We had scheduled to spend a week in a cheap and cheerful marina on the south coast of Spain as our final stop before heading over to Gibraltar to pick up our crew. Aguadulce is a typical Spanish coastal resort some five miles from Almeria and being there in low season was a total pleasure. This is how seaside resorts are in an ideal world: a gentle 25 degrees in the day, long beaches and sea side promenades with a handful of Spanish tourists dotted around and a sizeable town nestled below the impressive red cliff face which reared up in front of us, offering plenty of shelter. T shirt weather in October with nice, cool evenings. We could both imagine spending the winter there.
We were welcomed by the impressive Jessica who is the sort of lady who will stop in her car when she sees you in town and chat, despite having stayed late to deal with multiple boats all arriving at the same time in the marina. “Now we make a quiz about your boat” she said, “and see if you can answer all the questions correctly”. She was like one of those Indian goddesses with ten arms, holding multiple conversations in several languages and still finding time to share a joke and make sure that you are well looked after. The warmest welcome we have had in any marina so far!
We had a visit from friends Gareth and Andrea who moved to live here earlier this year and were enthusiastic about their new lives in Andalusia. We had originally hoped to meet in Garrucha, much closer to their home, but time had flown and we had run out of days. They drove to visit us and we had a lovely relaxing day sail in light airs under genoa in the bay, floating down towards Almeria. It was the first time that Simon and I had taken the boat out for a simple day sail since Greece, and it felt like a guilty pleasure to be dawdling about taking in the sunshine rather than making passage. We can understand better why Brits retire to Spain. It’s possible to find a home to suit any preference. Gareth and Andrea raved about their village which is in the Spanish countryside but still surrounded by enough English speaking residents for them to have an active social life. It must be very easy to get used to the almost constant blue skies and sunshine as well.
We had earmarked the week for preparing the boat for our crew and transforming their cabins from storage space to sleeping quarters with room for them to put away at least a few clothes and personal effects in drawers and wardrobes which were all crammed full of our dive gear and various boxes. Some more vac packing was in order and we managed to free up five whole bunks (albeit one which has the grab bag on it). Simon did very well and managed to get riggers on board to sort out our squeaking goose neck (which was far noisier than an actual goose). Not only did they change the acetal bearings and put a new line on the spinnaker pole lift, they took down the
mainsail to reattach the attachment point for the main at the bottom of the furler. This was a critical job which Eddie Scougal had spotted: it had been incorrectly installed the wrong way round before we bought the boat and was preventing the main from furling away properly, causing the bottom of the main to twist incorrectly. This was a job that Simon had earmarked to do once Roger and John were on board in Gibraltar, but it turned out to be far more difficult than we had anticipated. The two riggers almost threw in the towel and admitted defeat but eventually managed to get the job done.
Apart from planning to get the boat ready for Gibraltar, we had planned this stay as it was handy for the airport at Almeria. Simon had decided to go to CPhi, the annual pharmaceutical conference which was taking place in Madrid this year. We didn’t quite have the organisational skills to remember to pack one of his many suits and bring it from the UK (they are all in storage in our garage). However, we got him a very snappy suit in Palermo so on Tuesday morning we set out in our hire car for the airport, Simon feeling rather strange dressed smartly in his Sicilian suit.
I took up the hems of his trousers with wonder web which had been very difficult to find and tucked an extra roll in his jacket pocket in case he came unravelled in mid trade fair. He reported that he got back into the very different mind -set within a couple of hours and enjoyed catching up with old colleagues. Inevitably there were some puzzled questions when he told people that he was going back to his boat to sail across the Atlantic. “Are you going to sleep on board?” people asked. He was also asked whether he had already sailed to the Caribbean. After all, he had been gone for four months! It was a strange feeling to leave the boat and spend a night on shore in an Airbnb. “It feels like abandoning the cat” he told me that night. “I must think of the boat as a pet”. We hadn’t arranged for anyone to come and feed the Princess and put out a saucer of milk (or diesel).
I suppose I could have stayed on board and polished the standing rigging.
But then again, on the other hand….
After dropping Simon off at the airport Granada was less than a couple of hour’s drive away. Well, it would be rude not to visit, I thought.
I absolutely fell in love with Granada. The Alhambra did not disappoint. Although I didn’t see the Nasrid Palaces, I saw everything else, including the gardens to the Nasrid Palaces which I managed to sneak into by mistake (ahem). Had I flown direct to Granada from the UK, I might have marvelled less at the gardens. I actually overheard an American tourist dismissing them as “a bit shabby. They could do with extra gardeners”. I couldn’t believe my ears! For me, having spent three months in the mostly arid med , the sight of rose gardens overlooking the graceful Arabic palaces with the backdrop of the Sierra Nevada mountains sent me into a frenzy of photography. Paradise on earth! I could well imagine how the elegant play of water, fountains, ponds and lush greenery in the scorched earth that is Andalusia was the ultimate of luxuries in the dark ages. Not so dark here!. The Arabic dynasties of the 7th to 12th centuries who controlled the city and made it their stronghold were masters of irrigation; the most ingenious system of canals and conduits diverted river water and brought it via Aqueducts to supply the hillside palace complex with copious water for gardens, crops and industry. I was told a suspiciously cute story by my guide that turtles were used to purify the water and that documents have been found detailing the exact number of turtles necessary to maintain the right balance in different areas. One thing is sure, when the Catholic King and Queen, Isabella and Ferdinand took possession of the Alhambra without a shot being fired in 1492, the gardens went to rack and ruin as nobody understood how to work the irrigation system. All the previous occupants had been shown the door and so there was literally nobody left who could tell them how to use it.
It was kind of fun to spend two days apart and join up with such radically different tales to tell. We returned to the Princess after our two day excursions and were relieved to see that the boat had survived our absence for two days. None of the many marina cats seemed to have taken up residence on board. They are very cute and healthy but quite cheeky. One had come aboard and unhooked a chorizo sausage and had a good chew on it. I later picked it up and munched it, thinking that Simon had taken a bite and left it lying on the side.
In conclusion, Aguadulce was the perfect place to spend our last week in the Mediterranean, enjoying the last of the med’s soft autumn sunshine. We would happily return and spend a couple of weeks, if not more, exploring the area and just relaxing in this lovely place. Another one to add to the list of places we would love to return to! The list just keeps getting longer… this seems to be part of the sailing experience!