And a belated update to the blog!
On leaving Ibiza for Altea on the mainland, we had a beam reach with winds of 10-12 knots, ideal for the new cruising chute, which was duly hoisted, and flown almost the whole way across. Now that we have sorted out the sock which is used to launch and douse the sail, we are delighted with it, and it is now a matter of practising to get the best out of it.
Our return to Altea gave us enough time to explore the old town on top of the hill once we had checked into the marina. The church is the central feature, and can be seen from afar but in fact was rather disappointing inside. The tiny streets radiating from it and down the hill in all directions, together with the carnival atmosphere, made it rather special. We enjoyed an excellent dinner in one of the many restaurants overlooking a range of mountains as the sun set, our last with Alan and Margaret before they had to return home.
We decided to sail direct to Mar Menor the next day, or rather motor, as what little wind there was, was insufficient to propel Pipistrelle at a speed that would get us to our destination before dark. We considered stopping at Isla de Tabarca south of Alicante, but not wanting a repetition of the roly poly night we’d spent at anchor at the Playa del Albir (Altea), gave it a miss.
Instead we picked up a mooring buoy on the east side of Isla Grosa, just outside Mar Menor, and had a very pleasant evening in calm waters.
We then took Alan and Margaret into Mar Menor and anchored for lunch off Isla Perdiguera, moving a couple of miles south to an evening anchorage off Los Urrutias where we witnessed yet again one of those beautiful Spanish sunsets.
Anchoring off Los Nietos the following day, we left Ribbit (the dinghy) at the rather dilapidated yacht club and took the ‘light railway’ to Cartagena. This half hour journey took us through countryside strewn with ruined buildings, chimneys and liftshafts – the remains of former lead and pyrite mining communities and now a fairly triste sight. In Cartagena we got our bearings over coffee and then went our separate ways until lunchtime. Much has been renovated in the city in recent years and climbing up to the Castillo de la Concepcion gave us not only a splendid view of the Roman Theatre, still currently under restoration, but also of the entire city and bay beyond. The girls even managed time for some retail therapy before lunch!
By the time we returned to Los Nietos in the afternoon, it was blowing hard from the north east, so much so that Alan and Margaret had individual damp journeys on Ribbit to the marina, from where they then were driven to Murcia airport for their evening flight home. A dust storm ensued which totally obliterated the land, with the hot wind approaching gale force, and a cabin temperature of 38C at 20.30. Pipistrelle and her sails were completely covered with a brown dust!
We then made our way back to Almerimar via La Subida in the Ensenada de Mazarron. To make a change we were the only yacht at anchor and were then joined by an English ketch called Landfall with Colin, Ann and their friends Malcolm and Chris on board. From there we sailed to Cala Bardina, and on to the hippy colony of Cala de San Pedro with its nasty little jellyfish which scored a hit on Bob, anchoring for one night in each bay. Puerto Genoves saw us return for what was going to be two nights at anchor, relaxing (again!) and swimming from the boat. Our plans were thwarted the following lunchtime when the wind picked up to 20 kn into the bay and we hurriedly made the decision to weigh anchor and seek shelter to the south of Cabo de Gata. Rounding the point under reefed staysail with the wind steady at 30 kn made for an exciting hour or so until we anchored at Ponte de la Teste. A number of other yachts joined us later that afternoon to escape the breezy conditions. Next morning the wind had died completely and we motored half of the 30 nm to Almerimar – such are conditions in the Med. It really is either feast or famine.
We spent another pleasant night at anchor outside the marina, before taking Pipistrelle alongside (or rather bows to) on August 1st to prepare her for being lifted out the following Monday and spending a month on the hard while we returned to the UK.