Today I have decided I should update my site with a new blog post….for two reasons.. one I haven’t done it for a while, …and secondly because today is one of those very rare cloudy days here in the Balearic Islands so an excellent opportunity to sit and actually do it.. and I’m embarrassed to admit that my last post was way back in August of last year..terrible!!
We arrived a few weeks early in Cartagena as planned…and the reason for this was so that we could be there for the superb week long Roman Carthaginian festival they hold in the last week of September.. I could write a whole chapter on this event alone…If you get the chance its well worth seeing.
We chose to winter here for numerous reasons, one being that quite a number of our friends from Lagos were doing exactly the same,…. it has a vibrant winter community of liveaboards,…. its a lovely city,…and last but not least they do excellent deals over winter for Catamarans which pay the same price as monohulls.. The marina itself is very well situated in the heart of the City…its also very well protected from any adverse weather.. The harbour itself is a very busy place…it not only has the two marina’s it is also a container port, a military port, and also a cruise ship venue…with daily visits by the huge cruise ships that ply the Mediterranean right up until the beginning of November when they hop across the Atlantic for the Caribbean season.. it takes a little getting used to stepping out on to the back of the boat in the morning to be faced by the huge expanse of a cruise ship with hundreds of cabins looking down on you.
The marina itself is great and the staff that work there are some of the best and most friendliest we have come across anywhere… there are no real criticism’s to really mention at all on that count… Cartagena itself for us on a purely personal level was not quite perfect however…very close but not quite..It may sound daft to say this but Cartagena is very Spanish !! yes I know we are in Spain but what I mean by that comment is this….in nearly every place we have been to from Lagos to Almerimar you can nearly always seek out a bar that you can get to socialise with other Brits and usually enjoy a game of English football on the TV….sadly for me, not in Cartagena…as such its the one important aspect that was missing for me…..especially when you consider just what a large number of Brits…and other nationalities spend the winter there…the marina really needs a bar or something to have as a socialising hang out.. this view will obviously not be held by everyone….in fact many will probably rejoice its this way….me ?….well I did miss my Football !!…Oh and one other thing we missed…A beach….there is a very small one around a mile and a half away, but nothing you can get to very easily..
The City itself is very nice…if you like ancient history and architecture you will be in heaven…there is Roman history everywhere…in fact even in high street shops..yes seriously…one with a glass floor having being built above an Ancient Roman walkway..both bizarre but also fascinating.. There is always some archaeological dig or preservation project going on somewhere or another.. Oh and did I mention they like their festivals, their Roman Carthaginian one mentioned earlier and the religious week of celebrations being the major ones of note.. These take over the whole City…
One thing we did take advantage of whilst here was hiring a car. They do some ridiculously cheap deals from Murcia airport over the winter months…the hire companies apparently have to pay to store their cars at sites over winter so they would rather get them off site by hiring them out extremely cheaply… we are talking brand newish cars for around 2eu !! a day…in fact it is cheaper to hire a car for a month than to pay for an airport transfer.. it was soon obvious that most other liveaboards soon discovered this as very quickly the marina was full of hire cars for the winter…at those prices it really is a no brainer and not only makes life going to and from the out of town shopping centres so easy it also makes great days out to places such as Mazarron, which we did quite often, as its a great day out.. Oh and June says I have to mention the wonderful upholstery shop they have in Cartagena…its called “Casa Angel”…and even I have to admit its great…they can make pretty much anything and supply pretty much anything…we bought quite a bit of sunbrella type material from them which kept June busy over the winter months making chaps for our dinghy and numerous covers and shades for the boat, which is something you definitely need for the hot Med summer.
So to sum up we had a great time in Cartagena…met some wonderful people and it is certainly somewhere I would not hesitate to recommend to anyone looking for somewhere to spend a winter.. Would we go back?… actually no, we are glad we stayed there but as I said earlier its not quite perfect.
Balearics Islands….and Plans !
27th April, goodbye Cartagena. We left in fine weather with a nice breeze to shake off the cobwebs and make the short trip up to the inland lagoon of La Manga.. La Manga is a huge holiday resort with miles upon miles of hotels and apartments. Not the most attractive place. It does however have a huge inland lagoon which you have to go through a lifting road bridge to enter…its not very deep and the water quality is certainly not the best. We had planned to go in for a day or two just to anchor and allow me the opportunity to jump over the side and give the hulls a scrub to remove the 6 months of slime which had built up whilst holed up in Cartagena. Well unfortunately the jellyfish that have taken up residency put paid to that idea..in fact jellyfish have been a constant feature all summer in a lot of places.. So anyway I decided the hulls were not in too bad shape at all and could wait and we departed next morning. We made 3 further stops up the coast at Torrevieja, L’Adire just past Benidorm, and Moroira. We sat here for a couple of days until the wind was in our favour and on the 2nd May we set off on the 60 mile trip over to the Balearic Islands and the harbour of San Antoni, Ibiza.
As I sit writing this we have now spent 106 consecutive nights at Anchor…we have not been in any marina or even tied up to a buoy at all… previously we had read and heard loads and loads of stories of doom and gloom from people who said anchoring around the Balearics is a nightmare and becoming more and more impossible due to Poseidon grass police, fining you if you dare to drop your anchor on the Poseidon sea grass which proliferates around the coasts, bouys being laid in all the popular anchorages so you are not allowed to drop your own anchor…and just the simple fact everywhere is just too overcrowded…. well all I can say is yes some places do get crowded…in fact very crowded…but the rest is utter rubbish and scare-mongering as long as you use common sense when anchoring .. If you are not inclined to anchor and prefer to sit in marinas then that might be a different story..and I hope you have deep pockets, say no more ! But anchoring is easy. So long as you monitor the weather and move to a more sheltered spot if threatening weather is forecast then everything will be fine, and look for some sand to drop the anchor on. There’s loads of it so no need to anchor on grass in the first place. Of those 106 nights we have only had two that we have stayed awake for the night just to keep an eye on things in the wind…but nothing at all so far that has caused us anxiety.. Obtaining water is also relatively easy in most places and many marinas allow you to come in and take it usually for a few euros.. simplest way is just to ask fellow sailors who are already there for information… they are always more than glad to help.
All through the winter at Cartagena we had been making plans for the following winter. At one point I think there were around 9 other boats who were also doing the same and to cut a long story short a collective decision was made that Sicily would be a good place. There was a choice between Ragusa and Licata and after negotiations Licata won the day. We along with others duly paid our deposit to secure our berth and we then sat and made plans for the following season to hop over and spend the summer in Greece, going to old haunts that we visited when we chartered boats years ago… these plans continued to take shape…right up until on passage half way across to Mallorca from Ibiza… Myself and June had one of those discussions about were we doing the right thing, is it what we really want to do ?….yes one of those deep meaningful type discussions…well a few hours on and we both decided that no it wasn’t what we really wanted…what we both really wanted was to turn around and go back from where we came !…and the reason for that decision…we both love the Algarve…we both missed the Algarve…we both missed Lagos and the surrounding area and the variety and better sailing it gives us….so that’s what we are now doing…instead of rushing straight back however we are going to over winter on the Spanish mainland..we have booked in to Almerimar and also plan to lift out there again to do some jobs in January or February. Then in the spring we will start to make our way back to the Algarve via Gibraltar and our favourite haunts up that coast..
Why the change of heart? Well numerous reasons a few of which I will mention. As stated we love the Algarve and the Lagos region. Better sailing…its true that in the Med you frequently have too much or too little wind. The heat! The Med is often just too damn hot, especially in July/August…despite what people back home think temperatures up in the high 30’s or 40’s is just not enjoyable or pleasant.. Its strange because I thought it would be just a case of jumping off the back of the boat to cool down…well actually its not that easy simply because the sea is just too warm…out here we end up swimming around trying to find a colder spot in the water…its quite bizarre… but even then within 10 mins your are pouring sweat again… It is too crowded!…yes we have anchored everywhere but yes you are constantly aware of others anchoring too close to you and we have frequently told others to move for that reason….very often you are met with a gallic shrug or in the case of the Italians some curses and then they throw their fenders over the side as if to say “That will Do”….and what’s our trick to counter this….we go on deck with our camera and start taking pictures of the boat, the crew and the vessel registration number…its amazing how doing this focusses their minds all of a sudden…and so far has resulted in 100% success rate in getting them to move.. Lack of Variety!…. yes strange to say but we have both come to the conclusion that one secluded beautiful sunbaked Cala in the Balearics is much the same as every other sunbaked Cala…maybe this is the result of having spent so long at anchor…maybe. However it cannot be denied there is just much more variety in the Algarve…well we think so…Cost! yes cost..there is a very good reason that we have spent so long at anchor…mostly its because that’s what we prefer but we must admit a short spell tied up in a marina with all the convenience that brings is a lovely treat.. well not in the Balearics…for us it would be around 120eu per night ..yes per night to go in to a marina, and often more ….sorry but no way am I paying that amount…. again on the Algarve we used to think 30-40eu was expensive…well not now and when we are back there I wont now mind paying that if needed for a few days in a marina.. Greece! Been there done that….yes our plans were to go to Greece as we have spent loads of charters in both North and South Ionian and originally wanted to return…but on reflection its a lot of hassle just to go to areas you have already been to before many times…and yes we know Greece is huge and there are many other areas to see but we would not have wanted to winter out there so would probably have returned to Sicily for another winter…simply due to the weather..
So there you go…those are some but not all of our reasons for going back to the Algarve…and to be totally honest with you we cannot wait to get back !