Reveller is anchored in the little bay on the East side of the causeway between Tarifa and its small island. We crept in yesterday afternoon in thick fog after abandoning our attempt to reach Gibraltar. It was on the cards that we may have to stop here and we were prepared for an overnight stop but we had not been expecting the fog, which rolls in over the island from the South just as we approach from the North. Another 1/2 hour and we would have made it but once we are enveloped in the fog it takes us around two hours to creep our way up to and round to the East side of the island and anchor up.
Coming round the island we hear the foghorns of ships passing by and two fishing boats also overtake us heading into the harbour. We use contours and radar as well as the GPS but the bottom falls away quite steeply from the rocky island and we can hear surf uncomfortably close as we attempt to keep inshore and out of the way of larger vessels - the superfast ferries run from here to Tangier and we see later that they come in close past the island and often don't slow down until they are on the threshold of the harbour.
As we creep onwards I have vivid memories of the sailing magazine article we read recently about exactly the same type of sharknosed ferry slicing a fishing boat in half on the way to St Peter Port in the Channel Islands in thick fog - the crew had not reduced speed and were not watching the radar but were apparently (according to the bridge tapes) discussing Halle Berry's performance in Catwoman and didn't even notice the bump. It doesn't help that our radar is not very useful because we are rolling a fair bit and the multiple echoes are more confusing than informative.
We would probably have gone straight in to the West anchorage but a swell is rolling in from the NE and as we reach shallower water it steepens enough for us to see that it would be very uncomfortable in there. We discover later that the East side isn't much better with the constant wash of passing ships and fishing boats keeping us rolling, sometimes quite violently, all night.
Once in and securely anchored we settle down in our bunks for the night - after tracking down and supressing all the bangs, creaks and groans caused by the constant heavy rolling. Some time later I decide that I am just going to have to get up and sort out whatever it is that, on the most extreme rolls, is banging against the shroud that terminates just above my ear, twanging it like a giant (but totally un-musical) bass guitar string.
I step out into the cockpit and am so overwhelmed by what I see that I stick my head back inside and say to Alison (she's been fighting her own battle against a rattling table leaf and is also still awake) 'You have to come up and see this'.
She drags herself out and climbs up into the cockpit beside me and says just one word - 'Wow' .
The fog has cleared and a huge red moon is rising over Africa.
It has been a very hectic couple of weeks. Hannah arrived two weeks ago today for her one week holiday aboard.
Her holiday week is a week frought with frustrations but in the end everything turns out ok and we all have a good time.
The first frustration is also probably the biggest screw up of the week because we leave it too late to be able to hire a car to go and pick Hannah up from the airport. Having to walk all the way into Cadiz centre to get internet access we decide that rather than try to hire a car on-line we may just as well walk in and visit the car hire office - forgetting that, unlike the UK where you can get 24/7 service, in Spain not only does everything close down for several hours every afternoon they also shut down for the weekends! We arrive in town a little after 1pm on Saturday afternoon before Hannah's Sunday arrival to find that all the car hire places have already closed for the weekend.
Fortunately (and unusually) the tourist information office is still open so we at least manage to find out bus info to text to Hannah. She takes the news that she now has five hours of buses at the the end of her 3hr flight a lot better than I would have done. We meet her at Cadiz bus station at around 5pm on Sunday and she is remarkably pleased to see us. It is, of course, lovely to see her but my happy feelings are mixed with guilty ones for having failed to pick her up at the aiport as promised.
Hannah had a good lie in on Monday and in the afternoon we had a wander around Cadiz followed by tapas at a nice bar we had found.
On Tuesday we made our second big mistake.
We decide that it would take up too much of Hannah's holiday time to sail all the way down to Gibraltar or Ceuta for her to visit Morrocco but as she had also said that she would like to go for a sail this time if possible (she didn't get out while with us in Lagos) we thought we would just do a short hop down the coast to Barbate. The pilot guide isn't glowing in it's description of Barbate but it said it had the two ingredients we needed for a succesful visit from there to Morrocco - namely WiFi access (for information) and car hire facilities. It had neither.
No problem - we'll go by bus. Having checked out the timetable in the bus staion window (the office itself was closed - you guessed it - siesta time. However when we turn up the following morning to catch the bus the man behind the desk points out a bit of small print we hadn't noticed. The bus doesn't go from Barbate but from a place called La Barca 7km away (and, unlike Barbate, actually on a main road).
Fortunately we came early just in case and have time to catch the bus if we can get a taxi. There is one at the stand just across the road. We go across to it - no-one at home. We had noticed on our previous visit to the bus station that the drivers tended to congregate at the cafe across the road - I look across hopefully and make 'we want a taxi' gestures to the guy who looks up at us. He looks away again. I go across to the group around the table on the pavement and ask in my best Spanish if the taxi driver is here. I get a rapid fire reply which I guess by the gestures and the one recogniseable word 'telephono' to mean that he isn't and I need to phone the number on the sign by the taxi. Ok - we are royally screwed then because the telephone doesn't transmit the accompanying gestures that are essential to the full understanding of my Spanish.
But then our luck starts to change. One of the guys at the table follows me across the road. He is a big guy with several days growth of beard and tatoos and if it wasn't broad daylight with witnesses to hand my first though would be that I was about to be mugged. As he comes closer he pulls out a mobile phone and looks up at the sign. Several seconds of rapid Spanish follow. He puts his phone away, smiles at me and say - 'Taxi - here (pointing down at the road) five minutos. I thank him and he says 'danada' and walks off up the road. Four minutes later the taxi arrives and we are on our way to Morocco.
Today we take ourselves off into Cadiz again to find WiFi access. There are several places shown on the map given to us by the marina office. The first (and nearest) place that we find turns out to be the library.
The marina of Puerto America does not supply WiFi despite advertising to the contrary on their visitors information leaflet. As far as we can ascertain NONE of the marinas run by the Agencia Publica de Puertos de Andalucia provide internet access despite the fact that every marina listed in their brochure shows that WiFi is available.
When we question the reception staff we are told that the state government of Andalucia has made it illegal for anyone to provide free WiFi access. When I suggest that they could provide it for a small fee - perhaps included in the berthing fee - and make the point of how important it is for cruising sailors to be able to get up to date weather information beyond the local forecast that the marina provide the answer is a half apologetic shrug. You get the impression that the powers that be don't really care about providing a service to cruising sailors.
We find good WiFi access in the local library. You don't need an access code and there are no formalities to go through at the reception - you can just walk in with your laptop/iPad (the 2nd floor is best because there are many tables there to sit at) fire up and go. The library comes up on the list of access points - it is clear which it is.
We are sitting in the cockpit with a coffe and a glass of Liquor Berau being rocked (a little more than gently) by winds gusting up to 26knots and are glad to be in harbour rather than at sea.
This morning we dragged ourselves out of our bunks early, dug out our folding bikes, unfolded them, and took them to town: cycling all the way around old Cadiz. Stopping for an ice cream in Parque Genove, a glass of wine in Plaza San Juan de Dios, and lunch (tapas) in Plaza de la Catedral. Later we manage to find our way back to the marina and snooze the afternoon away on Reveller in true Spanish style.
Our cycling tour today dispels the slightly gloomy impression we had yesterday of a city of dark narrow streets. Cadiz is very definitely a place with soul.
Yesterday's impression was not helped by being served on our first meal in the city by a very surly young waiter who obviously has other things on his mind and spends most of the time between tables with his mobile phone clamped between shoulder and ear.
My attempts at friendly communication are met with a sour face and total lack of eye contact. I refuse to be dragged down - his problems are not my problems. It may be that he is just be a square peg in a round hole - or he may have some huge weight on his shoulders. Whatever the cause he is obviously having a lousy day - we, on the other hand are lucky enough to be enjoying the experience of a lifetime. It would be easy to be affronted but I can't feel annoyed and, instead, he has my utmost sympathy poor b***d. (Gee that makes me feel better - at the time I could have cheefully throttled him!)
On the other hand - the marina don't provide WiFi - how can they be so useless! Don't they realise that cruising sailors need more than just their local weather forecast pinned up on the wall. What is the world coming to?
While I'm at it I may as well get this one off my chest too - the other blot on the Cadiz landscape is the modern promenade built along towards the old town from the marina and then the continuation of it built further West. This is yet another of the many 'what can we spend all this Euro-money on' disasters that we have seen elswhere in Spain and Portugal. Like all the others it is a badly thought out horribly designed public space that has has obviously been neglected since day one and is now a grafitti and weed covered eyesore.
We set out from Vilamoura at 14.30 after putting 50 litres of fuel into Reveller to make sure we have plenty in reserve in case we have to motor all the way to Cadiz. There doesn't seem to be much likelyhood of that - the forecast is for winds of 10-15 knots from the NE with the wind swinging around into the N later. Possibility of gusts up to 22 knots after 10pm for a few hours. Sea state is 0.5m swell from the N. Sounds like an excellent opportunity to have a good sail on a beam reach.
Ho ho! - we end up motoring all the way - our 5 knot forward speed cancels out the 5 knot following wind. From 10pm until midnight it gusts as forecast from the N.
The 95 nautical mile crossing is uneventful despite the large number of vessels encountered on the approaches to Cadiz in the dark. Our AIS fails to report for duty today - up until now it has been working perfectly. Job to do in Cadiz! The radar however helps us out. We have made such good time that we have to reduce our speed on our final approach Cadiz to make sure we negotiate the channel and enter the marina in daylight. Our experience of entering A Coruna after our three day crossing of Biscay last year made us never want to enter another port in the dark when feeling tired after an over-night voyage.
Just after dawn we follow a large cruise ship towards the red / white safe water buoy marking the start of the channel into Cadiz - with another one closing up behind us from the SE. The second ship is obviously going to overtake us well before we reach the channel. This time I am ready with my hand held air horn to reply to any sound signals but I'm disappointed (and, if I'm honest about it, a little relieved) that she passes too far away to need any. We were pleasantly surprised however to see that she is the Queen Elizabeth - but disappointed not to see any signs of the British ensign flying from her!
We have gleaned from the pilot guides and t'internet that the Puerto America marina's new reception pontoon is situated on the SW corner of the entrance and sure enough as the entrance came into sight at the end of the extended breakwater a pontoon appears. It floats very low in the water and is obviously un-used - leading to no-where. We continue into the marina and tie up in one of the first available berths. As we do so yet another cruise ship passes by outside the wall on the way in. Cadiz is obviously a very popular destination.
The pontoon we have tied up on is huge - obviously intended for much larger boats than Reveller - and a joy for Alison to step onto after the skinny fingers of Vilamoura.
However Alison has already sussed out that in these state run Spanish marinas you pay for the size of the berth you occupy rather than the size of the boat and, once in the system on that rate you continue to pay it even if you subsequently occupy smaller berths. Totally illogical but there seems to be no arguing with it. At the reception we reluctantly asked for a pontoon more appropriate to our size.
Once we have moved we quickly clear away, put on the sail cover and take to our bunks for a few hours - siesta time!
p.s. The reception pontoon is actually in the far NW corner of the marina - right next to the reception building. The pontoon in the entrance is probably acting as a wave break to minimise the wash of the frequent passing cruise ships and large container vessels.
We now have a policy now of making the most of the opportunities presented to us by every place we visit so we eventually go out to have a look at Vilamoura. Considering this is a place built for the purpose of attracting well heeled tourists - centred on the twin ideas of golf and sailing - they haven't done a bad job of making it look reasonably attractive. Rather than the brash, low brow, Las Vegas effect of Albufeira's 'strip' Vilamoura goes for the not too subtle expensive look.
Like the strip though it has absolutely no soul - why should it - its sole reason for existence is making money. It was never a living place and there is no real life here. There is nothing of Portugal or the Algarve here. For stink pot drivers it is a place to park, show off and visit expensive bars; for the golfer it's a - golf course; for the visiting holiday maker it is a place to lean over the rail of the marina looking at the expensive motor yachts and dream.
For the cruising sailor it is a convenient overnight stop but apart from checking the weather and filling up with water and fuel it has little to offer.
We take a tourist break and wander along the marina enjoying a refreshing ice cream and follow it up with an hour or two sitting outside a cafe bar watching the world go by over a glass of wine or two.
We decide that we may as well eat out and where we are now is as good a place as any. However, just as we are about to order, they turn off the music, which we had been enjoying, and turn up the telly. Football of course. We pay and leave. A little further along we park ourselves at another place at a table right by the rail along the edge of the marina.
As we eat I can't help overhearing an English tourist sitting at the next table with his wife and two young children, wondering aloud what it would be like to own one of the huge motor cruisers parked on the nearby pontoons. Me too - in much the same way as I look up at a starry night sky and wonder if there is life up there somewhere.
We are now in Vilamoura just a few miles along the coast from Albufeira. We were heading for the Guadiana but with the proviso that we could divert into here if the swell proved too uncomfortable. It did. The wind and swell (from the SE) were both more than we had expected from the forcast and Reveller sent large plumes of spray flying as we motored towards Faro. We anticipated that once we rounded the headland at Faro the change of direction would put the wind almost on the beam and we would be rolling badly so we cut our losses and came into Vilamoura.
First impressions are quite favourable although we haven't had a wander yet. The silly little wedge shaped finger berths, with the outer end about the width of a shoe, didn't impress Alison very much!
Personally - I don't know what the fuss is about - she didn't have that far to jump. In the strong wind blowing us off I skillfully manoeuvred Reveller to within a metre of it!
We arrive in Albufeira Marina on the Tuesday 8th after a short hop from Ferragudo.
Tuesday evening we go out for a meal with long time friends Paul and Sandra who live a few miles inland of Albufeira. I am allowed to choose and go for 'all you can eat' Chinese - because I haven't had a Chinese meal since we left the UK and really fancy it.
Yesterday afternoon (Wednesday) we had a late lunch in the Beach Basket restaurant . This is one of our favourite places to have a leisurely meal - sitting on the terrace overlooking Albufeira beach.
Later we wander down into Albufeira town. It is really sad to see how this once beautiful little fishing village has been swamped with concrete and marble in the name of tourism. The beach front at fisherman's beach is now an unbelievably ugly expanse of grey marble - totally bare. I can't imagine what the local council were thinking about - except that it probably had something to do with the availability of a vast sum of Euro funding and a desperate search to find something to squander it on.
The town square has been relaid yet again - it is an improvement over the earlier incarnation but still an ugly travesty compared with the garden and fountain of the original. At least it now has some trees again. I used to enjoy sitting outside the Oasis cafe with a coffee watching the world go by but this is now such a horribly ugly and tacky place that I don't think I'll ever come back again after this visit.
The marina is not quite as bad as I had feared but I wouldn't want to spend much time here. There is only one small grocery store nearby which caters for the tourist apartments with prices to match. A 1.5 litre bottle of water costs €1.10 compared to 16 cents in Lagos! The WiFi provided by the Marina also costs €2 for 30 mins - free in Lagos.
At least the weather is now much warmer and we are able to sit in the cockpit until late in the evening - which is exactly what we did last night with Bjarne and Elsa who arrived on the reception pontoon as we emerged from the office. Alison spotted Pusan's fluorescent orange mast-head in the marina at Portimao as we sailed downriver from Ferragudo but we are suprised when they sail in here. We spend a really enjoyable evening together over a few glasses of wine in Reveller's cockpit. They refuse, however, to sit on our new cushions because Bjarne is worried about spilling wine on them.
We finally escape from Lagos. We spend Saturday and Sunday getting Reveller ready for sea - no small task when we have been using her as a houseboat for the last six months. Everything we need for sea is in the bottom of lockers and has to be found, dug out and put in its place. Everything we don't need at sea - has to be found a home and more to the point everything has to be stowed properly so it doesn't fly off its resting place as soon as the boat heels - like the books piled on the shelves or the printer precariously balanced on top of its packet of paper on another shelf.
All the miscellaneous bits and pieces that have found their way onto the convenient dumping ground otherwise know as the chart table have to be found a proper home so that it can once more be used for navigating. The collection of bits and pieces that have so far been kept because they 'may be useful' have to be ruthelessly weeded out and dumped - or (more likely) stuffed in the bottom of a storage bin somewhere.
Anyway - that has all been done.
On Monday morning we go on a final shopping expedition and have a final wander around town including a stop for coffee and cakes. On the way back into the marina we call at the office, and pay our bill and, finally, hand in our gate key-cards - that's it, it's definite, we're leaving. On the pontoon we say our last goodbyes and then climb aboard, start up the engine, and call the marina office to request a bridge opening.
Request granted - we cast off and slide backwards out of our berth with many helping hands guiding us out. We motor out along our 'lane' waving madly and then round the end of the pontoon and lose sight of everyone. The bridge had just finished lifting and we cruise sedately out through the gap under the curious gaze of several pedestrians waiting to cross.
Curiously we don't feel the sense of loss that we had expected to as we cruise down the river past the promenade heading for the open sea. People walking along the promenade look at us - just another yacht passing by - and for them just another ordinary day in Lagos.
For us it is the start of our new adventure - we are heading out once again into the unknown. Today though it isn't exactly a huge leap into the dark - we are just going a few miles down the coast intending to anchor in the river Arade off Ferragudo.
Anchoring in Ferragudo took a while. The first attempt didn't hold and we dragged the anchor several meters as we boosted the revs in reverse to check that it had dug in. It was difficult to tell that it was dragging because the soft mud allowed the anchor to drag smoothly without causing the telltale vibrations up the chain that is the usual indicator that the anchor is dragging.
The second time it held perfectly but a little later I decided that we were too far out in the channel and we lifted it again to reposition ourselves.
The small inlet of Ferragudo is filled with mooring buoys and we were forced, along with the two other anchored yachts, to lay our anchor outside these in 6 metres - which with 3 metre tides meant 30 metres of chain - I put out an extra 5 for luck. The anchor held overnight without any problems and when we left the following morning it came up with a thick layer of very sticky mud attached to it.
The river is full of debris and floating weed which streams past us at what looks like 3-4 knots on the outgoing tide. Fortunately most of it was fairly small stuff - with only the occasional longer length of timber or tree branch.
We spend a very rolly night at anchor. The cause of the rolling is the wash from fishing boats zooming up and down the river at all hours of the night - larger boats heading into their harbour further upriver and smaller faster boats passing on the other side of us into Ferragudo.
It over a month since Bob and Martha left and we are still in Lagos. We had expected to leave some time before last week but several things have conspired to keep us here - and it is possible that even if this had not been the case we may have stayed put because the weather has not been all that good.
While in Lagos we have had a new holding tank and associated new hoses installed in place of the old smelly one - it is good to have a fragrant head (and boat). We have also had our upholstery replaced and new cockpit cushions. The existing bimini and spray hood are currently being incorporated into a full cockpit tent. This is a project that has given Laura (Lori Interiors) considerable headaches because of the unusual design and layout of the bimini but the whole thing is coming together nicely and Alison and I look forward to enjoying the shade (and at night the warm, windproof qualities) of our new tent.
It has been a busy six months here socially initially centred on the excellent Lagos Navigators. The hub of this 'club' is a website run by Terry, an extremely experienced yachtsman and a long time berth holder. It is a tremendous source of information for visiting yachtsmen and also provides a forum for bertholders and visitors to contact each other - if you come to Lagos check it out.
These are a few pics of our time in Lagos and visits from Hannah and then Alex and Charlotte
We have cycled down the river to the breakwater to wave goodbye to our good friends Bob and Martha as they set off aboard DW Crow their Cabot 36 heading for Tangier.
It is way too early in the morning - they want to catch a favourable tide for their overnighter to Morocco. Over the last six months of taking it easy in Lagos we have got out of the way of getting up at unearthly hours in the morning to catch tides. It is still cold despite the glorious sunshine and we soon begin to wish we'd put an extra layer on.
Eventually we see the top of DW Crow's mast move away from the reception building and soon she appears round the slight bend in the river - Martha is on the foredeck taking in the fenders and coiling the mooring lines. We wait until they are a bit closer and then jump up and wave and shout out our goodbyes and best wishes as they sweep past us sending a bow wave along the banks. Bob leans out from behind the sides of the cockpit and waves as they go past. We watch them go out between the ends of the breakwaters and then climb down from the rocky wall and wander out along the beach and down to the shoreline.
DW Crow does several circles to calibrate the autopilot which has been in-active for six months - and then they straighten up and head off on course. They grew smaller in the distance and then disappear over the horizon. As their mast sinks out of sight we feel a little sad. We are heading in different directions and it will be a long time before we see them again.
Our time here is also running out. Soon we and the many other friends we have made here will be leaving. Bob and Martha are only the first .
We are quiet as we cycle back to the Marina.