With Elida from Cartagena to Las Palmas

2016-02-09 14:00

It's 23 January and the snow is thick in Gothenburg. The day for the great adventure is here. In the morning my brother, Stefan, and I embark the RyanAir flight to Alicante for further transportation to Elida, which is in winter port in Cartagena. The journey is problem-free and towards the evening we sneak onboard a seemingly empty ship.
But appearances are deceptive. Down in the saloon, Captain Stefan and a crew of five young people await. It's Saturday movie night. We've never met the Captain before, nor been onboard Elida, but we immediately feel welcomed into a warm fellowship. It's starting out good!

Cartagena
After a good night's sleep in the different-looking cabin, we awake to a bright Sunday morning. The sun shines from a blue sky. We are now six "guests," sailing trainees, onboard, who during the day gets a look of this fine, old townand enjoy the summer warmth. Tomorrow work awaits to get the ship sail ready. We dine together at a restaurant.

Monday begins with a sturdy oatmeal breakfast (as every morning during this voyage), whereupon we're assigned various tasks: washing the water line, scrubbing the deck, polishing the stainless steel, servicing the winches, repairing the RIB outboard, and more. A ship this size requires constant maintenance.
Tuesday and Wednesday looks pretty much the same, and we're beginning to feel more and more part of the crew.

Cartagena to FuengirolaAfter bunkering water and diesel we're divided into three watches and are ready to leave. In the dusk on Wednesday evening we glide out of the port of Cartagena. The sea is calm, no wind. We go by engine along the plotted course line.
The night passes problem-free, and up goes the sun, greeting us this first day at sea. There is an afternoon stop in Almerimar before the voyage continues towards another night. The food served onboard is amazing and keeps the spirits up when the wind stays away.

Early Friday morning we anchor in the Fuengirola Bay, where another 20 people will sign on during the evening and night. We go into shore with the RIB, take a long stroll along the beach walk and a "fika" (coffee) on the square.
The sky darkens, and towards the evening a tremendous thunder storm breaks loose. Our new friends must land in Sevilla and go by bus for many hours. But early Saturday morning everyone is onboard.

Fuengirola to Gibraltar
Everyone is wearied after a tiresome night, and breafast is servied a little later. The weather is, again, bright and shining, so we hoist the anchor ad set off, by engine, towards Gibraltar, where we make a short stop. Everyone is expectant, and when the mighty cliff appears ahead, people crowd the stem. Who will get the best shot?

Captain Stefan skillfully maneuvers Elida through a narrow port opening, and we get five hours off. A sweaty climb up the cliff is ahead. Up top we're met by the famous monkeys, who willingly pose for pictures. The view over this British colony and the sound facing Africa is stunning. Well worth every drop of sweat!

At 8 p.m. we gather again for assigning new watch groups, supper and departure for Las Palmas.

Gibraltar to Las Palmas
Darkness falls quickly, and we (my brother and I) have the first watch. Again there's no wind, and the speed barely reaches 4 knots due to the strong current. The Gibraltar strait is heavily trafficked, but all vessels have AIS and are seen on the plotter screen.
Eventually, the strait is behind us and we can continue out on a vast, seemingly desolate ocean. The stars fade and the sun climbs up over the horizon, effectively repressing the night chill. The day forms the pattern for the following five days on open sea. We sail by genoa alone almost all the time, except for a day with the main sail, as well. The sun shines incessantly. Watch changes, well-tasting varied meals, wonderful conversations, singing, wise words, a good book – and the evening comes again. Pitch black night, sparkling stars, moonlight, dolphins in bioluminescence and compass steadily showing 225 degrees, towards the Canary Islands.

These days and nights so far away from the rest of the world bring tranquility and satisfaction for both body and soul.

Thursday morning we glimpse Lanzarote. We pass along the east coast, see white villages and black vulcanoes. By Playa Blanca on the south side we make a short stop to buy some more groceries (bread and fruit), and some get a refreshing swim in the deep-blue water.
There's a nother nice night before we, around 6 a.m. Friday morning, finally anchor oputside the Las Palmas marina. The journey has come to an end!

For our part, this is a busy day of sightseeing through the city and a long lunch by the Las Canteras Beach. We sleep well the last night onboard and leave Elida Saturday morning, on 6 February, for our return flight to Gothenburg.

Final words
We had no idea, my brother and I, what kind of an adventure we embarked upon and really didn't have any expectations. Still, everything turned out far better and beyond everything we'd dared to hope for. The greatest impression was encountering all these different people of varied ages. It was long ago we had such exciting and rewarding conversations.
But it was also much more than that. Love, joy, warmth, dazzling days, dark nights, sailing, freedom – what else is there to ask for from life?!

We're so deeply grateful for the opporunity to share this experience with all of You who were part of it. And an extra big thank you to Captain Stefan and all his crew on Elida! We will be back!

/Thomas & Stefan van der Heiden

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