Our Diary News from Gibraltar

On Monday 10 November we arrived in Gibraltar, a major landmark in our voyage. Our charts only got us this far so we have sailed off the end of our known world!!! We are now awaiting new charts for the next two legs of our travels.

Our decision to sail quickly from Lisbon to the Algarve was a good move as we've left behind our cruising companions - they ended up stuck on the Atlantic coast for two weeks because of bad weather. We decided not to go ashore at Sines, much to my disappointment as it looked a nice town, with an impressive Moorish Castle, but to continue our trip. We had a brilliant sail along the coast in a Force 4 northerly, under full main and poled out gib. Very efficient but restrictive in our ability to make major course changes, which became apparent when we encountered a marine survey ship towing a 3 Km tow! This vessel was passing happily at about half a mile to starboard when a message was heard on the VHF hailing a ship in our vicinity. After a couple of further calls we decided that we were not the issue, but a small coastal cargo ship was cutting across their stern. We heard the dialogue between the two vessels, which was interesting!!! but then discovered that the cargo ship was altering course straight at us!!! So radar on and VHF at the ready and rulebook in hand we stood our course. Christine was watching the radar and counted down the distance away and was relieved when it altered course slightly and passed within 100 M ahead of us - too close for comfort! Our training on the Solent came in useful and keeping your cool was a good option although a little worrying.

Just off Cape St. Vincent the wind came up and it turned into a Force 7 (25-30 knots) so the pole came down and a couple of reefs were put in the main. As always, the wind isn't really an issue - it's the seas which were now starting to build to around 3-4 m. Thankfully we were only 3 hours away from our destination, which was a small fishing harbour sheltered by the towering cliffs of the SW corner of the Iberian Peninsula. As soon as we rounded the cape the seas abated and we had a pleasant end to the day and anchored within the harbour of Baleeira. The following day dawned bright and sunny with a gentle breeze on flat seas. So the gentle sail to Lagos (about 20 miles further along the coast) was a welcome relief. Off Lagos we spotted a replica Caravel (an old Portuguese trading vessel) sailing, which was interesting. After dropping sail and starting to motor up the river to Lagos Marina the Caravel started to enter behind us. The river banks were lined with people waving and school children were singing as we entered - what a welcome! It may have been the boat behind they were interested in - but taking some of the glory was fun! On arrival we discovered that there was a major festival that weekend, centered around the "age of discovery" and the caravel was playing a major part. The marina was full so we were berthed in front of the caravel on the arrival pontoon in the river. The only problem was that there was only one power point. As we had arrived first we took it - this then started a little battle between us and the caravel, which was finally decided in our favour as we were paying marine dues and the caravel was getting its berth for free. We had arrived late on Friday afternoon and were greeted by another cruising couple who saw us arrive, so after a little socialising we were too late to get to the post office to collect our mail. We then found out that there was a public holiday on the Monday so we were stuck there for a long weekend of festivities ( what a pity!!!).

The people of Lagos had put in a tremendous effort into their first festival of discoveries and all the schools and many of the locals dressed up in period costumes and the town squares were decked out as a 15th century town. Lots of period music, belly dancers, period plays, the odd public execution, and stalls selling period food etc. This went on for three days and on the final night a large firework display just where we were berthed. The only downside was that Lagos marina was very expensive and full of Brits! So, as soon as the Post Office was open on Tuesday and we had collected all our post, which included a spare part for our Aerogen wind generator (Aerogen were ace, we ordered our part on the previous Tuesday and they had despatched it that day and it had arrived by the following Tuesday), we departed for Portimao 6 miles away, but a lot cheaper!

A short sail (under gib alone, we couldn't be bothered to raise the main...... how lazy can you get!!) brought us to Portimao, where we anchored off the town. (There is a large marina at Portimao and also a safe anchorage, with good holding up the river a little, but is a little congested with moored boats). The weather forecast was not good and included a NW gale coming through. We decided to stay at anchor and I laid our second anchor out aligning ourselves to the NW, which was also pointing up stream. The moored boats were a hazard when it came to large swinging circles. The gale came during the night, but from the west!! so we were now broadside on. So Keith ended doing anchor watch and checking the barometer hourly. The maximum gusts were around 37 knots, thankfully from the NW. The anchors held and after an uncomfortable night the wind abated and at 9 am we decided to go into the marina. ( It was a very good learning exercise and gave us trust in our anchoring system, although at the height of the storm, the thought of lifting the anchors was a daunting prospect - and, again, the do nothing approach was the best solution!!)

Portimao is mainly a holiday destination with lots of apartment blocks and fish and chip shops, again English was the common language. It is also a favourite wintering place and we left the last of our cruising companions there. We had a farewell party on Poco for everyone and left the next morning (4 November) heading for Faro (about 40 miles away). The weather was warm and sunny with only 3 knots of wind, so we motored. When we were off the point we decided to turn South again and head straight for Cadiz, Spain (a further 60 miles away). We arrived at 4.30 in the morning and tied up at the Puerta de Santa Maria (El Puerto)Yacht Club, to the north of Cadiz. A pleasant enough place, but not much going for it; again, expensive but the facilities were good. A bus trip to Cadiz one day for some sight seeing was on the agenda plus arranging to hire a car for a day. Hiring a car was extremely useful, it allowed us to visit Seville (we decided that it would take us about a week to get to Seville and back by boat!!) and to stock up on cheap wine and beer and other Spanish products). Luckily we found a Makro store just outside El Puerto and thankfully Christine's UK Makro card was accepted. So a huge shop was on the cards...... After this we went to Seville - a trip that was well worthwhile.

Seville is a very pretty city and autumn is probably the best time to visit, with avenues of orange trees lining the streets laden with Seville oranges. The Cathedral is huge with an interesting Moorish Tower to climb. We even paid homage to Christopher Columbus who is buried there (since we hope to follow in his footsteps). Our time in Seville was too short and we would love to visit it again sometime, there is lots to see and do there. On our journey through the countryside, we also saw cotton being harvested which was really unexpected and very interesting.

After our major shop, (which took six trolley loads from car to boat!) we set sail for Cape Trafalgar, about 30 miles. This time we were blessed with head winds and a long tack took us 10 miles out in a Force 5. The seas were again lumpy and uncomfortable; tacking back in closer to the shore the seas were less of a problem. There were lots of shoals to navigate our way through, so engine on and we motored the last 20 miles around the cape, which was probably a good move; as soon as we started to round the cape, we hit a 3 knot foul tide, the first real tides we had hit since leaving France. So a slow plod took us to Barbate. The wind was at this time blowing SE at 16-17 knots with a large swell, it was dark and we could hear the breaking waves on the beach. Barbate harbour has a long mole protecting the entrance (like many of the Atlantic harbours) but I don't think the designers had quite got this one right. We lined up our entrance between the Red and Green and Keith went forward to prepare the lines etc. Christine shouted for me to get back to the cockpit as she saw waves breaking off the end of the mole. I didn't quite make it and a huge greeny swept across the side of the boat. It looked as if this was local sport as there were lots of spectators at the end of the mole!!!!! After that, arrival into the marina was easy and we rested here a couple of days. Not much to see or do at Barbate but we were waiting for fair weather and tide to go to Gibraltar, 30 miles away.

Monday 10th gave us a pleasant 10knts from the West and we left with a fair tide towards Gib. As usual I took the opportunity to trail a fishing line...... Finally, Hurrah.......I caught a fish! The first since leaving England.... It was a fine Spanish Mackerel weighing about 1.5Kg. Throwing the line over again yielded another two about the same size..... Fresh fish for tea at last.........................

We had booked our stay at Gib in Queensway Marina, but had to clear Customs and Immigration first. This wasn't a problem - Christine even declared our 100L of wine and 160 cans of beer - which raised some eyebrows and the creation of a bonded locker is high on our "to do" list ready for our next trip.

We arrived at the Marina and, lo and behold, I bumped into Paul Rapson from Calshot Sailing Club (our local sailing club) on the quayside - what a small world we live in!!!

We are now awaiting new charts for Morocco and the Canaries, which is the next leg of our journey and using the opportunity to stock up on "tit bits" that we are missing. Both Tescos and Safeways have large stores here. A little sight seeing and we've even planned a visit to the cinema tonight with a couple from the boat next door to see "Matrix Revolution" ..... Life goes on as normal ............... How different will Morocco be???