Fuengirola to Almerimar
Sailing Cygnus III to Almerimar.
In all we spent a week waiting for the high winds and swell to subside so we could escape Fuengirola and go to Almerimar.
Our next port of call was 110 miles east along the Spanish coast which meant a 20 hour overnight sail. Although it can be exhausting I was looking forward to sailing at night again. There is something special about gliding along in total darkness away from the land. Thousands of pinpricks of light cut through black velvet sky making you feel so very small and insignificant. One such cluster of stars is the Cygnus Constellation after which our boat was named.
Using a storm to get the best sailing
The storm was now dying down fast and by my planning we could use the tail end of it to sail during the day. At night the wind would die down so we would have to use the motor but this was the Med and you can expect windless days and nights.
We set off from Fuengirola at just after eleven in the morning in bright sunshine to arrive in Almerimar early the next day. I had my Mediterranean sailing gear on (t-shirt and shorts) and as soon as we got out of the marina we hoisted both sails, turned the engine off and Cygnus III began to fly.
Soon after leaving Fuengirola we saw our first whales swimming a hundred meters or so from the boat. They are wonderful creatures to watch slowly gliding along without a care in the world. I did try calling them with my rendition of whale song but Angelina said the only thing it would attract were strangled cats.
The wind was supposed to drop, well that is how I read it!
During the next few hours the wind began to rise as expected so we took some sail in and Cygnus was still going like the proverbial bat out of hell. It was mid-afternoon and I expected the wind to drop. Instead it continued to get stronger and stronger and the swell was getting bigger and bigger. We had taken the main sail in completely as the wind was from behind leaving a reefed Genoa out (front sail). Cygnus sailed well like this and it also made it easier for me to control the sail in the strong winds. Even with a small amount of canvas out we were still doing over 8 knots, which is very fast for us.
Calm down, calm down
Snow on the Sierra Nevada Mountains
Over the next several hours the wind and swell just grew and grew. We were supposed to have no wind by now but instead we had a force 8 (not a place you want to be) and a swell of about 3 meters. I did my Liverpool impersonation several times to the weather gods asking them to “calm down, calm down” but they refused to listen. Angelina came out for a while but on seeing the size of the waves behind us decided the best place was down below. Unlike us, Cygnus was at home and relishing the chance to show what she could really do. She was made for weather like this. At one point we were surfing down waves at over 9 knots (highest 9.7 knots) which is almost double the speed we would normally go at. Just before sun set we looked across to the Sierra Nevada Mountains that hug the coast line and saw they were snow covered. It was strange knowing you are sailing in the Mediterranean and seeing snow.
Good news – we could not see the size of the waves in the dark
As darkness descended the wind and seas still had not dropped but luckily we could no longer see just how big the waves were. I made some recalculations and the good news was we would get to Almerimar some six hours early. The bad news was that we would be going into an unknown port in darkness with the wind still blowing hard and a big swell. If the swell had been in another direction I would have anchored until daylight but looking at the charts the jetty wall would afford us some protection going in.
Almerimar marina and town
Angelina in Almerimar
At 0130 we rounded the harbour wall and although the sea died down the wind was still howling like a banshee. Just getting Cygnus to the stone jetty you have to go alongside to book in was hard work as the wind was blowing us away. The jetty was also quiet high meaning Angelina and Jordan would have to climb up rather than jump down. As it was there was a waiting Marinello (harbour man) there who took our lines to hold us against the wall. If Angelina could have smothered him in kisses there and then she would have done. Although he did not speak English it was obvious he was amazed we had been sailing in that weather and he called us crazy. I have to admit he was right. I was still concerned about getting Cygnus across the marina into a berth in the dark and winds. The Marinello then became a demi-god making me also want to smother him with kisses. He said because of the weather we should stay just where we were tonight, get some sleep and move Cygnus to a berth in the morning. We were all just so relieved. Sleep, even in howling winds and after Angelina had removed my testicles with a rusty knife has never been so good.
Looking back now doesn’t seem as bad but what we did learn was that Cygnus was made to cope in weather like that, unlike us. She was happy; she enjoyed the challenge and never once put a keel wrong. She was a star. A full constellation and aptly named Cygnus. We also learnt to be wary of the accuracy of the weather forecasts here.
Concrete jungle or good liveaboard marina?
Several people had told us that Almerimar was a soulless concrete jungle of a marina where they would never go even if someone paid them. We found the opposite. Yes the marina is surrounded everywhere by half empty apartments but they are beautifully designed. There is character to the place and the live aboard’s here provide the soul. Each morning at 10am there is a “Yachtie’s” radio net telling you all sorts of news and what social activities there are going on. There are coffee mornings, boules on the beach, trips to the market, DVD and book sharing clubs and walks amongst other things. There is live music each night somewhere or other and even a real “fish and chip shop” with mushy peas. The other night Martin, a bar owner invited us to his birthday party. Again there was live music, a free buffet and dancing in the streets.
Walking in the hills of Andalucia
Maria, a wonderful local Spanish woman, drove us up into the mountains outside Almerimar for a walk. It was a little dodgy when she drove down a six mile donkey track with a 1000 foot sheer drop on one side but this is Spain. We walked through an amazing pass in the mountains along a dried river bed to a dam. We ate wild almonds from trees and learnt about the country. This was followed by beer and tapas high up in the middle of nowhere. Next week she wants to take us on a walk to a place you can pick oranges and cherries from trees in the mountains. She has also invited us to stay at her house. Yes, Almerimar does have soul but that soul is provided by people like Maria.
The time here gave me chance to look up some fascinating facts about the area say something about some amazing people we have met here:-
Quick facts about the Med and Tapas.
- When going through the Gibraltar straits from the Atlantic to the Med you actually sail downhill. Because of evaporation there is so much water going into the Med that the Atlantic end is two to three meters higher than the Mediterranean end.
- Tapas is traditionally a small plate of Spanish food given free with a drink. It came about from the inns that serviced travellers on horses and donkeys. Because of the heat flies would tend to try and get in your ale. A piece of bread was given with your drink which you used to put on the top of the mug to stop the flies going in. Travellers would then eat the bread. The inns saw this and started putting something a bit more appetising on top of the bread. That is how the origins of Tapas were derived.
And always remember….
- Some people are like slinkies – Not really good for anything but they bring a smile to your face when you push them down the stairs.
If you want to know anything more about Almerimar or anything else just leave a comment below.