It’s 0200 and we’re at anchor outside the Spanish port of Cartagena, a place that almost no-one seems to have been to before. The wind continued to elude us today and though the fog lifted, we were looking at its underside with only a few patches of blue sky 'Not enough to make a pair of britches for a sailor’, as one of the Lovely Watch puts it.
You might expect that a low grey sky hanging over a grey sea and no wind would be dispiriting, but on the contrary everyone seems to be getting into the Christmas groove. The Christmas Tree went up to the top of the mainmast this afternoon (naturally a Permit to Work was issued) and virtually every inch of the Lower Mess has been decorated by hard-core Noellophiles in a style best described as Milton Keynes Kitsch. The prime exhibit, though, is a tree dedicated to Captain John in the Upper Mess, decorated with cream crackers and cheese and a mouse peeping through the foliage, but at the top is a large jar of marmite.
During the afternoon we passed a few bundles of vegetation in the sea, and one or two small oily patches. So it wasn’t a big surprise to see a more conspicuous clump of debris ahead, though it seemed to be swirling and re-forming in some sort of vortex. As we came closer it turned into a school of pilot whales, ten or more, just lying at the surface with their fins in the air. They looked as if they were having a sociable chat, and took no notice as the ship passed about a hundred metres away, with another school of about six further away. The pods of dolphins seem almost commonplace now!
Captain John was briefing the watch leaders after the anchor went down when Cartagena port control came on the radio to say that we appeared to be dragging the anchor. They call us 'Tenayseeous’, in an endearing way. Happily, they had mistaken the ship riding round on the light wind for dragging so we able to reassure them we were not about to create havoc in the port, as would have happened on visits by British sailing ships in previous centuries.
The evening was crowned with a barbecue on deck delivered by the illustrious Engineers, accompanied by their secret recipe rum punch. The recipe is a secret, we think, because they don’t have one but there is no sign of rum.
As the second anchor watch team comes on deck, there are still a few dedicated souls arguing about the state of the world in the Lower Mess, oblivious to the fact that they will have to be out of bed again in five hours.
So, this is the Lovely Watch signing off again and hoping that you’re tucked up asleep as we write and that Father Christmas is on his way to your chimney.
Father Christmas – ah that reminds me. It was a bit chilly on the midnight to 4am watch that first night at sea. However, the monotony was broken by a wet foot coming over the taffrail, Lord Neptune himself flopped onto the deck. Santa asked me if you had any last minute requests, seeing as the 25th is coming up. Bah Humbug, I said, we’re just here to sail, not bothering with that Christmas stuff. (See where this is going, right?). Well, he said, that’s really my department, not Santa’s. But I’ll pass the message on. . I told him we’ve got trees going up the mainmast, tree lights that worked for a few minutes, even the bridge is aglow, radar screen well hidden. OK, he said, got the message, and slipped quietly back into the depths.
So anyway we had a nice breeze in the wrong direction all the way to Gibraltar and after that a light easterly into the Med. Not a breath we could sail on, and it looks that way till we get to Palma. As long as they don’t think it was my fault. . Better keep my head down though!
Forward Port Watch
Its Christmas Eve, Day 7 of our voyage, still motoring all the way. We weighed anchor at 8.30 and headed for our berth at Cartagena. Cool morning, light breeze, fog so poor visibility. Hearty breakfast of porridge, bacon, egg and beans with plenty of toast and coffee. Berthed and gangplank down in time for mid-morning smoko.
Patches of blue sky by now but disappointingly sun did not break through.
A Christmas treat for one wheelchair crew member was to have an assisted lift to the crow’s nest on the fore mast. Another crew member had a momentous morning overcoming her fears and was delighted to climb the rigging to the second level on a successful accompanied climb.
Late morning by now and time for the group photo – 22 voyage crew plus permanent crew and enough Santa hats for all.
The marina here at Cartagena is fitted out in very luxurious style with stainless steel and plate glass barriers, and plenty of impressive luxury yachts in the harbour.
In the town in the early afternoon bands played and people danced and some were doing their Xmas Eve last minute shopping or congregating in the smart bars.
First impressions of Cartagena are of luxury and elegance. The Calle Mayor is paved entirely in marble, elegant art nouveau facades line the street, beautiful wrought iron doorways with fanlights above and beautiful wooden doors show entrances to luxury apartments. But turn away from the main street and you get a truer picture.
We discovered that on Christmas Eve everything shuts by 5pm so all the crew were back on board for early evening mulled wine.
The weather may have been chilly but on deck there was a warm mellow atmosphere as we congregated to enjoy the wine together. Fishy smells from the galley announced the supper of kedgeree, curry sauce and lime pickle – delicious! Thank you Jan and Ali.
Some have gone ashore for midnight mass, the rest are enjoying Christmas cheer aboard. We are here for two nights.
I bid you goodnight and Seasons Greetings!