Gibraltar Sotogrande Marina del Este Benalmadena Almerimar Click on chart to view at full resolutionThe chart on the left shows my progress, cruising from Gibraltar along the Costa del Sol of Spain.  It is necessary to click on the chart and view it at full resolution to clearly see the black line that represents Sarah's cruise along this coast of Spain.  After a long stop in Almerimar (end of the black line) I left the Cost del Sol and continued my cruise along the Costa Blanca.

I departed Gibraltar single-handed on May 1, 2006 and entered the Mediterranean Sea when I rounded Europa Point.  This was the first time I'd single-handed Sarah in over 1-1/2 years.  So I wanted an easy and short trip.  I also needed to test the new autopilot drive motor installed while in Gib.  The motor appeared to be the cause of the autopilot outage on the trip from Cascais to Gib.  The drive motor appeared to be starting to fail and it may have been pulling too much current from the course computer which in turn caused the computer to drop out of Auto and into Standby mode.

Since I was not entirely confidant that all of the problems had been taken care of I was not entirely upset that there was virtually no wind on this day and I motored the short distance from Gib to Sotogrande, a large resort development on the Spanish coast.

Click on picture to view at full resolutionMy departure from Gib was not exactly smooth.  This was my first experience with Med-Style moorings since Bermuda and my first experience dropping the moorings by myself.  I requested assistance from the Marina Bay staff.  I released the stern mooring lines and let them drop below the surface while the marina guy held the bow in place and watched the lines.  When he said they had sunk he released the bow and I began backing out of the berth.  Everything seemed fine until I was almost clear of the berth, then Sarah came to halt.  It was clear the keel or the rudder had snagged one of the mooring lines.  I let Sarah drift back into the berth and asked the marina guy to once more insure that the mooring lines had sunk.  He said they were down, so I put the engine in reverse once more.  This time the engine quickly died.  Now it was clear the prop had entangled one of the mooring lines and I was stuck.  The marina guy cut the pickup line from the mooring that appeared to be caught, but it did not help.  Now I noticed that this pickup line was polypropylene, which meant it could not sink.

The only choice now was to get a diver to release the mooring line from the prop.  Marina Bay called the diver and accepted responsibility for the problem because the mooring lines should not have been connected with a floating line.  While waiting for the diver I took the picture of the construction going on at the former site of Sheppard's Marina, across from Marina Bay (picture on the right).  After about an hour the diver arrived, released the line and I backed Sarah out of the berth and departed Marina Bay.

I had planned to top of the fuel tank and deck tanks in Gib, because the fuel price does not include a VAT tax.  This is generally the cheapest fuel in the Med area.  By the time I cleared the marina there were 5 or 6 other boats waiting for fuel.  This was a holiday and only one of the fuel docks was open and that had a single pump.  I wanted to get going and was anxious to start testing the autopilot.  I passed on the cheap fuel and departed the Gibraltar bound for Spain.

Click on picture to view at full resolutionI motored down the harbor front of Gib to Europa Pt., then rounded the point and headed up the Mediterranean Side of Gibraltar.
Click on picture to view at full resolutionThe mosque at Europa Pt.
Click on picture to view at full resolutionThe east side of the "Rock".
Click on picture to view at full resolutionThere is another anchorage on the east side of Gib.  More tankers and cargo ships waiting to get into Gib or Algeciras.
Click on picture to view at full resolutionThere is a large fish farm area just north of Gibraltar.  I didn't notice it on the charts when planning my route.  This is one of the weaknesses of vector electronic charts.  Very significant details are not visible until you zoom the chart in to a larger scale.  My planned course was right through the center of the farm.  Fortunately it was a clear day I could see these obstructions as I approached and changed course to avoid them.

I normally zoom in on a planned course to verify that all charted obstructions are safely avoided.  This time I only zoomed in to verify the course was sufficiently off any headlands and I missed this fish farm entirely.

One more reason to review all routes against raster charts if the not the actual paper charts.

Sotogrande, May 1 -  6, 2006
Click on picture to view a full resolutionBy mid-afternoon I was approaching the Puerto de Sotogrande.  This is a fairly new and very large marina complex.  There is a huge development still going on with cranes marking many new high-rise condominiums under construction.  However I soon learned that the condominiums and golf courses are the focus of the company in charge of the Puerto, not the marina. 
Click on picture to view at full resolutionThis was a holiday in Spain.  In the U.S. this normally means a marina will keep a large staff on hand because a holiday means more boat activity.  In Spain it appears a holiday is a holiday and business activity has nothing to do with staffing.  When I arrived at the Torre de Control (picture on left) there was a single person manning the marina office.  The processing still seemed fairly straight-forward.  A Swedish boat with whom I spent the winter in Cascais arrived at the same time as I and we both acquired slips for the next several days.  I then raised the Spanish courtesy flag on the starboard flag halyard.
Click on picture to view a full resolution

I topped off the fuel tank and departed the reception dock for my assigned berth.  A marina worker helped me get Sarah tied up with another Med-Style mooring, and then showed me the dock receptacle for power and the water main.  All seemed well for an expensive, but comfortable stay in a modern marina.  Things started to go down hill immediately. 

Click on picture to view a full resolutionThe first thing I noticed was that the dock electrical receptacle was not a standard 16 or 32 amp receptacle as I was used to in the Azores, Portugal and Gibraltar.  So I could not hook up my power cord.  The Swedish boat was assigned to the same dock as I, and they had the same problem.  We also discovered that we didn't get a map of the facility to identify were the showers, toilets and laundry might be.

We decided to go back to the office and find out where things were and see if we could get adapters for the power receptacles.  On the way we found the toilets, which could only be accessed by security cards.  These were not offered when we checked in.  We found the office closed with only a single person operating the fuel dock.  He said he did not have access to the security cards, but he could provide us with the power receptacles for an €85 deposit.  We were already under sticker shock because of the €50 per night berth charge, and this was only mildly upsetting.  Getting the receptacles took a little time as the attendant had to process each of our credit cards and he wasn't that familiar with the process.  The first thing we noticed about the receptacles was that the were not adapters, but just the plug.  We had to wire them ourselves.  Not a big deal, but why wouldn't a first class marina offer adapters for at least the 16A plugs that all cruisers in Europe have on their boats.  The reason, we were just discovering is that Puerto de Sotogrande is a first class resort and a third class marina.

So we headed back to our boats for the evening with no access to showers and we had to use our on board toilets.  We had electrical plugs that still needed to be wired.  At the dock I discovered that my plug did not fit any of the receptacles on the power box at my berth.  The Swedes were a little more lucky and their plug fit one of the receptacles.  Within a few minutes they wired the plug and had shore power.  I started Sarah's engine to charge the batteries and run the frig.

Later that night I went to sleep expecting in the morning to find the normal marina staff in the office and get all of this straightened out late, but straightened out.


Click on picture to view a full resolutionThe office opened at 9:00AM and I was there at 9:15.  Two Brit boats were there ahead of me checking out.  They came up from Gib yesterday as well.  The high price and the lack of services convinced them to head back rather than spend the several days in Sotogrande they had planned.

This morning the office staff was three young women, including the woman who processed us the day before.  The women operated the office in manner I've become accustomed to in latin countries.  Whenever something needs to be done (e.g., swipe a credit card) they all get together and discuss it in very rapid Spanish for 5 or ten minutes, then one of them does the deed.  There were several hombres in the building as well, but they had separate offices and only left those offices from time to time to interrupt the women from serving we customers.

Eventually one of the women started to work on my issues.  The shower card was easy - for another €30 deposit.  I also purchased a 300 minute (largest available) WIFI access card.  I gave the woman my credit card, but she could not get it accepted.   I guessed that CapitalOne saw charges showing up from Spain and had put a hold on my credit until I verified that these were my charges.  So I paid in cash.  Next I needed a new electrical plug.  Now one of the hombres was useful as he knew which plug was required for my berth on the dock.  This was a larger plug than the one I received the night before.  A larger plug means a larger deposit - right?   This one required an €125 deposit.  I offered to pay the additional €40 in cash (about what I had left), but noooooooo she had to run a credit back on my card for the €85 deposit for the old plug and a new charge of €125 for the new plug.  My eyes rolled, but I gave her my credit card again.  At first she could not run the credit.  She said the card I gave her was not the one I used for the deposit.  I said it certainly was.  She went to to the file (this is a very paper-oriented office) and pulled out my receipt with the credit card stub attached.  She showed me it was indeed for a different credit card, one I don't own.  I reasoned that the guy on duty last night got confused and put my credit card stub on the Swedes receipt and their stub on my receipt.  She went back to the file and found their receipt and sure enough there was my credit card stub.  So she processed the credit back to my card for the €85.  However I couldn't get the new plug without the €125 deposit, and my credit card was not being accepted.  Fortunately my bank card works like a credit card as well and she was able to process the new deposit on that card.

So I left the office after an hour with a security card for the showers and toilet and a plug for the dock receptacle at my berth. 

Click on picture to view a full resolutionHaving gained a little more experience with this operation I elected not to fight my way through the electrical hookup myself and asked the marina to provide someone to wire-up the plug for me.  The marina guy met me back at the berth and the first thing he discovered was that at least one of the screws that clamp the wires to the terminals was badly corroded and wouldn't tighten.  He got a replacement plug and wired it up.  Then he couldn't get the plug to go into the dock receptacle.  He had to clean a lot of dirt out of the receptacle and finally the plug went in.  I connected the other end of my shore cable to the boat receptacle and .................... no power.  The marina guy opened up the power box and turned on the receptacle.  Now I had onboard power.  So even if I had been given the  right plug the night before and I had wired it up myself (very easy, Europeans are really good at standards) I still would not have had power because no one bothered to turn it on! 
Finally 18 hours after arriving at Sotogrande I have shore power, WIFI access, and a place to take a dump.  Marvelous!

So my advice to any cruisers heading to this part of Spain is don't stop at Puerto de Sotogrande.  I normally try to avoid high-priced marinas, but when I put into one I expect service that is in line with the price.  I did not get that at Sotogrande, and neither did 4 other boats arriving on the same day as I.  Part of it can be blamed on our arrival on a holiday, but since when is a holiday an excuse for poor service in a trade that should be holiday oriented?

My view of the answer is that Sotogrande is oriented toward someone who wants a condominium on the Costa del Sol with a berth for his/her yacht and many choices of were to play tennis, golf and polo.  It is not a place for cruising sailors.  If you are looking for berth close to Gibraltar I recommend you go a few miles further up the coast to Estepona.  I stopped there on my way out of the Med and the price and service were both great improvements over Sotogrande.

I was stuck there for a few days as bad weather is heading in.  So Il just had to grin and bare it.  It did give me the opportunity work on some of the outstanding problems on Sarah.

Benalmadena, May 6 - 8, 2006
 After 5 €50 nights in Sotogrande I checked out and headed up the Costa del Sol.  While in Sotogrande I was able to order the end cap for the Northern Lights Generator and have it shipped to my mail forwarder in Florida. 

So now the problem list looks like this:

  1. Lost generator end cap - replacement ordered
  2. Broken autopilot remote control - replacement purchased and working
  3. Malfunctioning autopilot - new drive motor installed, apparently working
  4. Broken toilet flush valve (temporarily fix not working - back to flushing with fresh water)
  5. Broken battery combiner - replacement order, work around in the meantime
  6. NMEA Multiplexer not working - unit has been sent to Brookhouse for repair.



Click on picture to view at full resolutionI had been warned that the Cost del Sol is probably the least interesting part of Spain for the cruising sailor.  There is almost a continuous line of condominiums and hotels on the entire coast.  Sort of like the east coast of Florida, if Florida had mountains.  The marinas are expensive and not all that accommodating (e.g., Sotogrande).   I would have preferred to just sail past most of this coast in a two or three day sail, but while single-handing my insurance coverage allows only for day trips.  So I must harbor hop along the coast at a maximum of 50 nm per day.  Since my progress is going to be slow anyway I was looking for a reasonably-priced marina I could stay at for 4 or 5 days and allow the parts to be shipped to me.

I decided not to stop in Estepona as it was less than 15 nm from Sotogrande, I needed to cover some ground this day.  The next marina was at Jose Banus on the west end of Marbella.  The picture on the right shows a mega yacht anchored of Jose Banus.  The cruising guide warns that Jose Banus is a very expensive marina.  Since the guide didn't think Sotogrande was high-priced I can only imagine what Jose Banus might charge.

Click on picture to view at full resolutionI decided to try the Puerto de Bajadilla on the east end of Marbella.  I tied to the fuel dock as the guide suggested, but no one was there.  The guide said to walk to the Capitania on the other side of the marina.  Then I found that the gate from the fuel dock to the marina grounds was closed and locked.  I tried calling the marina on VHF Channel 9, but no one responded.  It would appear the marina is not open for business on the weekend.

So I left Bajadilla and headed back to the center of Marbella and the Puerto Deportivo de Marbella.  Once again I tied Sarah to the fuel dock and at least there were people on the dock.  I found the duty manager, but he said he had no room for any size boat.

I probably could have gone back to Banus and gotten a berth, but I decided to press on to the east and bypass Marbella entirely.  I called the Puerto Cabo Pino on the cell phone, but no one answered.  Then I called Puerto de Benalmadena.  They answered the phone and said they had a berth for me.

Click on picture to view at full resolutionBenalmadena is another 20 nm from Marbella.  It was then 15:00, so I would be getting into Benalmadena around 18:30.  I was assured the marina office would still be open then and I headed Sarah for Benalmadena.

On the way I passed the Punta de Calaburras, shown on the left.

Click on picture to view at full resolutionShortly after 18:00 I entered the harbor at Benalmadena.  Unlike the other marinas I had passed that day there was a bee-hive of activity around the fuel dock.  Several boats were tied to the dock getting fuel or registering with the marina.  They were spread out just so there was no room for me to dock Sarah.  After circling the dock a few times, a British sailor noticed my situation and got the other boats to move closer together and provide me with room.  I was able to quickly register with the marina and got a berth directly opposite the office on the outer seawall. 

From this berth it would have been a 50 meter swim to the office, but it is a 1.5 km walk as I have to hike completely around this very large marina to get from my berth to the office.  At least the toilets and showers are only a few hundred meters away.

Click on picture to view at full resolutionWhen I checked into the marina, the crew on duty could not register me for more than one day.  They told me to check with the office the first thing in the morning to stay longer.  The next morning was Sunday and when I arrived at the office the woman on duty said she could only allow me to stay one (more) day, and I would have to check with the manager who would be in tomorrow (Monday) morning.  So my guess was I could stay, but I wjouldn't know for sure until the next morning.  I couldn't get my mail forwarder to ship my parts until the next day, so I wasn't losing any time having to wait for the manager to arrive.

On a brief walk around the marina and one night in my berth I concluded that Benalmadena is a tourist destination for young people who want to party and not much else (what else do young people do?  I don't remember).  There is a floating disco bar at the end of the seawall to which Sarah was berthed, about 100 meters away.  It blasted dance music from the dock while the partiers arrived, then it left for a sunset trip around the bay, music blasting away.  After sunset it returns to the dock and music continues for about an hour.  Thankfully then the boat closes up and the partiers have to go to the bars on the marina grounds and in town.

Marina del Este, May 8 - 17, 2006
Click on picture to view at full resolutionAfter waiting all weekend to see if I could extend my stay at Benalmadena, on Monday morning I was told unequivocally that I must leave.  They had two boats waiting at the reception dock for berths, and that two days is the maximum allowed without prior arrangement.  If they had told me that on arrival I would have left Sunday morning.  As quickly as I could I departed the marina and started calling marinas further to the east for a berth that night.  The closest was Puerto de Caleta de Velez, but they were full.  Next I called the Marina del Este.  I got a perfect English speaker who assured me they had plenty of room and I could stay for a week or more.  So I headed for Marina del Este, about 43 nm from Benalmadena.

For the first few hours I had 10 - 12 kts of wind out of the SW and could finally get Sarah sailing.

The wind was short-lived and within a few hours it died then it was a motor trip the rest of the way.

About half-way to the Marina del Este the autopilot problem returned.  Just as before it started with an isolated case of the autopilot dropping into standby.  I reset the course and the autopilot worked for another hour, then once again dropped into standby.  The next occurrence was within a half hour, the next within 10 minutes, then 2 minutes.  I hand steered Sarah for most of the last 3 hours of the trip.

Click on picture to view at full resolutionThe Marina del Este is a small upscale resort marina just west of the port of Motril.  It is in a beautiful location, nestled among rock formations at the base of the coastal mountain range.

When I entered the office I was greeted in perfect English and the check in was performed quickly.  I had not inquired about the rates, knowing they would be very high.  I asked for 5 days, no longer looking to get my mail forwarded rather now the autopilot was back on the agenda.  The total bill was €200, and I was presented with a complementary bottle of wine.  Either I was very tired from steering without the autopilot or the surprise of a gift on registering at a marina overwhelmed me.  For whatever reason my arithmetic failed me and thought I was getting a berth in a high class marina for €20 per night.  Later when I revisited the bill I realized my error and I also discovered that he had only charged me for 4 nights, not 5.  So the actual charge was €50/night.  The most expensive marina since Sotogrande.  At least for me the difference was this really is a first rate marina with good facilities and services.  Sotogrande was just high priced.  Also the €50 charge here included VAT, water and electricity all of which were added to the Sotogrande bill.

So I was not happy to be shedding Euros at the 50/night rate, but at least here I think I was getting some value for those Euros.

Click on picture to view at full resolutionThe next morning I started to make arrangements to attack the autopilot issue.  The marina WIFI was down at the time, so I had to wait for a local restaurant to open to get logged onto their free WIFI.  In the meantime I reserved a rental car for the following morning expecting to be driving to either Malaga or Almeria to see a Raymarine dealer.

The restaurant opened around noon and I got onto the Raymarine web site to get the phone numbers of the Raymarine reps in the area.  When I interrogated the dealer list the only ones that came up were in Almerimar and Almeria to the east.  I thought it strange there were no reps in Malaga or Marbella, far bigger yachting centers.  I tried calling the reps listed, but could get no English speakers.  The best I got was a woman at one shop who told me in Spanish that I should call back manaña for an English speaker.  From living in Panama I knew what manaña means.  It doesn't mean tomorrow as most think, it means not today.

So my plan was to drive the Almerimar and Almeria in the morning and find these dealers and see if any of them could help me.

I had decided to buy a new course computer.  There was no real reason to believe that the current problem is in the course computer, but it was the only piece of the puzzle that had not been checked or replaced.  To have the computer diagnosed requires sending it back to Raymarine in New Hampshire and waiting 2 - 3 weeks for them to evaluate it.  I decided to buy the computer (for big $) and either pin point that as the problem or eliminate it.  If the computer was not the problem I would at least have a backup or something to sell on eBay.

Click on picture to view at full resolutionIn the picture on the right you can see Sarah at her berth in the Marina del Este in the right center of the picture.  Although the marina is well protected by the large mole that forms the entrance it is subject to a fair amount of surge when the seas are out of the E or SE.  The seas strike the beach below the cliff at the bottom of the picture and are reflected into the marina.  With my usual luck, the seas were out of the E for all of my time in the marina.

The next day was a complete waste.  I was unable to locate any of the Raymarine dealers (no directions or maps on the website) in either Almerimar or Almeria.  I once more got through to the same shop as before and once again was told to call tomorrow to speak in English.  I got through to the shop in Almerimar, but my question, "¿habla usted Ingles?" got a curt "NO!" and no further response as I tried to get some interest with words like "New autopilot computador" with no luck.

So I returned to the Marina del Este no closer to a solution for my autopilot than before and having spent another €50 for the berth and €35 for the rental car. 

The next morning I tried the phone again.  This time I got through to the manaña office and wonder of wonders the English-speaker was there.  He asked me to send him a fax with the parts I needed and he would get them ordered.  I told him it would have to be an email and it would take me about 30 minutes to get on the Internet (the restaurant WIFI is up all the time, but does not reach to Sarah's berth at the marina.  Within an hour I sent him the Raymarine part number and my current configuration.   I waited 20 minutes to insure it had been delivered.  I called the office and was told to call back manaña!

In desperation I called the uncooperative Almerimar number again, and this time got a woman who could speak a little English.  She told me they were located in the Almerimar marina (which I had visited the day before) and told me the building in which they were located.  I couldn't really understand that name, but I figured the marina office would know where they were located.  So I once more pointed my rental car east on the N340 toward Almerimar.  I travel this road not without trepidation.  This is reportedly the most dangerous road for fatal accidents in all of the EU.  Spain is in the process of upgrading the road to a divided 4 lane, limited access highway, but much of the road between Almuñecar and Almeria is two lane, undivided  and winds through the coastal mountains.

Click on picture to view at full resolutionThe picture on the left is of La Herradura.  This is a beach community just west of the Marina del Este.  This bay is one of the few good anchorages on the Cost del Sol, but it is exposed to the south.  If the wind has a westerly component it would be possible to nestle up under the headland for some protection even if the wind was slightly out of the south.  There is a fairly large catamaran that appears to be permanently moored in that location.

When I got to the Almerimar marina I went to the office and inquired about the Raymarine dealer.  There was a Brit sailor in the office and he showed me on a marina map where the office was located.  I followed his directions and found a small chandlery with a Raytheon (previous incarnation of Raymarine, AKA Autohelm) sticker in the window.  Inside I found a Brit running the shop.  This clearly was not the dealer with whom I was talking on the phone.  He was no more than a Raymarine retailer, but that was closer to Raymarine than I had been since leaving Gib.  I told him what I needed and he got on the phone with his distributor in the UK.  Turns out if I just want the computer they have to source the part on the Raymarine factory and that will take more than a week.  If I buy the complete Core Pack (computer, rudder reference and fluxgate compass) they can ship that day.  The difference in price was less than €100, so a no-brainer - I ordered the core pack.  I love having spares.

I returned to the Marina del Este finally having accomplished something, but nothing definitive for correcting the autopilot.  For the last several days the winds and seas had been out of the east, meaning I would have to motor into head seas for 10 - 12 hours to get to Almerimar.  Nothing I wanted to do.  So I decided to stay put in the Marina del Este until at least Monday (hopefully when the Core Pack arrives in Almerimar), drive to Almerimar and pick up the computer, install it on Sarah and depart Tuesday or Wednesday morning.  This would give me a 45 nm journey to see if the new computer changes anything.  If I drove Sarah to Almerimar and installed the computer there I would have no knowledge of the impact on the autopilot operation.  Since it has taken several hours of operation to see a failure, day trips out of Almerimar would not necessarily provide any information. 

So I continued to shed Euros at Marina del Este for a few days more in hopes I will get a good test of the autopilot when I finally leave.  Also about this time my back started to bother me.  I've had back spasms before, but normally it was associated with some exertion straining.  I could'nt think anything I had done in the last several days to account for this lower back pain.  It came and went and was especially bad whenever I stood up after sitting for a period.

On Monday, May 15 the new course computer arrived at the store in Almerimar and I drove there and back to get it.  I installed it the next day and finally I'm ready to depart the Marina del Este for Almerimar and a sea test of the new autopilot set up.

Almerimar, May 17 - June 16, 2006
Click on picture to view at full resolutionAlmerimar is a huge marina complex on a low point of land extending from the town of El Ejide, about 15 nm west of the port of Almeria.  It appears to be one of the most cruiser-friendly marinas on the Costa del Sol.  Not only are they accommodating (they almost always have room for one more yacht), but they charge significantly less than any of the marinas I've stayed at on this coast.  For my planned 3 week stay in Almeria, I will be paying about €10 per night, including electricity and water.  This will change in June, as that this their high season when the rates double to about €20 per night.  Even that rate is lower than all of marinas I've visited so far with the exception of Benalmadena, which is also €20 per night. 

Most of the services (laundry/Laundromat, supermercado, chandleries, etc.) I might want are available on the Marina premises.  There is WIFI Internet available on board, but so far it has not been that reliable.  It works well from about noon to 1800, but then goes in the toilet just when I want to have communications to the USA.

Pictured on the right is the Torre de Control at the marina entrance.  This is the reception dock and office for the marina.

Click on picture to view at full resolutionMy 45 nm trip from the Marina del Este to Almerimar was notable for only one thing, the new autopilot computer worked flawlessly.  I'm slowly rebuilding my confidence in the autopilot operation.

Other than that, the trip was mostly in thin fog or thick haze.  The shoreline was seldom in sight although I was never more than 2 or 3 miles off shore.  As I approached Almerimar the massive collection of hothouse farms came into view.  This region of Andalusia has seen recent prosperity as the vegetable garden of Europe.  In particular most of the winter vegetables for Europe are grown in these plastic-covered farm fields.  I have been told that one of reasons for this explosion of farms in a very arid region is the discover some years ago of a large aquiver under the land.  So not only does this area receive abundant sunshine it also has a huge reservoir of water for irrigation.  This produces multiple growing seasons not unlike the Imperial Valley of California (although in this case the water source is local).

Click on picture to view at full resolutionI arrived at the reception dock around 6:00PM after an 8-hour motor trip.  I had a head current for much of the trip.  At times the current approached 1 kt.  Hence the slow speed over the ground.

Once more I have to climb over the bow rail on the anchor crowns because I have not been able rig the Passerelle I purchased in Gibraltar.  However, there is a metal shop here that specializes in fabricating Passerelle mounts that bolt to the side of the anchor roller.  I have one on order and it should be delivered Friday or Monday. 

I have gotten used to climbing on and off the boat over the anchors, but guests will find the passerelle much easier.  My sore back would also find it more accommodating.

Click on picture to view at full resolutionThis is another med-style mooring.  A single mooring line on the stern and two bow lines on the dock.  The secret, I've discovered, to a comfortable mooring is to get a good deal of tension between the dock lines and the mooring line.  This keeps the boat from surging back and forth.  The boats on each side keep Sarah her from moving side to side.  Those of us more used to fixed docks find this arrangement non-intuitive as we normally have leave a some slack in the dock lines to allow for the tide rise and fall.  The tidal range here in the Med is relatively small (< 2'), but even if it were greater the stern mooring line is attached to a long length of heavy chain and then the mooring anchor (usually a concrete block).  As the tide rises the mooring line pulls the chain off the harbor floor compensating for the sea height change.

This arrangement is tough on the bow lines, and I'm on my third set of dock lines since I arrived in Cascais last fall.  Normally a set of dock lines would last me more than 5 years.

Click on picture to view at full resolutionThis is a picture of just one of 5  yacht basins in the marina complex, and this just shows the outer portion of the basin.  I don't know how many berths there are in the marina, but it must be more than 500.

After a successful test of the autopilot getting to Almeria my boat problem status now looks like this:

  1. Lost generator end cap - replacement on the way to Almerimar
  2. Broken autopilot remote control - replacement purchased and working, preparing to send old unit back to factory for repair.
  3. Malfunctioning autopilot - new computer installed, apparently working
  4. Broken toilet flush valve (temporarily fix not working) - replacement parts on the way to Almerimar
  5. Broken battery combiner (manual work around) - replacement shipped to Jeff to include in his luggage (hope the Aduana is not following this web)
  6. NMEA Multiplexer not working - unit has been sent to Brookhouse and should be on its way to me here in Almerimar.

And I still have a sore back that seems to be getting worse.



Click on picture to view at full resolutionOn Monday, May 22 the parts I had shipped to my mail forwarder arrived.  As usual St. Brendan's Isle was prompt and efficient in getting my stuff forwarded to me.  In this shipment were the two end caps for the generator oil evacuation port and a new flush valve assembly for the head.  Now I could take a few more problems off the list.

On the right is one of the end caps for the generator.  I only needed one, but if I could drop it once I am very capable of dropping it twice, so now I have a spare.  This little piece of plastic kept me from using the generator for over a month.  The original was metal and white, but I long ago forgot about color coordination for this generator.


Click on picture to view at full resolutionOn the left the cap is in place and the generator is once more operational.  I checked the oil and then started the generator.  It came up immediately and I let it run until the engine was warm then shut it down.  As usual I had to add a 1/2 quart of oil as the oil filter is mounted horizontally and must be put on dry.

One job down.

Click on picture to view at full resolutionThe next job was the head.  On the right is Martin's valiant attempt at a temporary repair of the valve.  The stem at the top of the valve broke, which separated the valve from the stem piece that fits into the knob and allows the knob to turn the valve.  To flush water into the bowl the opening on the side of the valve must be aligned with the input port on the head.  To pump the water out of the head the valve must be turned 90º away from the port into the head. 

For his fix, Martin epoxied a machine screw into the stem of the valve.  Then the valve could be turned by a small wrench or nut driver on the head of the screw.  This worked well for several days, but eventually the screw came loose from the epoxy and would no longer turn the valve body.  During the installation of the new valve I realized that this temporary fix might have continued to work if I had applied some grease to the valve O-rings to allow the valve to turn more easily in the housing.

This partially repaired valve is now in my spare parts bin for the head.



Click on picture to view at full resolutionOn the left is the bright new valve.  The top part of the stem is what broke off the old valve.

Click on picture to view at full resolutionOn the right the new valve is in place and the valve knob re-installed.  The toilet flushes normally now.  No more flushing it with fresh water from the shower head. 
So now the problem status is as follows:


  1. Lost generator end cap - New cap installed and a spare in my parts bin.
  2. Broken autopilot remote control - replacement purchased and working, preparing to send old unit back to factory for repair.
  3. Malfunctioning autopilot - new computer installed, apparently working
  4. Broken toilet flush valve - replacement valve installed and working.
  5. Broken battery combiner (manual work around) - replacement shipped to Jeff to include in his luggage (hope the Aduana is not following this web)
  6. NMEA Multiplexer not working - unit has been repaired at the Brookhouse and should be on its way to me here in Almerimar.

So as soon as the multiplexer is back in place and Jeff arrives with the battery combiner Sarah will be very close to the condition I expected to start this cruise over a month ago.

Now if my back would only get better.  I've used heat pads and ointments, but none of these topical treatments seem to be working.  Up until now I've been staying at marinas.  I'm a little concerned at how my back will hold up when I start anchoring.  Sarah has a manual windlass, but it still requires a lot of exertion to get all of the tackle back on deck and the anchor in the roller.


Click on picture to view at full resolutionWhile in Gibraltar I purchased an aluminum folding Passerelle to make it easier and safer getting on and off Sarah in the Med-Style moorings that almost all marinas offer.  Until I got to Almerimar I had not used this passerelle, but had to climb on and off the boat using the crown of the Chinese CQR anchor in the roller on the bow.  The Passerelle came with a deck socket to allow it to be used off the stern.  However, I normally moor Sarah bow in toward the dock not stern in.  This arrangement keeps the rudder in deeper water and also protects the Monitor Windvane (or as Jack Tyler calls it, "My stainless steel oil derrick") from coming into contact with the concrete dock.  I attempted to secure a wooden plank to the bow to use as a cantilevered base for the deck socket, but there is no real was to secure that on Sarah's bow without getting in the way of the mooring cleats or the anchor windlass.

At each of the marinas I stopped in the Cost del Sol I noticed that most of the bow-in yachts had a stainless steel mounting socket bolted to the anchor roller or the bow pulpit.  Obviously someone was making them, but until I got to Almerimar I hadn't found a shop that could do it.  In Almerimar there is a metal shop operated by two ex-pat Zimbabweans (sp?), Inox Almerimar.  They custom fabricate and repair stainless steel fixtures for yachts and a passerelle mount is one of their standard offerings.  I had them build one for Sarah for €150 and it was ready in 2 days.  Now I no longer have to climb over the anchors, nor am I trapped on the boat at very high tide, when it would be difficult or impossible to safely climb back on board.

More Breakage  
Click on picture to view at full resolutionJust when I thought I had everything repaired and working on Sarah, another piece of equipment decides to break.  This time it is the shower drain pump.  This pump moves water from the shower stall overboard.  It is a fairly heavy duty Whale diaphragm pump.  The pump itself appears to be working fine.  The problem is the plastic ring clamp that secures the inlet and outlet valves to the pump body cracked and broke at one of the clamping screws.

The disassembled pump is shown in the picture on the right.


Click on picture to view at full resolutionThe broken ring clamp is shown in the picture on the left.  Naturally the break is such that it would be very difficult to repair the clamp with epoxy.  I cannot figure out a way to clamp the two pieces together such that the epoxy could fuse the two pieces back together.  Since this is where the clamping force is applied (via a machine screw) the repair must be just as strong as the plastic ring itself.

Of course this part is not included in any of the spare parts service packages supplied by Whale Pumps.  So if a repair is not possible, a new pump will be required.  My spare parts bin is getting pretty full with these complete unit replacements.




Once more the list:

  1. Lost generator end cap - New cap installed and a spare in my parts bin.
  2. Broken autopilot remote control - replacement purchased and working, preparing to send old unit back to factory for repair.
  3. Malfunctioning autopilot - new computer installed, apparently working
  4. Broken toilet flush valve - replacement valve installed and working.
  5. Broken battery combiner (manual work around) - replacement on board, waiting installation
  6. NMEA Multiplexer not working - Repaired unit installed and working
  7. Broken seal on shower pan pump - Trying to repair or replace.


After contacting the Spanish distributor for Whale pumps it was clear that getting a replacement clamp would take weeks, if it every showed up.  So I ordered a complete new pump and installed that when it arrived a few days later.  The shower sump is now draining properly and I have one more spare pump.