September 30, 2012
Saying Good Bye


September 15, 2012
Reflections on Our 27 Year Circumnavigation


September 01, 2012
Sea of Cortez Sailing


August 15, 2012
Back to the Sea of Cortez


August 01, 2012
After Circumnavigation: What to Take, What to Leave Behind


July 15, 2012
Mexican Booby Trap


July 01, 2012
Tackling the Tehuantepec


June 14, 2012
Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico


June 01, 2012
Sailing northern Costa Rica and Nicargua


May 15, 2012
Costa Rican Cruising


May 01, 2012
New Found Friends in Golfito, Costa Rica


April 15, 2012
It’s a Jungle Out There


April 01, 2012
Hunting and Gathering in Panama


March 15, 2012
Money.... Money.... Money


March 01, 2012
Feel Free Transits the Panama Canal


February 15, 2012
Transiting the Panama Canal


February 01, 2012
Feel Free is Back in the Pacific


January 15, 2012
Charter Skipper for a Week


January 01, 2012
Confessions of a Charter Cat Chef


December 15, 2011
Away to the Andamans Part 2


December 01, 2011
AWAY to the ANDAMANs


November 15, 2011
Sailing in a Freshwater Paradise


November 01, 2011
To Barf or not to Barf, that is the question


October 14, 2011
Remarkable Cruisers


October 03, 2011
The Sea of Cortez, Another World


September 15, 2011
Panama Canal Here We Come


September 01, 2011
Sailing for Humanity


August 15, 2011
A Hard Lesson on the Hard and Reflections on Boat Work


August 01, 2011
Here Come the Lion Fish


July 15, 2011
The Joy of Books


July 01, 2011
The Sailors of San Blas


June 15, 2011
The Good Life in Kuna Yala


June 01, 2011
The Dirt Dweller in Paradise


May 15, 2011
People of the San Blas, Then and Now


May 01, 2011
Cruising in Kuna Yala


April 15, 2011
Near Disaster in the San Blas


April 01, 2011
At Last in the San Blas


March 15, 2011
Chilling Out in Cholon


March 01, 2011
Ah, Cartagena!


February 15, 2011
Cruising the Cape Horn of the Caribbean Part 2


February 01, 2011
Cruising the Cape Horn of the Caribbean Part 1


January 14, 2011
Aruban Interlude


December 30, 2010
Hunkering Down for a Hurricane


December 15, 2010
A Day in the Life - Our Passage to Aruba


December 01, 2010
Stuck in Curacao


November 15, 2010
Stormy Night Sailing


November 01, 2010
Sailing In The Sticks


October 15, 2010
Safety, Security and Circumnavigating with some tips on how to stay safe


October 04, 2010
Feel Free Transits The Suez Canal


September 15, 2010
Red Sea Sailing


September 01, 2010
FEEL FREEs Voyage Into the Red Sea


August 15, 2010
And just a little further, to Curacao


August 01, 2010
Bonaire Diving


July 15, 2010
Then To Bonaire


July 01, 2010
Cruising Remote Venezuelan Isles


June 15, 2010
Cruising St. Vincent


June 01, 2010
Right Place, Right Time


May 15, 2010
The Spice Isle


May 01, 2010
To the Grenadines


April 15, 2010
We Be In Barbados Mon


April 01, 2010
Atlantic Passage Part II


March 15, 2010
Atlantic Passage Part 1


March 01, 2010
Provisioning for the Atlantic Crossing


February 15, 2010
Atlantic Crossing Preparations


February 01, 2010
Cruising the Canary Islands


January 15, 2010
Out Of Africa


January 01, 2010
Come With Me To The High Atlas Mountains.............


December 15, 2009
Two Years Of Mediterranean Sailing


December 01, 2009
Moving On To Morocco


November 18, 2009
Leaving The Med


November 13, 2009
Reaching The Rock Of Gibraltar Milestone


October 15, 2009
Sailing Spains Costa del Sol


October 01, 2009
Sailing Spains Costa del High-rise


September 15, 2009
Sailing The Spanish Isles


September 01, 2009
At Sea Or On The Hook, These Recipes Travel Well


August 15, 2009
An Interlude At Menorca


August 01, 2009
A Pleasant Passage To Menorca


July 15, 2009
The Agony And Ecstasy Of The Tunisian Coast


July 01, 2009
Tripping Around Tunisia


June 15, 2009
Tales From North Africa


June 01, 2009
Dont Freak If Your Fridge Fails


May 15, 2009
Into Africa


May 01, 2009
Meandering Around Malta, Then Off To Tunisia


April 15, 2009
Low-Tech DIY Ideas For The New Economy


April 01, 2009
The Med Set A Few Cruiser Profiles


March 15, 2009
That Sinking Feeling


March 01, 2009
Thailand to Oman: Three Passages, Three Ports


February 15, 2009
Doing Hard Time in Malta


February 01, 2009
Pirate Alley Part 2


January 15, 2009
Pirate Alley Part 1


January 02, 2009
So Many Islands, So Little Time


December 15, 2008
Cruising With The Bear


December 01, 2008
Versatile Vinegar, The Boaters Friend


November 15, 2008
What I Did In This Summer -- Dock Masters In paradise


November 01, 2008
Over The Top Of Oz


October 16, 2008
The Tumultuous Tasman


October 01, 2008
Sweet Memories Of The Splendid Surins


September 15, 2008
And Then We Were In Malta


September 01, 2008
Feel Frees Siracusan Story


August 15, 2008
The Best of Times, The Worst of Times


August 01, 2008
All Tied Up In The Ionians


July 15, 2008
A Greek Odyssey Our Journey to Ithaca


July 01, 2008
Anatomy of a Near Catastrophe


June 15, 2008
Good-bye Turkey, Hello Greece


June 01, 2008
More Winter Cruising in Turkey


May 15, 2008
Winter Cruising in Turkey


April 15, 2008
Talking Turkey: Marmaris Marina Living


April 15, 2008
The Joy Of The Side Trip


April 01, 2008
Return to Marmaris, And The Budget


March 15, 2008
Passing Time And Dodging The Meltemi


March 01, 2008
Home Sweet Home


February 15, 2008
A Little Working, A Little Cruising


February 01, 2008
Working Our Way Around The World


January 15, 2008
Welcome Aboard Feel Free


January 01, 2008
Liz Tosonis and Tom Morkins Feel Free


January 01, 2008
About Tom Morkin and Liz Tosoni


January 01, 2008
About Feel Free


January 01, 2008
Voyage Itinerary


October 15, 2009
Sailing Spains Costa del Sol

By Tom Morkin

Our sailing in Spain could easily be classified into three parts: 1) Balearic Islands 2) Costa Blanca 3) Costa del Sol. The last, the Costa del Sol (aka “Costa del Plastico”), has been put behind us. In truth, our nine days on the southernmost coast of Spain were not that bad, especially if you didn’t mind open roadsteads for anchorages, rolling from gunnel to gunnel 50 percent of the time, knowing it would cost $150 a night for a marina berth, being trapped on your boat for fear of taking your dinghy near the surf pounded shore. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the Costa del Sol is a cruising ground that scores 2 on a scale of 1 to 10 from the “Tom and Liz Show.”

For those with a taste for picturesque coastlines covered with mile after mile of plastic-covered greenhouses and almost uninterrupted resort development, coupled with tourist-lined beaches, enough of whom have jet skis that are apparently mandated to destroy any shred of tranquility that an anchored boat may briefly enjoy, well, this coast is for you.

The Mediterranean coast of Spain, from the French border to Gibraltar, is broken into five coasts. Beginning at the French border and working southwest to Gibraltar, they are Costa Brava, Costa Dorada, Costa del Azahar, Costa Blanca and, finally, Costa del Sol. The Costa del Sol begins at Cabo de Gata in the east and extends 200 miles in a more or less east-west direction.
Its coastline is less dramatic than the rocky and craggy coastlines of the Costa Blanca and Balearic Islands. It’s a coast of low shores and mile upon mile of sandy, sunny beaches, and of course, endless sugar cube-like structures that house the thousands (millions?) of sun seekers from all points of Europe. It’s a mecca no doubt for a northern European in need of a cheap and convenient sun fix, but for the cruising yachtie it’s not so attractive unless the weather chooses to be cooperative, which for the most part it was, for us. We rounded Cabo de Gata having bid adios to the Costa Blanca.

We arrived late at the marina entrance, the weather was benign, so we chose to anchor off the beach for the night and dinghy in the next day to check out the facilities before going in with Feel Free. We’re happy we did. It was like entering a ghost town. Like much of southern Spain, Almerimar was massively overdeveloped with condo resorts and restaurants surrounding the boat basin, then the money disappeared leaving unfinished skeletons of buildings and deep scars on the landscape for buildings that never got built.
We were told that because the harbor entrance had not been dredged this year, we’dlikely touch bottom entering and leaving. We elected to give it a miss.

It was an auspicious enough arrival to the Costa del Sol with the onshore sea breeze that kicked in on schedule at 1100 hours. We took the gentle gift on the port beam and ghosted along at a sedate 3 knots. Our destination was Almerimar, the biggest marina complex on the Costa del Sol and one of the biggest marinas in Spain. We’d been almost two months since our last marina stop in Tunisia and were ready for the luxuries of marina life for a couple of days at least. Incidentally, Almerimar is not only big, it’s also one of the few Spanish marinas that’s reasonably priced ­– only $45 per night for our boat, electricity extra.

“Hey, off the port beam,” Liz called out. “We’ve got a pod of six or more dolphins – really BIG dolphins! Hey, wait a minute, they’re black, very black, and they aren’t dolphins at all… They’re whales!” They were pilot whales and unbelievably, in all our years of cruising, this was a first. We’ve seen greys, humpbacks, orcas, minkes, even sperm whales, but never a pilot whale. Like dolphins, they were attracted to our slow-moving boat. As they got closer we could see they were much bigger than dolphins with bulbous heads and long but low dorsal fins.

The pilot whales behaved like dolphins on tranquilizers. They cavorted on the surface near the boat, communicating in high-pitched squeaks like they’d never seen a sailboat before.
From our whale book we learned that they’re highly social animals, sometimes found in groups of hundreds. They can dive to 2,000 feet hunting for squid, usually at night. They tend to be quiet, relaxed, and fairly slow swimmers and very social. Our little pod of about 12 bore testimony to the relaxed, slow-moving, and vocal characterizations. To us, they behaved like dolphins on tranquilizers, just enjoying hanging around the boat, squeaking away in communication. Unlike their dolphin cousins they didn’t show the slightest inclination to ride our bow wave. It seemed to require way too much work for these laid back critters.

The next four days along the Costa del Sol were spent anchoring and re-anchoring, trying to find a spot where we could safely leave the boat and dinghy ashore to visit the small coastal communities. It was frustrating as many of the anchorages were exposed to the southeast and southwest winds that prevailed. Those brief periods when we were confident we could leave the boat without fear of dragging in the onshore wind, we were put off by pounding surf on the beaches.

The headland at “Punta de la Concepcion o Mona” did offer some level of solace. The cape extends south about half a mile from the shore that runs nearly east-west on this part of the coast, providing protection from southwest winds on its east side and protection from easterlies on its west side.
Puntademona

What it didn’t do was prevent the swell from wrapping around into the anchorages and making life onboard a rolling hell. For a 48-hour period we lay on the east side of the cape, grateful for the barrier it provided against the 25-knot WSW winds, but criticized it because it couldn’t prevent the seas from wrapping around it and striking us on the beam, setting up a rolling cycle that would make Popeye seasick.

Feel Free lies at anchor inside Punta de la Concepcion o Mona. The picture belies the constant rolling from the wraparound swells. A close up at the cape shows a few of the luxurious monster homes and condo developments that line the coast.

It seems the weather gods weren’t happy enough watching our little floating home rolling from gunnel to gunnel. Oh no. Just 12 hours after the westerly abated, news from the radio reported that a 30-knot easterly was on the way at 0-dark-30 (sometime between dusk and dawn) the next day. No problem, just zip around the other side of the cape and voila – sanctuary from the easterlies, right? Well, sort of. The problem was the seas on the west side of the cape were still big from the two days of 25-knot westerly winds. The only thing to do was to wait until the easterly arrived, then move and hope that a) the seas on the west side of the cape were tolerable when we moved the two miles to the other anchorage, b) when the easterly arrived it didn’t arrive with a bang because we’d be anchored on a lee shore upon its arrival, and c) the easterly arrived sometime after 0-dark-30.
Well, as you can guess dear reader, the easterly did arrive with a bang at 0330. The winds in our snug but rolly anchorage went from 10 knots from the NW to zero, then 25 out of the east all in about 10 minutes. Within 20 minutes it was blowing 30-plus and we were busily extracting our beloved 65-pound Bruce anchor from the bottom and motoring around a very windy cape to its leeward side where the leftover westerly swell was alive and well. But everything is relative, right? So that very rolly but windless place looked pretty good compared to the lee shore we just left. There was added pleasure in the thought that the stronger the easterly blew, the sooner the seas would lay down in our new anchorage, or so we thought.
Sure enough, with the 25-knot easterly, the west side of the cape proved to be rolly. However, because the wind was blowing from the east and we were westbound to Gibraltar, it was like our train had arrived at the station. We reefed the main, set the whisker pole to run downwind, and off we went for the 90 miles to Gibraltar.

Dawn brought into view the unmistakable Rock with its cap cloud. Happily, the ‘big dogs’ are well out of the way of small cruising boats that tend to stay close to shore.

As we approached the Strait of Gibraltar, evidence of the Straits’ importance to world shipping emerged. Over 30,000 ships transit the Straits each year. Europa Point marks the eastern entrance to the Bay of Gibraltar and Jbel Musa in Morocco is only 10 miles south. This is one of the “Pillars of Hercules,” the Rock of Gibraltar being the other. Once round Europa Point, it was four miles up the Bay of Gibraltar past the Rock and its community of 30,000 Gibraltarians who owe their allegiance to Britain. The border with Spain is marked by the runway of Gibraltar airport. Finally, we were at the doorway, ready to step across to a new chapter of adventures.

The anchorage, off the Spanish town of La Linea, less than half a mile from the Gibraltar border was to be our home for almost three weeks.
The Rock of Gibraltar is known as one of the Pillars of Hercules who was the god of human toil. Here’s the big guy, seen later in a museum. Later we climbed the famous Rock; here we are at the top