Tuesday 11 December 2012

Keeping ourselves amused on the Rock


  We really had to do a blog post today just so we could type in the one two, one two, one two dateline. After all, another date like this won't happen again until January First 3001 (01.01.01) which is certainly a long way past our use by.

We've now been in Gibraltar for five weeks as we sit out the northern winter. This is the longest we’ve been in one place since we went home to Australia for a similar period last year and it is taking some getting used to. Our original idea was to spend four months here through to the end of February but we’re already getting itchy feet so we may end up heading back east along the Spanish coast a little earlier than expected if the weather gods are amenable. We will probably stay put at least until late January however.

Gibraltar Registry Office hours - Not sure what difference 15 minutes makes in summer
It would be very easy here to hibernate like a lazy bear and do very little over winter but we are deliberately trying to keep a bit of discipline in our lives and get things done. This means allocating at least one or two days each week to working our way through a long list of boat jobs we put together to achieve during the winter break.  Most involve routine and annual maintenance items of one form or another with the intention of having Alcheringa in tip top condition for a packed summer of sailing next year.

There's a small but friendly group of live aboard cruisers here in Queensway
Quay Marina. We're also surrounded by very upmarket appartments and
penthouses priced in the millions of pounds.
The rest of our time so far has been spent going for long walks keeping the exercise up and to more fully explore our temporary home on the rock and getting to know more of the people here around the marina. Then of course there's also our weekly international shopping trip to Spain for the cheaper groceries (and wine).  
Rob about to cross the runway with a bag over each shoulder and dragging the granny trolley
after loading up with cheap groceries and wine in Spain. The 10k round trip is a good workout.
Karen checking the prawns in Spain. Cheap at 9.90 Euro a kilo ($12.20)
and so big you only get two to the kilo. Mmm! Might get one each for
Christmas lunch,
It’s far from all go however. Karen and Mark are both churning through books at warp speed while Rob is spending more time writing than reading. In addition to keeping the blog ticking over, he’s been working on some magazine article ideas and procrastinating about starting the draft for a book about our year crewing on other people’s boats. The book may not get statrted for a while now though as he’s had the very first article he sent off to a publisher accepted. It should appear in the March edition of ‘Cruising Helmsman’ magazine in Australia. They’ve also requested he get on with a number of his other story ideas and forward them through as well. It was nice not to be the expected rejection slip. 

As we fast approach Christmas, so far the weather here has been quite a bit milder than we had anticipated. While it has cooled down since we arrived in late October, a normal day at the moment is fine or thin overcast with temperatures still in the mid to high teens centigrade. The nights have been getting down to nine or ten but even on the boat, that’s quite liveable, particularly when we fire up our little fan heater to cosy up below decks. If the breeze blows however a wind chill factor certainly kicks in and a few days have felt far colder than the thermometer showed.

Despite this being the low season, a surprisingly large number of tourists are still to be found in Gibraltar every day. It’s seems rare for there not to be a least one large cruise ship in the harbour most of the time and the three British airlines fly in every day don’t seem to be suffering a lack of passengers.

The fuel dock and one of the marinas here in Gibraltar are right beside the
runway so you do need to be careful not to get a lot more wind than you
expected if you sail near the flightpath when a jet's coming or going.
The Gibraltar locals are proud of their history
- and know how to make a buck out of it too
A constant stream of mini-vans take the camera wielding masses up the rock for the obligatory barberry ape experience while lower down in the retail area centred on ‘Main Street’, ‘Irish Town’ and ‘Casemates Square’ the city trades on its significant historical interest and well preserved buildings and fortifications. Not to mention the tax free booze and ridiculously cheap cigarettes of course.

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Tuesday 4 December 2012

Gibraltar - Winter wanderings and tracking the Vendee Globe

December 4, 2012

The nights are certainly cooling down here on the Rock but thankfully many of the days have been sun filled with quite pleasant temperatures in the mid to high teens zone. We’ve been making the most of the good days doing plenty of walking to explore our winter home. Not only have we found some great little spots on our wanderings, but we’re also enjoying the chance to get some regular exercise which can be difficult at times when you live within the confines of a boat.

Our weekly shopping trip to the supermarket across the border in Spain provides a good ten kilometre workout. We’ve added to this the good walk through the streets and tunnels along the western side of the Gibraltar to Europa Point with its great views across the water to Morocco and another route around to Catalan Bay on the eastern side of the rock.
On one of our walks to Point Europa with North Africa across the water
There are many tunnels through the rock. This one's on our walk to Point Europa

Catalan Bay has quickly become our favourite. It has a completely different look and feel to the rest of Gibraltar. The cafes offer a great range of food with no sign of the ubiquitous ‘British Pub Grub’ which is the staple offering of almost every establishment in the main town. Even the prices are much more like Spain instead of London. The beach itself is wide and well protected and we can well imagine it would be extremely popular in summer. Unfortunately the walk to reach Catalan Bay takes us through some of the least attractive parts of Gibraltar including the city dump. It does encourage us to set a cracking pace though which is good for the exercise plan at least.
Catalan Bay has become our favorite part of Gibraltar
Gibraltar winter weather - cool but clear
Catalan Bay is extremely beautiful
Compulsory chessy tourist shot at Catalan Bay

We’ve settled into our winter base at Queensway Quay Marina pretty well. There is quite a serious surge here in the Marina on occasions. We’ve got Alcheringa trussed up with eight mooring lines in all but we still dart about a bit at times. The boat will be pushed quickly in one direction or another all of a sudden then stop sharply when the lines pull tight. It’s like being in a bus with the driver constantly jumping hard on the brakes and not a bad recipe for motion sickness if you’re cooped up below. Fortunately our big salon windows make the boat feel a lot more light and airy than most which really helps a lot in that regard.
Ropes, ropes and more ropes to battle the surge in Queensway Quay Marina

We have got to know a few of the other live aboard cruisers hosting guests aboard Alcheringa and socialising on other boats which has been great. Sunday night is Quiz Night at ‘The Lounge’, our local here in Queensway, and we’ve put together a team the last couple of weeks which has distinguished itself by not coming last. We’ve struggled a little when all the famous faces and news questions are UK-centric. How are Aussies supposed to name ten British Cabinet Ministers just from their photos for cripes sake? Good fun over a couple of reds though.
Now the Formula One and Australian V8 Supercar seasons are over we’ve kept ourselves from getting too bored by following the progress of the Vendee Globe, an amazing solo race around the world on high performance 60 foot yachts. We were lucky enough to get up close and have a good look at many of the boats when we stopped over in Cascais, Portugal on our way to the UK on Curious in May. The fleet completed one of their lead up races while we were there and stayed in the same marina. They are amazing boats and even more amazing athletes that sail them.

Francois Gabart heading into Cascais when we were there
The Vendee Globe Open 60s are incredible single handed flyers

The race started from France on November 10 with over 100,000 spectators lining the canal and breakwaters from the marina to watch the twenty boats leave. The course for the Vendée Globe is very simple. You sail around the world from west to east via the three major capes of Good Hope, Leeuwin and the Horn. There is a long slide down the Atlantic, the perilous voyage across the Southern Ocean with firstly the Indian Ocean and its massive waves, then the Pacific Ocean, the world’s biggest body of water. Finally, there is the climb back up the Atlantic to head back to Les Sables d’Olonne, which marks the start and finish of the Everest of the seas.
Alex Thomsen getting a huge send off heading out to the Vendee Globe start
Modern technology makes it possible for us to follow the progress of the race with constant updated news including live video reports by the skippers direct from the boats along with fantastic satellite tracking where you can see the progress of the whole fleet. Their speed is unbelievable with a new 24 hour single handed record of 502.53 nautical miles (914.6 kilometres) set last week. That’s an average of 20.9 knots (38.1 kph)

We love underdogs and Alex Thomsen is sailing an incredible race in an
older boat to be nipping at the heels of the leaders in the Vendee Globe
We’re barracking for a Brit, Alex Thomsen, who’s sailing Hugo Boss. It’s a survivor of the last Vendee Globe and not quite as light and modern as the newer generation boats yet he’s been able to stick with the leading pack and has been as high as second position on the run down the southern Atlantic. He constantly has to play the game of looking for alternative strategies as if he just follows the leaders they’re superior boat speed will leave him behind. After only 24 days the leaders have just passed the Cape of Good Hope and Alex has headed further south than the four other leaders looking for more wind. It must have worked. He hit a top speed of 31.2 knots (56.8 kph) today. That is flying. It’s also absolutely frightening.

The fleet is now headed across the Indian Ocean towards Australia. Take a look at the Vendee Globe's excellent website http://www.vendeeglobe.org/en/ to see what’s got us excited or check out the fleet tracking at http://tracking2012.vendeeglobe.org/en/ . It’s well worth a look.

For more about our travels and lots more photos check out and 'like' our Dreamtime Sail facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/DreamtimeSail?ref=hl



Friday 23 November 2012

Gibraltar – The home of International Grocery Shopping

November 23, 2012

Time seems to be absolutely flying by. We’ve been here in Gibraltar over three weeks already yet it hardly seems anywhere near that long. We’ve settled in reasonably quickly though and have sorted out all the mundane details that are very important to cruisers. What the best phone/internet deal is, where the Laundromat is, what and where is the best supermarket, bakery, ships chandlery and of course, which bar do we make our new ‘Local’.

Queensway Quay is lined with ritzy restaurants and one small sports bar, The Lounge, which has quite reasonable prices. It’s not surprising that cruisers being cruisers avoid the expensive restaurants like a dangerous reef and all navigate their way to The Lounge as their watering hole. We have met a few of the other live-aboards there and this has certainly helped us get some advice on what’s around. It also provides a good social hub, not to mention F1 Grand Prix coverage on screen for us poor addicts. Marc has ventured off into town a few evenings in search of some nightlife but has so far found Gibraltar to be a ghost town after 8.00pm.
Gib is just the rock with everything else being Spain

While the off season rates at the marina are quite reasonable, we have found the cost of living certainly a lot more expensive than Spain. Morrision's, the only real supermarket here, has prices higher than London which is pretty frightening.  Fortunately there is a reasonably simple solution. We walk across the border back into Spain to the town of La Linea and do our supermarket shopping there. Going to another country just to do the grocery bag drag is certainly a new experience for us. Sounds cool being international shoppers but it is a bit of a pain lugging everything the four kilometres or so back. However, when prices are well less than half, it certainly makes the walk worthwhile.
To reach Spain everything, including pedestrians, has to cross the runway. Our marina is located near the gap in the breakwaters top right.
There's not too many places you'll see a traffic jam like this

 It’s hard for us to get our head around the fact that there’s 21% tax on everything in Spain yet it’s still that much cheaper than Gibraltar. Karen slipped up to the bakery here last week to grab some croissants to have with Sunday breakfast and almost choked when they were a Pound each ( $1.55). At La Linea we bought a packet of nine for 1.30 Euro ($1.60). In Gib, which promotes it has no tax on alcohol as a tourist draw, a bottle of wine from the supermarket was just under three times the price of the exact same bottle in Spain. Looks like we’ll be doing a lot of border hopping this winter.
La Linea is a nice place to wander around so our shopping trips have side benefits such as a great Tapas lunch - cheap.

We have the boat to ourselves for a while as Marc has headed back to London today for a wedding and catch up with friends and family. We'd love to do likewise and fly home to see everyone for a bit but Marc's Gib to London discount airfare was twenty quid. Our fares to Australia and back would be well over $4,000 so that will have to wait. Hopefully we’ll make it home next Christmas.

At the moment it's overcast here but at least not too cold. We're hoping to get some nice weather soon to head out for a day on the water. We just like to go sailing for sailing's sake and go where ever the wind takes us instead of having a need to get somewhere specific. It will make a nice change.

For more about our travels and lots more photos check out and 'like' our Dreamtime Sail facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/DreamtimeSail?ref=hl

Wednesday 21 November 2012

Gibraltar - Alcheringa finally leaves Spain

October 30, 2012

We chose this day for our final hop to Gibraltar based on looking at a raft of weather forecasts which all pointed to us having some light overcast and a good offshore breeze which would provide us with a nice reach down the twenty miles of Spanish Coast. What the morning brought was cold rain and a weak breeze from behind us.
Dawn over Estepona - The cloud got heavier and delivered plenty of rain

The boat was loaded, we’d checked out of the Estepona marina and had changed our booking at Gibraltar so we decided we’d better go anyway. We’d also tried to clear Spanish customs and emigration at the Harbour Master’s Office the previous afternoon but when we arrived with our ships papers and passports, the counter staff simply said they didn’t do that stuff. ‘Boats sail to and from Gibraltar all time, just go’. So much for worrying about our Schengen visas.

Shortly after we cleared the breakwater we raised the mainsail in the hope the wind would strengthen and change to the predicted direction allowing us to sail but the motor ended up being required for the whole trip anyway. What wind there was hardly enough to keep the sail filled as the motor and strong current pushed us south at good speed. The rain never let up all the way along the coast making things quite uncomfortable as we kept watch on the scores of large ships making their way in and out of the Mediterranean through the straits. We really had hoped for a more pleasant farewell from Spain but it wasn’t to be.

As we rounded Point Europa on the southern tip of Gibraltar the rain finally eased. We were about to drop the mainsail in preparation for our approach to the harbour when we picked up a big push along from a localised wind blowing down off the rock. It was great to feel the boat heeling and zooming along again even if it was only for fifteen minutes or so on the run up to the harbour entrance.

We radioed Queensway Quay Marina for mooring instructions and were soon securely tucked in, stern against the wall pontoon. We’d taken just under three hours to cover the 23.6 nautical miles at an average speed of 8.0 knots. (43.7k at 14.8kph). Customs and immigration procedures were handled by the marina office during check in which was very civilised and within thirty minutes we were wandering around checking out our new winter home.
Queensway Quay Marina - Gibraltar. Our winter home. Alcheringa is second yacht from right. Cats don't count.

Unfortunately our first few days in Queensway Quay Marina were very wet with some serious winds howling down off the rock looming above us. There was also a serious surge entering the marina at times which saw us resort to four stern lines plus a pair of amidships lines run back to the pontoon and two bow lines run down to the marina floor. Alcheringa may have been trussed up like a hog tied boar but we were still moving around a fair bit and jerking to a stop at the end of what movement our lines permitted. The boats each side of us are unattended having been left by their owners for the winter and weren’t as well secured. They certainly gave our fenders a good workout especially when the 48 footer to starboard broke a stern line in the middle of the night. Rob wasn’t too impressed running around in heavy rain at 3.00am using one of our spare warps to pull it back off us and get it resecured. Good thing it’s an Aussie boat from Port Douglas. After the fun we’ve had with German boats over the last few months it might have been the last straw if this one had been flying a black, red and yellow flag.

The weather has since improved and we’ve spent about an equal amount of time crossing boat maintenance jobs off our lengthy off season to-do-list and exploring Gibraltar. Highlights so far include discovering an amazing but tiny little Moroccan Restaurant hidden away in a back street. It’s run by an old guy on his own and only offers lamb or chicken kebabs or tagines but they are to die for. Gibraltar is very British and the majority of food on offer at most places is pretty depressing standard Brit Pub Grub so this was a great find.
Our awesome kebabs being cooked. The Tagine was fantastic
Some things are cheap in Gibraltar. Karen's in Vodka heaven.

We also really enjoyed the Gibraltar Museum which is built on the site of the Moorish Governor’s residence and includes an incredibly well preserved Moorish baths in the basement. The museum building itself looks quite small but is like a Tardis as we discovered more galleries around every turn covering everything from the pre-historic occupants of the rock through the Phoenician, Moorish and Spanish eras to Britain’s occupation and rabid defence of Gibraltar through the Great Siege and World Wars. Admission is just 2 Euros and we spent over three hours there and still didn’t quite see everything.
The Moorish baths in the Gibraltar Museum are very well a visit.
We enjoy wandering the town and soaking up the history here. It’s a very small place but has plenty to see. We haven’t ventured up to the top of the rock yet or over to the eastern side but the plan is to spend four months here so there’s no rush.

For more about our travels and lots more photos check out and 'like' our Dreamtime Sail facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/DreamtimeSail?ref=hl




Tuesday 20 November 2012

Estepona – Sailing the Costa de Sol of Spain

October 25 – 29, 2012

Next morning we woke to heavy rain beating down on the decks above our heads. It certainly wasn’t the weather you would normally want to leave harbour in but we had two issues weighing on our minds. Firstly, we’d phoned ahead to book into the marina at Estepona and had been told we’d got their last available berth. We didn’t want to risk losing it by delaying our arrival. Secondly, we all hated the marina at Benalmedena so much just wanted to get out of there as soon as we could. By the time we’d had some breakfast and got the boat ready to cast off, the rain had eased and the visibility improved significantly so away we went.

The combination of drizzling rain and the cool breeze saw us breaking out our heavy Musto wet weather gear for the first time since being on Alcheringa. This served as yet another strong reminder that winter was just around the corner. After such a great summer we are really over the cold weather and not looking forward to its return. However, we are certainly taking heart in our belief that we could never be as cold ANYWHERE in this part of the Med as we were in Monfalcone last January when we joined Mokshsa in northern Italy.
Karen found the trip to Estepona wasn't quite the summer sailing we've got used to

As you get closer to the Straits of Gibraltar you have to be very aware of tides and currents. Most of the Mediterranean sea is relatively shallow and it experiences considerable water loss due to evaporation. As a result, regardless of what the tide is doing, water never stops flowing in to the Med from the Atlantic Ocean. However, on a making tide, the current can exceed six knots in the straits. This would be very hard, if not impossible, for a yacht like ours to make any headway against.

As the water pours in through the narrows and spreads out into the Mediterranean a strong counter current is created along western end of the Spanish coast.  We stuck very close to the shore to take advantage of this flow and had a very fast trip gaining an extra couple of knots of bonus speed.
Thousands of empty apartments line Spain's Costa del Sol
Being so near the land we got an even better view of the results of the Spanish building explosion of the Nineties and Naughties. Entire hillsides are covered with new apartment developments that are sitting empty. Marc did some research and the estimates he found are that there is currently between 780,000 and 1,000,000 completed, new dwellings sitting vacant in Spain at the moment. This also doesn’t take into account the tens of thousands that are incomplete on stalled construction sites all over the place. It’s shear madness. Half the population of Europe would need to take two weeks holiday a year each in Spain to fill the vacancies. If you want to buy a holiday place there’s some serious bargains out there. Just don’t plan on every being able to on sell it.

With the boost the current gave us we got up over eight knots at times and zoomed the 34 nautical miles along the coast. We had only just enough time for the nice, hot, red wine beef stew Karen laid on for lunch to warm us all up before we arrived off the marina breakwater at Estepona.
Estepona was a great final stop along the Spanish Coast
What a contrast this place was to the dump we’d just left. Our welcome could not have been warmer. The staff were extremely helpful and very forthcoming with information about the local area etc. The berths are well sheltered and the marina itself had everything we could want. Good security, clean bathroom facilities with the luxury of seemingly unlimited hot water, laundry facilities, good quality, free WiFi and even a complimentary bottle of wine on check in. Better yet, we got all this at almost half the price of Benalmadena.

The Estepona marina is lined with a good range of cafes, bars and restaurants. While some do have limited menus catering for the Brit market, most offer a good selection of local dishes at the sort of good value prices we’ve become used to in Spain. To the east of the harbour, a long beach with a wide pedestrian promenade stretches the length of the bay to the main business district and old town area of Estepona.

We set out to make the most of our final days before making our move to Gibraltar where we plan to spend a long four months in the Queensway Quay Marina to sit out the worst of the northern winter.  This included finding the best bar to feed our Formula One addiction where we had a great afternoon watching the Indian Grand Prix.
Smile contest

Another day was spent on a bit of cultural exploration when we discovered Estepona’s museum hub. Believe it or not, within the walls of the bull ring just two blocks from the marina, lay a Local Police Museum, a Local Agriculture Museum, a Film and Music Museum, a Local Geology Museum, a Natural History Museum and of course the largest of them all, a Bull Fight Museum.  It was all free and not  a bad way to be entertained for a few hours.
Very intricate work is found in all the Matadore's costumes - Estepona Museum
We're sure he'd rather be in a field full of cows than famous in the
museum at the Estepona Bull Ring

Rob checking out the Estepona Bull Ring

We also did the long walk along the beach to the old town to see the sights. It was a very nice area but we have to say, the Moorish fort was a bit of an anti-climax. It’s totally wedged in between much more recent buildings and all you get to see is the outside of one wall. Oh well. We’re just about castled out by now anyway.

There's not a lot to see at Estepona's Moorish era castle
Not sure what the sculpture has got to do with the Estepona's Moorish
castle but it was a nice piece anyway
We had a great lunch at one of the Cafes in this rose filled square
right in the middle of the old part of Estepona.

Heading back towards the marina, walking along beside the beach, we looked across the bay and could see the towering Rock of Gibraltar beckoning us. A check of the weather forecasts showed a  reasonably ugly weather system on its way later in the week so after calling Queensway Quay to check they had a spot for us if we arrived a couple of days early we started making plans to finally leave Spain.
The 'Rock' was calling us.

The next morning we again made the long walk along the beachfront but this time it wasn’t a sight-seeing trip. We’d been told Gibraltar is a more expensive place to shop so we made our way to the large supermarket on the hill above the town. Here we did one final top up of our supplies and bought a few warmer clothes while we could still enjoy Spain’s cheap prices.  It was a good thing we weren’t tempted to buy one more item because if we had, there’s no way we would have been able to fit it in the cab for the trip back to the marina. One of us would have had to walk.


For more about our travels and lots more photos not included in the blog check out and 'like' our Dreamtime Sail facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/DreamtimeSail?ref=hl


Thursday 15 November 2012

La Harradurra and Benalmadena – Sailing the Costa de Sol of Spain

October 23 – 24, 2012

We needed to wait until the marina office opened for us to check out so by the time that was all done it was almost 9.00am by the time we said goodbye to Almerimar after quite an enjoyable week long stop over. We set sail west along the coast on our way to a little place called La Harradurra we’d chosen as our anchorage for the night. Once more the wind was quite light in the morning so we motor sailed across very calm seas.
The snow on the Sierra Nevada reminded us winter was well on the way.
In the foreground is yet another old fort and more greenhouses 
The snow on the peaks of the Sierra Nevada ranges combined with the cooler air temperature reminded us again that the seasons were changing and our days of sailing in board shorts and bikinis were behind us for a while. The crystal clear air did provide us with some great views though. This section of the coast is a mixture of the greenhouses we’d become accustomed to and smaller tourist developments all with the dramatic back drop of the rugged high ranges behind.
Click on any image to see larger versions
The wind did pick up a little through the day but with 47 nautical miles to cover we didn’t have the luxury of  bobbing along slowly under sail only. The diesel stayed on but the combination of main and motor actually gave us good speed covering the distance in 7 hours 45 minutes. We averaged just over six knots for the trip despite keeping the engine revs down in the economic range. Our track info even showed we’d hit a max of 8.6 knots at one stage. Woohoo!!!
At La Harradurra we were well on our way to Gibraltar
We anchored at the far end of the beach (Photo from the internet)

We reached La Harradurra well before sunset which is always the aim so you can see where you’re anchoring.  Despite its obvious tourism focus, compared to so much of the slap dash rise development we’ve seen right along the both the Costa del Blanco and Costa del Sol, this is quite an attractive spot. The beach is set between two mountains, and is thus well sheltered from most winds other than south to south-west. 
Nice and calm anchored off the beach at La Harradurra
We tucked in close to the eastern end of the beach and were well sheltered from south easterly wind and swell. It is a stunning bay, which is a favourite spot for scuba diving. The sea bed around here is apparently home to the remains of 25 Spanish naval galleons that were wrecked in a storm of 19 October 1562. Hmmm! We’re certainly glad that here in 2012 we haven’t had any October storms like that one.
On the beach at Hurradurra. What a great spot for wedding photos

Alcheringa was again used as a backdrop as a photographer brought happy newlyweds down to the water’s edge for a lengthy shoot. We expect they would have been great pics across the bay into the setting sun. It would have been great to be able to see the shots he took.
With this background, the bride and groom in the foreground on the beach
and Alcheringa in between, we wish we saw the wedding photos.

We definitely would have like to have stayed on for a day’s exploring here but once again the weather forecast said go so we went. We’ll be passing by this way again in the spring when we head back east to the central Mediterranean so maybe then.

Since we’d enjoyed Malaga so much during our Spanish road trip back in April, (Check that story out at http://dreamtimesail.blogspot.com/2012/06/road-tripping-spain-gibraltar-part-one.html ) we’d originally planned to make a stop in the city of Picasso’s birth but it turned about to be impossible to get one of the very limited number of berths inside the harbour. There were really no viable options to anchor out anywhere given the southerly winds on their way. Malaga is really not geared up for visiting yachts at all which is a pity because we’re sure a lot of cruisers would love this historic city.

With no anchorages along this section of the coast providing shelter to the south we chose a marina at Benalmadena 37 miles away from La Harradurra where we would stay a day or three depending on what it was like.  We still had a week up our sleeves before we planned to be in Gibraltar so we were in no rush.
These guys and girls are always welcome around Alcheringa's bow
We sailed right on by Malaga and across the huge bay where we were again joined by a large group of dolphins who kept us entertained for quite awhile. Their antics ducking and weaving around the bow are fantastic and it’s so cool when they swim along on their sides checking you out. Looking into their huge eyes you can almost sense them trying to communicate. Either that or their silently laughing their heads off at the geek with the camera almost falling overboard trying to get the perfect dolphin shot.
Here's looking at ya Kid!
Karen keeping a close eye on this one's course off Malaga

Our next task was dodging big cruise liners as no less than three all came out of Malaga within half an hour and cut directly across our course. Power may have to give way to sail in theory but we have no intention of testing that one out. We always keep out of the way as much as possible. They’re way to big and fast for us. The first one to go past was a sister ship of the Costa Concordia that ran into rocks off the Italian coast and sunk so we weren’t taking any chances of this Captain’s driving being as bad.

A sister ship to the Costa Concordia off Malaga
One our way we had heard a series of Pan Pan radio calls from the Spanish Coast Guard asking all ships to be on the lookout for a vessel that had left Northern Africa with an unspecified number of people on board headed for the Spanish Coast. Unfortunately we heard later that the boat full of illegal imigrants had capsised in the Straits of Gibraltar with considerable loss of life.
Search helicopters returning over Benalmedena
We arrived in Benalmedena mid afternoon to find a horrible, gaudy tourist development gone wrong and an overpriced marina with crap service. We stopped at the fuel dock and checked in at the office where the staff were quite gruff and anything but helpful with information. We then moved over to our allocated berth where we found they had a weird type of shore power outlet we’d never seen before. To use it you have to pay a hefty deposit to hire a matching plug off the marina but it’s not an adaptor. It’s just a plug. You’re supposed to take your plug off your shore power lead and rewire this one on. Yeah right. We could go without shore power for a night so we gave that whole stuff around a miss. The WiFi proved useless in our part of the marina so the only service we actually could use was the water but with our tanks almost full we didn’t bother with that either. Regardless, we were charged for all three on our invoice. AT 54 Euro ($66) it was almost five times dearer than Almerima where everything worked fine and the staff were friendly.

The further away from Benalmedena the better it looks. Just don't get close
Marc ready with the lines as we enter Benalmedena.
This boat with a broken mast and massive damage from where the rig came
down on deck was across from us at Benalmedena

The marina itself is filled with ugly apartment blocks that are the result of some wacko architect’s idea of ‘Moorish’ influence. These are surrounded by restaurants all with a different theme but each with an aggressive hawker out front trying to lasso you inside for exorbitantly overpriced British pub grub. No mate we don’t want to pay 16 Euro for the ‘best fish and chips in Benalmedena.’ No we don’t want a Guinness pie and chips for 14 Euro and you can stick your 15 Euro bangers and mash.

After one short walk we couldn’t wait to get out of the place.

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