Jan 2002 – House Guests

On Thursday Jan 3rd, having recovered we left Richard and motored down towards Cadiz. It was quite warm overnight as we motored across the Baia Cadiz – no thermals or oilies required. On the way down we caught our first big fish – a bonito (a type of white tuna) – it probably would have fed around 8-10 people – we cut some steaks from it and returned the rest to the sea! Made a very nice supper baked with a little oil and herbs.

We arrived in the early hours of the morning and then managed to leave the marina we had originally tied up in before Will awoke – which must be some sort of record. Puerto Sherry was a victim of the 80’s property crash in the UK when the builders Brent Walker went under (the people who developed Brighton Marina). Basically P. Sherry is in same unfinished state it was in 1988!  There is a shell of a second hotel and lots of partially completed houses and apartments. We arrived at 4am and tied to the reception pontoon to sleep until the office opened – it was very bumpy and noisy as the pontoon moved a huge amount in the Atlantic swell coming in round the corner of the wall.

There was no diesel (algae in the tanks) or camping gas (try the town – see below), no laundrette (it’s closed) and no supermarket (never built!) – as there was a lot of swell even in the marina making it more than a bit uncomfortable we decided to try the Yacht Club pontoons in the next town, El Puerto Santa Maria, only a couple of miles away up a river. Here it was much nicer – swimming pool (empty of water for the winter), tennis courts, restaurant and outdoor bar plus they kindly sent our laundry out to be done!!  There were plenty of shops (we failed to buy gas though) and zillions of bars within walking distance. This is a Spanish Spanish town with no tourists – not even another foreign boat on the pontoons. The weather was warmer than it was in Lagos – clear blue skies and temperatures close to a Summer’s day in the UK.

Here we discovered that the Spanish take Epiphany more seriously than Christmas – on Saturday we stepped off a bus (having been exploring Cadiz) into crowds waiting for the Procession of Kings through the town – a series of carnival floats following a couple of bands and a troop of mounted “Kings”. Later, when going out to eat, we found our way across the main square blocked by a huge crowd out to see a big firework display. Only in Spain would the fireworks be let off inside the castle with the audience outside of the walls and Carmen blasting out over everything!

On Sunday the Yacht Club where we were moored, had their own parade complete with a bugle band, three kings, the Virgin Mary plus assorted royal courtiers strangely dressed in Georgian costume and wigs – no idea what they were about!! Anyway, this being a yacht club the parade was initially by motor boat up and down the river with other boats blowing their horns augmenting the bugles and drums. The band remained on dry land. Then the whole lot marched along the half-mile or so of river frontage to the clubhouse and lunch. Monday was the Spanish equivalent of Boxing Day so was very quiet (closed) everywhere. We managed eventually to work out the timetables and get a train into Cadiz to meet our next visitors (Will’s Dad and his wife June) and on Tuesday they commuted over to us by ferry from Cadiz. Cadiz is worth an explore.  The streets are very narrow  don’t contemplate taking a car there – and mostly to a grid plan. The Camera Obscura in Torre Tavira gave us an excellent view of the city rooftops in brilliant sunshine and the guide managed a commentary in both English and Spanish!

We still find it difficult to cope with shopping or anything official here as they close for ‘lunch’ from 12:30 til 17:00 or there abouts!  On arrival at every marina we have to wait on the Reception Pontoon to be “cleared in ” – mostly the marina staff work office hours with a typical Spanish lunch break but in Chipiona, they surpassed themselves – 9am to 12 noon then 16:00 to 17:00. Still we had a great sail to get there and were able to tie up far enough away from the fishing boats whilst we were waiting that we could enjoy the spectacle but not the smell!  A short trip into town later and we were in pocession of two rather tatty looking full gas bottles so could cook our supper.

From there we were off to Sevilla (over 50nm inland) in the boat. Unfortunately we had to go up the river with the tide in order to get all the way up without fighting the river current – this meant getting up at some unearthly hour (like 5am)…..  As the whole crew by now was well into the Spanish way of life – lunch after 2pm and supper after 10pm – by getting up later and later in order to recuperate, getting up ‘early’ was going to be tough. It was very chilly and dark when we left Chipiona and headed north across the Bay for the channel bouys that mark the river entrance. Over the next hour or so the entire Bonanza fishing fleet came down the channel towards us, worrying us more than a little by some of their lights which indicated the boat was trawling with outlying gear of more than 150m when the channel was less than 100m wide!!  And yes the town really is called Bonanza!

The trip up river was uneventful. It is wide and the landscape flat. Over the levee on the port-hand side is one of Spain’s major national parks – the Donana – it is large wetland and hosts many migratory birds every year. All along the river we saw plenty of wildlife – hundreds of herons and even a red kite. The local fishing was odd craft (difficult to describe some of them as boats) with huge black nets hung from wide poles high over their stern which when lowered simply filter the water as it flows through. They look like large bats moored on both sides of the channel.  On some the fisherman had a little cabin with a stovepipe sticking up obviously they spend some time aboard. Big ships also use the river but we only met a couple at the lock below Sevilla, though sharing the lock with a 100ft long coaster was a bit daunting but they were helpful. Their pilot managed to contact the lock authorities on our behalf after we had failed to raise a response!

Sevilla was a bit colder than last time we were there. Once tied up it was good to meet up again with Zeehund another Southsea boat which had left a month or so before us and has been over wintering in this oasis. Viola has been taking Spanish lessons and she and David spend several hours a day teaching Rene their teenager. A few hours later our next visitors and Richard arrived and we spent a couple of days visiting more of Sevilla’s sights before heading back down the river to Chipiona. Jenny had booked her passage with us before we left the UK in a late evening phone call to say she had always wanted to sail through the Straits of Gibralter.  So she, Laurence and Marcy joined us for a week’s sailing. And what a week it was. After Chipiona we sailed under spinnaker in brilliant sunshine virtually all of the 50nm to Barbate (bar-bate-ay) and as we arrived we spotted a flock of flamingos flying north across the sunset.  During the trip Will indulged in another bread making session the results of which were devoured almost immediately. There is something special about sailing along with the smell of fresh bread coming up the companionway.

For the last few days a Levanter had been blowing (gale force winds around Gibraltar had actually prevented the Moroccan ferries running for several days) and it was a bit chilly and overcast (all relative at 14-15 degrees!!). The wind didn’t last though, we motored most of the way through the Straits the next day. What a wonderful sight as the Rif mountains of Africa come into view not on the horizon but way up above the coastal clouds. We took the obligatory photos looking due North at Tarifa Lighthouse the most southerly point of Europe and then sent a text message to Maddy; “Europe to left, Africa to right sun shining” – it was not well received in grey wet Kingston! The Rock then crept into view on our left above the Spanish hills. The photos we’d all seen had not prepared us for just how big and imposing it is. The town and the docks below are diminutive in comparison when you finally round the corner into the bay. Gibraltar town is amazing  sort of colonial, sort of seedy British High Street of 20 years ago all mixed with a touch of Spain and Morocco.  Sheppards Yard, where we moored, is the oldest Mediterranean marina a bit run down and full of live-aboard boats looking like they couldn’t ever move anywhere again, with an active boatyard and the best stocked chandlery we had seen since leaving Falmouth.  After a couple of days exploring we took the cable car to the top of the Rock, photographed the apes and then killed our legs by walking down the Moorish Steps (an almost vertical stone staircase), we headed over the Strait to Ceuta, our first African destination.
Ceuta is one of two Spanish enclaves in Morocco the Spanish equivalents of Gibraltar! All very topical as during our time in Gib the Spanish and British Foreign Ministers were discussing Gibs future! Ceuta though is even more seedy and run down than Gibraltar. After a stroll through the town to the Yacht Club for a superb lunch (no one wanted supper that night!) we found that though full of historic buildings nothing is open to the public. We returned to Gib the following day so that on Saturday 19 Jan Kevin could play taxi delivering the Coxes to Sevilla airport and then drive over to Malaga to collect Pat and Tony! He thoroughly enjoyed the long drive over the Sierras covered in snow. Viola, David and Rene drove down from Sevilla that afternoon so we had a grand Southsea Marina reunion.

The next day five of us sailed from Sheppards to Sotogrande, a Spanish purpose built marina east of Gib which was clean and pleasant but in the middle of nowhere! Good job we stocked up on food at Safeways in Gib!  We then crossed the Strait again to Morocco for a couple of days. It was a spectacular trip – we stopped to let a tanker pass and were surrounded by pilot whales for about 20 minutes!

Morocco was amazing and very different to all the places so far. We berthed in a marina called Smir – just a marina complex so not on the map (built apparently by the Rumanians in return for phosphates). The fishing village nearby is called M’Diq. The people were very friendly and always said hello whenever they could, the main problem was that they ran out of French and Anglais before they ran out of things to say. Since even Kevin cannot grasp Arabic this was most amusing. Smir is the only marina we know of with its own tour guide – he knocked us up at 10am the first morning and then Tony and Kevin haggled over the price of a taxi to the nearest town (10 km away) and a guide for the day! Tetuan is some way in land, through lots of rocky mountains, all green at the bottom and grey on top. The mountains are the start of the Rif mountain range, if you go back far enough you get to Atlas mountains and then the Sahara. Tetuan itself is a very old Muslim market town (kasbah or souk) surrounded by a modern one. We had a guided tour of the market, including the tannery and the cloth makers houses (where they charge tourists thousands of pounds for carpets they don’t want). It was all little narrow streets between two storey buildings and thankfully our guide knew his way around else we would have been lost and sold things to for the rest of our lives. As it was we escaped lightly with only one very cheap carpet purchased (it now adorns the saloon table) after being entertained in several establishments selling everything from carpets to handbags to Berber herbal remedies (I kid you not!). Everything was in shades of white because it was always warm, the wind from the Sahara was really hot so we were in t-shirts, but no shorts because of the Muslims’ habit of throwing the infidels in jail if you show ankles or shoulders (they really do). Lunch was a multi-coursed affair featuring goat kebabs, broiled chicken in a wonderful ‘pie’ and yet more chicken on couscous (we decided that ancient cockerel was probably a more appropriate description for the latter meat). The ‘pie’ was full of sultanas, cinnamon and other spices plus loads of chicken and the case was filo pastry – the whole thing was over 18 inches in diameter and divided in 5 portions – one for each of us…how we managed to walk after all that food and a dessert we don’t know! All in all the trip was a real eye-opener, but we didn’t think much of the drainage system, the open air tannery smelt better than quite a few streets we visited!

Later some of the crew tried to walk off the excess of lunch by walking up the mountain behind the marina. Scattered across the hillside was a Berber village – we even saw people wearing the odd looking hats that were on sale in the town – like small brimmed sombreros with bright coloured wool tassles. This was a very agricultural place, lots of goat herders and of course lots of goats, as well as loads of chickens all about the yards. Again everyone was friendly but soon ran out of words – we met kids playing hide and seek in amongst the boulders and women returning from somewhere on donkeys – all very different from anything we normally experience. Meanwhile back in the marina Kevin entertained a camera crew who did a magazine shoot on board Temptress!

From there we hit tourist-land…we set off in warm sunshine back to Spain but by late afternoon it was pouring with rain – three of us needed full oilies for a trip to the supermercado! Estapona was very nice and not too touristy – it is a holiday resort for the Spanish. Whilst there we took a bus further along the coast towards Torrid-molinos – yuk high rise hotels for 100 nm! We spent the day riding the cable car into the mountains – great fun and superb views. Then it was time for tapas and beer/wine in the sun before the trip back to the boat.

We had booked a spot in Sheppards Yard to give Temptress some TLC so planned to return there. Richard rejoined us in Estapona but having taxied Pat and Tony back to the airport on Saturday, he left us in Gib to explore some more of Spain by car for a couple of days on his way back to Villamoura. He said didn’t want to get his clothes dirty!! Temptress was lifted out without a hitch except that in order to extricate the boat hoist once we were on the hard, we had to remove the windvane and its pole from the back of the boat – it was only inches but it was the only solution! Will spent half an hour or so tucked up behind the steering gear inside the transom holding the fixing nuts whilst Kevin undid the bolts on the outside. The yard were very helpful – no pressure to extricate their hoist and they lent us a ladder and hired us a scaffold frame with two planks big enough for two of us to work on the topsides at the same time. The weather was overcast and quite windy (F4-5) so a bit chilly. We did wonder whether you get hypothermia washing boats?

Once the pressure hose had done its work on the bottom we were pleased to see the anti-foul wasn’t too bad. It then took the three of us a couple of hours to sand it down to give a key for the new stuff. We also managed to wash the topsides ready for polishing – which proved to be a longer task.  A quick trial with the polish revealed that it wasn’t going to remove all the gunk – yellow oil stains around the bow etc so we had to resort to one of those oxalic acid based cleaners. This lifted the dirt a treat but it was almost impossible to rinse off the white powder afterwards!! So we let the boat dry and rubbed it off with a cloth and then polished like crazy – the net result was very clean, shiny topsides and we were proud of ourselves.

Some minor osmosis (water under the gelcoat) work was required on the rudder though but the yard only took a couple of days to do the work and also fixed a chip in the very end/bottom of the transom below the boarding ladder too. After the polishing we put on a couple of coats of anti-foul – a democratic decision was taken to replace the black with dark blue cos it looks better! It seems this seasons colour is navy blue – almost every boat was having it applied! Or perhaps its that Micron is on special offer and the large sized tins are navy only?

It was very odd living life up a ladder on a boat! We could use the sinks and showers – the boatyard like soapy water as it washes the crap off the yard. But you just can’t be in a hurry for the loo as it is down a ladder and then a long walk across the yard avoiding the puddles in the dark!

Everyone eventually came clean but we were exhausted after four days of hard labour.  Temptress looks smart again – all we needed to do now was clean the deck and give the cockpit a polish! Water is not easy to come by in Gib – they apparently generate it all from a de-salination plant on the dock. Therefore we delayed boat washing (it was prohibited anyway) until later.

Back to those gas bottles one wouldn’t work at all it seemed that something was jamming the valve shut and the other had so much gas in it that we had a huge wild flame at the burner. Very dodgy so we were relieved to find that Sheppards sold gas and were quick to acquire two more refills.