We left the small harbor anchorage of Aguilas at around 9am last Friday looking forward to a gentle sail south and a little west. We were fooled once again by that forecast thing that promised wind from the NE. Nope, this is the Med so it was from the SW, right where we were going, although with a tiny bit of allowance for a beat. Exiting the harbour, our gearbox made some grumbling protests, combined with some clanking and groaning and I turned to go back to the fisherman’s harbour. However, the noise stopped and all returned to normality, same as it has been for the last 5 years.
We’d made about 38 miles and were off Carboneras when I realised that our forward progress had sharply reduced from 5/6 knots to 3 knots to 2 then to 0. With wind on the nose and no drive, we had no choice but to look for a safe harbour for repairs. Carboneras was no help – it is a private port and has no facilities for yachts, and the fishing harbour did not respond to requests for assistance.
Garrucha was our next best option and was downwind, so with some hope we headed that way, 12 miles distant.
Of course, as soon as we turned for Garrucha, the wind turned also and was once again on our nose. I was less than impressed but as I do not believe in any sky fairies it was pointless blaming one or another.
It took us from 17:00 to 12:15 to make the harbour at Garrucha. We had emailed our friend David in Cartagena for some land-based assistance and he had confirmed with Garrucha that they were standing by. However, we understood this to be dinghy assistance into the docks, as we could not manoeuvre at all. Not to be – the marinero was on the docks with a torch waving us in but we could not get “in”, we could only skim past then turn around and head for sea again before we hit the beach. Without being able to see, and with no propulsion, we had no choice but to anchor in less than ideal conditions off the beach.
|A small section of the 1,500m marble banisters along the promenade|
The swell didn’t allow for sleep and by 7am we were still in some trouble, with the swell irritating and the wind scheduled to build. We managed to get the anchor up, though not completely, and made for some deeper water to begin tacking for the harbour. Luckily, the wind was not quite NE by this stage but more ENE, putting it on our starboard beam. We made good progress over the last 2 miles to the harbour entrance and laid the last tack for the right of the harbour, then eased away as we moved inside and lost wind. We pulled the genoa down about 100 yards from the dock, and coasted to the jetty. Cal undid the gates and stepped off to tie us up. Nobody had responded to our calls on #9 so there was no welcoming party. We secured and went below for a proper sleep for a few hours. First time we have ever entered a marina under full sail and tied up.
When we went in to the marina office, the young guy there on day shift rang the mechanic for us and organised for him to come on Monday morning.
He arrived just after 11am and we went through the issues of the previous day/s. The windlass was an easy fix, it had just come loose under strain and we tightened this easily – a couple of test drops of the anchor to the marina floor and all in that area was found to be ok.
The drive problem was more of an issue, with some testing to be done. Engine was determined to be in good order, gearbox too. Clutch was also found to be OK. Jhoan, the mechanic, needed to eliminate a problem so I had to dive on the prop and see if I could move it by hand, either way. Of course, my reg was nowhere to be found and required the removal of the entire contents of both lazarettes to turn it up. Then, of course, it decided it needed a service and would either free-flow or not flow at all. Eventually, I hit the water and did the required fiddling then packed everything on the deck (but did not put it away) and went to tell Jhoan the results. He said he had hoped this was the case and said he’d come the next day to extract what he now knew to be the offending parts. He didn’t come – he’s under some pressure work-wise – but came the next day and removed a section of the drive train that I did not recognize. He wanted the Yanmar manual, examined it, found that the piece he had was not in it and declared it to be “optional”. I have no idea what this means but the housing seemed to contain some sort of reduction box arrangement which was all burnt out.
He took it away with him and has ordered replacement parts from a firm in Madrid. Hopefully, they will arrive in a day or two.
|Looking towards town|
So, where are we? We are in the holiday resort of Garrucha, just into Almeria province. The marinero tells us it is the dividing line between Costa Calida and Costa del Sol. It’s a pleasant enough town but has absolutely zero things of interest for tourists. It is for Madrilenos to come on their annual holiday and they are here in their thousands. The dozens of restaurants are full every night, the fun park lights are shining all night and everyone is having a great time. There is a general feeling of relaxation and enjoyment – the hung parliament and endless reruns of elections in Madrid seem a long way away
|Our noisy neighbours|
The harbour is host to a very large Gypsum operation, with one or two bulk carriers in constantly. Because we can’t move, we are on the outer palanca on our own, with all the other yachts two or three pontoons away. We have front row seats to the work going on on the freight wharf. Hundreds of truck trips go on every day, with 18-wheelers racing along the outer wharf with their loads. They do a 60km round trip, as the gypsum comes from a town called Sorbas, a little inland from here. They dump their cargo on the ground, bulldozers round it up and drop it into conveyors which load the freighters. It is a little noisy at times but we’re used to this from Cartagena and it does add some interest to the surroundings.
The harbour water, out where we are, is quite clean so we are able to step off the back for a swim in the heat of the day.
Today, Friday, was Market Day! Big news in any Mediterranean town and this is a big one. The first, top street, was all clothes, mostly female as they supposedly purchase 80% of fashion items. The second street, and the connecting street, were all fruit, vegetables, meats, nuts, chips, roast chicken vans etc etc. It was wonderful – certainly one of the better markets we’ve encountered. We walked away with home-made potato chips, roast chicken, a huge jar of Orange Blossom honey from Murcia, asparagus, bananas, cherries. Nothing from the Jamon van – there were about 20 people around it waiting.
Hopefully, we will be back under way in a few days and will head directly for Gib and organise flights home from there instead of from Rabat.
We might not always get to where we thought we were going, and we might very often end up somewhere we have never heard of before but you can’t say it’s boring.
Many thanks to David of the Moody “Golden Hours” for some reassuring shore support during the ordeal.