots of people on the beach, the supermarket was small but well stocked. In the anchorage, it must have been the national holidays in Belgium as we were anchored alongside 6 Belgium flagged boats, the most we have seen in one place. On Saturday we were joined in the anchorage by Paul and Gloria on Scallywag, which resulted in a shared dinner that evening and a catch up on everyone's news.
Monday 8th August we motor sailed to La Lonja Charter Marina in Palma. The marina is a charter yacht base, you cannot book in for the weekends and is not in any of the cruising guides, we were told about it by our good friends Rick and Robin "Endangered Species". The marina is well located near the cathedral in old town Palma, which is the jewel in the crown of Palma's sites, which includes a castle, meeting houses, palaces and old merchant houses. Visiting the cathedral in the morning, you get to see the magnificent rose window reflecting its rainbows on the pillars and walls of the cathedral interior, an awesome wow factor. The restaurants and cafes around the old town are plentiful and we enjoyed tapas on a couple of evenings in the same place, we got to know Mario the waiter quite well, the restaurant always has people queuing up outside on the off chance of getting a table. Palma is the first major city we have been in for a while and regularly had 3 cruise ships in port each day and the best shopping mall and supermarket we have seen for a long time. Wind Pony were joined by their friend Bill who flew in from the USA and will be travelling with them to the Canaries, he brought Brian's new toy, an Iridium Go, with him, this will keep Brian busy setting it up and learning how to use it for the next we while.
We left La Lonja on Friday 12th August and motored 16nm to anchor in Santa Ponsa. We had planned on evening drinks with Paul and Gloria Scallywag, as we would not be seeing them again until the Canaries, but the afternoon sea breeze came in quite strong and with boats trying to anchor in an already crowded anchorage, a farewell on the phone had to suffice. The following morning we upped anchor at 06:30 and motor sailed 66nm to Puerto el Espalmador, Formentera. A very long sandy beach behind a low lying island, it was like a parking lot, but with plenty of room. There looked to be several hundred boats, Brian reckoned close to a thousand, along the beach, including plenty of super yachts/launches with small day craft and yachts of all shapes and sizes, an interesting mixture. Most of the boats left at sunset which made for a peaceful evening and sleep, a contrast to the water movement and activity during the day. We took the dinghy ashore for a walk around the lagoon and along the coastal walkway, being mindful of the naturalists.
Monday 15th August we motored the 63nm to Marina Puerto Del Calpe on the Spanish mainland. Dinner ashore and we left the following morning for Puerto Del Torrevieja. It was an interesting day, a few miles after we left Calpe we crossed the Greenwich Meridian, we will be travelling west from Greenwich for the first time since leaving Tonga in 2010. Later in the day we radioed a ship who had altered course to be on a collision course with us, he was going into Alicante. There was no response from the ship, despite several calls on VHF, he continued to alter course but also forced us to alter course to avoid him. The previous day when we were the give way vessel, we radioed a ship, he responded immediately and told us he was changing course so we would go around his stern and therefore needed to take no action. It just shows that despite AIS you have to be vigilant. The weather was also a mixed bag, we had everything from no wind to 20 knots "on the nose", we therefore motored, motor sailed and sailed during the day, which also saw several periods of rain.
We anchored for the night outside the marina in Torrevieja and left the following morning, motoring 39nm to Yacht Port Marina, Cartagena, this is the first pontoon marina we have been in since entering the Mediterranean. The coast line today was more interesting, rugged hills/mountains and craggy shorelines. We stayed in Cartagena for 5 nights and enjoyed the town, it has a strong Roman history, the Roman theatre is worth a visit, and there is also a castle, a fort and many fortifications. The main street is narrow, has several interesting bronze statues, the iron work on the balconies is amazing, the road is tiled, pedestrian only and there is a large array of shops, cafes and bars. Everything was within walking distance from the marina.
We finally left on Monday 22nd August and motor sailed 47nm to Puerto de Garrucha marina, where we side tied. As we were motoring along there was a loud bang and something came crashing down and hit the deck, our radar reflector had parted company with the mast. Oh well something else to replace. There is a 1.5 m swell on the coast so we will be marina hopping our way to Gibraltar. To get into the marina we had to go past the commercial wharf where ships where being loaded with gypsum, around the perimeter of the marina there was a constant trail of lorries who unloaded onto the wharf where the gypsum was then picked up by front end loaders and put on conveyor belts to the ship. This occurred constantly between 7am and 7pm. There was plenty of space in the marina even though we were side tied, nice.
Tuesday we left at first light, past the ships still loading its gypsum and motor sailed through big seas, with a not very pleasant angle to the swell and winds of 20+ knots to Cape de Gata, the turning point for going along the southern coast of Spain. Once we changed angle, we put the Yankee on the pole and had a great wing on wing sail, surfing down waves at 10+ knots, to Puerto de Almerimar marina, total distance of 67nm, giving a sleeping turtle a wake-up call as he flipped his way out of our path. Along the south coast of Spain there are mile after mile of greenhouses, apparently where most of the winter vegetables for Europe are grown.
It's amazing how much difference a day makes, Wednesday we motored with no wind 43nm to Marina Del Este, Puerto de la Mona, a more boutique marina with 200 berths compared with Almerimar which had over a thousand berths. They gave us a bottle of red wine for staying with them. We were encouraged along by a current of up to 1.5 knots pushing us toward our destination, must be the effect of us getting closer to the narrow exit to the Mediterranean. Along the way we saw many more greenhouses, trawlers and what passes for a fishing buoy in this part of the world, two soccer balls tied together and enclosed in a net. As at Almerimar, we had to tie up to the fuel berth or watch tower on arrival to complete the paperwork before being allocated a berth, this is the first time we have come across this. We have also noticed that far fewer people speak English on the Spanish mainland than in the Baleares Islands. Dinner and drinks ashore with Lynn, Dick and Bill, the marina has many around the complex. Wind Pony are staying an extra day at Este for a road trip to Grenada, something they have a particular interest in. We will go on ahead to Gibraltar, the lure of an All Blacks game against the Wallabies to watch on Saturday. The yacht next to us in the marina was English and the owner chatted away about Dol and his plans to cross the Atlantic this year with the ARC, (Atlantic Cruising Rally). As we get closer to Gibraltar we are meeting more and more people who like us will be crossing this year.
Thursday saw us motoring again with no wind but a favourable current to Puerto De Benalmadena marina, our final stop along the coast of Spain as Friday we will head to Gibraltar, our final stop and country in the Mediterranean. We have another repair to do, the alternator for our house batteries appears to have stopped working. We have contacted an auto electrician to have a look at it in Gibraltar.
Balearic Islands – Mallorca
30 July 2016
We finally pulled the anchor off the bottom of Fornells on Monday 18th July at 06:30, destination Mallorca. However plans can change and 12nm along the coast we spotted a nice Cala and decided to go in for a look. We had the anchor on the bottom again at 08:50 in Cala Algayarens, still in Menorca. The Cala was so good, crystal clear water, the anchor chain was visible in 9m, busy but not too busy, we ended up staying for 3 nights enjoying the swimming and Lynn her kayak. We counted 69 boats in the bay one morning, of which probably 50 were French flagged. Finally on Thursday morning 21st July we pulled the anchor off the bottom and motor sailed the 38nm to Mallorca.
We dropped the anchor outside the marina in Puerto de Alcudia, not the prettiest anchorage you have ever seen but it will do for a couple of nights despite the weedy bottom. It’s surprising how deceptive looks can be, whilst the anchorage, when facing the commercial port was not attractive, Alcudia Old Town was lovely. It is another walled town, where you can walk around part of the wall and look down into the old town. The local church was worth the visit, it had domed, brick ceilings with their central roses, stained glass windows and very ornate alters, whilst still having a simple look. The ruins of Pol-lentia, just outside the city walls and still an active archaeological site, date back to 123BC, the remains of several houses, a forum and amphitheatre are open to the public. Pol-lentia marked the beginning of urbanisation in Mallorca and because of its strategic position became the most important city in the Balearics during the Roman period. To get to the old town, we walked through the marina with the best chandlery Brian and Dick have seen so far, needless to say many items were purchased, around the water front which is full of resorts, bars, cafes, restaurants and tourist shops, and along the main road, past the Mercodona supermarket, the biggest and cheapest around. We stayed for 4 days, partly because of a small blow, and partly to allow time to explore.
Monday 25th July we refuelled at the marina fuel wharf then motor sailed down the east coast, dropping the anchor on a sandy bottom in Cala de Canamel. This was a nice stop, dolphins in the bay, although the jet skis harassed them a bit much for our liking, crystal clear water for swimming and although there were resorts on the beach we were far enough away not to be bothered by them. The highlight of the stay was the Caves de Arta, well worth the 14 euro entrance fee, they were spectacular. Opened in 1802, and home to the largest stalagmite in Europe at 22meters high, named The Queen, they were vast. The highest point was 45 metres, the lowest 40 metres deep, all the stalagmites and stalactites were large or even huge, only 20% of the caves were open to the public but it is believed the rest of the caves have been explored.
We left the following morning, anchored in Cala Magraner, a smaller Cala. Being smaller, the anchoring was interesting with many boats in the Cala, although several left early evening. But one guy, who was anchored behind us all day decided to move just before dusk and re-anchored too close to us, as we did not speak French and they had very little English, Brian invited him aboard to explain he had laid his anchor right next to ours and when the boats turned around in the night we would hit. He looked at the angle of our anchor chain and understood, and moved further out of the Cala. As predicted at midnight, with the swell increasing, 2 rafted boats disengaged and motored out of the bay. With the swell predicted to remain up for a few days, we left the following morning and picked up a mooring buoy in Porto Colom.
We turned the corner into Porto Colom and wondered what we had entered. There appeared to be hundreds of boats in the bay and to our surprise a good number anchored as all the cruising guides and charts had Porto Colom as no anchoring. The following day we picked up a rental car with Lynn and Dick “Wind Pony” and headed for the north/north west of Mallorca, an area we were not going with the boats. It was an easy drive on the road around Palma and soon we were heading into the mountain area. Our first stop was at the Torres des Verger watch tower, built in 1579 and apparently appears on many of the Mallorca tourist pictures. It was an interesting climb up a steep ladder to the top of the tower, but worth it for the view. The scenery along the coast and through the mountains was spectacular. The tower is about 1km from Banyalbufar where we stopped for morning tea. The area we were travelling through is known for its many hiking trails through the mountains and we saw many hikers in the small towns/villages as we drove. Deia was another small village we walked around, to accommodate modern traffic in the summer period there were temporary traffic lights making the road through the village into a one way system as it was not wide enough for two cars to pass. However this was a taste of things to come as we made our way toward Soller. As we passed through Biniaraix we had to breathe in to get the car through some of the streets, amazingly we made it, as they were very narrow, as gasps were heard from Lynn in the back seat. We stopped in Fornalutx for lunch and had a walk around the local church and streets before heading to Soller. One of the things we wanted to do in Soller was to get the tram to Port Soller. We finally managed to find a car park and immediately a tram turned up, we jumped on and paid our 6 euro each for the 10 minute ride to the port. Oh my god, there was not a spare inch of water without a boat, or grain of sand without a body on it, touristville to the max. We stayed for an ice cream then got back on the next tram back to Soller, only to be informed the driver was taken ill and it would be some time before a replacement driver would arrive. We decided to get a taxi back to Soller, cost 8 euro for the 4 of us. Back in Soller, we visited the train station for a bit of culture and viewed the Miro and Picasso ceramic exhibitions. From there we visited St Bartholomew’s cathedral, an amazing structure, although we have seen so many cathedrals and churches they are all melting into one. This cathedral first had a primitive church on the site in 1236 but the latest is Baroque style from 1688-1733. It was then time to head back to the car and return to Porto Colom, dinner ashore and then back to the boats after a very enjoyable and long day.
We plan to leave Porto Colom tomorrow, Sunday 31st July and head for the south coast of Mallorca, making our way towards Palma.