Portimao to Cadiz

Having had a bit of a scare at Portimao, we are happy to be going, and Maria has vowed never to return.

At this stage we have a choice of whether to day sail along the coast to Mazagon with a further long sail to Cadiz or to cut across the bay and head straight for Cadiz. We agree we have lost enough days and we are keen to make progress so it is off and just keep going until you get to land.

We are not making great speed across the bay as we go past the algarve but we are happy we are effectively catching up a day. It takes nearly eight hours to get past Faro, with its busy airport, a journey that probably takes an hour from anywhere in the algarve. No one said that sailing to places was fast!

As we travel across the bay towards Cadiz, there is a lot of chatter on the radio and it soon becomes clear that there is a major NATO naval exercise underway. We had seen lots of naval ships in Plymouth and had been shadowed as we entered Biscay but a full military escort was beyond our wildest dreams. As we look on AIS, it seems that one ship per group is on AIS but it is disconcerting when they keep calling up other sailing boats explaining that they have a live firing exercise about to start and you may want to move from there….

This has been a long and quite slow journey of over 130 miles so we are expecting to arrive in darkness but Cadiz is such a major port and the detailed plans we have show a very simple entrance to traverse so we have agreed to put aside our usual rule regarding new ports at night. This is also helped by us being under a full moon.

It has gone sunset as we approach the bright lights of Cadiz but we have good visibility and little wind. This helps our decision making since there is a huge bay at Cadiz which makes a great anchorage but is a little exposed to the wind but protected from the swell, if there isn’t any then we are fine. It is easy to imagine the Spanish and French fleets hiding here a few hundred years ago before running towards Trafalgar and Nelson.

It’s 2am when we eventually anchor and we are the only boat there, hopefully not a pointer to problems later but we are confident in our anchoring gear and settle down for a good nights sleep.

The next morning is bright and we have decided to report into the police and customs to show we have arrived. Rather than taking Mariadz into a marina, we agree to drop the rib and the three brits head in.

We go into the real club nautico which in all the guides says can’t take a vessel the size of Mariadz. Maria is taking a good look and is convinced that there would be no problem. Having left the rib safely locked on the docking bay we pop into the office to explain. The people there couldn’t be friendlier and say that the rule forbidding Mariadz is only without prior arrangement. They have a number of berths that could take us. It’s a shame to have to pass up the opportunity but we have plans. The marina kindly let us leave the boat there while we head to the ferry terminal where the port police are located.

After some time and a nice walk across the old walks of Cadiz, we find the port police tucked on the side of the port building. A ring of the bell shows that this seems to be quite a small office but the policeman takes our papers and passports and shortly afterwards returns them, all checked. We feel we have done the right thing as we head back to the boat.

So just quickly lift the rib and we are ready to go. Nothing is that simple on Mariadz as we start to lift the bow and the same davit that had a problem before we started this journey stops working. Maria is of the opinion that we should jury rig it as we did before and get moving but I would like a little time to see if it is fixable.

On investigation, nothing seems wrong in the davit control box but I remembered that one of our recent problems was caused by the switch that controls our automatic shut off system. I flick this switch and the davit is working again although obviously with no safety shut off so I will need to be careful. At least it allows us to get the rib back up easily and put the cover on it before heading off on the part of the journey that Maria has dreaded: the trip down to Gibraltar or down by Orca alley where a pod of killer whales are attacking (sorry I mean interacting!) and disabling boats by chewing off their rudders.

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