Wednesday, 5 November 2014


We settled into our wait on the Guadiana with as much grace as we could muster, using the time to visit friends further up river and a visit to Mertola. Difficult to get to by boat as the river is shallow and rock-strewn, it makes an interesting visit by car. 

 A strong Moorish history and still with a Islamic cultural centre the town clings to the side of a steep ravine overlooking the river. The views are pretty neat as we wandered around (at midday....only the English it seems retain that idiocy to be out in the sun...) Narrow streets, interesting homes and small bars.

The river meanders inland from the coast bordering Spain and Portugal. Totally different languages and time zones crossed by a bridge, foot ferry and zip wire; a few small farms can be seen either side but mostly it appears to be North Europeans who have bought up and restored homes and, as with immigrants everywhere, they tend to favour their own kind resulting in distinct Dutch, German or Brit enclaves.

Rather than sit in one place we opted to sail/motor up and down the river. Some of this was in the belief that the winds were about to shift and we wanted to be at the entrance to take advantage. The changes never came of course so we'd sail partly back up river anchoring where we could get out of the stream. Our favourite place was a little north of Larenjerais as it was quiet with good shelter and an easy hop back up to Ayomonte and San Lucar. 

Over the time we had been there the number of boats had slowly reduced as some continued onto the Med; others went back toward Faro and their winter berths. There were three Wylo's already on the river and we heard that several more were on their way. And so it was-two came in together in a heavy rainfall followed by Nick Skeates the following day. A brief period of visiting followed but as we were sure the latest forecast would hold we soon moved on down river to get ready to leave. Anchored off Ayomonte Marina we dingied in to collect supplies, share a beer with Olly a single-hander we had met and check the forecast. Although we initially decided to wait a day the morning dawned with a fine breeze which seemed a shame to waste and both boats rapidly readied themselves and left on the last of the ebb.

 A slow day followed as the breeze proved fitful and 6pm that evening we were still only 19 miles from the entrance. As happened 11 years ago when we left we were plagued with flies and it took several days before they all disappeared. We were having trouble getting the self-steerer to work properly and drifted in very light winds through the first night. The next day as wind and seas were non-existent Bee went over the side and replaced a part that had wasted away. We also sorted out a bracket that wasn't seating correctly and suddenly we felt we might be in business. But not to be and we struggled on for another day in light winds before it dawned on me that I needed to reduce sail to achieve better balance. So it was and we were away. We had one good day/night as the winds picked up and we romped on with a following sea but that was the only day over 100 miles. No worries the weather was good we weren't in that much of a hurry and Toots having heard the sound of a flying fish landing on deck, racing up the steps devouring the thing was hoping for a second shot. 

In fact the one single bone of contention was the constant stream of chatter/music or general idiocy that came out of the VHF on 16. Although 80-100 miles off the Moroccan coast the propagation for the time we were out there meant the radio could pick up signals from a long way off. We had a conversation with another yacht that was almost 50 miles away whereas ordinarily we might expect 15 mile range. But all through the night Moroccans indulge their childish whims on 16 with never a thought or care about its concept leaving us, at least, fuming.

About a week after we left we closed the coast of Lanzarote to be passed by a catamaran doing 12.8knots in 9knots of wind..... it didn't seem real. We plugged on, debating whether to carry on and enter Marmolas in the dark or heave to and await the morning. In the end we hove to as everything has changed since our last visit - our normal anchorage had been turned into a plush marina and we'd heard that the police were throwing people out of Marmoles. We sailed on down at first light and came into Arrecife where Olly was waiting in the water to dive down with a line and secure us to concrete block.

We've been here close on a week now. The marina is well established and, at the moment, doesn't seem too expensive (under 18 euros for us). It is not possible to anchor off the marina as there simply doesn't seem to be either the room or the water and the police do not want boats anchored in Marmolas. Arrecife still has blocks laid down to which boats are able to connect their own lines although some of the eye-bolts are on their last legs. Luckily ours was in good condition and we were able to get at least two seperate lines around before the wind blew hard from the NE. We moved into the marina (on a very quiet day) to catch up with a friend from our triathlon days, gets Toots up to date with her jabs and make our load up before heading west.

By chance we happened to be in town when a triathlon was being staged and spent most of the day watching the race, cheering folks on and reliving our past... As ever the super fit are very quick but the bulk of the athletes who make up the pack we found, by the end, painful to watch. Partly cos we, or rather I, had been there, and well remember the pain of trying to get through the run after a long swim and bike. All this was 20 plus years ago – Bee was super-fit and we'd met through triathlon. Very competitive she had cajoled me into entering the second Lanzarote Ironman and we duly got through the day. Of course she beat me, easily, but we had a good time and she went onto do several more whereas I retired. We looked in vain to see if we recognised anyone but many of them would have been in kindergarten when we “competed” A good day anyway. 


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