Castles, Beer And Goodbyes In Alicante
CASTILLO DE SANTA BÁRBARA
Friday, October 18 – 2019
The previous story pretty much repeated itself when we arrived in Alicante. For a touristy city, I really like this one. It is full of life with its countless streets with restaurants, cafes, bars, and cultural sights. The first thing you see when entering Alicante is the massive castle on the hill.
Castillo de Santa Bárbara is from the Bronze age and was built in the 9th century when the Iberian Peninsula was in control from 711 to 1296. That’s pretty old.
We spent a couple of days walking around the city and enjoyed some lazy hours on the boat before it was time to say goodbye to Jørn and Alex. They had to fly home and had tickets from Alicante Airport.
Before we knew it, it was me, Lasse, and Emil who left onboard. We wanted to relax for some days and just enjoy sailing and find a remote place to anchor. After all, I had never tried to anchor before and was keen to try out life on the hook.
The plan was to sail from Alicante and 43 NM down to Mar Menor, a lake on the west side of La Manga. From what we heard, the entire lake is only a few meters deep which made it a perfect spot to chill out in a protected spot.
BASCULE BRIDGE, ISLANDS AND SKYLINE
Sunday, October 20 – 2019
Alicante got smaller behind our stern as we set sail south towards the lake of Mar Menor. To get into Mar Menor, you have to pass under a bridge that only opens every second hour for 15 minutes. If there is a boat waiting outside it.
We timed our arrival so that we only had to wait for 15 minutes to pass and we were on our way down the shallow lake.
Isla Mayor, also called Isla del Baron, is a little island in the center of Mar Menor and is privately owned. We anchored up next to a little beach and chilled out for the rest of the day.
The next day we went ashore and hiked up to check out the little round castle on top of the hill.
From the top, you get a world-class view of the skyline of La Manga which is a city placed on the tiny promenade between the lake and the ocean. It is also a popular tourist destination due to its super nice long beach.
It was time for Emil to muster off so we took the dinghy to shore. The weather was getting a bit mad so we decided that we wanted to get out and sail back to Cartagena.
FIRST BREAKDOWN AND NASTY WEATHER
Monday, October 21 – 2019
With only me and Lasse left onboard Ellidah, we made ourselves ready to set off from Mar Menor. Lasse had a flight the day after, and I was quite keen on having him on board for the sail back to my winter spot in Cartagena.
This was the trip of all the “firsts” and it had been pretty smooth up until this point.
A little late to reach the opening hours of the swing bridge, I started the engine and set the course while Lasse picked up the anchor.
The wind was blowing up towards 20 knots and it was pissing down with rain. So much for the always good weather.
As I put the engine in gear, I heard a strange “pioink” noise and then nothing. I couldn’t get the engine in gear and it was obvious that the throttle wire had snapped.
The wind was blowing us straight against the shallow coast and I stared paralyzed at the depth sensor indicating that there wasn’t much water left under the keel.
I shouted up to Lasse who was still on the front deck to quickly drop the anchor again. Obviously, he didn’t get what was going on, but he got the anchor down in a heartbeat and I felt it grabbing onto the seabed just moments later.
Ellidah’s draft is 2 meters and the depth sensor indicated a depth of 2.5 meters. “Jesus, that was too close,” I thought as I went to explain the situation to Lasse.
Hadn’t he reacted that quick, we would probably have hit the bottom.
SNAPPED THROTTLE WIRE
We sat down in the cockpit and discussed our options. How long was it going to take to get a new throttle wire?
We couldn’t sail all the way to Cartagena as I wasn’t comfortable sailing through the narrow strait to get under the bridge and out of the lake without propulsion.
Neither would we have been able to get into port when we got to Cartagena. It was clear that we weren’t going anywhere until we could get a new throttle wire onboard.
There is a shallow marina for smaller boats in La Manga so we decided to give them a call to check if they could help us out.
No response on the VHF, so we took advantage of some nice advanced technology and googled the name, and found the telephone number. A nice lady told us she could send a guy out in a boat to have a look for us.
That was the best news we could get, and with a good mood and motivation, we started to dismantle the throttle controller and ripped everything out of the starboard cabin to get the wire out.
True enough, it had snapped straight off.
GETTING TO KNOW THE LOCALS
Not too long after, a small boat approached us. The water was choppy and the rain still pouring down so we felt a bit sorry for the guy while sitting there dry and sheltered under the bimini.
Our new friend tied his boat alongside Ellidah and we helped him on board and explained what happened.
To our surprise, he knew the only dealer of Volvo parts in La Manga and was pretty sure he could get us a new wire.
He went off with the old one and came back less than an hour later with another one. What a hero, coming out to help us out of goodwill in this weather!
We thanked him a million times and made sure to let him know how grateful we were for his kindness.
He told us that it was a used wire that probably was a bit too long. I gladly paid the price for it and gave him a good contribution for his help, which he clearly appreciated.
As he went back into the rain, we started to fit the new wire, and shortly after we were sorted. With not much time to reach the swing bridge, we steamed off with motor and sails and just barely made it.
CHOPPY SEA ON THE WAY BACK TO CARTAGENA
The conditions were quite choppy out on the ocean and we had the wind straight on the nose. Again, we ended up motoring our way to the entrance of Yacht Port Cartagena and arrived at night in the dark.
Well, I guess that was the first sail in the dark. And the first Marina entrance in the dark. And the first-time parking in a super tight spot in the dark with winds pushing the bow off. Oh, good glory.
The marinero called us on the radio and told us to go to D10 on the outer pontoon and so we did.
Parking Ellidah can be a challenge.
She doesn’t have a bow thruster and the folding propeller and straight axle make her stern kick to port while reversing.
With some training, you can use this to your advantage, but I didn’t know her that well at this point so I ended up completely messing it up.
WAKING UP MY NEW NEIGHBORS AND PUTTING UP A SHOW
My Spanish is pretty bad. Well, more like non-existent. I think the marinero tried to communicate that he wanted me to come in with the bow first because of the wind. This marina is super tight between the boats.
I was determined to go stern-too as it went really well in all the other marinas we went to. After 3 attempts I gave it up and decided to go in with the bow first. That went even worse.
Lasse was on the bow like a superhero with the boatman’s hook pushing us away from the other boats, but I still managed to get blown all the way past my spot and into the dock where Ellidah parked herself alongside the dock.
Problem was that we obviously couldn’t stay there as we were blocking the berth behind and in front of us.
At this point, we had messed about for a while and I think everyone in Cartagena had shown up to watch the show.
I usually don’t get stressed up, but my head was boiling now.
We eventually, with the help of many of my new neighbors, got Ellidah turned around and on the final attempt, I managed to back her up nicely into D10 as the wind decided to give me a bit of a break.
Although hectic, we didn’t damage Ellidah, ourselves, or any other boats. In fact, I later learned that I was far from the first one to struggle in there, and given my limited experience, we actually sorted the situation quite nicely.
That was more than enough adventure for both of us that day and we agreed to take an early night. We were both cold from the trip and Lasse had a flight the morning after.
We woke up to sunshine and after I said goodbye and thanks for everything my last crew member left.
Now it was just me and Ellidah, parked safely in our new winter home. After cleaning and tidying Ellidah up, I went to properly introduce myself to the neighbors that I had just given the boat show of the year.