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Saturday, 25 May 2019

From Craggy Cliffs to Concrete Jungle

Tuesday 30 April 2019

El Portus to San Pedro

Sometimes, when you’re at anchor in a small bay, it can be like heaven on earth.  The beauty of the landscape, together with the serenity and peacefulness and the gentle rocking of the boat can soothe many a soul.




Unfortunately on this occasion it was not the case.  Whilst the bay was indeed beautiful and it wasn’t too noisy, the one metre swell that managed to enter the bay hit us straight on the beam and rocked the boat like a manic mother who hasn’t slept in weeks. Each time a swell hit us, plates rattled, cups shook and the washing up went flying.  

But, the worst was yet to come.  Knowing we wanted to leave relatively early the next day and given we'd sailed through the previous night and hadn’t slept properly, we were pretty damned tired so went to bed as the sunset.

However, the swell had not subsided so we rocked and rolled in our bed like two demented dogs rolling on the grass!

Needless to say, after a restless night and no sign of let up, we raised anchor and set off for San Pedro, our next port of call and where we were going to treat ourselves to a night in the marina. 


The little bay that we had anchored in was beside the anchorage for ships going into Cartagena and just as we were setting off, we saw the distinctive funnel of smoke coming from one of them which indicates they are getting ready to move.  With Offbeat on full throttle and me 100% focussed on getting away from the beast, we crossed the entrance of Cartagena port.

We stayed under motor as we passed along the rugged coastline, admiring the scenery and the number of fortress remains still taking pride of place on the clifftops. We were also travelling during NATO exercises which was really interesting, with warship and submarine messages going out on the radio and jet planes flying over.
















Further along the coastline we crossed wakes with yacht Polar Seal, which had been our neighbour in A Coruna and who had stayed in Estepona for a few days. Mark called them on the radio to see what their plans were, but they were going to Mar Menor for a few days.  Unfortunately we didn't have the time to join them. However,  it's a small world and you never know who you’re going to bump into!

Once we reached Cabo Palo and headed north, we were able to put both sails up and turn the engine off. As we traversed the Cabo Palo lighthouse and Isla Hormiga, the contrast between the coastline behind us and Mar Menor could not be more different. 

Up until we reached Cabo Palo, we had nothing but rugged rock faces with a smattering of houses perched on the cliff tops.  Once round the corner, you were faced with a landscape of concrete high rise hotels and not  a cliff to be seen.  

Welcome to the Costa Blanca!


The most interesting part of our sail that afternoon was passing between Isla Crosa and El Farallon nature reserve. Both are bird reserves and both made for an interesting half hour looking through the binoculars at the different species.

We arrived at Marina Salinas at 17:30 and looked forward to a good night’s sleep!


Captivating Coastlines from San Jose to El Portus

Sunday 28 April to Monday 29 April 2019

San Jose to El Portus

Once we'd settled in to our berth, we spent the afternoon pottering around on Offbeat, checking everything was still ok and getting ready for the next stage of our journey.  We knew that we had a small window of opportunity to get along the eastern coast of Spain, as strong northerly winds were forecast in the next few days.

We still couldn’t quite grasp that we had come the length of the Costa del Sol in two sails, but knew we had to keep the momentum going. So, having checked Offbeat and the forecast we decided to leave San Jose on Sunday afternoon and sail through the night towards Mazarron as it was going to take about 16 hours and it's always better to leave and arrive in daylight.

Decision made, we treated ourselves to a lovely meal out at a nearby restaurant, shared a bottle of wine and slept like new born babies!

Sunday morning we had a wander into town. There wasn’t much to the town, but it had a lovely feel about it as the locals bustled around doing their thing, with families sitting in cafes enjoying the sun and life in general. The beach was set in a bay and was beautiful golden sand, lined with trees and had a few hardy sun worshippers on it.

Shopping done, we headed back to the marina but not before we had coffee. We were sitting in a cafe overlooking the beach, shaded with large umbrellas when a big drama unfolded. Unfortunately as a group of mature locals came walking along, the wind caught one of the umbrellas and it went hurtling towards them, taking tables and chairs with it. The look of horror on their faces as they all shot off in different directions was quite funny (I know, I have a very sick sense of humour).

The commotion that followed was really entertaining and you can imagine the noise level as more and more people got involved, expressing their opinion.  The poor waiter hurriedly collapsed all the other umbrellas and put them inside.  When it became clear that there wasn't going to be any complimentary brandies to steady their nerves, the crowd started disperse and the waiter reappeared.

Drama and entertainment over, we headed back to the marina to get ready for our next journey.

We set off from San Jose at 17:00 with a promise to ourselves to return and explore the beautiful rugged headlands that we had seen when we arrived.

We left the marina and headed north up the coast towards Mazarron. The weather was beautiful and sunny, with a strong easterly wind and a nasty swell right on our bows.

After a bit of a struggle (and a lot of foul language from Mark standing at the mast), we got the sails up and appreciated the dramatic landscape of the other side of Cabo de Gata.  

As night approached we counted off the quaintly named headlands: Punta Higuera (Fig Tree Point without a tree to be seen); Punta del Barranco Negro (Black Canyon Point); Punta Polacra (Polish Point); Punta Chumba (I get knocked down, but I get up again, they’re never gonna keep me down); Punta Media Neranja (Half Orange Point); Punta de los Muertos (Dead Men's Point). What?!  You don’t want to be hearing that as you head into the gloom of the night with the waves knocking you around and the wind moaning in the rigging.

Anyway, nothing much happened as we pushed on northwards during the night across the Golfo de Vera towards our destination.  The wind dropped and the engine went on and we took it in turns to sleep for two hours and then steer for two hours while the other one slept.

The night sky had been mainly cloudy but with occasional clear patches to see the stars. The moon didn’t rise until the early hours and then it was only a crescent moon, so for most of the night it was pitch dark.

The sunrise was a different story.  As the sun started to rise from beneath the horizon, the clouds started to peel away from the horizon.  The result was a stunning sunrise, the likes of which we’d never seen before.

At breakfast we were in sight of Mazarron and discussed whether to stop there or carry on further along the coast. We decided that we were feeling fine for a few hours more and changed our course towards Cartegena, which Mark particularly wanted to visit.

On the way he spotted on the chart a tiny little circular cove called Cala Cerrado which is a nature reserve in the Sierra de la Muela and said we should pop in and take a look.

We approached a huge cliff nervously as there was no sign of a gap in the rocks. Then about 100 metres from the cliff a gap opened up that was only about 20 metres wide.  We tentatively went in it and found this magical little cove, just big enough for Offbeat to turn around in.  We spent a lovely ten minutes going in small circles, soaking in the atmosphere and taking photographs. 






















Just as we were leaving, a nature reserve patrol boat entered the cove.  It approached us very slowly as if to say “Oi! What are you up to? You can’t stay here you know. And I hope you left the place tidy”!





On we motored for another hour or so, just absorbing and appreciating the beauty of the coastline. By now, neither of us wanted to spend a night in a marina especially when there were so many pretty anchorages set in scenic bays, so instead of going into Cartagena we dropped anchor at El Portus, which is part of the same nature reserve and sat back to appreciate the surroundings. 

Friday, 24 May 2019

Oops we did it again!

Friday 26 April to Saturday 27 April 2019

After a leisurely walk along the prom in Malaga and with fresh bread, fruit and veg purchased, we left the marina at about 11:30 am on Friday morning with a plan to sail towards Motril.

We would have liked to stay in Malaga longer as there's so much to see and do, but we had to press on as we had arranged to be in Javea by the 10th May to meet up with Glen and Claire (my brother and sister in law) and spend a few days with them.


As we set off, it was a beautiful sunny day with just a hint of wind to tease us. It was the complete opposite of what we'd had the previous day and was one of those days where you needed plenty of sunscreen, sunglasses and hat.

We planned to try and get as far as Motril, but knew that it would be a bit of a challenge to get that far in daylight as we'd left Malaga later than planned. We also had to top up on fuel,  so after an interesting exchange with a marinero in Puerto Candado (he spoke no English and my Spanish was limited to Google translate) I somehow managed to arrange for us to enter the marina for fuel.  As it turned out, he was a lovely mature gentleman who was very helpful and very patient with our limited Spanish. We've found that it goes a long way if you at least try to speak to people in their own language! 


Anyway, suitably fuelled up, we headed out of the marina and set our course. With a westerly wind, we had a full yankee and first reef main set as 'donkey's ears' (Orejas de Burro in Spanish) or 'goose winged' to you English and headed due east at 90 degrees.  The sky was clear and a beautiful shade of blue, the sun was high and strong, the sea was slight and there was a steady breeze.  Perfect sailing for us and Offbeat.

By 13:00 we realised that we weren't going to make Motril before nightfall, so revised our plan to head for a small anchorage west of La Mona, which was 26 nautical miles away. 

By 14:00 the wind had died and we were only doing 2.5 knots under sail, so we put the engine on to help us along.  But, within the hour, the sea breeze had kicked in so we turned the engine off and once again enjoyed a quieter sail.



On we sailed, absorbing the beautiful scenery, the peace and tranquillity and the glorious sunshine. I have to admit that on days like this, I absolutely love sailing and just wish that every day could be under these conditions but, you have to take the good with the bad.


 At some point in the afternoon, the wind died again, so on went the engine again. We were feeling a bit sulky about having our beautiful sail interrupted when we noticed an amazing sight. 






We were just east of Cala Barranco del Maro, which is a creek outside of Nerja when in the middle of the adjoining rock face we saw the extraordinary sight of a waterfall, gushing out into the sea. Unfortunately we weren't close enough to get a decent photo, but it certainly lifted our spirits.

With just under an hour left to reach our planned anchorage and reflecting on what a brilliant sailing day it had been, I casually asked why don't we just carry on and sail through the night. Mark immediately caught onto the suggestion as we knew the weather would be kind and we would make great progress on our journey towards Javea.

So, with the decision made that we would turn our leisurely 7 hour journey into an overnight sail, Mark undertook the checks needed to make sure Offbeat was in good shape.  With engine, gearbox, fuel and lights checked, we set a course towards Almerimar, Roquettas or even Almeria.

During our journey along the southern coast of Spain, we had seen the Sierra Nevada teasing us with glimpses of mountain peaks.  As we rounded Punta de la Mona, we were greeted with another amazing sight. Not only was the Sierra Nevada in full sight, but six of her peaks were still covered in snow.  It seemed incredible, there we were in shorts and tshirts, looking at snow covered mountain peaks. 




It was turning into a day that just kept giving!








By 20:00 hours, after we had supper, Mark raised the foresail to third reef and tightened to a central position to reduce the rolling that was being caused by a slight swell. He then undertook checks for night sailing, ensuring deck equipment was all secured. 

On we sailed into a beautiful sunset, the first one of the year out at sea.  The nightfall was equally beautiful,  with a clear star studded sky, calm waters, no other boats in sight and a phosphorescence sea. If you haven't seen phosphorescence from a boat, Google it, it's breathtaking

By midnight the wind was dead ahead of us, so Mark had to furl the foresail away and increase the engine revs to maintain our speed of 5 knots.  I had gone off watch by this time, having a couple of hours rest before taking over from Mark so I missed the dolphins coming to play with Offbeat in the phosphorescent water, but Mark said it was a spectacular sight. 

The rest of the night sail was quite uneventful and by 06:00, with the dawn of a new day we were feeling quite pleased with ourselves.

We were at the point of heading into Almeria but wondered how far away we were from the next marina.  We knew that we would need more fuel so I checked our options. If we rounded Cabo de Gata, there was a small marina at San Jose where we could fuel up and then continue further up the coast to Garrucha. 




As the sun rose over the horizon, everything in its path had a glow of pink to it, including the last sighting of the snow covered Sierra Nevada.  Until this day, I had never appreciated how spectacular this mountain range was and the sheer length and height of its mountains.

The coastline from Cabo de Gata to San Jose took our breath away. Our photos could never do justice to the spectacular colours and rock formation and whilst it took us over 3 hours to reach San Jose, there was more than enough scenery to keep us occupied.










We finally reached San Jose under motor at around 13:15. As we rounded the corner into this very small marina which is largely a local fishing port with some spare berths, we were overwhelmed by the sight. In Mark's word, recorded in our log book, 'the port is astonishingly pretty and set in a stunningly beautiful bay, surrounded by astounding geology'. 


Needless to say, nearly 26 hours after we set off for a 7 hour journey we didn't go any further that day.

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Winter in Estepona

We have had a wonderful six months in Estepona and on reflection packed a lot in to that time, including 3 visits back to the UK, family and friends visit us in Estepona, trips to Malaga, Ronda, Gibraltar, Marbella, Bolonia, Jerez, Seville, Medina-Sidonia, Ceuta in Northern Africa and my father's village Tolox in the Sierra de las Nieves. (Watch out for updates on the places we visited.)

Our Visitors


Jo and Dave
Bev and Sefa
Christine 





















Christmas Lights 

We also celebrated the lead up to Christmas with the switching on of the Christmas lights in November, Kings night on the 5th January, which involved 20+ floats and 15 tons of sweets.







King's Night













Psalm Sunday













We were also in Estepona to celebrate Easter, which was, at times, very moving.  The processions through the streets of Estepona were spectacular and Good Friday in particular was very sombre and quite emotional, compared to Easter Sunday which was very joyous. Each procession was accompanied by Nazarenos (brotherhood) from their church and the local church band.



Good Friday 


Easter Sunday

























Elizabeth and Tim 

















I joined a gym and turned into a gym bunny for a few months and met some great people. In particular Elizabeth and Tim who are great company and who led us astray on more than one occasion! We spent some great times with them and look forward to seeing them again in the Autumn.
We also made friends with Edita and Richard who are avid sailors like us and we had some great times with them too. They really took us under their wing and helped to make our stay in Estepona so memorable.  

They came with us when we went on our shakedown cruise to Ceuta and showed us some wonderful sights whilst we were there.  So determined are they for us to return to Estepona next Autumn, they have stored a load of our belongings!



Mark became great friends with a local sailor Isaac, who had a boat moored opposite us.  They spent many an hour talking sailing and when the weather started to improve, went off for afternoon sails.







For me, the highlight of my stay in Estepona was when we took a trip to Tolox and I made contact with my long lost family in Tolox. 


Beautiful Tolox and the Sierra de Las Nieves

As people who know me know, my Dad died when he was quite young and he never got to return to his village and make contact with his relatives. I always knew that we had family in the village, but never really believed that I would one day be sitting in the house he lived in having lunch with his cousin who remembered him as a boy.  Words cannot express the emotions I felt that day and I can't wait to go back and see them all again. 


Jose, Ana, Juana Mark and me

Juana and me

For all our boating friends, I can reassure you it wasn't all play. There was serious boat fixing to do as well and during the last 6 months we have sanded and varnished all the floors; rebuilt the exhaust system, replaced the fridge and toilet (don't ask!); replaced the battery charger (following a powersurge from a thunderstorm that lasted 2 days); hauled out, hulls scrubbed and anti fouled; swim ladder made and fitted (all by my clever husband) and all the usual servicing of engine, gear box, sails etc.

Rebuilding the fridge

Refreshing the hull


Our new swim ladder





















With all of this taking place over the last few months, we feel ready to head off for this year's adventure and have a well earned rest! 

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Adios Estepona


Thursday 25 April 2019

After six wonderful months in Estepona,  we slipped our lines at 08:30 on Thursday 25 April 2019 to set sail for this year's adventure, which will hopefully be full of fun and laughter and making great memories,  just like last year.

It was a grey day, with dense cloud, rain and poor visibility,  which reflected our mood a little.  Whilst we were really eager to be setting sail, it was tinged with sadness because we had such a great time in Estepona and have made some wonderful new friends. My solace is that we are planning to spend next winter there, so it's more 'hasta la vista' than adios. 



Our pontoon and home! 

With a final backward glance to our mooring and what had been our home for the last 6 months, we headed out of the marina and into the Mediterranean. 

Hasta la Vista!

We had hoped for fair winds and sunshine for the official start to our summer sailing, but it wasn't to be. The perfect sailing conditions of the previous few days had passed and we were faced with dense cloud, poor visibility and lumpy sea. 

Grey cloudy start to this year's adventure!

We were being accompanied by our friend Jonas who was considering buying a sail boat and wanted some first hand experience of being out at sea.  

Fortunately for me and Mark we had already had our first sail of the year where we had suffered from lumpy sea, with me having full on sea sickness and Mark having slight sea sickness. Unfortunately for our friend Jonas, who was relatively new to sailing, he suffered from full on sea sickness.

Jonas looking wistfully to land! 

I'm sure that he wasn't quite expecting how bad he would feel,  but he soldiered on and crewed Offbeat perfectly.

We raised the main sail (first reef for all the boaties) and full yankee and set our course for Caleta de Velez, our first stop on our summer adventure. 

By 10.00 am we had to reef the yankee as the wind had picked up and whilst sailing along at 7 to 8 knots is great, with 1 metre sea swell on our beam, steering was bit of a struggle.

Sailing off San Pedro

By 13.30 the wind had dropped and barely filled the sails and after 20 minutes of hoping it would pick up, we had to admit defeat and put the engine on and take the sails down. 

Mark at the helm

By this time we were feeling the effects of the weather and were feeling slightly jaded so like a good skipper, Mark asked me and Jonas if we wanted to continue our current course to Caleta, which was three hours away.  Even though the dolphins had been to visit, we all agreed that Malaga sounded good,  so we changed course at 14:00 and headed for Malaga. 

By 14.30 the sun was out, the sea was calm and there was no wind and was the complete opposite of what we had experienced in the morning. We arrived safe and sound in Malaga at around 17.00.

Offbeat in Malaga marina 

I'm glad for Jonas sake that he got to experience the calmer side of sailing and it was reassuring to see the colour come back to his cheeks. However, in his words he'll stick to champagne sailing in the future!