Leg 1 of our journey – Valencia to Cartagena – 160 NM
We’d spent a couple of days pre cooking meals, cleaning, stowing everything and completing all the checks across the boat. Eddie, our third crew member for this leg of the journey had flown out to join us. The morning that we were to set sail from Valencia had arrived, much to my elation. We motored out, hoisted the main sail and then the genoa, killed the engine and waved goodbye. We had officially set sail!
A diesel leak had sprung whilst we had been motoring which was our first concern. After Sam and Eddie had taken multiple looks and done some checks we decided that as long as we didn’t use it apart from to get into port we could make it to our first stop in Cartagena to get it fixed. We’d planned a stop here as there was due to be a poor weather front coming through with high winds predicted which we didn’t feel we were quite ready for yet.
The days sail away from Valencia was lovely; the sun was shining and we had some favourable winds. We set up a trawling fishing line and waited. About an hour in we had a bite but lost it as we hauled it in; however, about an hour later we had another bite and this time we weren’t letting it get away. As we pulled it in we realised we’d caught a tuna, something we didn’t know if we’d manage at all, yet we’d done so on the first day. There was an air of huge excitement on the boat as we got it on board and then Sam filleted it ready for us to eat later.
Meet Marvin… our trusty auto helm (or so we thought). We got him set up, and for the first 14 hours he worked like a dream, with only the odd correction needing to be made. But as we got to late evening, and the second watch of the night Marvin gave up on us. His ropes had snagged, meaning he couldn’t steer to correct the boat when we went slightly off course. This left us with no option but to hand steer the boat throughout the night, with the possibility that we could fix it in daylight. This was quite the challenge for a fairly inexperienced crew on their first night sail, but credit where its due as we pulled together and got through the night without any further incidents.
The dreaded sea sickness really hit as darkness fell and the wind picked up on the first evening. I didn’t fair well and couldn’t go down below. This posed a rather large issue when I was desperate for the toilet, it was a toss up between being sick or wetting myself. So I made the decision that instead I would do my business in a bucket on deck… this is the not very glamorous reality of being at sea. Eddie, bless him, struggled throughout our journey to Cartagena, only getting respite when he slept. He did a fantastic job however of not complaining once and mucking in to help whenever he could on board. There was respite for Sam and I as well, as Eddie and his verbal diarrhoea became bearable whilst at sea. Sam on the other hand didn’t seem affected at all, which was great and he was a brilliant support to Eddie and I.
We split the nights into 3 hour shifts, spread between the three of us it allowed us to have six hours off between every three hour watch. During the time you’re not on watch sleep is absolutely the top priority. Eddie and I were pretty good at managing to sleep, but Sam struggled. This was his first night sail as the skipper of the boat and to make it a little more difficult he was doing it in the Mediterranean where there is a considerable amount of other shipping to watch out for. We successfully navigated through two night sails on route to Cartagena. On the second night Marvin behaved and it was a much more relaxed evening as we all started to get a bit more used to what was required of us.
At two points in our sail to Cartagena the wind wasn’t playing ball, which is all part of the fun when you’re sailing. On the second day we bobbed around in the ocean for a couple of hours making less progress than if we’d been swimming along. The second time the wind wasn’t helping us out was on the third day as we approached Cartagena. We were sailing into the wind, this meant we had to tack the whole way down the coast in a big zig zag. Eventually we pulled into Cartagena, got a berth and stepped onto land for the first time in 3 days.
Our time spent in Cartagena has been particularly interesting; it is a port city and naval base that was founded in 220 BC. The city centre is all within the original city walls; there is a disused, but well kept amphitheatre and some interesting streets to wander through.
Surrounding the town are seven hills with a fort on each. We decided we would check one out; it was a beautiful sunny day and we stumbled upon a lovely winding path up the side of the hill. As we ascended there were plenty of caves to explore which really excited the boys. We reached the top and it was quite spectacular; the fort had been built between 1771 and 1788 and was still standing proud overlooking the city below.
We lucked out in Cartagena, finding an excellent mechanic who diagnosed and repaired the issue with the leaky injection pump. It turned out he was quite the legend and subsequently diagnosed and repaired a couple of engine issues that we were not even aware of. She now runs better than ever! We waited another day for some favourable winds and then we set sail for Gibraltar.