Although the marina development at Benalmadena is huge and although we were tucked in round the back of a solid pontoon, the effect of swell from the west sets the boats rocking there. For most of our stay the wind was from the west and it is the natural direction of the swell coming through from Gibraltar. The masts opposite us on the seaward side swayed together alarmingly, we were glad we had motor boats either side, even though they wallowed around more than Lyra and kept jostling us. We grew fed up with the constant protest from squashed fenders. One night in particular was like sleeping in a washing machine, or rather trying to. Finally the wind has dropped and we have been able to set off for our next port of call, the Marina del Este outside Almunecar. There is a reef right outside the marina here, with a tiny post marking it ambiguously. Consequently boats leaving the marina either pass it close to shore or turn sharply to port to avoid it. We had grown used to the sight of masts travelling along behind the marina wall, like scenery in an old fashioned theatre. When our turn to leave came, we seemed to strike out for open sea, because we headed straight across the bay and the opposite side was lost in mist. It proved to be an odd day for weather.
First the wind was behind us and strong enough to sail with just the jib, which John planned to let out once we were clear of the reef. At this point the wind dropped to nothing, so we carried on under engine. At first we rolled with the swell, but once clear of the coastline the sea smoothed off, nearly to the point of being glassy. The early morning mist did not burn off, but hung around far enough away for us to have not realized the effect on visibility had it not been for the targets on the AIS screen, we could not see. We did spot a small fishing boat without a signal and just ahead of it dolphin circling, rounding up all the fish. Apart from our engine all was quiet. We had a glancing visit from a couple of big dolphin and John put the music on until visibility worsened, so we turned the music off and the radar on. The screen was crazed with pink scratches to port, rain. Then big plops of rain began to pit the sea around us and splatter on the deck. We huddled under the spray hood, leaving the autopilot to it, as the sporadic drops turned into a steady thrum. Then the rain cleared and we sat waiting for the deck to dry in the wind, which was now right on our nose and was blowing the sea up into chop. We could now make out majestic shadows of mountains in the mist and hoped there would be enough shelter as we rounded the cape to put out ropes and fenders. There was and we nosed into through the harbour wall and entered paradise, bathed in sunshine, with the birds singing.
The Marina del Este is expensive, but the setting is beautiful. We are moored looking at a cliff of rock with red hibiscus scrambling up the face and palm trees fringing the edges. The marina has been formed by building a seawall either side of this dramatic intrusion, with a narrow entrance at the top eastern edge. We can step off the boat and straight into David’s Restaurant and did so as soon as we had cleaned ourselves up. We ordered beer, small and large, which they brought along with a plate of complimentary ham sandwiches garnished with olives and wedges of tomato. This was particularly generous as David’s is the only restaurant here. We sat drinking in the lovely view and watching sparrows hop about our rigging. We chatted to the owner of the berth next to ours, who runs a business taking trips out on a catamaran, Optimist of London. He reckons this is the most beautiful stretch of the Spanish coastline and it has certainly been in our experience so far.
People are also as kind as they were in the Rias. We ate in the restaurant that evening and were given a complimentary starter, after which we shared a very fresh bream and were given a couple of Magnum Moments with our coffees. I am afraid they are the kind of moments that settle on the hips for a lifetime. Later we sat out on deck and the restaurant though close was reassuringly quiet. This is the best place we have stayed so far this year.