Garrucha to Campello

Trip Start May 22, 2006
Trip End Aug 05, 2014

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Almeria To Campello
We left Aguadulce in the dark at 05.50 on Monday morning heading round Cabo de Gata for the small yacht harbour at Garrucha. This was the longest leg (57 miles) of our voyage to Campello where we intend resting up for a few weeks before heading for Greece. The swell in the bay was quite uncomfortable for a couple of hours. There was a glorious sunrise over Cabo de Gata . The coast here was fairly bare of habitation but was nice to look at and we saw a few dolphins en-route.
I decided to call ahead to book a berth in the small marina at Garrucha. In my strained (sprained?) Spanish I asked for a berth and was told "valle , completo", which I translated as "OK, sorted", thanked the guy very much and signed off. On checking my Spanish dictionary I found that "complete" means full - doh!
We decided to enter anyway because there is a singular lack of decent anchorages on this stretch of coast. On tying up at the reception berth a very friendly marinero came along and told me that  "your camel has syphilis" (well that's what it sounded like) but implying that we  were OK and could stay the night. He might have been telling me that my camel was "unwell" but he said it in a terribly positive way and gave me a receipt for the 11 euros that he asked for. While I was paying, a very pleasant, slightly rotund, policeman was overseeing the transaction while humming various tunes which the marinero was responding to with tunes of his own. When he opened the cash box I half expected it to fire up with the Sugar Plum Fairy like a music box. and the 2 of them to gracefully pirouette straight out of the door...... Good god one does get bored when passage-making like this!
Garrucha was clearly once a pleasant wee town that is now suffering as a  result of too rapid development We failed to find a supermarket but did find an internet café where the computers were so slow as to allow us to get only part of 3 weather forecasts and not to be able to send e-mails.
On return to the boat we had dinner and, just as an afterthought, stuck the wireless aerial onto the deck and fired up the computer. Lo and behold, a wi-fi signal and it didn't need a password and was fast so I was able to download all e-mails, do the blog about Granada and then merrily surf the net for a couple of hours - bliss.
On Tuesday morning we left Garrucha at 8.00 along with much of the fishing fleet (this would be seen as really decadent in Tarbert where the fleet leaves at a more presbyterian 04.00). The wind was light and the sun shone in a cloudless sky. We decided to have a lazy day so connected up Otto the otter helm (cunning little play on words there heh heh) and spend the day reading and keeping look out. Managed to relieve the boredom for a while when the wind came off of the nose and went onto the stern but the boat was unable to make more than 3 or 4 knots so we fired up the donkey (not some form of animal cruelty - the 'donkey' is an old East coast nautical term for the engine - although in more rural parts of Norfolk it might have meant something completely different).
The approach to Cartagena is quite spectacular with cliffs and hills surrounding the city. This is rather spoilt by the massive oil refinery adjacent to the port. The harbour is also a major naval base with many smallish Spanish navy vessels and submarines.
The marina is divided into 2 parts and is right in the centre of the city. It looks very expensive but only cost a total of €9 per night (eat your hearts out Solent sailors) . The only slight drawback is that the visitors berths are right on the equivalent of the town square. Had this been Granada (noisiest city in Spain) it could have been a problem but Cartagenans are generally very quiet and the only noises were strange farting sounds made by the fenders provided on the quay. Gina treated them with a little washing up liquid and the flatulence was silenced (not to be recommended for internal consumption should one have  similar problems of a more personal nature).
The city of Cartagena has many delights and a great shopping centre. It is a working city which is trying hard to spruce itself up for tourists. The tourist office gave us a map and a list of places of interest. On Thursday morning we headed out round the docks to see the museum of underwater archaeology. It was about a 4km walk and was bloody closed!! On the way back we visited the naval museum which was very interesting but only had notices in Spanish. One exception was a detailed account of the Spanish Armada in English according to which the result was that Spain won the war at sea but that they didn't invade England because that wasn't  really the objective and, by the way, the weather wasn't all that good for an invasion anyway.
Our next objective was to see the Roman Theatre. It too was closed. Nonetheless we loved Cartagena and Gina even managed to buy an outfit for our nephew Christopher's wedding in September. Should we ever sail back this way again we will definitely be spending a bit more time in Cartagena.
Having left Cartagena on Friday morning at around 8.00 we headed East along a delightfully undeveloped stretch of coast when, on rounding the headland, we were confronted by solid concrete developments all along the Mar Menor (an inland lake) and into the distance. We also came across a fairly major fishing operation with yellow buoys, fish cages, large boats etc.
On approaching Torrevieja we were welcomed by the Spanish Air Force display team who flew over us in impeccable formation and executed a sharp turn to starboard about one metre above our mast.
Torrevieja is an out and out holiday town but has 2 good sized marinas. On arrival we were told that the office staff weren't on till 16.00 so had lunch and chilled in the hot sun for a couple of hours. The staff  were very pleasant although the form filling took about 30 minutes (in most other marinas it only takes a couple of minutes) the charge was rather on the high side at €22 per night but was acceptable. Other yotties coming this way please note that it is free to anchor within the harbour and there is good shelter from all but macho man and the ubiquitous jet skis.
By the by Torrevieja has a great, cheap, English language book shop. We spent a few euros and got loads of really good reading material.
On Sunday morning the usual 08.00 start saw us heading the 35 miles towards Campello where we hope to stay until beginning April and meet up with old friends Peter and Sylvie who live there.
The wind was virtually non-existent for the whole journey, the latter part of which we spent trying to spot the airlines of the aircraft taking off from Alicante. As usual hills and mountains relieved the tedium of the Costa Concrete half mile wide strip along much of the coast.
We arrived at Campello marina at about 13.30 and moored up. Peter had reserved a berth for us but they can only take us for one week after which we will have to find somewhere else locally until we leave in early April.
Peter and Sylvie turned up at about 17.00 and many bottles of wine were  consumed and much talking was done. We had a super Brit meal at a local restaurant and were back on board at about 22.30.
Subsequently Pete and Sylvie have been showing us the area. Campello lies between Alicante and Benidorm, perhaps two of the most over developed towns in holiday Spain. We were surprised therefore by the beauty of the area, the mountains and the coast. The developed coastline is mostly less than half a mile wide and inland is fabulous wild hill and mountain scenery. The area has really grown on us and we can see why so many Brits move here.
We have also had a word with the Campello marina staff who have, helpfully, agreed to let us stay until the 31st of March after which we will probably head North to Altea and Moraira before going East to the Balearics.
Campello is a mix of the new developments and a small old town area. There are many ex-pat Brits here and they have quite a thriving community. Being British they organise walking groups, language classes, various social activities etc. It reminds us of our time in Lagos. What is it about the British that makes us want to be so organised? Perhaps that is how we once ruled 25% of the world's surface. It wasn't so much a military or trade invasion but was a series of walking and dining clubs that got a little bit out of hand!
However it is no co-incidence that we lost the British Empire after the invention of radio broadcasting. The two local Brit radio stations here, whilst very informative, are bizarre. They are great at broadcasting events, news and weather but the programmes between, especially any phone ins are grim. I can see why we lost India now. The local population, brought up to be respectful of the British, woke up one morning to hear Mavis from Darjeeling calling in to the local DJ to answer the 3 brain cell quiz question  and were so appalled by the stupidity of both parties that they rose in revolt and threw us out. I don't blame them!
On Wednesday and Thursday we were hit by the worst gales in 11 years. This gave us a very sleepless night and caused some damage in the town (roofs blown off, petrol stations blown over etc). In the marina there was very little damage to boats, the marineros employed by the Yacht Club of Campello did a magnificent job of patrolling the pontoons and sorting out problems. Every time I got up to check the boat I saw a marinero patrolling our pontoon - very reassuring.
On Thursday we fly home for a few days to see Will and Angela in their new home so feel safe about leaving Tiercel in the hands of such a capable marina.
It has been very helpful being here . Pete and Sylvie have also cruised the Med in their boat Ciao Moody before they swallowed the anchor and settled in Campello. They have been a mine of useful information and tips on good places to stay, things to see and anchoring techniques. Pete has helped us to sort out the boats anchoring with lots of small useful details based on his experience.
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