Kurukulla at Codolar de Torre Nova

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Alicante to Almeria

Departing Alicante
After three days in Alicante, and dispatching Yorgos back to Paros, we were ready to head west again. Alicante marina had been so accommodating that we extended our stay by a day in order to do a bit more sightseeing and to catch up on some maintenance. Our stay also coincided with an international fireworks competition, hence each night we were treated to a different and impressive 30 minute display.

By the end of day three we were ready to go and hence at 1400 we motored out of the marina and sailed south west looking for a decent anchorage along the coast.
Cabo de Santa Pola
It was soon evident that if we rounded Punto Espato we were not going to find shelter in the next very long bay hence we anchored in the very open but nonetheless calm area off the beach at Cabo de Santa Pola, just short of Espato. The night was quiet, the anchorage stayed calm and we awoke to a freshening onshore breeze from the south east; time to go!

From here we sailed the short distance to the south-western side of Espato and anchored in the shallow bay of Santa Pola town, just in from of two enormous brilliant white mountains of salt, product of the adjacent salt pans.
Santa Pola
With the exception of a short half mile move to achieve better shelter here we stayed for the next two days. We had plenty of time in hand and the anchorage conditions were good.

With the wind set fair for the passage we set off from here for a 45 mile reach, in calm seas, to Punta de Estacio, the only navigable entrance to the Mar Menor (one of the few inland seas along this coast which is connected to the sea by a navigable channel). Here we anchored in the lee of Isla Grosa for the night before setting off at 0715 for the canal leading into Mar Menor.
Isla Grosa at the entrance to Mar Menor
The canal is straddled by a lifting bridge with insufficient clearance for us to get under unless it is open. The pilot book gave the opening times as 1100 and 1700, fortunately we phoned ahead to check and discovered it opened at 0800, 1200 and every two hours through the afternoon until 2000. Loitering in the narrow canal for an hour waiting for the bridge to open would have been particularly tedious, especially given that Kurukulla has no bow thruster. Once in the Mar Menor we headed for the anchorage at San Javier, conveniently situated at the end of the airport runway where our next guest, Stephen, was due to land in two hours time.
The lifting bridge into Mar Menor
Sure enough the 'On time airline' delivered him without snags and I went ashore in the dinghy to bring him onboard. That achieved it was a swift shopping trip for Christoph and I, whilst Stephen settled in onboard, before we sailed off the anchor and headed south to the anchorage in the lee of Isla Mayor (not surprisingly, given it's name, the largest island in the Mar Menor) where we spent the night.

On Tuesday morning the waters of the anchorage were still calm but the wind was gusting 30 kts hence we decided to remain in the Mar Menor another 24 hours and simply tumbled downwind, under genoa alone, into the anchorage at the southern end of Mar Menor, anchoring off the sailing club at Puerto de la Manga. Anchored adjacent to us was what was obviously the end of some-one's dream; a yacht, unkempt, genoa in shreds and looking particularly sorry for itself; a tragic sight.
The end of someones dream
I was tempted to swim over and have a look onboard but the potential for finding the owner, dead in the cabin, was sufficient to deter me! That evening we sailed back upwind to the entrance of Mar Menor and anchored only 100m from the entrance to the canal in preparation for leaving the next morning via the 0800 opening of the bridge.

The following morning we were one of five vessels queued up in the canal waiting for the bridge which, once open, allowed us to head out into the open sea.
Puerto de la Manga, Mar Menor
Our destination was Cartagena, some 25 miles downwind, to the south west. After the winds of the previous two days it was a somewhat “rocky / rolly” passage but otherwise uneventful. We sailed into the harbour at Cartagena, stowed the sails and motored gently into the Puerto de Cartagena marina where we were greeted by a very cheerful marinaio who berthed us on the most convenient berth possible, inside the cruise-liner berth where sat Britannia, the P&O liner, (aka. a floating block of flats!). Once the formalities were complete, and given that it was only a degree short of 40C, we opted for a cold drink, in the adjacent arts/convention centre terrace overlooking the marina, before retiring aboard for a quiet siesta.
Cartagena Amphitheatre
By 1900 it was time to hit the supermarket to re-victual and by 2100 we were back on the terrace for a G&T before heading into town for a Tapas dinner. All of this was capped off with a late nightcap in a small nightclub before we wandered back to the marina via the historic part of the town.

By 0900 next morning we were on our way back to the historic centre to do the tourist bit before our departure; planned for 1400. Cartagena has a vast array of Roman remains, all very well presented.
Cartagena harbour
There is also some amazing Spanish architecture which they are desperately trying to preserve; the town is littered with building facades, held up by scaffolding, but where there is no sign of the new building being built to incorporate the original facade. Perhaps a symptom of the Spanish financial crash; many of the approval notices were dated 2006/7.

At 1400, after a light lunch ashore, we set off for the next anchorage 15 miles away at Ensenada de Marazon. Again a rolling passage, almost all dead downwind, until we rounded Cabo Tinoso, after which we had a gusty and challenging ride into the anchorage; not helped by an extensive tunny net fishing ground right across our path. As we entered the bay the winds were varying in direction by 80 – 90 degrees and gusting from 0 to 40 kts, not easy!
Ensenada de Mazarron
We eventually anchored under sail, just short of the swimming markers off the beach, on pure sand; put out 30m of cable in 4m of water and sat it out. It gusted up to 40 kts throughout the evening and into the following morning, the only compensation was watching a solitary windsurfer virtually flying back and forth across the flat waters of the bay. Naturally it dropped to light airs from the south 15 minutes before our departure next morning; just what we didn't need.

The next morning had dawned grey, misty and overcast and, having sailed off the anchor, were were almost immediately becalmed and subjected to light winds for most of the day. As a consequence we motor sailed south-westwards, doing 6 – 7 kts, towards our next destination, Cala San Pedro, some 60 miles away. The only compensating factor was that we were joined by a pod of seven or eight dolphins en route who played under the bow for 5 minutes or so before becoming bored and heading off to find more fun elsewhere. The first dolphins for several weeks. After the first few hours it became apparent that with no or contrary winds we were going to have to motor most or all of the way. Three hours from our destination I decided we would need to make a slight detour to refuel (long distance motoring is a rarity in Kurukulla!) hence we diverted to the Puerto Pescaro de Carboneras where the pilot gave an easily accessible fuelling station and, being a fishing port, it was likely to be open in the early evening. By 1800 we were 5 miles short of the port with contrary 10knot winds when the engine gave an initial splutter. Oops! We shut down and sailed the final 5 miles anchoring as close to the harbour entrance as we were able. From here it was a trip into the harbour by dinghy with a 25ltr jerry can to top up. That would have been great if the fuelling station had been open. It was not! It was firmly closed (notwithstanding the sign on the door that said open until 2000 each evening) and there were no signs of life. Fortunately a local, who happened to be nearby, took pity on us and ran Christoph plus jerry can to a fuel garage, some kilometre away, where 25 litres of diesel were successfully procured. Having proffered our sincere thanks we returned to Kurukulla, siphoned the diesel into the tank, and set off again for Cala San Pedro.
Las Negras
It was now nearing sunset and as we approached Cala San Pedro it was obvious it would not be as protected as we had hoped; this was not a good day! However, a mile and a half further on was Ensenada de Las Negras which offered better shelter and became our chosen refuge for the night. Dinner was served at 2300!

Next morning we discovered that the bay at Las Negras is very pleasant place and rather reminiscent of Santorini with it's white block architecture and black sand on the beach. Thus we decided to take a coffee ashore and have a look around before heading off again to our next anchorage. Las Negras is obviously a place that is popular with the locals, with several busy cafes and a launch service serving other local bays.

By 1300 we were ready to go and sailed off the anchor heading southwards. The light winds very quickly gave way to 25 knots of headwinds hence it was a somewhat wet and lumpy sail to windward to cover the 9 miles south to Puerto Genoves, which despite it's name, is and open bay but offering protection from the southerly winds we were experiencing.
Puerto Genovese (why do they do this?)
By 1500 we were anchored in 4m of water in this idyllic bay and setting about preparing lunch. After a swim, siesta and supper we passed an enjoyable and mostly calm night here but not before having to invite a motor boat, who insisted on dropping his anchor 20m in front of us, to up anchor and move!

Next morning was perfect. Brilliant blue sky, light southerly wind and calm seas. We stayed until 1300 before, after an early lunch, we set off for Puerto Aguadulce, near Almeria, from where Stephen was due to depart the next day.
Puerto Genovese by moonlight
Needless to say this time the winds decided to die away to almost nothing, hence after three hours covering 6 miles we were forced to resort to the engine once again and motor sail the remaining 18 miles to the marina. Somewhere along the line this month we must have offended Neptune! By 1900 we were berthed in the marina and having booked ahead had been expecting to be greeted by the marinero on arrival. As it was we loitered for 10 minutes in the entrance, having received no reply to our call on VHF on channel 9, and eventually selected a berth for ourselves conveniently near the facilities, where we were assisted by the fuel station attendant to moor up. Eventually the marinero arrived, grumpily accepted that where we were was where we were going to stay, and then took forever to process our documentation and payment. He had obviously missed out on the charm school course!
Supper at Aguadulce
That said the ladies in the office next day were charming and very efficient.

From here Stephen departed next day and Nick was due to join the day after. More when we depart....

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Barcelona to Alicante, via the Balearic Islands

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona
The first full day in the Vilanova marina was spent relaxing with a few hours on the beach and sundowner drinks on the yacht club terrace. The following day was more productive! The first task was to cart a not insignificant quantity of laundry to the launderette, some distance in-land, and refresh our wardrobe. Two hours later all was done, dried and back onboard. Next stop the chandlery to get various odds and ends that we had identified since leaving Port Saint Louis; finally it was to the local Lidl supermarket (for yacht victualling they are ideal as most of their stock has a very long shelf life and their wines are good value!). Day gone!

The boys in Barcelona
Tuesday was the day for our next crew member,Yorgos, to arrive. We decided to meet him at the airport and then carry on into the centre of Barcelona to do a walking tour. On arrival at the airport, terminal 2, I was amazed to note that the main railway connection from Barcelona is single track! One train every half hour! Then I noticed there is also a metro link to terminals 1 and 2! Having made contact with Yorgos we then set off to Barcelona and walked from the Sants railway station to the Sagrada Familia cathedral (of which more later) and from there south to the 'Arc de Triomf', Catalan style. By now Yorgos was wilting, having been travelling since the early hours of the morning, and hence we took the train back to Vilanova, enjoyed a cocktail and tapas on the waterfront and retired for an early-ish night. The following day was to be our departure day for the 24 hour crossing to the Balearic islands.

Sagrada Familia
The city of Barcelona is bristling with traditional Spanish architecture but the Sagrada Familia left me rather underwhelmed, it seemed more of a folly than a place of worship with every form of adornment featuring somewhere on the facades. That said I did not see the inside (prior booking is necessary) and I am told the inside is even more spectacular. Even so it seemed to be more related to the days of Christianity when the splendour of the building was meant to put the population in awe of the religion it represented. Just my personal view! The Arc de Triomf was a brick version of its more famous cousin in Paris and almost as impressive.

Fortunately Wednesday dawned bright and clear with a very mild wind forecast. Notwithstanding the forecast lack of wind we decided to go and by 1300 we motored out of the marina and set off on the crossing. Initially we had a NE wind, enough to give us 4 kts in the right direction but as the afternoon drew on we were forced to resort to engine with ever lighter winds from exactly the wrong direction, SE. The lack of wind lasted for three hours but after that we were able to sail the remainder of the crossing until, when 2 miles short of Majorca, we were becalmed again.
Cala de Engossaubas, Majorca
Frustration set in and we motored the final two miles into Cala Engossaubas, our first anchorage in Majorca where we spent a quiet and peaceful night in the company of one other yacht.

Friday we set off for Minorca, sailing off the anchor and ghosting out of the Cala. The 30 mile passage was uneventful but for a couple of periods of complete calm and several 90° wind shifts. By 1900 we were approaching the NW point of Minorca but again the wind died to nothing. Against our better judgement we motored the last 1.5 miles into Cala Morts; however, on arrival we concluded it was too deep and with a bottom consisting of large boulders, hence too risky for anchoring; for this reason we moved one Cala to the east (500m) and entered Codolar de Torre Nova where we tucked ourselves right into the end of the Cala, buoyed the anchor and put a line ashore to hold us in position.
Codolar de Torre Nova
A delightfully rugged place to spend the night. The following morning Yorgos and I set off to scale the cliffs to get a photograph from the rim of the Cala leaving Christoph to look after Kurukulla, the results can be seen here!

Our plan was to head eastwards along the north coast of Minorca over the next three days. All we needed now was some wind! By early afternoon the wind had filled in from the north west and we were able to enjoy a brief broad reach as far east as Cala de Algayerens where we anchored in 4m, on pure sand, in the eastern end of the main beach. A delightful spot where we spent the night at anchor.

Cala de Algayerens
The smaller eastern beach here had been full of motorboats on our arrival; however, the following morning it was deserted and offered better protection from the slight swell running into the bay. Thus we moved into the eastern bay and spent the morning swimming and exploring the hinterland behind the beach. After a leisurely lunch we set off eastwards again but this time with a moderate north-easterly wind, hence it was a beat to windward for us to get to our next objective, Fornells, where there is a natural harbour and good shelter from a forecast strong north-easterly blow. The forecast was right!
Fornells waterfront
We entered Fornells under reefed main and genoa, sailing up the harbour to pick up a mooring on the eastern (best protected) side and just short of the castle on Isla Sargantana. That night we had the first thunderstorm of the season and the following day did not disappoint with strong winds and heavy rain all coming in from the NE. Thus it was we stayed here for two days, biding our time until the winds abated.

Finally on the Tuesday morning it dawned bright and clear, we were able to use the dinghy to go ashore for some fresh victuals and to do some sightseeing around the town before getting under way again and heading for Cala Tamarells (which is now almost impossible to anchor in due to an anchoring exclusion zone) and then on to Cala Grao, a mile further south, to anchor for the night. Tamarells is the more secluded of these Calas but the north side of Cala Grao is the more secure anchorage, especially in north-easterly winds.

Mahon harbour
The next morning we set off for Mahon, the beautiful natural harbour on the eastern end of Minorca. It is easy to see why this natural harbour has been fought over so many times over the centuries. There are still many examples left from the British occupation of some 100 years. We initially berthed on the public quay and a helpful restaurant owner told us that the berth had not been used for some months. With this information I set off for the Harbour Authority Offices ready to pay my dues. They were having none of it! Vacant or not they had no interest in letting us stay in the berth! Hence I phoned the Royal Yacht Club of Mahon who could not have been more helpful, provided a berth for two nights and were less expensive than the adjacent marina. The added bonus was the use of all the club facilities as well.

The beach at Santo Tomas
After two days touring the delights of Mahon we set off to explore the south coast of Menorca. Mid day on the 8th of June, general election day in UK, we set off for an anchorage on the south coast. It was a splendid spinnaker run/reach all the way along the coast until we reached Son Bou where we started looking for a suitable anchorage for the night. In the end we settled for the very eastern end of the beach at Son Bou, in the shadows of two large hotels but protected from the swell and south-easterly wind. Here we stayed overnight enjoying a sunset supper and a peaceful night.
Sunset at Cala Santandria
The next morning we moved 8 miles along the coast and into Cala Son Saura where we anchored under sail and settled for a very pleasant afternoon, enjoying dinner onboard as the sun set.

Next morning dawned bright, sunny but windless and was forecast to remain so. As a consequence we decided to double back slightly and anchor off the beach at Santo Tomas for the day. In the evening we moved into Cala Trebeluja, a delightful Cala with good anchoring conditions and a sandy beach; an ideal place to anchor and spent the night at the end of an exhausting day of doing very little!

Stern to, Ciutadella
The following morning we sailed for Cala Santandria which is just short of Ciutadella. Our aim was to spend most of the morning getting there, lunch on arrival and then spend the night at anchor in the Cala before moving on to Ciutadella the next morning. We managed to get a place in the main part of the Cala, drop the anchor in the centre and tie back to the rocks on the northern side. Although on the doorstep of Ciutadella the Cala was pleasant, relatively quiet and a tourist draw for the spectacular view of the sunset that it offered.

Ciutadella was the old capital of the island before it was moved to Mahon. This is definitely my favourite place in the Balearic Islands. Not unspoilt by tourism but similarly not overrun by it either. The yacht club was very welcoming; providing us with a berth in the centre of the harbour on the side nearest the club facilities, thus we settled to enjoy a very pleasant stay. Lunch was on the terrace of the Yacht Club and dinner was taken in a small backstreet restaurant by the name of Bar Saint Jean which offered a tasty selection of Tapas accompanied with a very agreeable local wine.

Monument to the defence against the Turkish invasion, Ciutadella
Next morning it was off again but this time for the transit to Majorca. We sailed at 1030 having done the usual routine of buying bread at the last minute and filling up with water, (which in a sailing vessel is more precious than fuel). Once clear of the harbour, which has had a very extensive new outer breakwater added since my charts and pilot were published, we set sail for the 24 mile crossing to Cala Molto on the eastern tip of Majorca. As luck would have it most of this crossing was downwind in light winds and the spinnaker came into its own.
Cala Molto, Majorca
By 1630 we were sailing onto the anchor in the Cala, quickly secured and settling for the night.

By next morning the wind had shifted somewhat and it was going to be a light airs, biased beat, south-westwards to our next destination, Cala Petita. With the wind in the southerly sector it was difficult to find a Cala, on the south east facing coast of Majorca, with decent shelter from the swell. Cala Petita, although small, as its name suggests, seemed to offer the best option, provided it was not fully occupied.
Cala Petita
In fact we were fortunate and on our arrival, at 1830, there was only one small motorboat anchored in the Cala; we were able to drop the anchor on the centreline and tie back to one of the exposed rocks further in. We had less than 0.5m under the keel and certainly no room to swing but because of the dog leg in the entrance to the Cala the seas were not entering in any significant way and we were very comfortably placed. Another quiet night....

From Cala Petita we moved on next day to Cala Mitjana, another Cala offering shelter from then swell but this time we were far from alone.
Departing Cala Mitjana
The Cala was full with other vessels from motor catamarans to yachts both larger and smaller than us. It was obvious on arrival that we would have to anchor and tie back to avoid swinging into other vessels. After a bit of research we found a spot, reasonably well into the larger northern arm of the Cala and almost out of the effects of the swell. A few minutes later we were secure and ready for a slightly delayed lunch followed by an afternoon of relaxing in the sun (again).

Next morning we moved on again heading to the southern tip of Majorca, this time to anchor in Cala Caragol; an open Cala but one facing south-west and so free of the swell which was still running in from the south-east. We were one of four yachts anchored there, each on their own patch of sand. The bottom is a mixture of rock and sand so care is needed to avoid getting the anchor trapped or dropping on a shelf of rock with little or no holding. The beach on the other hand is pure sand and lightly populated making it an ideal spot to swim ashore for a bit of walking exercise along the half mile or more of beach. Given that the anchorage was calm and quiet we opted to stay here overnight and to set off mid morning next day.

Cala Portals from the restaurant
By now we were on high season tourist prices and for that reason not one of us was keen to spend too long in the bars and discotheques of Palma or to pay the very high prices demanded by Palma's marinas. Thus we decided to head for Cala Portals on the western side of the Bay of Palma and spend the next night two nights, Saturday and Sunday, there before heading into Palma for a single day. Sunday lunch was taken in the restaurant ashore at the head of the Cala and very good it was too. Saturday night had been calm and quiet but on the Sunday night, soon after darkness had fallen, we were forced to move further offshore, out into the centre of the Cala, due to the onset of an easterly wind. C'est la vie.

Palma marina
On the Monday morning we phoned ahead and were lucky enough to get a berth at the Real Club Nautico di Palma which offered us superb facilities and interestingly enough was not over expensive, well not in Balearic terms anyway, €100 per night for Kurukulla. Thus it was we spent Monday afternoon sightseeing in Palma, the evening enjoying dinner ashore and the following morning seeking out supermarkets etc. for our preparations for leaving.
Palma cathedral
By 1400 we were ready to go and by 1600 we were anchored back in Cala Portals but this time tucked into the southern arm of the Cala to avoid the swell which was again rolling in from the east. Although popular with many small boat owners and therefore occasionally crowded Cala Portalls is a beautiful Cala and one of my favourites.

Tuesday's forecast promised a speedy reach across to Ibiza and thus we confidently set off in the early to mid morning, sailed off the anchor only to find ourselves having to start the engine 20 minutes later, when beset by a still calm, and motor as far as the south-western tip of Majorca. From here we were able to hoist the spinnaker and reach across towards Ibiza touching 6-7 knots at times but mostly 4-5. By the halfway mark the wind had shifted and it was too tight a reach to sustain the spinnaker, thus we hoisted the No1 genoa and continued at a slightly more sedate pace but were still able to complete the 50+ miles by dusk and reach Cala del Lleo before it was completely dark. Cala del Lleo is an open Cala to the east, not difficult to find but has a significant number of rocks scattered around its fringes and some further out, many of which only just break surface.
Departing Cala del Lleo
It is not a Cala to enter by night! On arrival there was one other yacht anchored in the Cala. We sailed in and anchored some 75m further into the Cala but in the rapidly diminishing light this was as far as my nerve would take me. We anchored on a patch of sand, in 7m of water, and in the morning light this proved to have been a very good decision! The nearest submerged rocks were 50m away.

From Cala Lleo we set sail towards Ibiza but again our enthusiasm for the night life was somewhat lacking. Instead we headed for the anchorage off of the beach called Playa de Caballet which, given the westerly wind, was calm and quiet; well almost. What Neptune did not send our way the never ending succession of power boats did, passing at 20kts plus and putting up enormous wakes sending us rocking and rolling at anchor every few minutes. I am sure there should be a 6 knot speed limit within two miles of the shore to prevent the damage and discomfort they cause. None ever look backwards to see the chaos they leave in their wake, or if they do they don't care! After one night at anchor off Caballet we had had enough and we set off the following morning to find somewhere more tranquil. This was to be Cala Raco des Mares on the north shore of the main part of Formentera. Although well populated with boats few were surging past at speed and the whole place was calm and relatively tranquil; that is until a Portuguese registered super yacht pulled into the anchorage at midnight with a disco party going on on the after deck. Fortunately their near neighbours let them know what they thought of this idea and calm was restored after a short period.

The ugliest sailing vessel afloat! Anchored off Formentor.
The next day we returned to Caballet for a second try but this time we determined not to stay overnight but to head south to Formentera and anchor on the east side of the northern promontory near the northern tip of the island. Visible across the promontory was the most ugly sailing vessel I have ever seen. The modern equivalent of a very expensive folly?

From here we set off next morning to our final anchorage in the Balearic Islands at Cala Sahona, on the western side of the island, ideally situated to be ready for a late evening departure westwards towards the Spanish mainland again. Cala Sahona was also crowded with boats when we sailed in, hence we anchored as close to the beach as we could but even this was a long swim ashore. In the end we were not sorry to be leaving the islands; too crowded.

At 2230 we sailed off the anchor and set sail westwards towards Alicante, our next port of call and Yorgos's departure port. For the first five hours we were doing a cracking 6-8 knots on a port tack beam reach, fantastic sailing. Then the wind dropped but not for more than an hour and then we were on a starboard beam reach for the next eight hours doing a similar speed!
Alicante marina and Castle
Again, as we approached the mainland the wind fell to zero and came up an hour later from the opposite direction hence we found ourselves again on a port tack reach and surging along even to the stage where we had to reef for a pair of hours. In the end we arrived in Alicante at 1430, sailed into the harbour, and by 1445 we were alongside the reception jetty of Alicante marina negotiating for a berth. At €50 per day this was somewhat more reasonable than the Balearic prices and we settled on a two day stay.

More when we leave.............

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Away from Port St Louis, westwards as far as Barcelona.

First touch of the water
After six months in the “Navy Service” boatyard at Port Saint Louis (near Marseilles) Kurukulla is at last back at sea. There is nothing quite like a boat yard for causing you to haemorrhage money; hence my keenness to depart! In the time she has spent in the yard Kurukulla has had fitted a new stainless steel bow fitting (to replace the original cast Aluminium one that had cracked under the strain of ten years arduous use), new glazing to all hatches and windows (plastiglass cracks with age), a full out of the water survey (a requirement of the insurers) and a multitude of more minor items either replaced or repaired. On top of the boatyard work (very competently undertaken by “Global Nautique” who I would recommend to anyone) Kurukulla has also gained a new spinnaker and a wind generator in preparation for the Atlantic crossing and life in the Caribbean. This I fitted in the period I spent working on her. Following a week skiing in the Alps I then continued down to Port Saint Louis for three weeks of work on Kurukulla. The round trip was an opportunity to take the car and trailer down into France allowing me to on-load all the new items brought from UK and off-load all the redundant items that had accumulated onboard.

Away at last
On 29 April I flew back down to Marseilles, accompanied by Christoph my crew member for the coming season, and by 2 May she was back in the water; by 4 May we were off, heading westwards on the first sail of the season.

With a brisk NE wind blowing we motored upwind for the first 4 miles out of Port Saint Louis to give the engine a reasonable trial (checking my workmanship on the winter maintenance) and then as we exited the bay we set full sail and enjoyed a three hour reach along the sand dune lined beaches of the “bouche du Rhone” and along the Camargue coastline. By 1600 we were anchored in the bay at Beauduc, enjoying afternoon tea, and contemplating dinner. The wind was offshore and we were looking forward to a quiet night.

First swim of the year
Next morning the sky was somewhat overcast but the wind remained light to moderate, south easterly, making it an ideal day to make some ground to the west. A review of the available anchorages along the coast showed that we were missing nothing if we cut across the bay directly to Cap d'Agde, about 40 miles, where we planned to spend a couple of days at anchor, winds permitting. Before leaving we rigged all of the spinnaker gear in anticipation of a spinnaker run across the bay. We were not disappointed! Having sailed off the anchor, under mainsail alone, we quickly dragged the new spinnaker out of its stowage and within a few minutes it was set and looking splendid. A stroke of good fortune had had me discover a “second hand” spinnaker, of exactly the right size, available in Chichester, not far from home. On the pre purchase inspection it was obvious it had never been out of its bag and was still covered in small lengths of cotton from the sail-making loft floor; as further confirmation of light/no previous use it also had no sail numbers on it. With the addition of Kurukulla's sail number it still worked out at 60% of the price of a new spinnaker and came with a free “Spee squeezer” (a device for hoisting and lowering spinnakers without getting them twisted or caught up in the rigging) the worth of which I am yet to be convinced! The day passed with a single gybe when the wind shifted to the north east but was otherwise uneventful. The spinnaker proved to be a very stable sail and a considerable improvement on its predecessor!

We anchored at Cap d'Agde at 1900 in a light onshore breeze but with a forecast that it would turn offshore during the latter part of the night making the anchorage somewhat safer. There are no bays or islands along this coast in or near which you can to go and find shelter! The wind prediction proved correct and by 0900 next day there was a healthy offshore wind blowing; what was not expected was a significant swell running against the wind onto the beach. To call it an uncomfortable night would be an understatement! The wind against swell combination meant that we spent the night rolling heavily every time we turned across the swell with all the contents of the boat that could move creating a symphony of noise. By 0700 the swell was crashing heavily on to the beach and the curling crests were initiating not far ahead of us. We decided to keep watch, sit it out and stay put, waiting for the wind to calm the swell; it eventually did so, by mid afternoon, but not before providing us with an uncomfortable morning.

Sunset at Agde
By evening the swell had all but gone and we remained at anchor, in flat water, some 75m from the beach. All we needed now was for the temperature of the water to rise 10 deg C and we would be able to swim ashore. At this time of year the climate here in southern France is noticeable colder than that of Greece and Turkey! Cap d'Agde may be one of the largest naturist resorts in Europe but it would be a brave soul who bared all to go swimming today.

Next morning dawned bright and clear; a good day for round two of the French Presidential election! The previous night had been the complete opposite of the night before, calm sea and light to moderate offshore breeze keeping us stable and silent. Needless to say both crew members slept like the dead after the disturbed sleep of the night before! Notwithstanding that it was Sunday the plan was to have a maintenance day and tackle some of the niggling items that always reveal themselves when you first go to sea. As the day went on the wind got up in strength again but remained off the shore, the temperature however did not, hence the majority of work was done below!

Late night Sunday the news broke that Monsieur Macron had secured the French presidency and the wind dropped giving us a quiet and calm night at anchor. I am not sure which event we welcomed most! Monday was again to be spent at anchor doing odd jobs and sheltering from the wind which had again gotten up from the west holding us safely offshore in flat-ish water. That lasted until Wednesday when we woke early and move into the marina at Agde. Just in time to avoid an onshore wind later in the day. From here we spent until Sunday morning doing various jobs around the boat and exploring Agde which I have to say is like the town that time forgot. Full of shops and restaurants that are struggling to survive on one or two clients per night. Fortunately we had all we needed onboard...

The tow off the beach at Leucate
Sunday dawned bright but overcast. By 1030 we were manoeuvring off the jetty and heading for the Capitanerie to pay our dues before heading out of the harbour and setting off en route south making our way towards Spain. For the first hour it was a light airs fetch on starboard tack and we were making a respectable 4.5 knots; by mid day however the wind had dropped to near zero and we were forced to resort to the use of the engine if we wanted to make more than a knot or so. Fortunately the lack of wind didn't last too long and an hour later we were on Port Tack, laying the course, for Leucate, our destination for the day. By 1730 we were anchored off the beach, outside the harbour, in a flat calm sea and enjoying a Gin and Tonic, whilst watching the spectacle of an earlier arrival being towed off the beach by the local lifeboat; either his anchor had dragged (which seemed unlikely in the light winds) or he had anchored too close to the beach and was caught out by a change of wind direction. When we arrived we had noted how close to the beach he was but sadly there was nothing that we could do for him in the short term, he was smaller and of a shallower draught than us, such that getting close enough to tow him off would have been impossible without first getting the dinghy out, inflating it, and taking a very long line across. Fortunately for us the lifeboat arrived before we had even started preparations!

On the mooring at Collioure
The next morning was sunny and warm with light south easterly winds. After a slow start we made the decision to carry on south and head for Collioure on of the last towns in France before you hit the Spanish/French border. It is famous for being a haven for artists in the early 20th century. With two hours to go to sunset we ghosted through the harbour entrance and picked up a mooring. If we had but known it we could have gone alongside but we were convinced that the inner port was too shallow to take Kurukulla. As it was it our ignorance saved us starting the engine and we made a silent arrival on the mooring under sail. Collioure is a spectacular town, especially when viewed from seaward. The fortifications and remains of the old town are picturesque to say the least. Just as the supper was being served and the sun was setting we were entertained by the sight of a fishing boat towing in a motor cruiser who had obviously suffered engine failure or run out of fuel. Having put him alongside in the inner harbour the fishing boat immediately returned to sea. When one thinks of the number of times fishermen are criticised for not obeying the Collision Regulations this was a real act of kindness, to tow him in, interrupting the activity on which their livelihood depends. Our second rescue witnessed in two days!

Hotel des Templiers
The following morning we made a trip ashore using the dinghy and visited some of the sights including the Castel Royale (so named because it was in its turn the home of the Spanish royal family and the Majorcan royal family before finally falling to the French after a long siege) and the bar called Les Templiers where many of the artists who made the resort famous paid for their board and lodging with early paintings that still adorn the walls. An art enthusiasts dream. Our last port of call By 1330 we were ready to leave and using a light south easterly breeze we sailed off the mooring, slightly to the surprise of our neighbours, heading out of the harbour and onwards on our southerly route. The winds remained light and somewhat variable but by 1620 we had crossed into Spanish waters and by 1830 we were just outside Cala Tabellera but that was to be when the wind dropped to nothing. We eventually had to admit defeat and motor the last 400yds into the anchorage which proved to be an ideal choice. We anchored in 5m of water and the only sounds were the wavelets lapping on the shore and the birds singing in the surrounding trees. A fantastic place to spend the night; in fact so good we decided to spend a second night there! That was before the gods decided otherwise!

Cala Tabellera
At 1700 the following day I decided to take a quick look at the weather forecast, it had previously shown a brief period of strongish winds from the north west during the coming night with the majority of the winds coming from west or south west. As we were exposed to the north this could have caused a bit of rolling around but was not a serious cause for concern. However, the latest forecast gave a somewhat different view. Winds of up to 68 mph from the north west, i.e. force 9 to 10 for up to 9 hours! This put a totally different complexion on the anchorage! By 1800 the wind had gone round fully to the north and was building, and by 1830 it had reached 20 kts; time to go! We set off for Cala di Port Lignat, 5 miles south and on the lee side of Capo Creus. A wet, lumpy and unpleasant hour later we entered Cala di Port Lignat and picked up a mooring in the roads where we spent the night listening to the protests of our mooring warps and keeping a watchful eye on the anchor alarm!

The anchorage at Port Lligat
Dawn the next day brought more of the same, strong northerly winds but with some sunshine. We decided to stay put, leave Kurukulla on the mooring, and visit Cadaques, the village half a mile south. In part our decision was made for us when the mooring authority arrived to collect their dues, €45 for one night! The only advantage was that it came with a free water taxi service until 1800 allowing us to get ashore dry; i.e. without using the dinghy. Cadaques is the home town of Salvador Dali and derives most of its income from tourism associated with him. The museum is at the landing stage in Port Lignat and from there on everything was labelled Dali this, that or the other! We toured the town and stopped for an afternoon beer on the waterside before visiting the Church of Santa Maria.
Sta Maria church, Cadaques
To call the altar OTT would be doing it an injustice, it was at least 40 ft high by 20 wide and totally encrusted in gold. So valuable was it that during the Spanish Civil War the locals built a wall in front of it to prevent it being seen and the gold vandalised. Two hours later we were back onboard Kurukulla for an early supper and a second, rather more tranquil night, (due to our late arrival the boatman had not charged us for our first night!).

Saturday dawned sunny but cold with an almost icy easterly wind blowing. By mid day the temperature had hardly improved but we decided to go anyway and head the few miles south to L'Escala where, one mile to the north, there are the remains of the Greco-Roman city of Empuries which we wanted to visit. By 1230 we were ready to go, sailed off the mooring (somewhat to the surprise of our neighbours), and reached gently out of the harbour. The original plan, given that “Weather on Line” was forecasting westerly winds for all of the day, was to anchor off the beach directly opposite the remains but as we made passage south this became increasingly unlikely to be feasible as the wind remained firmly in the east; only later in the evening did the promised west wind fill in. Thus we eventually anchored in Playa del Rach del Moti, somewhat closer to the town of L'Escala, where shelter from south-easterly and westerly winds was available. Here we anchored under sail, in 4m, and settled for the night.

The ruins at Empuries
As planned we set off next morning for a walk around the remains; the flat sea and light winds allowed us to use the dinghy for the visit rather than up anchor and motor Kurukulla the half mile to the north, up the coast, necessary to reach the entrance. The remains were impressive in that they were a mixture of the original Greek town (albeit they came from what is now Turkey) with its Roman successor partially obliterating the earlier Greek settlement; indeed at one stage it is believed the Greeks and Romans co-habited on the site. To my mind there was rather too much pre cast concrete in evidence to give a good impression of how the remains should look. Although the Spanish authorities have not gone for wholesale reconstruction (as the Parthenon in Athens) there is a very considerable quantity of artistic largesse in evidence where missing or lost parts have been filled in. That notwithstanding it was worth the visit and the beer at the beach bar, before our return onboard, was equally enjoyable. At 1300 we set off south for a brief sail to the Cala at Montgo some 5 miles south. This we had chosen for the night as it is one of the few places where half reasonable shelter could be found from the forecast south-east winds. By 1430 we were entering the Cala and anchored in 5m at the eastern end of the beach. The only other occupants of the anchorage were another yacht and two motorboats. An hour later I had summoned the courage to go for a swim (even in late May it is still very cold – what has happened to global warming?) only to discover that our anchor cable was lying across the far side of a sinker from a redundant mooring. Rather than risk it being trapped under the sinker we were forced to start the engine (for the first time in three days) and re-anchor clear of the obstruction. These things happen! The evening was quiet and calm so perhaps it would not have been a problem but better safe than sorry!

Cala Montgo
Cala Montgo was so enjoyable we decided to stay a second night and hence we set off mid morning of the third day. On weighing anchor we found another pile of debris caught round our anchor cable; having re-anchored to avoid the sinker we now found a heap of fishing debris wrapped around the anchor chain; 5 minutes saw it freed but it is always a bit nerve-wracking freeing the tangle not knowing how many hooks are buried in it waiting to bury themselves in your hands. From here we set course for Cala de Sa Tuna which the pilot described as three Calas round one bay with a few moorings for local boats off Sa Tuna village. On arrival we sailed in to be greeted by a bay saturated with moorings! Our first effort to pick up a mooring was in the small bay in the SE of the anchorage where we secured ourselves, dropped the sails and contemplated whether this was actually the best available spot. The nearby moorings were so close we risked swinging into them thus getting ropes fouled round our rudder or propeller, and that notwithstanding the swell was running into this arm of the harbour causing us to roll around more than was comfortable. Cala de Aiguafreda looked calmer but here the moorings were even more tightly packed.
Kurukulla surrounded by moorngs in Cala Aiguafreda
Eventually we found a point in Aiguafreda where we could pick up two moorings in two adjacent rows such that we were held head to the swell and clear of the other moorings around us. Where do all these people come from who have boats less than 10m long such that 100 moorings are needed in this harbour. There is nothing available for a boat Kurukulla's size (12m) let alone anything larger. By nightfall two other boats had taken their lead form us and moored in a similar way close to us. We decided to go ashore and walk over to Sa Tuna for an evening drink and to look at the village.
A quiet drink ashore in Cala Porto Tuna
The pilot book promised a local shop where we could obtain a few provisions. This was not to be. Several bars, a “gift” shop and nothing else. After a beer on the waterfront we walked back to the landing in Aiguafreda and rowed back to Kurukulla.

Next morning we motored off the mooring in brilliant sunshine but it was flat calm. We were to motor for an hour and a half towards Palamos, our next planned port of call, before deciding to call it a day and anchor just short in Cala Castell, a beautiful beach which was also protected from the forecast easterly winds. So good was Castell that again we decided to spend an extra day there, sunning and swimming this time. Summer felt as though it had actually started! The other amusing aspect of Castell is that it is a base for a canoeing centre used by school parties from many European nations, it was evident not many of them had canoed before! The antics were amusing to say the least.

Cala Castell
Friday morning saw us underway again as we sailed off the anchor and onwards south-westwards towards Barcelona where we were due to pick up a new crew member in four days time. The sail was a brisk one, with up to 15 kts over the deck as we barrelled downwind. Cowardice I know but we resisted the temptation to give the new spinnaker a strength test and stayed with full main and genoa. By 1300 we were berthed in the marina at Blanes, a vastly enlarged marina from that which is described in the pilot, which is well protected and easy to enter. The town itself is unassuming but pleasant enough and the lunch in the Yacht Club of Blanes was 5*, five courses for €17! A trip to a yacht chandler, plus a local supermarket, was followed by a G&T at sundowners and a supper onboard; all of which culminated in a relatively early night.

The next day we set off at 1030 for a sail westwards towards one of the marinas at Barcelona. The sail was initially a close reach but increasingly became more downwind. By mid-day it was spinnaker-able and out came the new spinnaker. For the next six hours we enjoyed a beam reach in up to 10 kts of wind and doing 6 knots, that was until the wind died on us. For most of the trip we had been debating whether the sea had calmed enough to spend the night at anchor in the very exposed anchorage just SW of Barcelona Airport. If we were able to it would make picking up our next crew member from the airport very much easier. We decided to give it a try. Wrong!

After a night rolling in the swell every-time the wind failed to hold us head to wind and swell (yes I know, I should have put out a stern anchor to hold us head to sea but it seemed a lot of trouble for not much gain; especially if the wind changed in the night) we decided that a few nights in the marina at Porto di Vilanova looked much more attractive and so it was we sailed the extra 20 miles to Vilanova arriving there just after midday. On arrival we were greeted by an unmistakeable American voice instructing us where to berth, unusual in this part of the world but we found out later that he came from Boston but of Spanish descendency and had a Spanish wife who could not tolerate the climate of Boston; too cold in winter!

It was here we were to stay for the 72 hours, waiting for Yorgos to arrive on the 30th of May. The town of Vilanova is ideal being only 30 minutes from Barcelona by train and one of the more economic marinas on this coast. That said the town has little to offer architecturally!