It was a bit overcast and stormy when we left Gibraltar. We put a couple of reefs in and headed out through the boats and past the rock. Turning west we had the wind right behind us and we had to jibe a few times to get a good wind angle. We saw dolphins and whales as we exited the straits of Gibraltar and made our way down the Spanish coast. There was still snow glistening on the mountains of the Sierra Leone rising up behind the coastline. Jessica and Mario were busy trying to get to grips with La Mischief, whilst at the same time both feeling a bit seasick – they were both a bit unsure about what they’d signed up for.
Our first stop was Benalmadena, just outside Malaga. This was a huge marina with boats tucked away amongst masses of high-rise buildings. As we were leaving early that morning, they let us stay where we were on the reception jetty, only to ask us to move 15 minutes later when the ferry arrived. Then it was off to see if we could find a town. No town but instead a mass of tourist development with Pommy accents everywhere. We even found some of Jess’ favourite German beer in the one and only supermarket.
Next morning we were up early, with a plan to do some big miles. The wind had deserted us so it was back to motor sailing. It was a long but productive day as we made it to Roquetas De Mar in the late afternoon, having knocked off over 100nm. On the way, Mario played travel guide pointing out a heap of things, including a section of the coast that was literally covered with wall to wall green houses – most bizarre – evidently one of the major food bowls of Europe.
We anchored off the beach, just outside the swim buoys that cordoned off the beach and tried some of Jess’ beer. By this stage, Jess and Mario had taken over the galley – something that’s evidently not too hard with only me on board – and once more in my boat life I was being spoilt with deliciously yummy food. Jess was a vegetarian so vegetarian it was and was managed to save a few cows that trip.
Next day, Mario talked us into visiting a little bay called Cala De San Pedro. We left our anchorage early in thick fog, as the sun came up and motor sailed around the Cabo de Gato, which was simply awesome scenery. We got to San Pedro about 11am and dropped anchor in the clearest water of the trip. The beach is a famous hippy beach, and is simply stunning. Being a hippy beach meant clothing was entirely optional, and not wanting to distress anyone I kept mine on. There’s a permanent fresh water spring here and just a walking track in. There’s also an old fort on the hill and lots of caves where the locals used to hide from the pirates. These caves have been taken over by the hippies and we got invited into one of them by a German hippy who’d been living in his cave for 16 years. As caves go, it was rather up market, well furnished with a TV and electricity and quite a bit of furniture. He was busily making bread – German style – because they hate the Spanish white bread. Jess struck up quite a conversation with him in German and he filled her in on the history of the place, which was originally a fishing village plagued by fluky winds and bad seas. The widowed women of the village decided one day to up and move down the coast to a place they named Las Negras because all the women were in black.
Having checked out the place and had a swim (water still a bit cold), we upped anchor and headed off for a night sail. The winds were once again light so we motor sailed into the evening. About 8pm the sea became alive. Everywhere you looked you could see dolphins and whales. The dolphins here love to jump completely out of the water so we got some great pictures. Several groups came and played on the front of La Mischief, darting from hull to hull. We sat up the front and watched them for at least half an hour.
We had expected light winds for the whole night, but it did blow up a bit and at one stage we had a couple of reefs in. It was a good experience for Jess and Mario and they were both rapidly picking up a lot of skills and knowledge. Jess had done a Day Skippers course in the Greek Islands and Mario was about to undertake some professional certification so him and his girlfriend could work on boats. Considering their lack of experience, they both did pretty well and the 400 sea miles they got under their belts will hold them in good stead.
They were also great company. They had both travelled extensively and it was interesting to hear the opinions and experiences of a couple of young Europeans. Although Jess was only 28, she had already worked in Afghanistan, Washington DC and Rwanda, and gave an interesting perspective on what it’s really like in these high-profile areas of the globe. Mario n the other hand was born in Slovakia and had worked in Australia. He’d learnt his bar craft in Hugo’s in Sydney, and was equally adept behind a bar or in the galley. We had some fun times in the few days they were on board.
Next stop was the inland sea of Mar Menor. It reminded me of Lake Macquarie in NSW, right down to the traffic bridge that needed to be lifted to let you through. Then again it also reminded me of Surfers Paradise, with its row of high-rise skyscrapers built along the narrow strip of sand that separated it from the Mediterranean.
We picked out one of the islands inside the inland sea and had a lovely sail on a flat sea to get to our destination. Then we dropped the anchor whilst we relaxed and Mario cooked up a wonderful spinach and potato dish. By the time we’d finished lunch we had left it a bit tight to make the 2pm bridge opening so we had to fire up the engines and make a mad dash through fleets of racing yachts to make our appointment with the bridge keeper.
Having successfully made it in time it was out once more into the Med, setting a course to Alicante, this time with the geneker up. Beautiful. We had a great sail up the coast, getting to Alicante about 7pm. We anchored off the beach at Puerto de San Juan and made our way into town by dingy and then Metro.
As luck would have it we arrived just before the festival of St John’s bonfires and the whole city was alive with people – families, old people, young people – all wandering the streets late into the night. We stumbled across numerous elaborate floats that were big, bold and colourful – all being paraded before they were to be burnt a few days later. We found somewhere to eat and then sampled a few bars. It was about 2am-ish (maybe 3 – I really don’t know) when we hopped in a taxi and headed back to the boat. Now the unfortunate thing about where we had parked the boat was that there was a bar right on the beach – right there. Perfect for a roadie (or a dingy-ie). The next unfortunate thing was that they was a Slovakian lady drinking at the bar and evidently when two or more Slovakians are found at a bar they drink Tequila shots. After finishing my beer, I took up the offer of the first, but not the second thank goodness. My excuse was that I had to drive the dingy. Mario and Jess were excuseless so down the second shots went.
Back at the boat, we sat and talked for a while and I left the young members of the crew to watch the sun come up, as the old bloke had done his dash.
10am was the designated start time for the next days sail, a leisurely 50nm around to Cabo de Nao. !0am came and went. The genset went on to make coffee and I discovered Jess outside sleeping on the back seat. She didn’t make it to bed. The coffee kicked in and we were off. We had a good sail right up to the cape, when the wind came up and we suddenly had 40kts on the nose. The wind instruments were playing up again, with the wind direction not registering.
Rounding the cape, we made our way into Cale Sardinera. As we pulled in, Jess managed to arise from her sleeping position – to be fair to her she was suffering from an upset stomach as well as a hangover.
The bay was full of boats, I guess from Javea, which is just across the bay. It was a lovely protected anchorage, set right against stunning white cliffs and clear blue water. And the best thing about this bay was a couple of guys in a cute little boat they had called Dom Pepito, serving cocktails, Mojito’s a speciality. Their blender was ingeniously powered by some bicycle pedals and their Mojioto’s were indeed to die for. Mario was in heaven – thought t was the best thing since sliced bread. A great hair of the dog. As the sun began to go down, the bay emptied as everyone headed for home, leaving just us and another yacht to stay overnight.
Next day was to be our last sailing day together, as we headed north towards Valencia. Another 50nm day, but overcast and gloomy just like the first day. I left the boat largely to Jess and Mario who were really getting the hang of things and had both come along way in a few short days.
We got to Valencia at about 3pm and checked into the Marina Real Juan Carlos One, which was both good and cheap. We had an interesting time berthing as we had to Med moor against a finger jetty. It was difficult for Mario in particular as he had had no training but we all got there in the end. It was a friendly marina and a few of the yachties came and gave us a hand as well as the guy from the marina. Then the yacht next door came and gave us a great big paella dish, half full of wonderful paella. What a welcome!