Altwasser sailing diary

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Trafalgar to Costa del Sol
October 13th – 22nd 2003. 172 nautical miles.

Gibraltar October 13th – 15th

After several days of unfulfilled promises from the Spanish met. office of an end to the strong easterlies (always tomorrow, manana, manana…), the wind finally reduced. Losing no time, we reached Tarifa, the most southerly point of mainland Europe just after dawn on Monday morning. With limited visibility and little sea room between the Spanish shoreline and shipping lanes, we used short tacks to reach Gibraltar for lunch. Dolphins welcomed us into the bay. (“Gibraltar bay” on our Admiralty charts, “Baiha Algeciras” on our Spanish charts.) As Gib’s marinas were full, we dropped hook in an excellent local anchorage, just 30 metres into Spanish waters in the harbour of La Linea (literally “the line”). By way of a slightly naughty short-cut to avoid clearing British customs, (don’t tell her majesty), we took our dinghy across the line and spent Monday afternoon in Main Street. We drew sterling from Barclays, bought an Economist, saw unarmed policemen, shopped in M&S and celebrated Holy Communion at Holy Trinity Cathedral. It was like Blighty in the sunshine!

On Tuesday afternoon we learnt of a space in the excellently positioned Queensway marina. So we cleared British customs, a procedure requiring four separate officials, all Spanish, to scrutinise our papers, and tied up in downtown Gib.

By 9:00 Wednesday morning we had ascended the upper rock and seen the peaks of North Africa’s mountains rise from the dawn mist. During the descent Liz had a monkey jump on her shoulder.

NATO simulated a nuclear sub. accident during our stay and brought HMS Turbulent into port, despite local Spanish protest. To ensure we kept our distance as naval officers dressed in head to toe white jump suits crawled all over the sub., we were escorted out of Gib. by two heavily armed naval patrol boats.

Gibraltar to Fuengirola October 15th

We entered the Mediterranean. The Sun shone. We celebrated by cleaning the decks (Liz) and pouring a drink (Coffee and a McVitees Digestive). Our objective of five months earlier had been reached.

With the wind force 4 from East-South-East and our course 55 degrees, we sailed perfectly downwind for eight hours, adjusting the sails and course only once to dodge a trawler. We saw little of Fuengirola, a package holiday resort popular with Brits and Germans, as we arrived at dusk and left at Dawn.

Just as leaving the harbour we met Robert and Sarah on Yansa, friends from Barbate, anchored off the beach. We got them out on deck to chat before learning they had only arrived at 3 am. Oops sorry!

Fuengirola to Motril October 16th
With less wind on Thursday, we needed all the daylight hours to reach the large fishing harbour and good anchorage of Motril. It was interesting to note that as the wind turned to give a light dry offshore breeze all night there was no trace of dew on the decks at dawn.

Motril to Almerimar October 17th
The wind built from the west during Friday, we spent several hours at 7 knots sailing due east. We arrived early afternoon in force 6 with a growing swell. Turning into the wind to drop the mainsail reminded us of the Atlantic. Ironically, another friend from Barbate, Neil, preceded us into port by an hour, and despite having circumnavigated the globe as a watch leader in the British Steel challenge, he misjudged the wind strength when lowering his sails and lost his hat.

The Almerimar marina complex was opened in 1978, a joint venture between the local council and Japanese investors, and can berth 1,100 yachts. Around the four Darsenas are wide tiled pedestrian terraces, shops and two and three storey apartments, all clad in stone, each with its own balcony and to a good standard. There are many Brits, Germans and Dutch here, and other nationalities too. A few South Africans showed up at Kenny’s Irish Bar to watch the Rugby on Saturday, but they went very quiet during the second half. (Well done the English rugby team!).

So far we have only started to explore. We are tucked well away from the sea, protected from all weathers and with a view of the mountains. Within the complex are several banks, supermarkets, laundrettes, hairdressers, doctors, a vet, chandlers, internet cafes, a Church and endless restaurants and bars. Oh yes, and just to make us feel at home and remind us of our house on the Park in Bristol, there are ducks here too.

We plan to use this as our base for the next several months, we are looking forward to visits from Chris, Ben and his friend Olivia and we hope to explore inland: Granada; Alhambra and the Sierra Nevada mountains by hire-car and the coast by boat.