RTW (Round the World) October 2013

31st October Supper on board Swallow

The end of another month and again we have spent it in the company of Swallow!   At the end of September we bid farewell to Swallow in the spanish Rias and now, at the end of October after a wonderful supper with them on board, we are parting company as they set off to explore Lanzarote and we prepare to head off to Tenerife.   Hopefully we will all meet up in the Cape Verde Islands.   It is extraordinary to think that we all (Swallow, Hecla and Ocean Rainbow) met in Portishead marina for the first time over 2 years ago, founded the PWRCC with the aim of pooling ideas for our long distance sailing dream and here we are 2500nm later actually living the dream.   We now have an added incentive to get together – we need to perfect our singing skills for the first public performance of the PWRCC Mixed Voice Choir!!

30th October Whistlestop Tour of Lanzarote

Arrecife Tour 052The crews of Ocean Rainbow, Hecla, Swallow and Nitassinan joined forces for a tour of Lanzarote.  James hired a 7 seater car and we all met at 9.15 to head out to Timanfaya National Park.  We were really lucky to have decided to start there as by the time we left the park the queues to get in were stretching miles back along the road!   Once inside the park you leave your own car and take one of the Park’s tour buses where you are driven through the park with various stops for photographs – although you are not allowed out of the bus.  There is a commentary which was good but we were also lucky to have Elliot along who filled in any gaps for us and explained some of the processes in more detail.   The whole visit is really nicely done with a chance to see a geyser blowing, a fire being lit and food cooking from the heat of the volcano.   After a few photos we headed back out of the park to take photos of the tourists going off on their camel rides!!   What amazing creatures camels are and what extraordinary feet they have – Nike’s inspiration for cushioned soles?

We then loaded back up into the car and set off for El Golfo where we had our picnic on the black sands of Playa Montana Bermeja watching the surf crashing amongst the larva rocks.   Our next port of call was Los Hervideros for an amazing photo opportunity then on to Salinas de Janubio to see the salt pans.   From there we went down to Playa Blanca beach and the chandlery and had a peak at Papagayo beach which looked a great place to anchor (what this space!).   Then it was back in the car for an interesting run through the countryside to the wine growing region.    The vines are planted individually in deep pockets of sand and then protected from the wind by a semi-circle of stones.  It makes for an extraordinary sight and we don’t think the photos we have taken quite do it justice.  We stopped off at a small family Bodega without any other tourists and had lovely wine tasting session – and came away with a bottle of their delicious Moscatel.   From there we continued north through the town of Teguise (formerly the capital of Lanzarote) with its traditional houses and steep streets, then on to Haria (known for its abundance of palm trees) via the wiggliest of hairpin bends (not good for Elliot and James who both suffer from vertigo!) and finally to Mirador del Rio for magnificent views across to the island of La Graciosa.   We then headed back to Arrecife, taking the direct route on the main road and finished off the day with a couple of beers to celebrate surviving Kamikaze Short’s driving!    What a laugh we all had.

26th – 29th October Agadir to Lanzarote

We left Agadir, in company with Jon Lister on Hecla, at 7.30am and motored for the first two hours (as anticipated) and then came the wind which never dropped below 12 knots and had us whistling across the ocean towards the Canaries.   We would have liked to fly the cruising chute but with the winds gusting and stronger winds forecast we decided to stick to white sails.   We did have a bit of a disaster with the stay sail when the topping lift sheered from the boom.   Silly accident that we could have avoided but, as always, we are wise after the event.   We did think about replacing the end of the boom before leaving Portishead – now we have to!   The only other event of note was the arrival of a flying fish on deck!    They do make a real thud when landing and quite took us by surprise, waking James from his slumbers and causing Claire to madly search around to see what had broken!   There were the odd breaking waves that livened up the watches and Humphrey did need a lot of encouragement when the wind was gusting.   He finds it very difficult to hold his course when the winds go from 16 knots to 23 knots and then back down to 16 knots in the space of 15 minutes.   It kept the watchkeeper on his/her toes and the time passed really quickly.   We were delighted to find that we made the passage in 34 hours and not the 48 we had anticipated.

Arrecife 001We decided to put in to Arrecife marina as the first port of call to ensure that we cleared customs correctly.   Yachts travelling from Africa are of particular interest to immigration control!   We called the marina on Channel 9 and were met by a helpful marinero plus a whole host of folk from the pontoon.   No chance of scratching Ocean Rainbow with so many willing pairs of hands to help.    Although the marina isn’t finished we are quite happy.   The facilities are clean and adequate and the building works that surround us are not impinging on us at all – might just be because the winds are so high all we can hear are halyards and flags crashing and flapping around us!

 

Arrecife 004We set off on our bikes at the first opportunity, and had a quick explore to find WiFi.   The village part of the town is centred around a lake and looks lovely, all painted white with blue fencing.   Jon and James quickly ordered in their beers at the first bar we found with WiFi – it had been a long two weeks in Morocco without a cold beer in sight!  We then repaired back to Ocean Rainbow for a celebratory supper – we were feeling very pleased with ourselves to have had such a great crossing.

 

 

On Monday, after a very leisurely start we set off into town and were just passing the town harbour when Claire spied a familiar looking yacht.   It was Swallow with Vicky and Elliot on board.   They quickly rowed ashore and we arranged to meet for supper on Ocean Rainbow.    We found Jon, who was also free to join us so the PWRRC was reunited.    It was a really strange feeling to be together in the Canaries having covered 2500nm since leaving Portishead.     Later in the evening, a young Swedish couple (Maria and Mikel) from Nitassinan joined us for drinks.   We had last seen them in Agadir when they were moored alongside Hecla – they had arrived in the afternoon after a really rough night at anchor off the islands to the north of Arrecife.    A great night with Ocean Rainbow back in her role as ‘party boat’.

21st – 25th October – Rabat to Essaouira and on to Agadir

We left Rabat at 3pm and, with the wind behind us, set about raising Red Passion.  Unfortunately we made a complete dog’s breakfast of it all, raising and lowering the snuffer a couple of times as we tried to sort out the scrambled lines!   In the end, with James still unwell from the after-effects of his bout of food-poisoning, we put Red Passion away and set the white sails.  It was a bit galling to watch Hecla romp away under cruising chute but James’ energy had evaporated and he repaired to his pit to recover.   He wasn’t at all well for the next couple of days.   At one stage he did declare he was dying but put that in female speak and it can be translated as: “I’m feeling really awful”!   To give him his due, he was running a temperature and really didn’t look too good.

We made our way slowly down the coast with a mixture of sail and motor to arrive at Essaouira at midday on 23rd.  James was really looking forward to a break and the sight of the walled town as we approached the harbour did make us want to get ashore and explore.  Our arrival into the harbour was witnessed by Darren and Vicki of Nocturne, who were anchored in the bay.   They wished they’d been close enough to video Ocean Rainbow as she surfed in doing 10 knots.   An amazing experience!    Sadly our exploration of the town was not to be, as the only place for us to stay was rafted alongside a large catamaran that was already rafted alongside what appeared to be a safety/rescue boat.    We did raft up for a short time but the swell coming into the entrance of the harbour caused us to surge so violently we were worried about damage to both Ocean Rainbow and the catamaran.    We decided to press on for Agadir, which meant another night at sea.   Food was not a problem as by this time James was on a water and porridge diet in an attempt to give his poor system a chance to recover!

We finally made it to Agadir at 8am on 24th and were pleased to moor up on the visitors’ pontoon.  We were instructed to stay on board until the customs, immigration and police arrived.   This didn’t happen until almost 11am by which time we had enjoyed (more) porridge (!!) and ‘eggie bread’ for breakfast (James tempting fate again!) and cleaned the boat from top to bottom!    James was revitalised. Once we had finished with all the formalities we got out our trusty bikes and went exploring.  Claire still needed to finish her Moroccan shopping having been thwarted in both Sale and Rabat!   As usual we cycled miles and saw the King’s Palace, the Animal Park and Gardens, the industrial quarter, hundreds of hotels and apartments, tourist shops, more local looking shops and the hotel where we spent our honeymoon –at least we think it was!!    Claire did manage to complete her purchases and we stocked up on nuts, apricots and olives.   As usual the folk were delightful and totally fascinated by our bikes.

On Friday (25th) we went off to find our honeymoon sand dune.   Once again we cycled miles along the beach front past swanky hotels, gated communities, private beaches and apartments: a really trendy holiday resort.   In 1975 Agadir wasn’t exactly a pretty picture as it was just after the earthquake and all the new buildings were concrete and pretty ugly but the beach had been spectacular with all the sand dunes.   This time we found only two areas of sand dunes.  The first area had hotels on either side so we decided to press on to the furthest extreme where the hotels finished.   However, to our dismay, the next section of sand dunes and beach was prohibited because a military camp had been built!   So, we returned to the first area for a few photos for old times’ sake and then beetled back to the boat to see if we could get our ship’s papers and passports ready for departure on Saturday morning.    Not a chance!   The ship’s papers were given back but our passports would not be ready until 6am on Saturday!   Other yachts were having the same problem and one yacht was already 24hours behind schedule waiting for clearance.   On Saturday morning James went to the Police Office to find the door shut and no one around.   Luckily he was told by another yachtie to hammer on the door and wake the policeman.   This method worked and we were given our passports and left Agadir on time heading for Lanzarote.

Although we were very happy to have visited Agadir because we had spent our honeymoon there, it isn’t a place we would recommend.    The sanitary facilities in the Marina were absolutely grim and virtually unusable.  In a couple of years, if nothing is done, the marina waters will have turned into a cesspit.   Although there were laundry facilities there was only one machine and that was very heavily used so you had to book a slot.    We sent our laundry away which was very successful although a bit pricey compared with Bouregreg.    All in all, we would highly recommend Bouregreg as the staging point from which to launch an exploration of Morocco.   The tram takes you to local stops for 6dh (50p) each way.   The train is very reasonably priced, efficient and comfortable.   Taxis are cheap.    There are hotels in all the major cities for overnight stays.   Perhaps most importantly, the marina is secure.

17th – 20th October

Our exploration of the streets was somewhat curtailed by a rotten case of ‘dehli belly’ for James.   Not much fun at any time but even less fun when on a yacht with the facilities a bit of a walk away!  Still he survived but no idea why he was struck down as no one else suffered.   Perhaps a touch dehydrated?     The Eid holiday meant that things were very quiet and we were somewhat dismayed to find that James’ inherent ability to find any place, any time was not functioning and we were unable to find the carpenter who promised to have our new ensign staff ready for us on Friday at 5pm.    With all the shops shut the fronts all looked the same so we had lost our identification marks!   If James had been feeling 100% we would, no doubt, have found the workshop.   As it turned out James went back to the souk just before we were due to leave on Sunday and managed to find ‘Le Patron’ who had all the keys for the workshops. By the time negotiations had finished there was quite a crowd enjoying the occasion and when the workshop was opened (without the owner being there) and James picked up the staff there were great smiles all round and shaking of hands.   The money was left with Le Patron with enough witnesses to sink a battleship so hopefully the delightful elderly gentleman who made the staff will be happy.

 

On Saturday, we managed to visit Kasbah Oudayas which was lovely and especially enjoyable without crowds of tourists and loads of traders!   The walls of the houses were painted to the halfway point in indigo and many of them had ancient wooden doors.  The streets were narrow and wiggly but with quite a few dead ends – saved us walking even more miles!   The Sultan’s palace was open to the public but we gave it a miss (lack of time, not funds!) and just had a quick tour of the gardens which were cool but will be at their best in a few years’ time.   We then went to visit Tour Hassan II and King Mohammed V’s Mausoleum, as well as the Rabat souk.   It really doesn’t seem to have changed in the last 10 years!

 

Our main ‘disaster’ in Rabat was the failure to get a second batch of laundry done!  Such a shame as it was a really good service but the Eid festivities got in the way.   We’ll have to hope that we can find the same service in our next port of call.

Our plan was to leave Bouregreg marina on Sunday 20th but word on the pontoons was that the swell was growing and the port might be closed on Sunday so folk were leaving on Saturday despite the fact that there would be no wind.   We consulted all our charts and weather forecasts and couldn’t see that there would be a problem until later in the week so we decided not to alter our plans.    We were somewhat perturbed on Sunday morning, therefore, to find that the port was indeed closed!   Luckily after chatting to the Capitaine du Port and James volunteering to go with him to check the swell we were told the decision would be reviewed at 1pm.   A little after 1pm the Capitaine du Port was as good as his word and went out to check the swell and came back to give us the all clear.  Customs and immigration were very helpful (although it did take an hour to get our passports back), Boris the drugs dog gave us the all clear and then we were on our way with the Pilot boat leading us back to the mouth of the river. We did enjoy our stay in the marina and would recommend it – although the sanitary facilities were not quite up to Spanish standards!

14th – 16th October

Mending the BBQSuccess in the souk and we have a new ensign staff being made, ready for collection after the Eid celebrations have finished , the BBQ has been beaten back into shape and we have once again walked miles in search of nice looking vegetables, meat and bread.   We’ve tried 3 types of bread – all delicious in their own way – and one spicy filou pastry thing.   Went back the next day to purchase more and failed dismally to find the lovely lady’s stall.  We shall try again on Friday.   The major event has been our trip to Fez.   It wasn’t ideal to visit on the eve of Eid al Adha but as we don’t know when we are moving on we made the most of the opportunity.    Claire’s memory had obliterated the distance between Rabat and Fez so the 2½ hour train trip was a surprise!  However, the time passed really quickly as the first part was spent in the company of a mixed bunch of folk travelling home to visit relatives for the holiday.   People were so patient in the squash and muddle and the children were all content and easy to please with big eyes and wide smiles.  Not sure this would have been the same in UK, but then we haven’t travelled in crammed trains recently.   Our seat on the serving counter of the buffet car was definitely one of the better places to be.

 

Arriving in Fez we bought a tourist map and set off.   Once in the old walled city the street signs (when you spotted them) were very obligingly labelled with the grid reference of the tourist map!  It was still a struggle to find our way around but with a Recce Officer in charge it was hardly a challenge!   We saw everything from jellabahs to wedding thrones, nougat to Moroccan Adidas aka leather slippers!   We also saw a whole lot of sheep with only hours left to live.   We photographed one of them making a desperate bid for freedom.   Our final port of call were the tanneries which were amazing if a little smelly as one of the processes includes soaking the leather in pigeon poo, obligingly collected from the roofs of local mosques.    We found out prices and started haggling but were thwarted by our inability to withdraw any cash!   Such is life.  We shall attempt to purchase our goodies from the souk in Sale instead.    We finally left Fez having walked miles and miles and seen each gate and souk on the map!  Our trip in the little red taxi back to the station was another experience and probably not one to repeated.  Our trip home on the train was hot and sticky but we had a seat which was the main thing.   A fabulous day.

Today (16th) we have had another admin day after a well-deserved lie-in and have put the new sail on (can’t think of the yachtie term for that!!), mended the canvas cover for the BBQ, cut out a new cover for the engine (have to tack it together tomorrow and then hopefully get a professional to finish it off!).  We’ve also managed to get some money out of the hole in the wall so Claire’s shopping spree is safe!   Tomorrow we’re going to explore a little further while the streets are quiet.

11th – 13th October

What a hasty departure from Tangier!    We had a great time visiting the fort but it was a real shame to come back and find Ocean Rainbow having a real battle with a black tyre on the harbour wall.   Poor Humphrey took a beating and the BBQ is definitely dented!  Still, it could have been far more serious had we  spent any longer in town.  As it was, we started the engine and motored forward to keep OR off the wall and kept the engine running until we were able to leave.   This was not quite as quickly as we would have liked as James had to run all the way back to the Capitainerie to collect the boat papers.   He was lucky he didn’t have to run back as well!  The Harbour Master actually drove James back to the boat as we had to have our passports stamped and, in the rush, they were left on the boat!    Ah well, all’s well that ends well.  James fixed Humphrey and we think we have found somewhere to get the BBQ back to its former glory.  We also think we have found somewhere to get the ensign staff  sorted out … James doesn’t think he can face doing it all himself again!!   At this rate we will have the shortest ensign staff going!

Entrance to RabatOur sail to Rabat was lovely.   We weren’t in any hurry so didn’t need to use the engine to keep up the speed.  The wind died in the middle of the first night but it was only for a couple of hours and then we were up and moving again.  The same thing happened last night but this time we had current with us which helped.     We saw fishing boats and some gi-normous pot buoys en route but apart from that it was a really tranquil trip.  We did have a sea mist in the morning and the one thing that was very noticeable was the smell of charcoal so I guess the mist was really smog.    We did delay our arrival at Rabat until first light as we had very little idea what to expect having read about surging waves and the tricky entrance.  As it turned out, we were met by the pilot boat (Darren and Vicky on Nocturne had emailed to tell us about the pilot boat) and had a very stately trip up the river to the marina.   The paperwork only took 45 minutes and the police inspection of the boat barely 5 minutes.    Mooring was fun as the pontoons are extremely short.  We tried mooring bows to but changed our minds and now we are parked stern to which will make leaving the pontoon much easier, if nothing else!

We have had an initial explore of Sale and just love it all.

9th – 11th October

Jon Lister with Lorraine and Paul

Jon Lister with Lorraine and Paul

Dawn over Gibraltar

Dawn over Gibraltar

Wednesday was a slow day without any rushing around!   Very strange but enjoyable …. Claire thinks we should have more days like this!   In the evening we were wonderfully entertained on board Freya who, in anticipation of our next port of call, treated us to Moroccan Chicken.  A super last night in Spain.  Thursday dawned dry and a bit overcast but we put that down to The Rock and its permanent cloud cover!   We were able to sail from the very start of our trip to Tangier which is always fun and we enjoyed putting Ocean Rainbow through her paces.  Far too much wind for Red Passion though and there were times when even Humphrey protested!   We had big seas crossing the Traffic Separation Zone – Claire put the washboards in….just in case!   As soon as we had crossed, we made our way into more protected water, only to find the tidal stream, contrary to our calculations was against us at speeds up to 3kts – which stopped us in the tidal overfalls.     Bristol sailing yet again?   This was then followed by 30 knot winds, which continued until we came into Tangier harbour.  This was when the real fun began with crosswinds of 28 kts, we had to reverse and moor stern to in what used to be the ferry terminal.   We then discovered that the “official” who insisted we had to park there was nothing more than an out-of-work sailor!!    However, he was extremely helpful in securing our lines and it transpired that the marina really was chock-a-block full with nowhere to squeeze in Ocean Rainbow.   James took his bike ashore to complete formalities and was greeted by exclamations of admiration for the Brompton!    Everyone is very friendly and we were soon legally in Morocco and could take our ‘Q’ flag down.

Ocean Rainbow moored in Tangier

Friday we took the bikes ashore and explored Tangier.   The medina and Calles are fascinating and the people lovely.   We are thoroughly enjoying speaking french and being able to communicate again.   The only down-side to the whole visit is the dodgy access for the boat.   The gang plank/passerelle is at a totally crazy angle at low water and can’t be used.   We thought Gibraltar was a challenge, this is impossible!   Even at mid-tide it is fairly dodgy but we did get the bikes off.   We have to be back on board tonight at 6pm in order to get our ship’s papers back and have our passports stamped and then we won’t be leaving the boat until we get to Rabat!  At least that’s the plan for the moment.

Our Tangier Gallery

 

7th – 8th October

Supper with Lorraine and Paul

Supper with Lorraine and Paul

la linea 001

Studying the bus timetable

Gibraltar has a large Morrison’s store so we decided to stock up on all things English before setting off to Morocco and on to the Canaries.  It was a fairly mammoth shop but we did manage to get everything home  – just wish we had a picture to demonstrate the great carrying powers of Short ‘n Short Incorporated on their trusty bikes.   It then took Claire an age to re-stow everything and in the middle of it all Freya came on board for coffee and confirmed our suspicions that we would be better off moored on the Spanish side at La Linea!   So, after a quick lunch and having paid the bill, we slipped our lines and set off via the duty-free fuel pontoon at Westport, radioed for clearance to cross the end of the runway, and crossed back into Spanish waters, dropping the Gibraltar flag and hoisting the Spanish one again.    La Linea is a fairly large town with lots of little one way streets and millions of scooters.   It is a bit tatty and run down but it does have the most enormous supermarket.   There’s a lot of litter around the border area and huddles of people who looks as if they’re up to no good – in fact definitely up to no good!   On the Gibraltar side, on our return trip from The Rock, we were amused to see people hiding behind bus shelters and transferring cigarette packages into various pockets, bags etc!   Presumably such small beer to the border police they were allowed to get away with it.     But I’m rushing ahead, because before the trip to The Rock, we made a bus trip to Estepona!   On Monday night Paul and Lorraine from Freya joined us for drinks and supper on Ocean Rainbow and we confirmed our plan to get our gas cylinders refilled; it has been a real hunt to find somewhere to either refill the cylinders or exchange them.   We knew it would be difficult but hadn’t realised quite how challenging!   Gibraltar to Estepona is about 30nm so the trip would have taken a day on Ocean Rainbow and the wind would have been on the nose so we decided to take public transport.   A much easier option except for carrying the cylinders – ours weighs a ton when full!

Estepona

Tuesday mid-morning we loaded up the gas and set off to the bus station to catch a thoroughly efficient coach to Estepona – a trip of 40km for €4.30.   On arrival we waited at the pre-arranged spot and had a baguette to keep the energy levels going.  Dirk arrived in his Jeep as promised, collected our cylinders and promised to be back by the 3pm return bus.    We then set off for an exploration.  Estepona is a lovely town despite the fact that it is obviously geared for tourists.   The streets were clean, the old part of town has been refurbished and looks so pretty with the coloured flower pots and pebble mosaics, the promenade is wide and has various sculptures along the way, a superb children’s play park and a wonderful stretch of beach.   We enjoyed our short visit.

Once back in La Linea we decided that, if we hurried, we might catch The Rock out of the cloud.  We beetled back to the boat, put the cylinder away, got out Claire’s bike (only James’ had been used as the cylinder transporter) and headed off to the border.   It’s an easy crossing but bikes have to go with the cars which was fine going into Gib but on our return trip the queue was miles long so we folded the bikes and carried them through as pedestrians – we got away with it!

Our Rock Gallery

The trip up The Rock was great fun with the monkeys treating us to a great display of acrobatics.  The wind and mist swirling around the top did nothing for James’ vertigo and he spent a fair amount of time steadfastly looking straight ahead while Claire took advantage of all the viewing points.   The photos haven’t amounted to much but we’re glad to have made the trip.    On the way down we passed the Governor’s Residence so that just about concluded our sightseeing tour of Gibraltar!  Tomorrow we will have a relaxed day in preparation for our trip to Morocco.  We have been told that it might be a challenge to get a mooring in Tangier – but we are going to try.

5th – 6th October  Barbate to Gibraltar

We had a lovely stay in Barbate and, contrary to the pilot book, we thought it was worth a visit if only to have a wander along the stunning beach which stretches for miles.   We set off from Barbate as planned (despite a late night on Freya!) having carefully worked out the tides in the Straits of Gibraltar.  Little wind meant a motor-sailing start but we did raise Red Passion only for the wind to drop again.   However within the hour Red Passion was up again and we sailed swiftly to Tarifa, which as it is known as a windsurfing, kitesurfng mecca we decided prudently to drop Red Passion and revert to white sails.  As it was we cruised through the Straits of Gibraltar in benign conditions.

At this stage we noticed the log (Speedometer) had stopped working so, with great trepidation and doing 5kts SOG (Speed over the ground as calculated by GPS) James removed the log, enjoyed his quick shower but got the blank in very quickly.   The log was soon cleaned off and back in place working efficiently but we haven’t worked out why it is that the log comes out with only a puddle of the ocean entering the boat but when it comes to putting it back in there is considerably more salty water in the locker!!   Claire’s stores were put back safe, sound and dry.    We blagged our way into Ocean Village marina where we have been allowed to stay for two days.  The Gibraltar marinas have no facilities for itinerant visiting yachts with no visitors’ pontoons which seems very strange to us as there appears to be ample room to put a pontoon.    Anyway, we are now parked at the end of a runway!!!   Slight change to Faro where we were under one but there does seem to be a theme developing!

Sunday we set off for an exploration on bikes.  Gibraltar is a fascinating place to visit and definitely requires a lot of energy!   It’s an uphill struggle but there are the odd aids to make ascent easier … we found an escalator to take us between levels!    We actually cycled the whole way around the island which meant going through tunnels (one dug out by the Sappers in 1960) and the other called the Dudley Ward Tunnel and not open to pedestrians so a good job we had the bikes with us!   We also visited the 100 ton gun but that was the end of our military sightseeing other than cycling past loads of ‘Bastions’ and at least 3 times around Ragged Staff Gates!   We went to Europa point for an ice cream – and saw the Mosque of the two Holy Custodians.   We also passed a huge crematorium on Europa Advance Road with the rustiest chimney – James just had to take a photo.   Although there are lots of modern shiny buildings and developments near the waterfront we found that the older parts of Gibraltar are showing distinct signs of wear and tear.   We took time off in the late morning to have a huge brunch at Bianca’s café on the waterfront and then after a snooze we set off again to find the house where a friend (Paul Blackham) had lived in 1970.   It was a monumental effort as the street had been partially obliterated by new buildings and we ended up cycling so far up the Rock we don’t think there’s a road we haven’t seen!   The success is that Loquat House still exists and we don’t think it can have changed very much since the 70s!

Our Photo Gallery from Gibraltar

3rd – 4th October  Cadiz to Barbate

Having conquered Cadiz, we set off early for Barbate where we plan to mount our assault on Gibraltar.   It was grey as we left Rota and our exit was somewhat hampered by having to keep an eye on Spanish warships leaving their base and heading out to sea.   They were traveling at a very leisurely pace (economising on fuel?) but eventually disappeared from sight.   The winds were slightly disappointing but we had all the sail up and we were enjoying ourselves when we were disturbed by a great explosion and a puff of smoke about a mile ahead of us.   This was followed by another explosion but we couldn’t see any smoke.   We rushed below to the charts to check if we had inadvertently entered a live firing range; nothing shown.   We checked the Almanac; nothing shown.   We double checked the chart plotter; nothing shown.   The explosions continued at about 5 minute intervals for half an hour.   Was this a live firing exercise conducted in an age of austerity with a shortage of ammo?  Perhaps the Spanish Navy had taken exception to two Warrior yachts sailing in their waters with defaced ensigns clearly indicating a British army connection!   It certainly made for a lively few minutes on Ocean Rainbow!   Otherwise the run to Cape Trafalgar was spent sailing, motor-sailing and motoring so not such a good passage.   However, on rounding Cape Trafalgar we had a great ride through standing waves, at times rushing through at 8 knots and then at others at a complete standstill as a wave stopped us in our tracks.   It was very reminiscent of the Nash Passage (between Swansea and Cardiff).   We really have been well trained in the Bristol Channel!

We are now moored in Barbate marina and taking a day off to enjoy the sunshine and the lovely sandy beach.   We’re also going to stock up on Spanish goodies before we leave for Gibraltar and Morocco.

Our Cadiz Photo Gallery

1st – 2nd October

Rota marinaOn 30th September, we sailed from Vila Real to Rota which is a good place to launch an assault on Cadiz as there is a regular, and inexpensive, ferry ride across the bay!  It is also home to a large Spanish Naval base so on one side of the town there were great big grey ships and on our side we had a lot of little boats and yachts.   The town of Rota was lovely and quite a surprise with lots of one-way streets and hidden alleys with a very pretty square and a church where the bell chimed every 15 minutes.  There was also the more industrial supermarket-style town and a huge Ferreteria (ironmongers) selling absolutely everything you could possibly want, including more ‘string’ for Claire to use to re-thread the dodgers.

Supper on FreyaWe have, at long last, met up with Freya of Wight (Lorraine and Paul) who, having left Portishead in June 2012, have been slowly travelling down to the Mediterranean.    They came for coffee on Ocean Rainbow and briefed us about the town which was very helpful and we all met in the evening for Happy Hour at the local hotel where there was good WiFi.    We then all had supper together, pooling our resources into one big pressure-cooker chicken and chorizo hotpot!   As you can tell the pressure  cooker is working its passage and justifying every ounce of space it takes!  The next day they left early for Barbate and we left on the 0930 ferry for Cadiz – without bikes!   Big mistake as we aren’t used to walking and we could have managed the bikes in 90% of the places so we’ve made a decision, future assaults will all be mounted – none of this infantry stuff!

17th – 20th October

Our exploration of the streets was somewhat curtailed by a rotten case of ‘dehli belly’ for James.   Not much fun at any time but even less fun when on a yacht with the facilities a bit of a walk away!  Still he survived but no idea why he was struck down as no one else suffered.   Perhaps a touch dehydrated?     The Eid holiday meant that things were very quiet and we were somewhat dismayed to find that James’ inherent ability to find any place, any time was not functioning and we were unable to find the carpenter who promised to have our new ensign staff ready for us on Friday at 5pm.    With all the shops shut the fronts all looked the same so we had lost our identification marks!   If James had been feeling 100% we would, no doubt, have found the workshop.   As it turned out James went back to the souk just before we were due to leave and managed to find ‘Le Patron’ who had all the keys for the workshops. By the time negotiations had finished there was quite a crowd enjoying the occasion and when the workshop was opened and James picked up the staff there were great smiles all round and shaking of hands.   The money was left with Le Patron with enough witnesses to sink a battleship so hopefully the delightful elderly gentleman who made the staff will be happy.

We managed to visit the Kasbah Oudayas which was lovely and especially enjoyable without crowds of tourists and loads of traders!   The walls of the houses were painted to the halfway point in indigo and many of them had ancient wooden doors.  The streets were narrow and wiggly but with quite a few dead ends – saved us walking even more miles!   The Sultan’s palace was open to the public but we gave it a miss (lack of time, not funds!) and just had a quick tour of the gardens which were cool but will be at their best in a few years’ time.   We then went to visit the Tour Hassan II and King Mohammed V’s Mausoleum   as well as the Rabat souk.   It really doesn’t seem to have changed in the last 10 years!  

The disaster of Rabat was the failure to get a second batch of laundry done!  Such a shame as it was a really good service but the Eid festivities got in the way.   We’ll have to hope that we can find the same service in our next port of call.  

We had planned to leave Bouregreg marina on Sunday but word on the pontoons was that the swell was growing and the port might be closed so folk were leaving on Saturday despite the fact that there would be no wind.   We consulted all our charts and weather forecasts and couldn’t see that there would be a problem until later in the week so we decided not to alter our plans.    We were somewhat perturbed on Sunday morning, therefore, to find that the port was indeed closed!   Luckily after chatting to the Captaine du Port and James volunteering to go with him to check the swell we were told that we could probably leave at 2pm.    The Capitaine du Port was as good as his word and went out to check the swell and came back to give us the all clear.  Customs and immigration were very helpful (although it did take an hour to get our passports back) and then we were on our way with the Pilot boat leading us back to the mouth of the river.    We did enjoy our stay in the marina and would recommend it – although the sanitary facilities were not quite up to Spanish standards!