Leg 3: Cartagena to Rota

After a good rest for the crew, a good cleaning inside and out for Maggie and a favourable weather window to continue West a course was plotted to go from Cartagena to Rota. Our later than usual departure time was to ensure we hit the outward tidal flow at Gibraltar at the right time to ensure the current would be flowing in the same direction as we were travelling.

On Wednesday 29th July at 12:00hrs we departed Cartagena for our next destination in Rota which will bring us out of the Mediterranean Sea and back into the Atlantic. This trip will take us along the south coast of Spain which is currently having a lot of issues with what are called Irregular Migrants from their neighbouring country, Morocco. In a method by the immigrants, or more accurately I suppose is by the organisers of the boats, is to send many boats, up to 70 at once, which I have read in some news reports, which overwhelm the Spanish authorities and rescue services and leads to a lot migrants landing into Spain undetected. It can be night or day, some reports have people landing into packed beaches. There are constant PAN PAN messages being relayed over the VHF on Ch.16 by the Spanish MRCC and also by ships who spot the boats. During our passage through this area the boats were spotted closer to the Moroccan side by ships so we did not encounter any.

Day 1 was a mix of no wind at times to 16knts Easterlies which bring roly sea conditions but by nightfall the wind had gone so we were back on the engine. Throughout the night we had to navigate through a drifting ship field which ensured a busy watch for the crew. These ships have no orders/work so they are just drifting around the sea awaiting orders. The ships range from large bulk carriers, tankers and a number of cruise ships. It is eerie to see when you are passing so close to the ships and they are so quiet. On some occasions we called up the ship as we were approaching to ensure that they were not about to start up their engines to reposition and also to let them know we were nearby. On other occasions a ship would call us to ensure we stayed clear. It was good to know that they were keeping watch too. I’m not sure if the reason these ships are drifting around is Covid-19 related, well apart from the empty Cruise ships, but it was the first time we had come across it.

We knew when passing the narrows at Gibraltar that shipping would be busy so we had agreed for both of us to be on deck. At 04:00hrs I joined Liam on watch and when I came on deck found visibility was a bit strange, thought I just needed to adjust to night vision only to realise it was actually dense fog. Just what we needed. The Jewel of the Seas cruise ship was heading into Gibraltar, a mile or so off our port side and we could not see it only on AIS. Then we had two ships approaching from Morocco, a ferry and a container ship who we were going to be crossing in front of so Liam called them up on the VHF to ensure they knew we were there. Our calculations for the tidal flow worked out and just like that we had left the Mediterranean Sea, without seeing the infamous Rock of Gibraltar to say Goodbye, and entered the Atlantic. A sad moment in one sense but uplifting in another in that it felt we were getting closer to home albeit a long way still to go.

Day 2 we motored the rest of the trip as the wind was light and against our direction of travel. Once again the PAN PAN messages warning of migrant boats being spotted by the passing ships continued. These ships are not small and it is a wonder how they even manage to spot these small boats.

At 19:30hrs we docked at the waiting pontoon at Rota marina. A total distance travelled of 316nm and 55.5hrs at sea and one happy dog to touch land again.

Cartagena to Rota

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