Captains Blog 18 Journey to the end of the earth, or Europe at least!

The weather was fine but with little wind the day we left Ayamonte for Mazagon.  We arrived early evening and tied alongside the bouncy visitor pontoon. It was spookily quiet so the decision was made to find and empty mooring and sneak on.

The following morning, we booked in with one poor bloke, juggling multiple balls. The town was a nice and once we’d explored, we headed for the beach. Yes, it was time for the annual beach visit. This 12 monthly nod to the first mate is an exercise in self-control for me. I get bored. Then start to fidget. Then start to torment before the fist mate loses her temper and we can pack up and do something more interesting. Result!

The journey between Mazagon and Chipiona was something of an endurance test. Not due to the winds that had built through the day and kicked up a rough sea state, but the endless lines of fishing pots made up of a single 5 litre plastic container, connected to dozens of 1.5 litre water bottles stretching away from it. You negotiated one, then were immediately trying to avoid the next line, which wasn’t easy to see.

We’d just got through the worst and were trying to make the best of the wind when the coastguard hailed us on the strange fangled wireless thing in the corner. He advised that we change course as we were heading towards shallows. I did as instructed and thanked him. We could see the grounded ship, broken in two and knew it was shallow there as it was shown on the chart, but thought it unwise not to heed the advice.

Chipiona, probably a nice quiet place when there’s not a huge motorbike meet. It was reminiscent of Matlock on a Sunday in the summer, but on a bigger scale and a lot noisier.

We didn’t stay long and ended up having a fab sail down to Cadiz. It’s a lovely town with so much to see. That’s why the population explodes each day when the cruise liner passengers disembark. Is it one liner or possibly two? No! five massive cruise liners. Needless to say, negotiating the city could be a frustrating ordeal until after 6 when things quietened significantly, as the ships left.

It was a beautiful place and we’d have stayed longer but for the fact that we had a weather window to get down to and through the Gibraltar Straits and we needed to make the most of it.

We set off for Barbate on the 9th May and motor sailed the 41 nautical miles there. Just before Barbate is Cabo Trafalgar, scene of Nelsons famous victory over Napoleons combined French and Spanish fleet consisting of 33 vessels. It did make me wonder about the ships and men that went down there and what historical treasures were beneath Gianti.

Barbate was simply an overnight stop so all we really say of it was the marina. It didn’t look like a large Town but the endless line of “mature” folk briskly walking around the marina would suggest otherwise.

Next day we set off with engine running and no wind to report, in the direction of Tarifa. It wasn’t long until we spotted the coast of Africa ca ca ca!! We’d sailed our little boat all the way from Blighty and were within touching distance of the African coast. Bizarre!

The sea started to get rough and the wind began to build as we approached Tarifa and the Straits. We were visited by a large bird of prey on his/her way from Africa to Europe, who decided to rest a while on our boom before deciding it was too much effort and flying off.

There is a pretty constant flow of water heading into the Med from the Atlantic and before we knew it, we were being swept along with it. Engine off, headsail out and we were going at approximately 7 knots.

As we approached the infamous rock, we saw whales rising out of the water just off Europa Point, but before we could get any footage they were gone.

The wind built as we negotiated the huge number of tanker and container vessels anchored in the bay before reaching a very windy La Linea.

So here we were in a Spanish port just across the road (the airport runway) from Gibraltar. First thing to do was head for some UK territory. Passports at the ready and off we set into Spanish passport control, then into UK passport control and safely through.

I don’t know what I expected, though I’d not really had any preconceptions, but it wasn’t really this. There were some things that were familiar but a lot that wasn’t. We met some of the locals. A Scot who’d relocated but hated the Spanish, an Englishman shouting obscenities and abuse at a young Asian couple, a supermarket checkout lady being extremely rude to a Chinese couple who wanted to pay by card for a single item. And then, bizarrely, Vince Cable (obviously not local) walking down the main shopping street with presumably other lib Dem politicians (probably local) with accompanying press. What an odd place!!

That aside there were some real highlights. We walked up and around the rock and saw more Barbary apes than you could shake a stick at. Unbeknown to me one had been eyeing my rucksack as I’d been gawping at the way cloud rolled up one side of the rock in a strange accelerated capillary type action to be launched skyward on the other. Before I knew it, I’d been mounted. He sat on my head and discarding rucksack contents quicker than Cameron’s disappearance after the Brexit vote. He wasn’t happy when he found the plastic container empty, the contents already eaten. Ha, begone ape from hell (Gibraltar) begone!

It is completely bizarre that the main road from Spain to Gibraltar really does cross the airport runway. Each time a plane lands or takes off everything comes to a halt. Barriers come down, stingers are deployed and once it’s all over there’s a mad dash of pedestrians, bikes, scooters, cars and buses to reach the other.

We met some good people while moored in La Linear. Ken and Pamela on Lady Pamela, which Ken had proudly named after his lovely wife, though Pam seemed slightly less enamoured. Ken was from Texas and Pam was a Geordie and they’d recently purchased Lady Pamela, a Nordhaven 65 and were about to head up to Barcelona for her maiden voyage under their ownership.

Then there was Gavin and Jo who’d also recently purchased their sailing vessel Loki Too, a 36’ Mahi Catamaran and had been heading for Portugal before opting to stay in La Linea and head beck to base on the Spanish East coast. All great folk and a pleasure to get to know.

And so, the big day arrived. Karen and Charlie would be with us by the evening and everything needed to be ready. We walked cross to the airport and true to form were late, so missed them coming through the arrivals. They were already in Spain.

We had a great few days together and I suspect that it won’t be the last time that Charlie is coerced onto a boat.

Our last evening together was spent enjoying a drink near the marina before heading back to Spain with the 200 cigarettes Karen had brought for a friend. Spanish border guard was not impressed. We’d missed the allotted time slot to carry 200 fags from UK territory to Spain. We sheepishly returned with the contraband to UK territory. The stash was split 4 ways, cigarettes behind ears, packets opened, all now committed heavy smokers. The bloke who’d refused entry for said tobacco contravention was nowhere to be seen and we waltzed through customs without anyone batting an eyelid!

Next time we’ll be moving around Europa Point and properly into the Med, venturing deep into naked German territory!


Captain Mac

A video for your delight






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