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No room at the Inn
09/08/2008, Vila Real

No room at the Inn 08/09/08

We arrived back in an almost full Vila Real where after trying to squeeze us into the wrong sized berth (we later realised that the marinairos we given the wrong number by mistake as we watched while they failed to fit a Dutch yacht in the same space an hour later!) So we ended up on the outer pontoon for large Cats, which proved to be rather turbulent but we couldn't move as the engine, a little considerately stopped just as we moored. One of the young marinairos organised an electrician who spoke no English but he helpfully stayed around to translate. We asked if there was room for us to stay for a fortnight but the office kept being vague and finally said no so we went over to Ayamonte to see if they had space, which they did.

There was an annual Mediaeval festival nearby at Castle Marim but we would be away when it happened but one to look out for in future.

Bay of Cadiz
09/05/2008, Cadiz

We set off back to Vila Real and decided to stop at one of the 5 marinas in the Bay of Cadiz.

Our first try was Puerto de Santa Maria up a river. We tried to raise the marina on the radio, then telephone and no one answered, so as there did not seem to be any obvious spaces we gave up and went on to Puerto Sherry. By now it was about 7.30pm but not really late for summer sailing. We radioed as we approached, a good tactic we find in Spain as they are less likely to send you away if you are on the door step so to speak! No answer again so we tied up at the visitors pontoon and Steve went up to the office which was shut so we decided to stop as it was getting late. We were joined later by an elderly gentleman on a Vancouver 28, we offered to help him more but could tell as he approached that he was an experienced solo sailor. He told us that he had just returned from his 5th Atlantic crossing and particularly liked the visiting the Azores. He looked to be in his seventies and still living life to the full, I can only hope we will be as fortunate with our health in the future.

The marina is a long walk from town though there are buses. There was little there but a few bars, restaurants and a small, expensive food shop. However we went for a walk along the road overlooking the bay and found a delightful bar with a great view of Cadiz lit up at night. There was a Moroccan theme to the d├ęcor and you could borrow a hookahs to smoke. I ordered a Caprinhrina and had to wait until the owner's husband returned to make it as she did not know how. It was about the size of 3 usual ones and served with wafer thin slices of Manchego cheese which was delicious. A very peaceful end to the day.

When Steve went to pay the following day at the office he was stunned when they didn't charge him!

Rota and Babate
09/05/2008, Cadiz

We had to motor to Rota as there was little wind again. The new canopy we had made to fit under the main is very useful at keeping most of the sun off without interfering with visibility and can be used when under sail - if that ever happens.

We only stayed a night in Rota, Steve was cross as they made us pay for a longer berth, he pointed out that there were lots of spare berths but they were not sympathetic and as it was late we gave in.

We set off the next morning for Babate as we crossed the neck of the bay of Cadiz we passed several boats with divers down. We passed the city with its golden-domed cathedral standing out as a clear land mark in the distance. Typically the wind was on the nose, a 4-5, if only we were going west. As we passed the Trafalgar lighthouse we thought of Nelson who came from Norfolk and went to school at what is now the King Edward V1 Independent school in Norwich. By coincidence I lived in the basement flat of Nelson House in Exmouth for a year when I was at College. Apparently Lady Hamilton lived there for a time. We skirted the worst of the Trafalgar banks where a number of warships were wrecked after the battle of the same name.

The marina at Babate was shut when we arrived so no shower and pontoon card so we climbed out and set off into town in search of food. It was about half an hour walk along a dusty, busy road into the seaside town where we had a Chinese meal and then as we were shattered took a taxi back, helped by a kind, young waitress who ordered it for us as our Spanish is practically non-existent.

The next day the wind was stronger and unfortunately coming from the east thus making a passage to Gibraltar a non starter. On chatting to the locals they reliably informed us it was the Levanter and would be 7-10 days before it blew itself out. We realised we would never make it to Almerimar in time for the flights home (luckily they were so cheap we could afford to lose them) so we decided to turn back and find somewhere secure to leave the boat until our return.

08/31/2008, Mazagon

After Vila Real we set off to Mazagon. As you approach you have to go out far enough to avoid the end of a pipeline to the refinery, of course it is well marked. There were half a dozen tankers anchored outside the river mouth waiting to go in to the refinery I assume. We stayed 3 nights in the Marina which like Vila Real was mercifully cheaper than Lagos etc.

There were two parts to the marina and we were closest to the cafes and office, the other houses the washing machines. You had to be careful with the showers as they got blistering hot quickly and then it was tricky turning them down. There was free wifi in the bar and excellent tapas and it was there that we caught up with Tim and Bev again one evening. They are on the reserve list for the ARC but if unlucky thought they might over-winter maybe in Almerimar like us.

The roughly 20 minute walk into town was up a very steep hill, which was a killer in the heat of August, especially if on getting to the small supermarket you remember that most shops close in Spain between 2 and 5pm. Still as compensation there is an excellent Heladaria with about 30 or so tempting
ice-cream flavours on the main road. We found a small internet shop, also selling some summer clothes and various oddments in the precinct nearby where we could print up our flight boarding passes. Not much else to get excited about though.

Across the River
08/29/2008, Ayamonte

Vila Real is on the River Guadiana which forms the border with Spain and there is a regular ferry between there and Ayamonte. We had heard that Ayamonte was a good place to over- winter so we decided to investigate by popping over by ferry for lunch and a wander. The town was very pretty and very importantly there were 2 supermarkets within 100m of the marina great for provisioning.

We had lunch in one of the picturesque squares, Steve had a steak and I ordered a Crab Salad, feeling very healthy and sensible. I was somewhat shocked when I was presented with some bread and a huge pile of flaked crabmeat drowning in mayonnaise, where was the lettuce, tomatoes etc I pondered. I quickly ordered a tomato salad as well but was not impressed. The waiter was so surly I wondered if he had perhaps not brought everything! Steve only had chips with his steak I noted. However, as we wondered around the town we saw many folk eating huge mounds of Russian salad with just bread so that must be the Spanish style. We made a mental note to order a salad as well next time we ate out.

Up the Guadiana
08/28/2008, Vila Real

One night was enough in Vilamoura and we set off again the next day, motoring as usual as there was negligible wind and Kaivalya needs at least a 3 to get moving in. We decided to go up the River Guadiana to Vila Real. We timed our arrival carefully as the chart warns of sandbanks at the entrance and in the river. We radioed the marina as we got close and they directed us to a berth we could only have for a few days as they were very busy.

The marinaros were very helpful assisting berthing. Steve returned somewhat unimpressed by the showers as they were relatively new but very small and hot as there was little ventilation so you came out hotter than you went in! The following day we met Stu who stopped to admire Kaivalya and then invite us for drinks on his boat which he had built himself. Apparently he had come to the Algarve about 7 years ago intending to go further but after some time in the Med and Gibraltar he had come back here and settled, buying a flat also. His wife Carol and their friends we met were a mine of helpful tips and they suggested we over-wintered there.

The town is built on a grid plan and you can take a pleasant walk along the promenade dotted with sculptures and fountains which are lit up at night. We also found a free Wifi centre down one of the side streets. I think it might well be the Towel capital of Portugal as every other shop seems to sell them along with bed linen and table cloths.

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