Sunday, 11 June 2017

Cartegena to Denia

We left Cartegena with light winds perfectly in the nose and “motor-sailed” along the coast. Other sailors motor-sailed directly into the wind and swell, while we tried to keep the main somewhat filled, which still required us to veer off at a 25 – 30 degree angle. It’s better for the sail and speed but not so good for the course. Heard on the radio: 34 people on a rubber boat somewhere in the vicinity of Cartegena. Keep an eye out, etc. Patrick saw a sea turtle. So much for the excitement for the day. After a demoralizing short-tack of 20 miles, we finally rounded the Palos headland and took a northerly turn up the coast, which finally allowed us to cut the motor and really sail, making 6 knots on a smooth sea for the next 20 miles. We anchored in the Torrevieja harbor just at the entrance where the pilot book says that anchoring is officially prohibited but tolerated. As we timidly rounded the corner to see what it looked like, we saw 4 other sailboats anchored and lots of space for us. Very calm night.

Watermelon break at the helm.
The weather report called for “sand haze” today. We had what now seems to be a typical day of Med sailing: calm and motor sailing for 2 hours, followed by excellent sailing for another 2 hours, followed by the wind building rapidly from 12 to 15 knots. This happens over a period of about 20 minutes. NOW is the time to put TWO reefs in the main. By the time you finish this exercise, the winds will be up to 20 knots. We were also treated to a crossed sea swell that was like hitting speed bumps on the highway. We sailed in this uncomfortable way for the next 4 hours. I read in the pilot that we could anchor off the beach of Campello with the jetty from the marina offering protection from the east winds. No such luck. As we reached Campello, the beach was completely roped off for swimmers up to the entrance of the harbor and there wasn’t even any place to shelter from the winds to take the sails down. We dropped the main and let it sit in its lazyjacks while we wobbled along the deck to put the fenders on. I tried calling on the vhf to see if the marina (small, private) had space for us but they didn’t answer. As we headed in, two marineros were waiting for us and signaled us to pull in to a berth next to the fuel station. They had seen us on the water and prepared an easy entry spot for us. The price was steep (39 euros) for the few hours we intended to stay, but we were both very happy to have a place for the night out of the wind. Weather update: thunderstorm warning with gale-force gusts. Skies steel grey. Very happy to be here indeed.

Lots of fish farms in this area.  Well marked but almost always placed on a direct line between your two ports.
To make up for the difficult day, Neptune and Eole gave us one of those rare, perfect sailing days that took us to the beautiful Cala Mascarat. We waited until the winds turned a bit southerly in the afternoon to leave Campello, and although we were on a close reach, we didn’t have to tack and sailed at 5 knots on a smooth sea the whole afternoon. Just as we arrived, we crossed the Greenwich Meridian, passing from West to East. (After a bit of study, we realized that we cross the Greenwich meridian each time we go from our home in Brittany to Paris, but that’s much less fun than crossing it at sea.) The Cala Mascarat was completely camouflaged in the cliffs and we triple-checked the gps positions as we pulled up blindly up to where it was supposed to be. Slowly we saw a patch of turquoise water appear around the corner that led into a small (1-2 boat max !) cala, perfect for the evening. Anchor down, photos, drinks, splashing feet in the 24 degree water. This is why we came to the Med. Around 2 a.m., the rocking and rolling woke us up. The swell had begun to wrap around the headland and enter the cala. We didn’t feel like trying out the new flopper stoppers at this hour, and the swell wasn’t so bad that we could sleep, although your could only really sleep on your back or stomach.

We allowed ourselves to sleep in a bit and took off expecting to motor sail at least half of the day. We were pleasantly surprised with 11 knot winds on a beam reach that grew to 16-19 knots winds on a broad reach, allowing us to cruise along at 7 knots ! I saw two moon fish (weird creatures). As we rounded Cabo de Nao, the winds slowly slacked off and we finished the last two hours motoring along some of the most beautiful cliffs we’ve seen. We pulled into the large, modern port of Denia and promptly decided to stay for at least 4 days. The showers are THE nicest anywhere on the Spanish Med coast. The quays are concrete and very high, so we had to use our trusty plank even with a stern-to berth. It ain’t cheap here, but it’s a great place to wait for the hop to the Balearics, with a charming old town and lots of ship chandlers around (although a bike is very useful here).

We left La Linea almost exactly one month ago now. We have sailed approximately 65% of the time, although we have sailed on a few days where others probably would have waited or preferred to motor. Our average cost per night for this first month is about 20 Euros, although there is a significant jump from May to June prices. We hope to avoid marinas as much as possible in the islands, of course. We’ve seen some gorgeous sites, put the boat and ourselves through the necessary warm-up routine, made new friends, met up with old friends, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. And now - off to the islands !