We left Cadiz on Saturday 14th June along with quite a number of other yachts who had been stuck because of the Levanter and the firing range. Some turned north to head for Portugal and Vaila and a few others turned south. The wind was non-existent so the engine worked away. Cadiz looked beautiful in the morning light and there was the biggest cruise liner we have ever seen in the harbour. It even towered over some of the housing blocks! We were glad we had not met that in the channel.
We plugged away under engine and by mid-afternoon we were approaching Trafalgar point and the shallows round it.
Easy to see why so many men lost their lives here. The sea and wind are bad enough without someone else firing cannons and muskets at you!! The tide was strong (2-3 knots) with the wind against it and this made for a very rough couple of hours. We arrived in Barbate marina at 1830 after 9 hours and were both pretty tired. A glass of wine, a shower and some tea soon revived us though. Quite a few other boats of various nationalities were in as well so a few stories were swapped.
The next day was going to be a long one also, as we needed to get through the straights of Gibraltar before the Levanter set in again. Everyone prepared to leave early to catch a favourable tide at the start and we were also up at 7am (early for us these days). Unfortunately the weather was not playing, as we awoke to thick fog. A couple of boats that left before 7am returned, talking of terrible visibility and a nasty swell, so there was nothing else for it but to have some more coffee and wait for it to clear. Luckily by 1030 it had cleared and we set off to Tarifa and Gibraltar.
We got the sails up for a bit but then the wind died away again and we had to use the engine again. There was a huge volume of shipping appearing as we approached the traffic separation scheme and we were glad to be small enough to be away from it. Tarifa must be one of the busiest port radio station in Europe, dealing with vessels of all shapes and sizes going through the Straights. The wind got up again, this time from the west and so we managed to have a brilliant sail past Tarifa point and on to Gibraltar. It was incredible to see the mountains to the south and realise that it was North Africa! Just at this point we got a dolphin escort. They were busy fishing so did not play for long but as ever it was a real privilege to have them near.
Rounding Tarifa point
Gibraltar was very impressive. “The Rock” itself consists of 1500 feet of sheer cliff. The clouds were falling over the top which reminded us of Table Mountain and its famous “tablecloth”. The whole bay was heaving with shipping and the town is spread around the bay under the west side of the Rock. On the east side there was also some development but not as much. Although it all looked very impressive we were very glad not to be stopping there for the night.
We arrived at Sotogrande at 20.20 very glad to have got through the straights and got a great sail as well. From what we heard from people who keep their boat here, the wind is either east or west through the straights and the passage is always a bit of an epic and never goes completely as planned. So we had been incredibly lucky! After 2000 miles of sailing from Scotland we had eventually made it into the Med!
Tied up on the waiting pontoon at Sotogrande
Sotogrande Marina was incredibly posh. Because we arrived so late, we just stayed on the reception pontoon overnight. There were huge boats in the marina, including quite a few from the UK, and match racing yachts from all over Europe and Russia on the hard standing being prepared for a big race later in June. The showers were certainly the nicest ones we have come across so far and we did wonder how much it would cost for the night! So we got a pleasant surprise to find the charge was only 32 Euros (we had not used water or electricity). There were apartments surrounding the marina and they were very nicely designed and sensitively built to blend in. Unlike the most of the rest of the Costa Del Sol!
Costa del Sol
On Monday 16th June we arrived in Fuengirola after motoring for 7 hours. What little wind there was from the east, so directly against us. The weather also looked very threatening, with clouds over the mountains and black clouds threatening rain coming from the south. Not quite what we had expected for our first day in the Med. The whole coast is virtually completely built up with only a few green areas and most of them are golf courses. The mountains behind the coastal strip are very impressive though, with towns clinging on to the slopes and some typical white towns right on the crest of the hills. We were very surprised to see a lot of krill, with its characteristic orange colour, floating in the water, however this part of the Med is still less than 100 miles from the Atlantic so gets more nutrients than the eastern Med. The last time we had seen this amount of krill was in the Galapagos Islands!
Krill in the Med!
The mooring at Fuengirola is Mediterranean style, so no finger pontoons. You have to slot in between other boats either bow- or stern-to and then pick up a line (usually known as a “slime line” for obvious reasons) and secure the other end of the boat with that. This line then sinks to the bottom, apart from the bit attached to the boat. It was our first time with this arrangement, so it was a bit edgy coming in and working everything out. Luckily there was a Marinero ashore to lend a hand with the lines. This time we came bow-to as our dinghy is still on the stern, but it would make more sense to come stern-to in future so we will have to have a change of plan for the dinghy. Never a dull moment!
Relaxing in Fuengirola Marina
Wednesday 18th June 2014
We have just got back to Vaila after a delightful overnight stay with Nicci and Ann, some ex- neighbours of ours from Cousland days. They have a Finca (small holding) in the hills just north of here and kindly invited us up to see their place. They have a wee slice of paradise up beyond Coin, with a beautiful old house, swimming pool, outhouses and several acres of orange, and pecan trees. The views from the terrace are stunning and it was great to meet up with them again and to meet their 4 lovely dogs. They very kindly took us to the Supermercado on the way back to Vaila, so we are stocked up again for the next few days.
The church in Coin
Nicci and Ann and their beautiful Finca