A daily occurrence for me, when I was running my computer repair business in Queensland, Australia, was driving along the Bruce Highway. The north bound and south bound lanes of the Bruce are separated by a huge grass ditch and in the winter when it's cold and hardly any rain falls the grass doesn't grow too much, but in the summer with the heat and frequent rainfall the grass grows like crazy. The length of the Bruce Highway (in the state of Queensland) is approximately 1,679 kilometres (1,043 miles) and there are crews of tractors/mowers whose job is to keep the grass under control. It's a big job! Fast forward to Spain and I was, at first, impressed by how the local councils kept the grass areas bordering main roads so neat and tidy. Then I got impressed a second time when I took a close up look at the super manicured grass and discovered that it was in fact artificial grass. What a great idea! Sure it may cost a bit more up front but over time the savings on mowing and maintenance must be worth it and there's the bonus that it always looks perfect.
Our rent a car was returned this week but before we took it back we took a trip to Cartagena. We had visited the city a couple of months ago while we were in our full-on shopping phase and noticed that there were a lot of interesting historical places to visit, so armed with Google Maps and street addresses to pump into our sat nav we made an early start on Tuesday morning. Our first planned stop was the Museo Nacional de Arqueología Subacuática (National Museum of Underwater Archaeology) because we knew where it was and the other places we wanted to look at were within a reasonable walking distance from it. I'm not sure I should say this in case I jinx myself but we got a car parking space straight away, directly across the street from the museum. The entrance fee was 3.50 Euros per person and it was definitely value for money. They start off showing the evolution of underwater archaeology which then leads you through the preservation process of retrieved artefacts. Then they show the history of Cartagena and which people have occupied the place over time. There are also some interesting displays of cross sections of various sized wooden sailing ships which show how cargo was stored and where the sailors lived. It's not a huge museum and it took us about an hour to get through. I would recommend getting there early (they open at 10am) before the crowds arrive.
Exiting the museum into the now rapidly warming day we walked to the Roman Theatre. It's a restoration in progress and I would guess that they are about 85% done. You have two options here, you can pay the fee, 6 Euros per person and get to walk on the stage and up and down the stone steps or (for free) you can walk around the well manicured small hills that surround the theatre which give fabulous all round views of the whole site and spectacular views of Cartagena. "A photographer's wet dream" is the phrase I think I used. Right next to the Roman Theatre is the Castillo de la Conception, again there's a 3.75 Euros per person entrance fee. There is an option to buy a multi-site ticket with prices ranging from 12 Euros per person to visit four museums right up to 22 Euros per person to visit all nine historic sites and have a ride on the tourist bus and boat.
It was now lunchtime and also time to quench our thirst with a cold beer. We wandered through some of Cartagena's back streets passing by lots of eateries until we finally settled on one that had a table for two outside but in the shade. It was a relief to give our feet a welcome rest and watch the world go by with some nice food and a cold beer. After lunch we walked to the third historical site on our list which was the Muralla Punica (Punic Wall). I was a little disappointed in this one, mainly because there was not much to see for the entrance fee of 3.50 Euros per person. There's a short video presentation which gives you the history of the area, then there's a couple of static displays to look at before you descend some steps to go and inspect a 25 metre length of the excavated 2,200 year old Punic wall. Finally there's a crypt that houses a skull and bones in one of the arched cavities and an explanation about how the dead gladiators were disposed of. If you skip the video presentation you can be in and out in under 10 minutes.
The final place we visited required a 25 minute drive out of Cartagena and up a narrow winding road to the Bateria de Castillitos 244 metres (800 feet) above sea level and looming large over the bay of Cartagena. The military buildings at this site are extensive and are built in an ornate, crenelated style which gives it a film set appearance. Most of the buildings are accessible and it's a great place to let the kids run wild and do some exploring. Remember to bring torches (flashlights) because some of the tunnels are long and unlit. The highlight of the visit, however, are the massive 381mm guns with 17 metre (56 feet) long barrels each mounted in an enormous rotating turret. The views are beautiful but make sure to look where you are walking as there are some potentially dangerous drop offs.
The two big guns are capable of firing a one-ton projectile over 56 kilometres (35 miles) but have only ever been fired once in action during the Spanish Civil War by the Republican Forces against Franco’s Nationalist fleet in April 1937. Cartagena was a fiercely republican stronghold. Visiting this site is free but I would have been quite happy to pay 3 Euros to visit. If the Cartagena authorities start charging for admission in the future don't blame me.
You have mail
Heaps of new things were delivered to us this week. Firstly there were two very important safety items, a complete set of flares including parachute flares, hand held flares and an orange smoke canister. The previous owner had taken his in-date flares for his new yacht and left behind some useless and illegal flares which expired in 2014. Our new flares don't have to be replaced until 2021.
The 6 person life raft that was on board was purchased in 2004 and apart from being 14 years old it was also very heavy. You hope that you're never going to need to use your life raft but in the event that you do you have to, imagine deploying it under the worst possible conditions. The scenario we built goes like this; We're in the middle of a storm, we've just hit a submerged object that's holed the hull and we're taking on water. At the moment of impact Baz was at the helm and was thrown forward, banged his head and is unconscious. Aannsha now has to singlehandedly get the life raft out of the cockpit locker, secure it to an aft cleat and heave it overboard to auto deploy. With the weight of the old life raft that was never going to work out well. So we made the decision to buy a new 4 person life raft, which was lighter and could be manhandled by one person. That gives us peace of mind.
Let's blow bubbles
On Wednesday Fernando drove up to the back of our yacht and announced that there was a big delivery. Opening the hatchback revealed a big box with the name Coltri printed on the side. It was our petrol driven dive compressor. The model we bought is the Coltri MCH 6 SR, it's the smallest portable compressor in their vast range but it should still fill a 11.1 litre scuba tank with air in about 20 minutes. Deciding where it was going to be stored initiated another game of musical lockers. We need it to be easily accessible because as a petrol driven unit it will have to be well ventilated when in use which will mean removing it from the cockpit locker it now lives in. But that's it for our dive gear purchases, we are all set to blow some bubbles.
Jobs left to complete
As of writing this week's blog there are only three (maybe four) more jobs on our list to be completed. The small davit for lifting the outboard on and off the dinghy needs to have rope run through the pulley system. 50 metres of rope also needs to be added to the end of our 50 metres of anchor chain, better to have too much rode and never use it, than to find out later at a deep anchorage that you don't have enough. The ongoing saga of the hot water heater is about to be concluded. Jose has decided that the simpler solution is just to replace the complete unit. Far too many hours have been wasted attempting to repair it. The potential fourth job is our fridge. After finally getting the settings just right so that it doesn't freeze everything we put in there, it has now swung the opposite way, in that it is struggling to even take the temperature below 10 degrees. Jose is coming to look at that later today.
Once those jobs are complete, we have to pay the final invoice, deregister her from the Spanish registry, register her on the UK small ships registry and get her insured. I wonder how long it will take dealing with the red tape and bureaucracy? One major problem on the horizon is the fact that in August Spain (and many other European nations) basically shuts down and everyone goes on holiday. I hope I'm pleasantly surprised, but like all good scuba divers, I'm not holding my breath.