Sugar 'n' Spice – Weblog 9

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St Carles de la Rapita, Ebro, Spain


40º 37.17 N

0º 36.03 E

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St Carles de la Rapita, Ebro, Spain

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After our day relaxing, or do I mean ‘recuperating’?  in Rierta we awoke next day (14th July) to find a totally different forecast from the previous day. The winds having been southerly & lightish there was now a northerly gale forecast. Not good for our current anchorage ( for S winds) so the plans to visit an inland hill town were aborted, & it was back round Capo Negre & S to the all weather Puerto Deportivo at Palamos. 11 nm. To our surprise there was a tiny, & tippy, finger pontoon, but still the usual (mediterranean) laid lines, & we were next to a British registered powerboat.

Palamos was a nice town although the harbour charges were very high. It straddles an isthmus, with the Puerto Deportivo to the N & the fishing harbour & a long beach to the S.



We did our usual recce, found lunch in a shady café, a supermarket for supplies & exchanged a gas bottle. The one we were trading in was painted silver (not camping gaz blue) & originated in Greece, so we wondered if it would cause problems & were pleased when it was taken without demur.

Thursday 15th July. We left Palamos late morning as the wind was easing, heading back N to look at Llanfranc & Palafrugell. The beaches were very busy, & any potential anchorage was occupied with small boat moorings, so we turned S again, & unfurled the genny.



Although the sea was still rolly it was a pleasant couple of hours sailing. We looked at the large bay of Tossa del Mar, again full of moorings, & passed by. Further S round another headland we anchored in Cala Llorell (23 nm) in fairly deep water. 30 m chain.

It was very busy with all sorts of watersports, which gradually ceased for the day. Even the onshore disco didn’t go on late! There were lots of small fish in shoals, especially over the rocks that fringed the bay, & a small fishing boat nearly encircled us with his nets. Even in the shelter of the bay the swell still rolled in.

Friday 16th July. A mid morning departure from Cala Llorell, motoring to charge the batteries for about an hour, then sailing as we could just lay the course on a light wind beat. Still busy beaches & a few more yachts, but not the spectacular cliffs of the Costa Brava as a backdrop. Mid afternoon we reached Mataro, a large town just N of Barcelona & went stern to a marina pontoon. 26 nm.

The marina seems efficient, secure & far more realistically priced than further N.

The town is large enough to cater for most requirements, & we supped in a Tapas bar.

Comment.  We had hoped to spend more time on the Costa Brava.  The coast is undoubtedly spectacular with its cliffs & rocky outcrops. The small sandy bays are attractive, but very busy & there is more development than we expected from our information. However the marinas are very expensive, & often full. The anchorages have been filled up with moorings suitable for smaller powerboats, so even when they are vacant there is not enough room for most yachts to use them. Any remaining space is usually in deep water, not particularly sheltered & often on the ‘route’ of traffic in & out of the bays. We have the latest pilot & its amendments which give no hint of the mooring situation – perhaps it is a seasonal thing.

Saturday 17th July. We caught the train (right by the marina) & had a tourist day in Barcelona. Strolled the length of the Rambas – the lovely shaded streets for which Barcelona is known – round the cathedral & medieval area, the waterfront with its sliding bridge & a racing fleet tied alongside. Then a funicular & cable car up Montjic to look over the city from the castle there.


Then it was back down cable car & funicular to the Ramblas & the train, & we were back in Mataro in time to see the parade of sail for the Virgin del Carmen – patron of sailors & fishermen.

Sunday 18th July. A leisurely day mostly catching up on chores – the inevitable laundry & cleaning – plus some boat/people watching as the local club took disabled sailors out in dinghies. Later there was another procession of garlanded boats carrying a statue of the Virgin (del Carmen) to the dockside, where a land based parade took over & finally a firework display.

Monday 19th July. Left Mataro after a quick provisioning run & headed down the coast past Barcelona, close hauled. There were more ships than we have seen for a while, & the racers were out practising for their Regatta the next day. The wind switched off & on again & at tea time we arrived at Puerto Garraf. 31 nm.

Having squeezed stern on into a fairly tight berth (having been assured it was deep enough for us) we realised the rudder was just touching the bottom, so it was out again, & back in bow first – some while since we have been this way round, & the first time we have needed to actually turn round.

The little hamlet was on several levels & after a stroll we found supper at a resturant with a lovely sea view.

Next day (20th July) departed Puerto Garraf for another light airs beat down the coast, very pleasant. Mid afternoon anchored just off the beach at Torredembarra. 23 nm.

Lots of people enjoying the water, lots of pedaloes. It was still rolly after the speedboats had gone to bed, so we set the stern anchor, first time we have tried this, & we still cannot decide whether it helped lessen the roll or not!

Next day (21st July) Hauled both anchors & motored the 7 nm to Tarrogona’s Portu Esportiu & for the second time in 3 days went bow to quay in a tightish berth. It’s worth noting that this harbour had some of the cleanest water we’ve seen anywhere & the fish were ones that you see in the cleanest bays.

Then off into the town to play tourist again. Up the hill to another shady Rambla, past another Roman amphitheatre, then round the medieval town & magnificent cathedral with its lovely cool cloister. Lunch in a tapas bar, then along the Passeig Arqueologic, a promenade between the old roman walls & some younger (17th century) outer fortifications. Very nice.



Thursday 22nd July. Surprise, some clouds around. A nice stroll round the old harbour, now a ‘superyacht’ marina - the boat must be at least 24 m to qualify. Not many in, but one or two were eye watering. The promenade had been the old railway station & was set up with historic machinery. Next a supermarket run to restock the larder, but soon after returning to the boat the heavens opened. Our plans to see a bit more of ‘Roman’ Tarragona got shelved in lieu of some ‘indoor’ jobs – cleaning & round tuits.

In a flurry to fill water tanks my glasses entangled with the hose & jumped over the side. ‘My Hero’ promptly donned mask & snorkel & retrieved them from under a rock. We checked our first blog, 2006, when I lost some on Islay & we reckon the seal still has those, but coincidently it was also 22nd July.

The rain had turned to showers by evening so we chanced the walk to a local fish resturant, nice & we didn’t get wet!

Friday 23rd July. A mid morning departure from Tarragona, with its long (3nm) outer harbour wall, then down the coast past the resort of Salou with giant metalic ‘spiders’ of theme park rides behind it. The wind was variable in strength & direction so it was some motoring, some sailing. Mid afternoon we arrived at La Ametlla de Mar, & again squeezed in bows to quay. 21 nm.

La Ametlla is primarily a fishing port & the wholesale fish auction was underway when we went ashore. An amazing number & variety of fish. The little town, again on several levels, was busy & buzzing.

Saturday 24th July. Another relaxed departure from La Ametlla for what Doug described as a spiral route. Ashore the NW wind had been gusting to 5, but we thought that was just the effect of the higher parts of the town. Clear of the harbour the main went up, & it was immediately obvious we needed a reef, as although the wind was astern it was gusting 7 (another ‘not forecast’ wind strength!). We poled out a part reefed genny & surged along to our turning gybe at the Ebro offing mark, where we unfurled the rolls in the genny & took the pole off. Later the reef came out of the main. There were a lot of terns diving around us, & there was a pronounced colour change in the water from turquoise blue to milky, presumably due to silt coming down the river Ebro. Gradually our course turned us round the S arm of the delta, then almost back on ourselves into the Bahia des Alfacs (Doug’s spiral). We took several attempts to get the anchor to hold, & touched the bottom once in the process, but got it to hold midway along the N shore of this large shallow bay. 39 nm, but the direct line (overland) would have been only 15 nm!

The water was less clear & much greener. We still had the terns diving & squabbling, on the seaward shore were lots people flying kites, & on the landward shore were distant pinkish white shapes - flamingos. The sunset was fiery oranges & purples as ragged clouds cleared from the mainland hills.

Sunday & Monday 25th & 26th July. Stayed at anchor.



In the quiet of the mornings dragonflies of all colours sat all over the boat & fishermen stood waist deep near the shore, terns dived, occasionally an egret or heron flew overhead, the flamingos started the day at the most seaward end of the shore & gradually progressed W. There were fewer kites flying on Monday, but a small plane sprayed the fields (it delayed the flamingos progress) & we took the canoes across the shallows close to the shore.

Tuesday 27th July. A leisurely ‘motor boat’ trip round this inland sea following the 5m depth contour, for a closer look. 8 nm.Then into the marina at Sant Carles de la Rapita where we shall leave Sugar ‘n’ Spice while we go home for a spell catching up.

Since returning to Croatia after our early June break we have logged  1450.7 nm.

Having arrived a bit ahead of plan we hired a car to do some local sightseeing before getting the plane. The first 2 days we headed up into the hills, very refreshing after the heat on the coast. We enjoyed the deep gorges & valleys with their mountain backdrop & wandered the shady narrow streets of small towns with looming castles & ornate churches. We stopped the night at one of these, Valderrobes, where we had stayed years ago while touring by car. Again it didn’t disappoint.



Finally we drove up Mt Caro the highest mountain in the Els Ports range at 1447 m. Great views across the whole Ebro delta & a fearsome zigzag road to get there.



The third day we toured the Ebro delta, with a walk to the N point of Punta del Fangar across salt pans & sand - complete with mirages!



Away from the coast the land was flat & mostly bright green with rice fields separated by irrigation canals. Plenty of birds on coast & fields.  We found the shallow river mouth & further inland crossed the Ebro on a ‘sideways catamaran’ 4 car (max) ferry operated by just one man.



Car returned we had a day round Sant Carles.






It was fiesta day so we saw them ‘running the bulls’ & a midnight firework display, followed by a night cap with some pleasant powerboaters, Rich & Sue, who had just brought a new, to them, boat (English Rose) across from Italy.


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