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So after just over a year in Portuguese waters and on Portuguese shores we are now in Spanish waters and on Spanish shores.
As planned, we left Alcoutim early and motored with the tide to the mouth of the River Guadiana and anchored just outside Ayamonte, Spain. We took the dinghy into the marina and had a look around the town. It was OK but compared to Vila Real, the Portuguese town on the opposite shore it was distinctly shabby. The rubbish in the streets and around a couple of the monuments we looked at was something we did not see in Portugal. We had a pootle around and did some food shopping then back to the boat. Neil took down our Portuguese courtesy flag leaving just the Spanish one flying. We had been having a pleasant day and evening then the wind picked up, really picked up, from the north and from late evening to to early morning the wind was against the tide. I may of mentioned before I do not like this state, not because of the motion, that doesn’t bother me but it’s when the anchor chain pulls under the hulls and sounds/feels like the chain it trying to tear the boat in two. I have to say it was a horrendous night. Not least because I gave in to my fear and started to cry. My friends know that I am not someone who cries easily and so does Neil which I think distressed him more than the conditions. He was reassuring me that “it’s just wind over tide, we are safe, it is only a noise”, which my rational mind knows but I can’t stand it particularly at night. Needless to say we barely got any sleep. Neil got up numerous times to check the anchor didn’t drag, which it didn’t but nothing could be done about the anchor going under the boat. Neil did offer to take the boat into the marina but I didn’t think hauling the anchor manually in that wind and sea state in the dark was safe. We waited it out. The tide turned about 5am and all was well but we were up at 6am to leave. Not much sleep was had by either of us.
We sailed off the anchor, well I did, then we headed out across towards Rota. A slight change of destination as Chipiona, where we were planning to go, was closed to visiting boats due to dredging works.
It was a really good sail. Although the wind dropped about half way into the trip, it picked up again just before Neil put the engines in and it was a pleasant sail across to Rota. Engines down just before the approach to the marina. It would of been a great, if tiring day, marred only by the troubles we had getting berthed in the marina. Despite having booked, our first berth was too narrow, although Neil got the boat in, we couldn’t get the fenders in as well, then delays from the marina office meant we spent 30mins in increasing wind waiting for confirmation of a berth. Neil was already tired from no sleep the night before and 2 early starts. Gleda is a very physical boat to sail and with no auto-pilot or helming it is all done manually. We eventually got berthed. I went to check us in while Neil secured the boat then it was a good nights rest.
Rota is an attractive old town with strong Moorish influences. A massive beach runs along the sea front and is always busy. Rota Naval Base is just beyond the marina and we can see huge American ships in its dock and there are regular helicopters and aircraft flying overhead. I had never heard of Rota but for NCIS fans this is where Denozzo was offered a position to set up an NCIS division (he didn’t take it). We have heard a number of American accents in town and seen a few American families. Apart from around the marina, very few English. Turns out my cousin, Alan, was here in 1978/79 with the American Navy. Small world eh.
On our second evening we had our dinner about 8pm, quite late we thought then went for a walk along the seafront. The beach was still packed at 9pm, although people were pouring off it. It was still light (Spain is one hour ahead of UK time) and it was still 30degrees. It is heartening to see families of at least 3 generations together, youngsters, groups and then single old ladies and men on the beach. We saw numerous groups of old ladies sat together sheltering from the sun under their brollies playing cards or some kind of board games. Many old ladies walking to the beach on their own with a chair and brolly. All along the seafront, off the beach, are foot washing stations where people were queuing to rinse their feet before leaving the sea front. There were showers on the beach but you still had to walk a bit on the sand to the paved sea front. A great idea I think.
We sat at a bar called Route 66 looking down onto the beach and I finally had my glass of oak aged Rioja in a huge glass. Bliss. It was amazing the amount of people still on the beach at 9.30pm when the sun was just setting and quite a few stayed on the beach when it was dark. We left the bar about 10.15pm and walked back to the marina through town. The main street, which was virtually deserted and if we saw a dozen people that was it, at 3pm, was now heaving. Every bar, cafe and restaurant looked full and people were everywhere. It really is a culture where live is lived at night. Possibly the fact that this was a Friday and this is a holiday destination for the Spanish contributed to the numbers but families with very young children were just going in to places to eat. In the UK, you generally wouldn’t be able to get a table at this time as most places would have finished serving.
Saturday night we were going out for a meal ourselves. After a walk along the seafront again, tried to get a drink at Route 66 but, as we were to learn, the waitress is more interested in the boys chatting to her at the bar, we moved to the bar next door (wine glasses weren’t as fab) then back along the main street at about 9.30pm and it was not quite so packed. We picked our restaurant and sat down at about 9.45pm, at least 3/4 of an hour after our usual bedtime! We had plenty of seats to choose from at this time but by 10.15pm people were queuing for tables. We had a great meal of garlic prawns and sea bass and a couple of glasses of wine. Luckily the waitress saw us struggling with our dictionary and Google translate and gave us an English menu.
We didn’t anticipate staying here quite so long only 5-7 days but The Levante, which is the wind that blows from the Mediterranean into why Atlantic has been blowing for a very unusual 11 days straight and there is no way we can sail/motor against it. We are waiting here for it to turn and then we will head to Barbate for a night then all being well head through the Straits the next day. This should be Tuesday 16th Aug if the forecasts are accurate. I didn’t realise, till I studied the chart the other day, that Gibraltar is actually through the Straits and it is not the most southern tip of Europe (this is Tavira). I always thought that Gib was that most southern point. We learn something new every day. After Barbate we are heading for La Linea marina, a Spanish town, which I assumed was this side of the Strait, the Atlantic side, then there was Gibraltar, then you sailed through the Straits into the Med and back into Spain. Evidently not the case. The chart looks very interesting for the Straits. It is very narrow, only 8 miles across to Morocco and although this may sound quite wide, for the only gateway into the Atlantic from the Med it is heaving with large shipping and cruise ships as well as small craft. There are also areas on the chart where you have to look out for Orca whales. This Levante also brings fog to the Straits and you may recall from previous posts, I’m not keen on fog. Fog and wind/against tide not my favourite conditions!
Back to Rota, the regular ferry from the marina into Cadiz wasn’t running on Monday (too windy) but we went on Tuesday. The ferry arrives very close to the old town in Cadiz. It was a really interesting old city with lots of narrow streets with tall buildings which shade the street. The cathedral and town hall were impressive buildings and the municipal market was definately worth a visit. We had a good walk around the old town and had a fabulous tapas lunch then the ferry back to Rota.
We were planning to visit Seville from here and stay overnight but as we have had to have more nights in the marina than planned we won’t be doing that this time. As we are planning to spend the winter in Spain, and if funds allow, we may well hire a car for a few days and do a road trip inland including Seville.
Our next leg will be quite historical, sailing the seas where the Battle of Trafalgar took place. Not sure there is anything left here to see but still, history was made here.
A few more days in Rota then onwards towards the Mediterranean – the sea with no tides, no wind or too much wind and stern-to mooring. New challenges, new places, new experiences. What is it Land Rover say? One Life, Live It