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The Final Push

Updated: Jul 24, 2022

9 - 13th November 2021 - Exploring Cadiz and Seville

So we’d made it to Puerto America marina in Cadiz. As we came into the horseshoe pontoon our big white square blocked the sunlight for Mark and Helen and their hung up washing on their boat Kismet. Our boat was filthy after days of sea salt and dirt and needed a hose down but again, laundry out so it would have to wait. It is always great to meet other cruisers, hear their stories and experiences and discuss plans. It is such a great community in that there is already a topic of conversation that you have in common.

The marina was about a 20min walk from the old town of Cadiz. The walk started out in what looked like an industrial/port area but once out of that it was along the seafront promenade towards town. Lots of young canoodling couples on the sea wall and park benches along the route. That evening we set off to find a nice tapas restaurant. Narrow cobbled streets led us to Plaza de Mina where we stopped for a glass of Rioja in one of the outdoor restaurants. It was around 9pm at this point but there were little kids running around and playing whilst their parents continued their meals at the table. We had already clocked that coming out for dinner at 8pm was way too early for most Spanish people so if you wanted a bit of an atmosphere it would have to be later. As pretty much every restaurant was a tapas restaurant I had turned to trusty Tripadvisor to find a good one. We settled on La Candela which was not quite traditional but had good reviews. When we arrived at the small restaurant at a bit after 10pm they could only just fit us in at the bar. The food was amazing and the bar service brilliant. We had arrived at the right time as a queue had formed out the front, we’d just snuck in. On our way back we came across this [see video] What a welcome to Cadiz!

The next couple of days were spent exploring the city of Cadiz, doing some touristy stuff interlaced by frequent vino/cerveza stops. We also needed to do some boring things like finish off hosing down the boat (now that our neighbours washing had been taken down) and doing some laundry. Very glam. The chores were briefly interrupted by the sailing flotilla that came into the marina in front of the boat. We were very impressed that they managed to sail around the breakwater and eek out the wind all the way to the inner harbour.

It turns out that Mark and Helen were also taking the train to visit Seville and it just so happened that we ended up catching the same train. We had a lovely time getting to know them over a coffee. The weather had been fairly warm up to this point and I had packed some light clothing for the two days we would spend wandering around the city. Figured it would be warmer inland anyway. Wrong! I had somehow forgotten it was November and I wasn’t on the equator or south of it. Apart from every now and then having to drape myself on some steps in the sunshine like a lizard to warm up, it turned out to be a great stay.

We had booked ourselves into a hotel, Petit Palace Canalejas, close to the old town. Ok, so it was no Emirates Palace (those days are well and truly over!) but it was clean, comfortable, didn’t move about, and had friendly staff. We walked over to the cobbled square overlooking the Catedral de Sevilla, found a tapas restaurant for lunch and tasted our first glass of Fino. From there we mapped out our day. Carl had been to Seville before but it was all new to me. We headed for the Royal Alcazar first, a beautiful palace with gardens. Another Castilian Christian palace built over Moorish foundations. Also the Game of Thrones set for Dorne. After strolling through the gardens, which you could honestly spend the day just there, we did the ultimate touristy thing and had a horse and carriage ride around the sites of Seville. Well why not? Turns out you can still be in a traffic jam in a horse and carriage, you just end up with a horse's head near yours at the back of the carriage!

The following day we tackled the Catedral de Seville after booking our slot. A colossal Gothic building built on the site of a 12th century mosque. The Giralda bell tower was converted from the original minaret. I don’t tend to put a lot of detail about tourist attractions on here, you can read Wikipedia as well as I can, but I did find the architecture interesting. As was the tomb of Christopher Columbus inside the cathedral. It was larger and more elaborate than some of the kings and queens buried there. I guess he did add a lot to the Spanish coffers! One final vino in a roof top bar as the sun was setting over the cathedral and we caught the 8pm train back to Cadiz.

14th November 2021 - Cadiz - Barbate (31.1 nautical miles)

15th November 2021 - Barbate - La Linea (33.1 nautical miles)

It was time to move on. It turned out that Mark and Helen were also planning to take Kismet to La Linea for the winter so would be making a similar journey to us. We both planned to head to Barbate that evening although we opted for anchoring outside the marina whereas they planned to head in and stay a few days. After waving goodbye to them we slipped the lines at 10:30am and headed out. The sail down was fairly uneventful, as in not much sailing to be had unfortunately. We managed to unfurl the jib for a few hours but apart from that it was largely motor-sailing. We arrived in Barbate at 17:10 at low tide just outside the marina. We had been warned of significant swell and the potential for fouling our anchor out there but the swell was reasonably slight and we set up the trip line just in case. We ate onboard that night and set off early the next morning in order to tackle the Straits of Gibraltar in the daylight and with the tide. The straits can be a scary prospect with significant tides and a very busy shipping lane so we had picked our weather window and tides to see us through. Apart from a bit of chop, we had 10-15kn and motor-sailed down towards Tarifa. It was a beautiful sail along the cliffs of the coastline. As we rounded the corner the Rock came into view and we could see Africa across the way. A mere 7nm from Tarifa. It was indeed a busy shipping lane but we were easily able to stay well out of it and cruised along the Spanish coastline. It was not lost on us that this would be our last sail that year and somehow, we had made it to La Linea on the exact day that we had booked the marina back in May. We were feeling pretty chuffed but the bay of Algeciras would give us one last challenge. Tankers coming into the bay and will either go to the left, to Algeciras, to the middle, the refinery, or to the right, to Gibraltar. Or they will just anchor in the bay. Some look like they are anchored but are just moving extremely slowly waiting for the pilot boat to come out to them. As we came into the bay the wind picked up to 30kn on the nose. We stayed to the left hand side at the start and could see on the chart, a cardinal marker and an AIS target which was an oceanographic survey point. We spotted the cardinal marker no problem but the survey point was not there. Not everything on the chart is always there in reality so, whilst we weren’t going to go straight over it weren’t too bothered about getting close to it. Turns out, it was! We suddenly received a message on our chart plotter from the survey point: ‘Rockhopper of London, you are within 500m, adjust your course!” I grabbed the binoculars to try and see what was hailing us but in the chop it was difficult. I finally spotted what looked like R2-D2’s head bobbing about in the water. Oops. We carried on dodging between tankers going this way and that. Plus yachts heading out and coming in. We had planned to head to the fuel dock in Gibraltar first to top up the tanks as it was tax free. Then go back across into Spain to the marina. My nerves started kicking in thinking, brilliant, 30kn winds and having to tie up to a fuel dock! Let alone the marina! We motored through anchored tankers towards the small gap between Marina Bay and the Gibraltar airport runway, we finally spotted the fuel dock. To our relief the wind dropped to about 8 knots and Carl spun her round and neatly edged her to the dock. We topped her up at 70p a litre. Magic! Keen to get her in and settled we set off shortly afterwards round the runway (actually possibly through the no sail zone at the end of the runway - thank goodness nothing was coming in our going out!). The marina staff told us to tie up to their reception/fuel dock. Out of the shelter of the Rock the wind had picked up again and there was also another catamaran tied up there. They had said if there was no room to pick a spot so we saw an empty pontoon across the way and opted for that. The wind blew us onto it but Carl had kept her parallel to the dock and I lept off and tied her on to it as quickly as I could. The fenders got a squidge but all was good. The marina was huge and the marina reception would have taken 25mins to walk round to from where we were so Carl got the dinghy down and went over to the fuel dock with our paperwork. I sat there on the boat listening to the radio of several boats coming in to the marina. Firstly there was Firebird who was told to wait outside. Maybe they were getting a bit of a queue on the dock. Then little Agnob who we had spotted on AIS all the way down (largely cos there was a nob in the name…). They were told to go onto the fuel dock too but replied that there was a dinghy in the way so couldn’t. Blush, that was us. They came over to our pontoon and the least I could do was help them with their lines. Firebird called again. Again told to wait. I thought that was a bit unfair as Agnob had just come in. I later learned from Carl that Mark and Helen had come in too and were on the fuel dock. They had decided to take advantage of the favourable winds too and had not stayed in Barbate. After few moments Firebird was allowed to come in. I could now see why it was told to wait. It was 67m long. As it came round in to the marina, not only did it block the sun but also thankfully the 25kn that was pushing us onto the pontoon. Carl came back to the boat with the marina info and the berth number that we were supposed to go onto. Turns out it was not far from us and so as the dinghy was in the water he did a bit of a recce to suss it out. When he got back he said it was a horseshoe pontoon and that we would be parking it in the 24kn crosswinds. We gathered together our knowledge from the past few months and put fenders on both sides, lines on both sides and expected to end up blown onto the leeward side. All happened as expected and we came in to our home with some help from an American guy on a beautiful Amel 50 yacht next to us to grab our lines.

We had made it. We had moved our yacht from the UK, through the Bay of Biscay in October, and down the Atlantic coast all the way to the entrance to the Mediterranean on the exact day we planned it. Over 1303 nautical miles, 199 engine hours each (68 hrs from before we got her), and 62 days onboard. We were a bit emotional but that was all washed down by a large Dark and Stormy. Mission accomplished! Phase One complete.


At this point I should mention Orcas. The dreaded killer whales that had been plaguing sailors all the way down the Atlantic coast. In July of the previous year there had been a spate of ‘interactions’ between Cadiz all the way to Gibraltar. ( It was thought that a young pod of Orca were ‘playing’ with the rudders of boats. Unfortunately their playfulness resulted in damaged rudders rendering the boats unable to steer! This has been understandably terrifying for the people on board and a huge expense and inconvenience being towed back to a marina for repairs. The Spanish charge for sea rescue which, depending on your insurance, can be reclaimed, less an excess. God love the RNLI! Interactions were happening to several yachts on a daily basis and the advice being given was just to let it happen. Switch everything off, engines, chart plotter, depth sounder, drop sails and just sit there. Oh and perhaps go inshore, perhaps less than 15m of water. We’d been looking at this throughout the summer before getting our boat. Of all the things to worry about in our planning, killer whales had not made the list until then. As we came down the Atlantic coast we heard that more interactions were happening now further north up the Portuguese coast, pretty much from La Coruna down to Gibraltar. More advice came in to not travel at night but sometimes, to arrive in the day, this had to be done. Whilst it did occupy our minds, and all the other sailors that we had met along the way, we had to just put it out of our heads and carry on. If it happened, it happened. In fact after we left Cascais, we heard a day or two later that a boat had been attacked in the waters we had just sailed through and had to be towed in. Possibly we were lucky; possibly the design of our boat is such that the props are behind the rudders so when we were moving forward the Orca would have to get past the spinning props to get to the rudders; or maybe we just weren’t very tasty. Apart from a dolphin fin or two that scared the crap out of me one night, we did not spot any Orca on our trip.



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