One year on the Río Guadiana

Next week marks a year since we sailed Carina into the Río Guadiana. I wasn’t sure what to expect as we turned north from the Atlantic coast of southern Spain and into the river, but it wasn’t this. Live aboards we met on Ilha da Culatra in the autumn of 2014 sang the praises of the river and told us we had to check it out. We sailed past on our way into the Mediterranean, but sailing west back out of the Med seven months later, we thought we’d better go see what all the fuss was about.

I had heard of the strong floods that visit the river from time to time, and I knew there were two marinas not far from the river mouth – Ayamonte in Spain and Vila Real de Santo Antonio in Portugal. And I knew the river was navigable some way up. Beyond that I knew nothing. I had seen no photographs or charts, read no pilot books or websites, and had only vague recollections of conversations in the bar in Ilha da Culatra months before.

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Boats (including Carina) at anchor in the river

In my imagination I saw a smaller river, darkened by overhanging trees. I suppose because the flooding was upmost in my mind, I saw pewter skies overhead, pregnant with rain. I imagined a river running through a rainforest, not a river in drought-prone southern Iberia.

So much for my imagination. I remember the most surprising thing upon first entering the river was its width and the flatness of the surrounding land. We spent our first night in the marina in Vila Real de Santa Antonio, on the outside pontoon, with a clear view across almost a kilometre of river to Ayamonte in Spain. We arrived just after dawn on a cloudless day. Vila Real, with its predominantly white architecture and paving, was bright and fresh. I looked across the fast flowing river to the vast expanses of sand dunes and beaches south of Ayamonte and laughed at how wildly off target my imagination had been.

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Looking across to Spain from Portugal

Our plan was to motor twenty-two miles upriver to some place that had pontoons and good anchoring. Beyond that, I knew nothing. Once again I had no idea what to expect. We departed Vila Real on the flood tide and motored for four hours through a riparian landscape that grew narrower and more hilly the farther north we went. I was agog at each new splendid and surprising sight – herds of sheep and goats on the hillsides, white washed cottages and large haciendas, orange and lemon groves, herons and egrets, cormorants and swallows, fish throwing themselves bodily out of the water.

We passed a couple of small settlements and clusters of yachts on moorings, and then twenty-two miles up we rounded a bend in the river and ahead were the splendid whitewashed villages of Alcoutim and Sanlúcar, facing each other across 200 metres of river, the latter overlooked by a massive white fortification on a nearby hill. As we slowed, a man (who we later discovered to be Ted) came up in his dinghy and advised us on a good place to anchor. We anchored south of the villages, turned off the motor and I was thrilled by the sounds I heard – sheep bleating and the heavy bells around their necks ringing, a donkey braying, and woven through it all, birdsong. Could we have found ourselves in a more delightful place?


Sanlucar (foreground) and Alcoutim (background)

We didn’t intend to stay very long. As I recall, we had a vague plan to make our way back to Galicia. Yet the Guadiana sucked us in. After a couple of weeks we decided to register the girls in school for the start of the next school year, thus committing ourselves to the river for the medium term at least. The unexpected five months back in the UK did nothing to dim our enthusiasm for the river and we returned in November keen to fully immerse ourselves in river life again.

And here we are. Carina has not left the river in a year, the girls are in school, and we find ourselves part of three communities. We are inevitably part of the ex-pat community of yachties and small-holders, people from diverse backgrounds who have been here for days or months or decades. One of the unexpected side effects of the girls going to school is that we have become part of the community in Sanlúcar, as outsiders of course, but nonetheless welcomed and accepted by the other families in the village, as we take the girls to birthday parties, and participate in school and community activities. And in Alcoutim we have come to know a small number of local people.


That first nerve-racking morning of school now seems so long ago!

We continue to delight in walking the many paths up and down the river or east and west away from the river. We enjoy the changes that come with each season. All four of us continue to improve our Spanish language abilities, to learn more about local history, culture and politics, and to find ways to contribute to community life.

And now it is coming close to decision time. Do we stay or do we go? Our conversations on this topic are long and frequent. We have reasons to stay and reasons to go. I guess you’ll have to watch this space and see what conclusion we reach in the next month or so!


Marbella to Marina Smir

As the high rise holiday apartment developments thin out west of Benalmádena, the coastal woodlands gradually increase so that, to the east of Marbella, the more expensive and up-market holiday developments are nestled amongst shady copses of dark-green leaved trees.

We stopped at Marbella simply to make the crossing to Morocco shorter. The passage from Benalmádena was a mere three hours and we arrived in Marbella in the early afternoon, in plenty of time to hit the beach and then to explore the town after supper.

We almost didn’t get a berth at the marina, arriving as we did at the start of a weekend regatta. But they squeezed us in for a whopping €28. I was tempted to say ‘no thanks’, rather than hand that much money over.

The beach was a stone’s throw from the marina and we quickly changed into our swimsuits and, for once, all four of us spent the afternoon on the beach. Much of the beach was taken up with rows of umbrella-shaded sun loungers. Like all resorts, daily rental of these sun loungers costs €4 or more and so, like all resorts we have been to, the sun loungers are mostly empty (although we’ve never been to these places in high season) while the holiday-makers lie on their towels on the beach. The narrow strip of beach between the sun loungers and the sea was, therefore, crowded with people not willing to pay for unnecessary sun loungers.

We were surprised at how few people were in the water. It was a hot afternoon, the beach was crowded, yet the water was mostly empty. Was there something wrong? We hesitantly dipped our toes in and soon Julian and I were out of our depth, swimming in the warm water, while the girls played chest deep in water on a soft sand-covered sea bed. I came in a little closer to shore and Lily repeatedly swam between me and the shore.

DSCI0155After dinner aboard Carina, Katie drew our attention to a group of girls dancing nearby wearing white flamenco dresses and waving handkerchiefs and we raced off the boat to find out what was going on. What luck! We had stumbled upon the opening ceremony of the Fifth Marbella International Folklore Festival. There were participants from a rather random selection of countries, all dressed in national costumes – Germany, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Easter Island, Chile, Ecuador, Venezuela and Scotland – as well as multiple Spanish groups.

After some long speeches by the event organisers and a parade of all the participants across the stage, the Easter Islanders kicked the festival off with two lively songs and dances. They were followed by Germany and Russia, both of whom faced technical glitches with the recorded music that accompanied their dances. By the time the lone Scottish bagpiper took the stage, the audience was busy eating the free tapas that were going around, and no-one paid him any attention. He looked uncannily like my friend Gavin, and when he walked past after his performance, Julian complemented him on his piping. We were more than a little surprised when he spoke in Spanish-accented English!

DSCI0157We wandered through Marbella, past a series of sculptures by Salvador Dali and into the old part of the town with its stone mosaic pavements, orange tree-lined squares and a phenomenal number of shoe shops. We ended the night in a small square, listening to a great live band performing songs from the 1960s and 70s. Lily danced with abandon and Katie complained that it was all too noisy!

DSCI0159Julian and I were up early next morning and underway before 8am, our engine shattering the stillness of the early morning Mediterranean. The mountains rose sharp and majestic behind Marbella and its neighbouring towns and a few fishing boats plied the waters in the distance. Our destination, Marina Smir in Morocco, lay 50 miles away, on the other side of one of the world’s busiest shipping routes. The west wind was forecast to increase through the day and, after a couple of hours of motoring, we cut the engine and sailed, albeit a few degrees off course.

DSCI0166By noon we were seeing commercial vessels travelling east to west towards the outbound traffic separation scheme in the Strait of Gibraltar. With so many large vessels heading in our general direction, extra vigilance was called for. But we made it through the shipping lanes – the northern lane heading west and the southern lane heading east – with little trouble, only needing to briefly alter course once.

The west wind whipped through the Strait and we sailed close hauled, leaning hard to port, making for a tiring and, at times, uncomfortable sail. The girls got frustrated when their Play Mobil camper van and assorted Play Mobile people and accessories refused to stay on the saloon table, even with the non-slip table mat in place, and kept sliding down on top of the girls where they sat.

We hoped the wind, which gusted at times to 24 knots, would subside once we reached the other side of the Strait, but the current and wind now pushed us thirty degrees off course and though we were averaging five knots over ground, we weren’t getting much closer to our destination. In the end, we took in the genoa and motored the final ten miles, battling against wind and current and spray breaking over the bow and cockpit hood, to Marina Smir on the eastern side of the Tanger Peninsula. The Rif Mountains rose rugged and multi-layered to the south, and the entire length of the peninsula was banded by a golden strip of sandy beach.

We had left Spain behind for the time being and were about to enter Morocco.

Moody weather

While Julian and the girls were away I spent my days in t-shirts and shorts, changing into something warmer each evening for going to work. Even during the storm force winds, it was pretty warm. Each morning as I went on my 4km walk along the seafront, I imagined how lovely it would be for my father-in-law, Barry, to bring his early morning Thermos cup of tea, and sit on a bench or walk along the beach, smoking his pipe and watching the spectacular sunrises over the sea in the direction of Cabo de Gata.

DSCI0057Julian, the girls and Barry were due to catch the Portsmouth to Santander ferry on Wednesday, February 4th. But a couple of days before, the ferry was postponed for 24 hours due to poor weather conditions. And just as well, as it turned out. Had they been on the Wednesday ferry they might have been among the 220 motorists who had to be rescued along the motorway from Santander towards Madrid, due to severe weather conditions and snowdrifts blocking the roads.

When they finally arrived in Santander on Thursday evening, the three-hour drive to their overnight accommodation turned into an almost six-hour drive, through driving snow and sleet. Julian and his dad had been worrying about snow in the UK, but had never imagined having to contend with far worse conditions in Spain.

By the time they reached Aguadulce on Saturday evening, it was freezing cold. Somehow, we avoided snowfall here, but snow fell all around. I haven’t experienced such biting cold aboard Carina since early spring 2013 in the UK. For days we have kept the weather boards in, as protection against those biting north-easterlies. Instead of strolling the promenade in the early morning, Barry, dressed in thermal underwear, flannel shirt, woolly jumper and winter coat, sits in his car for an early morning puff of his pipe.

The weather is also proving far from consistent. Following days of this piercingly cold wind, Wednesday was warm enough for shorts and t-shirts again. We basked in it, drinking in the warm sunshine. Lily and Katie even donned their wetsuits and took a dip in the sea. I hoped this might be the return of the good weather.

From Wednesday...

From Wednesday…

But the next day, Thursday, brought prolonged heavy rain and we were back to wrapping up warmly again. Thursday

…to Thursday

Oh, I’m not complaining. I just want some warm sun to shine down on my father-in-law to compensate for his winters in the UK Midlands. We’ll get warm weather aplenty in the coming months. Back in the UK, he might not.

Batten down the hatches

We had been expecting high winds for a few days. On Thursday afternoon, one of the mariñeros told me to prepare for a windy night ahead. But the predicted high winds failed to materialise. By lunch-time Friday the wind had started to howl, rattling through the rigging of the boats in the marina, causing Carina to strain and jolt uncomfortably on her mooring lines. On the high cliff road from Aguadulce to Almería I looked out across the sea. There were white caps as far as the eye could see out across the Mediterranean, and the huge swell rolled in, crashing with spectacular white foam against the orange cliffs beneath the road. Three hours later, when I came home from work, I was battered by the wind as I made my way to the boat.

All night long the wind grew stronger, furiously shrieking through the masts and rigging of the boats all around, fenders squeaking and moaning as boats rubbed together in the swell and wind that moved them in and out of synchronicity. The noise carried below deck by a loose rope slapping against the mast led me gingerly out on deck to try to locate the offending rope and secure it away from the mast. Three times I thought I had found the right rope. Three times I was wrong.

I checked the stern fenders were secure and made sure the mooring lines were secured around the cleats fore and aft. All night long Carina jolted and lurched, throwing me wide awake with a feeling like airplane turbulence. Each time I drifted off only to be suddenly thrown awake again. At some point in the night I became aware that the sound of the wind had changed. It had become more high pitched, more pure, and it felt as though Carina had been lifted up and was falling down and down.

I woke after an uncomfortable night and discovered that the weather station 10km down the coast at Roquetas de Mar had recorded wind speeds of 72km/hour (39 knots, F8) and one gust of 119km/hour (64 knots, F12).

I didn’t leave Carina all Saturday morning. The wind continued unabated and I stumbled around like a drunk as I tried to make breakfast and get dressed. On deck I checked for damage, but there was none, only a thick layer of brown grit covering every surface. By early afternoon the wind had died down and I ventured ashore – to take a shower, do the laundry and do some grocery shopping. I went for a walk along the seafront and surveyed the damage. Palm fronds littered the beach front and, in some cases, the entire tops of palms trees had fallen down. The sea was calmer than the previous evening, but still the big swell rolled in, and waves bigger than I’d seen before at Aguadulce crashed farther up the beach than I’d seen them come before.

After dark the wind rose again and, for a second night I listened to it howl and shriek around Carina, lifting and dropping her, pushing her this way and pulling her that. Another sleepless night for me as I worried about unidentified noises and listened to the ropes straining against the force of the wind on the boat, and the fenders rubbing against the boat to port.

By early Sunday morning all was calm and there was nothing for me to do but hose down the deck and the rigging and watch streams of brown grit pour down the sides of the boat into the sea.

Someone took my lemons

You know the saying ‘When God gives you lemons, make lemonade’? Or, in my case, lemon curd. But what happens when those lemons are taken away again before you have a chance to do anything productive with them?

We faced such a dilemma this past week when plans we had in place since early August changed suddenly and unexpectedly. Nearly five months earlier we had been asked to house and dog sit for a week at New Year so, despite our general lack of short- or medium-term planning, this week had been set in stone. We eliminated all other possibilities and honed in on making ourselves available to do this favour. And now that we had that week set in stone, we decided to plan accordingly. The girls and I would be off the boat for the whole week, leaving Julian free to get on with a huge number of jobs on his to-do list – sanding, varnishing, spring cleaning the lazarette, repairing the sails, etc. He would visit us in the apartment and spend some nights with us, but most of his week would be devoted to the boat.

Carina in a state of undress

Carina in a state of undress

I, meanwhile, planned to take advantage of being in Almeria to do lots of fun things, which are otherwise too expensive when we have to factor in the price of bus journeys from and to Aguadulce. And, of course, the girls were wildly excited about the prospect of taking care of a dog for a week, and that experience would have been amazing for them. In addition to all this fun, I planned to complete the first draft of my book before we moved back aboard Carina. With a TV in the apartment, I planned to let the girls watch one movie each evening, giving me one and a half hours of writing time, and to continue writing for two or three hours each night after the girls had gone to bed. That would surely put the first draft of the book to bed too.

Twenty-four hours before we were due to move into the apartment, unexpectedly and for reasons unrelated to us, the plans changed and we found ourselves adrift. What were we to do? The maintenance and repair jobs would now be much more difficult to accomplish with us under Julian’s feet. And, as I’ve written before, the simple tasks of cooking, cleaning, and day-to-day life take so much more time on a boat, so the time for fun activities and writing were now drastically curtailed.

First we got annoyed. And then we got practical. Rather than viewing the changes to this long-planned-for week as ruinous, we reassessed our priorities and we set about achieving what we could. Instead of thinking of it as a week, we saw in front of us eleven days until I had to return to work. Julian’s boat jobs needed daylight and my writing could be done after dark. The varnishing of weather boards and the oiling of the boat’s external teak needed to be done at a certain time of day – after the early morning dew had lifted, but early enough so they would dry before the evening dew descended.

Weatherboards drying in the early morning sun

Weatherboards drying in the early morning sun

I took over all the household chores that are usually shared or done by Julian – cooking, cleaning, laundry, food shopping. When Julian attempted to clean the heads one day I shooed him away – no point him wasting time doing jobs that I can do. I involved the girls in all those activities, taking their maths and English books to the launderette, so they could work while we waited. Many of the chores had us off the boat for considerable lengths of time.

The girls and I went for long walks on the beach. As well as taking our balls and bats and new origami set (I love it!), I took my pen and notebook and, while the girls played at playgrounds or played games with other kids, I squeezed in what handwriting I could, ready to transcribe to the laptop once the girls were in bed.

When we were at home, we stayed as much out of Julian’s way as possible. He sanded, varnished and oiled. He removed sails. He cleaned the decks and the cockpit. Sometimes the girls helped, but when helping turned to hindering, I took them away again.

And Julian took them away from me, late in the afternoons when the light was fading and he could no longer work effectively. Sure, I had dinner to make, but I also managed to write.

I’m going back to work tomorrow and I have to admit that neither of us has achieved what we had hoped. I’m still roughly 15,000 words from the end of the book. And Julian has accomplished only about 20% of what he would have expected to if he had had the boat to himself. This week we’ve also had to contend with having no electricity for two days due to a fault on the pontoon, and a blocked toilet that Julian’s had to take apart.


But we could look at it another way. I’m 6,000 words closer to the end of the draft than I was before December 28th. Carina’s exterior woodwork is in better condition now than at any time since we have owned her. And we’ve had experiences that we wouldn’t have had if we had been in Almeria all week. Lily and Katie have met and played with lots of children at the local playgrounds all week. Katie and I spent a morning visiting Bill and Rosemary on a neighbouring boat. Jesus, on the boat across the pontoon from us, gave us a bucketful of freshly caught red sea bream. And yesterday morning, while out for my walk, I met Katie and Kalle, a young German couple living and travelling in a VW camper van, and they spent the afternoon aboard Carina with us.

Things don’t always work out the way you’ve planned. Unexpected changes can occur, leaving you feeling stranded. And we did feel stranded at first, when our five-months-in-the-making plan was turned on its head with no warning. But if there’s one thing that sailing teaches you, it’s that you can’t rely on plans. Weather systems and unexpected boat problems can alter the best laid plans. Friends we’ve made along the way this past year have had their sailing plans curtailed by, in one instance, a split wooden mast that needed to be replaced, and, in another, the need to install a new engine. But what can you do? Go with the flow, make the most of the opportunities you have and, if your lemons are taken away, you better have some recipes for a bucket-load of bream up your sleeve!

Goodbye Atlantic. Hello Mediterranean

There was an air of anticipation on board Carina last Sunday morning as we prepared for our passage through the Straits of Gibraltar and into the Mediterranean. The previous day as we sailed from Cadiz to Barbate, the mountains of Morocco appeared on the horizon to the south. Africa!! We briefly toyed with abandoning our plan and setting a course for Tangiers. We imagined a few weeks in Morocco before getting back on course. But in the end we settled on our original plan. Morocco’s not going anywhere. Maybe we’ll pay a visit later in the year or next spring.

Our thrilling first glimpse of Morocco

Our thrilling first glimpse of Morocco, just visible on the horizon

We were delighted to meet our friends aboard Mallemok again. They arrived in Barbate a couple of hours after we did and next morning we set out together for the Straits and the Mediterranean, maintaining radio contact as we went.

Mallemok with one of the Pillars of Hercules, on the Moroccan coast, in the background

Mallemok against the backdrop of one of the Pillars of Hercules, on the Moroccan coast

It was a calm almost windless day with no possibility of sailing, so we motored along, watching our speed over ground outpace our log speed by one and a half knots, as the current through the Straits caught hold of Carina and sped us along.

Before long Mallemok called to tell us a pod of dolphins had just passed and were headed our way. It had been a long time since we’d last encountered dolphins and these were particularly active. They leaped and splashed, but paid little attention to us, merely passing us going in the opposite direction. It seemed the fishing was good, and a great number of seabirds were diving too.

The mountains on the Moroccan coast grew ever larger and I felt the thrill of seeing Europe and Africa together, in the same view. The wind picked up as we neared Tarifa. Wind speeds at Tarifa, where the Straits narrow to only eight miles, run at 30 knots for three hundred days of the year! We caught it on an only slightly less windy day, passing Tarifa on our northern side, with one of the Pillars of Hercules looming majestic to the south.

Europe and Africa, separated by only 8 miles

Europe and Africa, separated by only 8 miles

There was quite a lot of traffic through the Straits – container and cargo ships – but I had expected more. We were far from the shipping lanes, close to shore, and once we passed Tarifa and entered the Mediterranean the wind abated, as we expected it would.

It is strange to say, but once we were in the Mediterranean the colour of the sky changed. Suddenly, in every direction, the atmosphere close to the horizon was yellow – dust, we assume, from the Spanish Costas or the Sahara Desert or both.

With the current in our favour we sped along and within a couple of hours the Rock of Gibraltar came into sight, appearing more jagged and grey and strange the closer we got.

The Rock of Gibraltar, still over an hour away

The Rock of Gibraltar, still over an hour away

Traffic in Gibraltar Bay was heavy – fast ferries linking Tangiers to Algeciras in Spain, massive cargo ships, tug boats and pilots, and British naval vessels. We had to slowly pick our way through these, having to stop dead in the water at one point while a cargo ship passed in front of us and a speedy catamaran ferry from Morocco passed behind. At the same time a pod of playful dolphins decided to come and check us out!

As well as the excitement of reaching the Mediterranean, we were also feeling nervous about the passage. For me it was nervousness like the first time I drove a car in Dublin, or around the M25 in London, or the first time I night sailed. Passing through the Straits of Gibraltar we were nervous about the current, about the shipping, and about the traffic in Gibraltar Bay. We needn’t have worried about the first two, and the traffic in the Bay merely required vigilance and patience. But we had one final concern.

Since leaving the UK we’ve known at some point we would have to berth fore and aft, rather than alongside a finger pontoon, as we are used to. There have been marinas where we expected to have to do it, but upon arrival have discovered different berthing arrangements in place. But in Gibraltar we knew there was no escape.

Carina kicks to port when going astern, so reversing is difficult, and reversing into a tight space between two other boats was not something we relished having to do. But when our moment came, we did it. Or rather, Julian did it – I can’t reverse (car or boat) for toffee. Slowly he eased Carina into a space not a foot wider than she is, while I tied us on astern and we quickly picked up mooring lines to the front. Phew. Well, that’s that done and hopefully we’ll feel less nervous about doing it in the next place.

So here we are in the Mediterranean, a mere one hundred and eleven days since leaving Plymouth. We could have flown here in two and a half hours. But that wouldn’t have been half the fun.

As the Japanese poet Matsuo Basho wrote, ‘Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home’.

Mazagon and Cadiz

Bidding farewell to Culatra at sunrise.

Bidding farewell to Culatra at sunrise.

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.

Yet another onboard birthday for Katie...

Yet another onboard birthday for Katie…

...thar she blows!

…thar she blows!

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.

Lily engrossed in 'George's Marvellous Medicine'

Lily engrossed in ‘George’s Marvellous Medicine’

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!

The sea and sky during a thunder storm

The sea and sky during a thunder storm

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 city hall.

Cadiz city hall.

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.

Cadiz Cathedral.

Cadiz Cathedral.

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.