It is almost the end of September and we have recently been in LLinea, Gibraltar. One eye constantly looks at the sky, the other at the wind and weather forecasts. Autumn is slowly approaching and it feels like it's time to leave the Mediterranean behind and sail into the Atlantic.
The sheer unmanageable number of free and paid wind apps and weather websites does not make the decision to phase out any easier. It is difficult to get a clear picture of the current weather situation because the forecast models rarely match.
The "Aracanga" at anchor
The Mediterranean with its massive, delimiting land masses and the many local weather and wind phenomena hardly allows a forecast, the influences from all sides are too diverse. We have had the feeling and our experience that any forecast that goes beyond 24 hours should be treated with caution.
And we are reminded again and again that a look at the sky sometimes reveals more than a look at the smartphone.
It is not for nothing that many circumnavigators say that their most demanding stages were through the Mediterranean.
Our first stop in the Mediterranean is Mallorca. The Balearic Islands can be reached easily and cheaply from home by plane. So we get another visit from friends and family here and enjoy the time together. For us, a visit naturally also means sailing - or motoring - for an appointment, because on the crossing from Port St. Louis to the islands we have little or no wind for most of the route.
A sailor friend once said to me that if you are expecting a visitor, you must never specify both the time and place in advance. Otherwise you run the risk of leaking out in a storm or calm.
Easier said than done. So after the canal trip through France, our machine has another chance to convince us of its reliability. Gentle splashing on the hull alternates with the roar of the engine, and three nights and almost four days later the anchor is firmly buried in the sandy bottom of Port de Sóller.
The next few days go by quite relaxed. Although we've only been traveling for a little over a month at this point, it's nice to hang out with friends and family. Our three-year-old nephew would have preferred to move in on board: "Wow, you even have a children's toilet!" He was particularly fond of the nursery-sized pump toilet.
"Arcacanga" in front of the Islas Iletas
In two stages we sail together west around the island to Palma, where it is time to say goodbye again. As a couple again, we continue to the neighboring anchor bay at the Islas Ilettas to wait for a good weather window for the tour to Cartagen.
So much has already been written about the Balearic Islands that we limit ourselves to recommending the islands with their impressive rock formations, beautiful beaches, crystal clear water and Mediterranean cuisine to everyone as a trip destination. The only restriction: If possible, you should come in the off-season, because in August the Ballermann feeling is included in almost every anchor bay.
Hot ride from Mallorca to Cartagena
The second crossing, from the Balearic Islands to Cartagena, is the contrast to the previous tour. The Grib-Files were right about the wind direction; In terms of wind strength and waves, however, they were far off. The wave is only a little over two meters, but the very short frequency shakes us up a lot. Add 30 knots of wind - not a storm for a long time, but at least cold kitchen weather.
It starts with full sails, but shortly afterwards we roll the Exactly away and instead put our stagreiter jib. Then the big is reefed, first once, then twice. At the end only the jib remains for the rest of the crossing.
In any case, it was the right decision to modify our rig before the trip so that the furling genu moves onto the new bowsprit and a stable, reefable stagreiter jib is used on the bow fitting.
Apart from a few short, thundery lulls, the log rarely shows below five knots and regularly scratches the double-digit range, max.speed: 9.8 knots. Not bad for our 30 feet.
If you want to get something positive from the crossing, it is that it confirms your trust in our little boat and that not a drop of salt water has found its way into the cockpit. With two days and nights it wasn't a long crossing, but we are k. o. and happy when the lines are in Cartagen festival.
Martin Finkbeiner on his "Arcacanga" on the way from the Balearic Islands to Cartagena
Cartagen is a great city steeped in history. It was founded by the Carthaginian general Hasdrubal, the father of Hannibal, who was feared in Rome, and has been home to merchant and warships of all seafaring Mediterranean peoples for thousands of years. Cartagen is an important seaport to this day and the first for us where we meet some other long-distance sailors. Some are here to hibernate, others like us on our way towards the Atlantic.
House facade in Cartagena
It is less than five minutes from the port to the center. The city is colorful and beautiful, and a beer with tapas costs 2 euros, a cappuccino 1.50. What more do you want? On many houses you can see that the old facades are being preserved with great effort and that new houses are being built behind them, wall to wall. The mixture of really old, slowly decaying facades, newly renovated house fronts and some building sin with well-made graffiti in between gives Cartagen a great charm. In the middle you can find the Roman excavations with an impressive old theater, for the uncovering of which one or the other house block had to give way.
Autumn drives us towards Gibraltar
Even if you could endure it here and in the nearby anchor bays, it is time for us to leave the Mediterranean before autumn and head for Gibraltar. It was relaxing to lie in the Marinzu for a few days, especially after the uncomfortable crossing from Mallorca. But we also feel that we quickly get comfortable in the harbor.
It is hardly surprising that in almost every port you can find someone who has wanted to sail tomorrow every day for years.
Next crossing, another contrast program: beautiful space wind sailing at 15 to 20 knots, more swell than wave, still high, but significantly longer and more pleasant. Only around the Cabo de Gat - the cape before you sail into the Alboran and thus the westernmost part of the Mediterranean - it is a bit uncomfortable. But that is seldom to be expected otherwise here.
We are accompanied almost the entire crossing by dolphins, who often play with our bow wave and leave long, glittering tracks of sea lights behind them at night. A school of pilot whales is also making its way through the sea not far from our boat.
Towards the end of the three-day crossing, the slack caught us. For the last few miles, the diesel can run again. During a relaxed march, the ten HP push our "Aracanga", which weighs a little over four tons, with 4.5 knots and a consumption of just over half a liter per hour.
A constant theme on the journey through the Alboran Sea are the refugee boats coming from Morocco. Once an hour, a pan-pan call on channel 16 urges you to be particularly attentive.
While we are discussing upper limits and quotas, people die out here every day.
Floating life jacket in the Mediterranean
We haven't seen any boats, but an empty life jacket floating on the water reminded us of the misery that we cannot understand with our great sailing yachts, crammed with PLBs, Epirbs and life rafts. Whether it's a sinking sailing yacht or a refugee boat in need - providing help is rightly the top priority of good seamanship.
The difference is that in one case you end up in court if you fail to provide assistance and in the other case you run the risk of being convicted of being a smuggler if you provide assistance …
At the exit of the Mediterranean
Around 1 o'clock in the morning we see Gibraltar in hazy weather and weak moonlight. The 426-meter-high cliff rises gigantically like a lost menhir. Unfortunately, the joy is short-lived, because half an hour later we can't see anything, not even the bow of our boat. Thick fog and dozens of tankers and freighters around us create a ghostly atmosphere and the decision to exchange our passive AIS and still treat us to an active counterpart.
Less than an hour later the fog clears, and at five o'clock in the morning the "Aracanga" rocks gently in the port of Line on the Spanish side of Gibraltar. On the British side, despite free berths, they sent us away an hour in advance during the mooring: "We are fully booked." But it sounded more like "Your boat is too small".
We will stay in Gibraltar for a few days before the next adventure is due: the Atlantic. Depending on the wind and weather, we would like to make one or the other stop on the Moroccan coast and sail to Cape Verde in order to venture across the Atlantic in December or January.