Kurukulla at Anegada, BVI

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....

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