To Almerimar again

30 August to 19 September 2020

Porroig, Ibiza to Cabo de Gata, 36° 43′ 92″, 02° 12′ 06″, 222nm, 37 hours

to Almerimar, 36° 41.78’N, 02° 47.42’W, 27nm, 4 hours

As we sat in Porroig waiting for the weather Stefan said “it’s been a lovely six weeks. We’ve done so much.” To which I replied “and so little.” We were both right. We’d done a fair few miles to the Balearics and around but, partly due to the virus and partly due to the heat, much of it just hanging around in anchorages swimming, spending time with friends and hiding under the shade.

It felt good to have seen a bit more of Ibiza. Our short stay in 2017 out of season hadn’t done it justice and we were grateful that world events conspired to make it quieter for us in what would usually be high season. We were sad it had to come to an end but knew that moving on was sensible weather wise and virus wise.

In consultation with Off Course we were convinced that the 250nm passage back to Almerimar would be a perfect downwind sail on the back of the storm and would take us about 40 hours. We left at first light from our mooring buoy in Porraig. Off Course were delayed in their start having relied on their human alarm clock, Jasper, who decided to have a lie in.

Just out of the anchorage we caught a promising breeze and put the sails up for what we were convinced was to be the first and only time. Out of the shadow of Ibiza the wind stiffened and was directly on our beam. We messaged Off Course with the encouraging news that we were making good speed. Whilst we enjoyed a good sail on beam reach, no matter how hard they tried, an hour or so behind us, Off Course couldn’t find the wind.

In the meantime the wind was taking us off course and towards the Spanish coast. For a while we contemplated making a stop at Torrevieja but we continued on hopefully. By nightfall the wind abandoned us completely and Stefan woke me half an hour into my first sleep to tell me he was going to have to put the engine on.

Our collective frustrations at the lack of promised wind continued into our second day. On Pintail, we gave the cruising chute a go but very quickly it became dangerously tangled. It was another lesson in how difficult it is to manage with just four hands as we narrowly avoided serious rope burns to Stefan’s hands and the whole thing taking a salty dip in the sea. It was bundled quickly away into the sail locker in disgrace until we could deal with the tangle. We sailed and motored on and off for the rest of the day, wondering just what had happened to the forecast. As the sun lowered in the sky a second time we had the headland of Cabo de Gata in our sights.

Passing so close to it we got a better view of this inhospitable looking landscape with its mountainous cliffs flecked with bright white patches. Predicted to arrive in Almerimar at 1am we decided to anchor for the night at the anchorage on the west side of the headland.

We anchored in strong gusts that rushed off the cliffs at about 7pm, had a quick dinner and went straight to bed. Waking early again to start on our way we found Off Course anchored beside us, having arrived at about 2am. We left them to lie in and motored across the bay and back to Almerimar.

We arrived on 1 September and suddenly it felt like the temperature changed. Maybe it was on the back of the weather system but it felt refreshingly cooler, still sunny and bright but definitely cooler. My first afternoon dip in the sea with Annemieke and Steve suggested that the sea temperature was cooling too! Also gone were the thousands of swallows who had greeted us on our arrival back in Almerimar from the UK. Summer must be over. Autumn has arrived.

Taking the opportunity of a week or so in Almerimar we lined up a number of boat jobs we needed to do.

First we needed to tackle the pesky cruising chute and work out what had gone wrong. On a windless morning we took it out of its snuffer, laid it all out neatly and put it back in. There were no discernible tangles so we couldn’t really work out what the problem had been. Just to be sure, with the sail unnaturally horizontal we took it in and out of the snuffer again and it all worked beautifully. To give it a real test, with Oda, Onno and Jasper as extra pairs of hands just in case we went out for a sail. Jasper assumed the skipper’s position on the bean bag!

Ridiculously, hoisting the cruising chute up and unfurling it revealed possibly the biggest tangle it could ever be in. The sail was completely strangled in the middle creating a comedy mushroom shape when the wind filled the top. Stefan and Onno managed to untangle it on the deck and eventually we got it back up.

Next we ordered new leisure batteries. The old ones had done us proud throughout our time in the Med but they were long passed their best. Stefan wasted no time in getting them fitted and was delighted to have a fully functioning bow thruster once more!

We also had a full rigging inspection and were pleased to learn that it was all in good order. The rigger recommended replacing the forestay as that is impossible to inspect underneath the furling system so we got him to do it. An estimated day’s work turned into 2 and a half when the furlex proved more difficult to take apart. We held our breath as the rigger worked hard to disassemble it and manufacture new parts for us. The manufacturer no longer makes spare parts for our nearly thirty year old furlex and our bank balance wasn’t looking forward to buying a brand new one. In the end he worked his magic and the new forestay was restored to its rightful place.

One week had turned into two. We got into a routine of boat jobs and hanging out with the Off Course crew and with Annemieke and Steve and sometimes all five at the same time, our own Dutch bubble.

This variously involved:

an attempt* at a daily yoga practice on the pontoon, sometimes with a little helper; (*wind and lie-ins sometimes got in the way!)

a whole lot of playing with Jasper and lots of colouring, biking, movies, playdough and fun with pegs but mostly very energetic games of tikken (catch in English);

far too many trips to the local ice cream shop to try their delicious homemade flavours;

joining Annemieke and Steve for their afternoon swim when conditions allowed;

introducing the Dutch family to the delights of a traditional British Sunday roast at the Stumble Inn and enjoying drinks and tapas at a more traditionally Spanish venue with Annemieke and Steve.

And somehow, before we knew it, two weeks turned into three…

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