Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Estepona – Sailing the Costa de Sol of Spain

October 25 – 29, 2012

Next morning we woke to heavy rain beating down on the decks above our heads. It certainly wasn’t the weather you would normally want to leave harbour in but we had two issues weighing on our minds. Firstly, we’d phoned ahead to book into the marina at Estepona and had been told we’d got their last available berth. We didn’t want to risk losing it by delaying our arrival. Secondly, we all hated the marina at Benalmedena so much just wanted to get out of there as soon as we could. By the time we’d had some breakfast and got the boat ready to cast off, the rain had eased and the visibility improved significantly so away we went.

The combination of drizzling rain and the cool breeze saw us breaking out our heavy Musto wet weather gear for the first time since being on Alcheringa. This served as yet another strong reminder that winter was just around the corner. After such a great summer we are really over the cold weather and not looking forward to its return. However, we are certainly taking heart in our belief that we could never be as cold ANYWHERE in this part of the Med as we were in Monfalcone last January when we joined Mokshsa in northern Italy.
Karen found the trip to Estepona wasn't quite the summer sailing we've got used to

As you get closer to the Straits of Gibraltar you have to be very aware of tides and currents. Most of the Mediterranean sea is relatively shallow and it experiences considerable water loss due to evaporation. As a result, regardless of what the tide is doing, water never stops flowing in to the Med from the Atlantic Ocean. However, on a making tide, the current can exceed six knots in the straits. This would be very hard, if not impossible, for a yacht like ours to make any headway against.

As the water pours in through the narrows and spreads out into the Mediterranean a strong counter current is created along western end of the Spanish coast.  We stuck very close to the shore to take advantage of this flow and had a very fast trip gaining an extra couple of knots of bonus speed.
Thousands of empty apartments line Spain's Costa del Sol
Being so near the land we got an even better view of the results of the Spanish building explosion of the Nineties and Naughties. Entire hillsides are covered with new apartment developments that are sitting empty. Marc did some research and the estimates he found are that there is currently between 780,000 and 1,000,000 completed, new dwellings sitting vacant in Spain at the moment. This also doesn’t take into account the tens of thousands that are incomplete on stalled construction sites all over the place. It’s shear madness. Half the population of Europe would need to take two weeks holiday a year each in Spain to fill the vacancies. If you want to buy a holiday place there’s some serious bargains out there. Just don’t plan on every being able to on sell it.

With the boost the current gave us we got up over eight knots at times and zoomed the 34 nautical miles along the coast. We had only just enough time for the nice, hot, red wine beef stew Karen laid on for lunch to warm us all up before we arrived off the marina breakwater at Estepona.
Estepona was a great final stop along the Spanish Coast
What a contrast this place was to the dump we’d just left. Our welcome could not have been warmer. The staff were extremely helpful and very forthcoming with information about the local area etc. The berths are well sheltered and the marina itself had everything we could want. Good security, clean bathroom facilities with the luxury of seemingly unlimited hot water, laundry facilities, good quality, free WiFi and even a complimentary bottle of wine on check in. Better yet, we got all this at almost half the price of Benalmadena.

The Estepona marina is lined with a good range of cafes, bars and restaurants. While some do have limited menus catering for the Brit market, most offer a good selection of local dishes at the sort of good value prices we’ve become used to in Spain. To the east of the harbour, a long beach with a wide pedestrian promenade stretches the length of the bay to the main business district and old town area of Estepona.

We set out to make the most of our final days before making our move to Gibraltar where we plan to spend a long four months in the Queensway Quay Marina to sit out the worst of the northern winter.  This included finding the best bar to feed our Formula One addiction where we had a great afternoon watching the Indian Grand Prix.
Smile contest

Another day was spent on a bit of cultural exploration when we discovered Estepona’s museum hub. Believe it or not, within the walls of the bull ring just two blocks from the marina, lay a Local Police Museum, a Local Agriculture Museum, a Film and Music Museum, a Local Geology Museum, a Natural History Museum and of course the largest of them all, a Bull Fight Museum.  It was all free and not  a bad way to be entertained for a few hours.
Very intricate work is found in all the Matadore's costumes - Estepona Museum
We're sure he'd rather be in a field full of cows than famous in the
museum at the Estepona Bull Ring

Rob checking out the Estepona Bull Ring

We also did the long walk along the beach to the old town to see the sights. It was a very nice area but we have to say, the Moorish fort was a bit of an anti-climax. It’s totally wedged in between much more recent buildings and all you get to see is the outside of one wall. Oh well. We’re just about castled out by now anyway.

There's not a lot to see at Estepona's Moorish era castle
Not sure what the sculpture has got to do with the Estepona's Moorish
castle but it was a nice piece anyway
We had a great lunch at one of the Cafes in this rose filled square
right in the middle of the old part of Estepona.

Heading back towards the marina, walking along beside the beach, we looked across the bay and could see the towering Rock of Gibraltar beckoning us. A check of the weather forecasts showed a  reasonably ugly weather system on its way later in the week so after calling Queensway Quay to check they had a spot for us if we arrived a couple of days early we started making plans to finally leave Spain.
The 'Rock' was calling us.

The next morning we again made the long walk along the beachfront but this time it wasn’t a sight-seeing trip. We’d been told Gibraltar is a more expensive place to shop so we made our way to the large supermarket on the hill above the town. Here we did one final top up of our supplies and bought a few warmer clothes while we could still enjoy Spain’s cheap prices.  It was a good thing we weren’t tempted to buy one more item because if we had, there’s no way we would have been able to fit it in the cab for the trip back to the marina. One of us would have had to walk.


For more about our travels and lots more photos not included in the blog check out and 'like' our Dreamtime Sail facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/DreamtimeSail?ref=hl


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