Toward the Spanish mainland

Saturday April 30th

After a splendid meal in an Ibiza Town restaurant where we all ate too much tapas and then struggled to conquer the mounds of food that came as main courses, except Vicky who opted to go straight to desserts and Martin who cleverly managed to nibble something for almost everyone’s plate, the crew retired late to bed on Friday night. Ibiza had been fun but the weather dictates it is time to go. On Monday 30 knots are forecast for Spanish waters off Cartagena. Before then and after too, brief weather windows provide an opportunity to make further westing. From mid next week onwards a Poniente is forecast to blow, these strong westerlies will make progress west through the Straits of Gibraltar virtually impossible, dashing our hopes of reaching Portugal by the end of our three weeks of voyaging.

Leaving Ibiza behind in glorious sunshine but with a hint of high wispy cloud, an indicator of the weather to come, Temptress set a course south west for the mainland. It’s 144nm to Cartagena and a further 119nm west to Almerimar. The current plan is for a couple of nights in the former to allow the first batch of weather to blow through, then head to the latter and leave Temptress there to fly home. Work beckons for most of the crew, however the summer should provide opportunities to sail Temptress out of the Med and make the voyage northwards to Northern Ireland.

Both marinas, like Ibiza, are places we visited in back in 2002, Temptress after umpteen thousand nautical miles around the globe is reaching familiar sailing grounds. Our unintentional circumnavigation is finally after almost nine years coming to a conclusion. After all this time, we have totally different aspirations for our boating future. Skipper and First Mate are both looking forward to a return to the life we had prior to becoming expats in 2010, using the boat at weekends to explore local harbours, pottering about fixing or improving things, maybe partaking in the odd passage race, with longer trips for holidays, perhaps to the islands of Scotland or the west coast of Ireland. Generally a much more relaxed style of boat ownership.

After twenty two years in our ownership Temptress needs a bit of a makeover, after all it is thirty years since she left Jeanneau’s factory. There’s varnish to redo, things like cabin windows to replace and, as our circumnavigating will be complete, she needs to be returned to a weekend cottage state rather than carrying a massive repository of stores and provisions. Books, tropical clothing, towels and bedding, the heavy collection of charts and pilot guides covering the globe and so much more will no longer be needed onboard. There’s several months worth of tins in the bilge, pulses, beans, pasta and rice in the dry stores to be eaten through. Fabric for canvas and sail repairs that occupy an aft cabin shelf, autopilot spares, reels of electrical cable, courtesy flags and spare ensigns, a year’s supply of Imperial Leather, the heavy duty sewing machine and much more that fills every nook and cranny will be decamped to storage ashore. The next phase of Temptress’s life will have two useable aft cabins, lockers that are empty and bilges clear of provisions. She may even float a little higher!

Meanwhile back to our current passage, Temptress motored more south of the waypoint during the day as the forecast shows the calm reaching down to south of our destination with the winds initially building more strongly along the coast. The theory being that when the southwesterly wind comes we can bear away a little towards the mainland rather than beat directly into it. Though we also need to be mindful of the traffic separation scheme off Cabo Palos just below the Mar Menor, as a small ship we need to be inside of it or face a longer detour around it offshore.

Soon too we will cross the Meridian and longitude will once again be measured in degrees west rather than east, another milestone in our globe trotting as we’ve been marking progress westwards in degrees east since Fiji! Martin and Vicky have gone from novice yachties to competent offshore sailors, they will each log a thousand nautical miles at sea before we reach port.

The motoring continued through the night and into the morning. Our track wobbling a bit more westwards as the winds turned south enabling us to tack the main but basically the wind was on the nose and mostly too light to actually sail. By dawn Temptress had reached the inshore traffic zone of the separation scheme off Cabo’s Palos and crossed the Meridian, longitude is now measured in terms of degrees west again. There was lots of shipping and a few yachts, the latter mostly heading east as winter berthing rates at various western Med marinas comes to an end and the summer cruising season starts.

Sunday May 1st

All morning we motored along the coast, past some spectacular rocky, green scenery. In a few months this will be brown and scorched under the fierce summer sun. Venetian influenced lighthouses with their square building as a base supporting the light tower stood on many headlands. Like climbing a mountain every headland revealed another to be passed, our destination never in sight until we actually turned north. Cartagena is tucked away deep in a bay surrounded by steep, high hills which reach down in long fingers leaving just a small opening. No wonder it has been a harbour for millennia, the city has Roman ruins a plenty and the story of Sir Frances Drake cheekily raiding them during siesta and stealing the canons from the hilltop Venetian forts is one they’d rather forget.

Cartagena is home to shipyards, the Spanish navy and a friendly Club de Regates. Today it also welcomed three cruise ships, one, Wonder of the Seas, is the worlds largest with around seven thousand passengers. It was parked along side the quay that the yacht club pontoons attach to on the other side, towering 17 decks high and completely blocking our view of the bay as well as casting a huge shadow over the moored yachts. Rows and rows of balconies, larger than any hotel it’s a monster. I much prefer our version of ocean travelling thank-you.

We checked in at the club where Beatrix the receptionist was amazed to find Temptress’ details in their computer system from twenty years ago. Paperwork complete, the crew retired to the yacht club terrace where the sun shone between the stern of the big liner and the bows of the smaller Viking cruise liner. After a long late lunch, a snooze then showers, it was time to join the citizens for a stroll through the handsome city streets before an excellent supper of traditional local food.

Ships Log: Ibiza to Cartagena – 142nm, Messolonghi to Cartagena – 1122nm