After nine nights at anchor we departed Culatra at first light and sailed east, back into Spain, to Mazagón, on the Andalucia coast. We intended to stay two nights, but the weather had other ideas. What was the point battling south against strong southerly winds, when we could wait it out a few days until we had more favourable conditions.
I cannot tell you what Mazagón is like. In four days I left the marina only twice: once to go to the nearest supermarket, stopping off at a playground on the way, and once to go for a stroll on the small beach nearby. There are times when I just need to rein in the exploring, and this was one of them. Julian and the girls did a little exploring, visiting the church in a nearby town where Columbus’ discovery was officially announced, but they too enjoyed some quiet down time aboard Carina.
After almost a month of hand-washing, it was time for the mother of all laundry days. Nine days in the sand at Ilha da Culatra had left us with a mountain of sandy, salt-water stained clothes, towels and bedding. My first day at Mazagón was devoted to laundry – four loads of it, carried back and forth half a mile to the laundry room on the other side of the marina. I walked four miles around the marina that day, and it was only on the third mile that it struck me that I should have inflated the dinghy and rowed through the mostly empty marina – a quarter of the distance I had walked. Still, the laundry got done, I got some exercise, and I had begun to banish the Culatra sand from Carina.
Having had only one hour of Internet access in ten days, I was keen for news of friends and family and news of the world beyond Culatra. So I sat on the boat, reading and replying to emails, following news stories, listening to Nicky Campbell and Rachel Burden in the morning on BBC Radio 5 Live, turning to Woman’s Hour on Radio 4, back to 5 Live for Richard Bacon in the afternoon and Peter Allen on Drive. It was the run-up to the Scottish Independence Referendum, so Julian and I were glued to the radio, via our laptop, soaking up every bit of information we could get.
From Mazagón we sailed south towards Cadiz. We sailed hard into the wind, making 5 knots if we were lucky, leaning uncomfortably at times. We had rain squalls and sea spray to contend with, and it was the first time in a long time that we had our rain jackets on. At one point we ran through a fleet of almost thirty fishing trawlers, all with their nets out, and manoeuvring through them under sail was so complicated that we rolled in the genoa and motored until we had left them behind.
With the sails out again, we could see the entrance to Cadiz in the distance, but when I tried to steer to port, the wheel made a rather alarming clicking sound, and Carina refused to turn. Starboard was no problem, we could have sailed out into the Atlantic if we wanted (or round and round in circles), but to port she did not want to go. In with the genoa again, motor on and some experimentation, to see what she would and would not do. With the sails in, she was happy to turn to port, and we suspected the problem was us, not Carina. The sails were set to the wind in such a way that she could not turn. Still, the clicking sound was worrying, and we decided on caution, and motored the rest of the way in, imaging the fun we would have if the wheel failed and we had to rig up the emergency tiller, and steer while standing on our bed in the aft cabin peering out through the aft hatch!
We arrived in Cadiz marina shortly after 7pm (an entire blog post devoted to our recent marina experiences to follow!). Anticipating an entire day of diagnosing and fixing helm problems, Julian went for a walk to catch a glimpse of Cadiz before dark, while the girls and I had supper on board. Our supper in the cockpit was accompanied by the sounds of a brass band coming from the direction of the city, so as soon as we had eaten we threw on our shoes and headed in that direction. We bumped into Julian on the way, and together we walked along, past band after band practising along the promenade. They all played different tunes, some had loud drums, some just brass instruments. But the effect was incredible, and Katie caught the dancing bug, and the rest of us soon followed suit. Far into the early hours of the morning, long after we had gone to bed, we could still hear the brass bands practising!
Cadiz is renowned for its beauty and history. And, indeed, it is beautiful and historical. But we wondered if more is made of it due to its large reliance on cruise ships. We have been to far more beautiful but far less celebrated cities in Spain, and we found Cadiz to be quite expensive and catering very much to the deep-pocketed tourists who disembark multiple cruise ships every day. The streets are very beautiful, and we visited some lovely churches, but the fee to enter the cathedral was more than we could afford, and I was truly disappointed to see the state of disrepair of the Roman theatre. This was built in 60-70BC and is the largest such theatre on the Iberian Peninsula. But having survived over 2000 years, it is now scrubby and dirty, closed to tourists, graffitied and miserable. What an amazing cultural and historical site abandoned for who knows what reason.
Walking back to the marina we had to take shelter from a thunder storm. The colours of the sky and sea were majestic! Julian’s exploration of the steering mechanism came up blank, and so the next day we set out again, towards Barbate, inching closer to the Mediterranean each day.