Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Afloat again and off to Estepona - Spain

March 24-26, 2013

  Hurry up and wait! Well we enjoyed a relaxing weekend in Ceuta staying in a reasonably nice hostel as our home, Alcheringa,  was still all blocked up sitting on the concrete in the Med Gate Shipyard in Ceuta awaiting a few things to be finished off on Monday. We had hoped to be underway on Saturday but Rob wasn’t too unhappy to be staying on shore as he was able to catch live television coverage of the Malaysian Grand F1 Prix and even overcame the problem of Spanish commentary by finding a live streaming English commentary on the computer. So the TV was on with the sound off and the laptop providing the audio all be it a few seconds behind the action but who cares. It proved to be a very exciting race but with a particularly unsatisfying conclusion for any fans of Australian driver Mark Webber.  Such is life.

We didn't mind staying a little longer in Ceuta and discovering more of the town's amazing hand painted ceramic billboards like this one.
We wandered down town on Sunday night to find some dinner and discovered Ceuta coming alive with thousands of people packing into the city centre for one of a series of parades to celebrate Easter. All over Spain Easter is commemorated as the holiest of festivals with a week or more of parades and other events and we’re hoping to witness a few more of these in the coming days.

We hadn't expected to run across this Easter parade in Ceuta so Rob's camera was back in
the hostel room and the photos are as good as we could do with an i-phone at night.
After easing Alcheringa back in the water late on Monday looking all very smart with her new paint, we made sure all was in readiness to put to sea next morning and then it was tapas time. We’d discovered a small bar in the residential area above the shipyard that had been packed with locals for lunch so decided it looked ideal for our last meal in Ceuta and to celebrate really getting underway for the summer. De Buena Cepa exceeded our wildest expectations with fantastic, friendly service and simply the most incredible food you could imagine. Salted cod done to perfection, flavour filled mushroom fettuccini, pork medallions in a rich cream sauce that melted in your mouth,  a beef in filo pasty tapas that was similar to a mini Beef Wellington but infused with Latin spices that truly set it apart. These were washed down with two bottles of excellent Spanish red followed by coffee and complimentary liqueurs all for 20 Euros each. ($24 Aus). How come we always find these places on our last night in a town?

With Alcheringa looking her absolute best Marc was a pretty proud owner as the boat was lifted back into the water for our next adventures.
Surprisingly all three of us were up on time next morning  and we cast off as planned at 9.00AM to take advantage of wind and tide for our passage to Estepona on the Spanish Coast. We raised the mainsail inside the harbour and turned the engine off as we sailed out through the breakwaters into the Straits of Gibraltar heading almost due north across the shipping lanes with a 10 to 15 knot westerly pushing us along nicely.
Sunshine or not, it was a fantastic sailing day in the Mediterranean on Alcheringa
Within half an hour the breeze strengthened to 15 to 20 knots as we got away from the coast and it pretty much stayed that way all day giving us excellent sailing conditions. Alcheringa’s newly painted and obviously slippery backside further boosted performance and we found ourselves zooming along at better than 8 knots much of the time and hit a new record high of 9.4 at one stage. Yee-Haa!

What better place to test out our new AIS screen than the busy Straits of Gibraltar.
We were doing 7 knots in 12.5 knots of wind here which isn't too bad at all.
The straits were even busier than when we’d crossed from Gibraltar to Ceuta but now we had our new AIS system installed which took a lot of the guess work out of how close a tanker/container ship/high speed ferry/cruise liner would come to running us over. Not only could we see their course, speed and closest point of approach (CPA) all detailed on our little readout, we also appeared on their screens for the first time. The AIS made it easy to see a change of course by 15 degrees at one stage would allow us to safely pass behind a huge roll on – roll off ship that on current course and speed would have come within metres of us. We also experienced an incredible and probably very rare event when a large ship, still four miles away bound for Gibraltar, called us up by name on the radio to let us know that as we were under sail they would reduce speed so we could safely pass in front of them. Who’d have believed it?  We’re loving our AIS already.

After crossing South from Gib to Ceuta 12 days ago we traversed the Straits again up to Estepona on the Spanish coast.
Today was really one of the best day’s sailing we’ve had on Alcheringa. Although it was overcast much of the time it was only a bit cold for a while in the middle of the straits and once we neared the Spanish coast we enjoyed a fantastic downwind run that saw us cover over 37 nautical miles in a little under six hours to average better than six knots. Best of all, the engine was turned off as we cleared the harbour in Ceuta and wasn’t restarted until we dropped the sails just outside the marina at Estepona. Now that’s the way we like it.

This is the Google Earth view of our current location in the marina at Estepona that our Spot Tracker provides. You can see and zoom in on our latest position as a map or satellite view whenever you click the Spot Tracker link on the right.

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