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Gecko Shake Down Cruise Legs 5 & 6

Leg 5

We spent 6 or so hours in La Línea de Concepción opposite Gibraltar for a well earned cold beer and some tapas (it’s tough to find anywhere open at 10pm in this town, it’s no Madrid) and after a short kip on Gecko we set off for Fuengirola at 3.30 in the morning on the 21st November 2019.

Then we all stood watch as we threaded our way through the tankers and container boats in Algeciras Bay, rounded the Peninsula and headed North-East to the Costa de Sol (no sun though) on a wet but calm passage north-east, picking through the local fishing boats.

Gecko in Fuengirola

Mid morning, after an uneventful motor sail along the coast we finally reached Fuengirola in pouring rain, 19 days after first arriving in La Rochelle. All the crew at this point needed a break from the delivery after so many delays due to the weather – there was not much left in the tank. I booked Gecko in for a couple of weeks in Puerto Deportivo Fuengirola (that was a mistake- more on that later) and we all headed our separate ways to catch up with family commitments: Jim back to Yorkshire, Pedro to Barcelona and me to the UK.

Although we hadn´t made it all the way round, we still felt good about getting the boat round to Andulucia in such adverse weather conditions. Hopefully from here on up it would all be plain sailing, but before that a break and a close watch on the weather conditions.

Leg 6 – The Final Run Home

Waiting, waiting, waiting to buy diesel before setting off from Fuengirola. Es la hora de café y bocadillos….Shorts on for the first time!

The final leg back from Fuengirola to Port Ginesta near Barcelona couldn´t have been more different to the previous passages around the Iberian peninsular. It was time to welcome Jason back onto the boat- from here on up it would just be the two of us sailing Gecko 500 nm around the coast on 3 hour watches.

Puerto Deportivo Fuengirola gave us a nasty surprise. I had booked the boat in for 2 weeks when we had checked in on the 21st. I was dog tired and should have just gone for a week to be honest, but I figured that I’d cut down on the admin. Well, I asked for a week’s refund when we checked out a week later, but got the “computer says no” response. They weren’t having any of it, despite the fact that this would have been an easy cancellation of one credit card transaction and the setting up of a new one.
“Would I like a voucher to use in the future?” Grrrrrr. 😠 Warning! Avoid Puerto Deportivo Fuengirola or at least book in by the day.

After filling up both of the tanks with diesel, we set off under a blue sky on the 28 November 2019 with the sun beating down and the music on. This was more like it! Sun tan lotion on and make it the Factor 50! The Andalucian coastline is pretty dramatic around here and the mountains made a great backdrop as we headed east on our 500 nm leg around to Barcelona.

Heading East along the Andalucian coast

By morning of the 29th, the following day, we had motor sailed past Cabo de Gata in Almeria in similar conditions (sunny, high pressure, 2 knots of wind) and were getting into the groove of the 3 hour watch system. It´s easy once you’ve had your coffee, but not so great when you are being shaken awake!

We had Gecko cruising at 6 knots or so at 2400 rpm (on a single Volvo), alternating between the port and starboard engine depending on who was on watch. At 9am we rounded the cape with a dolphin sighting off the Almerian cliffs that plunge into the sea around these parts – it’s a beautiful coastline around here between the Costa del Sol and Costa Blanca. It felt great to head up onto a north-east heading and point Gecko to Murcia. The latitude was finally ticking up again!

Looking at the map, the big temptation was to head for Ibiza on the way back to Barcelona. That wouldn’t be too big a detour would it? Unfortunately we were sailing on a temporary Spanish registration called a “pasavante”, and that wouldn’t be possible- we’d have to take the most direct route.

By the afternoon we were already halfway to Cartegena and arrived at Cabo de Palos that night (or was it early in the morning? I’ll have to check the Ship’s log). In any case, Jason handed over the watch just as we were threading our way past the Islas Hormigas in the early hours and I headed up the Costa Blanca towards Benidorm and the Cap de la Nau.

Early in the morning on the 30th, we dodged the MSC Sinfonia, a 13 decker bearing down on Gecko at 25 knots and by sun up we were off Benidorm which looks stunning from 8 miles off. The Cap de la Nau is an impressive rocky, steep cape surrounded by limestone cliffs.

Once you round that, you head north-west to Cap de Sant Antoni which would be our last cape of the delivery. We were thinking of putting into a marina to restock on diesel, but with our strategy of switching engines to conserve fuel we had used less than forecast and decided to push on for Barcelona.

Cap de Sant Antoni on the Costa Blanca. Next stop home!

So that was that! With Denia receding in the rear view mirror, and the wind picking up, we headed for home with Ibiza in view and tempting us to starboard. There was plenty of shipping to avoid at this point: ferries from Ibiza, container ships, tankers, cruise liners- you name it- it was all on the radar and keeping us busy on the navigation front.

Avoided that one!

The final night of sailing was pretty rough (not as rough as the Bay of Biscay, but still). The wind picked up all night until we were right on the limit for the full mainsail (and gusting over the limit in the small hours, but Jason managed this by loosening the sheets). The wind was funneling off the coast too, so this was blowing us off course away to Mallorca for much of the night, but we made good progress in the early morning shifts and put in a tack to get closer back towards the coast. The sea was starting to get pretty lumpy however, and we were bashing into it.

By the time I got up for my middle of the night shift, the wind speed had come down and Jason had one engine going to get us through the confused seas. Not long after that, I fired up the other engine and that helped us punch through the waves and that helped make the ride less uncomfortable. By sun up, the sea state had calmed down a bit and we were steaming towards Port Ginesta with the impressive silhouette of Mont Serrat in the distance.

Heading into Port Ginesta with Mont Serrat in the distance

We arrived at Port Ginesta at 4.30 pm on the 1st December, almost 1 month after departing La Rochelle (OK, we had a few days break in between, but that was some weather on the passage).

Job done and Gecko was finally home! Many thanks to Pedro, Jim and Jason for sailing her round.