Cartagena was worth a three day visit. We were tied up in the marina while the westerly was blowing fiercely in the bay. We explored the town which has an abundance of public sculptures and visited the Roman theatre and the Forum precinct which dates back to the first century BC.

One of the sculptures.

The Roman theatre.

The town is partially enclosed by ramparts constructed by Charles III and has many well maintained historical buildings such as the monumental City Hall in the form of a triangle with different facades and also the house of Miguel de Cervantes, the writer of Don Quixote amongst others.

Charles III ramparts.

The eclectic City Hall.

We set off from Cartagena on the 5th November in a sparkling clean boat, inside and out, only for the rough passages over the next three days, to cover everything again in a layer of salt – that’s sailing. We anchored in Carboneras, Roquetas, Adra and Almunecar enroute.

Esprit’s route to Gibraltar.

The coastal strip from Roquetas to Motril just before Almunecar, falls between the tourist coasts of the Costa Blanca and the Costa del Sol. This strip should be called the Costa del Hothouses, as it is covered by hectares of massive plastic roofed hothouses. Clearly, this is the food basket of Spain and probably much of the EU, because of the warm climate and the south orientation.

Google maps detail of an area of hothouses.

The majestic Sierra Nevada mountains forms the backdrop to this coast. The cold front sweeping south from the Arctic around the 8th November, covering the UK in snow, also brought snow to these mountains and the temperature plummeted, requiring us to take out our jeans and jerseys.

First snow on the mountains behind Motril.

It’s been a long time between drinks (as we colloquially say in Australia), but when my brothers and I parked our camper van on the beach in Almunecar in 1975, it was a small and charming coastal village. We got to know Pepe’s Bar in Almunecar quite well, due to Pepe’s generous free tapa’s of smoked ham, olives and cheese. Usually to be followed by an order of Tortilla, a delicious spicy potato omelet. Below is a photo of the town today and somewhere behind the rows of apartments, you my find a small and charming village.

Almunecar today.

There was no time to sit and contemplate the changes that inevitably occur during the course of 44 years, so we pushed on with stops at Malaga, Torre del Mar and Marbella. Each day, the temperature dropped as the Arctic freeze swept south into the Mediterranean, with snowfalls on the mountains in Mallorca (Majorca). Rugged up and now in foul weather gear, we pushed on.

This is the Costa del Sol?

As we were approaching Gibraltar from the north east in a building wind, who should crop up on our AIS, but Paikea from NZ. We hadn’t seen Tina and Jonny for a while, as they were cruising in the Balearic islands of Majorca, Minorca and Ibiza – now, here we were sailing into Gib together facing a howling north wester as we rounded the tip of the “Rock”.

Paikea, out of the blue.

Approaching Gibraltar.

Rounding the Rock in a big sea.

Fortunately, Queensway Quay Marina where we had a booking for the following day, had a berth for us to enter a day early – anchoring off would have been impossible. Having all the amenities the Brits expect, we visited Raj’s Curry House for a calming bottle of wine and a delicious meal, before an early night.

The next day we were informed by the customs broker that our Hydrovane would only be cleared for collection the following day. James Pritchard from Pritchard’s Marine came around to measure up for the installation and promised to collect the gear from Customs the next morning. We took the opportunity to walk to the chandleries to buy additional bits and pieces, as I had two pumps to fix that afternoon – the leaking deck wash pump and a non-flushing toilet pump.

While I tackled the pumps and got them working again, Annie cycled to Morrisons Supermarket to buy some vittles. Anthony and Michelle from Melbourne Australia, on their catamaran Boomerang, two berths down, joined us for sundowners – they were just entering the Med, having come up from Morocco, so we could exchange useful information.

The Hydrovane gear in 5 boxes.

Next morning, James and Luke arrived with the gear for the Hydrovane and set to work, until the rain interrupted them at 1:30pm. They took the pieces that needed modifications back to their workshop, promising to be back the next morning to assemble the system.

Luke and James mounting the mock-up.

The job was completed on Friday morning for GBP 490, which allowed us to leave the marina, re-fuel the boat tax free in Gibraltar and motor to Alcaidesa Marina beyond the airport runway, which is the border between Gibraltar and Spain.

Harry the Hydrovane, our new crew member.

Now the reason for a three day stay in Spain is because, despite Gibraltar’s so-called tax free status, the only things cheap in Gib, are diesel and alcoholic spirits. For the rest, food, wine and beer are cheaper on the Spanish side. So we used these prices to re-stock our provisions for the next four months, as evidently, the only thing cheap in the Caribbean is rum,  which we don’t like.

The Rock from the other side, as we motor around to Alcaidesa Marina.

We had time to catch up with Paikea in the marina and start planning dates for the Atlantic crossing, as Jonny and Tina are good company and our boats have similar lengths and speeds. They had been to Morocco before, so while Annie and I sail to Tangier and Rabat to explore Morocco, they will stay in the marina to take their mast down and do some instrument re-wiring.

While waiting for the right tide through the Strait and a fair wind to Tangier, we say cheers until the Canaries.