SW Spain, Andalusia
The river Guadiana divides Portugal and Spain in the southern part of Andaluzia, visible at sea from a distance. Since there was little wind again it was a motoring day. Our destination was El Rompido, according to the pilot book, the nicest anchorage on the South coast. It has a tricky entrance with very shallow waters, so we knew it would be a challenge. We were guided by two pilot books, however the waypoints were wrong, maybe the sandbanks have shifted. The entrance marked in the books was non-existent. The leading buoys to the channel were there, however when attempting to enter the depth was alarmingly shallow and with the waves we were pushed to the shore. The sun was setting so we decided to divert to Mazagon instead, ten miles away. The entrance to the marina was well marked and we had no trouble getting in the Marina, as we settled to a beer the security guard came along wanting to see papers and move us to a berth. By the time the boat was moored properly it was 11pm local time. The following day was working day, servicing the engine and doing some cosmetic work on Nomad Life.
The previous night when mooring alongside the visitorsí pontoon, a sharp piece of metal from the pontoon damaged the freeboard, since it was dark we did not see this , but next day we noticed the damage. We pointed it out to the Harbourmaster, Javier, who was very apologetic. But his friendliness won us over and later we swapped emails. He was interested in wildlife pictures for his project together with the Junta de Puertos de Andalucia for the preservation of dolphins and local fauna. When we mentioned that we are heading to Seville, his birth town, he offered to send us an itinerary of interesting places to visit.
River Guadalquivir and Seville
Another very hot and windless day whilst we motored the 50 miles of the river Guadaquivir to Seville. The marina in Chipiona given us the time for the tides, however it was out by 2 hours. So it was a struggle for the first two hours with 3 knots against us. After 4 hours the tide had turned and we shot up the river riding a 3 knot current, making 8.5 knots over ground.
The river passes through the Coto Donana, a natural reserve full of different species of birds. Further up the river the landscape becomes very arid and the air dry, desert like. The river is busy with commercial vessels, oil tankers, which made the trip exciting, as it is a narrow river and the wash from the boats can be quite violent. Trying to spot the buoys hidden behind the trees with a binocular was our main entertainment throughout the featureless journey, we even had a little competition to see who spotted it first. Graham won (just to keep him happy).
We arrived at the Marina de Gelves in the afternoon and anchored for the night outside, to save money. Little we knew that this would be our cheapest Marina ever during the whole trip; we had a free stay! The marina office was closed at weekend and when enquired how we can pay the only staff around told us to pay on our next visit.
Despite the heat we took a bus to Sevilla. But it was exhausting to walk around the Santa Cruz quarter, Triana and the Cathedral. The buildings are superbly preserved and all the glory of the old days is still showing all around the city. Recommended by Javier, the Mazagon Harboutmaster, we had some tapas in Triana, each one costing less than 2 euros! Sevilla was worthy another night stay to explore it better. Again the heat was unbearable so we took the bus back to the city late afternoon for a walk around the town in the evening.
It was time to head back. The return journey was undertaken over 2 days, anchoring half way. For an evening meal we opted for a BBQ ashore. As the anchor was laid and we waited it to settle, we realized that there was a neighbour around. It was a black bull with big horns, who did not look the friendly type. We waited for a while until Boris, the bull, lost interest in us and wandered off. With the dinghy we headed off to the edge of the river. Judit had a dip in the brown soupy water falling off the dinghy when jumping to the bank. Then there were more neighbours and visitors for the BBQ. Ants and bees came attracted by the smell of food. Graham did not escape the attach getting a bee sting in the ear. But the beefsteak was great!
Leaving Chipiona, for a first time in a long time, we encountered good winds and could actually sail the whole journey to Puerto Sherry. Nomad Life was sailing at 8 knots. We found an anchorage late in the afternoon, just outside of the marina. The swells coming from the Atlantic made the anchorage very uncomfortable resulting on three sleepless nights. Feeling tired we crossed the bay to the Marina Porto America. Little we knew how bad was out there, winds of 30 knots and 2 metres waves. The marina is located inside the commercial docks, so the surroundings are not great but it is only 10 minutesí walk to Cadiz. This is a charming university city, with narrow streets opening into squares. There is an 18th century wall that surrounds the old town, which looks quite Moorish. The cathedral is huge and worth a visit. The city was a launching point for the journey to the newly discovered lands of America. Again we extended our stay as Cadiz was worth a second day visit. Cadiz at night is a different city all together, shops and buildings come in to life with the night lights. The restaurants are either full of Spaniards and tourists all very friendly. Cheers to Pat (aka Captain Allan) for all the ideas and food for thought. He provided a lot of information about places to go and working in the yachting industry just in one afternoon, sitting on deck, chatting and watching the sunset.
We left Cadiz and again admired the beautiful city this time from the sea. Approaching the Strait we could see the African continent from distance. Spain is facing huge problems with illegal immigrants from Africa, especially from Morocco. Tarifa is the narrowest point of the Straits, just less than 8 miles wide. No surprise that the Guarda Costeira (Coast Guard) had a close look at our boat, probably checking for potential smuggling of illegal immigrants. They came very near but then departed without any issues. Approaching Barbate we were aware of the famous tunny nets. These nets are laid not far from the coast and stretching for miles in a funnel shape. Getting caught on a net can result in serious damage. Just before Cabo Trafalgar a huge net appeared in the horizon, surprisingly well marked with cardinals, however there was no net approaching Barbate. Once inside the marina and securely moored a 43 ft yacht berthed alongside us. It was a charter with a crew of 6 extremely loud and drunk Spanish guys on a party. We felt sorry for the poor skipper.