Originally, we had no plans to enter this 11 mile by 5 mile hyper saline small sea —the Mediterranean being the big sea. The charts that we have come to rely the most upon showed Peregrinus couldn’t make it at the first set of Westbound buoys. Thereafter, we could –in paper– make it, but our Imray pilot book (2014) hints of silting and of irregular, unknown dredging periods.
We were fortunate, however, that along the way we’ve made Spanish friends with local sailing knowledge and who insisted we shouldn’t skip the Mar Menor, and so we decided to give it a shot. After all, we’ve been known to enter places, from the Bahamas to New Brunswick, with one inch of water below the keel.
We carry three sets of charts of this salty lagoon east of Cartagena, namely
- Navionics (vector, charts fully updated three days prior)
- Instituto Geográfico de la Marina 1:50,000, 1996, (raster, MaxSea on iPad)
- Garmin Bluechart (vector)
It is Navionics that reads that the entrance channel is impassable by anything other than a canoe, and in fact its very chart of the Mar Menor has been presented by others on internet forums as demonstration that Navionics contains imaginary information of the Mediterranean. However, other than here, Navionics has been good to us. For all of Spain, Garmin is simply a rasterised version of the official Spanish charts. And the most updated Spanish charts… are old (1996). Having said that, the Spanish charts, while showing less detail than we like, show that Peregrinus should enter the Mar Menor without issue.
In any event, Peregrinus, which at the very worst has a draught of 2.2 meters fully loaded, and which has its sensors calibrated to show water below the keel, entered the Mar Menor without issue in January 2016, under the following conditions:
Wind during transit 6 knots
True wind direction 45 degrees
Barometer 1032 mb and increasing slowly
True wind day prior 6 knots
True wind day prior 30 degrees
True wind in Cartagena harbour prior week: 10 knots or less
Least depth seen: 3 feet below keel at the second set of physical buoys
(second set of physical buoys are the first set of buoys shown on all charts, entering from Med)
Second least depth seen: 4 feet below keel, 200 feet west of bridge
Tide: 3.5 hours before high tide
Tide coefficient: 56 (two hours before transit)
Tide range: -0.1 metre (low tide), +0.1 metre (high tide)
Current: 0.5 knots, estimated, Eastbound