Spain to the Azores/Madeira
07 July 2013 | Porto Santo
We left Puerto Sherry at 8.20am on the 24th May to head for El Rompido. We had heard from several people that it was very nice there and as it was en route to the Guardiana river thought we would see for ourselves. The wind wasn’t with us initially and at 11.15am we were still tacking. About midday the wind changed to S/SW and we had good gentle sail making 5 knots but unfortunately it was too late to make the tide at El Rompido as we had to arrive there two hours either side of high tide to cross the sand bar at the entrance to the river and we were still 50nm away!! As I was also feeling rather poorly we decided to pull in to the marina at Chipiona for the night.
At 7am the next morning we once again set sail, hoping that today the winds would be as forecast, but they were very light and at 12.10 we changed course for the anchorage at Mazagon and dropped anchor at 5.15pm. It was a quiet pleasant anchorage but the water was very dirty!
9.30am on the 26th we set off for El Rompido again, hoping it would be third time lucky! The winds were very light and at 10.50am there was no wind at all and against everything we believe in we switched the engine on. We anchored outside of the river for lunch until 2 hours before high tide and after crossing the sand bar motored 5 miles up the river and anchored behind the marina at El Rompido.
Although Rompido was a pretty little town we didn’t enjoy anchoring in the river with its strong current and wind whistling through, and the first time we went ashore we moored the dinghy alongside some steps leading on to the pier and managed to hole it on the sharp shells on the steps because the current was pushing us onto them. We managed to make it back to Sareda with only half the dinghy inflated – getting rather wet – we hauled the dinghy on board and rather dejectedly contemplated a large tear in the fabric. There was no specialised hypalon glue to be had locally and our emergency repair outfit was out of date and useless so, with no dinghy with which to get ashore, we went into the marina.
Val and Harry were already in the marina and as it was still only (remarkably) 11 Euros per night, winter rates, we ended up spending three nights alongside. We boarded Harry and Val’s boat ‘Elise’ in the evenings and they taught us Upwords, a new game to us but closely related to Scrabble, and we enjoyed this challenge and their very pleasant company, taking it in turns to supply the wine and nibbles. Unfortunately, Val could not board ‘Sareda’ as she had a fall at home over 18 months ago and broke her femur and hip badly. We admire her courage in continuing to sail with Harry as her mobility has been very impaired and she has had to give up her beloved tennis that she used to play four times weekly. Elise Left for the Guadiana the day before us.
The 31st May we left El Rompido at 8am and headed for Ayamonte at the entrance of the Guardiana river. We arrived at 3pm and hove to for 3 hours as the pilot book advised us not to enter until 3 hours before high tide to clear the sand bar outside. At 6pm we entered the river under sail with 2 reefs in the main as by that time the wind had increased considerably.
We waved to Harry who was on the reception pontoon at Vila Real Marina, opposite Ayamonte and just as we had passed him were waylaid by Portuguese customs who ordered us to stop!
We quickly dropped the sails and anchored while they boarded us and took minute details of us and the boat. They searched Sareda including the engine compartment and the bilges – of course finding nothing but all the time asking if we had anything to declare! Paul was trying to assure them that we hadn’t left the EU when I reminded him that we had visited Morocco on our shake-down cruise before we left La Linea. They were obviously on the look-out for drugs as Smir in Morocco is reputed to be a drug smugglers haven. It is only when an occurrence such as this happens that you realise how ‘big brother’ is watching your every movement!!
We anchored on the other side of Ayamonte and entered the marina the following morning.
Well, we were at last in The Guardiana – a river we had heard so much about from so many friends and sailing acquaintances! Would it live up to our (and their) expectations?
The Guardiana divides Spain and Portugal and we started our exploration in Ayamonte which is the first Spanish town on the right bank and we entered the marina partly as we had contacted the chandlery there and they had the necessary glue and patches to repair our rather sorry inflatable dinghy.
John and Diane who run the Ayamar Chandlery couldn’t have been more helpful. They both spoke perfect English and had a substantial stock of equipment and parts available. We purchased the two-pack glue and a large piece of hypalon for patching and Lin spent the best part of a day cleaning the damaged part, preparing surfaces and applying the patch to our El Rompido tear – very successfully and when inflated 24 hours later there was no hint of a leak. Bravo Lin!
We replaced our empty gas cylinders, stocked up with food, mainly from the colourful local fruit & veg market and enjoyed the relaxed and very friendly atmosphere of Ayamonte, sitting for coffee in the beautiful squares that are so typical of the smaller Spanish towns.
On the 6th of June we set off up river with the tide to reach Sanlucar (on the Spanish side) and Alcoutim opposite on the Portugese side some 20 miles up river. Both lovely villages but the one hour difference in time zones led to some interesting clashes of bells on each hour!
When we arrived the first boat we passed was Moontide from Exeter with Chris & Keren who we had last seen in Exeter before they set out on this present voyage. They had over wintered at Alcoutim and told some rather scary stories of the floods and heavy currents experienced during their stay. We also met Harry & Val in Elise and Clive and Jane in Jane G. We had met Clive & Jane briefly in Ayamonte where they had friends on board – like us, they are also members of the Ocean Cruising Club and sail a Challenger 35 which is the same boat as ours but with a different top configuration ie, they don’t have the deck house that we have – but the same hull designed by Angus Primrose.
We were also joined by Sid in his Rival 38 who we had met in La Linea and was an ex pilot and colleague of Harry. It was good to see him too.
Also in Alcoutim/Sanlucar were a number of long term boating residents who had visited and decided to stay, among them Geoffrey who had been on his boat for 10 years and of course there was an interesting mix of countries represented. The main difficulty was that, when anchoring, the tide was very strong and when the wind was against it there was a fair swell set up and boats tended to veer all over the place. We had to move three times to avoid boats that had previously anchored – we were the newcomers so we had to move first!
We thoroughly enjoyed the cafes and small shops in both villages and the social scene was impressive with music nights, coffee meets etc. but we are not sure we would want to stay there too long.
For two nights we went with Harry and Val in Elise up to a fresh water inlet further up river and rowed in the dinghies as far as we could go, allowing for depth. There were wild terrapins sunning themselves on the banks and it was indeed fascinating, very peaceful and enjoyable.
After a week we sailed back down river with the tide and re-entered the marina at Ayamonte where we prepared ourselves for a long voyage to the Azores – stocking up with masses of food and replacing a leaking water tank – again thanks to John in the chandlery.
We also enjoyed more games of Upwords with Harry & Val who were also in the marina and they very kindly gave us a present of a locally made olive dish to remember them by – we were very touched and delighted with this kind gift.
To The Azores!
We left the Guardiana river on the Thursday after topping up the fuel tank at Villa Real on the Portuguese’s side and anchoring overnight back on the Spanish side of the river. We had been advised that we could cross the bar at any state of the tide as the channel had been scoured out by the current. With our hearts in our mouths we set off at low water at 07.00 and shot out of the river with over 20 knots of North wind – never less than 1.5 metres below the keel – why did we wait for 3 hours before entering?
For the first 2 hours we had 3 reefs in the main and only a little jib out, sailing at up to a spanking 7 knots! When some 20 miles off shore the wind dropped and a short uncomfortable sea had Lin feeling ill and we were not able to make our course as the wind backed to the West.
We struggled with this, tacking all the time and hoping the wind would return to the forecast Northerly – but it didn’t. After 15 hours of this we decided to call it a day and ran before the wind back to Porto Sherry in the Cadiz bay where we knew we would find shelter and could anchor for nothing – about 60 miles away – arriving at 11.45 the next day.
Porto Sherry Again!
We do like this anchorage with its nearness to lovely Santa Maria town, Porto Sherry Marina and a beautiful long stretch of sandy beach. After a good sleep we woke to find Jane G (Clive and Jane) anchored next to us and they called on us mid-morning and we invited them on board for coffee and a good chat. They in turn asked Lin and I over to Jane G for the evening and, of course, we were delighted to accept.
Clive and Jane hail from Wales originally but have been at sea in Jane G for 15 years. They have completed a circumnavigation of the world during this time and have many fascinating and enthralling stories to tell. Lin and I were particularly impressed by the fact that they have a similar boat to Sareda (same size and make) but have no wish to upgrade or change to a larger boat saying that these well-built Trident yachts are strong and seaworthy and completely reliable. Only when you go astern do they cause problems – the answer to avoid marinas whenever possible – which we do!
Off To The AZORES – AGAIN!
We returned to Sareda from Jane G at a reasonable hour as we planned to leave for the Azores again the next morning and, indeed, were under way by 08.00 with a fair forecast, sailing on a calm sea with a light breeze and sun! This continued until midnight when the wind dropped completely and rather than start the engine we furled the sails to stop them slatting and read our books.
At 0300 a breeze returned and we were able to make 1.5 knots until 0700 when the wind gained strength and we made 4 + knots.
We sailed through the day but by 22.00 hours the seas had become large with swell coming from different directions making it very uncomfortable - we suspect the seas were a result of heavy winds at Gibraltar meeting swell from the strong Portuguese northerly trades.
At midnight we downloaded a forecast via the satellite phone and the forecast winds were backing and getting stronger than previous forecasts suggested – well over 20 knots of wind for our Azores passage – so we held a “pow wow” and decided that the sensible course would be to go south with the winds and head for Madeira which we did.
We had completed 130 miles so far towards the Azores but it was an easy course change for Porto Santo, an island we had previously visited 24 miles north of Madeira. The seas were still rough however and it was difficult to cook and to sleep indeed, Lin was thrown dramatically across the cabin at one point and received some bad bruising and a heavy bang on the head - but luckily nothing broken.
Although the seas did ease at times the whole passage was dogged by uncomfortable seas and cold winds. We arrived in Porto Santo at 1400 hours after 6 days at sea covering 567 miles. Lin and I normally enjoy ocean passages but this was certainly one to forget!
We are sorry not to meet up with Barry and Maggie in the Azores as we had arranged but hope they made it safely as this was their first ocean passage.
We first anchored off Porto Santo’s beautiful beach in 2007 when on our way to the Canaries and Cape Verdes prior to our first Atlantic crossing. We were very nervous in those days, not knowing what to expect of the long ocean passages – this time we were a little more confident!
There was only one other yacht (French) anchored and they gave us a good wave as we arrived. We booked in with the police and immigration the next morning with a very friendly and English speaking Capitain of the Guardia. The marina office was closed for 3 days over the weekend and for a day of holiday so we registered with them on the Tuesday although we were not in the marina – all very “laid back”.
Sonia and Nelson who run the small marina both speak excellent English and made us feel welcome. In fact we entered the marina a few days later to repair the dinghy which had sprung a small leak around one of the valves and to give Sareda a good wash down as well as showers for ourselves.
Also in the tiny marina were a French family – mum, dad and 3 children, the youngest being 17 months - who we had previously met in La Linea last year and are heading for the Phillipines where they hope to settle.
As it is nearing time to go back to the UK and see our lovely Grandchildren we have decided to leave Sareda in the Porto Santo marina for the 6 weeks of our return. Not only have we been given a good price for the 6 weeks but as members of the Ocean Cruising Club we receive a 30% discount and can fly to Madeira airport from Porto Santo and thence to Bristol.
We will be back on Sareda in September and intend heading for the Canaries where we hope to meet up with other friends, in particular Kit and Belinda on Quilcene.
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.
At sea again - hurrah!
12 May 2013 | Morocco
At last we are at sea again, on our way to Morocco from La Linea after three weeks in the Alcaidesa Marina preparing ‘Sareda’ for our 2013 voyage.
Paul has done so much work to the boat that he positively puts me to shame. He has re-wired and fitted a new wind generator, put a new water pump on the engine and changed the fan belts, fitted a new stainless steel bow roller and serviced the out board motor which subsequently started first time – he still isn’t convinced that he could manage car engines, even though I promised to buy him the appropriate manuals!!! He has also repaired the satellite antennae and replaced the Navtex wiring, so it is now working again, and replaced the jib halyard which was almost worn through in one place, updated the fresh water system and repaired a leak in the tank.
The valves needed replacing in the Avon inflatable and we managed to source new ones in Shepherds, the main chandlery in Gibraltar, but Paul felt the repair needed to be done by someone more capable than he and we were fortunate to meet up with Eric and Claude in the marina who are experienced in boat repairs and completed the job at a very reasonable cost.
Meanwhile, I have cleaned and polished the outside of ‘Sareda’ and re-oiled the teak inside and out for another season.
Between us we have done all the usual preparation works needed to put Sareda back in commission such as putting up the sails and dodgers and stocking up with food including sourcing the best vegetarian options for storage. We did try to pace ourselves with these chores, making sure we took our coffee breaks either in the little marina café/bar or wandering into La Linea for coffee in the small square there that we enjoyed so much last September.
I was delighted to be in La Linea during the Spring season as the flora and fauna was so different - when we arrived the wisteria and the ‘birds of paradise’ flowers were in full bloom.
Paul and I still laugh when we see the ‘bird of paradise’ flowers as on our first trip to Madeira, many years ago now, we stayed in a beautiful hotel in Funchal and much to Paul’s disgust attended a welcome party laid on for tourists. The tour rep was an elderly gentleman, new to Madeira, and started to tell us about the beautiful ‘bird of prey’ flowers that were so popular with the tourists. Noticing titters of mirth in his audience he quickly apologised, backtracked and corrected himself to ‘bird of paradise’, but it was too late, they will always be ‘bird of prey’ flowers to Paul and I.
Now, three weeks later the wisteria and bird of paradise flowers are past their best but the deep red hibiscus is almost in full bloom. However, I love the wild flowers growing on the road verges and around the edges of the marina. I don’t know their names - I need to look them up, but the bright reds, different shades of purple, yellow and other coloured flowers make an outstanding show.
The people in La Linea are still friendly and welcoming and we soon picked up our rather basic Spanish again, at least - ‘Quiero la café con leche y un café solo, por favor’.
We also met some lovely people in the marina – Sid, Harry and his wife Val who live in Gibraltar but keep their boats in La Linea. Sid and Harry are both retired pilots having handled the numerous large ships which come into the port to refuel and bunker. They have many fascinating and humorous stories to tell about their experiences and we have enjoyed listening to them over cups of coffee.
We met Debbie and Luke from the Guyana and Germany respectively who built their own steel Bruce Roberts designed boat and have lived aboard for a number of years and had overwintered in La Linea. We also chatted with Peter on his Holman & Pye yacht from Falmouth, Rod and Lin on Lively Lady, Flora and her Dad on their very modern yacht and a number of others – every one very friendly.
Good to be back!