Tuesday 9 April 2013

Weather gurus - Hmphhh!!! Almerimar to Cartagena, Spain

 April 6-8, 2013

 Our two days spent in Almerimar Marina while the bad weather passed weren’t wasted. There is an excellent, and very well priced supermarket adjacent to the marina where we did our major, beginning of the season, provisioning of the boat. It’s very conveniently located as we were able to make a series of trips wheeling the trolley all the way to the stern of the boat. The check-out lady got to know us well as we progressively went through with five over-laden trolley loads stocking up on everything from toothpaste to toilet paper along with fifty odd bottles of Spanish wine.  Then came the little task of finding places to securely store it all on the boat. Surprisingly it all found homes with a bit of space to spare.

We also took advantage of the non-metered water to give the boat a thorough clean making use of a small pressure washer we’d picked up in Ceuta. It certainly does a good job on the non-slip fibreglass decks and blows any grime out of hard to get at corners etc. Karen managed to get a long overdue hairdressing appointment and disappeared into the salon for three hours while Rob and Marc got the washing done. The fact that the laundrette was beside Mario’s bar of great free tapas with every drink fame may have been a factor in their volunteering for the job.

Friday night, our last evening in port, was date night for us and we chose a nice looking bar for a pre-dinner drink. While most bars and restaurants around the marina seem to cater for the expat British market with menus proudly boasting of ‘Genuine British Fish and Chips’ it turned out we’d selected one of the few that was very Spanish and well patronised by the locals. We were the only English speakers in the place which taxed our very limited Spanish skills when ordering but proved well worthwhile. On ordering a glass of wine each, a large bowl of olives appeared on the table closely followed by a tapas each of very thinly sliced jambon (cured leg ham) and fresh bread. It was superb, as was the wine so we ordered a second glass.

Legs of fantastic cured ham hanging over the bar of our 'Date Night' restaurant.
More tapas arrived with the vino. This time large jacket potatoes with lashing of very tasty handmade aioli. A third glass of fine red accompanied by pork fillet baguette tapas followed. We never did get around to ‘dinner’ as such. No need after that lot. And we were keen on a relatively early night as we were on our way in the morning.
OK so we check five, yes five different weather forecasts before heading off for a 35 mile passage to an anchorage behind the point at Puerto Genovis. The consensus of the various weather gurus was that we would begin motoring in 5 to 10 knots through the morning, followed by 0 to 5 then 10 to 15 in the afternoon should give us a gentle sail before the wind dropped out to nothing for the night in our selected anchorage.

Clear skies but cold winds for our departure from Almerimar

Marc's smoking spot got splashed a few times but as a dedicated nicotine fan he was undaunted.

Close hauled into the wind heading for Cabo de Gata. It's amazing how much flatter the sea always looks in photographs or video. 
So in reality we round the breakwater and find a cold 10 to 15 knots blowing from our backs and a very lumpy, confused swell.  After clearing the point and striking out across the wide bay the wind swung and strengthened to 20 - 25 knots from entirely the opposite direction to the forecast giving us a close hauled, upwind slog to the opposite cape, Cabo de Gata, with the mainsail well reefed down for the conditions.  As we approached the lighthouse and rocky cliffs of the cape, the wind eased right down so we shook out the reefs and raised the full mainsail to sail around into the bay at Puerto Genovis.
Reduced sail for the conditions with the main reefed right down
True to form as we entered the bay the wind began to build again and after a couple of circuits of the anchorage we decided there was too much swell rolling around the point for comfort. We dropped the sails and motored around into the next bay where Plan B, the small marina at San Jose was awaiting. By the time we entered the tiny marina we had 25+ knots blowing straight off the dock just to make life interesting. So much for the forecast 0 to 5.
On our first two attempts to tie up the wind beat us with Alcheringa’s bow being blown away from the dock before we could get the lines on. A high speed approach by Rob on the helm to maintain steerage and some impressive, over the rails acrobatics by Marc saw our third try successful. Weather gurus - Hmphhh!!!


Finally secured in San Jose marina.

Our Spot tracker's view of our location in San Jose marina.

Almerimar to San Jose - 40 nautical miles - 7 hours 1 minute Average speed 5.7 knots Max 8.3knots
The wind did die out later in the night and after a thankfully restful sleep we said adios to San Jose and headed further east. Our plan had been to do a short 12 nautical mile run to an anchorage in a Cala San Pedro and spend a lazy afternoon and night before heading 20 miles to the marina at Garrucha the next day.  
We’d heard it was a very picturesque spot to spend some time if the weather was OK. This time the weather gurus told us we’d have a very calm morning before a 10 to 15 knot southerly which unfortunately would blow straight into San Pedro. We were naturally skeptical of the forecasts after our previous day’s experience but decided to err on the side of safety and just have a quick look before continuing to the security of the marina.

Calm conditions for our early morning departure

We spied this "renovator's special" with awesome views out in the middle of nowhere.

We're not sure if anyone has counted the number of castles in Spain but it would number in the thousands.
Motoring is not our thing. We prefer to sail whenever possible but if you have to motor gliding past steep rock cliffs and breathtaking scenery in glassy seas is about as good as it gets. With its clear waters, long beach and steep cliffs, San Pedro did prove every bit as beautiful as we’d heard. There’s a small ‘alternative’ community resident in the bay. It was a little surreal to see solar panels erected on the ramparts of the castle ruins that squatters have made home. We were sorely tempted to drop anchor and at least spend a couple of hours there in the still conditions.  The thought of breaking out the BBQ for a nice lunch was very appealing.


Approaching the head of the bay at San Pedro

The locals braved the very cool water. We wouldn't.

The San Pedro squaters have gone high tech with solar power
Reluctantly we resisted the urge and motored on our way. Early afternoon the southerly did arrive just as forecast and the weather gurus began reclaiming some credibility. We elected to run before it with just our asymmetric spinnaker flying. It produced a nice seven plus knots in the 10 to 15 knot breeze and we had a very enjoyable sail right to the approaches of the marina at Garrucha. That’s when the gurus lost any browny points they gained earlier in a big way.

We had a great downwind sail using the asymetric spinnaker through the afternoon
As we furled the spinnaker away, the wind began to build very quickly. By the time we’d entered the marina we had 25+ knots again but this time it and a big swell were sweeping straight through the harbor entrance between the breakwaters making inside the marina very nasty. Rob was certainly asking why the hell it has to blow up just as we want to dock and why don’t we have a bow thruster.
With the high wind lessons learned from San Jose fresh in our minds, the process of getting secured alongside actually went very smoothly and drama free this time but unfortunately it was only the start of the fun and games. As the wind strength jumped into the 25 to 30 range and the swell continued to grow, Alcheringa was in for a very rough time. We had five lines securing her to the marina and two ground lines holding her away from the pontoon to avoid having her smashing into the dock as the swells lifted, twisted and dropped her as the dramatic video clip at the link below shows. None of us have had any sea sickness at any stage since we’ve had the boat but we all agreed, in these conditions it was time to get off.

We had a bite to eat in a marina front bar and watched as two other yachts entered the harbour and despite numerous attempts failed to get into marina berths. One tied up to the fuel dock where it was systematically bounced off rough tyre bundles for the next few hours while the other sought refuge amongst the fishing fleet. No doubt if we’d dallied for our lunch BBQ back in San Pedro we would have also been caught out in the worst of the short but nasty blow as well.
By nine o’clock it was all over and we were back on board for a totally calm night’s sleep. Who’d have thought. However, Garrucha is definitely off our recommended marinas list.

San Jose to Garrucha - 32.8 nautical miles - 5 hours 38 minutes - Average speed 5.8 knots Max 7.9 knots
We did receive some very good news though in the form of an email from our real estate agent with contract for the sale of our rental property back in Australia. It had been on the market for quite a while and we needed it sold to top up our cruising kitty. All we had to do now was get to somewhere we could print the document out, sign it, scan it and email back to Australia pronto.
The weather gurus were on their game again next day which was good news bad news. The good being the conditions were exactly as predicted. The bad was that with under ten knots from directly astern we had an extremely boring passage for the near fifty miles to Cartagena where we could achieve all our admin jobs and enjoy one of our favorite spots in Spain.
Check out more about this delightful harbour from the blog of our previous visit. Cartagena - Sailing the Costa Blanco of Spain

Garrucha to Catagena - 47.6 nautical miles 7 hours 48 minutes - Average speed 6.1 knots Max 6.8 knots
About as boring a track as you can get, motoring and way off the coast.

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  1. What a philanthropist you are Rob, highlighting the sad state of the Spanish economy where the poor local girls can't even afford swimwear....again.
    Really enjoying you adventures,your humour getting the stories across, and the wonderful pics.

  2. Hi Anonymous, yes the economy here doesn't seem to have recovered enough for many of the locals to afford swimwear so we just thought we should chronicle such a sad state of affairs. We'll try to keep you posted with any progress in current fiscal conditions. Cheers

  3. Hi guys, interesting reading and you seem to have a swell time most of the time but what would have been also very interesting to hear was the berthing fees for the various marinas you stayed in!

    1. Hi, Glad you've enjoyed reading some of our blog. A couple of other people also suggested we post information about marinas we visit so we now do a 'Marina Review' regarding how we rate the value of each place marina we visit. We also have on record the price of every place we've gone so when we have time our plan is to add those retrospectively. Now the summer is in full swing again we're having such a good time actually doing things we're struggling to keep up with writing about doing things but hopefully we'll get to it. Cheers


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