After Tarife the Mediterranean begins. It felt a bit special to cross the continental shelf that marks the entrance on the chart, and definitely worth a high five to have reached here 🙂 But it wasn’t until we reached Gibraltar that we really could feel that we truly were here. Gibraltar, this characteristic rock famous for its network of tunnels that have been under British rule for 300 years and still has importance as a military post in the entrance of the Med. Eight miles separate Europe from Africa at its narrowest point in the straits. On the other side lies Tanger and a bit further on lies Ceuta, a Spanish enclave in Morrocco. This time we didn’t have clear sight over to the other side, so we had to use our imagination to fill in the details on the Mountains rising up on the African continent. Just as we passed Gibraltar, a big pod of dolphins jumped towards Mouni making us feel welcomed to the Med (and of course it was fun that Lotta got to sail with dolphins during her sail with us)!
As we had such a great sailing day, we didn’t want to stop so early, but continued towards Spain. The first impression of sailing in the Med was great, windy enough to give us a good speed but no waves at all! Passing the well-known tourist spots such as Marbella and Fuengirola, we then finally reached our goal – the huge artificial yacht harbour of Benalmádena on the SW end of Torremolinos. It was quite a different coastline then we are used to, in Costa del Sol there are hotel complexes all along the coast, and this harbour almost felt like a rip-off of Venice as we sailed in between the houses connected by bridges into our spot by a pier packed with restaurants and shops. After tying up the boat, we went for an evening swim to cool down and freshen up before dinner. The last night with Lotta onboard was celebrated on a Mexican restaurant and ended with some wine in the cockpit.
In the morning, Lotta left for Malaga airport and Sweden, while we left for a day of sailing passing Malaga towards the bay outside Almuñécar (Ensenada de los Berengueles). We spent at least an hour trying to decide which was the best anchorage to give us shelter before the strong Easterlies would appear, but still ended up spending the night rolling back and forth and didn’t get much sleep. We swallowed our pride and went into the Marina del Este Puerto de la Mona the next morning, even though our pilot book listed it as pricey. When Jens got back from the marina office he carried the complementary bottle of wine that lets you know that you paid a high price, a new record of 43€ for one night! On the positive side, they had good facilities and just a short walk away there was a nice beach with a restaurant where we enjoyed a burger and beer. As the heat got overwhelming I tried snorkling for the first time since we left Sweden and they did have some nice fish, plants and sea cucumbers by the cliffs.
The next night was spent on the hook by Playa de San Cristobal in Almuñécar again, since we didn’t want to waste all our money on marina fees while waiting for a westerly wind to come back. We rowed ashore with the (almost) repaired dinghy, and while I went to do some grocery shopping Jens swam back to the boat when we realised that one guy that was out swimming had climbed up on our boat!?! Jens had a challenge communicating with the Spanish man who didn’t know any English, but we think that he was trying to communicate that he had hurt his shoulder and was too tired to swim back to shore… In the end Jens got an invitation to his house, but he seemed a bit of a drunk so we didn’t take him up on that invitation 🙂
Now the frustration of the strong Easterly winds and the weak westerly winds had gotten the better of us and we spent one day motoring to Motril and then the next day to Almerimar, a seaside touristy town resembling Benalmádena. The four days we spent in Almerimar was filled with social calls, boat work and anchoring. We got to know our French-Canadian neighbours on “Winsome Lass”, which Francis is sailing together with his girlfriend and their 2,5-year-old son some months per year. There has been a real heat wave here so we treated them to some ice-cream and discussed the endless issues of boat work.
We then got invited over for dinner to Mike and Grace on 2moons who have sailed the last 11 years (7 in the Mediterranean) and whom we first met in Motril. They confirmed what we still have not wanted to believe – that sailing here in “Motorranean” requires at least 70% going by motor since the winds are often too weak for sailing. This is not a good match with our electric motor 😦 It actually makes us question if it is such a good idea for us to continue further into the Med, as it can get hard for us to get out again in a reasonable time frame. Besides debating and thinking about how we should proceed, we also had a wonderful paella for dinner onboard Pegasus with Stewart. A wet night that got us just a wee bit too hangover to enjoy the upcoming sail to Costa del Blanca the next morning…
Next time we´ll treat you with some snapshots from a powerful meeting with sea creatures half the size of our boat! Until then, hope you all are starting to enjoy the summer, wherever you are!
NOTES FOR SAILORS
Sailing in Costa del Sol is easy – easy navigation, good order and help in the harbours and not so much fishing nets. But – beware of the weak winds! Too little wind is commonplace. We visited several harbours along the way:
Benalmádena – big harbour with (quite noisy) restaurants, bars and shops all around, a charter destination. We paid between 21-23 € per night.
Marina Del Este – medium sized harbour in a beautiful setting but very pricey (42,64€/night). You can rent bikes for free, but it is far to supermarket. A little bit west from Punta del mona lies the marine national park “Acantilados de maro Cerro Gordo” that seems to have really god snorkling/diving and is possible to anchor at dedicated space. We anchored by one of the beaches in Almuñécar, which is a pleasant town with narrow streets and big grocery store behind the big red apartment hotel building.
Motril – Good shelter and beaches nearby but not so much more to offer, unless you rent a car and visit Grenada or the Sierra Nevada mountains that is just north from here. We paid 30,25€/night
Almerimar – Big harbour with chandlery and repairs nearby. Popular (and fairly cheap) to leave the boat over the winter. Lots of restaurants and really nice beach. We paid 17.52€/night (incl electricity, they add cost both for electricity and water if you want that).