To the Balearics

 

Thursday 17th March 2016

 

We were glad to be back on board RR although we knew we had a lot of work in front of us. Neither of us are afraid of hard work which was lucky as there was a lot to do. Claire started to unpack almost immediately wanting to get the boat all tidy below decks while I started on the topsides. They looked very dirty, as if we had been away for a year and not for a few months. Graeme had said during the drive from the airport that a ‘Sahara Cloud’ had hit the marina dumping a lot of red dust all over the place! There has also been some upgrading of the marina water system which involved grinding channels in the concrete just opposite where our boat was moored and I suspect that had added to the dust and dirt that needed scrubbing and hosing off.


We had a steady stream of visitors coming by to say hello although none offered to help! This cheered us up as I think we were a bit sad thinking about all of our family and friends we left back home.

 

In the morning we walked round to the marina reception, bought a voucher for the WiFi (€30 for a month) paid a €40 refundable deposit for the power adapter and booked a Monday morning slot for RR to be lifted out of the water for a week. It was €111.00 per lift and only €1 extra a day for being on the hard.

 

We walked back and carried on cleaning getting RR just how we like her.

 

On Saturday we managed to see two more 6 Nations games and then went straight to Le Tunel where we were the guests of honour at a welcome back party. We consider ourselves very lucky as we really do have a nice group of friends here.

We were still up at 3 the following morning which wasn’t too clever as Suzie and Mike have Birthdays on Sunday and Wednesday respectively so it wasn’t long before we were back on it!!

 

The alarm set for 0800 Monday morning came as a bit of a shock but we needed to have the boat round to the lifting area for 0900. Both of us were a bit anxious having to move the boat after so long but it all went well with Claire stopping RR in the small berth ready for the slings to go under. 
The engine started making funny noises and the cooling water stopped pumping out of the exhaust so Claire turned it off. Something else to look at.
The yard hands were very good and it all went without a hitch. RR was set down in a nice spot next to power and water, the toilets and showers were a bit of a walk away but that was fine.

 

Well RR looked OK, the Copper coat had done its job very well with no evidence of weed anywhere, the anodes were a bit worn which was OK as they were being changed, even the red antifoul on the keel still looked good. (We followed the advice of the lads in the yard at Tollesbury not to have the keel Copper coated as the cast iron had a lot of impurities in it that could cause the Copper coat to lift off)

 

Just before 10.00 it started raining really hard combined with a strong wind but I wanted to wash and brush off the bottom so Claire put on her working waterproofs and we set too. The rain actually helped, at least that’s what I told Claire and a couple of hours saw it done. We had a nice hot shower and spent the rest of the day resting inside our cozy boat.

 

Tuesday dawned both sunny and calm, Claire’s job was to sand down the keel and paint it with three coats of anti-foul while I took the propeller apart to replace the worn anodes. We could not find an anode for our sail-drive which is fitted with an Ambassador Rope stripper. So after a call to the stripper manufacturers in England I bought a normal sail-drive anode drilling and filing it until it fitted. Result! 
I then changed the large anode by the side of the sail-drive unit, after that I changed the two anodes on the Keel cooled fridge heat exchanger. That’s the lot. 

 

For those who are unsure what an anode is for here is a brief explanation. A galvanic anode is the main component of a galvanic cathodic protection (CP) system used to protect buried or submerged metal structures from corrosion. They are made from a metal alloy with a more "active" voltage (more negative reduction potential / more positive electrochemical potential) than the metal of the structure. The difference in potential between the two metals means that the galvanic anode corrodes, so that the anode material is consumed in preference to the structure.
I hope that clarifies things!!
 

It was great to be able to do all of these jobs in shorts and a T shirt as every other year I have done this over the winter in Essex and it’s been absolutely freezing.


Wednesday was a day of rest, well more accurately Go Karting, drinking and eating as it was Mike’s 60th birthday. We all had a great day drinking and eating far more than we should.

 

We had a bit of a lay in the following morning but I wanted to get the polishing done while we had such good weather, this is when you wished you had a smaller boat!! We went over it all twice! Once with a 3m compound to clean and remove all marks etc. then again with a silicon wax to keep it looking good.


I borrowed a hop up from another boat whose owners came from West Mersea, the next marina along from Tollesbury our starting point.

 

Whenever I polish our boat it always takes me back to sailing with my son George on Ptarmigan. One of his jobs on that superyacht was to wash and polish everything within an inch of its life whether it needed it or not every time we came into port. It was great to work with him and he taught me the difference between clean and really clean. Red Rooster is just clean but I’m happy with that.

 

When we finished I struggled to lift a beer to my lips! My arms were aching so badly. Still that was the last of the big jobs.

 

Friday saw me draining and refilling the Sail-drive gearbox oil while Claire made some hot cross buns. Oh the smell of them, and they tasted fantastic too. We invited our friends Lynne and Ian, Jayne and Graeme over to celebrate Easter and we had a very enjoyable couple of hours chatting on board. The only down side of this was that they ate 4 of my buns and Claire had only cooked 12!!

 

The final job for me on Saturday was to attach the new Rocna anchor we purchased for €499 to the chain and repaint the colour’s marking the 5 meter lengths on the chain. I choose Red, Yellow, Blue, Green and White. I chose these colours as I am an old electrician and R,Y,B,G used to be the three phase colour’s with Green for earth. 

 

The Rocna anchor is supposed to be one of the best of a new breed of anchor although if you go onto the internet you will still find untold amounts of literature agreeing or disagreeing with its credentials. We both remember the panic \ near disaster we had in Cascais near Lisbon when our anchor dragged so as we hope to be anchoring a lot more once we move on from here we thought it prudent to upgrade, although only time will tell if it is an upgrade and is money well spent. Watch this space.

 

Now that all of the jobs were complete on RR. The ones that needed to be done whilst she was out of the water anyway it was time for her to be put back in. It's always a bit nerve wracking to see your pride and joy lifted and moved around but the lads at the yard were very good and we went back in without a hitch. We had many friends to catch our lines when we returned back into our place in the marina. I think they were after a few more hot cross buns!!

 

Claire has been having consistent problems with her back. She thinks it’s to do with the foam bed we sleep on so we have ordered some Latex foam to replace it. It has cost over €600 and its taking ages to be delivered. Let’s hope it helps her as we won’t be changing it anytime soon. 


We got up early on Tuesday 29th March to make sure Karina and Gerrard aboard K’Dans had a good send off.


Claire and I walked around to the Almerimar tower \ reception as did Mike and Suzie from Toy Buoy. Graeme and Jayne from Scarlett turned up in their RIB to make sure that they did actually leave the marina by escorting them from the premises!! We were all sad to see these two go they are a lovely couple and we have had some great times with them. It is very possible that we will see them again in a marina or a sheltered bay somewhere in the Med. We all hugged and then watched as K’Dans their beautiful Koopmans disappeared out of sight around the breakwater followed by Jayne and Graeme in their RIB.

 

They were the first to go but I don’t think it will be long before the rest of us head off. The lure of the beautiful Balearic Islands just a few hundred miles away is so tempting.


Oh well back to marina life, I helped Ian aboard ‘Infinity’ sort out his mast head lights and completed the last few tasks aboard RR. I say that with tongue in cheek as there is always something to do. Claire and I undertook a stock take of everything tucked away in a cupboard or under a floor board. We didn’t throw much away but it’s nice to refresh your memory of where everything is. Claire made up a drawing and list in a word document on the PC to allow us to look and update it regularly.

 

It was time to put the sails back on RR. We took them off before Christmas to store them in the front cabin. They looked fine as we laid them out on the boat. I inserted the four full length battens in the main, slid the bolt rope in the Lazy Jacks sail bag along the boom then I hoisted the sail, sliding the cars into the track as it went up. We had stored it using the same flakes\folds we use when it's on the boom so it dropped nicely back into the bag when we lowered it.


The genoa was next, this also went back on OK, and it’s always a bit tight threading the bolt rope into the track. I tried to furl it and it felt very stiff so I eased the halyard tension a bit and it made all the difference. If the halyard is too tight it puts a lot of stress on the two bearings at the top and bottom of the furler causing them to bind.


We had a nice surprise when our friends Johan and First mate Millie called from the Caribbean saying that they had seen and taken pictures of George on board ‘Freya’ racing in the Loro Piana superyacht race in the British Virgin Islands. The pictures are below but you can also check out the video highlights if you cut and paste the link into Google. http://www.boatinternational.com/luxury-yacht-events/loro-piana-caribbean-superyacht-regatta-rendezvous/video-loro-piana-caribbean-superyacht-regatta-2016-highlights--29751 George is 3rd from the right in the first picture.

 

 

The walk on Sunday 3rd was great, we went in the car with Ian and Lynne into the desert, past the Spanish Hollywood where many famous films were and are still being made, these include Lawrence of Arabia, Clint Eastwoods ‘Spaghetti westerns’ The girl with the dragon tattoo and most recently ‘Exodus’ with Christian Bale. Maria was on form chatting about this and that making me laugh out loud on many occasions. I am going to miss this lovely woman when we leave.

 

The weather on Monday was atrocious, the wind started around 3 in the morning building steadily as the sun came up. All the boats were being pushed around easily by it, almost as if to remind us that it was still quite early in the season and that there are still strong winds to be found in the Med.


I borrowed some heat resistant paint from Alan on ‘Serene’ to paint the exhaust elbow on the engine which was rusting badly.

 

Claire and Jayne managed to fit their horse riding in but not long after they came back it started to rain, getting harder and harder until it was bouncing off the boat. It was impossible to get off RR without getting soaked so we had an early dinner and started looking at the charts in preparation to leave as soon as we have the mattress and a decent bit of weather.

 

We messaged Karina and Gerrard as we were hoping they were somewhere safe on such a dreadful night. They replied with the good news that they were tucked up in the marina at Cartagena.

 

Alan on board ‘Serene’ decided to move on with a short hop to Aguadulce just to make sure his boat was OK after its winter stop over. Although the sun was shining the sea was still lumpy due to the bad weather the day before. I think he got a bit of a shock at the size of the swells when he cleared the marina wall but he made it OK. We hope to see him again along the coast somewhere. Bjouca hopes to catch up with him too.

 

We had a good drink on Tuesday night as Mike and Suzie aboard ‘Toy Buoy’ and Dennis and Katarina on ‘Resolute’ planned to leave on Wednesday 6th April. Our little group was slowly dispersing. We are still waiting for our Latex mattress to make an appearance. Graeme and Jayne on Scarlett were waiting for a package while Ian and Lynne on Infinity were happy to wait with us.

I think those of us that are still in Almerimar are now getting very impatient to leave, the fact that others have left sort of makes you feel that they have escaped somehow and are enjoying something that you’re going to miss. I keep thinking that the longer we are stuck here the harder it will be to catch up.


Of course we don’t need to ‘catch up’ I am sure we will meet up somewhere. We will leave when the mattress arrives and when the weather sorts itself out. It's still very changeable at the moment and we need two or three days of reasonably settled weather in front of us as we would like to spend a night or two at anchor to test and gain confidence with the Rocna. 

 

Changing the subject I think Red Rooster has diesel bug!! When I changed the filters during the engine service I found some brown sludge on the top of the first fuel filter. (Not anywhere near as much as shown in the library picture below) Diesel bug is the common name for a collection of microbes that live in the small amount of water that is often found in diesel fuel tanks. Most of the water is produced in the air pockets of partially filled tanks by condensation forming on the insides / tops of steel tanks as they heat and cool with the climate. I try to keep RR tanks full when we are stationary for any length of time but it's impossible to keep them full all of the time.

 

I added some biocide to the fuel before leaving the boat at Christmas and I hope that has killed most of the microbes but that in itself doesn’t solve the problem.  It's the remains of these that fall to the bottom of the tank creating this brown sludge that clogs the fuel filters especially if the sea is a bit rough and the diesel in the tank is getting sloshed around a lot. There is a drain plug on my fuel tank and I may have a go at cleaning the tank out if the problem persists.

 

On Wednesday 6th our mattress finally made an appearance. We had to pay another €50 for delivery which was a pain but at least it's here. I laid on it in the shop and I must admit it did feel wonderful.


Ángela, the lady in the upholstery shop needs another few days to adapt our existing mattress covers to fit the new thicker Latex foam. More money I know but after laying on it I do think it's going to be better for Claire. It's certainly going to be better for me, it felt great!! 

Scarlett were the next to leave, we had a small drink for them on board ‘Infinity’ which turned into a long, very happy and enjoyable drunken session. The 6 of us get on very well, and when Jayne told us about ‘their song’ by Calvin Harris I thought she meant Keith Harris and Orville ‘I wish I could fly’ well we nearly all had heart attacks we were laughing so hard. Now you can hear ‘I can’t’ echoing around the marina every 5 minutes in a high pitched screechy voice. Lynne does it the best!!

Scarlett left on Thursday 14th, they had a nice flat sea and light winds which would help ‘Izzy’ the cat on her first voyage. They were heading for Garrucha about 9 hours away. Now that Graeme and Jayne had left we wanted, more than ever to be on the move.

 

Well we were now, at last ready to leave all we needed was for the weather to improve, it has been very unsettled which is right for this time of the year here. We managed to fit a couple of really nice walks in with Maria, Roy and the rest of the group before we restocked the boat in preparation to leave Almerima on the 20th April. 

 

We followed ‘Infinity’ out to sea. We were sailing with Ian and Lynne as they had been having a problem with their engine. It stops every now and then for no apparent reason. Ian has been through the system more than once changing fuel lines and filters etc. but it still remains unreliable.

 

The weather was very poor. It was grey and overcast with rain falling on and off for the first few hours. The wind was light to moderate and we managed to sail for a bit on our way to Cabo de Gata. Both Claire and I were very happy to be on the move at last after spending 5 months in one place, albeit a very nice place. The original plan was to anchor for the night in a bay called Puerto Genovés near San Jose but we had had very strong Easterly winds for a few days prior to us leaving which had built up a large sea which was running straight into the bay. Not a place to stop for the night so after a few minutes chat on the VHF we decided to go on to Garrucha. 

 

As we were rounding the headland the wind increased from astern to a 6 with a very dark and foreboding sky. We dropped the main and carried on with our headsail only. It was great to be sailing but I felt very rusty and I knew I was not making the right decisions or sailing as well as I should be. 

 

The swells increased with the biggest being around 2.5 meters. Lynne and Ian were doing well. I know that they must be worrying as this weather began to build. I really wanted to see the sun for a bit for them as well as for us as the day had been really grey and depressing. 
The wind had eased a lot as we rounded the last of the imposing cliffs along this part of the coast with the white buildings of Garrucha finally coming into sight away in the distance. We were motor sailing in a calmer sea. Even the sun made an appearance at last which cheered us all up.

 

It was then that Infinity’s engine stopped!!!! Bugger. We went over to them. Ian had re started it but shortly after it stopped again. He went below to bleed the air from the fuel lines and the engine started again. Shortly after this we spotted dolphins playing at ‘Infinity’s’ bow and before long Claire was sitting on the front of RR looking down into the deep blue sea as some more dolphins came to keep us company. Brilliant.

Thankfully their engine kept running all the way into the marina.

We went into the new part of the marina coming alongside rather than stern too as there was plenty of room here at this time of year.
Without too much persuasion we had a bit of dinner and then went straight to bed. Spending 9 hours on a small boat in choppy seas is exhausting, I don’t really know why but it is.


The next morning I went to have a look with Ian at his engine. Compared to mine it looked brand new as did all of the fuel lines and associated filters. The only thing we could think of was a problem in the fuel tank, something blocking the fuel pickup pipe from time to time thereby stopping the fuel getting to the engine. We decided to leave any further investigations until we got to Cartagena which was a bigger port with better chandlers and facilities. The trip would be 9 hrs but the sea would be a lot calmer with winds forecast not to exceed 15 knots. There was also a couple of marinas we could stop in en route as the French say should there be a problem.

 

We all liked Garrucha, we had a nice walk along the palm tree lined promenade, stopped for a beer and tapas wandered for a bit more where I took a picture of the girls asking them to look sexy!! Why do women do that thing with their leg!! What’s that all about?? We went back for a bite to eat on the boat and a few drinks afterwards with Ian and Lynne. We decided to leave at 0800 the following morning for Cartagena.

 

We set off as planned in the morning and our main was up before we had cleared the harbour entrance. 5 minutes later the genoa was out and the engine was off. Unfortunately we had another grey, overcast kind of day but we had enough wind to sail so I was happy. Ian and Lynne had followed suit. We were gliding along on a flat sea making directly for Cartagena, we could just see the faint outline of the rocky headland far in the distance.

 

After a few hours the wind started to drop so we put the engine on as did Ian. Fingers crossed.

 

We have also been having a bit of a problem with our engine, it appeared that diesel was escaping up the side of the injector spreading out on top of the engine. I stuffed a tissue around the top of the injector which I replaced every hour or so as it became soggy with fuel. I text my trusty friend Adrian back in England for advice which amounted to removing the injector, lapping the face of it in with grinding paste and putting it all back together again. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to attempt this myself so I thought I would take a few photos, maybe a short video of it whilst we were moving so I could show a Spanish mechanic rather than try to explain it to him. 

 

So while it was relatively flat I opened the engine compartment, cleaned all around the injector, got a torch and my phone and sat there waiting for the fuel to make an appearance. Well appear it did but not up from the injector but down from the fuel return pipe above. I got a spanner and nipped the bolt up a bit tighter on the return pipe banjo and it seems to have cured the problem. I will keep an eye on it and let you know if it's fixed.

 

The wind started to fill in again from a slightly different direction allowing us to broad reach for a few hours it was also strong enough to break up the grey clouds letting the sun shine through for the rest of the day. 
I sat in the cockpit and made Claire and Lynne bracelets from thin rope that I had on board. They looked nice and we delivered Lynne’s on the end of a boat hook as we motor sailed past them.

 

As we approached Cartagena the hills that surrounded this ancient harbour looked fantastic in the sunshine and I couldn’t help thinking that this sight could not have changed too much in the years since the Carthaginians settled here in 227 B.C. 

 

We went into the RCRC (Real Club de Regatas Cartagena) marina. There are two here but those who had gone before had advised us that this was the better of the two, better normally means cheapest!!

 

Claire was taking RR in as usual, we were of the understanding that we would be going alongside as those who had gone before had done but we saw the Marinaro calling Ian who was in front of us into a stern to berth. I saw the look on Claire’s face as she realised that we would be going into the small gap between Ian and a nice looking carbon fibre racing boat. I did offer but to give Claire her due she said ‘No I’m going to do it, I will have to do it sometime and I might as well start now’ it wasn’t easy, there was a breeze blowing across from right to left. The lazy lines from the other boats were angled out far enough so Claire had to make sure she didn’t hit them, the owner of the Carbon boat was on board watching to make sure we didn’t touch his racing machine. Well what can I say, it went fine. We got in the gap, the fenders did their job. Ian and Lynne helped and before too long the engine was off and we were looking around with a smile on our faces at our new historic location.

 

We had a jug of sangria and some nibbles on deck with Ian and Lynne before having some dinner and heading for bed. The 22nd of April was officially a good day.

 

The next day, Saturday after a shower we all went sightseeing, Cartagena is brilliant for this as there is a lot to see very close to the marina. First we went to the National Museum of underwater Archaeology, the artefacts inside span over 2500 years. The museum itself is in a lovely modern building and all of the artefacts and displays had descriptions in both Spanish and English which makes it far more interesting for us. Next we went to view the Roman amphitheatre. View it is about all you can do as the circular external wall is all that remains of what must have been a spectacular building. We then walked through the grounds of the castle to the Roman Theatre. All of this was less than a mile from the boat and each other. After looking at the theatre we walked along the Calla Mayor where we discovered the Lizarran Tapas bar, recommended to us by Katarina and Dennis on Resolute. I am beginning to realise that there are distinct advantages in being the last to travel on as those who went before can tell you all of their good and bad experiences.

 

The tapas was fantastic and plentiful. We did have to pay extra for it but it was worth it. Some of the best I have had so far on this trip.
Next on the sightseeing list was the naval museum which is housed in an 18th century building that once housed prisoners and Moors. It has a great section on submarines and Isaac Peral a naval engineer born in Cartagena is credited with inventing the modern style of underwater craft in 1884 with a prototype being built and launched near Cadiz in 1888. We were back on board RR when we realised that we hadn’t seen the actual submarine!! How do you miss a submarine!!

 

We were all getting a bit tired by now so we made our way back to the boats via the big bronze statue that Lynne had taken a shine too!! 

The Shearwater fleet were holding their first TT of 2016, which is their 60th year at Stone SC today and I wanted to make sure Grace was OK as the weather forecast had been for strong wind and rain and I knew she must have been nervous going out for the first time in months. Claire and I went to find a WiFi signal and we face timed her. It was great, she looked really well and sounded very pleased with her days racing. She had managed to get herself the van and the boat down to Stone which is a mission in itself when you’re on your own. Rigged it with the help of Clare her crew and I am sure John Wiseman helped as did other members of the fleet. The weather was bad but fortunately the wind strength started light and increased as the day went on giving them, and all the rest of the fleet time to settle into the racing. Grace and Clare completed all three races and they should feel very proud of themselves. It was nice to talk to a few people including Claire’s Mum and Dad, Shaun and Caroline. Face time is a brilliant thing when you’re far away and thinking of loved ones.

 

Sunday’s job was get the fuel tank out of Infinity!!

 

Ian had been through the fuel system more than once and it looked fine. The only thing left to investigate was the fuel tank. Something, we were sure was blocking the pickup pipe. Infinity is a relatively new Beneautau with a plastic 75L tank. After Lynne and Ian had removed all of the bedding, floorboards etc. it looked easy enough to disconnect all of the fuel lines running in and out and the level gauge from the tank. First though we had to drain the 40 + litres of fuel out of it. We did this using an old push pull pump I bought on Ebay in conjunction with a multitude of different sized plastic cans.

 

Once it was empty we disconnected all of the jubilee clips holding the pipes in place pulling them off one at a time, tying them up so no fuel spilled from them. Ian took out the level sensor to see if we could see anything inside, the only thing we saw was the float from an old fuel level sensor but that couldn’t have been the problem because it was always floating on the surface.

 

After removing a wooden brace and a metal tube holding the tank down out it came. We got it on to the pontoon tipping it up to get the dregs out, pouring them into a plastic bowl making sure nothing went into the sea. Well quite a few bits of lumpy brown sludge came out……….. The dreaded diesel bug. We took the fuel tank up to the road poured some bleach in it and flushed it through several times. This is supposed to remove everything. The only thing left was the pickup tube itself which was very difficult to remove because of the remote on / off valve arrangement and associated bracketry. We shone a light in and we both thought we could see sludge around the end of the pickup tube. Oh well it had to come out now. Ian took it all apart, the pipe came out clean but we were both sure that we had seen gunk on the end so I put a water hose in the tank to flush it through one more time. Clear water came out at first then a really big lump of horrible snotty stuff flopped out of the tank and onto the pontoon. That was what had been blocking the pickup pipe. Both Ian and I were now satisfied that we had at last found the problem. 

 

We put the tank back in and reconnected everything apart from the on/off valve. We needed to find a chandlers on Monday morning to buy some jointing compound or tape to remake the valve onto pickup tube. 

After cleaning up we went for a bit of a stroll back to the naval museum to find the mystery submarine. The museum was shut, Monday’s most public buildings are closed!! We walked to The Arsenal gate, which is the entrance to the operational naval base. I asked there about the submarine and was directed to a separate building where we saw it through large glass windows. Considering that it was built and launched in 1888 it looked like a submarine should. We couldn’t get any closer because it was Monday but at least we had found it.

 

We walked through the other marina looking for a chandlers that is supposed to be near the fishing port. A boat I saw looked kind of familiar and when we got a bit closer I was surprised and very happy to see Neil Ragonesi sitting on his boat Manuie. He looked shattered and he had every right to be having just sailed to Cartagena from Cadiz. I promised to drop in and see him the following day when he and his partner Erica had caught up on their sleep. 


The following morning we finished off the final connections to the diesel fuel lines, we were a bit nervous using PTFE tape on the joints so we asked a diesel fitter in the fishing port and he said he used it all the time with no problems. We filtered the fuel back into the tank adding biocide, checked again for leaks, bled the fuel through and started her up……..All good, the smile on Ian’s face was worth all of the effort.

 

Later that day we walked to the Mercadona (Spanish Supermarket) with Ian and Lynne to get a few bits and pieces as we intended to anchor at our next stop. On the way there we bumped into Alan, Bjouca and Keith, they had come over on the train from Mar Minor. We agreed to meet up at the sailing club for a beer later. We carried on to the Mercadona and bought a trolley load of food and drink each (so much for a few bits and pieces!) It was too far to carry it all back to the boats so we got a cab. 


We had a pleasant time talking with Alan Bjouca and Keith back at the club about engines mostly as Alans had broken down also. We would be seeing them soon as we planned to leave tomorrow for Mar Minor. 
It was time for Claire and I to walk the few hundred yards to Neil and Erica’s boat where we were treated to wine, beer and tapas. They were also planning to leave on Tuesday to start new jobs on Ibiza, Neil as Service manager with Erica working as a bookings secretary of a large sailing charter company. We talked for a few hours about many things agreeing to meet up again in a few weeks when we get to Ibiza. 

 

Tuesday 26th, leaving Cartagena for a few days in Mar Minor.

 

The weather was good but the winds were light, we motored around the headland passing close by an area buoyed off for a fish farm. We got a call on the VHF from Manuie, they were off our Starboard bow in deeper water. WE had a nice chat and we promised to find them when we made it to Ibiza in a few weeks’ time.


The wind filled in a bit so the sails went up and the motor went off. We had to pass through a lifting bridge to gain entry to this inland sea and there was a bit of confusion as to when the bridge opened. We had three different timings so when we got closer we contacted them on VHF.

 

Every even hour during daylight apparently. It was 1530 which was a result so we stood off the entrance in the Lee of Isla Grosa for 20 minutes before motoring towards the bridge. We had to time it well as we were told that it only opened for a short period of time. We were getting close now! There was little room to manoeuvre and Infinity was very close behind us. We slowed down as we watched the clock at 1555 the traffic stopped on either side and at 1600 a crack appeared in the centre which gradually got wider as the bridge split in two and opened up before us. Abracadabra…..

 

We waved to our good friends Graeme and Jayne, Alan and Bjouca and Keith who were standing on shore at the Tomás Maestre marina as we passed by. We have chosen to anchor in the calm waters of the Mar Minor to save a bit of money as well as to get used to life living at anchor. Infinity did the same dropping their hook just in front of us.

 

It's all about the water when you’re living on a boat at anchor. RR holds 260L. Of course there is unlimited amounts of sea water and we need to develop ways of using sea water for everything other than drinking, cooking and washing. Even to the extent of washing ourselves in seawater and only using fresh water for that final rinse off. The water in the Mar Minor isn’t that clean mind you so we plan to practice the above when where in the beautiful bays of the Balearics. That said it is unbelievable how long you can make the water last if your careful with it. For instance you can save about 2 litres of water by just dribbling water on your toothbrush before and after you wash your teeth instead of letting the tap run. 

 

Anyway more of that later. The Mar Minor is about 12 miles long and 6 miles wide, it's very sheltered with short nasty chop when the wind blows rather than large waves. It's about 5 meters deep all over and if it wasn’t for the high rise hotels and apartments all around the edges it would remind us a lot of the Ijsselmeer in Holland.It was Jayne’s Birthday on Monday 25th and although we were a day late we didn’t miss the opportunity to celebrate, I normally choose not to leave the boat for the first 12 hours or so after setting the anchor just to be sure that it's holding OK but it was very sheltered where we were and the forecast was for very light winds so we were happy to accept drinks aboard Scarlett then food and even a bit of dancing in one of the many bars and restaurants that surround the marina. Well Keith, Alan and Bjouca shuffled about a bit. Towards the end of the evening Alan amazed us with his twerking prowess. That’s something I would hope never to have to witness again!!

The next day we had a lazy day on board, I carried out a few maintenance chores then as a reward I got my model plane out and flew it around for a bit. Later we had a stroll around the marina and enjoyed a couple of jugs of Sangria with Lynne, Ian, Jayne and Graeme.

 

On the 28th April all three boats sailed up to the other end of the inland sea dropping our anchors off of the beach at La Manga. We had a lovely sail on RR giving the asymmetric kite an airing. It was perfect for it and it was great to be sailing at last and not making passage. Everyone came to RR for a few beers with the girls enjoying the good tasting very cheap Cava. When I say cheap I mean under €3!!!! We witnessed some very fast water skiing, the engine note of the speed boat sounded beautiful and it must have been very exciting for the poor bloke being dragged around behind it, it was so fast.

The next day we took the dinghy’s into the marina and had a nice stroll in town, it wasn’t what I expected, I don’t think any of us were impressed with what we saw and we all assumed that we must have been at the wrong end of town!! That evening it was Scarlett’s turn to play host, Lynne made some more chocolate strawberries, Jayne produced some wonderful nibbles and we again enjoyed a great evening with these very nice people.


We all left at different times the following morning, we chose to sail across to the far side near the airport. The wind started off light but grew stronger during the day. We dropped the spinnaker and headed back to our original anchorage outside of the Tomás Maestre marina. We were lucky enough to see a foiling kite surfer. The guy made it look so easy and as he flew passed us there was no noise what so ever, nothing. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see navy seals or US marines using these when attacking a beach at night sometime in the near future.  

 

We had a cracking beat home in 15 -20 knots of wind, Claire was at the helm and I was trimming the main traveller easing it as the stronger gusts came through then pulling it back in, RR was flying. I just love our boat. We anchored up with the others and enjoyed the spectacle as dark storm clouds billowed overhead with thunder rumbling all around and the lovely metallic smell as large rain drops started to fall from the sky. It cleared as quickly as it came leaving us with a fantastic rainbow to remember it by.

On the 1st May it was Graeme’s Birthday, I decided to celebrate the occasion by getting my plane out again. The idea was to fly slowly by his stern as a sort of ‘flyby’ but it was quite windy and reasonably difficult to judge distances as I had to fly around his mast and in front of Infinity. I thought I was going to hit his mast at one stage. I also worry about all the metal work on our boat interrupting the R.C. signal. All went OK though and I got the plane back in one piece. I think he appreciated the gesture.


That evening we picked Ian and Lynne up in our RIB and met Graeme and Jayne along with Alan, Bjouca and Keith for a few beers and a nice meal in the marina. We are a great group. There is a nice mixture of people and it doesn’t matter who sits next to who. We are all relaxed in each other’s company. It ended happily with cake and candles with us singing happy birthday.


As usual we all had had a bit too much to drink but fortunately the water was like glass with hardly any wind as we climbed into our RIBs for the journey back to our boats, we waved good bye to Alan and Bjouca. Jayne and Graeme left first, then Keith with us four in our RIB bringing up the rear.

 

All was going well and we were still amongst the boats in the marina when I saw Keith going around in circles with his head down in his dinghy. I thought he can’t have been feeling too well so I went over to him and he said that he was OK but a fish had jumped into his boat!! Now I don’t know if you can imagine just how funny that sounded to us but we were all in hysterics, we held onto the side of his dinghy and shone Claire’s torch into the bottom and sure enough there was quite a large fish flapping around. Keith managed to get his hands on it and throw it over the side after a bit of banter we all carried on. We hadn’t gone 5 meters when fish started jumping out of the water all around us. There must have been 10 in the air at any one time. I can only assume that they thought we were a bigger fish and decided it best to jump clean out of the water to save themselves.

Lynne was squealing as the fish started flying about in front of us and it wasn’t long before one landed in our boat hitting me on the shoulder and falling in the bottom!! Well it was like we were all doing our own version of the ‘The River Dance’ everyone’s feet going up and down as this poor fish was jumping about trying not to get stamped on. Ian managed to get hold of it and throw it over. I really was having trouble breathing at this stage let alone keeping the RIB in a straight line. It was so funny. We finally managed to drop Ian and Lynne off before we made our own way back to RR.


On Monday we started preparing RR for the short hop to Torrevieja. We wanted to go there as the battery in our Icom handheld VHF radio was not holding a charge. We had tried all of the chandlers in Mar Minor and we were hoping that a chandlery in a larger city would have one. Most yachts carry a hand held radio as back up to the main set. We would also take it with us if we had to abandon RR in any kind of emergency.


We went ashore that evening to say goodbye to Alan, Bjouca and Keith. Alan was still struggling to sort his engine out. It seemed quite serious to me, water had travelled back into the engine via his exhaust! He was being very philosophical about it realising that it was pointless getting wound up. He had done all that he could on his own with no success and was hopping that a mechanic would turn up on Tuesday to try and help him resolve the problems. He was safe where he was and I hope he sorts it out soon as we would love to meet up with them again soon.


We were ready to depart The Mar minor on Tuesday 3rd. The bridge opened at 10.00 sharp and we followed Scarlett out onto the ocean. If you were blindfolded you wouldn’t have noticed the difference though. It was completely flat without a breath of wind. Scarlett was heading farther East than us so they stood out to sea whilst we crept along the coast arriving at the International Marina, Torrevieja a few hours later. Claire brought us in perfectly into a berth stern too right next to the office. We intended to stay here for one night only as it was quite expensive at 43€ for one night, I know!!

After checking in we had a list of stuff that needed doing if we were to leave the next morning. First was the washing, we took that to the machines in the marina. While we were waiting for that to finish we walked around to the large, disorganised chandlers just outside of the marina. They didn’t have a battery, they thought they could order us one and maybe get it here first thing in the morning but they had to make a few calls first. Most of this conversation, like most of the others we have here in Spain was completed with hand gestures and smiles. So back to the washing machines, one load out next lot in. Back on the boat we got a message from Ian and Lynne they had been here for a night already and needed food as they too were leaving in the morning. We agreed to meet and get the shopping together.


The chandlers couldn’t get the battery, and there was some confusion as to if Icom still made them! We went for a walk along the seafront with Lynne and Ian stopping for the obligatory G&T. Lynne found a strawberry gin that she liked very much. Walking back to the boat we were all very hungry so we stopped at a restaurant where we all had bacon, eggs chips and Heinz baked beans! Very Spanish I know.

 

In the morning we helped Ian and Lynne depart. They were in a very tight berth and they did really well to get out without getting caught up on all the other boats.  I had to rush back to the Orange shop (Phones not fruit) as the data sim we had bought was not working in our MiFi. The sim was OK so I am still unsure what the problem is. 

 

Back to RR we got ourselves sorted and left. The wind was gusty in the marina with a grey overcast sky. We were both surprised at the strength of the wind and at the confused sea we met as we left the safety of the outer harbour wall. I was preparing the sails when Infinity came on the radio telling us that they were heading back in as Lynne had trapped her fingers in a door, and it was too rough for them to carry on, they had seen 22knots of wind already on their instruments! There was a safe sheltered spot for them to anchor behind the harbour walls.

 

I must admit it was a bit rough with the wind a solid force 5 from the NE. The direction wasn’t perfect and we would be beating into the wind the whole way but we were good at that, we had had a lot of practice beating into a stiff breeze as we sailed down the south coast of England almost a year ago to the day.  I had a quick chat with Claire and we decided to carry on. I put the main up with one reef and pulled out the genoa with two reefs in. As the sails filled RR heeled over and buried her bows into one of the bigger waves, shouldering it aside. I knew at that moment we were going to be fine. This is what yachts were designed for and soon we were out into open waters making 5 - 6 knots. Claire was a bit quiet, I asked if she was OK? She said that she had a sharp pain in her tummy, that it had been there for a while but she was OK to keep going.

 

It was brilliant, deep blue sea with white water everywhere as the wind took the tops off of the bigger waves. We were well clear of the land now with RR sailing well, we had the right amount of sail up and our angle of heel was fine with the rails well clear of the water. I was so happy!!!

 

We were 4 or 5 miles off when we tacked, we could see the coast far off on our Port (left) side and the motion was a lot smoother as we were sailing along the waves instead of into them. Our speed increased to 7 +knots as we sped towards Santa Pola. Scarlett was there and our plan B was to stop there if the pain in Claire’s tummy or the weather got worse. Our plan A was to carry on hopefully anchoring in a sheltered bay just past Alicante.

 

After a few hours it was time to tack again, the flashes of colour from the kites of the kite surfers signalling that we needed to get back out into deeper waters. As we passed Santa Pola I asked Claire if she was Ok. Yes is being the answer she said, (That line is from the film ‘Love actually’ one of our favourites) her tummy still hurt but it was not as bad, the wind was now a 4 -5 the sun was out and the seas had calmed a lot so we decided to carry on. Sorry Graeme and Jayne.

 

We were headed towards Isla de Tabarca a small group of islands just off the coast. Long ago this used to be a base for pirates. Ahaaargh. They were driven out and a small fort was built to defend it and prevent their return.

We need to be careful as there were areas buoyed off as a nature reserve but we sailed as close as we could to get a good look.
 

On then to our stop for the night, we sailed past the large marina at Alicante and we were pleased to see the very small bay of Puerto de San Juan come into view. The place indicated in the pilot book was too small and too shallow and neither of us would have felt happy. It looked better at the other end of the marina wall and this is where we dropped the anchor. It still felt odd to us, just sailing up and stopping without asking permission but no one seemed to take any notice. We sorted the boat out, Claire made some food and I sat down enjoying the feeling of having sailed this whole leg, I bet we used less than two litres of fuel for the whole trip. I had a great feeling of satisfaction as we prepared to go to sleep. We managed to get a signal and messaged everyone that we were ok. We got a message from Mike on Toy Buoy that strong wind was meant to come in tomorrow but that would have to wait. We were exhausted.

 

Well we soon discovered that it was impossible to sleep, we were both very tired but every now and then the boat rocked violently as a bigger swell made it's way into the bay. We tried everything but we couldn’t drop off to sleep and we had now discovered that a sheltered bay meant shelter from the wind and the swell. At about two in the morning the wind started to fill in from the East, not much you understand but just enough to swing the boat stern on to the small swell meaning that instead of rocking from side to side the boat was lifting gently, all went quiet and we both drifted off for a few hours of well-earned sleep.

 

The next morning was still grey as we had a bit of breakfast before getting the boat ready, the wind looked OK at the moment and the pain Claire had been suffering with had gone so we decided to carry on. We motored out of the bay, hoisted the sails, we decided to keep the reefs in and Claire switched the motor off, it had only been running for 7 minutes!! We sailed out of the lee of the Cabo de la Huerta headland where the full force of the wind hit us, all was Ok and it was slightly less than the day before with less of a sea running. We stood out to sea for a few miles then tacked once again we were beating into a stiff breeze but RR was loving every minute of it as was I. I felt as if I had got my mojo back, whatever that means, the decisions we were making were good the boat was flying, the sun even popped out every now and then. The tack was quite a few hours long taking us all the way to Benidorm, we had to be careful of the fishing areas as we tacked back out to sea. The rain that had been threatening all day finally came and the wind got up a bit with it, this made both Claire and I hunker down under the spray hood as the drops were quite painful when they hit you. Our course was taking us away from our destination so we put another tack in that saw us closing the imposing rock face that forms the headland of Sierra Helada. Claire took us in as close as we dared before we tacked back out to sea. The rain eased and the wind dropped with it. We shook the reefs out as we made the last tack that took us into the bay of Altea.

 

We were again thinking of anchoring but one look at the amount of fishing boats coming in and out and the size of the area we would need to anchor in saw us heading into the Marina. At 25€ a night we booked in for three nights. Claire took us in and we both heaved a sigh of satisfaction as the engine went off and we let the realisation sink in that we had just sailed two long legs in challenging conditions without any issues, once again learning all of the time about our boat and each other.

Altea is a very nice place, we strolled around the town enjoying the walk along the palm tree lined seafront before heading into the town centre. It has a really nice feel to it with good shopping and restaurants and bars everywhere.


We went to the tourist information centre for maps etc. Talking to the rep about wanting to travel to Valencia when we got to Denia. She told us that there was no direct route to Valencia from there as there was a large nature reserve in between the two. She told us about an organised trip that went to Valencia every Thursday by coach from Altea, this included a guide as well as entry to a few places including the world renowned Oceanogràfic sea life centre all for 60€ each. We booked it at the travel agents, this changed our plans a bit as we could stay in Altea for a week or so heading across to Ibiza from here. This would not only gain us a bit of time I think it will also save us money too as Calpe and Denia, the next two proposed hops were meant to be quite expensive places to stop and we had no real interest in seeing them, it was all about getting nearer to visit Valencia.

As we left the travel agents an English guy stopped us saying that he had overheard us and suggested a few nice places to visit locally. He told us about the old town up some steep stairs that led to the church on the hill. We had no idea this was worth seeing so up we went and it was really beautiful up there and another facet to this very nice town.

 

We had something to celebrate on Sunday 8th May. It was a year ago that we left, Tollesbury, setting sail on a cold, wet and windy Friday in the Blackwater Estuary. It seems to have gone so quickly, looking back at this blog, reading about all of the things we have done and seen I am amazed that we have fitted it all in to 365 days. We had another reason to celebrate as we heard via the ‘Almerimar’ messages that ‘Scarlett’ and ‘Toy Buoy’ were coming to Altea arriving about 1400 hrs. When they were in and sorted we asked them if they wanted to join us for a meal. We had a very nice night, enjoying Indian cuisine at the request, well it was more of a demand actually from Jayne. The food and company were excellent, the perfect way to celebrate another important anniversary.

‘Infinity’ were the next to arrive, it was great to see them again they had stopped in Alicante for a few nights on their way to Altea. We were all together again except for Alan and Bijuca who were still stuck in the Mar Minor with serious engine problems. 

 

Thursday 12th saw us waiting opposite the station in Altea for the tour bus that took us to Valencia. It turned up on time, the tour guide was nice but she had to drone through everything in four different languages which was a bit monotonous. The drive there took about one and a half hours with much of it along the coast which was nice. The coach dropped us of at the Faller Museum, it was a bit weird in there with lots of grotesque figures in different poses. All beautifully painted and skilfully constructed. We didn’t understand what we were looking at but we managed to get an English pamphlet about it. A Faller is a satirical character made of flammable materials which is erected in town squares and on the junctions of main streets in the towns and villages of the Valencia region. The characters represented events, behaviour, or depicted real people that were considered in some way reprehensible that had occurred during the year. It is displayed for a few days to allow the public to view and enjoy them before being burnt on the eve of St Joseph’s day. It's a sort of early ‘spitting Image’ they are judged with a prize for the best which could be its charm, beauty or its satirical nature. It's been going on since 1860 with the best from each year being saved for the museum.

 

After that we had the rest of the morning in the old part of the city, where we visited the cathedral, there were services being held so I didn’t stay long, a ceramics museum housed in a beautiful baroque building then we had a nice stroll through the city to the central market. I love these markets, we have tried to find them in all of the major cities we have visited so far. After spending a very pleasant few hours in the old town we got back on the coach to be driven to the Oceanografic centre on the outskirts of the city. This, along with a science and an art museum has been built by the edge of the former river Turia, the whole of the river bed which runs through the city of Valencia has been turned into a wonderful park with cycle and running tracks, footpaths, planted areas, water features and ponds.

 

We both enjoyed the Oceanografic centre, which is the largest aquarium in Europe. The viewing tunnels were brilliant, Claire always heads straight for the penguins though and as a finale to our day we saw the dolphin show in the large auditorium. All in all a very good trip, we got dropped off back in Altea at 2030 we were both exhausted and looked forward to getting into bed. 


Friday was spent preparing the boat, stocking her up with food, water and diesel for the 70 plus mile trip to Ibiza. We intended to leave on Saturday morning at first light, the idea was for all four boats to leave together and keep in contact on channel 72 on the VHF. We all had a meal together on the Friday night, another curry but it was a good evening. The talk kept drifting back to weather forecasts for the trip. On the whole they were good with wind in the morning dying out around mid-day then building again in the afternoon. 

 

I was up just after 5 on Saturday 14th, I didn’t sleep to well, I never do the night before sailing to a new destination. My head just keeps ticking, going through the passage plan, thinking about the ‘what ifs’ 

 

The wind was gusty, not very strong, about a force 4 with a bit of 5 in it. I started taking the covers off the wheel and winches, I took the cover off the mainsail and attached the halyard, Claire was moving about now sorting stuff out below. The other lads walked down the pontoon for a chat, Ian said that Lynne was sick, something from the night before so they had decided not to go, Mike was a little undecided, Graeme seemed to want to go although he appeared slightly apprehensive as the wind was a bit more than forecast with the probability of more once we were out into open sea. I think it's always a problem when you’re in a group, everyone has a slightly different take on things. I told them we were definitely going to leave around 0630 when there should be enough light to see the flags of the fishing pots that were certainly to be scattered about in the bay. 

 

I had a chat with Claire to make sure she was OK to go, yes she said without a moment’s hesitation although I knew she too was a bit nervous. We ran through how we were going to get out of our berth, I unplugged the shore power lead, lifted and stowed the gang plank. Claire turned on all of the instruments while I went through the engine checks and started her up. I let go one of the stern lines and dropped one of the bow lines. With a nod to Claire she pulled the remaining stern line on-board, I dropped the other bow line and fended off the other boats alongside as Claire took us out. We waved and said our goodbyes to the others we were still unsure if they were going to follow us. I stowed the fenders and lines, unzipped the main sail ready for hoisting, We both agreed that one reef in the main would be prudent so after clearing the harbour wall Claire brought us into wind and up the sail went. We bore off across the bay heading for Calpe. I pulled the genoa out leaving one reef in. RR heeled to the wind and we saw 6.5 knots come up on our speed log. Off went the engine and the silence was as beautiful as the sun rising from behind the headland in front of us.

 

We were off to Ibiza, 70 – 80 miles (depending on what bay we stopped in) as the crow flies. Claire said ‘Derek look at the GPS’ we both watched as all the zeros came up on our latitude coordinates as we crossed the prime meridian!! It was 07.04  our position was 38°35.474 N  000° 00.001 E. We were east of the line again now the first time since crossing to the west near Eastbourne just over a year ago. I thought back to a few months before when Claire and I were standing on the prime meridian at the Royal observatory in Greenwich with my parents chatting about this moment happening.

 

Looking behind us we could see that both ‘Scarlett’ and ‘Toy Buoy’ had decided to come out so there was three of us going the same way now.

 

The wind remained gusty but it never really exceeded a F4. The sea was very unsettled making the boats motion awkward and unsure. The auto helm didn’t like it loosing it’s heading every now and then so I helmed for a few hours. We were approaching a TSS (traffic separation zone) with two tankers we had to be mindful of approaching from Port. I looked up their speed and our CPA (closest point of approach) on the AIS which told me that we were going to be able to pass in front of them with no problems as long as we maintained our current speed and heading. Of course it was then that the wind eased a bit, bloody typical. I resisted the urge to turn the engine on as we were still moving fast enough to clear them. Toy Buoy behind looked OK but Scarlett looked too close to call from where we were but they managed to pass in front of them.

 

We shook the reefs out and we were both excited to see the vague shapes of land far ahead on our starboard side. Ibiza!! The auto helm was back on again now as the motion of the boat was smoother now that we were some distance from the land. The wind died away so we wound in the headsail and switched on the motor. We saw a few dolphins on the crossing but they were busy feeding and didn’t stop to play with us. What we did see a lot of were these strange floating objects that looked like clear pods with something inside. We didn’t have a net but I knew someone who did, I called Scarlett and asked if they could catch one with the net they used to fish ‘Izzy’ their cat out of the water when she fell in. They called us back a few minutes later confirming that these things were indeed seed pods of some kind with a clear semi-circular capsule around them that caught the wind, blowing them across the sea?? I will try to find out what they were and report back.

We were getting close to the very large bay of San Antonio now. There were a group of large rocks that we had to go around before entering. I was on the helm again because I wanted to go as close to these rocks as the depth would allow. It was at this point that the chart plotter switched itself to ‘simple mode’ only showing vague shapes that indicated the land and no depths. I asked Claire to get our Ipad out and plug in the Bad Elf GPS. This she did and before too long we had a decent chart again. This back up system we have really does work well. We called Scarlett on 72 and asked that she take the lead into the bay as it was easier to follow someone as we were still trying to sort out the main system. Of course the wind started to build quickly again from the South reaching F4 within 20 minutes. 

 

We wanted to anchor for a few days in a bay called Cala Bassa which was the first cala (bay) on the starboard side, Scarlett stuck her nose in but thought it too rough so went into the San Antonio marina. We thanked her for her help, dropped our mainsail and motored into this beautiful little bay. We dropped our anchor, turned the engine off and sat in the cockpit, soaking up the sun and enjoying the combined sense of achievement. We were on our boat, Red Rooster, in Ibiza…..how good is that!!

 

We were both pleased with ourselves having actually sailed for just over half the distance in about 12 hours. Where we were anchored it was about 11 meters deep, we looked over the side of the boat into the water, it was very clear with schools of fish passing and white sand showing up between the beds of sea grass. We could easily follow our anchor chain all the way to the bottom.  The water was warm too there was also a nice smell of pine from the trees on the shore. I sorted the boat out while Claire got some food ready for us. The wind, although quite strong now was coming from the direction of the beach so the sea was flat. 

 

As the sun began to set, the people on the beach slowly started to leave, the bars packed away their sun loungers and parasols. The wind slowly died down leaving us amongst 5 or 6 other boats, their anchor lights twinkling like bright stars as we sat drinking wine in the cockpit.  We watched the light fade, both of us looking forward to spending the next few months in the beautiful Balearic Islands.

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