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