Leg 2 of our journey – Cartagena to Gibraltar – 260 NM
We left Cartagena full of optimism that we had a working engine and some nice sailing ahead… perhaps this was slightly misjudged. The first afternoon was great, the wind had shifted and was pushing us along nicely. We caught our second tuna of the trip, on our second attempt and to top it all off we saw three dolphins briefly jump out the water around the boat.
Our first night was not smooth sailing. 15 to 25 knots of wind were forecast so Sam had planned a route keeping us close to the shore so that we would be protected; this certainly wasn’t the reality. We were sailing into wind which meant that we had to zig-zag down the coast. As the night went on the wind picked up to between 20 and 25 knots, with gusts up to 32 knots. Marvin (the auto helm) couldn’t manage with the high variable winds and so we had to helm by hand which was certainly a test of our skills. To add to the fairly uncomfortable ride we were having, there was a swell, so we were climbing up waves and crashing down them. The boat was being thrown around and Eddie was trying to sleep in the front cabin with the tender (the little dingy to go from the boat to shore when we’re anchored), the poor guy came out bashed and bruised in the morning.
As morning came the wind eased off a little bit and we had the option to pull into Almería for a couple of nights or to keep going sailing into wind to try and make it down to Gibraltar. With Eddie seriously seasick and Sam and I shattered from a hairy nights sailing we decided it would be best to stop and recuperate. Turning on the engine to enter the marina led to the discovery of a new problem; this time we had an engine that was overheating. We arrived late on Friday night so had to wait until Monday to get a mechanic to take a look. Mid morning on Monday he came and it seemed to be a fairly simple fix whereby the water pump belt needed to be tightened to stop it slipping.Once again we prepared to set sail thinking we had a nicely working and reliable engine. We envisaged the voyage to take just over 24 hours, meaning only one night at sea. The wind was finally in the right direction allowing us to sail downwind, however it never picked up as we thought it would so the engine was fairly heavily relied upon overnight. In the early hours our worst fears became a reality and the engine started overheating again. To add to our problems we were in-between two cruise liners on a collision course, it led to a rather frantic end to the night. Due to the lack of wind and the engine problems we hadn’t made enough progress to get to Gibraltar in time before the marina shut so we ducked into Estepona (about 22 nautical miles from Gibraltar). To get into the marina we had a 2 meter swell and 20 knots of wind to contend with, as well as an overheating engine. There was a rather large sigh of relief when we eventually managed to make it safely in behind the harbour walls.
We spent two nights in Estepona and had a thorough look at the engine. We decided that there was very little we could do and it would be best to make a dash for it to Gibraltar. We left Estepona and the engine wasn’t overheating, so we decided that we would motor sail the 5 hours it would take instead of add to our anxieties over the engine not restarting. We noticed that the oil pressure gauge wasn’t working so Sam went to investigate, as he opened up the engine he was hit by a heavy plume of what he thought was smoke. After some panic and investigation it became clear that in fact it was a coolant leak spraying onto the hot engine creating a steam cloud. Eddie did a botch fix with a spoon which lasted a short amount of time, soon Sam was requesting some more spooning from Eddie. Off went the engine and we continued making little progress under sail whilst trying to avoid the many container ships around. We somehow successfully got into the marina in Gibraltar.
It was Friday evening when we got into Gibraltar and happy hour was on at the bar, we went straight there as fast as we could and Sam was delighted that they served English Ale. The weather is awful in Gibraltar, 90% of the time it has rained, it felt like we’d arrived back in the UK. Gibraltar is a British Overseas territory and has been since 1713, so we almost had. We spent the weekend indulging in all things British – a full english breakfast, a roast dinner and multiple trips to Morissons as well as watching England in both the rugby and football. We also explored the town around us and walked up Gibraltar rock. The views from the top are fantastic and exploring the old guns and batteries really excited the boys. To further add to the excitement monkeys live on the rock and Eddie in particular got very friendly with them.
With persisting engine issues, toilet problems and needing to get the wind generator fitted we will spend some time in Gibraltar before we set sail to the Canary Islands