Gibraltar to Portugal
18 June 2013 | Ayamonte
During the last three weeks we have begun to wind down and relax. We arrived in Smir, on the Mediterranean coast of Morocco at 4.30pm on the 1st May. It was a good shake down sail taking a total of seven hours from La Linea. The speed was slow as the wind was variable and we had to turn the engine on early in the afternoon for an hour when it died away completely, but we were happy just being at sea again.
Marina Smir was the first to be built on the Mediterranean coast of Morocco. Smir is a Spanish Enclave and the Marina is owned by the Spanish. It has a reputation as a smuggler’s haven and normal visitors have in the past been harassed by officials, however, we had no problems and once the formalities had been completed we berthed Sareda and went ashore. Apart from the Marina shops and restaurants there is very little in Smir itself as it was built on a deserted beach between Ceuta and M’Diq, but we enjoyed a pleasant hour strolling around the immediate vicinity and enjoying a cup of coffee in one of the many restaurant/cafes within the marina.
The next morning we were up bright and early to taxi into M’Diq. M’Diq is a very busy fishing port but in 2009 the King of Morocco initiated a new extension to the harbour. This was expected to be in use by 2012 but was still not completed at the time of our visit. From the glimpses we had it promises to be a very comprehensive complex but we were quickly shooed away by guards when attempting to investigate further.
We made our way to the fishing harbour which was a hive of activity. On our approach we noticed several men walking away from the harbour area with carrier bags full and one elderly man pushing a very heavy handcart laden with fish. Later in the morning we saw several fish stalls in the market – whether they belonged to the fishermen themselves or whether they were purchased when the fishing boats arrived we do not know.
The first thing I noticed as we entered the harbour was a cat with a fish in its mouth scarpering away behind some buildings, as we approached more and more cats were seen including full families of kittens all looking very well nourished, hardly surprising considering the amount of fish lying on the ground squashed beneath the feet of people milling around.
We went into a fisherman’s café right on the water’s edge and had two coffees – we had to remember that French was the language to use here, not Spanish, and although we had only sailed 30 miles, the culture could not have been more different from Spain. The ladies were covered from head to foot including having trousers under their long floor length coats and heads were covered.
We were recognised as tourists and one of the ladies with a toddler swathed in a carrying blanket on her back asked by hand gestures if we would like to take a photo of her, of course we did, and paid her a euro for the privilege. Dirhams are officially the currency of morocco but they will accept euros. We later asked some fishermen if we could take a photo of them mending their nets and they were happy to oblige and did not ask for payment.
After we had our coffee we wandered into the town. We purchased some lovely vegetables very cheaply at one stall in the market and bread at another. By this time we were feeling peckish and began to look for somewhere to eat. I was going to have sardines but the places that sold them did not have vegetarian options and I wouldn’t eat without Paul although he was happy for me to do so. Eventually we found a lovely café that had vegetarian pizza on the menu. We hadn’t had pizza for some time and thoroughly enjoyed it.
I was grateful that the weather was not too hot, as, in order not to offend I had worn jeans with a long sleeved cotton top. We only had the one full day in Morocco and left early the following morning to return to La Linea, but after we have visited the Azores we have decided to return to the Atlantic coast of Portugal and Morocco on our way down to the Canaries as we found the people of Morocco so friendly and welcoming.
We had one full day in La Linea before leaving at 7.30am on the 5th May to head for Puerto Sherry in the Bay of Cadiz, initially there was not enough wind to sail but by 10am both wind and tide were favourable in the straits of Gibraltar and we were making 6 knots. In the next hour we averaged 7 knots due to the very strong tide and it was a little hairy passing Tarifa where the overfalls were very strong. At lunchtime there was a strong wind over tide but by 2.30pm the wind had picked up and we were making 5/6 knots.
By 5pm the wind had dropped but we were still sailing at 2/3 knots and we were visited by hundreds of bees. They were all over the gantry and the wind generator and when I went up on deck I had to be careful not to tread on them and I found the life-raft and ropes at the mast were covered in them. Luckily neither Paul nor I are inclined to panic about bees so we just ignored them and they didn’t bother us – they were however with us for a couple of hours and when I went below I had to capture at least 10 that had found their way into the saloon and release them outside. We couldn’t believe that a swarm of bees would travel so far from land and I was convinced that they had overwintered in the mast and had just awoken!! We found out later however, that I wasn’t correct in my assumption as our friends Harry and Val from Gibraltar who had travelled to Rota at the far side of the bay of Cadiz the day before were also visited. By 7.30pm it was obvious that we were not going to make Puerto Sherry before dark and so I cooked a meal whilst on passage and we finally anchored at Puerto Sherry at a quarter to midnight.
We spent 19 days in the bay of Cadiz some of the time anchored at Puerto Sherry, some at the Marina in Rota and two nights in the marina at Santa Maria, up the river from Puerto Sherry, sheltering from gale force winds. We visited Rota a few days after arriving to meet with Val and Harry who had recently managed to secure a permanent mooring there. We left the boat safely tied up and caught the ferry to Cadiz for a day.
We found Cadiz enchanting. It truly is a beautiful and fascinating city and this opinion concurred with that of Lord Byron who declared it to be the most beautiful he had ever beheld. The architecture is superb and we spent a lot of our day in the cathedral, which was vast and more like a mausoleum, and we also found the museum fascinating. For many years Cadiz handled most of the profitable trade with the New World which gave them great wealth that can be seen within the city and which is portrayed by the impressive architecture. We were also impressed with the magnificent gardens and the cleanliness of the city as a whole. It was made easy to explore as we visited the tourist information office who gave us a map with the routes of various points of interest displayed on it in different colours and you just followed the colours painted on the roads to reach the point of interest you wished to find. Following these lines was very informative and far more useful and nicer than the double yellow lines littering the UK!!
We returned to Rota for a further two days whilst in the bay. Rota was one of the prettiest towns we have ever visited in Spain, and we have visited several now! It had its own unusual and spectacular architecture and the squares where people gathered for wine and coffee were invariably full of colourful flora. Whilst in Rota I explored the shopping opportunities, and bought a long cotton skirt and light long sleeved top for when we visit Morocco again.
Whilst anchored in Puerto Sherry we were visited by Jacque, from France, on La Gageure. Jacque is an artist and engraver and his wife, an authoress, had remained in France aboard their 40 metre home moored on the river Seine just below Paris, and was coming to join him in Seville. Jacque had some interesting tales to tell - he was sailing alone off Sudan in the red sea as part of his solo circumnavigation when he was captured by pirates and held for 12 days. He was released in exchange for a Sudanese prisoner but although his situation was scary he said he was generally well looked after.
He was leaving to sail up the Guadalquiver river to Seville some 55 miles to meet his wife at the airport, he was then heading for the Algarve and intended to spend some time on the river Guadiana, which divides Spain and Portugal. As it is also our intention to visit the Guadiana we hope to see him again and maybe meet his wife.
Val and Harry who we met in Gibraltar and who now have a berth in Rota drove over to see us for the evening ashore. We had a lovely catch up and will see them again as they will be heading for La Rompido and then the Guardiana river.