The Long And Short Of It
It was 4th August when we finally pulled the anchor free from the thick Rio Guadiana mud and headed back to the open sea.
It was 1st September when we at last tied up to our Winter berth here in Cartagena.
It took nearly a month to cover the 398Nm (458 land miles) in between.
77 hours at sea, including a 26 hour passage. That’s an average speed of 5 knots (6mph).
Of those 77 hours we managed only 15 hours under sail.
Sea conditions varied from flat to choppy 3m swells.
Winds varied from calm to F6 (>20knots).
Our ports of call were:
- Rota (13 nights)
- Barbate (1 night)
- La Línea – Gibraltar (11 nights)
- Almerimar (2 nights)
- Garrucha (1 night)
The Easterly ‘Levanter’ fought us all the way. It kept us an additional couple of weeks in Rota and La Línea combined while we waited for a lull. The only decent sailing breeze we had was from Tarifa to Gibraltar. For the rest of the time it was either calm or blowing against us.
Rota was nice, with our visit to Cádiz a highlight. It’s just a shame that we had to spend so many expensive nights stuck there.
Barbate gave us a refuge for the night. We didn’t get off the boat but from what we saw it wouldn’t have been worth it.
La Línea marina was good. Safe, reasonably priced, and our berth had an unbeatable view. Gibraltar was an attack on the senses. The Rock provided stunning views, fascinating history, memorable places to visit. Gibraltar Town left me feeling mugged. To be fair we enjoyed some nice food and drink there, but all in all it was too commercial, too noisy, too dirty. It reminded me why I left the UK.
Almerimar wasn’t as bad as I’d expected. It gave us our first taste of stern to Med mooring. The near tideless waters allow boats and town to merge as one. In parts it’s almost pretty. If you want to step off your yacht straight onto the road and into the ‘Stumble Inn’ it’s perfect. Not for me though.
Less said about Garrucha the better. Maybe that’s unfair, again we didn’t get off the boat. Ridiculously expensive, Blackpoolesque seafront, industrial dock right next door, no wonder the marina was virtually empty.
Highlights of our passages?
Passing Cabo Trafalgar (even though we could hardly see it).
Clearing Tarifa and seeing Africa on the horizon.
Gibraltar and rounding Europa Point into the Mediterranean proper.
Sailing close to the wild, volcanic, coastline around Cabo de Gata (Agate Cape).
Seeing some big pods of Striped Dolphins, a pod of Common Dolphins and flashing blue Flying Fish.
It’s taken a few weeks for me to wind down and gather my thoughts after this passage. Crazy though it may sound to those who dream of following us out here, coastal sailing is hard work. I was ready to rest. All the Pilot books tell you it’s harder to sail out of the Mediterranean than to sail in. If that’s true we may be here a while. One thing I do know; My respect for those that sailed these waters in engineless, square-rigged ships, already high, has doubled.
We’ve had some amazing experiences over the past month, but it felt good to get here and to know that we can stop. First impressions of Cartagena city are really good, I think we’ve made a sound choice. The staff at Yacht Port Cartagena are super friendly and helpful, it’s nice to feel welcomed and valued for a change.
The location here is near perfect, close to town, secure, protected. The Port reminds me of Falmouth in many ways, always something happening on the water. Containerships, Cruise Ships, Warships, Pleasure Craft, even Dragon Boats and Outrigger Canoes. The city has so much to see, Roman ruins, museums, architecture.
Oh, and being a Brit I have to mention the weather. Cartagena lies on the Costa Cálida (Warm Coast) of Spain. It is recorded as being the warmest city in continental Europe with a ‘hot, semi-arid climate’. Average annual temperature is >20°C.
One of the reasons we wanted to get here early was to see the Romans and Carthaginians Festival. It started last week and lasts for 9 days. More on that, and the city itself later.
In the meantime here are a few piccys to be going on with.