11 February 2019 | Portimao
El Rompido to Lisbon, then back to Portimao.
Stella and I drove out to El Rompido in April, pausing at Jessica's house near Ronda. And visiting Italica outside Seville b4 continuing to Aqua Blue moored in the Rio Pedras. Delivering some heavy items such as repaired sails and a new giant 180Ah battery, which we struggled to lug onboard! After some modest fitting out we returned via Merida. I particularly wanted to see the many Roman buildings again, such as the town centre temple, plus the Roman bridge, it must be the longest ever! And the Theatre /Amphitheatre were as impressive as I remembered!
I returned to AB by EasyJet in late May. And Wolfgang the marina proprietor arranged for AB to be hauled by rail sled at a fishing boat yard in Punta Umbria. Where the staff very thoroughly cleaned AB's bottom and applied 8 litres of bright red Hempel antifouling, for a modest price. I was well pleased with the result, and managed to service the finicky KiwiProp too.
Back at Rompido I spent several days sanding & glassing the stbd foredeck, then non slip painting the whole float deck. I'd been meaning to do it for years, and it was easily accomplished working from the pontoon. I was even complimented on my handiwork!! I also further improved the cockpit seats.
On Wed 13th June approaching midday I span AB round and reversed off the pontoon, Wolfgang having to jump off his bike and throw onboard one rope I'd forgotten! By teatime I was anchored in the Guadiana outside Ayamonte marina. A reasonable shallow anchorage altho it gets popply with chain noise when the tide floods against the overnight land breeze. It was still N20kts, and only 60F at 9am in mid June!! But the land breeze dies by 11am and we motorsailed slowly to anchor inside Faro lagoon at Culatra. A bit of a multihull graveyard, but they're interesting to me. RedandWhite an ex racing tri, now seemingly a fishing platform, and Swingalong a Westell tri I'd known in Andrews Boatyard Emsworth in the early eighties were still moored. Plus a much newer Harry Proa which had been built in Sagres. I stayed onboard, grateful for M&S tinned food. Now on Portuguese time I was up at dawn, struggling to extract the Rocna from the weed, and by 8am the spring ebb was flushing AB out over the bouncy Faro bar. Normally it can be a bit of a slog in a fresh seabreeze from Faro to Portimao, but this time the wind stayed light and off the land, so a pleasant sail along the coast had us anchored off Praia Grande in Portimao by mid afternoon. I'd also seen strange horizon effects, double images of boats and beaches!
I surprised myself by sleeping for 12hrs, I suppose I'd worked non stop for well over two weeks! The weekend 16/17th June was spent tackling the afloat job list. And on Sun morn it was 78F by 9am, tempting me into my first cockpit shower. I also met my brother and his wife for lunch at one of the beachside restos, then walked the length of the beach and had a siesta. Plus returning ashore for Frango PiriPiri, I was also on holiday now!
On the Mon morning I took AB up to the town fuel quay, altho singlehanded mooring in the current is not easy. Paul Wells working on the 50ft tri Trinity in RCS spotted me. I returned briefly to the Praia Grande anchorage to stow everything securely and consult fcsts, then by midday headed out west again. Motoring over a calm sea we arrived in Sagres bay before 5pm. I thought about continuing but decided rest was better. However by midnight a SE swell was rolling into the bay and sleep was fitful. I rose and dressed at 4am, but it was so dark I couldn't make out the headlands so lay down again! I recovered the Rocna at first light and motored over the Atlantic swell, rounding Cape St Vincent, by 6.30am, under very low cloud since a shallow low had formed over the Cape! But on the west side of the Vicentine promontory an easterly blew down from the towering cliffs and AB reached north under genoa alone. 3hrs later we were passing Arrifana, a very open anchorage where AB had spent one night the year before. The sky cleared and wind dropped for a blue afternoon and I motored up to Sines to anchor off the fishing boats in the west side of the harbour after 12hrs progress north.
The calm night was very welcome and in the morning I ascended the mast to unravel the genny halliard, caught on the very top fitting of the 20yr old Profurl, which is designed to prevent it! I then motored AB over to the marina visitor pontoon and managed to lassoo a cleat, with a slight wind off the pontoon. It rained all afternoon, and there were thunderstorms all night to herald the summer solstice, Thurs 21st June. I spent several days here, Sines grows on you. The marina has very good facilities and is not expensive, esp for a multihull. Plus the weather was not kind, with hail keeping the tourists off the beach one day! I also enjoy the screeching Swifts nesting below Vasco da Gama's stern statue. He's revered as the first european to round the Cape of Good Hope, altho Herodotus tells us the Phoenicians from Tyre may have beaten him to it in 600BC!
On Sun 24th June the normal summer weather returned and I motored towards Cabo Espichel till the NW wind enabled raising of the genoa and main. I was interested to see what AB could do into a modest Nortada (up to 22kts apparent) and with the windward rig trimmed tight we could indeed sail fast enough, due north parallel to the coast. In fact with a bit of a lift approaching the Cabo, AB sailed straight up to anchor off the beach at Sesimbra. The pilot book warns of very poor holding. And indeed AB sailed back out of the anchorage towing 80ft of chain plus a bridle. It was a good job I'd stayed onboard despite the tempting dinghy pontoon. It's a pretty town to observe and was used by Portuguese royalty. The katabatic winds blowing off the hills subsided by midnight and I slept surprisingly well. Repeating the process on Monday we managed to sail close hauled north again to reach Fort Bugio, before I started the Yannie to enter the anchorage off Cascais by mid afternoon.
I rowed the considerable distance to the fishing pontoon in the morning to admire the many fine houses along the seafront. The afternoon was spent puzzling over why Henry Honda would not start. I dismantled, cleaned and re-assembled the carb to no avail. A relaxed departure the following morning led to a slow sail and motor up the Tagus. Camera at the ready for the monuments and the spectacular bridge. We then turned right and followed the channel buoys to Seixal. There was one free mooring which I eventually managed to secure AB to. Why do I think I can use a boathook to hold 4tons against the tidal current!? The marinero soon arrived and towed the Honwave dinghy to the town quay where I paid for a week, at 7euros/night for the buoy!! I finally had a plate of Sardinhas and rowed back to AB, happy to have reached Lisbon.
I had another go at the Honda outboard carb in the morning. This time I removed the main jet, which does not have a needle. And cleaned through the row of tiny holes along it's side with hairs from a washing up brush! This had the desired effect and I was independent again. Although the mooring fee includes a marinero taxi service!
I called Igor at 9am and he came immediately to ferry me ashore leaving the Honwave perched on the stbd float. The fast catamaran to Cais de Soudre was only 5euros return, with good views of approaching Lisbon. I then walked up to Chiado, back down and up again to Fort de Sao Jorge, then returned via Praco Commercial. All most interesting, despite the pavement tiles being "slippery when dry"! Back onboard by 5pm it started raining and the weekend was bouncy with 20kts blowing against the flood tide. AB was towing a tyre to keep her off the buoy. I alternated days of maintenance with days in Lisbon. After visiting the Oceanarium I walked down to the Marina Nacoes. They had refused me a berth by email. And I was able to photograph the reason, a huge sandbank lifting pontoons high and dry!! I also found the anchor chain bar taut one morning, after hearing an unexplained bang hours before. The windlass had moved slightly! I then spent most of the day replacing corroded wires to and from the now faulty Lofrans control box. At least it operated up, if not down!!
On Tues 3rd July I took a metro to the airport to meet my wife Stella. And then simply wheeled her luggage from the cat ferry to the marinero's runabout in Seixal. Three more day walking tours of Lisbon followed, combined with evening restaurant sampling in Seixal, which really is a convenient and very affordable base for exploring the Portuguese capital. And the Tagus boatyard further up the channel will store and indeed repair your boat if nec. The Chandlers were using it while we were there. I had enquired, but they couldn't accommodate AB's 25ft beam. In Lisbon we walked though Alfama and re-found Catherine of Braganza's tomb, which used to declare "here lies the Queen of England", in St Vincent church which has great views once you've persevered in reaching the roof! There were also giant screens in both towns for communal watching of the World Cup.
On Sat 7th July we untangled the mooring ropes attaching us to the heavy chain to motor back down the Tagus. With Stella taking many photographs of Christ the King and the Belem tower. We even managed to sail to Cascais, where we were intercepted by a RIB guarding the GP32 racecourse. After motoring round to the anchorage, we could watch the hydrofoiling cats whizz by. Next morning Henry was now able to speed us to the fisherman's pontoon for sightseeing and walking in Cascais, the botanical gardens are pleasantly shaded.
On Monday we recovered the Rocna and motored then drifted under MPG back towards Cabo Espichel. The continuous furler is a huge improvement. The sedimentary layers north of the Cabo have been turned through 90 degrees! Bypassing Sesimbra we put the hook down in Portinho Arrabida and surprisingly had a quiet night free of katabatic winds. Just west of the entrance the Baixo Alpertuche seems to be reaching across towards Praia Alpertuche. Only 5ft of clearance at half tide in one spot! Thick morning mist burnt off slowly as we threaded our way directly across the sandbanks into the Rio Sado. Eyes glued to the echo sounder!
We eschewed Setubal this time and followed the coast round to anchor off the endless beach inside the Troia peninsula, and anchored off the moorings at the new development of SolTria, past the naval quay and car ferry terminal. Ashore it was like Florida. The second night ominous clouds appeared to the north over the hills behind Setubal and we had an uncomfortable night with quite a long fetch. But it is a great spot in settled weather. The Romans were here and exported salted fish.
Early the following morning we shot over the Rio Sado barra with the last of the ebb behind us, initially wearing oilskins! By midday the Yannie was off and we were broad reaching down the coast at good speed with the occasional dolphin, and Stella identifying seabirds. The sea got up a bit and I was keen to identify the covered breakwater. Anchored in Sines by 3pm, we were then able to move to the visitor pontoon, after a French boat moved up for us. Long hot soft water showers were enjoyed for some time. Sines marina is so welcoming.
A morning ashore, those seafront cliff steps exercise sailing leg muscles! Pm I bought diesel but it's quite a price, 1.4 euros/litre. Ask at the dive shop. There was a very modern cat moored alongside, a Marsaudon TS42 "Moea" sailed by a Brit in a wheelchair no less. Lots of very good practical ideas to simplify fast sailing. A good evening meal in restaurant O Castello, but the cheaper Sines Grill is fine too.
The Blackwell's Aleria was anchored in the harbour, and we followed them out at 7.30am. They were headed north to Galicia and were grateful for the absence of the Nortada. While we resented motoring south into a very light southerly for 12 hrs, although we were entertained twice by lengthy dolphin visits, I'm convinced they like multihulls. We rounded Cape St Vincent to re-anchor in Sagres bay. This time well occupied, including by Moea who had somehow overtaken us, probably by sailing offshore then back inshore at speeds unattainable by Aqua Blue. We'd been trying to photograph the well named Pedro do Gigante off the Cape, it really does look like a gorilla standing waist deep in water from the north!
A quiet night as Sagres should be in settled weather, but on 15th July it was still only 63F at 7am! The seasons seem to be trailing the sun by more every year! We had a lazy start and ran downwind under MPG alone to enter Alvor, anchoring just west of the moorings, by the villa with blue pontoons, a favourite spot. Ashore we noted the many Irish pubs and then found a quiet restaurant courtyard for a good Cataplana. Ashore again in the morning for convenient shopping and ATMs, we then motored out of Alvor at low tide, just rolling the centreboard up at the shallowest spot near the green buoy (3ft under the hull), which can't be in it's original position. There is an anchoring pool near the entrance if your draft requires it. We ran east along the coast under MPG alone, past an Aussie Crowther Spindrift of AB's age I'm sure, anchored off Praia de Rocha. We re-anchored off Praia Grande Portimao for a late lunch, rather more crowded than a month before!
AB's crew spent over a week here enjoying a beach holiday. There's a couple of reasonable beachside restaurants, plus shopping in Ferragudo within dinghy reach. Stella flew home, Paul Wells kindly taking her to Faro airport. And I arranged a haul out for AB at RCS. One more day sail encouraged yet more dolphins to do acrobatics between the hulls. Then AB was hauled by the giant 9mtr wide travel hoist for hull cleaning and winter storage. I escaped the late arriving summer heat to spend August in Brighton. But Portimao always beckons for the never ending refit! In fact I flew back in October and have just booked the Santander ferry for April.
Wild West Coast
18 November 2017 | Portugal
I returned to Aqua Blue, wintering again in El Rompido, SW Spain, by late May 2017.
And after a rapid fit out, I single handed her to Portimao over three days. The last day from Culatra to Portimao was 11hrs into a freshening headwind, touching F6 apparent by late afternoon. I was minimising tacks by heading offshore, tacking back in when short 2mtr seas started to crest over the bows. But with a reef in the main, and some rolls in the genoa, the old bus crashed her way west. To finally shoot past Portimao breakwater at 8pm on the 2nd June, having seen not a single other yacht!
After a couple of days anchored off Ferragudo, AB was hauled by the giant travel hoist and propped ashore, high enough to fully lower the centreboard. I spent a week (during an early heatwave!), wearing old clothes and protective gear, while carrying out epoxy repairs to the main hull skeg, plus CB and trim board, with the encouragement of Paul Wells, who is rebuilding a 60ft tri here. A thorough cleaning and greasing of the excellent Kiwi prop ensured three point turns would still be possible! Finally a good coat of antifouling completed the work, for this year anyway!
On Monday 12th of June I walked up to Parchal station to meet Stella arriving by train from Faro airport. We dragged her case back to the yard admiring the profusion of large Stork nests, most with one or two young, already as big as their attentive parents. I like Portimao, a working town with good restaurants, and a riverfront to stroll by and sit at in the evenings.
Relaunched 48hrs later, AB was refuelled and watered at the marina, b4 anchoring off Praia Grande in the outer harbour for some R&R , altho I can never stop pottering onboard. It's a great beach with clean water and a couple of restaurants. Altho we alternate with Ferragudo for easier access to the shops.
It was now time to select a window for "going round the corner" . I was determined to tackle the first part of the west coast of Portugal which means waiting for a pause in the Nortada, the relentless summer north wind created by the Azores high pushing up against the thermal low over Spain. After a couple of days we moved the few miles further west to enjoy the great anchorage of Alvor. Quite windy but with less movement than Portimao, and still good shopping and eating out. The easterly Levanters seem more frequent than previous years to me, altho I'm no climate historian.
So when the wind clocked round we ran down to Sagres, but found the easterly seaway making the bay uncomfortable, if not untenable for overnighting. After another night in Alvor we made a much earlier start and were rounding Cape St Vincent by mid morning on Sunday 18th June, with a favourable fresh wind. And were able to broad reach up the west coast for few hours till the wind died. I'd already identified Arrifana bay as a possible overnight stop and we motored in behind the headland at tea time. There was only a very slight Atlantic swell and we had a relatively quiet night in this rather open anchorage, despite some katabatic blasts finding their way over the peninsula. Under way again by 7am, (the two hundred foot cliffs don't exactly encourage you to hang around!), we had to motor up the coast all day. We paused outside Milfontes, knowing it was low tide and an unmarked very shallow entrance, but keen to observe for a future visit. In fact I had crossed the bar for one night exactly 30yrs ago in Freedom of Norwich, another Kelsall trimaran.
By the evening we pulled into Sines and anchored initially on the east side of the inner harbour, just outside the marina. But the close presence of two other yachts plus an annoying swell, made me move west to anchor just outside the fishing boat moorings. Just below the free lift which ascends the yellow concrete cliffs, towards Vasco da Gama's stern statue. There's a long staircase as well, if you fancy the exercise after dragging your dinghy up the beach! We spent several days here. I think Sines old town is charming. Seemingly only reluctantly tolerating a few bijou hotels and tourists. A few moderately priced restaurants and bars help while away the time. And there's a very healthy Swift population occupying the drainage holes in the yellow cliffs. They continually screech and do low flybys as one attempts to capture them on "film"!
On the grey morning of the longest day we motored round the Sines sunken breakwater buoy and headed north. Later managing to sail in "mizzle" up to the Setubal entrance channel, altho we just continued, to anchor outside the small craft moorings at Portinho de Arrabida for a catch up siesta. By 6pm the wind was howling off the mountains and we stayed onboard, to start a Coen Brothers box set, particularly enjoying "Burn After Reading". Before a rather disturbed night, good ground tackle needed here!
During a quite chilly pre brekkie swim I managed to unwrap a stray mooring rope from the prop. Then ashore to visit Fort Arrabida which surprisingly contains a small maritime museum. There are also rooms to let at one of the restos, in this most pleasant anchorage. We then rode the tide up to Setubal and anchored as advised by the pilot in the filthy water off the Yacht Club. Shortly a RIB skipper informed us we risked a hefty fine if we remained within 300mtrs of the wall! We moved SE to Castello San Phillipe but it seems a rough area. So we crossed to Troia and the marina there informed us over the VHF they had no room for multis!! So back north to anchor off Albarquel beach west of Setubal. And this is a pleasant spot with no overnight katabatic blasts. Altho the beach bars basically close by 7pm. Still we caught up on sleep!
In the morning we beached the dinghy and walked and hitched into Setubal. Which is really worth it for the huge mercado and especially the 15thC Igreja Jesus, with it's spiral columns in local stone. I also walked down to the Club Nautico who confirmed anchoring off not now permitted and indeed they recommended we continue to use the Albarquel beach. A taxi from outside the Mercado sped us back to the Praia for a coldie. Back on board by 12.30 we plugged the tide down channel and re-anchored at Arribida for a good fish meal in A Faro resto, b4 another windy night demonstrated the holding power of the Rocna. In fact with F7 fcst in the morning we spent another day at Arrabida, maintaining AB. Even changing the Yannie water pump impellor, and finally connecting the waterproof cockpit speakers to my new toy, an eBay 24volt Brennan, basically a giant iPod! Stella, a Radio 3 aficionado, will tolerate some of the blues and fusion I prefer.
More violent blasts overnight but I did sleep from 2am, you can get used to anything! Unbelievably on 25th June in southern Portugal we awoke to rain! I sorted oilies after brekkie and raised the Rocna between williwaws. We were motoring south in zero wind by late morning. With two huge bumblebees in the cockpit, no doubt blown off the Sierra overnight. We eventually sailed the last few miles back to Sines and released the bees. It was very quiet in town on a Sunday eve.
We appreciated the quiet night at anchor, but apparently blasts off the cliffs are not unknown in Sines either. In the morning we moved AB onto the Cais Recepcao to fill with diesel and water. Then transferred her onto the outside visitor quay , helped by a Brit yottie who's been here for 12 years. After signing up to good wifi Stella easily booked her return flight, who's B Pass the marina office printed. I appreciated the very soft water, in the brilliant showers. The air temp was only 70F!
The morning of the 27th June brought the return of the Nortada. So a late morning investigation of the unmarked Milfontes entrance bar was abandoned for this year. Instead we left at 9am for Cape St Vincent. And a long day's run in increasing wind ensued. With several long displays by dolphins under the bows. I'm convinced they like multihulls! We rounded the Cape after exactly 10hrs as the sun set, great views brought the cameras out! Hook down in a calm Sagres bay inside an alloy cat by 8pm. M&S tinned curries are so good!
A very quiet night, altho some slight swell does refract round Pt Sagres. We beached the dinghy and walked round Henry's Fortaleza on the headland. Again exactly 30yrs since the last time. Altho Sue Keane and I had previously driven here in a TR2 in 1970!! We then ran east to Cape Piedade in a rising nor westerly, which we rounded just inside the fish farm, accompanied by a couple of large Bottlenose dolphins. Later re-anchoring in Alvor in the slight shelter of the villa with blue pontoons, for a good meal ashore. The place is a bit of a multihull graveyard, but of course to me they're interesting!
After three windy nights in Alvor we transfered AB east back to Portimao on the 1st July, which was surprisingly cool in the early morning, only 63F at 7am. As usual we alternated between Praia Grande for loafing and swimming, and Ferragudo for shopping and eating out. Then into the marina to ease Stella's journey home, which she managed in 8hrs on the 5th. I booked my EZY flight too via the marina wifi. And also dinghied up to RCS and begged a lift out, but Paulo was still "doing his places"!
So on Sat 8th July I hauled the Rocna and singlehanded back to Faro, anchoring at Culatra by 3.45pm. Ashore later for a good Corvino, I got a fishbone stuck in my throat which bothered me for 36hrs or so. Henry Honda was behaving much better after the simple expedient of applying some Contralube to the plug connection! I use it on every electrical terminal now, esp the windlass connections in the focsle.
Only 2.6ft under AB's hull on Sun morning, I do exploit the shallow draft! By 11am I was sailing east along the southern side of the huge fish farm when I noticed splashes from what I initially assumed were dolphins. But shortly sickle fins made me realise I was looking at very large Tuna! Later I was slowly overhauled by a large green Spanish yacht under spinnaker. They came very close for pics and interrogated me, "are you alone?". I then ran into Ayamonte with a fresh seabreeze on the last of the flood tide, and the heavy old bus twice touched 9.9kts! There were seven yachts anchored outside the marina and I joined them, not going ashore, it's not obvious where to leave a dinghy here. We bounced around with current against wind till 3am.
Finally I ran back to El Rompido's shallow winding entrance under MPG, to reclaim AB's very comfortable and convenient winter berth on the inside "cat quay". Francisco and the marineros are very welcoming.
Pushing through the Pillars.
04 September 2014 | SW Atlantic Spain
Aqua Blue has escaped the Med after 25yrs!! Rather delayed this year, I returned to Cartagena on 1st July and worked on Aqua Blue in this attractive city for two weeks until my wife Stella joined me. The morning of the 15th brought a fresh northeasterly, nearly trapping AB in her winter berth, the fouled rudder and prop preventing me from rapidly spinning AB in the confined space between pontoons. We eventually extracted and rotated her with the help of the skipper of Zacharia, which is such a well maintained steel boat that not a speck of rust is visible anywhere! We ran down the coast for several hours and later anchored on the east side of Aguilas bay with a few other yachts. I immediately jumped in and spent an hour removing weed and shell, especially from the rudder and Kiwi prop, who's hub needs to be clean to fully engage the powerful reverse blade configuration (which is actually a broader pitched version of forwards, it's complicated!!). That achieved we stayed onboard, M&S chicken curries are so good!
Motoring out in the morning AB was turning and moving better thankfully. And in fact we motored to mid afternoon before another very fresh northeasterly suddenly came up and the engine was silenced for an hour or so before we turned in to Cala San Pedro. There's only a small calm sheltered area available in this rather exposed anchorage, but we joined several earlier arrivals off the nudist beach with it's very high cliffs and had a quiet night again not venturing ashore. Cocktails were enlivened by the naturists strolling about. Stella unearthed a tin claiming to contain "saucissons in lentils and foie grasse", and very good it was too! As was the first episode of Breaking Bad, we'd finally started on the boxed set of the first four seasons.
Although calm it was a katabatic windy night. But that meant we could surf down to Cabo de Gata under headsail alone in the morning, see Stella steering in pic above. Whereupon the wind disappeared in the lee of the cape and we crawled across the Golfo de Almeria. We pottered on to Almerimar marina where AB had spent the winter of 89/90, where it was now so calm we joined a few other yachts anchored outside. Of course a light SW wind then disturbed our sleep and there was even light rain at dawn.
Before breakfast we motored into the marina to top up the fuel tanks. The marinero and HM were both interested that we'd last visited in 1990 since that was the year they'd both started work, needless to say we had no recollection of each other! We continued motoring west but soon were close hauled into a rising wind. We still made good progress motorsailing fast under a reefed main and staysail, and I was learning to use the new SmartPilot X5 which operates the auxiliary tiller inside the rear cabin. Despite not being fully calibrated it would just tack AB and was easy to control plus being more powerful than the earlier belt driven wheel pilot. We reached Motril by 7pm but were not allowed to anchor in the large harbour due to a nearby helipad. So we retreated to anchor between the east harbour wall and another groyne even further east. It was calm initially but a swell rolled in during the early hours resulting in a disturbed night and an early departure.
Leaving at 8am we motored over the swell to Almunecar but rejected the anchorage indicated in the pilot book and continued, to anchor outside Marina del Este. A SW7 was then forecast so I called up the small marina on Ch9 and to my surprise they had room for a trimaran! So we entered and paid for an expensive berth for two nights. Stella was pleased, pointing out she had not been ashore for over four days! We had a good meal ashore after a long siesta. The local shop was permanently closed though. However we reached Almunecar by taxi in the morning and had a pleasant walk round the ancient town's fort and Cuevas, followed by a pavement lunch. We were back on board by 3pm for siesta again, followed by another good meal in "David's" restaurant. Then more Breaking Bad, we were already addicted!
On Mon 21st July easterlies were forecast again, but they were too shy to appear, so after filling the tanks we motored all day to reach Benalmadena, parking initially behind a 61ft Privilege cat. We were then directed to the quiet outer wall at only 38euros and had young angler couples for company into the early hours. So much Spanish activity seems to start at sunset. We reversed out at 8.30am and headed south but soon encountered a fog bank and to our amazement this lasted all day and was sometimes very thick. Even with attentive watch keeping we still had a close encounter with a large trawler, spotted only a few hundred feet ahead! Without the GPS we would never have found Sotogrande entrance, the light on the end of the outer wall appearing above us out of the mist at tea time. We anchored outside again, the harbour seemed full of giant gin palaces. Fortunately it remained flat calm with a light land breeze and by the evening we could clearly see the Rock.
In the morning we resumed droning south and rounded Europa point, identified by both a lighthouse and a mosque minaret. Threading through the anchored freighters off Gibraltar we initially anchored outside La Linea for lunch and a swim. But then entered the marina and had some difficulty mooring AB at reception, with her windage in a fresh seabreeze blowing us off the wall. No help from the marinero, altho a SA yottie eventually took our lines. After topping up the tanks and paying 30euros for the night, Stella eventually lassoed a bollard on a deserted pontoon, altho it was close to the good shower block and wifi/bar. Alcaidesa is half empty but not expensive, especially for wintering. And overlooking the marina is the bar/restaurant AQA which we can recommend.
The following day we stayed put and walked past the queuing cars to the Gibraltar border post, where we immediately boarded a bus to cross the runway and reach the centre. Gib is much improved from my last visit in '87!! We saw the sights inc the Trafalgar graveyard where the mortally wounded were laid to rest. The dead were of course "consigned to the deep" at Trafalgar. We decided against joining the queue for the expensive cable car and retreated from the afternoon heat to the shade of AB's bimini. Followed by another good meal at Aqa. There's also a good restocking supermarket in La Linea altho it's quite a walk.
I had of course been following the weather online and there was no early prospect of easterly winds. So on Fri 25th we returned to the reception berth at 8am to pay for our second night as the staff arrived, and set off across calm Algeciras bay, weaving again past the many freighters at anchor, to round Punta Carnero. As advised I sought out the rougher water which identifies the west going tide and used a lot of the Yanmar's power to make progress. The incoming westerly wind peaked at 31kts, at which AB's speed over the ground was precisely zero knots!! But gradually it declined as we crawled west to anchor outside Tarifa harbour after six hours of very slow progress! The alternative is to raise sail and tack over towards Morocco, but this means leaving the tidal "travellator" and incurring a multihull's leeway in strong winds, with the result I suspect being counter productive. The ancient Greeks and Carthaginians must have been very determined to row and sail through the Pillars of Hercules. There was already a Dutch boat anchored off the beach (yachts are not really welcome in the harbour) and four of us by nightfall at europe's most southerly point. Huge cat ferries maneuvered nearby since Tarifa is a very active port, and unsurprisingly the beach immediately west is the continent's windsurfing capital.
We continued in a now lighter northwesterly the following morning, with AB back in the Atlantic after 25yrs in the Med, already enjoying longer seas. Passing the Trafalgar banks instigated reflective thoughts about who and what had lain beneath us since 1805. Nelson asked not to be thrown overboard and was pickled in a barrel to receive a state funeral in London many months later. Attended amazingly by some of his opposing officers!! The peninsular war continued of course under Wellington, but England no longer feared invasion by Boney.
We identified and entered the tortuous channel into Sancti Petri by tea time, but found the place very crowded with weekend visitors and had to continue some distance inland to find an anchoring spot. Too far to visit the village by dinghy, but that was compensated for by the birdwatching on offer. We just relaxed onboard, only disturbed by the occasional kamikaze speedboat.
We awoke to curlews calling as though we were in Chichester harbour. And a Spoonbill strolled by on the mudbank at low tide. We swam in the warm murky water and then proceeded back to the village, but the marinero would not let us stay on a vacant buoy this Sunday morning. So we motored slowly up the coast to round Cadiz, giving the many reefs a good offing. Continuing round until we were heading south again we passed under the impressive new bridge and anchored off the small Club Deportivo, full of anglers motor boats. They will tolerate yachtsman's dinghies for a small fee and indeed there is an onsite restaurant/bar where we had a good fish dinner.
On the Monday morning we easily caught a bus into the fine city centre and joined a short guided walking tour of the old town. We had an excellent tapas lunch outside the market and continued admiring the many fine streets and houses not returning to AB till 8pm. We repeated the process the following day, museums, market, lunch and general sightseeing. Cadiz city seems improved since our last visit in 2005, and we could have continued for a week!!
On our last day we just visited the convenient and well stocked local shops and left by late morning. We motored past the very shallow and unmarked River Pedro entrance, supposed to be a sheltered spot if a Levanter arrives. We also toured the rather open anchorage just east of Puerto Sherry before continuing on past Rota and along the beach to round the reef off Chipiona. Whereupon we crossed the bar of the river Guadalquivir and ran down to Sanlucar de Barrameda, where we could find no space to anchor. So we spent the night on the north side of the river just before the turn up to Bonanza. And a bumpy night it was too, with the wake of the constant trawler movements in the early hours.
However we found we could safely leave the dinghy on the Guardia Civil pontoon, conveniently close to the Donana National Park visitor centre in the brightly tiled ex ice factory on the front. Upstairs is an interesting display concerning Magellan who apparently left from here. We continued into the old town and had great tortilla camerones (crisp fried shrimp crepe!). Stella bought some Manzanillo de Barrameda, a very dry sherry, best served ice cold. Back on board by mid afternoon we then spent two hours walking the Donana beach front. A sign prohibited landing by dinghy, walking off the beach and almost any other human activity. Needless to say the park employees had four 4*4s parked on the beach and the general message was "you paid for this but you can't enjoy it"!! In the evening I topped up the tank and we settled down for more Breaking Bad and another bumpy night, trawlers streaming past at 8pm, plus 3 and 6am!!
It was quite windy too, not at all a sheltered anchorage despite being several miles up river. Next time I'd round the corner and anchor north of Bonanza for the night. We hauled anchor and took the early ebb down river in the late morning, over the surprisingly rough bar. It helps to leave the channel but you really have to watch the depths. It was already too late to tackle the thirty mile beach west so we eyeballed the multihull anchorage immediately NE of Chipiona but agreed it was too open to the northwest. So we entered the marina for the rest of the day and night. The reception staff made us welcome and had just wide enough berths, but the paperwork took an hour during which fifteen A4 sheets must have printed!! After a siesta and good showers we walked into Chipiona of which I expected little. But we were pleasantly surprised and walked down to the Sanctuary to Madonna de Regla, where unusually you can ascend steps behind the altar to closely admire Madonna! There are also two Moscatel bodegas and in the smaller of the two we enjoyed ice cold Manzanillo, 80cents a freezing glass!! And we enjoyed swordfish and chicken in the square overlooking the smaller town church.
I updated myself on the weather via my ancient Blackberry while lying in my bunk from dawn. And at 8am I walked up to the windy balcony by reception to watch waves breaking across the marina entrance. However the overnight blast started to go down and since there was little promise of improvement to wait for, we elected to leave by 10.30am. First we had to motor again over the bouncy Guadalquivir bar straight into the prevailing northwesterly. I raised the reefed main to steady the motion and gradually the wind started to back, freeing slightly. Next up was the staysail for motorsailing. But by lunchtime we really got a lift along the beach and the genoa was unrolled and the Yanmar silenced. The heavy old bus was now maintaining over 7kts parallel to the beach and the miles to Mazagon really started to come down rapidly. In fact AB amazed me by sailing up the entrance channel behind europe's longest sea wall on calmer water at 8.5kts, as we strained to identify the faded skeletal buoys. We anchored just west of Mazagon marina, next to two neglected yachts! Sherry plus M&S chicken again restored us, while listening and laughing to Count Arthur Strong, before we then further followed Walter White's descent into Hell.
Overnight I received an email from Francisco Vargas at El Rompido with the latest position of the fairway buoy and the times of high tides which were now two hours before Cadiz. We'd already missed the 8.45am high tide so pottered onboard till lunchtime, enjoying the weather which had in fact improved. We set off again as the sea breeze arrived and spent a few hours tacking west, keeping an eye on the many fishing buoys. But we still managed to wrap one round the centreboard and had to stop to free it. Crossing Rompido bar at half tide AB had little more than 4ft under the main hull! The flood tide swiftly carried us the four miles west inside the long La Flecha sandbank up to El Rompido marina to claim our pre-booked winter berth. I'd missed out the western Andalusian Costa de Luz from Tarifa to the Guadiana on both my previous journeys east, so this time we made a point of enjoying Cadiz and the Sherry ports, after the overdeveloped Costa del Sol. Within three days we were back in Brighton, but we look forward to seeing more of SW Iberia.