Escape from Torrevieja harbour...

On Thursday 16th February, one of the yachts anchored out near us dragged a little and, instead of picking up his hook and moving to a sensible spot, the skipper decided to stay anchored too near the salt sock, causing a minor problem that evening. I told Robbie that, for sure, that guy was going to draw the wrong kind of attention to us all and, sure enough, on Friday 17th February, at about 10am, the Guardia Civil patrol boat showed up again and one of the officers on board said that he should leave immediately and then came over and told us we should also go immediately because now it really was against the law to anchor out.

When asked which law exactly he was referring to, the officer flapped about a bit and then said it was a new law, passed on January 12th 2006. I said I was surprised that the local authorities had accused us in December of breaking a law that wasn't even going to exist until weeks later and explained, once again, that without engines it is not always possible to leave just because one would wish to. We have all our new sails now but wind to fill them was not included in the deal...
The next boat they visited, they told the skipper he couldn't paint his cockpit at anchor but they didn't tell him to leave or mention any law. They zoomed off and, about half an hour later, I called the harbour master to ask where we stood. He said it was out of his hands to affect the behaviour of the Guardia Civil, which I found very interesting because the officers had told us they were acting on his instructions, but I didn't mention that.

The HM also said that it was true that there was now a new law but agreed that we had the right to anchor out in the bay outside the harbour so we could still get our parts from local tradesmen, in spite of the fact that it would make it much harder for those tradesmen to deliver, or for us to collect, our goods.

Within five minutes of my thanking the HM politely for taking the time to speak to me, the Guardia Civil were back. They shouted at us through a loud hailer and said we had exactly one hour to get out or they would cut our anchor cables, tow us out to sea and dump us. One of the officers was filming us with a video camera while this went on and I said I hoped that if any of their mothers ever took up sailing that she could expect rather better treatment than that. One of the officers sneered and I said I hoped that any of them who visited my country would find the attitude of the officers there a little less inhospitable, especially if they spent as much money with local tradesmen as we had just done. The patrol boat took off as the officer with the loudhailer shouted again "One hour"
Robbie was, as you can imagine, completely stressed out, and so was I, but at least a breeze had come up, so the two of us set about trying to get the anchors up. We had picked up a whole bunch of fisherman's cast off tackle and rubbish on one of the anchors, we discovered, and it took an angle grinder and four hours of intensive labour to get the chain and tandem hooks aboard, leaving a single Bruce anchor on a warp keeping us there. By the time we had finished, the wind had picked up quite a lot and was blowing straight in through the harbour entrance, so there was no way we could sail out.

Meanwhile, the ship's parrot (or, rather, macaw), Bella, always very sensitive to my husband's moods, must have picked up on the fact that, instead of calming her down, as I had always done on the rare occasions he became stressed before, I was just as stressed myself. She dropped dead at the age of 13 (they can live to over 100) of heart failure. Four solid hours of panic must have been more than she could withstand.

We couldn't go anywhere because of the wind; we were both grief-stricken over Bella's death, and so we remained where we were and I did some research on the Internet and found out that no new law has been passed. The harbour master had, seemingly without reference to anyone else, passed a 'resolution'on the 12th of January 2006 and, on the basis of that, instructed the local authorities that anchoring must be stopped and even gone so far as to instruct the Spanish National Hydrographic Institute to remove the anchor symbols from the charts of the harbour.
I sent an e-mail to the Institute, asking for clarification of the harbour master's right to single-handedly change a status quo several centuries old and asking whether they intended to do as he had demanded without giving the public any right to object under Spanish constitutional law but I have received no reply thus far.

We spent the whole week worrying about the Guardia Civil returning and carrying out their threat. They haven't been near the harbour since saying we had one hour to leave...
This morning, a friend came out with a friend of his and towed us outside the harbour. We are now at anchor and, although the boat is rolling rather a lot, I can still pick up the signal from the WiFi hotspot, for access to which I have paid in advance up until 7th March, some of the time, so I thought I'd better post this while I can.