Farewell dinner with our friends from Olhoa
1st April 2006 Well here we are at the start of the 2006 cruising season. The last 5 months in Olhoa have been very enjoyable and we are sorry to be leaving some very good friends (Julie and Karl, Michael and Ria) as we go our separate ways, it's to be hoped that our paths will cross again at sometime in the future.
We set off from Olhoa on the morning of the 30th March looking forward to an overnight sail to Barbate on the Spanish coast. We have Eddie and Jean Gaughan, friends from our home village of Kilcreggan on board as crew for the next couple of weeks. The night sail turned into a night motor with not a breath of wind, but it was warm and the daylight hours were sunny so the crew set about getting a suntan, something that isn't available in Scotland in early April. We arrived in Barbate at 11.00am and booked into the marina to await suitable weather to pass through the Straits of Gibraltar. The Straits are only 15 miles wide and the wind blows through the Pillars of Hercules (the mountains on each side of the Straits) either from the East or West and we wanted a West wind to take us through.
Approach to Gibraltar
This we got on Monday 3rd April and we set sail for Gibraltar, the distance is only 35 miles so it was a very pleasant day sail with the sun offering a very pleasant 70 degrees. The scenery along the coast was not unlike the West Coast of Scotland on a summer's day and we arrive in Gibraltar early evening feeling very relaxed and booked into Queensway Quay Marina for 3 nights. For Anne and myself Gibraltar was a strange place, foreign but more British than Britain. We went shopping in Safeway (now Morrisons) and there found all the foodstuffs we had been unable to find until now, and in the same locations as you would find in the Supermarket back home. We were also back with the £ after a year using the Euro, we had to re-orientate our thinking, things in Gibraltar with a few exceptions are more expensive than Britain. We enjoyed our stop in Gibraltar but were keen to get across the Straits to Ceuta (Africa) and set off on Thursday 6th with the wind blowing F4 from the Southwest. Eddie was on the helm and we flew across at 7.5 knots (best sail so far) arriving in a couple of hours in Ceuta Marina. Ceuta is a duty free port and as such is very much cheaper than any other place we have called at so far. Marina charges were 10 Euro per night including water and electricity (in Gibraltar we had to pay extra for both), fuel was 0.71 cents per litre compared with over 1.00 Euro in Portugal, shopping was also convenient with two large Supermarkets close at hand. Another reason for visiting Ceuta is to take a guided day trip into neighbouring Morocco by mini-bus. This turned out to be one of the highlights of our travels so far, unfortunately we were advised not to carry cameras or handbags and therefore didn't get any pictures. As it turned out a small pocket camera would have been safe to carry as long as you don't use it in sensitive areas and here the guide would keep you right. We visited the Medina and Casaba in the town of Tetouan, had lunch in a beautiful Moorish restaurant and then drove through the mountains to Tangier where we had a walk through the old part of town and finally returned via the coast to Ceuta. To anyone visiting the area this excursion is a must. We very much enjoyed our stay in Ceuta but Jean and Eddie were due to depart from Malaga in a few days time so it was time for move on
Ceuta Town by night from the marina .
The nearest marina to Malaga is at Benalmadena 9 miles to the West, so this is where we were headed on Sunday 9th April. The wind was a light Southwest and we were heading Northeast so we spent the day sailing/motor sailing the 57 miles in pleasant sunshine arriving in Benalmadena at 20.00 hours. The marina at Benalmadena is huge berthing 1000 boats and the town is everything that we have tried to avoid so far, definitely a package tour destination. However it was different from what we have experienced so far and we enjoyed it for that. On our last night together we decided to take in a show and were entertained to a great night by The Rat Pack at one of the local nightspots. Next day it was off to the airport to see Jean and Eddie depart back to Scotland and pick up our new crew for the next two weeks (daughter Susie and her friend Jen). Many thanks to Jean and Eddie for a very enjoyable time together, it was great to be together and get some sailing in. I think the girls also enjoyed themselves. Look forward to meeting up again soon.
Well they say bad luck goes in threes, and so it was with us!
The girls wanted to visit Morocco and so we were backtracking 57 miles to Ceuta when the first gremlin struck, our navigation computer went down. At first we thought not a problem we have a back-up computer. Alas when we fired up the second computer it had been corrupted by software we had been trying to load in Olhao and wouldn't open up the navigation software, so we had to rely on the GPS that had been loaded with the necessary waypoints for navigation. We arrived in Ceuta at midnight in the middle of a thunderstorm with torrential rain, but glad to be in. On checking the computers in the morning one was found to be a hardware problem and as the computer was still under warranty it would have to be sent back to the supplier. The other computer I thought I could fix but I wasn't sure, so we decided to buy a new computer. We wanted it loaded with the latest version of the navigation programme but this would mean hiring a car and returning to Portugal, so it was decided to return to Gibraltar after the girls had made their visit to Morocco. This is the point when gremlin number two struck. We were sitting in the marina at Ceuta quite happy with the girls off on their visit to Morocco, the sun was shining and there was peace in the land. When an Italian yacht entered the marina and tried to berth next to us, at this point I should explain, berthing here is bow or stern to the quay or pontoon. We were standing on the side-deck waiting to help him in and it was obvious that he wasn't lined up with the space he was trying to get into. I shouted to him to go back out and try again, instead he gunned it in reverse and hit the back of Alba Voyager at about six knots. The damage was considerable, putting a hole in our stern (fortunately well above the waterline) and pushing our bow onto the stone quay. The Marina Official who was also there guiding him in ordered him back to the waiting pontoon at the entrance to the marina and called the Port Police. So the rest of the day was taken up with the police taking photographs and getting statements and photocopies of insurance documents, not an easy job with English, Spanish and Italian speaking participants. The evening was spent making temporary fibreglass repairs to the hole in our stern.
When the girls returned from their Morocco trip they were surprised to hear that we had had such an exciting day. Next day we sailed for Gibraltar just fifteen miles away and had a good sail over, booking into Queensway Quay Marina for three days. We left the girls here to do some sightseeing on The Rock while Anne and myself set off on the drive to Portugal to get our computer problem sorted out.
On our return a couple of days later and with time getting short for the girls we decided to sail directly to Ibiza (240 miles) next day as the forecast was favourable. For the first 20 hours we had a cracking sail averaging 7 knots an hour, then as often happens the wind died and we put on the motor to maintain 5 knots. After 6 hours of motoring gremlin number three struck, the timing gear came off the camshaft and punctured the timing casing of the engine. This was disaster with a capital D. We altered course and set sail for Garrucha, which has a large harbour and small marina on the Spanish mainland. The wind was still very light and progress was slow, we arrived at 9.00pm and tied up to a fishing boat in the harbour, as the marina was full. In the morning I stripped the engine and found the fault. I managed to re-bolt the gear wheel to the camshaft using bolts from the timing casing. The timing casing had a hole in it where the gear wheel had gone through, this I filled and faired with Plastic Padding and as good luck would have it held. We started the engine and it seemed to run okay, time would tell. Next we changed the engine oil in case any small metal fragments had contaminated it. All this took 10 hours and I went to bed tired but satisfied, we would live to fight another day. Next day we set sail for Cartagena 40 miles East and the jumping off place for Ibiza, after one and a half hours of motor sailing into 3 metre seas, we decided to call it a day and headed back to Garrucha to await better conditions. One plus point, the engine held out okay. The following day we decided to try again, this time the gods were more sympathetic and we arrived in Cartagena after a pleasant day sail. Cartagena turned out to be a delightful place not the commercial port we had expected. There was a good marina with excellent facilities and pleasant staff. The town was not the usual high rise blot on the landscape architecture that you now find in so many of the Mediterranean seaside towns but stylish Moorish and old colonial buildings. Susie decided that she would treat us all to dinner that night but it had to be in traditional Spanish style, so we set about looking for a suitable restaurant. Next day we spent in harbour as the wind would have been on the nose for Ibiza, the forecast for the following day was much better. And so it was we set sail for Ibiza (134 miles) hoping to carry a fair wind all the way. The first twelve hours were fine and we made excellent progress, then the gods decided that was enough and the wind died, so it was on with the engine. We motor sailed through the night and passed through the middle of a terrific lightening storm just before dawn. I had read somewhere that if you are struck by lightening the only safeguard for electrical items with chips (computer, GPS etc.) is to put them in the oven which works as a Faraday Cage. With the luck we have had recently, I thought this would be prudent, Susie thought I was mad! Anyway the lightening passed over and we came out the other side unscathed. After the storm passed we had a wind change ( not that there was much of it) and we decided to alter course for Ibiza town instead of San Antonio. This we reached at 12.00 noon and booked into the Club Nautico Marina, pleased that we had made it in time for the girls to have a couple of days on the island before they flew home. This would also see the start of our cruise of The Balearic Islands.
Sunrise on route to Ibiza
Ibiza Harbour viewed from our marina