Sunday, August 28, 2011


Ria Formosa to Ayamonte

Nice leisurely sail to Ayamonte, yes we have been here before but is a nice short sail east and get’s us back to Spain.  15-20knots for pretty much the entire journey so lovely sail, Abbie was lucky to have such a calm and successful sail for her first trip.

We explored bit more of Ayamonte and the Ria the second time around although did have pretty much an entire day washing (6 buckets of hand washing!), cleaning, fill taking, shopping, etc. The second day we woke early to catch the tide up the Ria, we had seen in various blogs that the Ria was supposed to be exceptionally pretty with lots of scenic anchorages so we didn’t want to miss out.  After 2 hours of motoring into the wind we were a bit disappointed, yes is was lined by fields and we did see a few cows but not much else. The thought of anchoring somewhere in the Ria overnight did not seem that attractive idea as the wind whistled down the Ria all night and most of the morning and with a strong tide would not be the idyllic stop you would hope for but we were pleased we went to have a look. We had a nice to sail back to the marina and relaxed for the remainder of the day.

Ayamonte to Cadiz

As this was Abbie’s first big sail she couldn’t have been luckier as we had force 4/5 most of the journey without much swell although not that she knew much for the first 3 hours as she slept!  It was still a long day (Mark and I questioned why we had decided to get up at 8am for a run with a big sail ahead!) as we were unable leave until after 11am due to tides and we had around 70 miles to get to Cadiz.  We arrived into Rota about midnight, anchored off the beach at Rota and finally got into bed around 1am.  By about 3am there was a strong?????  And a swell rolling into the beach.  We tried to forget about it and sleep through it but no chance and by 5am we were all back up with tea, hot chocolate, biscuits and a beating into the wind to an alternative anchorage – Puerto Sherry – part of the Sherry Triangle.  By 7am we had found some shelter and were able to get back to bed!

As was expected we were all exhausted the next day but did manage a swim off the boat.  By 5pm as we knew the wind was only going to increase and we didn’t want another sleepless night we sailed over the Bay of Cadiz to the marina in actual Cadiz, only about 4 miles but spirited sail in over 30 knots of wind.  It was nice to be tied up safe in the marina with the wind howling all around us but earplugs went in and we all settled down to good nights sleep.


Cadiz for the second time was just as interesting and still did not get to see everything I would have liked to.  We were lucky that the Cathedral was open although only a very limited area it was very impressive.  We had another trip to the Archeological museum I am still amazed with the artifacts that have been found, there are 2 sarcophagi which are from 5 BC and are fully intact, amazing.  On the site of Cadiz there has also been a roman town, Gades  and there are some amazing fully intact roman statues. All very interesting.  The only problem is that Cadiz marina is a bit of trek to the town and with Cadiz being so hot it is a bit difficult with the food shopping!

Cadiz to Sancti Petri

Left Cadiz in the cloud with a few spots of rain and headed into the wind, first up wind sailing we had done in some time and what was supposed to be 15 miles quick sail was a bit longer than expected – almost double.  Abbie slept through it all and we managed to dodge the rain and arrived in the sunshine.

Sancti Petri

Sancti Petri is really pretty estuary, the pilot booked had described as deserted and Caribbean like beaches, it was a lot busier than we expected with mooring buoys and a range of watersports from the beach – kayaks, windsurfing, kite surfing, dinghies.  We managed to find a nice spot to anchor away from most of the activity although we enjoyed watching the newbies learning to waterski.  We all attempted to swim off the boat which was fun as the tides were so strong it was like an endless pool and you went nowhere and if you were lucky you did not get swept away from the boat.  We managed a trip ashore where it was easy to tie up in the marina but there really was nothing other than the watersport centres, one café/bar and not even a shop but our stay was short so this was not a problem. 

Anchored at Sancti Petri

Sancti Petri to Barbate

Leisurely start and a gentle motor to catch the last of the ebb tide out of the lagoon. It was a beautiful morning sunny and clear with a light breeze, we sailed for a couple of hours until Cape Trafalgar should have been in sight, but we were “treated” to our first taste of fog which was really no fun at all. There were thick banks of the stuff and it was eerie drifting into the wall, through and out the other side, especially as it was still sunny, but visibility was down to a few 100 ft. At one point a local fishing boat hove into view and made a bee line straight for us. We were aware that it can be rough along this stretch of coast and the swell had been getting steeper as the sea shoaled near the cape. The fisherman was quite animated and seemed to be shouting a warning about rough seas ahead and telling us to alter course. He hung around until I altered course further out to sea and then seemed content to leave us to our own devices.  An hour or so later the fog lifted and there was our destination Barbate.


There was a really nice beach 5 minutes walk from the marina so we went for a cool down as soon as we arrived.  The beach was backed with pine trees which is typical of that area of Andalucía – as in Tarifa further down the coast where we have been on holiday. Barbate is actually quite a large fishing port luckily the fishing port is not too close to the marina so you do not get the wash from the early morning fishermen.
We never had time to see much of the town, Mark and I had a bit of a run in the morning and what we saw along the sea front was very Spanish and not very touristy.  We made the decision that we should leave in the afternoon to make progress before the Levante set in (strong wind from East) as it was rapidly approaching when we needed to be in Gibraltar for Abbie to catch her flight home.

Barbate to La Linea/Gibraltar

We set of aiming to reach Tarifa to anchor for the night, as we left the wind was 5 knots within about 20 mins only just out of the harbor and sail up we had 20 knots on the nose and this only increased.  After about 3 hours of making very slow progress into big swell and increasing winds we did what we never do, turned and ran back to the marina.  By the time we returned we had time to shower, eat and get to bed before getting up to leave again on the next tide at 3am! This seemed to be our best chance of getting to Gib as once the levante winds set in they blow very strong during the day and sometimes for up to 10 days in a row.

Winds were light when we left the marina so we had to motor and unfortunately this continued into the morning.  Then the fog appeared, this made it damp and cold.  It was the worst fog we have ever been in we could barely see Magnums pulpit lights and resorted standing on the bow and blowing our fog horn every 2 mins, scary stuff. Abbie got up to join us for a bit a 5am but after a couple of hours she was back to sleep. I then deserted Mark and had to have a nap.  We passed to Tarifa lighthouse and could only just see the light, no land or actual lighthouse but we could here the fog horn.  It was a long morning but it was pretty spectacular approaching Gibraltar from the sea.

This was our last sailing day with Abbie and still no dolphins L

The fog!

Gibraltar in the distance

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Here we are again in Portugal!

Cadiz to Ria Formosa & a few more days

Yes it might seem odd and no we don’t plan to return to many places but we had good reason, we were off to pick up Abbie from Faro airport.  It was not ideal but we had booked Abbie’s flight to Faro and then Alan planned his Med cruise and it would have been such a shame to have not seen them when they were so close.  So we did everything we could to make both plans work.  It was a big sail back to Portugal almost 100 miles and we were lucky to get a pleasing forecast for 2 days after meeting Alan so we would be back in plenty of time.  As we had already had a night at anchor in Cadiz Bay close to the docks we decided that would be a good option but as is typical just when we desperately needed the sleep the night before a long passage the wind and tide had different ideas and we were up having tea at 4am!  So a good start to the day!

Sunrise over the Atlantic, leaving Cadiz

We were lucky that we had wind for the first couple of hours but mid morning the wind dropped and engine was on! The only good point was that we both decided we would have a sleep (at different times) so at least we caught up a bit as it was a long day.  By early afternoon the wind was back and we were speeding along dodging the fishing boats.  Were spent the entire day hoping we would see Dolphins or possibly Whales as we were on the Ballena (Whale in Spanish) coast but nope nothing!  Day went on and sun went down, I watched a stunning sunset whilst Mark had a nap and then we both were amazed by the huge number of stars – “amazing” as Brian Cox would say.

Sunset approaching Faro

Luckily we had been to the Ria before as channel marking once inside the entrance were limited, we crept into the anchorage and 16 hours after leaving Spain we were back in Portugal and asleep within minutes!

The next couple of days spent in the Ria were relaxing although managed to also get some chores done on the boat, it is not all fun, fun, fun! We also managed an early morning run which is always nice but just way too hot even by 9am.

We headed back up to Faro a couple of days before Abbie’s arrival again to catch up on a couple of bits, we have found a bar good wifi so gave us an opportunity to book Abbie's return flight (she is not even here yet!), order couple of birthday presents and generally catch up online with no cost apart from a couple of drinks.   The Ria is a good cheap option in Portugal where marina costs are so high, also there is a safe place in town to leave the dingy although it is a bit of a trek from the anchorage to the marina (not suitable for sail/large boats).  The only other issue is that it is directly under the flight path and feels like plane landed on the boat at 7am on our first morning there! No a nice wake up. Also here at Springs and tide really very strong luckily we have faith in our anchor.

The day Abbie arrived was a bit concerning we dindged into Faro for a couple of hours, dodging the rain showers we arrived back to Magnum and the wind whistled into action! Suddenly the boats were getting blown all over the place by the wind whilst the tide pulled them in the other direction, no consistency between your boat and your neighbor so after a couple of very close encounters with out neighbors we had to up anchor and move Magnum down stream.  We now had lots of room but wind of over 30 knots blowing us around and Abbies flight time rapidly approaching!

We safely managed to pick up Abbie after having to dingy into Faro in our wet weather gear get both wet due to the wind and it started to rain! Thankfully by the time we had picked Abbie up at airport and dingyed back the wind had calmed and the rain had stopped.

We spent one more day in Faro showed Abbie round the old town and then caught the bus out to local shopping centre (only about 30mins walk but trying to break Abbie in gently).  We stocked up on as many essentials as possible and Abbie learned experienced the difficulty of shopping with no car.

We headed down to the other end of the Ria Ilha Da Culatra for the evening, only about 8 miles but it felt like a long day once we anchored their in the dark but as it was our third time anchoring at least we were familiar with the surrounding and also knew of the dangers after our first night there when our neighbour unexpectedly dried out.

We spent 2 days pretty much relaxing, we popped over to the island and headed to the beach but just too hot to stay for too long.  The island only really consist of really small fishing port, a few café/bars, a couple of shops to get your basic provisions and a long sandy beach (no cars!), ideal for some relaxing although Mark and I managed to get ourselves up early one morning and have a run, any time before 9am and it just about bearable in the heat!

100's of little fishing boats on Ilha Da Culatra