27. And they’re off (again)!!

We came south for the warm weather, but it all got slightly warmer than we’d hoped in Nerja (see: 26. Backdraft!)….

Following our emergency run into Marina del Este in Herradura for repairs, it quickly became apparent that ‘mañana’ actually means ‘At some point in the future. Maybe.’ and it took an extremely long time to get things moving to 1.) get the insurance company a.) communicating with us and b.) mobilised; 2.) get an electrician out to assess and quote for the work; and 3.) actually get the work done. We had had the misfortune to pull in to the most expensive marina in the area, so after 2 weeks of waiting (by which time it had become clear that nothing at all was happening), our Spanish neighbour, Jorge (www.granadasailing.com), arranged a cheaper berth in a boatyard in Motril for us. Jorge was doing a boat delivery when we moved, so we set off from Herradura armed merely with the name ‘Roberto’, an approximate location in Motril harbour, our average Spanish, and the promise of a €20 a night berth!

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Leaving Marina del Este…the first time!

We had a flat calm day for the 12NM trip along the coast, and as we arrived into the large harbour (there is a private marina, a fishing port, the Maritime Division of the Guardia Civil, and the ferry port that serves Morocco in the same harbour area!), we spotted somewhere that looked like the place Jorge had described to us; Marina Park. We called the number on the billboard and spoke to Roberto – he was at lunch he told us, could we come back in an hour and a half? Of course…

We arrived again at the newly appointed time, and Roberto came to help us alongside with a marinero – he was incredibly kind and helpful, and we are very grateful to him and his team for their help and hospitality, not to mention to Jorge for arranging it.

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The view from our berth in Motril

It was a fairly industrial area (Pip and Kevin, we know you are envious!), and we had a great view of the cement works, but the staff were all really friendly, there were showers, and we had water on the pontoon. We also had electric that we were (sort of) able to use whilst peering cautiously at every connection to check for anything untoward/smoking/bursting into flames etc! We desperately needed to charge the batteries properly; after several weeks of being purely on solar and wind (with only a couple of hours on the engine between Herradura and Motril) – not to mention the fire – we had been worried that our four batteries (newly bought just before we left Gibraltar!) were damaged, as they were not holding their charge too well.

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Rowing around in Motril

We did a lot of walking during our time in Herradura and Motril, Rose did some scuba diving, we made some new friends (notably Peter; a great buddy – all the same stuff annoyed us!), and also took in a bit of culture. The diving was great, and there were plenty of octopi, eels (conger and moray), red and black scorpion fish, nudibranch of various sizes (some just a couple of mm long), and some stunning (and a bit weird-looking) longfin gurnard. The nudibranch were particularly cool – they eat other organisms, then metabolise them and take on their characteristics and features for their own benefit. For example, there are some species that eat poisonous organisms, metabolise the poisons and send them to the ends of their own spines/hairs which in turn become poisonous and act as their new defence system. There is also a species that doesn’t need to actually eat; it exists purely by photosynthesis. Amazing little things, nudibranch!

Motril turned out to be a really nice spot to spend a bit of time in, and – as we can usually be relied upon to do – we found some nice tapas bars (but on the downside, we also found the worst Chinese restaurant we have ever been to – even to describe the insipid oily mess we received as ‘Chinese’ should be banned under the Trade Descriptions Act). The seafood from Motril is quite famous apparently – especially the prawns – so we enjoyed sampling some great local seafood too. We also got front row seats from our cockpit of the Motril Airshow which was happening on the beach adjacent to us on the last weekend in June, so we had three days of the roar of the Eurofighter Typhoons as well as the local Tropicopter, which took off about 100 yards away from us!

We visited the Sugar Museum of Motril – which was a lot more interesting than it might sound. Motril was one of the centres of sugar cane processing for around 400 years until the end of the 18th Century, and the museum was a really excellent guide through both the history and process of sugar making. The sugar cane – originally grown in Indonesia and China, but imported into Spain by the Moors, was grown along the ‘Costa Tropical’ (where Motril lies). It was then cut and passed by hand through giant rollers up to 10 times to break up the cane and as much raw sugar as possible accessible for extraction. One guy (the ‘feeder’) passed the cane into the roller to another guy (the ‘receiver’); forces exerted on the cane was as much as 2kg/cm², and it was apparently common practice to keep a machete by the rollers to cut the hands off any unfortunate feeders/receivers who got their hands caught! The mashed cane was then boiled in vats under the supervision of the Master Sugar Maker, before being poured into conical earthenware pots where it was heated again – the sugar at the bottom took on a darker colour than the sugar at the top; the darkness of the sugar decided its market value. By the mid 18th Century, 40% of the sugar sold in Paris had originated in the area of Motril, and all was fine and dandy; Motril got so rich it actually bought the right to be a city – a big deal in those days – but things unfortunately didn’t last. The industry went into decline mostly due to timber, or lack of. The almost-complete deforestation that had occurred in the area due to the timber needed to fuel the furnaces and boil the cane to extract the sugar caused not only a lack of trees but also massive subsidence, and the industry died a death by the end of the 18th Century. The museum was really excellent, and we learnt at least a little bit about something we previously knew nothing about, so it was worth the €3!

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La Palma Sugar House, Motril

Hugo and I took the bus to Granada for the day to visit the city and the Alhambra. The bus was a mere €6 each way for the one hour trip on a very comfy bus – it being Spain, there was also no shortage of folks who wanted to have a good natter in the queue for tickets, in the queue to get on the bus, on the bus itself, and as we got off the bus… so the time passed quickly, even if it hadn’t been the relaxing journey I had planned with a good book and snoozing baby….

Granada itself is an absolutely stunning city – had we known, we would have planned a short city break here as a family but as it was, Jamie stayed in Motril to dog-sit and have a day off from childcare! We headed straight for the Alhambra and Generalife, but even at 10am, the only tickets that were available for the Nasrid Palace (the really famous bit) were for 2pm, so we duly got our tickets and hopped on a bus back into town to look around. The architecture is fantastic – lots of old buildings, lovely little alleyways and picturesque squares, with cobbled streets surrounding them. We swung by the Cathedral, got chatted at by a nutty old lady, then two other less-nutty and extremely sweet old ladies (in Spain, nobody misses the chance to have a natter. Ever!). We went to the Capilla Real (a chapel next to the cathedral built for King Fernando and Isabel in the early 16th Century), the shopping areas of Plaza Nueva, the Plaza del Toro (one of the most impressive bullrings we’ve seen on our Spanish travels so far), and the famous Universidad de Granada (the Faculty of Medicine is world-renowned). The taxi driver told me that the tapas are also world-renowned (there is a ‘tapas area’ in the city, where you can try the best of them apparently). Mind you, he also told me that Granada is the most beautiful city in Spain, possibly in Europe, and maybe even the whole world, so it may be that he was a little biased…. That said, it really is a beautiful city, and that was before we even got to the Alhambra.

The Alhambra and Generalife (gardens) was built in the 12th Century – originally as a military fort – by the Moors, and became the residence of the king (who was known as ‘Alhamar’, hence ‘Alhambra’) in the mid-13th Century. Today, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is without a doubt one of the most spectacular places I have ever visited – each corner I turned elicited a fresh ‘wow!’, especially in the Nasrid Palace. The sheer amount and beauty of the intricate hand-carved plaster, stone, and timber, along with ornate tiling made for some quite breath-taking sightseeing. There are ornamental carvings and adornments, along with inscriptions of prayers, poems, homages, and even instructions! As well as the Nasrid Palace, the famous Lion Palace, Patio de los Arrayanes, and Generalife provided some great photo opportunities too.

We stayed a further 2 weeks in Motril (where did the time go?!?!) before returning to Marina del Este to finally get the electrical repairs done. This time round, Keith (the new electrician, who actually turned up and could do the work, as opposed to some of the others…) got us to take the windlass motor off for checking, and measured for all the new cables we needed to replace the damaged ones. He could probably do the work the following week…. So off we went again! This time we anchored in between Herradura and Almuñécar, just off the beach. Jamie and I spotted  a naked hippy on the beach when we arrived, which we thought was a bit unusual, but waking the next few mornings to scores of naked people (on what we discovered was Almuñécar’s Playa Nudista) soon became bizarrely normal. Although the hazards of nudity cannot be overstated when swimming, as I can testify to (having received a nasty sting on my elbow from a small, yet feisty jellyfish)! That said, I was lucky; under the circumstances, imagine how nasty it could have been!!!

Another week passed at anchor; we rowed ashore, swam (mostly in wetsuits following the jellyfish incident!), did some snorkelling, played around with our kedge (second) anchor, dived the anchor, and generally chilled out until it was time to return to the marina again.

We got back into the marina to finally get repaired a month after the fire!! We had our electrical system fully checked, all the damaged cabling replaced, and our windlass motor repaired. At least we had used the four weeks(!) to get a few more jobs on the never-ending list completed…. Most importantly, we would like to announce that the veg nets have now been renewed!! That task of all tasks!! In fact, when we had done them (which took all of about an hour), we reflected that we hadn’t really needed to re-do them at all as they were perfectly fine, it was only that we had some left over netting that was shiny and white, and we thought it might look nice. Little did we know how blown out of proportion the small job was going to be! We also made a small hanging net for Hugo’s toys, fixed our home-made bimini (which looks surprisingly un-homemade), repaired our broken fairlead, and a few other bits and pieces, and fitted additional mozzie nets to the main hatches to stop being savaged by the blighters in the night when it’s too warm to keep the hatches closed. We also re-organised our storage so that things that we need are where we can actually get to them…

We also decided that we needed to up our solar energy a bit – it seemed that our current arrangement wasn’t quite keeping up with our energy consumption. We got chatting to Walter at Solartex in Marina del Este (http://solartex.es/), and arranged for a new 270W panel (more than double our existing solar power!) with a second MPPT controller to be fitted before we left. Andreas, Walter’s associate, came and welded the frame, the panel was wired in, and we were good to go, without fear that our beer might get warm!

So, we have finally got ourselves fixed up and are on the move again! We are well stocked up for a few weeks of anchoring, and plan to head on towards the Balearic Islands. We are somewhat stuck in Spain due to the ongoing lack of birth certificate for Hugo, but we are looking forward to seeing something a bit ‘different’ in the islands, and also doing some snorkelling, fishing, diving, kayaking etc.

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At anchor off Playa Nudista, Almuñécar

We hope our next blog post will not contain anything about breakdowns, repairs, ‘Nightmares in….’ etc, but more of the sort of stuff that will make you jealous! In the meantime, the geeks amongst you can keep following our progress on https://www.vesselfinder.com/?mmsi=235017978.

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