Cagliari to Lagos via the Balearics and Southern Spain -2009

On this page

A straightforward, day to day account of what we have done during the current year's cruise. What we found may help others.

Our boat is a Hallberg Rassy 34, Anhinga. It is crewed by Frank Singleton, Jennifer Singleton, Margaret Roberts-Homeyer,

Areas and places Visited

Atlantic Spain and Portugal

For the geographically challenged, the attached chartlet might help get a rough idea of where we went.

Ports visited

Read about

Long term planning

After nine years in the Mediterranean, we have decided to return home - slowly. A difficult decision and may be the wrong one. We enjoy the warm water and the warm, sometimes too warm, weather, the Mediterranean markets, wine and cheeses. But, how long will we feel able to be away from home for long periods? We are getting on in years. Will it be better to have the boat in the UK when we get into our eighties and sail for short periods frequently or stay in the Med and sail for longer periods infrequently? Who knows? In any event, there is something of a comfort factor in the boat being easily and readily accessible.
Current plans are to head for Lagos this year, up the Iberian coast in 2010. Then, hopefully spend time in northern Spain and western France. We like them both very much.



Cagliari, April 26 to May 10

Marina di Sant' Elmo

We never rush fitting out and this year was no exception. Marina di Sant' Elmo is a fairly new marina run by Enrico Deplano, the CA Honorary Local Representative. His ormeggiatori are all very helpful and all have some English which they use at every opportunity. Enrico is getting his act together despite the unfathomable Italian/Sardinian bureaucracy. Since last year his toilets and showers are greatly improved. There is that much sought after facility - a good washing machine.
The Sant' Elmo engineer did a good and extensive job on the engine. There is a very good (but not cheap) rigger a few yards away; With the Atlantic and the Portuguese Trades in mind next year, this was rather important. For the first time since 2002 when we had Anhinga re-rigged in Spain, we are happy the rig is tensioned correctly. There is a nearby sail maker who seemed competent, as far as we could judge. There is a pretty good Romano supermarket about 10 minutes walk away although cheaper Larios gin was a further 5 minutes walk away but in a supermarket that we thought less good. You cannot win them all! It was only after getting to Alghero that we realised how much more economic it was at Cagliari and how good the supermarkets were. There are three chandlers nearby, the nearest is very modern and very good. The other two are "useful".
All in all we were very happy with the Sant' Elmo marina and can recommend it either to leave a boat ashore or for liveaboards who would probably want to join the nearby club for swimming and gymnasium facilities.
Two CA friends joined us, David and Anne Lovelace on Alyssa, a Dufour 42, Bill and Christine Anstead on Ulendo V, a Centurion. We were the tiddler. Drinks and good chat were had in the usual CA fashion.
One of the delights of Sant' Elmo is the morning and evening flaming flyovers. They seem to look for a suitable saltpan to spend the day and suitable resting places overnight. As they fly, you can hear them apparently talking to each other. "This is flamingo leader to number three. Please maintain station" or "Any views for today? That one to our port hand or that further ahead to starboard?" "No, I prefer that one 3 cables on the starboard beam." And so on.

To Teulada, May 10, 35 miles

Ignoring the Italian forecast of force 7 for the Sardinian Channel, putting our faith more in the Météo France INMARSAT-C forecasts (available on the Internet if you cannot receive the Radio Monaco HF/SSB broadcast in English and French) and the US GRIB, we left in a nice strong broad reach under head sail alone making up to 7 knots and more, not bad for a heavily laden HR34.
Out of season, Teulada was cheap at €14 a night including free showers. The downside is that the nearest shopping is about 8 km away although a local restaurateur will come and collect you at a small charge - and to use his restaurant, of course. There is a shop at a nearby campsite open in season.

To Portoscuso, May 11, 34 miles

Another windy, head sail alone sail with speeds up to nearly 9 knots. Again, the French forecast written with some human intelligence was far better than the Italian forecast which always seems to be mainly computer generated with the minimum of interpretation. As I have said elsewhere on this site, the Italian marine weather forecast service is the worst that we have encountered in all respects.

At Portoscuso, May 11 to 18

From the forecasts, we knew that we would have to wait a while before going northwards up the west of Sardinia. From past experience, we also knew that Carloforte on Isola di San Pietro would be expensive with indifferent shopping. On recommendation we chose Portoscuso on the mainland instead. An excellent choice. Although close to an oil refinery, all you see is a chimney stack. If it rains with a SE wind, then you do get an oily deposit on the boat. Otherwise, it is an excellent place to spend a few days. The marina was cheap at €11 a night, showers at €1. Shopping was pretty good with a range of small shops, a small market and a SISA supermarket. Everyone was friendly and helpful. There is a small chandlers and two ironmongers nearby. The nearby ice cream shop was a real find and one of the best. It is an unpretentious working town, not touristy. We like that.
A major plus is a nearby hotel/bar with Internet access and an Ethernet connection available during the day.
CA boat Warrior of Hamble arrived with Philip Milner and friends, Mike, Michael and Lawrence. With a clinical psychologist, two accountants (probably a somewhat undervalued description, we gathered)_, a retired GP who had specialised in alternative medicine, a former Reader at the London School of Pharmacy, a retired catering lecturer and a meteorologist the conversation was interesting, to put it mildly.
We were now in sea areas covered by the French NAVTEX transmitter at Toulon and were receiving most broadcasts as well as an occasional forecast from Valencia, Spain. Both are markedly better than the Italian service.

To Oristano, May 18, 47 miles

At last we had a wind in the right direction although not much of it and we had to motor for about 3/4 of the way. The anchorage, just south of the Punic-Roman town of Tharros, is now furnished with many mooring buoys. There was no charge although that may be different in high season. When last here we found the holding to be unreliable, perhaps due to many anchoring boats churning up the bottom. In such situations, buoys become necessary as a safety measure. I know that we all object to paying but here as in some bays in Croatia, it makes sense.
We stayed a second night just enjoying the peace and calm with the only other boats mainly local small fishing vessels. It was here that we realised that our domestic batteries were not just on their last legs but were virtually dead and holding very few amp-hours. The sun panels kept the fridge going by day but there was not enough wind at night for the Aerogen.

To Cala Saline, May 20, 13 miles

We had intended going on to Bosa but there was very little wind. So, it was a slow sail to Cala Saline, just off a very small holiday resort on the south of the Cabo Mannu peninsula. A nice quiet anchorage in May although, previously, we had had noisy disco music later in the year.

To Bosa, May 21, 19 miles

Still, basically a southerly, the wind was greatly affected by the sea breeze effect to be rather light and variable. We sailed slowly for about an hour and a half, but then had to motor sail. At Bosa, there was the same friendly harbour master who is ormeggiatoro, crane driver and part time barman as well. It was too early (late May?) for there to be power or water on the main quay. The sun kept the fridge going by day and that night we had a rather odd but quite strong wind, probably largely a land breeze funnelled by the river. That kept the fridge going all night!
Who says that wind generators are a waste of money in the Med?
The new marina up the river seemed to be in business, mainly less than 10 m, according to the Italian Pagine Azzurre (who else but the Italians would colour it RED?), although we could see some larger boats on an outside pontoon. With no shore power, poor batteries and indifferent food shopping we only spent one night here although we do like the port.

To Alghero, May 22, 20 miles

Marina Ser Mar

Another day of light winds, although we did fly the spinnaker for an hour and a half. When the speed dropped below 2 knots, it became a little tedious. Having been there before, and having had recent recommendations from CA members we called Marina Ser Mar, one of several "concessions" in Alghero harbour. They are very friendly and helpful. A major plus is that they are one of the few places in the harbour with toilets. They also have showers. One has to wonder what boats in other concessions do when their holding tanks are full - if they have them, that is. Cost is more like the real world at €22 a night in the low season.
At Ser Mar, Frederico speaks reasonable English as does his son. His daughter is fluent.

At Alghero, May 22 to 29.

The town is very pleasant if a little touristy although large ships do not seem to stop here. The downside is that much of the food shopping is poor, compared to Cagliari and, even, Portoscuso. After a few days we found an IperStanda, about 15 minutes walk along the shore to the north. That was very good. There is a produce market but distinctly sub-standard. I could not find a nearby Internet Café where I could use my own laptop. In fact, we were told that there were only two WiFi internet cafes in town - and were directed to one that was NOT!
With Frederico's help we were able to replace our service batteries and we did find a nearby marine engineer who sold oil loose from the can. We bought oil at half the price quoted in Cagliari. We stayed here because Margaret had to return home to look after husband Curt who had to have an operation on a damaged shoulder. Also, we are waiting for a suitable wind to make the crossing to Mahòn, Menorca.

Alghero to Mahòn, 189 miles

Weather and winds looked OK with the possibility of winds becoming adverse if we stayed. We left. After a head wind while in the bay from Alghero to Cabo Caccia, the winds turned broadly favourable and we sailed the majority of the way to Mahòn. Total distance 189 miles, motoring time total 12 hours. For the most part it was a pretty empty sea. Until within 50 miles of Menorca, we saw one cargo ship, one high speed motor boat, one mega yacht - under power - three pods of dolphins and five turtles.
Just before Mahòn and before dawn, the winds got up to a very brisk Force 5/6 on a very broad reach. We dropped the main and the wind promptly dropped also. However, wanting to arrive in daylight we carried on and, conscious of low volts, we motored the last hour or so.
We used a mooring buoy opposite Mahòn town for €12 a night but €15 a night in June.


At Mahòn May 31 to June7

The big excitement here is the loss of concessions by the Club Maritimo who had a quay and Ribera Del Puerto who manage the buoys and floating islands. The Sunseeker manager said that the local council wanted better facilities for visiting sailors. Other rumours are that mega yachts are the main target and we did see some work evidently aimed at mega yachts. He did say that the intention was to
Lose all the mooring buoys
Lose the floating islands
Increase shore berths on pontoons and quays
Ban all anchoring in the harbour, perhaps even in Cal Taulera.
If all that comes about, one has to wonder how much prices will rise. Will visiting yachtsman take kindly to an anchoring ban? How can such a ban be enforced if a yacht claims "stress of weather"? Clearly, there are confused signals and some misinformation. A locally based British motor boat owner thought that little would really change. But, if the rumours are correct, there will be much discontent and Mahòn will lose out.
Later, we met a French yacht, just under 12 m, who had been charged €170 on a floating island by the new firm. That will simply turn people away. Although I hate to say it, I hope that enough people boycott Mahòn until someone sees the errors of their ways.
Feeling in need of showers and shore power, we moved across to the Sunseeker quay at €40 a night (0.9 x area of boat plus some extras). Not bad for Mahòn in June with excellent showers, toilets, water, electricity and WiFi. It would have been about €90 in July/August. Beats the floating islands at a quoted €40. Sunseeker say that they have good Winter offers. Certainly for liveaboards this is an attractive place with much to commend it.
We like Mahòn which is a pleasant town. There is a good supermarket in the crypt of a church with a range of fresh produce shops, etc in the cloisters. Very good use of the church not unlike what happened in the Middle Ages. There is an excellent fish market close by. All mod cons.
The local Yamaha agent serviced the outboard engine said there was sea water in the tank. How is a mystery.
We registered for use of the buoys in the Posidonia buoy project. No charge to use the buoys but you must register and book in advance. Will be interesting to see how it goes. Tried to book for the Isla Colom buoys on Menorca only to find that they are not yet installed. Will just have to anchor.
Met Jacky and Rob on a Hanse, Arwen of Bosham on their way eastward. We offered them our Italian Pagine Azzurre and were more than handsomely repaid by a new copy of the Atlantic Spain Pilot. We must send them a present when we get back home. Also had a very pleasant hour or so with Jan and Dick on Blue Elixir II, an Oyster 49. Why are we always the tiddler? Both boats made us realise just how friendly cruising sailors can be. An exception was the Dartmouth boat who ignored my first hello and then just managed a reply when I said hello again. Discourteous at best, plain rude at worst.
We refuelled and moved over to a mooring buoy just outside Cala Llonga. Météo France is expecting a force 6, so a quiet secure night seemed a good idea at €15.

To Cala Grao, June 7, 9 NM

After a windy night with some rain and rather distant thunderstorms, there was still a fair amount of wind by morning but in the right direction for the short passage along the coast to Cala Grao, just before Ilas Colom. Cala Grao is one of the anchorages designated to become free, bookable moorings.
We started up the coast on Genoa alone and were about 1.5 miles short of the entrance when the wind headed and increased to a good force 4/5. Main up and a short beat took us there just in time for lunch. As we remembered this is a delightful anchorage with a rather laid back small holiday area. Not noisy apart from a short spell of a jet ski, just people enjoying themselves. The wind died away overnight and came in gently from the SW.

Cala Grao to Cala Addaya, June 8, 8 NM

A brisk but short sail, all of 8 miles past the very conspicuous light house on Capo Favaritx. To the north of Lloses de Ses Formigas (one of many groups of rocks called ants and a sharp turn to SSW into Cala Addaya. This is another of our favourite bays, virtually landlocked and a little frightening to enter in an onshore moderate or fresh wind. There was not much room to anchor unless you went right down the cala, so we picked up a buoy and just hoped it was OK.
The marina explained that they did not own the buoys but were unclear as to who did. The small supermarket is still here up a flight of steps. Fresh bread and essentials such as beer were all that was needed right now. Perhaps we will take a marina berth tomorrow for the luxury of a shower and shore power. We were not charged for the buoy.

At Marina de Addaya June 9

In the marina we were alongside HR 352 Lotte of Lorne with Jeff and Ann Cook, HROA members. There are several British yachts with permanent moorings here, you hear more English than Spanish around the marina where the office staff speak good English.
The marina, itself is small, friendly and well organised but not cheap. We paid 43 a night and Jeff said that they paid about 5000 a year. But there is a small but well stocked chandlers with camping gaz, workshops, hard standing for laying up. It would be a good place as a base with all the western Med within easy reach.

Cala Addaya to Cala Fornells, June 10, 6 NM

This was another short sail of about 6 miles. The wind was NE despite a forecast of SW from Météo France, the Spanish Met service and the US GRIB files. Presumably, some local effect. Entering Cala Fornells, the wind was due S funnelling down the Cala.

Cala and Puerto Fornells, 10 to 17 June

This is a delightfully quiet bay - unless the wind is blowing a strong northerly. There is an active sailing school to provide interest and amusement for those whose dinghy days are long gone and never tried wind-surfing.
Shopping in the village is limited with two small supermarkets but fresh meat only twice a week in season. There is an ATM and a pharmacy. Otherwise it is all bars and restaurants.
Wanting water and electricity (not to mention an Internet café) we came into the quay run by the Puerto de Fornells, had a prompt reply in English to my call on Ch 9 in Spanish. How did he guess? We were met at the quay by the same English speaking marinero. All helpful, well organised, clean and friendly. What more could we want? Later, we saw a small dinghy with three elderly gents trying to row across the cala back to their yacht. There was a very strong wind and they were getting blown a long way off course. The marineros also saw and went out in their RIB to give them a tow. A kindly act in keeping with the whole place.
My turn to cook. Perhaps we eat out tonight.
Met Quintet, CA and Royal Dart YC members, the Royle family. Pity we did not meet earlier, we had a good but all to brief chat to our (hopefully mutual) benefit. We had read an article in a RDYC magazine written about their trip from Dartmouth to Ayamonte.
They left but we decided to stay another day at Fornells. Like many places, it grows on you. We visited the Torre, an impressive landmark from sea and now a small museum. On the way, we saw a shop selling cooked chicken, beef and other meats. Had we known earlier, it would have been a good painless meal.
Had our last two nights on one of the Posidonia buoy. The second evening we were rolling uncomfortably as a NE swell entered the Cala. Eventually – just before dark – we crossed over to the town side of the Cala and found a more restful buoy. Partly there was a little more wind to keep us head to the swell, partly it was more protected.

Back to Mahòn, June 17, 20 miles.

We knew that string N winds were expected with a Mistral in three days time. No time to stay at Cala Fornells, Daughter and family coming to Mallorca early July. Time to laze around and do not very much. Mahòn is a good place for such. Also, some laundry needs to be done.
It was a motor sail all the way. There were no buoys free at Mahòn near the town, the floating islands had space so did Sunseeker, but we chose s mooring buoy off Cala Llonga. After some exploration and questioning of a British motor boat, we were told about a convenient supermarket at the head of Cala Llonga.

Mahòn, June 19 to 24

Early morning shop. There is a pontoon right at the head of the Cala, and then 100 metres walk to a very adequate supermarket. Just the job. Back on the boat; found one solar panel not working. Found no connection in the plug. Fixed that. Should help our power supply a little although our old fridge seems to eat amps. Really must go for a (silent) water cooled one next year.
The mistral which had arrived more or less as forecast seemed reluctant to go. Sunday (21st, the longest day) was cold, wind and cloudy. Monday was still cold and cloudy, but less windy. We had Sunday at Sunseeker but moved to a mooring on the Monday.


Ciudadela is bad news for yachts nowadays. Because of near accidents between ferries and moored yachts there are now no yachts allowed on the previous visitors' quay just by the yacht club. In the small Cala d'en Busquats, on the north side of the main cala, there are very few spaces for visitors. The Cala Degollador, just south of Ciudadela, is a possibility but is quite narrow and subject to swell with any wind except NE to SE. Consequently, we decided that the best way to see this fascinating town was by bus from Mahòn.
The bus ride at €4.5 each way was good value. Ciudadela has some magnificent buildings. Seeing the very narrow cala it is not difficult to imagine the effect of swiftly moving ferries nor the seiche that is a well known problem here – probably a result of a swell from a critical direction.

Mahòn to Alcúdia, June 24, 64 miles

Time to leave Menorca. After several days of mistrals and two nights on a buoy off Cala LLonga the forecasts were all in favour of the passage to Alcúdia. We would have a head wind after the SE corner of Menorca - Isla Del Aire - but it would turn more S or even SE.
All went reasonably well although winds were a little lighter than forecast and we had to use some motor. However, in the channel between the islands it increased to a good F5 touching 6. Approaching Mallorca we dropped the main and still were doing up to 7 knots under the Genoa. We had intended anchoring just inside the bay of Alcúdia where it should have been sheltered from the South. Not a bit of it! The bay winds were quite different so we went on and anchored just off Alcúdia marina with about 20 others.


At Alcúdia, June 25 and 26#alcúdia

A short radio call to the marina and a brief conversation in my broken Spanish secured us a berth. Just as 7 years ago, this is a most friendly marina with marineros who take great care and the most helpful of any that we have ever met. Alcúdia has everything the cruising sailor needs - the only exception seems to be a DIY laundrette although the marina laundry is both good and not expensive. There are good chandlers, good servicing at Nautica Mahon, several well priced restaurants. Small supermarket at the marina, others a short walk away. It is all there and at a fair price - €32 (€43 in July) for our 10.3 metres including free WiFi.
We have been in many marinas that but for all round services and facilities, Alcúdia cannot be bettered.
Well, it may be less than excellent. The WiFi is free but there is insufficient band width for all the users. For long spells there is no connection. BUT, by mid July they had introduced a new server and it was very good indeed.

Family complications, Alcúdia and Pollensa – June 30 to July 11

First, was our younger son from the US, who was visiting the UK. He and his two teenage sons (18 and 16) paid us a flying visit. Three nights on the boat gave the boys the opportunity to see life in the slow lane. They seemed to enjoy it and were both very relaxed. Later, they said that it was the highlight of their visit to the UK! After the rather, to us, prudish southern USA they found the greater freedom in matters of dress, or lack of it, on Spanish beaches a new and exciting experience.
Their visit overlapped with our daughter plus family (4½ and 2½) holidaying near Pollensa. Going from near adult, very grown-up grandsons to two toddlers was something of a shock. Then Margaret decided that her husband could cope after his shoulder operation. Her return overlapped with Jayne and family.
Alcúdia was a superb centre for all this coming and going. We were able to book two nights at a time and had no problems getting in. The beach right by the marina is good for the small fry. The town of Puerto Alcúdia is very touristy although the old town is a pleasant place. We just sailed daily to anchorages or buoys in the two bays of Alcúdia and Pollensa and kept everyone happy and as cool as possible.
In Bahia de Alcúdia there is a good day, sometimes night, anchorage behind Isla Aucanada. A better night anchorage with good holding is just off the marina. In Bahia de Pollensa there are Posidonia buoys, opposite the marina, near the seaplane base. Anchoring near the marina is variable with much rock. We heard about yachts dragging their anchors here and, having tried to anchor ourselves, can well imagine the problems.
The disadvantage of the Posidonia buoys here is that water skiers and jet ski come unnecessarily near to moored yachts causing noise and much rolling or pitching - especially at the northern end. One person's great enjoyment can mean undue disturbance for others.
In Cala Formentor (Bahia de Pollensa) there were some 30 plus buoys in June, doubling to over 60 in July. These were free! Rather different to 2002 when we were charged an exorbitant (at the time) €23 a night. There is also ample anchoring around the bay. Later, we heard that these buoys might be charged for by a charity.

The Vanishing boat syndrome

As previously in the Balearics we found that many boats in a mooring or anchorage area simply vanished at night-time. We estimated that there were around 80 plus boats in Cala Formentor - it was a Sunday. Most were on buoys (there were spaces early afternoon when we arrived). This included a number of day boats but most were cruising yachts or motorboats with accommodation. By night, there were only about 15 in total. Did they really prefer the heat of the marina on a sticky night? Or were they all locals or holiday makers with apartments? A mystery to us but one for which we were grateful.

Puerto Pollensa

We had one night (€40) in Pollensa on the Port Authority quay (VHF Ch 8). Booking ahead is not possible, take pot luck. They were very helpful and friendly. It was quite different at the Club Nautico marina; when I asked if there were any berths, I had a very curt response from the only person in the office. Unfriendly and unhelpful was the impression. We were told that prices here were double those at Alcúdia. Pollensa seemed to have few of the benefits of Alcúdia - except that the bay is rather more picturesque.
The great event here was meeting Chantilly Lace again. We last met Ian and Jackie in Barcelona some seven or eight years ago. Chantilly Lace is a "real" sea going motor boat, not one of your fancy planing jobs that bounces around in any sea in a most uncomfortable fashion. Naturally we had a good long chat exchanging experiences. Ian is a (now retired) professional seaman and always well worth listening to.

Back to Alcúdia

After some great times with the family it was back to Alcúdia before carrying on with life - ie our cruise with Lagos as the objective. We had intended anchoring off the marina but, whilst swimming by Isla Aucanada, the wind suddenly increased. The marina it was. In view of a short-lived impending Sirocco we were going to have a couple of days here anyway.
For me that was no hardship as the WiFi was superb with a new server introduced.

Alcúdia to Porto Cristo, July 14 34 NM. At Porto Cristo, July 15,

It is very easy to start to feel settled in a marina as good as Alcúdia and we can understand why people use such places as a base for local sailing and rarely go very far. As inveterate travellers, we resist that urge. In any case, we are booked for a Winter berth ashore at Lagos.
After a day and a half of a Sirocco, the sea was rather lumpy. Curiously, the swell was more northerly until past Cap se Pera when it went southerly. As ever the wind was variable but we sailed most of the way.
The awkward swell made all anchorages along this bit of coast unpleasant - especially that at Porto Cristo. That is why we used the rather expensive Club Nautico marina at €53 a night. But, there is a free swimming pool, good showers and free WiFi. Not too bad. Shopping nearby in the town is moderate but two of us got good and not expensive haircuts. The marina Cantina serves an excellent Cappuccino.
We stayed put for a second night.

To Porto Colom, July 16, 11 NM and at Colom July 16 - 19

GRIB forecasts gave 4 days warning of a short lived Mistral around midnight of the 17/18th. Porto Colom, the largest and best natural harbour on Mallorca, either town quay, buoy or anchorage would be sensible. We had a slow sail - 3 1/2 hours for 11 miles but were the only boat seen to be sailing. The buoys were all occupied but there is good holding and the anchorage would be cooler than on the quay.
It is easy to motor across in the dinghy for shopping. There are small food shops in the town, good but not cheap. There are two supermarkets a short walk away. Water on the quays is brackish. We paid under €14 for 3 nights at anchor but had free showers and good toilet facilities ashore, recently improved and now very good plus a good shopping bag, cloths to soak up engine oil, a pen and literature about the efforts on the Islands to combat Climate Change and other environmental issues. The Balearic Islands are setting an excellent example to us all.
The big excitement was the feast of the Virgen del Carmen when all the fishing and many other boats process through the harbour during the evening. They came through the anchorage in two lines tied bow to stern so as to avoid any overtaking. All very colourful. The return from sea was exciting as all the boats that had processed so slowly came back at high speed making sport with those of us just starting to cook dinner.
The Mistral came on cue. The afternoon and early evening wind had been a strong sea breeze S or SE. Within a matter of half an hour the direction changed to NE and the wind came in strong. All very sudden, all as forecast. By about 3 AM, the wind died away to a light breeze.
Met Martin waiting for family aboard La Baie Dorée. Martin bravely gave a hand when our celebratory flags got wrapped around the backstay. He is a former lecturer at teacher's outward bound type courses. We had several chats and drinks.

To Ensenada de la Rapita, July 19, 37 NM and July 20#corbó

A Sirocco is forecast in three day's time on the GRIBs and we need some laundry work to be done. Somewhere in the Bay of Palma would suit us, preferably El Arenal which we knew to be good.
After a pleasant fine reach down the coast, we rounded Punta de las Salinas, and headed up the coast towards Porto Colonia de Sant Jordi into an anchorage off Playa des Corbó. This was pretty full (it was Sunday) and we had to anchor on the fringes. As evening approached most left, as normal, leaving plenty of room to pick and choose a good spot.
The Pilot says that the bottom is mainly sand. Perhaps, so. However there is a good deal of rock even where it looks sandy. Our first attempt had the anchor only half dug in and uncomfortably near a small, protuberant rock. The second had the anchor chain neatly wrapped around another small rock with the anchor lying on its side. The third was fine with no rock anywhere near with the anchor completely hidden and only chain visible.
In the morning we checked the GRIB forecast. The Sirocco is still scheduled for tomorrow midnight. A telephone call to El Arenal secured us a place for the nights of 21 and 22 July. We know there is a good DIY laundrette, a swimming pool, good food shopping and a good club restaurant. Hopefully since our last visit in 2002, there will also be WiFi!

Playa des Corbó to El Arenal, July 21, 25 NM

The Spanish forecast said E to SE F 2 to 3. In the event, it was nearer F 3 to 4 until we rounded into the Bay of Palma. Then it was more F 4 to 5. Because the wind was nearly following all the way, we "tacked" down wind. As we turned into the Bay of Palma, the wind followed us round being sucked into the bay by the sea breeze effect. A charted 21 NM or so became a 25 NM sail done in a shade over 5 hours. Very satisfying.

El Arenal, July 21 to 24

El Arenal is rather more expensive than 7 years ago when it was €37, coming in at €60 a night. However, we have just had 5 nights virtually free so do not mind. The swimming pool is free and so is the WiFi!
We had intended two nights only but consideration of the forecasts and our next passage to Ibiza dictated a third night. We bit the bullet and made more use of the swimming pool and the excellent WiFi. Shopping for food is pretty easy, apart from a fair walk uphill to a Mercadonna.

Cala Blava Posidonia buoy, July 24

There is a Posidonia buoy area off Cala Blava, just south of El Arenal. With the wind forecast to go to the NE, that would be well sheltered although there would be a residual swell from the SW at first. It would be cooler than the very hot El Arenal where I had been sleeping in the well.
The Cala Blava buoys are subject to much rock and roll due to the coming and going of large vessels into the bay. That apart, and bar some uninspiring building in progress, a pleasant enough place to wait for the right wind to cross to Ibiza.
Waiting was necessary because another short lived Mistral was forecast. For the second time in a few days, the US GRIB has been spot on with predicting the onset of a Mistral three to four days ahead. The French NAVTEX forecasts have been good for the next 24 to 48 hours. The Spanish coastal forecasts have been less good. This one started around midnight. The wind in the Bay got up to a good force 7. Around mid-afternoon it died away to a F 3-4 with a touch of 5.

To Ibiza - Cala Portinatx, July 26. 67 NM

The forecast was E F2-3 becoming SE F3-4. This was pretty good and we had one of those passages that makes sailing so worthwhile. We motored while the wind was increasing and to charge the batteries. Then it was a short spinnaker run followed by a nice reach as the wind slowly increased to a top F 4. Initial thoughts were Santa Eulalia but this is very expensive (€53 in August in 2002!) With the increasing SE wind, there were no anchorages nearby.
Next thoughts were a small cala glorying in the name of Clot d'es Llamp, just north of Punta Grosa but this looked uninviting as did several other calas mentioned in the Pilot. As so often, we wondered if the authors had actually ever been there. We finished up at Cala Portinatx, a touristy cala with, reportedly, much loud disco music. We will see!

Las Pitiusas (the Ibiza group of islands)

Cala Portinatx to the Bay of San Antonio, July 27, 21 NM

It was a quiet night after all. Disco music ceased at about 2330. The only disturbances were a yacht thoughtlessly using a two stroke generator for two hours in the late evening and someone playing a few bars on a flute after midnight.
Round to the Bay of San Antonio was as disappointing a sail as the day before had been good. It was a case of sailing for a short while with a nice wind, from a very odd direction, then motoring then repeating the formula. We saw many calas but few that looked really good or inviting.
Met our old friend and CA member, Tony Warr, on Diatonic. He is off to Dénia where he says prices are much more reasonable. We shall see.
Expecting a NE F4 to 5 overnight we decided on the anchorage in the bay rather than a nearby cala open to the NE. In anticipation we took down our home made bimini.

At Marina San Antonio, July 28

Feeling in need of good fresh water showers, needing washing and provisioning we held our breath and asked for a one night berth. We were put on a “waiting list”, not a good sign we thought. However, after about an hour were invited in. At €61 a night it is not too bad for Ibiza in high season. The main showers are hot house portacabin type. But, for those on the visitors’ pontoon there were far cooler showers and loos; still in portacabins but sited on a pontoon not on concrete. There is neither laundrette nor a swimming pool. El Arenal at about the same price was far better value. Still, one night will do.
A plus at San Antonio is a very well stocked chandlers where we were able to replace our red ensign – after two years it was falling apart and beyond repair. We really must follow Samuel Pepys advice on cutting costs. There is a moderate Spar near the marina and a very good alimentation – Casa Alfonso. High quality fruit, vegetables, good cooked meats and cheese, delicatessen style at moderate prices.

.To Cala del Torrent

We had intended using Cala Bassa only a couple of miles away for an overnight anchorage but Cala del Torrent seemed the better option. Both had their quota of speed boats towing screaming holidaymakers on bananas. I have come to the conclusion that these people have to shout to convince the world – and themselves - that they are having a good time. Otherwise this is a pleasant anchorage with no disco music. Or other noise.

To Espalmador, July 30, 26 NM

I spoke too soon. A promised NE wind came a little earlier than expected and we began to roll most uncomfortably a little before dawn. Leaving as soon as possible we had a good reach after Isla Coneiere as far as Isla Vedra at the SW corner of Ibiza. The wind then got up to a good F5 touching 6 giving a hard beat. When we arrived all the Posidonia Buoys were occupied and many boats were anchored.
We met Martin on La Baie Dorée again, this time with Hillary and Joshua. They said that it was a free for all and there was no warden. We later were told that he had engine failure. After three attempts to find a good spot, over sand with swinging room among the buoys, we anchored but later moved to a buoy that became vacant. The following afternoon the warden appeared and had great fun sorting out which boats were where and getting everyone in the right p [lace. A mammoth task that he undertook with patience and courtesy.

To Dénia, August 1, 64 NM

The forecasts were all favourable. The US GRIB suggested an absolute maximum of SSW F 6. The French INMARSAT_C forecast said “South or Southwest 3 to 5, temporarily 5 to 6.” The Spanish coastal waters forecast said “S-SE 2 to 3 increasing later to 4 with intervals of 5.” In the event the wind got up steadily to F 5, 6, 7 with gusts to F 8.
We, successively, put in one, two and three reefs before dropping the main sail and using a minute amount of headsail. The boat handled very well. We were grateful to the rigger at Cagliari for checking our rig tension. Money well spent.
The distressing feature, to me, was that Valencia was broadcasting a forecast every two hours. Even late afternoon, they were still issuing the forecast from early morning promising no more than intervals of 5.” It is this kind of nonsense that gives forecasting a bad name. In reality, it is the fault of those that decide what should be broadcast and when. Nevertheless, the forecasts were not good. The number of boats homing in on Dénia under greatly reduced sail was evidence that others had been caught out also.
This was our windiest sail for a few years and one that was most unexpectedly so. It drives the lesson home that the only certainty in any weather forecast is the date. Even then, you must keep the theologians at arm’s length.
Approaching Dénia, a call on Ch 9 got an immediate and helpful reply in the clearest English imaginable by a young Spanish lady. We were met by three marineros; just as well as the wind made it extremely difficult getting into the berth. They were well organised and only called you to a berth when the marineros had completed handling the previous boat and were ready. They worked well as a team.

Mainland Spain

At Dénia, August 1 to 4

There has been much development since 2002. However, prices are not at all unreasonable at about €31 a night including the G5 harbour tax (plus water and electricity.) The shower and toilet rooms are still marvellous and would take a whole family. In the event, we paid about €34 a night in total.
We have seen Dénia develop since 2000. It is one of those marinas where they have got it about right. They began with the environment and planted trees. They got all their pontoons in quickly and sensibly laid out. They seem to keep enough room for in transitos. They have always had good, smart looking, competent marineros.
There is a small shop on site and a nearby small supermarket. However, for a real food shop it means a fair walk with trolley to a very good and well priced Consum - up the road at the end of the Lemon Railway line. There is an onsite chandler but better ones near the yacht club. The several restaurants do good menus of the day and attract a good clientele in the evenings. The only shortcoming is the lack of a DIY laundry. The service laundry sends washing outside the marina.

To Calpe, August 4, 26 NM

Began with a long tack out to sea to clear the ferocious headlands of San Antonio and Cabo la Naõ. Then it was a fast fine reach to the anchorage outside Calpe, an expensive marina. There should have been shelter from the SE wind.
HOWEVER, it was not to be, at least until about half past midnight. In the late Summer, as we have found before, there can be a delayed sea breeze effect resulting from the very warm sea. The pressure difference required to overcome the gradient wind was not strong enough until late evening. This gave a SW wind straight into the anchorage.
The crew were not best pleased.
We later heard that there was a seagull problem in Calpe with boats being covered in guano. We saw little activity in the anchorage although one fishing boat did dump a mass of fish remains just outside the port. Not a good idea, surely.

To Puerto de Campello, August 5, 25 NM

In fact, I had the last laugh because, as we left the shelter of the harbour wall we realised just how much swell there was. I got some brownie points for a night free of swell causing us to roll even thought the sea breeze effect had given us two or three uncomfortable hours of pitching.
What wind there was, was too light to sail until some 12 NM from Campello. It then filled in to give a nice broad reach. There was no answer on Channel 9, but the club marineros directed us to a berth. The price was a very reasonable €32 a night. There is a laundrette service, not DIY. We had thought of going on to Alicante where there are (or were in 2000) DIY machines, but would surely have paid more in marina fees. Puerto de Campello is a fairly small club marina, as cool as can be and with reasonably good shops (again from our 2000 experience.)

A Ruined Coast

The east coast of Spain has some quite stunning coastal scenery. However, many places have been ruined by barbaric development. Dénia, itself is backed by a most impressive hill and there is Cabo San Antonio and Cabo la Naõ to the south. Jávea is relatively unspoilt.
Shortly before Moraira there is an area of housing that would look good if designed by a 5 year old just learning the joys of Lego. Calpe harbour is backed the most stunning large rock, Penon de Ifach. Look in the other direction and you see some terrible examples of high rise lunacy. Altea and its bay are notable exceptions but it soon goes downhill with Benidorm, the acme of architectural vandalism.
I am not a fan of Prince Charles, nor some of his views on architecture or environmental matters. When it comes to developments such as these, I nearly become a royalist! Spanish planning, or lack of it, has desecrated a magnificent area.

At Puerto de Campello, August 6

Shopping for food is easy here, just a short walk. The club laundry lady does an excellent job at about the same cost as a DIY machine, so that was good news.
From our last visit we remembered that the restaurant was good. It still is. It is the kind of Spanish restaurant where long leisurely lunches as the norm. The waiter gave the impression that he considered our 2 1/2 hours to be verging on indecent haste and that the chef might not be best pleased that we had bolted his excellent meal.

To Mar Menor, August 7, 50 NM

First thoughts had been Torrevieja but, after about 10 miles under motor, the wind filled in to give a fast reach. The anchorage just outside Mar Menor in the Tomas Maestre outer harbour seemed sensible. The wind did its usual best to thwart us the sea breeze effect started to head us. However, possibly an effect of Mar Menor, it freed again.
We had hoped to anchor in the outer harbour at Tomas Maestre just outside Mar Menor. To our surprise, we found that the outer harbour of Tomas Maestre no longer exists. The “low breakwater” has been removed, apparently as part of land reclamation. There is now very limited space to anchor with no protection at all from the south. If wishing to overnight the choices are the anchor off Isla Grossa or to enter Mar Menor. The Isla Grossa anchorage would almost certainly be subject to swell.
The bridge now opens more frequently than shown in the pilot, possibly every two hours in season. We had just missed the 1800 hours opening. The bridge did not reply on Ch 10, but Tomas Maestre marina did reply on Ch 12. Next opening 2000.
In Mar Menor, the Pilot warns of circular areas of nets. These are fairly obvious by day and can be avoided. However, near these, we saw nets deep down, hanging vertically and, apparently abandoned. Although well below keel and prop, these could cause a problem when anchoring. We were lucky!

Mar Menor

Mar Menor is a large area of water separated from the Mediterranean by a narrow spit of land, virtually a large sand dune. On this there have been built a number of sky scraper type buildings. What would happen in the case of a tsunami such as hit Mahon some years ago or in the event of climate change is a matter for conjecture. I have to wonder what the insurance companies think!
In 2000, when we were last here, Mar Menor was full of jellyfish. Now there are very few. This is as a result of Spanish government policy. Otherwise, the increasingly warm waters would increase the jellyfish population to the detriment of other marine life. Mar Menor was one of the two most important areas in the world to study jellyfish. Presumably, that has now changed!

To Cartagena, August 8, 25 NM

A strong easterly is expected in two days time, possibly lasting a few days. Cartagena was a place that had disappointed us back in 2000 but we had heard that the city had cleaned up its act. Also, the CA grape vine had informed us of a new marina best to the yacht club and better value. It seemed sense to put both to test.
After the skyscrapers of Mar Menor we rounded Cabo Palos to have some of the most unspoilt bits of coastline imaginable. From Palos to beyond Cartagena the coast is steep to and not suitable for development, thank goodness.

At Cartagena, August 8 to 13

Since 2000, Cartagena has greatly improved and is still improving. There has been a major effort to improve the streets with lighter marble paving. Frontages of many buildings have been retained but the building itself completely gutted or even replaces. We saw one frontage several storeys tall with nothing at all behind it. It was clearly going to be a completely new building. The historical appearance is being maintained while the city is being brought into the 21st century.
The new marina, Yacht Port, Channel 9, is right by the Yacht Club marina. In 2000, the latter was most unappealing. The reception was unfriendly; the toilets disgusting. The new marina is excellent. Plenty of room. Helpful marineros and office staff. They deserve to succeed.

To Puerto de Hornillo, August 13, 31 NM

The coast after Cartagena is still "sauvage" until Cabo Tiboso. After that it is low lying hills with low rise buildings near the coast. The only disfigurement is the proliferation of large polythene sheeting for market garden type agriculture.
The forecast E F3 to 4 started disappointingly as light variable. The swell from the strong E winds had largely gone. After about 10 miles, the wind came in as a sea breeze. Initial intentions had been the bay of Aguilas. However, on approach, we decided that Islote El Fraile, opposite Puerto Hornillo, would give good shelter from any residual swell and might be quieter than Puerto Aguilas. we thought that the reef would give good shelter from the swell but allows a cooling wind.
Spoke too soon, again. The swell increased and was coming over the reef and through a gap to promise a disturbed night. We evacuated to the Puerto del Aguilas bay. After leaving the shelter of Islote El Fraile we realised just how much swell there really was and how much shelter we were getting. However, the Puerto del Aguilas anchorage was really sheltered. It was also very quiet. I am excused!

To Garrucha, August 14, 21 NM

First surprise was that just to the west of Aguilas, a new marina is being built. Juan Montiel. There were some boats already there. The entrance is at least 6 m deep and faces west. This looks as though it will be a useful alternative to the small Aguilas marina of which we have had bad reports.
As so often the sea breeze on this coast was a variable feast. It came and went so that we were doing 6 knots at time and 1.5 at others. Eventually we got to Garrucha and moored on the fuel pontoon as it was siesta time. When the Capitain appeared he gave us a berth at the modest price of €25 a night. Excellent showers and toilets - apart from no loo paper. The harbourmaster is, as he has been for some years now, a man of few words - none of the English. But, he is helpful.
There is much work going on in the harbour. The commercial harbour wall has been extended some 100 metres or so eastwards. There seem no plans to extend the small marina, but that would clearly be possible.
Garrucha itself is an unpretentious small town, port and holiday area. It was a little noisy until the small hours but there was a festival in progress. Much of the noise was just general people eating and talking.

To Cala de San Pedro, August 15, 21 NM

After a shopping expedition it was a little late to start for a 50+ miles to Almeria. The question was where to anchor given that there is an Easterly swell running and nowhere offers really good shelter from that direction. The best bet seemed to be Cala de San Pedro with the anchorage outside the marina at Puerto San José as next best.
On passage, the wind was up and down as ever. With some trepidation we entered San Pedro to find several yachts already here. A good sign as some were obvious travellers and not just day boats. The surprise was ashore where there were many people, perhaps some form of rudimentary eatery, some semi permanent hippy style habitation but no apparent access by road. How had all these people got there?
During the course of the evening some of the mystery unfolded as RIBs came and took some away. It was only when leaving we realised that there was a track around the hill side with people walking along carrying backpacks in the cool of the morning. Although it was noisy during the day, it was not unduly so overnight.
During the evening, the sea breeze effect died away and a strong katabatic developed down the steep slopes of this impressive cala. This kept us nicely stern to and not across any residual swell and the boat cool. The crew's misgivings were not realised and they grudgingly admitted that I had got it right - for once!
This Cala has a reputation for not being nice in a strong offshore gradient wind. Presumably, the wind comes in all directions with fierce gusts. A genuine katabatic is pretty steady as it funnels down the narrow valley.

To Almeria, August 16, 32 NM

A good fast sail in an Easterly. A near dead run past Cabo Gata. Turning into the bay of Almeria, the wind also turned and we continued on a very broad reach. The yacht club found us a berth - €20 a night plus a (very) small amount for electricity. It seems ages since we were paying €60 in the Balearics. Supply and demand? They also have free WiFi and ice cheaper than anywhere else lately.
We would have liked to stay a little longer but we really do want to move one. We liked Algeria as a city when last here.
From Cabo Palos to Cabo Gata, the coastal scenery of this part of the Costa Blanca is quite stunning in places with very little of it spoilt by building developments. A problem is that there are so few good anchorages unless you are lucky with the swell. No doubt, from here westwards along the Costa del Sol, it will be, as we recollect, all downhill.

To Almerimar, August 17, 22NM

It has begun going downhill. Down the west side of the Bahia de Almeria there were multi storey blocks. Around the Punta del Sabinal there were massive areas of polythene sheeting for market gardening type agriculture. I suppose that it works and is, therefore good. It does create an eyesore.
Almerimar had us on their data base - back from 2000! Not bad. Reception and the marineros are friendly, welcoming and helpful.
There were many spaces in the marina - unlike July 2000. The recession is biting; the upside was that we could ask for, and get, a berth that would be in the wind and not enclosed by high rise buildings - as in 2000. We thought that €21 a night was not bad. WiFi is on repayment, €5 for 24 hours. Must think carefully about that.
The whole place has a rundown air, looking rather scruffy. Many commercial premises had either never opened, closed down or were for sale or to let. There are many eateries but we saw none that looked really inviting. Toilet blocks were clean but had no ventilation, no loo paper nor control of water temperature in the showers, As ever in a large marina boats have been left to rot away. We were near two. All in all a little dispiriting with a listless air.
Hopefully it will move on. The new blocks of flats built around Darsena 2 look good. The large Mercadonna supermarket was doing a fair trade so there is life after near death.

How to avoid Benalmadena

On our way into the Med in 2000, we spent one night at Benalmadena and have no wish to repeat the experience. It seemed to be a place to which some liveaboards gravitate but we could not see why. The complex includes an area which seems to encapsulate all that we do not like about the Costa del Sol - restaurants with indifferent food, canned music, electronic games parlours, masses of people.
The marina was virtually full and it took at least half an hour for them to identify a slot for us. It was not very salubrious, we seemed to be among a number of boats in a poor state of repair, much neglected. It was a fair walk to an ill ventilated toilet block which had cockroaches.
Our views then appear similar to those in reports from friends this year. Reports are of -
  • Difficulty in holding boats alongside the waiting quay due to a swell of about one metre.
  • Marinero saying that this was quite common
  • Being offered a berth on the outer breakwater where visitors already there could be seen to be pitching and rolling as if outside in a heavy sea.
  • Damage to boats on this wall.
  • Offers that for an extra 15 Euros they could be given a berth for a larger yacht well inside the harbour.
Clearly, it is a place to avoid but this is a coast that seems to attract any swell around. Unless you like sleeping in a rolling boat, how?
The game plan is
  • Almerimar to Motril, a small club marina but with anchoring allowed in the harbour.
  • Motril to Caleta de Vélez, a small yacht harbour run by the Agencia Pùblica de Andalucía. They are usually good.
  • Caleta de Vélez to Fuengirola, a marine reported to be friendly although space might be limited.
  • Fuengirola to Estepona which we know is passable.
Time will tell.

To Motril, August 19, 36 NM

For once, the forecasts let us down. The promised light easterly turned out to be a flat calm followed by a light westerly. Not enough wind to beat - gentlemen do not beat, of course! At Motril my limited Spanish got a prompt reply in Spanish that quickly turned to English once my linguistic limitations were revealed.
The outer harbour which used to be an anchorage has been filled in to become a wharf for ships. There is a small anchorage just E of the club.. Space is limited and we were lucky to get a berth - they were then full. Fine for the first night as we were at the end of the pontoon. Not the second as a ship moored some 50 metres away and ran generators all night.
The charge was €29, the highest yet in mainland Spain. However, there is free WiFi and the toilets/showers are excellent. There is also a swimming pool and a good value menu for lunch. A very adequate three course lunch for three, including a glass of wine and coffee was €50 with the tip. We like the Motril club. It is an oasis of peace in a working harbour

To Caleta de Vélez, Aug 21, 27 NM

A better day. After one abortive attempt we had enough wind to use the spinnaker for a slow 4 hour run. Caleta did not reply on Ch 10, the advertised Channel nor the one they use, Ch 9. There were no marineros. However, there is an alongside waiting pontoon. The Capitania were welcoming and we paid €23 a night. There are good showers and washing machine with dryer.
On Saturday morning there is a general clothes etc market but with several good fruit and vegetable stalls also. The nearby supermarket is limited but has a good fresh meat counter and ice.
Caleta is a quiet place, not particularly a tourist town. Near the harbour it is an oasis of relative peace along the Costa del Sol.

To Fuengirolam August 23, 27 NM. At Fuengirola August 23 to 17.

Neither the Spanish forecasters nor the US GRIB covered themselves with glory today. A promised force 2 to 4 easterly was either a flat calm or a light westerly. We motored most of the way to Fuengirola. Here there was an immediate response on Ch 9 from the very helpful marinero. After going on his waiting quay he gave us a berth well out away from the shore in whatever wind comes.
Fuengirola is a bit of a mystery so far. The town is all that is bad (to us) on the Costa del Sol. Sleazy bars, eateries that do not attract us, sex shops, crowds of people. However, the marina is pretty quiet - so far. That is all to the good as tomorrow promises another light wind day followed by a day of fresh westerlies. Fuengirola has shopping nearby and, assuming it does not too noisy, a good place to pass the time. There are good showers and a washing machine. Also, free WiFi. All are content at €23 a night.
In the event we have had to stay here for a further night due to a continuation of the westerly winds. The marina has continued to be quiet and there seems very little noise getting here from the town itself. The marina office said that the marina used to be noisy until the restaurants were installed. It is not clear if there is a ban on loud music but the implied that there is a cause and effect.
Whatever the reason and despite warnings in the pilot, this was just about the quietest of any marina that we have visited over the past 10 years/

To Duquesa, August 27, 33 NM

After good shopping at Fuengirola we had no need of provisions, apart from bread, so we went on to Duquesa, another quiet port. Years ago this had been a very British port and there are still many ex-pats there but increasing numbers of Spanish boats. Apparently when Duquesa was first developed, anyone buying property around the harbour could have free membership of the golf club or a free berth in the marina, both for life. They could only give us a berth for 12 m and charged us €35 for the night. But, there is free WiFi.
Over the passage from Fuengirola, the sea temperature fell from about 28 deg C to just under 20 deg C. The significance of that was to become obvious later.

As a port, it is one of the most attractive with pleasant looking apartment blocks. Shopping in the port is fairly limited, as we found back in 2000. However, now there are supermarkets near at hand.

Duquesa was our first port in the Med back in 2000, now it is our last as we leave for Gibraltar tomorrow. Or, so we thought.

To Sotogrande, August 28, 22 NM

We left Duquesa at about Gibraltar HW in order to reach Europa Point an hour after the turn of the tide. However, as so often happens in sailing - and life - the plans of mice and men.......... Cold sea water with air coming from warmer water is a recipe for sea fog.
After passing Sotogrande the mist became thick fog and the radar became our prime safety tool. We were seeing other boats at less than 100 metres and seeing nothing of them. Approaching Europa Point, there were so many echoes on the radar that it was becoming impossible to navigate with safety. The situation was complicated by, what we later learned were two wrecks on and to the NE of the Point. One of these off shore had large cranes to lift the remains.
First thoughts were back to Duquesa but we had never seen Sotogrande and, although it was reputedly expensive, we decided to give it a try. A bad decision. First they charged us €44 for the night. Then we had to hire one of their special electric plugs that seemed to need a degree in electronics to wire up. There was no help in getting into a berth, downwind, luckily not strong. The minimarket on site is so small as to be virtually useless.
What were we paying for, apart from the name? Not to be recommended.

To Gibraltar, August 29, 16 NM

A better day with good visibility. As we approached Europa Point, we realised just how right we were to turn back yesterday. There were some 20 ships at anchor, fish farms, various small fishing boats, large buoys plus the two wrecks.
After Europa Point, on the west side, there were also many anchored ships. Queensway Marina was full. So was Marina Bay, now united with Ocean Village to give only two marinas. We anchored in the bay off La Linea.
During the early evening we heard a knock on the boat but no obvious cause. Later another knock. After a search we found a small but heavy lump of metal. We later learned that it was a weight used by fishermen to hurl their lines from the shore. We were well over 50 metres, probably nearer 100 from the nearest shore, the quay from the La Linea yacht harbour.
The lump could have caused serious injury or worse. I reported this to Algeciras harbour control and said that they should inform the local police. Their response was to tell me that I had no right to be there and must go to Gibraltar; I informed them that we were a British registered yacht in EU waters in a recognised anchorage. If you go there, be warned.

To Queensway Marina, August 30 until September 3

This time Queensway had some berths. We paid £18.50 for a 15 metre berth plus water and electricity. All very friendly and helpful. We did try Marina Bay first; however, they had only one berth - without water or electricity. Also, Marina Bay berths are solid concrete, non-floating. Bad news on a spring tide with a range of a metre or so. Queensway are floating pontoons.
The forecast has turned against us. We are waiting for the Post Office to open on Tuesday to collect a package so cannot leave until late Tuesday on the west going tide. Even that would give problems in getting to Cadiz. Halfway house is Barbate, not our ideal for an enforced stay. Better the devil we know at Gibraltar. Queensway are very accommodating - and I have WiFi - at a cost.
Here we met Al and Ingrid March on Stella Maris, HROA members just about to enter the Med. Ingrid is Gibraltese and, so, knew far more than we about the Rock.
In fact it has turned out to be the worst WiFi I have experienced over the past three months. It is fast enough when there are few people using it but it seems to get overloaded rather easily, far more easily than any WiFi that we used in nine Spanish marinas. Most of these were included in the marina price. Two were on repayment; €3 for 5 hours at Sunseeker, Mahòn and €5 a day or €15 for a week at Cartagena are both far more favourable rates than here where it is £4.6 for one hour and £27.3 for 10 hours. We found all to be better and with more useable band width available than the WiFi at Gibraltar. Connection is interrupted and I get grumpy. Another sailor tried to book flights on-line but had to give up and find a better connection elsewhere. Sometimes it will not even connect to the server. It is no use complaining to YachtConnect, they never answer the phone. Their claimed good bandwidth is a myth for long periods.

Gibraltar now and the future?

We were told that Sheppards marina will not re-open and that the travel hoist at Sheppards will also cease, leaving, effectively, no lift-out facilities on the Rock. Already, one of the Marineros takes his boat to Smir. Work is in hand to build a large marina at La Linea (Puerto La Alcaidesa). Completion is (optimistically) expected in 2010. Certainly, we saw much activity in building the sea wall.
The new marina is expected to have excellent facilities, with at least two supermarkets and other shopping nearby. It will be only a short walk into Gibraltar for cheap whisky and gin... That is bound to take business away from Gibraltar; a great pity. One can only hope that someone sees the sense of keeping good facilities here and improve on what there is now. The impression we get is that large housing blocks, boutiques, bars and bric-a-brac shops are taking precedence over yachting.
There have been major changes at Queensway over the past 10 years. Land reclamation has allowed a line of houses on the seaward side and the entrance is now at the northern end. The marina, as pleasant as it ever was is now more sheltered than before. Eating at the quayside restaurants is one of the pleasures.
The town itself has changed little with the same rather uninspiring shops. Many more tower blocks have been built and more are being built. The only supermarket is a Morrisons, not our favourite in the UK, and with prices far higher (spirits apart) those we have been paying in Spain. Staying here for any length of time, it would be worth having a car just for the Mercadona and Carrefour over the border in La Linea.
Otherwise, we like Gibraltar with its rather old world British air. Long may it remain British - or as long as the locals wish. The UK owes Gibraltar a debt of gratitude for its survival in World War 2.

To La Linea anchorage, Sept 4

We have to be leaving for Barbate at about 0700 to catch the tide through the Strait. That means leaving the marina before noon. Partly, this avoids paying for another day; more importantly, Queensway close the marina with a boom between 2100 and 0830. A problem is that the forecast for several days after tomorrow is for strong easterlies. The direction is OK but strong winds around Cabo Trafalgar are bad news; it might mean staying at Barbate for two, three or more days. The alternative is to go right round Cabo Trafalgar and onto Cádiz. That decision will have to be made while on passage
On a more leisurely look at tide times we realise that it is difficult to get round Cabo Trafalgar before the tide turns foul - and strongly so. It looks as though we will have to aim for Barbate and hope that the winds on the following days will not be too strong.
Because of the easterly current it is much more of a problem negotiating the Strait westwards than eastwards into the Med. How Beaufort and his fellow captains managed to run, in effect, a bus service from the UK to the Med is a mystery to me and most other modern sailors with our engines and all our fine navigation tools. How Nelson fought a battle here is another mystery.

Atlantic Spain and Portugal

To Cádiz, Sept 5, 81 NM

After sleeping (rather lying awake and thinking) on it, I made the call to get round to Cádiz in one shot. We would have to maintain 6 knots through the water and, even then, I was not sure about the tidal stream south of Banco de Trafalgar. The inshore passage looked attractive but the tide turns east going there about 2 hours before the passage south of the Banco.
We had a good wind until past Tarifa but then had to use the engine. The shallows and very uneven bottom makes the Trafalgar area very difficult in a small boat. Even with a good following wind all the power from the sails was lost due to the excessive rocking and rolling; we had to continue to motor.
After Trafalgar, ignore the pilot for the passage. Shape a course to get you into 25 metres depth and the Castillo de San Sebastián westerly cardinal bears about 345 on the GPS. The entrance to Cádiz is easy, just follow the pilot and keep to the channel buoys – especially the westerly cardinal marker.
The marina is one of the Agencia Pùblica de Andalucía. It is a bit of a desert but there are excellent showers and it is not too long a walk into the old town. €25 a night. There is a basic bar/restaurant on-site and good, simple cheap meals at the neighbouring Réal Club Nautica.

In Cádiz, Sept 5 to 10

The strong winds came in, as forecast although rather stronger than expected in the Cádiz area. Boats going south are going to have to wait for a week or more just to get around Cabo Trafalgar comfortably, not to say safely. We will be able to look at Cádiz at leisure.
The old town is a delight with its narrow streets, fine buildings, beautiful squares, many small shops, bars and restaurants. It has been kept largely unspoilt by modern building although much work is needed - and is in hand - to keep it thus. Perhaps the only disfigurement is the amount of graffiti and litter, especially on the walk from the marina into town. The marina being way out is a mixed blessing. It does ensure a reasonable degree of safety. It also gives good exercise for the legs.
There is a very good produce market alongside an excellent Carrefours Express supermarket right by the Post Office. and several other supermarkets. A taxi back to the boat is not expensive. Like in some other Spanish towns, the Post Office is a building of some architectural significance. The cathedral is a truly splendid building and refreshingly simple in its interior compared to, say, the Cathedral of Santiago de Compestela which I found oppressively musty and overly ornate.
One of the pluses in being weather-bound is meeting others in the same position. It is a good excuse for socialising. We met CA members Dave and Wendy Martin on Resolution, a J120 and Peter with hisRAFSC Chieftain. Both are on their way to enter the Med. Then Christian Reynolds came in with his Swan 51 and delivery crew on their way to St Tropez. Even they are held up by winds in the Strait. Christian had a report of 50 knots through the Strait.! Our decision to leave Gibraltar and come right round to Cádiz is amply justified.
Are we doing the right thing in leaving the Med ? Maybe not. But, we also met Rick Weatherhead on his Ouster 406, Blue Beat, who is returning to the UK. Also an Irish yacht, Pylades, also heading west - but across the Atlantic. We are not alone!

To Chipiona, Sept 10, 20 NM

It was still blowing hard when we left and the marina suggested that it might be force 7 although the Spanish forecast issued the previous evening said force 5 becoming 4. Leaving harbour it was quite difficult motoring straight into wind. As soon as we cleared the buoyed entrance, we used the Genoa, poled out alone. Coming abeam Rota across the Bahia de Cádiz it had dropped to about force 4. Mainsail up and the wind then died to nothing approaching the entrance to the river Guadalquivir the wind dropped to nothing.
The entrance to Chipiona is rather easier than the pilot suggests although no doubt stressful in a blow. This is another of the Agencia Pùblica de Andalucía marinas with their uniform prices and invariably helpful staff.
We did not see much of Chipiona but it did look a very pleasant, rather quiet place - in early September at least. There is a small, shop on site for very basic provisions and two restaurants plus all day snack bar.

To Mazagón, 11 Sept, 31 NM

A pleasant sail for much of the way before the wind died. Very "conspic" but not mentioned in the pilot is the 25 metre white tower with a red top at the seaward end of one of the longest moles in Europe.
Yet another Agencia Pùblica de Andalucía with the usual bureaucracy but quiet and pleasant enough with, again, excellent showers. There seemed vast spaces between the pontoons. We are clearly in finger pontoon country as this is the third in a row. The pilot is misleading about provisioning. As far as we could see, the "shop close outside the gate" is a 20 minute walk, uphill to a mediocre supermarket. Ice at the small fishing shop just before you go uphill.

To San Antonio, Sept 12, 33 NM

Like several harbours along this coast the entrance is up a tidal river with a difficult bar. However, we were on neaps and that made it less stressful. The pilot warns not to enter below half tide and the chartlets show shallow water near the outer channel markers. In fact we think that the chartlet was pessimistic and that least depths are nearer 3 metres than the 1.8 quoted. However, it would be dangerous with wind against tide,
There is a choice of two marinas. San Antonio on the Portuguese side with the more difficult entrance and Ayamonte on the Spanish side. The latter is the easier to enter but is a further mile upstream. As it might be full, we decided to try San Antonio first.
We arrived at the bar slightly early but had no problems. The marina staff helped us come alongside down tide with quite a strong flow. Not much room to turn although with a stronger flow that would have been necessary and safer. €23 a night; initially told one night only but given two more on the following day.

At San Antonio, Sept 13 to 15

We have not had a great deal of noisy early hours disco music this year, so it was a nasty shock to be blasted into wakefulness at 2 AM. It sounded as though there were enormous loudspeakers on the pontoon. In fact it was a booze cruise going very slowly downstream. Not nearly so noisy on the return, perhaps the speakers were on the starboard side.
With the help of an elderly lady who had less English than our virtually non-existent Portuguese, we found the produce market. Pretty good even though it was a Monday. Overall, an exceedingly pleasant town with broad, clean walkways.
Ayamonte, the sister town on the Spanish side of the river may be a little more interesting in its variation of street sizes but we though San Antonio the more charming. Whatevr, it is wirthwhile taking the ferry across to see.
There is always something special and more interesting about a river marina as opposed to a sea one. Partly it is the quietness of the river with little swell or waves, partly it is the flow of traffic up and down.

To Ilha da Culatra, Sept 15, 37 NM

Gentlemen do have to beat sometimes and today was such an occasion. After two hours on the engine, the wind came in fairly favourably at first looking like a long tack, short tack day... However, it then veered to be virtually on the nose and up to a good F 5. It was a hard beat. Direct, it would have been 24 miles. We had a 37 mile beat.
The pilot makes the entrance to the Culatra anchorage sound horrific and it probably can be. We arrived shortly before slack water and on neaps. No problem. The anchorage is one of those wild places but many people do spend a lot of time at anchor a little further east along the north coast of the island. In Gibraltar, we met a Dutch family who had spent several months there. Some 3000 people are said to live on the island.

To Albufeira Sept 16, 27 NM

This started with a head wind suggesting another hard thrash to windward but, this time, the gods smiled. After a six mile hitch up to wind and get away from the shallows off Ilha da Barreta, the wind backed to give a perfect fast reach; fine at first but becoming broader, especially as we had allowed some leeway for the header that never came.
Albufeira is a new marina still finding its feet. Good English in the office; helpful, well organised, finger pontoons rather closer than of late. Well protected from the wind although some surge can get in. The surrounding houses are somewhat twee; Lego- land according to the locals. We paid €29. Very good showers and toilets.

To Portimão, Sept 17, 22 NM,

It is getting to be a habit. After a great sail yesterday we had a beat again today. The forecast was fairly favourable - a beat, yes, but not too strong. But, again, the gods were not on our side. An increase to a bottom Force 6 suggested a detour to Portimão, a place that we were quite happy to see just for the interest; it was a candidate for our winter lay-up but Sopramar won the prize mainly on recommendation from others.
At Portimão we were met by two marineros, apparently fluent in English as had been the staff at Albufeira and the office staff here also. Prices are getting higher as we approach Lagos. Here we paid €40 a night.
Portimão is a bit of a mixture. The surroundings are pleasant with a nice river and a good anchorage in the harbour. Food shopping seemed fairly limited close by and we saw no chandlers. There was a lift out up river, some little distance away. Toilets and showers were a long way from the berths and, judging by the number of large mullet, few walked to them.

To Lagos, Sept 19, 6 NM.

This final day was on the engine with virtually no wind for once. Lagos marina, itself has changed little since 2000. The same, rather formal reception, the same bridge, the same wind getting up as we approached down tide with little room to turn. Not our best approach.
The pontoons have some very large white splodges. Big seagulls, we thought. Then, early morning, we saw a heron s sitting on one of the fingers.
There is free WiFi in the marina but, as we have found in some other places, the bandwidth is not quite enough and in busy periods just logging in can be nigh impossible. when we came to leave from Sopramar where there is no WiFi, I walked round to the marina office during the evening. There was no marina WiFi signal but there was a free access, no password link with good connection.
The big change is the yard where we are to haul out for the Winter. Very efficient and businesslike. They did some work on our water heater with minimum fuss and maximum efficiency. English widely spoken. All helpful. On first acquaintance, it augurs well. The test will be in the Spring when we return. Watch this space!

Some thoughts on leaving the Med

What would we have done or like to have done differently?

  • Fitted fixed solar panels. We did not want these on Anhinga as it would have meant a gantry, not in keeping with the boat..
  • Had a bigger wind generator. We had the biggest sensible for the size of boat. It was useful on many occasions.
  • Fitted larger batteries. That would not have been easy but was something that I would certainly do were there another chance.
  • Fitted a water cooled fridge unit. Not one of those that spew water all night annoying the neighbours and send you to the loo at regular intervals. A keel cooled unit is quiet. A must, we believe as they are much more efficient users of battery power.
  • Fitted a bimini right at the start. We used a makeshift arrangement initially, then made a removable one. I cannot recollect seeing a HR34 with a bimini and fitting one as a permanent fixture would not be easy.
  • Have a bigger noat! In many ways the HR34 performed well, the relatively small size makes for economy in marinas. A larger boat carries more water, has larger batteries, can carry bigger wind generators and solar panels. But, you have what you have.

What would we have liked to have done but did not?

  • Spent more time in many places.
  • Returned more often to places that we liked.
  • Seen more of Greece.
  • Spent more time in the Adriatic.
  • Spent more time....


. . .

Project Posidonia

This is all about protecting the Posidonia sea grass and relates to an EU "Life" Directive. From June until September there are buoys that are free to use. There are some complications. You can only register on-line but you can book a buoy, on-line or by phone, two to 20 days in advance, not always easy or possible on a boat.
On our first use, we picked a buoy at random hoping it was not pre-booked. There was no pick up buoy and the line to attach our lines was some distance down. Later we saw the warden fixing broken pick up lines. Generally, they were in good condition.
When we tried to claim our first "reserved" buoy, it was occupied by a day motor boat that had clearly been left there for some while. The warden said that he could do nothing about an unattended boat on a buoy.
There seems no reason why one should have to reserve a buoy and this is ignored by those based in the area. Just go and pick a buoy was the advice. The wardens do try to be helpful and want the buoys used, even if not pre-booked. So, do not worry if you have not booked. Just look for the warden in a red coloured RIB, probably on duty between about 1100 and 1900. Ask if there is a free buoy. Booked buoy usually have a notice attached, so avoid these unless it is late in the day when you might hope that the other boat has just not made it,
On the whole the system works well and we used the Posidonia buoys several times in various places from late June through to August 1. Our only disappointment was at Cala de s’Oli on Formentera; there are only 11 buoys for our size boat and it was early August. We recommend others to use the buoys and to book whenever possible.
I suppose that it is too much to hope that similar schemes could be employed in the UK. What does a buoy cost per night in Salcombe or up the Dart? If the Baleares can do it free, why not the UK? Perhaps the environmentally friendly Duke of Cornwall might be interested in the concept. Surely, there is some marine life that he would be prepared to try and save – especially with a little EU help...


The above makes no attempt at being a work of literature. It is a purely factual account of what we did and some of the attractions/problems encountered. (An everyday story of sailing folk?) It may be of some interest to others wishing to sail in the area. Of course, what we like and dislike may be different from other people. Situations change and someone else may get different impressions. More detailed comments can be found in notes on ports and anchorages over the whole of the Mediterranean, submitted to the CA by members.