Altwasser sailing diary

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Almerimar to Cartagena
March 17th – 23rd 2004. 120 nautical miles.

With a 4 am wake-up call, a taxi, flight and three buses, we returned from an English winter to the Costa del Sol to find Bingo completely dry. To our pleasant surprise, and with no exaggeration, there was not a single drop of water in the bilges. So, after stocking up at the local Supermarket (80 steps away), eating out at our local Mister Pizza (15 steps away), farewell drinks with Den and Sue (Kismet) and threatening the slightly damp engine air filter with a hair drier, we were ready to sail.

Almerimar to Puerto San Jose, round Cabo de Gata, March 17th

Forecast NE winds, that would have enabled us to sail, materialised as F4 on the nose, so we mostly motored round Cabo de Gata, seeing large dolphins on the way to Puerto San Jose, an attractive little port tucked into the rocks.

Puerto San Jose to Aguilas March 18th

Winds the following day were mostly still against us but did free up in the afternoon allowing us to sail beyond our initial planned target of Garrucha and on to Aguilas, another small port set in an attractive natural bay, where mooring buoys and a calm protected anchorage were also available. However, tying up in the port allowed a brisk morning walk to the 18th Century castle of San Juan on Montana de Aguilas with views over the port to the East and the sandy bay to the West.

Aguilas to Cartagena March 19th

We motor-sailed with a Swedish yacht, Harmony, on the relatively short trip from Aguilas to Cartagena. Whilst mostly a few miles offshore, cutting across the Golf of Mazarron, Punta del Cerro just NE of Aguilas and Cabo Tinoso near Cartagena, looked dramatic in the sun.

Cartagena March 19th – 23rd

We were welcomed to Cartagena by Brian and Shirley (Airwave), who wintered here and generously gave us a tour of the city and dinner on board. It was good to meet up again and as we both plan to sail to Sicily via the Balearics, Sardinia and Tunis, we look forward to future engagements.

Founded as Carthago Nova, latin New Carthage, Cartagena boasts a natural bay and deep water harbour with centuries of history as a strategic base for the Cartaginians, Romans, Barbarians (Visigoths), Moors and in the modern era, Spain’s Mediterranean navy. The city is built on five small hills and protected by larger hills to the South West and the 12 mile long Mar Menor lagoon to the North East. Cartagena has a long military and naval history, Hannibal used it as his base for traversing the Alps during the Punic Wars and one of the city’s most celebrated sons, Isaac Perle, is credited with inventing the Submarine. Today Cartagena is home to the Spanish Mediterranean fleet, a well hidden oil refinery, a large container port, large shipyard and the modern and welcoming Club de Regattas. During our stay, visiting yachts ranged from a friend´s 23 foot Contessa, True Blue, to Al Salaman, a five storey super yacht belonging to a Saudi Prince and reportedly valued above £100 million.

Despite its celebrated history, the decline of local limestone and sandstone mining in the 1980s left Carthagena looking run down by the end of the millennium. However, a new designated status as Puerto de Culturas, with public and private funding, is starting to drive cultural and tourist development and hence economic prosperity. The evidence can be seen in the new marina and marble paved harbour front, renovation of historic and civic buildings, new hotels and residential developments. The Roman theatre is an archaeological site where a variety of preservation, restoration and rebuilding techniques are being tested.

We have enjoyed visiting the Naval Museum (and reading the official account of why the 1588 Armada was not able to successfully invade Britain,) the Castle, Roman Theatre, Baths and Temple and still found time to read and relaxing in the sun. We conclude that Cartagena is an interesting holiday destination and a good place to invest.