The Bay of Cadiz
We entered the Bay of Cadiz last Friday and our first stop was Rota, a quaint Spanish town that is very close to the American naval base. It also seems to be a popular holiday resort for the Spanish. As such, it has loads of atmosphere, especially after the sun goes down, and a long, rather tacky built up seafront, like many of these European beach resorts.
The passage from Punta Umbria was a fairly long one, compared to the short hops we’ve been doing lately. 55 miles, which equated to about 8 hours of sailing. The sun was out, and it was HOT. Like, sweltering. Even on the water with a breeze, we were sweating and following the shade around the boat as the sun moved.
We hoped that Rota would provide a good base to wait out some bad weather, and so it proved to be. When we arrived, we went for an early evening walk and had a beer. The streets were practically deserted, the bars empty. So we returned later than night for an ice-cream (it was far too hot to go to bed) and boy, what a difference a few hours makes! What had appeared to be a sleepy town, turned into a heaving, noisy and bustling maze of alleyways and laneways all packed with families and beach-goers. We walked around with our rapidly melting ice-creams and soaked up the atmosphere. Oh yes, this would do us just fine!
The next day was a bit of a doozy. Firstly, Kelly got bitten on the eye by a naughty mosquito and it swelled up impressively so that she looked like half a Gollum (on the non-swollen side… hahah, kidding! I jest!). Secondly, the easterly Levante wind started to make itself known. Before long, all the boats in the marina were rocking to and fro, and the water was slapping against the hulls. The palms on the promenade were all blown to one side. Nick turned our instruments on, and the highest speed we spotted was 35 knots. Unbelievably, we actually saw a (British) yacht cast off and make it’s way out of the marina in these conditions! We hoped for his sake he was going downwind. By the evening the wind had eased off, and we ventured out, assuming this was the end of it.
Into town we went for our ice-cream, once again. This time, there seemed to be some kind of grape harvest/wine/cheese festival going on in the main square. There was a long line leading to some stalls handing out wine (it turned out to be sherry) and cheese, and on a raised platform there was a large vat with grapes in it. People were taking turns to crush the grapes underfoot. It looked fun, but the lines were long, and the night was young, so we returned after our perambulation. By this time, a band had set itself up and serenaded us as we took our turn crushing grapes, drinking free sherry, and nibbling on cheese. It was all extremely pleasant.
No sooner had we returned to the marina than the wind picked up again. Nick scuttled around the boat doubling up our lines and all night long we were rocked back and forth by the wind, which we could hear howling through the marina. The next morning was overcast and muggy (even though it was still windy). Eventually, the weather broke and it started to rain. The temperature finally dropped, and we all breathed a sigh of relief.
However, late afternoon the grey sky turned into an odd pale purple-red colour. Kelly was the first to notice. “Hey, look, the sky looks weird.” I glanced at it, grunted in appreciation, then went back to my book. It started to drizzle, and I noticed that the spots of rain on my kindle were a funky red colour. It wasn’t until I looked up and realised that the entire boat was slowly turning a rusty terracotta colour that the penny dropped. I had read about this phenomenon. It was dust from the Sahara, carried all this way in rainclouds (maybe… I’m not sure about the exact science) and now it was falling onto southern Spain. More specifically, our boat.
Needless to say, the next day involved a lot of cleaning and scrubbing, probably by almost everyone in Rota judging from the state of everyone’s cars. The good news is that the hot, muggy conditions had passed, the wind had changed direction, and we could now think about moving on.
Yesterday we did exactly that and made the arduous 5 mile passage to Cadiz. I shall save my musings on this part of Andalucia until a later post, but first impressions are extremely positive. We’ve got a bit going on over the next week and a half- my sister and I are taking a little trip inland to visit Seville and Madrid before she flies back to Australia, and then we’re spending some time with Nick’s mother, who is in Jerez with a friend at the moment. In short, we’ll be based in Cadiz until mid-September, and we’re looking forward to getting to know this interesting and picturesque town in more detail.