We have arrived at Almerimar with a few jobs to do, again. However, I will be flying back to the UK to return to work although Maria will remain in Spain for at least a week. With the boat going to Italy, we have lost our home in the UK, and as good as living with each of our children for a few months sounds, we will probably need our own place, not least of all so we can take our furniture out of long term storage. Unfortunately, the letting agency have demanded to see us face to face prior to handing over the keys and seem to want Maria to fly back to the UK just to do this. On my return I am able to persuade them against this so Maria is able to stay.
Maria selected Almerimar because it was a large marina in a reasonable place for our route and apparently it was one of cheapest in Spain. I will talk more about the work in a moment but as able to stay there for two weeks, have all the repairs done and refuel for less than Cartagena wanted to charge me for berthing. Considering the price difference, we weren’t expecting much if we are honest but we were really pleased. The security on the pontoons was good, you couldn’t get on the wrong pontoon with the fobs. Although the toilets could do with a refresh, we always used the boat facilities anyway. We also found, in common with all of Spain, the staff really helpful and welcoming which goes a long way in our book.
However, before I go we need to organise some works. Almerimar has a large yard which looks very professional and flush with the success of our trip to Vigo, we walk in expectantly and hopefully. As we walk into the office/shop, there are three people behind the counter, they all stop and stare at us. We say hi and does anyone speak English. The response is they do but an Englishman, let’s call him Dick to protect the innocent, curtly tells us that he is serving a customer and we will have to wait. We hadn’t meant to interrupt and in fact hadn’t said a word when they all stopped and stared at us. Not a great start.
There is cold water in the customer area and it has been a long walk in sweltering conditions, so we grab a small cup of cold water each. Dick stops again and tells us we will have to pay for that, which is apparently just a really poor joke, but this isn’t starting well.
I am thinking that the conversation with the other customer isn’t particularly helpful or friendly as well but hopefully we can break down some of these boundaries.
Dick finishes with the other customer, sending him away and turns his attention to us. We have done a fair bit of motoring since leaving Plymouth and the first year, or 250 hour, service is now due, after just two weeks! We ask if he can recommend a yanmar specialist who could service our engine since it is still under warranty or an engineer who could work on the autohelm. His response is he could put us in touch with someone but he wouldnt recommend them! Oh, ok. We could do with a rigger for a short period to sort out our bent stanchion and a stainless person to straighten the old one. The stainless person could also create a cheek plate, or bow protector, and fit it. His response completely non-pluses us. Firstly, he asks if we are taking the boat out of the water. No, we would expect the glueing and eight screws to be fitted in the water as confirmed by two experts in the UK that unfortunately ran out of time. Apparently, they won’t do that and anyway they are busy and it could be weeks. We then ask about air conditioning and refrigeration. Our saloon air con unit has stopped pumping cool air and we think it needs regassing. His response was there is no point in doing that because it has a leak. I point out that the leak may have occurred over the last twenty years and maybe we could try regassing the unit and see if it lasts another twenty years. He refuses to help us and says we will need to get the unit repaired even though we intend to replace it in the next year or two. Finally, since we are suckers for punishment, maria asks about her new fridge which continues to ice up. We have been told that this is likely because of air getting into the fridge through a slot that the sensor wire comes through. Maria has fashioned a fix using blutack but would like the proper gum. His response is that a completely different fridge that he has in the shop has had to have seven replacement doors and that all new fridges are rubbish ending with the line that if it front opening it will always ice up.
So we leave there completely unsatisfied with nothing resolved and having experienced one of the most obnoxious and unhelpful people I have seen in years. A completely different experience to the incredibly helpful Spanish team in Vigo. We now begin to understand why my parents didn’t want to associate with the English in Spain if that is what they are like.
However, our experience in Almerimar was about to change completely. Our initial view was to go back to the marina office and ask for details of Spanish engineers but we have one more opportunity. Maria has signed up to the Navily app on her phone which provides reviews of anchorages and marinas. This has been really useful on the way down and one of the reviews talks about a freelance English engineer called Paul. I give him a try and he can’t be with us today since he is in another town but should be back tomorrow and can pop along to discuss the work. His whole attitude is completely different and helpful so that sounds a good start.
Paul arrives as expected at lunchtime and discusses the work we have. He is a little time constrained and really needs to get the work done next week since he has a lot of friends coming out the following week and doesn’t expect to be in a fit state to work. I describe the Whitlock and what is required once the spare part arrives which should be in good time. We also discuss the engine service which needs to have Yanmar parts to protect our warranty, that will be no problem. Also can he recommend a rigger to take apart the safety lines and replace the stanchion with the one I have. Unfortunately this has defeated me but he says he will get that done too. We are on a roll! He doesn’t know an aircon guy who can regass the air con does he? Of course he does and he will put us in touch with them via a great guy at the chandlery called Mike. The answer to our dreams.
However, we still don’t have the spare parts we need to rebuild the autohelm. When we had left Gibraltar we had asked for the parts to be shipped. Unfortunately they couldn’t be done before because the marina refuse to accept parcels for boats that haven’t arrived and the last thing in the world we wanted was for our package to arrive before we did and get returned to sender. As it transpired, this wasn’t going to be an issue. The parcel shipped from the UK fine and then got held up in Spanish customs. At this stage, I was phoning two or three times a day to try and sort it out because I knew our window of opportunity with Paul was reducing and although I felt I could put it back together with the instructions and the observing I had done, I knew that Maria would always complain that I bodged it rather than get a professional to do the same as I would.
In the end I had to send three different pictures of my passport to the Spanish shipping company who were like Goldilocks, the first one was too shiny, the second too dark but the third one was just right! Once this part was complete, I could then get it delivered having paid the custom charge which was nearly as much as the cost of the part i needed. All of this introduced further delays and in the end we had missed the slot that Paul had offered us. Paul kindly suggested that he would do on one of the mornings when his mates were hungover or doing something else. So I paid the duty and now we are waiting for the part to arrive.
We still had to get the air conditioning fixed and buy the service kit for the engine to replace our spare that was being used for the service. This was Mike at the chandlery at Calle Valledero. He was great and got everything sorted for us and again restored our faith.
I hadn’t really noticed this about my wife before but she has a unique way of handling delays and waiting times. Need to wait for the washing – have a gin and tonic. Parcel not delivered yet, have a gin and tonic. I had better make sure the parcel gets delivered quickly or she will be hammered.
When the parcel arrives it is like Christmas. I am a little apprehensive in case Cliff from Whitlock south has sent me the wrong part and I apologise now for ever doubting this, since when marina opened it, there was a lovely sparkly new spindle with all its vanes intact just waiting for a nice Whitlock drive to nestle into.
Needless to say, before my return everything was done and done brilliantly with the autohelm being fixed making maria particularly happy. We can’t speak highly enough of Paul and I would recommend him to anyone.
So that is the boat fixes done, what about Maria’s time in Almerimar? Those who know Maria from Facebook will have seen numerous posts of her living the high life, watching washing machines go around in launderettes. Maria likes things to be clean and this will be no different as she gets lots of bags ready to go do some washing. Now despite appearances, Maria doesn’t actually like to watch the washing machines for thirty minutes and since we are on our own for a change, suggests that we go for a drink next door to the launderette while we wait for our washing. I may have mentioned this habit before and I confess I joined her on this occasion. She orders a very nice gin and tonic and this was to define her stay over the next couple of weeks.
Firstly, we met Wade at the bar and started discussing the requirement to get to the airport next availability of taxis. Like a number of resorts, there is a thriving community who help out in these situations and within minutes we have a car organised to take me and the boys to the airport for our flights.
Over the coming days, maria got to meet quite a few of the local expat community. Their experience of the guy in the yard was exactly the same as ours so at least it wasn’t anything to do with us.
Apart from busy about the boat trying to get her ready for our second leg to Brindisi, maria was able to join in the expat life with a group who welcomed her with open arms.
When I return two weeks later, the boat looks great. Maria also looks refreshed and has made a lot of new friends including all of Paul’s friends from England. Well at least she wasn’t bored while I was away…..