Saturday 30 March 2013

Good Friday a good day for expanding our limits, East to Fuengirola - Spain

March 27- 29, 2013

 Estepona is a great little town that we really enjoyed last October so having a couple of days here again was no hardship. We gave the boats’s decks a huge clean to remove the grime build up accumulated from a winter in Gibraltar and a week in the boat yard. True to form as soon as we had everything looking spick and span topside it pored with rain. Over our stay the showers tended to be a little annoying. We’re ready for summer so want the sunshine – Now! Greedy aren’t we.

We've really enjoyed both our stays in Estepona and its excellent marina.

Four different sets of grib weather files plus the local forecast were consulted to produce a consensus that for our 30 nautical mile hop from Estepona to Fuengirola on Good Friday the weather gods would give us a nice 10 to 15 knot following breeze to start with maybe stepping up to 15 to 20 during the day before dropping out late in the afternoon as we approached our destination.  Yeah right!

We were all up before our alarms keen to get underway. We’d planned to leave at 9.00AM but by Eight we’d all had breakfast and were sitting around looking at each other. Rob went ashore on a speculative trip to try to find somewhere open for some fresh bread for lunches and returned with a good news and bad news story. The good news, still hot, very fresh baguettes in hand. The bad news, the marina office wasn’t going to open until 10.00am because of the holiday. Do we hang around for another hour and quarter to get our 10 Euro deposit on facilities access cards back or get underway. After Karen and Marc had dragged themselves out of bed very reluctantly in the first place, neither were ever going to vote for wasting their supreme sacrifice so we donated the money to the Marina and threw the ropes off.

Once outside the breakwaters we elected to fly the asymmetric spinnaker on its own to give it full reign without the mainsail blanketing it in the 12 knot breeze and were quickly getting along at a handy 7-8 knots. As the wind strengthened a little as predicted, the sevens disappeared off the gauge with steady eights and nines quite often popping up. Fast boat speed and almost on the direct lay line. How good was this?

After seeing 9.3 knots of boat speed we had visions of a new record high speed for Alcheringa but as the wind continued to build, we decided discretion was the better part of valour and doused the kite quick as the wind reached 20 knots. We really didn’t want to risk blowing our favourite sail to bits.

Then stepped in Ley de Murphy which a sailing friend assures us is the Spanish translation for Murphy’s Law. In the few minutes it took us to drop and stow the spinnaker and unfurl the genoa, the wind died to well under 10 knots and swung to directly astern. After unsuccessfully  trying to find an acceptable point of sail that would keep the headsail full and provide forward momentum we furled it back away and resorted to the engine.

True to form, within thirty minutes the wind started to come back, and back, and back. In fact, in the time it took us to set ourselves up to raise the mainsail the breeze picked up enough that we went with a reduced sail area at the first reef straight up along with a reefed headsail. Within another thirty minutes we reduced sail further to our second reef point as the wind gauge showed a steady 30 to 35 knots and gusts approaching 40. With the instruments now indicating consistent boat speed of better than eight knots we were again rocking along and very impressed with how the boat handled the unexpected conditions.

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After a couple of hours of fast downwind sailing, surfing down waves and steering a slalom course through endless fish trap buoys,  we rounded the point of Punta Calaburras and the land blanked out some of the wind and all of the sea state so we enjoyed sheltered waters approaching Fuengirola. The breeze fell to under 15 knots and we were now sailing in dead flat water. We could have put more sail up and maintained our pace but elected to enjoy an effortless four knot cruise for the last couple of miles to the harbour.  It was a very pleasant wind down after the fun of surfing down waves in near forty knots.


The Spanish coast is rife with fish trsps marked by buoys like this creating a slalom course for us zig zag through and keeping us on our toes.

Make no mistake, we are cruisers not racers and would never intentionally choose to sail in 40 knots of wind, but, having been there and done that today, we couldn’t help but feel a huge boost of confidence in both Alacheringa’s and our ability to handle heavier weather if and when required.

We did a bit of zig zagging in the westerly wind. You can see where we came about to raise the mainsail
34.02 nautical miles - max speed 9.3 knots - average 6.1 knots
There is a small but nice looking marina and Fuengirola but on entering through the breakwaters we found a wide and very well protected beach within beckoning us to anchor out. We dropped the pick in three metres of water and hooked in very solidly to the sand bottom which proved to be a good thing seeing the wind picked back up to 20 knots soon after we poured the celebratory G & T’s to mark another successful day on the water. Any yachty friends who find themselves in this part of the world can be assured Fuengirola is an excellent anchorage in anything other than an Easterly wind.


Alcheringa. anchored in the well protected waters off the beach ar Fuengirola

Tomorrow morning we’ll go ashore and find out what the town has in store for us.


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