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

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




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


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 ) 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.

For more about our travels and lots more photos check out and 'like' our Dreamtime Sail facebook page at

Thursday 8 November 2012

Almerima Marina – Sailing the Costa de Sol of Spain

October 16 - 22,  2012
  Westwood ho, ever westwood. With a constant eye on the weather, Tuesday morning saw us again moving on. We still had plenty of time up our sleeves before we were due to take up winter residence at the Queensway Quay Marina in Gibraltar, but the forecasts showed there were a few days of high winds with some rain coming so we were off across the large bay and around the next cape to a large marina at Almerimar. We’d had plenty of people recommend it to us as being very big, well equipped and very cheap so it sounded the perfect spot for us to sit out a blow for a few days. The marina’s reputation was confirmed when Rob rang to make a booking and was told that no reservation was needed and to just radio them on approach. Not wanting any surprises when we went to pay he then asked what it would cost for our 13.2 metre boat. ‘Not much. Wait I see. …. Between 11 and 12 Euro’, came the reply. That’s less than $14.60 a night so we were liking this place already.
The harbour pilot jumping off one of the ferries as we left Almeria

We had very little wind in the early part of the day so after avoiding the big ferries making their way in and out of Almeria, we motored for a couple of hours first up. This part of the Spanish Coast has a flat plain squeezed between the sea and high ranges behind on which a very large proportion of Europe’s fresh food is grown in massive green houses that dominate the landscape. Not a view that is particularly inspiring, particularly when you’re chugging past with the canvas furled.
You name it, they grow it all in huge greenhouses

We did get a bit of a sail in the late morning and into the early afternoon before the wind again fell away. We had earlier discussed hauling out the cruising chute but considering the short distance we had to go and the wind being forecast to die anyway, Marc put it best, 'Couldn't be arsed'. We hate motoring and, unless we’re pushed for time to reach a port in daylight, we try to sail regardless. However, Rob has written Rule 1.99 into the Alcheringa operating manual which reads, ‘Whilst the craft shall be propelled by use of sails in all possible instances, the motor shall be engaged instantly the boat speed falls to a figure of 1.99 knots or less’. Most cruisers seem to draw the line at around 4 knots so we’ll have to see how long this one lasts before being amended upwards.

Our progress may have been slow but we had plenty of daylight up our sleeve and we made it to less than two miles from the breakwater at Almeria when Rule 1.99 finally kicked in. We were told told over the radio to tie up at the fuel dock beside the control tower to do check in procedures. This is similar to checking into a hotel but you also MUST provide a copy of the boat's registration and insurance certificate. No insurance, no berth.  As we approached with fenders out and lines ready they waved us off and directed us straight to our berth which turned out to be deep down the long central spine between rows of condominiums. It turned out the office was about to close for siesta so they didn’t want to bother with us until after four when they came back. So much for the insurance certificate or no berth. This is Spain.
We were moored well down in the centre of things with plenty of protection

Over the ensuing week we quite enjoyed our Almerima experience. The marina facilities were quite good, although the showers could have definitely been hotter.  Our berth was about as protected from any nasty weather as you could get and, as we discovered when we went exploring, only metres from cafes, bars, boutiques, laundromat, bakery, and what we found to be the cheapest supermarket we’ve come across in Europe. Also within the complex are two chandlery shops (including one run by Brits so no language issues), a sail maker, and well equipped, well priced boat yard.  There were many, many boats here that had been winterised and left till next season but there was also a reasonable number of people staying onboard for the winter and expat Brits living in apartments.  There are even quite nice beaches either side of the marina and a huge golf complex very close by.
Almerima is so well protected it's hard to tell the wind is blowing 20+ knots

The cheap prices encouraged us to sample a number of the food establishments around the marina but we soon found a favourite. Mario’s Sports Bar had friendly Spanish staff with good English, excellent free WIFI complete with power points beside some of the tables to keep our devices charged, PLUS free tapas with every drink. The range and size of the tapas was incredible, not to mention the quality. Mario’s quickly became our Almerima local where we’d set ourselves up with laptop and IPads  and keep up with the world. Staying still for a week meant Rob made some serious inroads on the blog and was uploading a chapter almost every day. By the time we had three or four wines, well priced at a couple of Euros each and gorged ourselves on Mario’s tapas we usually didn’t need dinner. (OK some days we might have had five or six.)
Marc and Karen about to sample more of the best Tapas in all of Almerima
One pint of beer, one vino blanco, one vino rosso three free tapas = 6 Euros
Chicken piece, spicy meatballs and outstanding curried beef = Yum!

The Almerima complex is a fairly large however the majority of the apartments were empty and a large number had clearly never been occupied. It had obviously been developed during Spain’s huge construction boom that went way over the top. With supply outstripping demand by something like ten to one long before the GFC, when the crunch came everything stopped and prices tumbled. We saw a real estate agent’s banner on one balcony advertising the two bedroom, corner apartment as a repossession now available for 39,000 Euro ($47,700). Locals told us that you could do better than that by dealing directly with the banks. They have so many repossessed properties on their books they’ll take any offer that is close to what is owing. For some apartment that figure can be way above the now depressed current market but we were assured there were many absolute bargains around. It was far from good news for those expat Brits here that had bought near the top of the market as a few bemoaned to us. It probably explains why some of the expats that were clearly very regular regulars in the Brit bars around the marina were far from barrels of joy and in Australia would have qualified for the ‘Whingeing Pom’ tag. It was also one of the reasons why we preferred Mario’s.
Not one of these appartments at Almerima was occupied.

As nice as the marina is, it’s built on a piece of coast with very little around it. We did actually consider changing our plans and staying here for the winter break but despite Gibraltar being a slightly more expensive marina we felt there would be much more to do there to keep us occupied through our long layup. Four months is a long time and we may well go stir crazy in Almerima.
Almerima sunrise from Alcheringa's bow

So when the weather settled down from the howling westerlies that had been blowing we knew it would be time to move on. We weren’t going to miss the opportunity to take advantage of the cheap supermarket though and filled just about every inch of storage space we have. We got a few funny looks when we turned up at the checkout with three overflowing trolleys, especially when we’d been through with two loaded to the top half an hour earlier.
Unloading trolley loads 3, 4 and 5. The first two are already aboard
Then you have to find somewhere to put it all

 For more about our travels and lots more photos check out and 'like' our Dreamtime Sail facebook page at


Tuesday 6 November 2012

San Jose and Almeria – Sailing the Costa de Sol of Spain

October 13 - 15,  2012

We cast off from the fuel dock at Garrucha with a full tank of diesel which was a very good thing as we again had to  motor sail  along the coast to San Jose as the wind gods still didn’t want to play the game. We did put the mainsail up and got a little bit of a lift out of what breeze there was but with just over forty miles to cover trying to go by sail alone would have never got us close within daylight hours. We were getting a bit tired of the sound of the engine but that’s life.
We couldn't leave the mainsail in the bag any longer.

We saw a few flying fish along the way which was nice. They’ve been few and far between in the Med and it’s always very entertaining watching how far they can glide over the waves before splashing down.

We also spotted a huge, development onshore that had been very obviously stalled for quite some time and now well and truly plastered with a huge ‘Ilegal Hotel’ sign that covered a number of floors. It was out in the middle of nowhere and daubed with all sorts of graffiti including one sign saying  DEMOLICIAN  - YA’. We’ve heard all sorts of tales of buildings going up without anyform of planning approvals and could only guess there was an interesting story behind this one too. We’d loved to have known the facts but given the size of the massive resort it’s a fair bet to say some bank somewhere that financed it has taken a serious hit to their balance sheet.
Maybe this was Christopher Skase's final project.

We rounded the headland and entered the shelter of the bay at San Jose in the late afternoon. It was a very attractive little spot with an interesting looking town stretching away behind the beach. There was a small marina but as we expected conditions to stay reasonably calm for the night we elected to anchor outside near the beach. As we began to relax with sundowners in the cockpit we counted 34 small boats come out of the marina in a one hour time space and headed all over the bay fishing. We couldn’t believe so many boats could fit behind the breakwaters in the tiny marina but it was obviously a bit bigger than it looked. About 8.30pm someone must have sounded a dinner bell because all of a sudden they were all coming back in at once creating some serious peak hour traffic at the harbour entrance.
San Jose looked like a nice place to explore. Next time hopefully.

On Sunday we had planned to have a look around the town but after checking the forecasts we decided this may not be a good place to be in the 15 to 20 knot south-westerlies predicted for the evening. It was time to go so San Jose went on the list of places to stop at on the way back east next year. Up came the  anchor and we set sail to Almeria. Yep. We actually got the white bits up and had a fantastic sail around the cliffs of Cabo de Gata and then right across the big bay all the way to just off Almeria itself. The wind strengthened and turned through the afternoon and we were able to go with it only needing to tack out from shore at the very end.  With the wind now sneaking up above 20 knots we were getting a bit overpowered. We could have reefed the main to reduce sail but as we were only a mile from the harbour elected to simply drop it and motor the rest of the way in.
A great sailing day to Almeria had us all smiling

Almeria is a very large commercial port with a lot of big shipping, particularly large ferries. There’s a marina just outside the inner harbour but when we rang them asking for a berth they at first said OK then a minute later decided they suddenly had no room. This was despite us being directly outside the entrance looking at empty berths inside.  Apparently they primarily cater for permanent berth holders and aren’t too keen on casual visitors. We must not have seemed important enough for them.
We cheekily anchored between the marina and inner breakwater.

By now the wind was gusting in the 25 to 30 knot zone with quite a lumpy sea so we had no desire to be heading back out in it. No anchoring is permitted in the inner harbour but we decided there was room between the inner breakwater and the marina so we simply dropped anchor there, made sure we were well hooked in and let out plenty of chain. We were very happy to be behind the protection of the main, big breakwater. but even so, a fair size swell was finding its way around its end making things a little less comfortable than the marina would have been but such is life. We were dancing around a bit on the end of the chain but at least we were safe and this was free. We just hoped no one came along and told us to move on.
With 30 metres of chain out we swung in a 60m arc but there was room

Fortunately the wind dropped out a little after midnight and Monday morning dawned nice and calm with clear blue skies. It was time for a day ashore checking out the city.  First stop was the Vodafone shop to get Marc and Karen’s internet data topped up. Marc goes into severe withdrawals and may be found in the foetal position whimpering if he can’t download his London papers each morning  while Karen’s IPad has all our weather forecast apps on it so this was definite priority.
A beautiful morning in Almeria harbour
Almeria is a very attractive city to wander around

We then wandered the streets and checked out the excellent fresh food, meat and seafood markets in the city centre before settling in for lunch at a very cool old restaurant/bar. Eventually Karen managed to get us out the door and off on an ABC tour (Another Bloody Castle).   Her tourist  guide  said that next to the Alhambra in Granada, the Alcazaba of Almería is one of the main castles in the south of Spain. It was constructed in the X century by the Califa Abderramán III. It offered shelter to 20,000 people at one time so we had to have a look.
Off for our ABC Tour (Another Bloody Castle) in Almeria
Ameria's cathedral started life as a mosque before being christianised.
It was a fair walk through the streets, past the cathedral, up the lanes all guided by Karen’s IPad’s maps to get to the base of the hill. Here we found a sign proclaiming the castle open 10.00am to 8.00pm on weekdays. Cool. It was only 2.30. We could see a set of closed doors ahead so deduced that the entrance must be up the steep road that ran beside the castle and off we went.

We went right up to the top of the Alcazaba of Almería, on the outside.
Reaching the top we discovered another set of locked doors so after a short break to get our breath back we set off back down to the bottom where we now found the doors open. A bit weird but what the heck. In we walk and straight to the ticket window manned by a man in uniform who we ask for three tickets. ‘No tickets’ he says. We immediately think it must be free but our illusion was shattered when he followed his opening statement up with. ‘Is closed’. It was now five past three. Go figure. So much for the sign outside proclaiming opening hours till Eight PM. Oh that’s right. This is Spain.
It looks nice from the entrance, which was as far as we got.

Sergeant-Major Karen, then marched us back through the streets down into the old town where the troops mutinied and headed to a cafe for a bottle of wine. As we were finishing our tipple we noticed some very ominous looking dark clouds appearing over the ranges so high tailed it back to the boat in case the approaching thunder produced any nastiness.  On our return we found another yacht had joined us in our little anchoring spot and we immediately started calculating chain lengths and swing room making sure we had clearance. Our wild experience in Santa Ponsa on Mallorca was still fresh in our minds so we were more than happy as the storm rolled by to the west without as much as a spot of rain falling on us. Another bullet dodged.

We're a bit gun shy when we see skies like this since being belted in Santa Ponsa
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