Almuñecar, Spain

Photo: Fish salting tanks in Almunecar, Spain. Credit: Lisa Borre.
Fish salting tanks from the 4th and 5th Centuries A.D. used to make garum, a Roman delicacy, in Almunecar. We later found the recipe for garum in Cartagena. Credit: Lisa Borre.

Logbook Entry

Dates: 07/28/08 – 07/30/08
 42 nm
Sailed from: Benalmadena
Lat: 36°44’N
Long: 03°43.5’W

Another long day of motoring with no wind to arrive at this very pricey, but nice marina. The cruising guide classifies the marina fees as “high” in the summer, so we were expecting to pay more for the convenience of visiting the town of Almuñecar, given its significance as a former Phoenician port. What we were not expecting is that they were going to charge us double since there was no slip available for our size of yacht. We’ll classify the fees as “mega high” since we were put in a mega-yacht’s slip and leave it at that because the marina staff allowed us a late check-out the next day so that we could explore the archeological sites in town. That evening we met another American on a yacht about the same size as us, and he too, was surprised by the fee and to find us. He and his wife were headed west and back to the U.S. later this year. We have not met any other Americans on yachts headed east since leaving Lagos, and along with the two others we have met since then, all were returning to the U.S. We suspect that the weak U.S. dollar is partly to blame.

On Tuesday, we took a taxi into town and visited the archeological museum, the Roman fish salting factory, and then the tourist office to purchase a book about the ancient history of the area. Once again, we met with a tourism official who quickly became frustrated with David’s apparently off-beat questions about Phoenicians. She gave us the signal that she was done with us, but a careful browse of the brochure racks turned up the booklet recommended by the archeology museum staff which was available in English for only 1.50 euros.

After that we walked to the newly opened aquarium of Mediterranean Sea life, but at 12 euros each, we decided to skip it. Instead, we asked at the ticket gate about whether anyone at the aquarium had information about the the rock whelk, or murex, a shellfish which the Phoenicians harvested to make the much-sought-after purple die. A nice biologist appeared a few minutes later and explained that as far as she knew, the murex does not live in these waters anymore, but that the shells are used as “houses” (casas) for the hermit crabs. She also explained that Spanish people do not eat garum, the fish paste produced in Almuñecar and exported to Rome during ancient times. She bid us farewell saying that their aquarium was designed to provide “level 1” information about the Mediterranean to their visitors, but that she was very intrigued by our questions even though they were at “level 5” on her scale. Lisa said, “Do you mean that our questions are off-the-charts?” She just nodded and smiled. (Later in the summer we found a recipe for garum printed on an apron in Cartagena.)