We left Gibraltar on another beautifully sunny day, dodging the armada of tankers on the other side of the rock. We had a decent amount of wind around the 15knts and that night the strong southerly breeze brought a beautiful Saharan breeze with it. To be sailing in the Med properly for the first time on Maya at night with a thousand stars above and in only shorts & T-shirt was a real buzz. For the first time the dream of feeling total freedom away from the hum drum of London started to feel real.
Our first leg was to get to, or past Almeria, as this would then mean we could head NE and in the direction of the Balerics. It would also mean we had conquered the 3 major capes of the Iberian peninsula, Cabo Finisterre, Cabo de São Vincente & Cabo de Gata in just over a mth. With the wind almost heading us coming up to Almeria we decided we would sail into the bay as far as we could before tacking out to get round the cape. We were amazed to see the land covered as far of the eye could see with green houses used to apparently grow a large proportion of Europes winter fruit & veg. The strategy of sailing into the bay was one I would not advise as we found what must be a strong current apparently sucking us back into the bay. We rounded Cabo de Gata around one in the morning and set course for Cartagena, from where we would take a view on our route across to the Balerics.
Finally late morning on the following day we caught our first fish - yes! Finally a fish, and a whopping tiddler Tuna at that. Our first thoughts were to throw him back, but the hook had made such a mess I had no choice but to bring out the priest & throw him in the freezer for later fish bate. Not long after our fish excitement, I discovered that although we had the engine on with both alternators running we were not charging the batteries needed to keep our navigational instruments running & fridge & freezer cold. Being only a few hours out from Cartagena, and having already been on the move for almost 48hrs we decided we had little choice & it would be most prudent to pull in and try and diagnose & fix the issue, as well as getting a decent nights kip, out of watch.
Cartagena from the sea doesn't sell itself well, the large & unsightly petro-chemical works to the north of the bay are enough to put you off, but once you get inside, you realise what a little gem of a place this really is. When faced with the choice of the old marina with a pool or new marina with out, obviously our fatigue & memory of Lisbon came to a fore, as we went for the old marina with a pool. Big mistake! As the marina hand (old sweaty man on a bike speaking no English) tried to hem us in to a corner of the marina, despite my loud protestations, we were finally offered a mooring on the town wall..... Bitter experience has taught me, the last place you want to be moored for the night is the town wall. Not only are you the evenings entertainment for the local promonaders, but the chances of getting mice & cockroaches on the boat are pretty high, so we were pretty keen to get fixed & get moving. I spent the next hour tracing our generation issue back to a diode box which I thought had blow one of the diodes. Having diagnosed the issue (and phoned Geoff in London to run my theory by him), I called the marina on the VHF to see if they could recommend a marine electrician to source the part. Although they were able to send us an electrician the next morning, within half an hour Jon & Jenny appeared at the boat, having overheard our call on the VHF, Jon and ex big boat skipper & general oracle on boats, said for a small fee he would diagnose & help source parts that evening, which was music to my ears. Having showed him what I thought it was he concurred & promptly showed me a way we could circumvent that diode to get us on our way. Thanks to Jon we were fixed up within 3 hrs of having arrived in Cartagena, a massive thank you to him. By this stage it was so late and we were totally exhausted that we decided to move marinas to the new one & away from the eye sight of people & vermin alike.
Still feeling under time pressure to get to Sardinia on time, but deciding we & kids needed a day on land we decided to stay in Cartagena & we liked it a lot. Cartagena is one of those places everybody has been through from the Romans, Moors and beyond it is a beautiful place, rich in history & pleasant architecture.
The following day we beat our fairwell to make hast for Ibiza/Formenterra, and on past the south of Mallorca & Minorca before looking for a weather window across the Med to the west coast of Sardinia & Algehro. Jon & Jenny came by to bid us a safe travels the night before & to give us their phone number & call should we require any assistance. I have never been so glad to have somebody's number, as shall be revealed.
Our sail to Balerics was beautiful, if some what disappointing to be passing so close to Ibiza, but with so little time that we couldn't stop. We have vowed to return when we leave the med to finally break our Ibiza virginity. The sight of Ibiza from the sea at sunset was, however, stunning! The source of our next boat heart stopping moment was, however, only round the corner. The following morning as I came back on watch, the engine suddenly started to splutter. Our engine has never spluttered........ as I shouted up to Nicky to stop the engine, she shouted down to me 'the engine, Rolf the engine'. As I came up on deck with the worry of the engine in the forefront of my mind, my fear was compounded by seeing we were only 3miles to the east of a small island off the Mallorcan Coast. No wind, no engine & hard lumpy rocks near by, zikes!
Now as handy as like to profess to be, a diesel engine that doesn't work still fills me with dread. Although we had done a full engine service in Gibraltar, I was now facing one of my greatest fears, how to diagnose & fix an engine problem under pressure. The mind runs wild, diesel bug in one of the fuel lines, air in the system, filter blockage. Our first course of action was to see if we were being swept by any form of current onto the land, it appeared not. Then if we needed to, could we anchor, probably not. With the land dropping straight into the sea, 60 meters is not really anchoring territory. So we contacted the Spanish Coast guard to let them know we had an issue, our location & predicament. This was swiftly followed by a call to Geoff in London to calm the nerves. And finally a call to our friends in Cartagena to see if Jon could help. Never have a been so happy to hear somebody say 'Rolf I'll have you up and running in half an hour'. With the help of Jon at the other end of the phone he talked me through opening up all the injectors and pushing fuel through the system. Thank goodness it was air and not bug in the system. After an intensive half hour of diesel mechanics the engine roared back to life. It feels like I am slowly becoming a diesel mechanic. Hallelujah!!! & a large sign of relief all round. Jon if you're reading this, thank you again.
Onward to Mallorca and a quick fuel stop before the two day magnificent sail across to Sardinia.... As we left Mallorca astern a beer & cigar to a day of excitement.
We had been watching the weather for the crossing to Sardinia for days and our worry had been the +40knt gale which we had seen would stop us from getting across in time. As it happened with our stop in Cartagena the worst of the weather had gone through a day earlier and we were left with a 20knt northerly breeze which meant we flew across the Med under full main and 3/4 jib most of the way. Maya loves this kind of breeze and we had one of the best sails of our trip so far. As we came into sight of land Maya was made ready for week long rest, not before one last piece of excitement to finish this leg. Out of nowhere we were suddenly faced with the sight of a high speed rib charging around us - the dreaded Guarda di Finanza!!! As they pulled along side us we are greeted by 7 grey suited men looking quite menacing asking for all our documents, followed by a large fishing net being pointed in our general direction. We obiendtely passed over our passports, ship papers & insurance documents, and waited nervously as they followed us into Algehro, 10 metres behind us. In the end I think the sight of Audrey & Bertie playing on deck swung them to let us get into save port as soon as possible.
An epic 800 mile run, now to get to the mainland for our friends wedding & some land time r&r.....