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Wintering in Cartagena

By Sue Richards last modified May 18, 2011 09:44 AM

Published: 2011-05-18 09:44:25
Countries: Spain

When we decided to stay another winter in Europe we looked at several options of where to spend it. We had heard positive reports about Cartagena on the south east corner of Spain. It is just out of the firing line of the westerly storms that can shoot through the Straits of Gibraltar heading east, tucked in enough to miss the autumn and spring north easterlies, has around 300 days of sunshine a year and a reasonably mild winter climate and an airport serviced by all the cheapie airlines close by at Murcia/San Javier. It sounded perfect.

About the Marina ….

There are two marinas there, adjoining each other both right on the town quay and only a few minutes walk into the centre of town. We stayed at Yacht Port Cartagena, it is the newer of the two and is home to mainly foreign flagged boats. The older more established marina seems to be filled mainly with local craft and had few vacant slips. They do, however, offer short stay berths on the town wall - everyone promenades past there and there is no security.

YPC is the one on the right as you enter, it is away from the waterfront cafes and set further back from the promenading locals (and behind a very long glass fence). There is excellent 24 hour security and access is gained only by key card, it also has a much more substantial solid concrete breakwater which also serves as the Cruise Ship dock. However some berths do not lie behind this breakwater but are still reasonably protected, and there are enough empty berths that you can have your choice of position. There is also a choice of med mooring with laid lines, side tying and finger pontoons – something for everyone.

The marina staff are an absolute delight to deal with, both the office staff and the marineras are extremely helpful, all speak English, assist with berthing, they even deliver any mail or packages right to the boat. They put in the extra effort to make your stay as enjoyable as possible!! We emailed them at [email protected] to make our winter booking, they did not require a deposit and were very flexible with our arrival date. On arrival call them on VHF 09, as you make your final approach - ensure you call Yacht Port Cartagena to get the right one! (tel +34 968 12 12 13). Cartagena is a large harbour and has a huge area of sheltered water to sort yourselves out before entering the marina. This is a commercial and naval port but the Navy yards and Commercial docks are far enough away to not be of any bother. There is no anchoring allowed anywhere within the harbour.

The facilities are good, there is a laundry with two large washing machines and one dryer all taking tokens valued at €4, there are just 3 showers and toilets in 2 blocks but we only had 7 live aboard boats that were onboard all winter so this was enough. There is the “internet shed” home to one computer with free internet access, a vending machine and book swap. There is also a bar-b-que which we made use of on some warm sunny days during winter. There is wifi access included in the long term rates for one computer per boat. The signal is not great but ok. Short term rates do not include wifi it is €5 a day. Our winter rate also included water and power. Catamarans currently get the same berthing rate as monohulls but pay for water and power.

There is a fuel dock with 24 hour easy sheltered access and payment is made by card into a machine. To access it enter YPC and keep the Cruise Ship Dock/breakwater on your left, carry on till the Yacht Club Building (large wooden modern building) is in front of you, turn sharp right and tie up just after the dinghy/laser launching slipway. There is no fuel sign/logo but the pumps are in a small white shed. There is good turning space to get back out and depths well over 5 metres. Diesel was around €1.33 p/l in April 2011.

Facilities in town …

Well you will not go hungry. There is an excellent selection of supermarkets – they are all closed Sunday. The office will give you a map and mark all of these, but just in case - The closest one is a small Spar, come out the entrance by the laundry, cross the road, up the big steps, go left and follow the road around till it comes to a T, the Spar is just over on the right. They don’t have fresh milk but have most other things. 5 minute walk, open 0930 – 2100 I think) My favourite was Mercadona, there are several but the closest is about 10-12 minute walk, open 0915 – 2115. Go out the vehicle entrance, cross the road, head up Calle Gisbet, past the glass elevator, just keep on till the road veers to the right at the Artillery Museum. Turn left and Mercadona is just on the other side of the road next to a play area. Carry on along here for the Fresh Produce Market just another couple of minutes at the end of the street and over to the right on the other corner. Still not found everything you need? well next is Lidls. Out the vehicle exit again but turn right past the new mutli coloured building to the roundabout then head up the hill (slight incline) along the cycle path through the grassed area. At top is the bus station on the right and the little local train station. After these cross the road and go right (main part of road goes onto the motorway, stay on the slip road on its left), this will put you in Lidls Car park. About 12 minutes walk, open 0930 – 2130 I think. From Lidls you can see Carrefour, go out the other gate from Lidls, the main train station is on your right. Walk inland (north) Carrefour Hypermarket is right in front of you. About 15 minutes walk, open 0930 – 2200 I think. Carrefour deliver free if you spend over €200

Local bus No 4 (every 20 minutes or so) leaves opposite Carrefour for the Parque Mediterranean Shopping Centre, its a short ride by bus but too far to walk, maybe 30 minutes by bike. There is a huge Leroy Merlin Hardware/DIY store, a couple of electrical appliance stores, Decathlon, another Carrefour, and plenty plenty shoe and clothes shops. In the area on Avienda Luxembourgo (Parque Med end with 5 flags flying outside) is an Accastillage Diffusion Chandlery, they are a French Chain and although the outlet is small they can order anything in and it arrives within a couple of days (some English spoken), There are a couple of chandleries by the marina, one is in the haul out facility (English spoken), the other is further on the same road along the port about 3 minutes further on the left hand side (some English spoken). Both are helpful and have an adequate range. Just before the 2nd chandlery go up the steps and turn left, on the right hand side the is a plumbing supplies store with all sorts of bits and pieces(No English spoken) . We bought several things locally but generally found it cheaper to order online from England, shipping was about 5 – 10 days.

Having Work Done ...

There are a couple of options for hauling out. We didn’t use either but some of the boats that wintered with us did. There is a small crane lift that hauls up to 15T located next to the Fuel Pumps. The other is located just to the east of the marina and has a very big travelift (approx 70T), they haul all the fishing fleet, but do deal with private boats also. There yard is well organised and tidy but small. There are no facilities for leaving yachts on the hard for any length of time.

Entertainment …

We organised a weekly get together at a local tapas bar El Barrill on Wednesday nights, and had the odd bar-b-que when the weather was warm enough. Other than that it was a quiet social scene. There were a reasonable amount of goings on in town, and we enjoyed free concerts and cultural events throughout the winter. There is an English web site that does it’s best to collate all the information and sends out a weekly email newsletter, but even they miss things from time to time and you really need to check at the Tourist Info as well. Cartagena is full of history, there are many museums, the Roman Theatre, Augusteum, Decumanus and many many more ruins. The main plaza and Calle Mayor have some lovely Modernista buildings, they there is a huge amount of restoration work underway around the town. We spent nearly 7 months here and enjoyed it immensely.

Amanda Church and Mark Farrell
SY Balvenie (currently in Almerimar - heading forever west!)

Footnote: I know that Spain has had some bad press regarding the controls that have been enforced in some marinas to discourage very long term liveaboards. We have found that this is mainly to stop people from using their yachts as floating apartments and from living full time in Spain without registering as permanent residents. None of the wintering transient cruising community that we know of in Spain have had any issues this year.