Friday, 4 March 2016

Crossing the Gulf of Cadiz

18-19 Feb: Vilamoura to Chipiona

Thursday morning I was finally ready to leave. Just had to prepare the food for the crossing, check out from the marina, untie the lines and go. I woke up later that I should have. It was almost nine o'clock when I got out of the bed. It was excusable since the last two days were exhausting. 

The auto-pilot clock was displaying 12:03 when I untie the last line and start moving forward. I was leaving Vilamoura, heading to Chipiona, in Andalucia (Spain). The estimated duration of the passage was seventeen hours. The weather was good and the wind was blowing force 5 from North. I hoisted the mainsail with the first reef and Trovoada behave perfectly with the new sail. She sailed most of the way with a good speed - around six knots. 

Leaving Vilamoura, the last Portuguese marina we will be for a while
The passage itself does not have much to report. Steady winds, calm seas, nice sunset, bright moon, and silence. After leaving the Portuguese coast, near Farol island, and until we got close to the Spanish coast, there were almost twelve hours without seeing any other vessel. 

The sunset that will precede a long night away from everything.
It was around three o'clock in the morning when I spotted the first lights in the horizon. As we got closer, it was clear what that lights were. A dozen ships were anchored, lined up in a stretch of sea, several miles from the coast. We managed to sail through them, keeping a safe distance, which was not easy since it was dark and they are relatively close to each other. 

Ships anchored at night. All I had to guide me trough them were their lights. Everything else was pitch dark.
A few miles ahead, when those ships were a mere set of dim points of light, I had the first glimpse of the Chipiona lighthouse signal. As the minutes passed by that white flashes were getting clearer. It was a warm feeling of safety. That light will guide me to my destination.

Approaching Chipiona was not easy. Located at the mouth of Guadalquivir, the harbor is surrounded by shallows with thin deeper channels where one can pass safely. While well marked by buoys, some of them not easily identifiable. Around five o'clock in the morning, I finally finished tying Trovoada and went to sleep. 

Trovoada, moored in Puerto Deportivo de Chipiona, wearing the Spanish courtesy flag.
Next morning I woke up, took a long shower, enjoyed two good breakfasts (one in the boat and another in the marina) and had a work meeting. Them I went to explore the city and buy a SIM card for mobile data. The city is very cozy with typical Andalucian architecture. The churches, for instance, are particularly interesting. Moreover, the Spanish were celebrating Carnaval, so the main roads were full of people strolling, shopping, drinking and eating. 

Church of Nuestra SeƱora del O
Jesus de las Mesericordias Church

Strolling in Chipiona

At the end of the night I went to the lighthouse. Besides being a city's landmark, it was maps guiding light in the previous evening. It was a very tall and well cared lighthouse, built in the 19th century. Such construction is much more than just a landmark, a monument, an architectural masterpiece, or a useful beacon for those at sea. This lighthouse is all that. For me was certainly all that. 

The Chipiona Lighthouse