We left the island of Ibiza for Cartagena at 13:00 on July 6th with a good wind forecast and a planned route of 165 nm. We had to motor for the first few hours as we were blocked from the easterly wind by the island itself, and we enjoyed motoring along smoothly, looking at the beautiful west side of Ibiza (most beautiful area is between San Miguel and Sant Antoni). Then as we headed away from Ibiza, and west towards the mainland, the winds picked up and we sailed until midnight under full sail. After that there was no wind until morning when it suddenly came up strong. When we arrived outside the entrance to the harbor at Cartagena at about noon, there were squalls with gusts to 35 knots. Mark did not feel comfortable bringing the boat into a marina that we have never visited before in these conditions. So we decided to find a place to anchor out. There are really very few protected anchorages along the Spanish coastline, but we did find a small notch in the coast 6 or 7 nm south of Cartagena. It had good sand and some protection from the northeast. With the easterly swells, however, it was a bit rolly. We thought it would be terrible, but it actually calmed down enough that we decided to stay there for the night. Slept 12 hours. We got up at 7:30 am and went right to Cartagena. It was only blowing 10 knots at the time and we were helped into our berth by a helpful marinara. So glad to be there.
One footnote…at about 5:00 p.m., just a few hours out from Ibiza, with Mark down below trying to nap, a motor yacht almost hit us. The motor yacht was coming up fast from the southeast as we were going 8 knots southwest. I saw him from a good distance and kept waiting for him to turn away. Being a sailboat, with our sails set, we have the right of way over a motorboat. A big ferry had just gone by about one nautical mile in front of us, passing the motor yacht, so I was sure that someone was on deck being attentive. However, it turned out that the motor yacht was completely oblivious to us being there and he was going full speed… on a direct collision course with us. He did not have his AIS turned on, so I could not easily contact him by radio. By the time I realized he was not going to turn (as he was supposed to do by the rules of the sea) it was too late for me to adjust all the sails (all were out)… so I just jumped up on the cockpit seats and screamed and waved my arms. Thank goodness someone sunning themselves on the foredeck of the motor yacht saw me and called up to the captain (who must have been sleeping, or absorbed in some other activity) and he turned his boat just in the nick of time to avoid hitting me. So friggin scary. This was the first and only time in 12 years that something like this has happened to us.
As I was waving and screaming on the deck trying to get his attention, Mark, awakened by the screaming, leaped out his bunk and rushed on deck just in time to see this large motor yacht just meters away bearing down on Sabbatical III, with his wife up on the cockpit coaming waving her arms and screaming as loudly as he claims he has ever heard her. The daydreaming Captain of the motor yacht must have been shaken by the near miss as well, as he turned and stopped his vessel, and then turned on his AIS to reveal that his vessel’s name was “The Dreamer”. He was likely too far from Sabbatical III to hear or see the abusive salty language and hand gestures I was sending his way. Mark now claims that I saved our lives.
Cartagena is a nice town and a good stop along the coast of southern Spain. The marina staff at Yacht Club Cartagena were extremely helpful and we especially liked the marinaras. The marina is well located, and lays adjacent to the beautiful old walled city. You can easily walk to the town center and to a whole range of stores and restaurants. The marina had clean and convenient shower and toilet facilities as well as good laundry facilities. There is a group of expats who live there (primarily British) who were very friendly and invited us to their weekly Sunday barbeque. It is a small town with a nice quay along the waterfront, and several attractive, fun, very tourist oriented, streets. It is lined with restaurants and bars (and dental clinics, oddly enough, which turned out to be very helpful after Mark broke a tooth when he bit into a walnut shell). Taxis are cheap and there are several excellent supermarkets.
Cartegena was founded around 227 BC by the Carthaginian General Hasdrubal the Fair and had its heyday under the Romans. There are Roman ruins in town, including a coliseum, but these were not particularly impressive. There is a terrific mercado with all sorts of fruits, vegies, fresh fish and meat. We enjoyed lunch there a few times, buying fish from the stalls, and then having it cooked up by a small restaurant that sits on the premises.
The town hall building is particularly pretty and was set up with chairs and a stage for the beginning of a one week music festival which featured a free concert at 8 P.M. in the square, followed by more concerts starting at 11:30 p.m. and 2:00 a.m (not exactly our preferred time for concerts, but great for the young people in town). It was kind of loud in the marina for those nights as all the concert venues overlooked the marina.
A very qualified mechanic named Juan Pedro, but widely referred to as “Red” because of his gingy appearance, helped Mark diagnose and fix a problem with our generator while we were in Cartagena. We also met some nice people on our dock including an Israeli/American couple (Jonathan and Laurie) who are just starting their sailing life on a big catamaran, and Willem and Ettie from the Netherlands on their Amel Supermaramu “Kavanga.”
We departed Cartegena on July 22 heading for Almerimar further south along the Spanish coast. We are now in Gibraltar, so we have some catching up to do.