Monday, September 21, 2015

Alicante; Cartagena; ; Aguilas; and Aguadulce

Arrived in Aguadulce a few days ago.  Here is a recap of our passages down the coast of Spain.  We have left the Costa Blanca and are now in the Costa del Sol region.  Only 161NM remaining to Gibraltar and we hope to arrive there 1 October.

Statue in water just off port bow of our berth in
Alicante.  Good thing there was ample lighting
of the area when we departed in the dark.
After leaving Ibiza, we anchored in the tiny cove at Moraira for only 1 night before continuing onward about 40NM to Alicante, arriving late on a busy Saturday afternoon.  We berthed in the rather expensive marina for only 2 nights.  BTW, we are finding the RCC Pilotage sailing guidebook published by Imray to be somewhat of a disappointment.  Many times it would have made arrival much easier if the author had added 1 or 2 additional sentences.  Rather than simply stating to go to the waiting pontoon near the fuel dock for the marina at Alicante, it would have been much more informative to advise readers where that waiting pontoon is located.  Such as:  proceed to the low waiting pontoon immediately past the fuel dock on the starboard side when entering the marina.  With that simple sentence added then arriving boats would know exactly where to go and to have fenders placed on starboard side hanging low.  That fuel dock was very busy when we arrived and the small area congested with power boats waiting for space at the small fuel dock.  We managed to dock with the assistance of another sailor handling our first dock line and Bill stepped off to handle the second dock line.  But it was a very tight fit parallel parking between boats being fueled and a large catamaran also checking into the marina.  Thank you once again, Henri Amel, for this powerful bow thruster!  Bill can parallel park this boat like a champ!

Full-scale replica of Trinidad
Winds would be strong from the SW for the following day and easing to light easterly winds afterwards so we stayed put for 2 nights.  Our berth was right in front of a statue in the water and very near the enormous replica of the old Spanish galleon Nuestra Señora de la Santísima Trinidad.  Bill shocked me by reciting some statistics about this old ship.  Then he admitted that he had seen a model of it in the maritime museum in Madrid.  He had gone to that museum one day with our son and grandson while I went to another museum with our daughter-in-law and granddaughters.  I was surprised that he remembered so many details of this old ship.  The ship was built in Havana, Cuba, in 1769 and was the largest warship built to date.  The gun complement originally was 112 guns but was soon increased to be 140 guns; later modified down to 136 guns. The ship was wrecked and lost in October 1805. This full-scale replica now serves as a restaurant.  It was a beautiful old ship.
Small scale replica of the Trinidad in maritime
museum at Cartagena

The remains of the shipwreck appear to have been found recently:

The area around Alicante has been inhabited for over 7000 years.  The first tribes of hunter gatherers moved down here gradually from Central Europe between 5000 and 3000 B.C. The city here was founded by the Carthaginians and named Akruheuta; it was the center of the Punic Empire.  Later, the Romans renamed it Luccentum.  From that name, the Moors later named it Lekant.  Their successors derived Alicante from that.  The British arrived during the early 18th century and it became a seat of a British mercantile colony.  Alicante was occupied by the British during the Peninsular War.  It was a Republican center during the civil war of the 1930s, and Primo de Rivera was executed here in 1936.

We departed Alicante at 05:45 and the bars were still pumping out loud music as we motored out of the marina in the dark.  The first boat we saw outside the breakwater was another Spanish warship.  This was the 4th warship we had seen since departing from Barcelona.  Three were Spanish and 1 was Italian monitoring Spanish waters.  We got a laugh from the Italian warship VHF radio communications.  The Spanish always end each radio transmission with 'cambio' --- as in, 'come back' or 'respond to me.'  But cambio has another meaning = change.  As in monetary change from a purchase transaction or to exchange currency.  The Italians must have used a translation from Spanish to English because every time they ended a VHF transmission they would end it saying "change." Example:  "Cargo ship Martha, this is Italian warship 12; change."  Strangest radio hailing we have heard in awhile.

A statue(s) in Cartagena.  There were statues all over
that thing honoring at least a dozen people.  One
way to honor all who deserve it without spending
a fortune and wasting ground space.

The 66NM from Alicante to Cartagena was yet another motor-sail in very light easterly winds.  But at least winds were not 20+ knots directly on our bow, so that was a good thing. However, there was a 3 to 4 meter swell right on our bow and that made for slow-going.  As well as adverse current ranging from 1/2 knot to 1 1/2 knots.  We were really glad to see this day end with arrival into Cartagena.  Very strong winds from west were predicted for the following 3 days so we booked into Yacht Port Cartagena marina for 3 nights to wait it out. This was a nice respite.  
Cartagena City Hall.  Note marble streets.

For some reason that I cannot explain, arriving in Cartagena was special for me.  Bill did not feel that way, but I did.  Probably something related to our stay in Cartagena, Colombia, which we enjoyed so much in late 2007.  The proper name of that city is Cartagena de las Indias and I was pleased to be fortunate to visit the original of this namesake.  So we have seen Cartagena in the New World and the original Cartagena in the Old World.

The smallest Coke Light
ever seen.

On our first full day there we walked past the old city wall and down the marble streets.  Yes; MARBLE streets.  Bet those get really slippery on rainy days.  We enjoyed walking the area and absorbing the sights; loved the old ornate architecture.  We stopped for lunch at a sidewalk cafe.  The 'fried fish' we ordered turned out to be a huge plate of fried whole tiny fish.  Neither of us would eat that because we do not eat fish heads and guts and tails, regardless of how tiny and crispy.  
Fish, complete with guts.
Doesn't that sound
But the salads were good and flan desserts were good, so we were happy.  Bet the waiter thought we were a little crazy for not even tasting that fish.  Next we found a small supermarket where I bought 12 vacuum-sealed small pork tenderloins for our freezer.  Thinking ahead for that Atlantic crossing in early January.  I love that large freezer locker.

The next day the winds were howling!  Made the docks more than a little lively.  The boat was perfectly safe as it was being blown away from the dock rather than onto it, so this was a good day to do a bit of sight-seeing.  Or maybe that should be site-seeing in this case.

First scuba diving kit. Some kind of fabric. 

First up was the maritime museum.  This is very inexpensive and worth a visit.  Nothing really different from other maritime museums, but with such a strong maritime history known for Cartagena this was a 'must' visit.  Cartagena port is really kind of hidden from the sea. Driving in here made me wonder how in the world ancient sailors ever found this place.  It is surrounded by 7 or 9 high hills with fort or battlements constructed on top of each of those hills.  Very well protected.

Who knew!

I did no research for Cartagena; therefore, will relate only what information is in the sailing guide.   According the this book (which we do not trust), the area was first developed by Hasdrubal about 243 B.C. and became the center of Carthaginian influence in Europe.  This was helped by the slaves working the gold and silver mines of this region.  

There were a number of paintings
displayed in the museum on which
purchasers were bidding.  This
one had a a bid of 800 Euro.
Seriously?  Many of my artistic
friends could do better.

Hannibal, who was Hasdrubal's brother, used Cartagena as a base for his expedition across the Alps.  Cartagena also became the primary target of Scipio the Elder.  The Romans duly destroyed Carthaginian influence here.

St. James the Great is said to have landed here in 36 A.D., bringing Christianity to Spain from Palestine (a sea passage that legend claims to have taken 4 days.  Yeah; right. Not that fast unless Palestine extended much farther west across to maybe Tunisia back then.)  Subsequently it passed into the hands of the Barbarians and then the Moors.  Phillip II fortified the surrounding hills in the 16th century and the Sir Francis Drake stole its guns in 1585 and took them to Jamaica.  Charles III established an arsenal and naval base in the 18th century.  In most recent times, the Republicans held out here for months against Madrid during the Civil War in 1936.  There is a castle, Castillo de la Concepcion, and many old churches to visit.  

We skipped those in lieu of a visit to yet another Roman theater. Figured this would be the final Roman theater we will ever visit.  And it was worth spending a few hours seeing some of the same things we have seen dozens of times farther east in the Med because we learned a few tidbits not seen at those other ruins.

Note the little men depicted inside the cage in the upper left.
Run, run, little man.  Raise the marble column.

One of those things was a visual aid explaining how a Roman crane worked.  It was a 2 part affair.  One part was the tall crane itself with block and tackle that could lift very heavy objects to great heights.  And the second part was what was used to facilitate that lifting.  

That second part reminded me of a squirrel cage; a revolving cage like for a hamster to run off its excess energy.  It looked sort of like a large ferris wheel.  A couple of men sat in a seat inside the cage until their efforts were required to force the crane part to lift something.  Then they would stand up and run like crazy...facing the outside edge of the cage...causing the cage to revolve...which moved the ropes to the crane.  Really quite ingenious.  Manual power by a running slaves.  

Bill near center.  This theater was buried beneath many
houses over the centuries.  That had to be removed
to find this theater which had been forgotten.

I won't go into all the stuff about this particular theater.  Other than to mention that there was a complete urban renovation during the first century B.C. which took place under orders by Emperor Augustus (Octavian, nephew of Julius Caesar).  A forum district was added and many other improvements and restorations at that time.  Parts of this theater have been restored to illustrate what it was like after the renovations ordered by Emperor Augustus.  It is well-done.

Roman theater partially restored.

Las Aguilas:
Motored (yet again!) from Cartagena to Puerto de las Aguilas, only about 32 NM.  Based on information on Noonsite, we had contacted the small marina there by telephone and confirmed a reservation for Thursday night.  But we were turned away upon arrival by a man waving his arms and saying the marina was all full.  Well, that was a disappointment because there are no 'good' anchorages in the area.  We attempted to anchor in front of the mooring field but caught grass and dragged.  We then moved to the eastern tip of the bay and anchored behind the green navigational light in 6 meters over sand.  Anchor set well here and all was fine until the wind died further and the swell took over.  Oh man! What a rolly night!  So bad that neither of us ate anything for dinner and just went to bed before the sun was even down.  The boat was rolling side to side so badly that we could not stand up without holding onto something.  I laid down and read for a few hours until sleepy; Bill could not stand even to do that.  This motion bothered him much more than it bothered me.  Anchor was up the following morning by 06:00 and we motored out of that bay under starlight.  

Puerto de Aguadulce:
Wind was almost non-existent when we departed Las Aguilas early that morning but we knew it would fill in by noon and be strong from the north, clocking to northeast.  And did it ever!  Again we motored, but only for a few hours.  Before noon winds were 20-23 kts from north and we were sailing along nicely wing-on-wing with the genoa poled out to port.  

Now...this was more like it!  Great sailing day!  Finally!

As we rounded Cabo de Gata promontory, winds kicked up to low 30s; so we brought in the pole as that is too strong to be using a pole.  Plus, we worried about the pole possibly dipping into the growing seas which we were surfing when we rounded the point and headed up towards Aguadulce.  (Plus, I do not like sailing that fast!)  After rounding the point the winds backed down again to mid-twenties and remained that high until we were inside the marina.  

It was 'interesting' entering this marina in winds that high.  Waves were pouring in with us surfing them even with just the motor running, no sails.   It looked like we were going to motor right up onto the beach!  Then about 110 degree angle turn to enter behind the breakwater and it was instant calm.  Water totally still and could not feel the wind at all.

S/V Libertad arrived today and we hope to rent a car to do a day trip of land travel one day this week.  This is the most inexpensively priced marina that we have seen in quite some time.  Perfect place to explore the land one day and to wait for more easterly winds to help us along towards Gib.

Since leaving Barcelona we had motored or motor-sailed 99% of the distance to Las Aguilas.  That wonderful day of sailing in strong NE-E winds brought that down to 85%.

Once again we are convinced that the Med is really better for power boats, not sailboats

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