Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Gibraltar to Portugal

Hi from Clare                                                                                                     15th September 2011

We left Gibraltar 1 hour after high water so we could take advantage of slack water in the strait. The 30 mile stretch is tricky to navigate as the water at the western end (Atlantic Ocean) is some 2-3m higher than at the eastern or Mediterranean end.  The strait is subject to currents traveling in both directions. The town of Tarifa on the northern side of the strait registers over 30 knots three hundred days of the year.  The strait is only eight miles wide at its narrowest point and as you can imagine there are many cargo ships entering and exiting the Med.  When we intended to leave there was strong wind forecast for the next few days at Tarifa.  We decided around that instead of going to bed we would seize the chance of leaving before the wind increased. The current was against us at the start, but with at the finish. We had a great sail and the strongest wind we recorded was 20 knots at Tarifa. So we said goodbye to the Med and headed for Cadiz which is 75 miles from Gibraltar on the south coast of Spain.

Cadiz foreshore


A Cadiz monument and Cathedral
Cadiz is a busy port with little opportunity to anchor nearby.  We anchored behind the breakwater at Porto Sherry a few miles away on the other side of the bay.  The water temperature was now 24 degrees and Atlantic green.  Not as inviting as the sparkling blue 28 degree Med water but it didn't stop us from having a dip.  The following morning we caught the ferry into town.  Cadiz is very compact with narrow streets making it difficult to photograph some of the beautiful buildings.  We explored Cadiz by way of self guiding walking tours showing different aspects of Cadiz's history.


Peaceful anchorage at Culatra Lagoon

By now we were in radio contact with 'Balvenie' who had been anchored in Culatra Lagoon in Portugal for about a week. Amanda described it as a dream anchorage, flat calm day and night.  We arrived at Culatra Lagoon Friday 9th September at . Amanda had a delicious dinner ready for us; a real treat after sailing since that morning.  We had a most enjoyable night catching up on all the news since we last met in July 2010.  

Happy hour at the local in Culatra town with Mark and Amanda

Culatra Lagoon is huge. There are only 60 boats at anchor here although there is room for a thousand more. There is a small town which has been established on a sand spit.  The whole area is just sand with concrete paths leading to shops, houses and the ferry wharf.  The houses are flat roofed white washed concrete structures. Some of the houses have attempted a garden with pots plants and a few hardy shrubs.  It is hot and dry and I feel like we are in outback Mexico.  The people are very lay back and gather in the local café for drinks every afternoon. We have embraced this tradition as the drinks are cold and very reasonably priced.  Andrew and I have been to the beach in the afternoons. There is a substantial elevated wooden walkway to the beach to protect the sand dune vegetation. The beach reminds us of Australia with long stretches of sand, breaking waves and big blue skies.


Faro Cathedral & views from its tower

The four of us caught the ferry across to the township of Faro. We visited the walled town which dates back to the 1200s. We had lunch there in a Portuguese Café/restaurant and had (believe it or not) a very nice 'hamburger'- how local can we get?

Clare and Andrew overlooking Faro

Another day we caught the ferry to the busy town of IIhoe to do some supermarket shopping and get access to Wifi.  I forgot to take my camera and so I don't have any photos. However it is an attractive town with good facilities, parks and gardens and is geared to the tourist trade with lots of eateries and markets along the waterfront.  

There is a very good ferry service several times a day which runs between the towns. The only trick is to know when the Ferry is arriving. NB this is not necessarily when the timetable says it is arriving. However the locals seem to know, so if we are the only ones standing there, good chance we have it wrong. Oh well the coffee shop is not far away and the coffee is good.

Tonight we are going into Culatra to have dinner. No doubt Amanda and I will plunder the little supermarket again as prices are so cheap. I'm sure the owner of the supermarket is having a bumper week.

Tomorrow we are heading off for Rabat in Morocco.  We will leave in the afternoon to arrive Sunday. It is a river entrance and so we need to arrive there in time for the flooding tide to carry us over the bar.  Now that we are in the Atlantic it is a whole new learning curve taking into consideration tides, currents and rolling swell.  We intend staying at the marina in Rabat for a week. We are hoping to do some land travel to inland Fes and Casablanca further down the coast.

Love Candy xx

PS                    Monday 19th September 2010

We arrived into Rabat yesterday at . We had a good sail and only motored for 10 hours of the 40 hour trip.  Within the last fifteen miles there were many fishing nets to negotiate.  We managed not to get caught up in one but we came awfully close on two occasions. We could hear the floats attached to the nets brushing against our hull.  The marina pilot boat came out to guide us over the sand bar.  The swell was only about 1m so we were fine.

Fresh chickens?

Late yesterday, after a sleep we went for a walk to the Medina. We were shoulder to shoulder with the locals being carried through narrow streets of endless shops.  We could purchase everything from beautiful gold jewelry and electronics down to chickens, dead or alive, your choice.  Wherever there was space, there was a stall; sometimes it was just a rug on the ground. The wailing from the local mosque and the aroma of spices, food stalls, fish markets and over-loaded drains all adds to the atmosphere.  

Welcome to Morocco!