When we last left off, we were stuck in Gibraltar compliments of TNT Express who had failed to deliver our new depth sounder on the due Friday. It was now a long weekend. You would think TNT Express is a large global company handling daily international deliveries, and would be a 24×7 operation. All a call to England revealed was that yes, it was a long weekend, no they didn’t know how to get hold of anybody, and we should call back on Tuesday. We paid a premium to get our delivery on time?
Gibraltar was fast becoming the new Falmouth. We just couldn’t get out of there. But we have developed this “come on, lets not let this get us down” attitude. So we found a good steak restaurant a friend had recommended. Fully booked, you’ll have to wait an hour, maybe an hour and a half, no guarantees. Right-ho, we’ll be back in 30 minutes. Same story when we got back. Splendid we’ll sit at the bar with a bottle of red wine and Susie will smile at you until you crumble and give us a table. Rather good steaks I must say.
Sunday was Susie’s birthday and while I had promised her a night at anchor, we now had to make the most of what we had. The Rock of Gibraltar! The Mace family have kindly supplied us with a large number of courtesy flags – each of which is the flag of the country you are visiting, and you hoist it as a sign of respect. In that pack of flags was a birthday flag and up it went. Breakfast in bed served for birthday girl with some presents and cards.
We had decided we would climb up the aforementioned rock. Not that it stopped birthday girl having some Chorros before we started the ascent! Brave! Despite websites saying it was steep, we did fine which means our health must still be intact. The famous Barbary apes were easily seen and threats of £4500 fines for feeding them seem to be working as they were looking desperate for any stray open bag.
Back onboard, Susie’s parents had left some Christmas cake to be doubled up as birthday cake! Afternoon tea and birthday cake it was. And after a fine dinner on deck and a game of Maponimoes courtesy of Susie’s brother, it had proved to be a very good day – the Birthday girl was happy! And with Tom having run round all day long now praying the favour will be returned come November.
Tuesday morning we were at customs and hounding them for our depth sounder. In it went and Tom felt smug for fitting it, getting the wiring right, working out the settings, and getting it working. To sailors wanting to use Gibraltar as a stop to pick up items, we’d recommend ordering well in advance, make sure it is something substantial to warrant the VAT savings, and yes a stop for the very cheap diesel is definitely worth the savings.
The weather for our planned Wednesday departure had picked up a bit. Checking out of the marina, I noticed on the weather forecast in the office that it was now due to get up to 20 knots, gusting 25. Not a problem, it’s behind us, right direction, we can deal with it. The marina chap then flippantly commented “Oh, you can add 10 knots to that. The sea will be lively too”. Not quite what I wanted to hear before going to sleep!
And so we finally left Gibraltar, rounding Europa point, we were in the Mediterranean! Joy! Thanks to TNT we had to skip out four days of day sailing which meant 30 hours of non-stop sailing as we needed to keep on track to get to our friends’ wedding.
Sure enough the wind picked up. By 11am it was 25 knots, 10 more than the forecasted 15 knots at this time of day. My head was thinking this is meant to be 20 knots at 2pm and then last until 5am. By 2pm it was 30-35 knots, frequently gusting more. Well reefed we could manage the wind no problem. What was nasty was the sea state. The Med is meant to be flat. This was choppy, no consistency, varying waves, and shifting directions, meaning you had to focus really hard as Adina was tugged in different directions. No two ways about it, it was horrible. We agreed night-time required 2 hour shifts rather than our usual 3 as we’d have to concentrate. The wind still picked up and again we reefed as the wind was up at 46 knots. That’s a Force 9.
At one stage the prop made a horrible noise, leaving some oil in the engine compartment. It made us nervous. As it turned out an engineer reckons we caught some rope. The rope cutter did its job removing it – and we now know it makes a lot of noise doing it. Relief – but what next? It eats at you.
Coming into Almeria at the end of our bumpy trip, we knew it was a small marina and despite trying to make advance reservations, we had to call on the radio to see if there was space. “Negativo” came the response. Hearts sunk, we were tired but then jumped with joy when back came the man on the pontoon, saying he had found a spot in a corner. Hallelujah!
And we loved Almeria! The prime reason for stopping was to visit Granada and the Alhambra Palace. Truly magnificent, up there with the Taj Mahal. Splendid gardens. In Almeria, we walked around, seeing the Alcatraz, trying tapas bars, and rejoicing in the local way of life.
Now every man secretly harbours a desire to one day have a whole leg of iberico ham in his kitchen. A desire to carve slices of that wonderful thinly oiled sweet acorn melt-in-the-mouth meat. Susie had bought me an iberico ham leg holder and carving knife for Christmas and I was hell bent on buying a leg for our journey. Almeria had a fabulous large fresh market with a number of characturie. Being driven to research, I’d found out that Ibérico Bolleta was the good stuff with strict regulations ensuring the best hams. We walked the length and breadth of the market and after some tastings the order was made. And to my surprise this was to be a treat from Susie. Her father had always bought his children something when he got his yearly bonus. Having just got hers, she wanted to do the same for me. Very kind, good girl is my Susie! So now it sits awaiting my first attempts at carving iberico ham. Thickly sliced anybody?
Too soon it was time to leave Almeria. A nice city, no tourists, just Spanish life and that’s a good thing. We have made mental notes of the lovely hills of the Sierra Nevarra as a potential spot for a holiday/retirement home. We can’t help but think ahead! What’s not to love about Spain? Nice weather, good food and wine, people who like to meet and talk, and thinly sliced Iberico Bolleta.
Back on the road, so to speak, we finally enjoyed the night at anchorage Susie had been promised for her birthday and barbecued some sardines. The water is now at a stage where we can just about enjoy a swim so we finished the day that way.
The only yacht in the bay, a man came up in his dinghy telling us what a wonderful yacht she was. The heart warmed. In fact the Spaniards think nothing of stopping and looking at your yacht and chatting away. Downside is I have to ensure I’m always wearing a shirt.
Next stop was Cartegena. With about two hours to go we heard a spanish war ship calling up a yacht in Spanish giving co-ordinates. Right that’ll be us he’s calling. “Spanish warship, this is Adina, over”, “Adina, this is Spanish warship A52. We are conducting exercises, please could you alter course to 300 degrees as soon as possible and stay clear by 8.5 miles. Much obliged”. We’re steering 050 degrees to our destination. That’s a change in direction to the left of 110 degrees. I so wanted to tell him we were on a 12 hour sail and that would painfully add another hour to our journey but he’s got guns and we haven’t. “Altering course to three zero zero degrees.”
We were in Cartegena for some sail repairs. Now this is maintenance I actually like. I love sailing for sailing. Wind and sail, no troublesome mechanical parts! This time a rip in the foot meant we needed some enhancements. One day we’ll enhance this blog with sailing tips. Sufficient to say the foot now has a spectrum material with more stretch. Our batten holders have been strengthened, panels are tripled stitched, the head has a double loop, battens are tied in twice…
And now we’re in Marina de Las Dunas in Guardamar. We’re settling into this new way of life, we’re slowly learning to slow down (although we still have our to do list going!), the sun is always out, we greet the Spaniards as we walk past, we enjoy our daily sundowner. Life is good.
Adina now stays here for a week while we’re off to Marrakech for our friends’ wedding which we’re looking forward to. Then we sail north to Calpe to meet with Liz and Micheal, before heading to the Belearics where we have Roger, Judith, Charlie and Nicola joining us onboard for separate weeks, Shelley and Duncan us in Mallorca and then we meet up with John, Val and Vicky in Palma. Sun, sand, dinghy, BBQ all beckon. Adina Out. For now.