Whoah – we’re going to Ibiza

We left the fuel dock at Marina Bay, Gibraltar at 10:35 on the 11th September. Our intention was to sail to Ibiza in one go, taking roughly 4 days.

Have I said it’s not worth having a plan when sailing, just a rough direction of travel!

We rounded the Europa point at the south of Gibraltar and raised the sails in 8kts of wind from the north. Coriander sails very well in these light, flat sea conditions and we were soon doing 6kts while looking back at Gibraltar.

We sailed for all of 48 minutes before the wind died completely and we were forced to motor. The forecast had been for decent sailing winds but as we were to learn, the Mediterranean was no respecter of forecasts.

In our opinion, the scenery of the Costa Del Sol is drab. Just a long line of parched hills, punctuated every now and then by a town. We’re told that many of them are very nice but they didn’t appeal from the sea.

Costa Del Sol-1

We carried on motoring until the sun started to set around 8pm and, having consulted the pilot book, we decided to put into the bay of La Herradura, 92 miles into the journey. The pilot book said to anchor off the beach in 5m of water over sand. By now it was pitch black and we were slowly making our way in using a combination of eyeball navigation and watching the chart and depth finder. While still in 8-10m of water Gill shouted ‘Bouy’ from the bow of the boat where she was preparing the anchor. We’d got to the line of yellow bouys marking the swimming area -Ok,  we’d be anchoring in 10m then.

Herradura-1

The rational was that we’d get a good nights sleep and maybe there’d be more wind the next day and we wouldn’t have to burn more diesel.

After a good nights sleep we were up and away at 8am the next morning rationalising that we’d only been delayed by 10 or so hours and we’d still be in Ibiza by the end of the week.

La Herradura looked to be quite an attractive holiday resort in the light of day and in retrospect we could have slowed down and visited the town.

La Herradura-1We were now heading for the point of Cabo de Gato, around 80 miles away.

This area of Spain is the salad bowl of Europe. Every flat piece of land is vast plastic greenhouses stretching over many acres. From the sea it looks like vast white fields

Polysheets-1

The pilot books are full of dire warnings about the sheets of plastic being blown into the sea and fouling propellers. We were very pleased not to encounter any.

Yet again we had no wind but the forecast was for 15kts from the east after 7pm. As long as we were round Cabo de Gato, that would give us a decent sail northwards.

We maintained revs on the engine so that we would make that deadline, passing Almenica, Motril, Amerimar and Almeria on the way. All seemed to be looking good and the wind started to come in when we were less than 20 minutes away from the point.

I’d watched what I assumed to be a fishing boat come out from Almeria but began to become suspicious when he stopped roughly 2 miles in front of me and lowered a rib over the side. Looking through the binoculars confirmed what I thought – Customs!

By now the wind had got up to 18kts and there was a 1.5m sea running. There were 3 customs officials and the helm on the rib and they pulled alongside and signaled that they wanted to board. I went forward to the gate to open it and help them board, getting soaked by waves in the process. They climbed aboard and asked me to throttle back and maintain a maximum speed of 1kt. As any sailor will know, that’s nigh on impossible in those winds and sea and I got the ok to up the speed to 2kts to keep Coriander head to wind and sea.

The customs checked the boat papers thoroughly and my sailing and radio qualifications as well as our passports and insurance. One of them conducted a complete search of the boat while another noted everything on a form – last port of call, destination etc. After about an hour they were satisfied we were above-board and left. They had been professional and polite throughout and I have no complaints whatsoever.

By now though it was gusting up to 30kts and the sea was getting rougher. We should have been round the Cabo de Gato but we still had about 3 miles to go to get to the point. We tried motoring into the seas to get round but the slamming made it very uncomfortable. A quick check of the pilot book showed a sheltered anchorage off a beach just before the point. We decided to head there for the night and again anchored in the dark just off a row of swim bouys (again).

The next morning, the wind had dropped and we could see we were anchored with 3 other boats, none of which were showing any lights the night before. We set off at 9am on the 13th and made our way round this famous headland and the conspicuous white ‘scar’ that it’s famous for.

 

Once round we found that the wind had gone round to the north east – exactly the direction we wanted to go. We raised the main and jib with 2 reefs in each and proceeded to tack (a series of zig zags which allow progress to be made towards the direction the wind is coming from) into the wind and waves, frequently taking water over the bow.

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We crashed into the waves until around 5pm when the wind started to moderate and the waves eased significantly as we approached the town of Aguilas. Again we consulted the pilot book and headed towards the anchorage at Calabardina. The pilot book said it could be rolly and looking at the boats already anchored there it looked that way. The chart showed another anchorage behind Isla del Fraile at El Hornillo and at the last-minute we diverted there. It was like a millpond here and we anchored in 5m of water and settled down for a quiet night.

It had been dark (again) when we had arrived the night before so we hadn’t really seen the island. In the light of day we were able to see that there were buildings seemingly set into the cliffs.

Isla del Fraile-1At around 08:30 we again set off to Ibiza – This time we had 12kts of wind from about 120 degrees and flat seas. Coriander was doing 6-7kts and things were looking great. We sailed the 21 miles to Cartagena where we’d be spending the winter in around 3 hours and then sailed on to the headland at Cabo de Palos.

The wind had then picked up to 30 kts and we were bowling along. From here it at about 150 miles to Ibiza – A 24 hour offshore passage. We downloaded the weather forecasts and the 2 we use both predicted a storm coming through the next day – we didn’t really fancy being caught out overnight so reluctantly decided to let the storm pass by anchoring in Mar Menor. The entrance is through a canal and under a bridge that’s opened for yachts for 10 minutes every 2 hours. Of course we arrived there 10 minutes too late!

The wind was onshore now so we couldn’t anchor off the beach and the unfinished harbour on the chart was also roped off. We set a scrap of Jib and sailed around Isla Grosa for the next 2 hours, entering Mar Menor when the bridge opened at 6pm.

Mar Menor

Mar Menor, meaning, “Minor sea” or “Smaller Sea” in Spanish, is a coastal salty lagoon in the Iberian Peninsula located south-east of the Autonomous Community of Murcia, Spain, near Cartagena.

Four municipalities lie by the Mar Menor, Cartagena, Los Alcázares, San Javier and San Pedro del Pinatar. With a surface area of nearly 170 km2, a coastal length of 70 km, and warm and once clear water no more than 7 metres in depth, it is the largest lagoon in Spain.

The lagoon is separated from the Mediterranean Sea by La Manga (“the sleeve”, in Spanish), a sandbar 22 km in length whose width ranges from 100 to 1,200 metres, with Cape Palos in its south-eastern vertex making for the lagoon’s roughly triangular shape. There are five islets located within the lagoon, namely Perdiguera islet, Mayor islet, Ciervo islet, Redonda islet and del Sujeto islet

We anchored behind Isla del Ciervo, setting the anchor in 4m. Until 2014, Mar Menor had been described as the biggest open air swimming pool in the world, renowned for it’s crystal clear waters and warm temperature. Now it is an ecological disaster – allegedly runoff from the surrounding intensive farming has caused an algae bloom which has reduced visibility to around 30cm and cut off all light reaching the bottom which has killed off 85% of the vegetation in the lagoon. The water is a dull green and smells sulphurous. Even if all pollution was stopped from reaching the lagoon now, some ecologists predict it will take decades to recover.

Mar Menor-1

La Manga, the sandbar is now a 22km strip of 1970s high-rise hotels.

As we made our way towards Ibiza, we’d been staying in touch with our good friends Mike and Claire (on yacht Owl and Pussycat) who we were intending meeting up with somewhere in Ibiza. We’d put a post up on Facebook mentioning that we were on or way over and Mike and Claire’s friends Dorothy and Duncan (who we’d already arranged to meet in Cartagena as they were also going to be there for the winter) put up a comment to say they were anchored off La Manga in Mar Menor.

Gill did a bit of Facebook detective work to find that Dorothy and Duncan’s boat was called Hunda – It was anchored 100m from us – Just goes to show what a small world we live in.

Of course it was a good excuse to say hello and invite them over for drinks. Instead of staying just the one night in Mar Menor, we stayed 4 nights, enjoying Dorothy and Duncan’s company for meals and drinks ashore, as well as watching the Grand Prix at the tennis club.

We’d now taken nearly 2 weeks to get to within striking distance of Ibiza…

GibToMarMenor…and at 10:00 on the 19th September we upped anchor and went out of Mar Menor on the 12:00 bridge lift and headed out.

The weather routing had us following the Spanish coast up as far as Denia to make use of the sea breeze before heading across towards San Antonio, Ibiza. We passed the resorts of Alicante and Benidorm, lit up like Blackpool as we neared. This proved to be the best sail since we’d entered the Mediterranean. We sailed all of the way, covering 139 miles in 22 hours.

Ibiza greeted us with a spectacular sunrise over the island

Ibiza Sunrise-1

We anchored in Cala Salada,  my favourite beach from my childhood, at 09:50 on the 20th September.

Cala Salada-1We’d spend the next 8 weeks on and around this fabulous island but I’ll leave that for next time

Whoah – we’ve arrived at Ibiza…..

Gibraltar, or London on Steroids

We sailed into Gibraltar on the 7th September 2017.  On entering the bay we lowered the Spanish courtesy flag and raised the yellow ‘Q’ flag to indicate that we hadn’t cleared customs. Gibraltar is one of the few places in the Mediterranean where this is necessary with it being duty-free.

Unlike our friends on Destination Anywhere (DA), we hadn’t been able to secure a berth ahead of arrival so had to take pot luck. As it happens, luck was with us and we were allocated a berth in Marina Bay next to DA. This was to be our first experience on ‘Med Mooring’ where boats go stern to the quay and pick up sunken lazy lines which we attached to the bow. The boats then rest against each other separated by fenders. We now found that without a passerelle (gangplank) there was no way ashore from our boat as the quay was too high and too far away. Luckily Nikki and Malc had one on DA so we were able to cross to their boat and get ashore from there. We scoured the chandlers in Gib in vain trying to source one but there were none in stock and the chandlers couldn’t order one to arrive before we had to leave.

We checked in and cleared customs at the marina office which meant that we could lower the ‘Q’ flag. The helpful marinaros then told us that Sunday 10th September was National Day, and the 50th anniversary of it which explained why all of the marinas were full – more of that later.

Marina Bay is directly next to the runway of Gibraltar airport, when lights flash alongside the runway yachts are barred from entering or leaving the marina. The noise when planes were taking off was deafening, thankfully there are only 4-6 flights per day and none after around 6pm or before 10am.

The rock of Gibraltar towers over the marina, we couldn’t have had a more iconic setting!Gibralter-5Ocean village surrounds Marina Bay, set on reclaimed land. It was full of restaurants and bars – all English / British themed and of course English was the spoken language and pounds the currency. We had to watch out though because both pound sterling and Gibraltan pounds were used, with Gibraltan pounds only accepted here.

Most of the pubs had a happy hour or similar offer with 2 pints of San Miguel beer costing £3. Guinness, Heineken and John Smiths were also readily available but much more expensive.

The marina costs were very reasonable – £23 per night for our 15m boat. The marinaros explained that most of the boats in the marina were permanent and it was much cheaper to live on a boat in the marina than in an apartment in town. The motorboat berthed next to DA had the engine removed to give them more living / storage space. They also owned a motor boat further down the pontoon which they let for Bed and Breakfast.

We needed to stock up on food so we headed to the local supermarket – Morrisons!! It was just like being back home, everything was shipped in from the UK with 5 lorry loads per day. The meat, milk, everything was from there – completely bizarre given the quality of the food we’d been eating in Spain and Portugal. Prices were comparable to home too. At least it gave us chance to stock up on dry roast peanuts – something that I really missed. Alcohol was also duty-free so we stocked the cocktail cabinet up 🙂

We took a walk into the main part of town, through the arched entrance to Grand Casemates Square and Main Street. It was like stepping into London 30 years ago – British pubs, fish and chip shops, Marks and Spencers and red phone boxes – with the union flag everywhere. The dominant accent was London also.

There were banners being put up and a stage erected in Casemates Square in preparation for National day

Nikki and Malc unfortunately had to head back to the UK on the morning of the 9th September, the day before the National Day celebrations. We had a superb meal with them at Goucho’s (highly recommended) the night before and then walked from the marina and across the runway to the terminal for them to catch their flight home.

Gill and I then walked across the border into Spain (just because you can) before realising we didn’t have any euros with us and couldn’t have a meal there so we walked back into Gibraltar and took the obligatory photos of the rock and the runway.

In case anyone is wondering a siren sounds and barriers come down 20 minutes before a plane lands or takes off. This tourist attraction will no longer happen in a year or so as a tunnel is being dug underneath the runway.

National Day

Without going into the rights and wrongs, Spain has lay claim to Gibraltar for a number of years. on the 10th September 1967 the Gibraltarians voted in a referendum on whether they would accept Spanish rule.

The options presented to Gibraltarians were:

  1. To pass under Spanish sovereignty in accordance with the terms proposed by the Spanish Government; or
  2. Retain their link with Britain, with democratic local institutions. Britain retaining its present responsibilities.
Gibraltar sovereignty referendum, 1967
Choice Votes  %
British sovereignty 12,138 99.64
Spanish sovereignty 44 0.36
Valid votes 12,237 99.55
Invalid or blank votes 55 0.45
Total votes 12,237 100.00

A resounding result.

A new constitution was passed in 1969. Gibraltar National Day has been celebrated annually on 10 September since 1992 to commemorate Gibraltar’s first sovereignty referendum of 1967.

In 1969 the Francoist regime closed the border between Spain and Gibraltar, cutting off all contacts and severely restricting movement. The border was not fully reopened until February 1985, ten years after Franco’s death.

A second referendum held in 2002, Gibraltarians rejected by an overwhelming majority (98%) a proposal of shared sovereignty on which Spain and Britain were said to have reached “broad agreement”. The British government has committed itself to respecting the Gibraltarians’ wishes.

We had been forwarned to dress in the national colours of Gibraltar (red and white) and at noon we made our way to Grand Casemates Square to be met with a sea of Red and White

The day kicked off with speeches by Gibraltarian and UK government politicians basically stating that Gibraltar would remain British as long as that was the will of the Gibraltan people. A video of Theresa May was then played pledging that Brexit would not change the fact that Gibraltar would remain British – this got a resounding cheer.

I have never seen such a patriotic display anywhere, including St Georges day or St Andrews – Remaining British is very much still what Gibraltarians wish.

As ever, the day rounded off with a concert that went on long past midnight

Tarifa Gib-16We had an easy day the next day to rest after the party. We stocked up with stores ready to leave Gibraltar and on the morning of the 12th September left the berth and made our way to the fuel dock. We took on 184 litres of diesel for the princely sum of £80. A price of around 40p per litre.

We headed round past the naval docks where ships had just arrived to take on relief cargos for the British islands that had been devastated by the hurricanes in the Caribbean.

Tarifa Gib-21

It was then round Trinity House Lighthouse at Europa Point and into the Mediterranean proper.

We’d thoroughly enjoyed our time here, it is brash, proud and over the top. Next time we’ll spend a bit more time there and do the tourist bit of seeing the tunnels and apes on the rock.

A Day Out In Porto

While in the marina at Povoa Da Varzim, we took the opportunity to visit Porto along with Nikki and Malc from DA. We had been told that the best and cheapest way to get there from Povoa was by tram, and so it proved.

We had generally found that public transport in Spain and Portugal was clean, cheap and efficient. For a 40 minute journey at 160kph (there was a speed readout in the carriage) we were charged €4.75 return and this included €1 for the re-usable credit card like ticket.

Varzim-12

We walked to the tram station to find we had 20 minutes to wait until the next one departed. We went into the waiting room and decided to have coffee.  2 double espressos and a pingu (an espresso with a small amount of hot milk and henceforth referred to as a penguin) came to the princely sum of €2. The coffee was superb and yet another example of how reasonable prices are in Portugal.

The tram took us into the centre of Porto and Malc decided that we needed breakfast having got up before 9am so we went to an internationally renowned establishment in the centre of the tourist area:

Porto-3

We had been told, and heartily recommend, that the best way to see a new town and decide what to go back to is to take one of the open top bus routes. This cost €15 per person and included 2 separate buses which would take us around the city centre and also out of the city and along the Douro, the river which runs through the centre of the city, and to the beach area.

The first part of the tour took us around the city centre landmarks which include the Clérigos Tower; Palácio da Bolsa; Avenida dos Aliados; Church of São Francisco; Porto Cathedral; Porto City Hall; Ribeira. We were given natty red headphones to plug-in and get a commentary on what we were seeing. The buildings were stunning and the city mobbed with people and traffic.

Many of the city centre buildings were tiled with elaborate designs which must have taken ages to create. It’s a credit to the city that they are maintaining them for generations to come – Porto’s historical core was proclaimed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996.

The tour left the centre and headed west towards the mouth of the Douro. On the way we came to a roundabout with a huge column at its’ centre – the Rotunda da Boavista, also known as the Praça de Mouzinho de Albuquerque. It honours Joaquim Augusto Mouzinho de Albuquerque, a Portuguese soldier who fought in Africa during the 19th century.

There were lots of the little VW camper van like trailers serving as coffee / snack kiosks – much nicer than the traditional hut!

The bus then made its way out through the suburbs, passed very nice houses.

It seemed that there was a statue or monument at every turn.

This leg of the tour then wound its was back alongside the river, stopping next to a famous Porto trolley bus. We changed here from the red route to the blue route which would cross the river and afford us fantastic views of the city from high on the south bank

The bus crossed the famous Ponte de D. Luís or Luis I bridge back to the north side of town where we left the tour and continued on foot.

I’m sure that many of you will notice that Porto is very hilly. We were at the top of the bridge taking photos of the river and quayside far below us when someone had the great idea to go down a very steep set of steps and have lunch at a waterside restaurant

You can see how far down it is. The photo on the left shows the lift, which we were too tight to pay for so walked.

The quayside was well worth the visit. There were a huge number of restaurants to choose from and in this case we couldn’t complain about the one we chose with Malc and I having the traditional Porto Francesinha, a Portuguese sandwich made with bread, wet-cured ham, fresh sausage like chipolata, steak and covered with melted cheese and a hot thick tomato and beer sauce served with french fries. I don’t think they’re that good for you but they taste fantastic!

A Francesinha
A Francesinha
The ladies on the other hand had traditional Portuguese sausage, cooked at the table on micro BBQs

After a great lunch, continued our walk along the quayside before tackling the climb back up to the bridge

With the attendant views along the river and over the world-famous Port houses

Our penultimate stop was to the railway station which is famous for the tiled murals in it’s entrance. Once again it didn’t disappoint

The final stop was of course a cake and beer stop, a perfect way to say goodbye to this fantastic city, before catching the tram back to our boats at Povoa da Varzim.

Arousa to Gibralter with Friends

Our good friends Nikki and Malcolm on Destination Anywhere (DA) finally escaped the UK and headed across Biscay to start a similar journey to ourselves. We arranged to meet them in Ria Arousa, with them finally arriving on the evening of the 12th August. DA ArrivalWe gave them a typical Spanish welcome with tapas and cava. Needless to say there were some sore heads the following morning.

Over the following 2 weeks we re-visited many of the places we’d been to during our prior 4 weeks in the area, as well as visiting some new places as well. This would be something of a whistle-stop adventure due to Nikki and Malc having a deadline of arriving in Gibraltar by the 7th of September.

Overall Journey

Overall

As mentioned above, this trip starts in the Spanish Rias and concludes in Gibraltar, a time span of approximately 4 weeks.

We had to prioritise where we wanted to see, with Porto and the Algarve being high on the list of places to visit in Portugal. We would have loved to spend time in Lisbon, however the price of marinas there put us off. We decided that it would be a place we would visit during our time overwintering in Cartagena.

In order to make best use of our time, and to do justice to various places, we would spend several days whenever we stopped because we knew we wouldn’t be going back there. It was also good to get some ‘downtime’ as the journeys between the places would include overnight passages which were too short to get into a proper watch keeping rhythm but long enough to be tiring.

Rias and on to Povoa de Varzim

Arousa to VarzimFirstly, let me state that we love the Rias of North West Spain. They are not ‘touristy’ and very quiet from a yachting point of view.

They are also absolutely gorgeous with a very agreeable climate, at least during the summer months that we were there.

We met Nikki and Malc at Punta Lucia, Ribiera in Ria Arousa where we chilled for a couple of days, swimming off the boats and visiting the restaurant ashore.

From here we moved round to A Pobra de Caraminal where we had been promised a fiesta. This turned out to be a triathlon which took place during the daytime. While this was taking place, there were floating obstacles for the children to play on.

We left Caraminal to go to Punto Do Cabalo on Isle Arousa. This was where we’d previously been denied permission to go ashore with our dinghy due to having an engine on it. Nikki and Malc have an inflatable canoe and not to be outdone we’d purchased a ‘toy’ two man dinghy for the princely sum of €30. With these ‘acceptable’ modes of transport we were able to race ashore and enjoy a walk to the lighthouse and have drinks at the beach bar.

Arousa-15 A return sail to Alden and more swimming ensued, along with drinks ashore and on DA.

DA1-6We only spent a day there as we’d pre booked to visit Isle Ceis, part of the Spanish Islas Atlanticas national park, beautiful islands that we’d delayed visiting.

We motored over in thick fogDA1-8

But after a while the fog burnt off revealing the hundreds of visitors arriving every few minutes on the ferries from the various towns around Vigo.

DA1-11

Ceis consists of 2 islands and the ferries only go to oneHerds-1Which means the beach is fairly busy (for the Rias!) We went ashore under the ferry terminal for a walk along the beach and to the campsite where we had much-needed refreshments. The following morning we motored the 2 or so miles to the other island and anchored off an idyllic beach with just one house on it.

DA1-17DA1-18While we were there, 4 local boats turned up, closely followed by the Spanish customs. The customs rib went round each boat in order to check that we had valid permits to visit the islands. Funnily enough only the 2 British boats had a permit and there was much arguing as the local boats were given on the spot fines and told to leave.

After lunch, the fog started to return so we made our way to Ensenada Da Barra – the nudist beach from our earlier post

Barra-2Barra-1

We took the dinghy ashore and walked to the lighthouse on the headland where we got great views of the beach and of the islands we’d visited the day before

Barra-3

After Barra, we visited Limens once more – probably my favourite anchorage in the Rias, though it is a close run thing as they’re all excellent.

We had to have one cloudy day 🙂Vigo-16

On the 22nd August we left DA behind, bid a reluctant farewell to the Rias and headed for Povoa De Varzim, Portugal 60 miles away.

Povoa De Varzim

I can’t rate the marina here highly enough for the helpful attitude and low-cost. We arrived needing to top up with diesel, to find that the advertised facilities in the commercial harbour had closed to private yachts – no problem, the marina staff ran us up to the petrol station to fill our fuel cans and wouldn’t take any payment in thanks.

On arrival, the marinaros were on hand to show us to our berth and take our lines. My ‘gracias’ however was met with a polite ‘obrigado’ – we must remember that we’re in Portugal now, not Spain

The town is a major Portuguese holiday resort with miles of golden sand covered in their version of beach huts

Varzim1-1
Varzim-2The town itself is well worth a visit, just for the ice cream according to Gill….

There is a long promenade with all of the restaurants and shops that you’d expect from a holiday resort.

There are many banks and supermarkets so stocking up isn’t a problem.

The marina owner also owns a sports bar in the town centre and he handed us vouchers for free beer when we checked in. The bar (Sailors) is superb for the beer and the food. It is mainly the burger and chips type but the quality and value is superb.

Nikki and Malc had planned on heading to Porto but after talking to us and hearing about our experience in Povoa asked if we could get them a berth. We spoke to the office and they were delighted to welcome DA to the marina, assigning them a hammerhead berth due to their draft. We spent a delightful 5 days there enjoying the town and taking the tram into Porto for a day sightseeing there. That will be a separate blog post in its own right.

Povoa De Varzim to Alvor

Varzim to Alvor

We left Povoa de Varzim, in company with DA on the 27th August for the 300 mile journey passed Lisbon and around Cabo de São Vicente (the Cape of Saint Vincent) into the Algarve.

We had a great trip over three days and 2 nights, sailing and motoring down  the portuguese coast.

There was an abundance of wildlife with us including minke whales and our great friends the dolphins:

Alvor-2Alvor-1

There was a massive thunderstorm over Lisbon when we passed which luckily just missed DA when they put in there for fuel.

 

 

Alvor-3

At night the skies were fantastic with the milky way clearly visible and shooting stars every few minutes. We were sailing down inside the shipping lane down Portugal so it was like sailing along a channel with the lights of the towns ashore to port (left) and the lights of the ships to starboard.

We rounded Cabo de São Vicente just as the sun came up on the 29th August

and sailed along the coast of the Algarve with DA, arriving at Alvor at 1pm

Alvor and Ila Culatra

We anchored just inside the breakwaters protecting the lagoon and channel in to the town of Alvor. It was noticeably warmer now and when we went for a swim there was no longer the cold shock on entering the water.

The beached catamaran above can be seen floating at high tide. At low tide there are dozens of wind and kite surfers taking advantage of the afternoon sea breeze.  The town of Alvor is reached through a winding channel that’s obvious at low water but difficult to spot when the tide is in, especially after a couple of beers ashore and in the dark. Luckily the bottom is sand and the outboard on the rib gave warning that it was trying to plough a new channel and we were able to quickly alter course into deeper water.

The town itself is a very busy tourist resort with the attendant shops a restaurants. The difference here was that it was catering to the brits, not the locals. It was something of a culture shock after 3 months of Spain and Portugal, without Britain abroad.

On the 4th of September we sailed round to Ila Culatra. There were 100 boats anchored in the channel between the island and then mainland, with Faro at the western end of the tidal lagoon.

Looking down behind the yacht was like looking into an aquarium at times

Culatra-1

There is very little at Culatra except 4 bars / restaurants and some holiday homes, along with a harbour for the fishermen and the ferry terminal for Faro and Olhao. Each morning this boat would pass loaded to the gunnels with sand.

Culatra-4

It’s amazing what you miss and on a visit to Olhao we followed our noses to a fantastic indian restaurant which opened early just for us

Culatra-11

Olhao was a lovely town, the fish market was covered in murals depicting scenes from the past

and a trail through the town depicting the life of a small boy who was taken to sea by witches

Culatra-6

By now, time was marching on and after 4 days here we had to be making tracks.

Culatra to Tarifa and Gibraltar (or back to Spain)

Culatra to GibWe had our fastest / wildest sail of the trip to date between Culatra and Porto Sherry / Cadiz. Due to the tides we had to leave by 06:50am for the 100 mile passage. The winds started quite light and we had a gloriously relaxed sail in hot sunshine until around 2pm when the wind rose from a pleasant 11-12kts to a boisterous 25-30kts, luckily from 120 degrees so we were surfing along at 9-12kts.

DA wasn’t far behind us

Tarifa Gib-1

We reached Porto Sherry and after dropping the sails made our way round to the anchorage with some trepidation as we didn’t want to have to go any further with the light fading. Luckily the anchorage was pretty sheltered from the 2m waves. It was with some relief that we settled down for a well deserved sun downer. We stayed on board the next day doing some light maintenance while Nikki and Malc went ashore in search of…. Sherry.

We left Porto Sherry on the 6th, intending to go all of the way to Gibraltar. We had a good sail as far as the lighthouse at Trafalgar when the wind rose to 40kts from ahead.

Tarifa Gib-4

We had the tide with us and as any sailor knows, wind over tide can cause some pretty steep waves at the best of times. We started taking waves over the boat and Gill shouted that one of the hatches was open – luckily it was the heads / shower compartment but in the few seconds it took her to get down and in, the shower compartment was already knee-deep. Gill shut the hatch (after getting a wave over her head) and pumped the compartment dry. Note to self to check all hatches are fastened shut in future.

After this episode, and with the wind showing no signs of decreasing we decided to cut out and anchor in the lee of the castle at Tarifa

This was where we found we’d lost the spare battens for our main which had spent the last 2 years fastened to our guard rail and the movement on DA had been enough to shake the radar dome from their mast.

We set off again at 06:15 the next morning and had a relatively easy motor through the Straights of Gibraltar and into the Mediterranean. We tied up in Marina Bay, Gibralter at 10am on the 7th September. We’d spend a couple of days in Gib with DA before Nikki and Malc had to return to the UK and we’d make our way east into the Med – but that’s for next time….

A few Gib photo’s ahead of the next blog