Bye bye Gibraltar
The poor lady who arrived at work at Alcaidesa marina at 9am Monday morning must have thought her week had started badly with a queue of 6 waiting to check out or in need of her assistance. Once you got to the front of the queue the wait was extended whilst a marinero was radioed up and sent to read the electric and water meters on our berth. Finally sorted and back at the boat half an hour later.
First stop was the fuel point in Gibraltar where it is possible to fill up with duty free diesel and petrol, but only in the boat tanks. Cans could be filled but only from the roadside pumps which cost a little more, although still cheaper than Spanish fuel rates. It took an hour to fill everything up but the slowness was due to the diesel filler hose not fitting in our tank filler.
A lot of expensive toys on a ship anchored off Gibraltar
All done a much heavier Emerald headed off for the 135nm trip to Almerimar, motoring around the anchored ships out to Europa Point. We raised the main and set a course for 75 degrees. The wind increased and kept increasing. We were being thrown around and in danger of gybing as the wind was from almost astern. It was all getting a bit too much at a F7 so we decided to drop the main and go for genny instead. Easier said than done trying to get the boat round into the wind though! It was hard work but the sail was down and we got back on course with a half furled genny and a much gentler motion.
Still the waves built and the autopilot was thrown off a few times as we were slewed around on some of the bigger waves. We considered other ports we could run to but they were all still some way off so we decided to sit it out. Text messages exchanged with Pat and Duncan on Red Snapper a couple of miles ahead said it was a little better closer to shore so we headed in a little.
Over the evening the wind dropped a a few knots, I never thought I'd be pleased to have a F6 but when we'd had F7/F8 for several hours even a F6 was welcome. The wind stayed at a F6 until just like Cinderella's coach it changed bang on midnight; we now had a F3 and were soon wallowing. Time for the engine which proved a good move as the wind got even lighter and variable.
We each managed a few hours sleep whilst off watch. At some point the wind went round to the east, almost right on the nose and got up to F4/F5. We briefly considered sailing but as Emerald doesn't go so well to windward we would have been around 60 degrees off course on each tack and would have added on a lot of distance. We just wanted to get in now.
As the sun rose the silhouettes of the Sierra Nevada mountains were revealed, some with scraps of snow left on top. Below, the land between the hills and the shoreline was also white, but not from snow. We were arriving to the area of Spain that has been turned over to 'plasticultura'. Mile upon mile of plastic greenhouses growing fruit, veg and tropical flowers all year round.
A bit hazy but possible to see the snow on the mountains and the white of the plastic greenhouses along the shore
23 hours after leaving we gladly tied up on the waiting pontoon at Almerimar and checked in with the friendly staff who spoke very good English and told us our boat's Spanish name would be Esmerelda. A marinero was sent out to wait for us at our berth and we set off for our first Med mooring experience. Two bow lines handed to the marinero ashore who passed them around a bollard and handed them back to be tied off whilst he also held us off the dock, Colin was ready to reverse if needed. We were handed the lazy line and led it back, which was a bit of a faff getting it around all the rigging. Colin then tried to pass the line through our fairlead and it wouldn't fit! These lines are big and chunky and also very smelly and dirty. Wear old clothes and gloves for handling them. Finally we squeezed it through the fairlead and got enough around the cleat to hold us. First Med mooring complete!
I think Almerimar is a windy place given all the kite surfers we've seen