2012 - Spain, Portugal and Madiera

Death in the Afternoon

When Hemingway romanticised the bull fights and bull fighters of Spain many years ago they were, I am sure, not as scripted as the fight I saw in the small Plaza de Toros of Torrimalimos.  I had read Hemingway's account many years ago and thought I understood the ritual but as the afternoon wore on I realised that today the authorities have ensured that the script is followed.
The arena in Torrimamilinos is quite small, it was only half full and the event has held on a Thursday afternoon.  We had taken a bus to the town and walked up the hill to the venue arriving early to purchase our tickets “Sombra” in the shade.  We joined a good crowed at a local pub to have a few beers before the event.
After a parade of carrages around the ring and the traditional sounding of the trumpet fan fare the bull enters.  He runs out of the dark tunnel into the bright light of the arean and is attracted to a scarlet cape in the far corner held by a toreador, he charges over only to see the cape disappear behind a sturdy wooden barrier, then an other cape appears opposite and he charges towards that, but that too disappears, then a third when at last the matador with the same colour cape appears and does some rather nice passes with the bull who at this time is fresh with no wounds.  The crowd love this section and ole and call out.  This is what I came to see. 
But the script prescribes that the cape again appears from behind a barrier and the bull's attention is held as two well padded and blindfolded horses plod into the arena.  One stand in front of the judges box and a man on foot attracted the bull's attention.  The matador flashes a cape and the bull again charges then he sees the horse but he is only a few meters away so he charges the horse and tries to lift it off its feet but during this session the picador stabs him in the top of his neck with a long lance and inflects a massive wound in the top of his neck.  The dark red blood flows down his side read for a skilled matador to brush against.
Now the real brave blokes come into the arena with two long barbed sticks.  The stand with arms raised and call the bull, he rushes towards them but they scamper off to one side and as the bull passes stick the ??? into his neck.  Brave men.  They disappear behind the screen as the bulls attention is taken by the capes.
Now is the time of the matador who is supposed to spend time judging  the bull and his charge, and if he charges straight or tosses left or right.  The matador has now changed to a heavy red cape which is held out  with a sword.  The bull charges at the red movement with is head low but to no avail, it is always in front of him.  Charge and turn. Charge and turn.  No Matador or movement in front of him.  At times he stops just to get his breath.  The top of his neck is just a mass of blood as the initial jab bleeds and the ??? swing from side to side.  I understand that they are used to lower the bulls head so that the matador can get a clear sword strike behind the shoulder right into the heart.
The next ritual is for the matador with the sword drawn get the bull to charge closer and closer to his body and to turn at the end but not to fall.  The closer and the better the turn and the crowed roar their approval.  Finally when the bull is exhausted and his head has dropped the matador stand ready with a new sword outstretched towards the bull, cape lowered and the bull charges with head down.  A good matador will insert the sword with one swift movement right up to the hilt and the bull will turn, look at the matador and fall over dead.  That occurred once of the six bulls that entered the ring.  On more than one occasion the sword hit bone and sprang away.  On another the matador missed and the bull got his cape while a particularly brave bull was given a reprieve by the judge, first a orange then a green handkerchief over the front of the judges box and the matador backs off and the bull runs out of the arena.
As soon as the bull falls over the assistances run in and cleanly kill the bull with a sharp knife to a spot behind the head.  The two mules then come in and the butcher drags the bull out of the ring to be slaughtered.
The ritual occurred six times during our afternoon, scripted almost to the minute.  The matador had very little to work with and in my opinion the bulls moved quite slowly with little initiative.  I must say the bull that got the reprieve did charge more than the others and did not look down but held his head up high.  It was never an even contest but the script ensures that it does not get out of hand.  The crowed in the arena was quite thin and I would say not very well educated so we did not get the response that I would have expected.
I doubt that I would go again but bull fighting is so much part of the Spanish national tradition I could not miss the event.
Have a look at my photos here

Malua is at 36:10.940N 05:55.43W at Barbate on 13/9/2012

The anchor dropped with a relieving splash as the sun set after a harrowing day fighting our way out of the Mediterranean into the Atlantic. We stopped just outside the fishing harbour off a long beach. Luckily the swell and wind had abated for both Pete and I needed the rest after the stress of the Gibraltar Straits.
The next morning we upped the hook and started the passage to Cadiz taking a wide berth from Cape Trafalgar. The famous site of Nelson last battle. It looked very benign the morning we passed.
We also passed Cadiz and entered the marina at Rota on the opposite side of the bay to stay a few days while traveling inland to Seville.

Christopher Columbus set off from Spain from near the spot that we are currently anchored or so the cruising guide states. We left Rota after a few days land travel and set sail so to speak because we have had very little wind and the iron genny has been working overtime. We weaved our way through the numerous net buoys that are all over the shallower waters of this coast. It was a long uneventful day as we approached the entrance of the River Rio de Huelva. It is a well marked channel and very deep as we found out as we motored up river past large gaz and fuel processing plants and docks. We passed a number of large and powerful tugs who where busy escorting and large oil carrier was bound for sea.
We went quite a long way up the river where it divided and dropped the anchor in five meters of water. The current had just turned and the wind dropped so we settled down to a quiet night. In the morning the wind had come up and the current turned so we were drifting towards the bank. I had visions of the Canals of France with just mud under the keel however the wind dropped and the current took over and soon we where lying parallel to the bank with just over one meter below the keel.
The day was declared a lay day and we stayed anchored for the day to do the odd jobs that we had put on hold over the past week. The major one was to establish if the 8HP yamaha had in fact given up the ghost. After about three hours and numerous attempts to get it to start plus removing and cleaning the carburettor about four time it started and then continued to run. what a relief as I left the mother ship and headed up wind with the throttle half open. The motor continued to run and it was declared safe to use in open water. The tiny 2.8 HP put away for another day. We are due to anchor up some river over the next few days so the larger outboard will come in handy as we have to travel the longer distance to get into the marinas.

Malua is at 37:12.70N 07:24.40 at Ayamonte Marina on 19/09/2012

We left the quiet river banks of the river near Huelva watched by the statue of Christopher Columbus and motored with the outflowing tide past the large gas refinery and the number of large gas carrying vessels loading the local produce. As we reached the sea we turned westwards and set a course or the next major river mouth with a suitably deep entrance. We had timed our arrival two hours before the high water to take advantage of the depth and inflowing tide. The cruising guide warned to keep close to the port bank as we entered the river, which we did but found that the depth with the three meter tide was in our favour. The entrance is not that wide but at least 5 meters deep. On the port side is Portugal while on the starboard is Spain. We chose a marine on the Spanish side and with a fast flowing current aimed the bow down river of the entrance. The current slowed once we where inside the entrance but the depth was reduced to about 1 meter under the keel. This will limit our movement out with the 3 meter tidal range. We will have to wait for the approach of high water before we can leave.
We checked in at the Ayamonte Marine next to a Norwegian yacht we have encountered along the coast. The local supermarket supplied the vitals for the evenings meal.

Malua is at 37:27.97N 07:28.09W on Alcontina on 22/9/2012

We have Spain on the East and Portugal on the West as we motored up the river between the two countries. It was very much like the rivers of France so I was always watching the depth gauge as we proceeded up river. To my surprise there are about 40 yachts anchored in the river and quite a community as we found out passing a large wooden trading yacht. There was a party in progress piano, drums, and numerous guitars. We anchored collected a few things for a BBQ. By nightfall the beat was intense and the decks where full of sailors - some of them had sailed all over the world. A very interesting evening.
Pete and I jumped into the rib to head home and the big motor would again not start. Luckily the strong current and tide was flowing down stream on route for Malua.

Malua is at 36:59.99N 07:50.31W at Olhao on the Rio Formosa on 24/09/2012

We anchored in the fairway of Ayamonte so we could get a good start with the outgoing tide for the short hop of 25 nm west along the coast to the next river mouth and anchorage.  The sea was very confused as we left the shelter of the break-wall.  The wind was more south than west but the cloud cover was dark with a clear depression south west of us well out to sea.  As we sailed westward the horizon darkened and the rain came towards us.  As is the case the wind was on the nose and in the 12 to 18 kn range.  I had taken in one reef in the main and had the stay sail out but the chop slowed our progress to almost nil.  After unfurling the genoa Malua started to pull ahead and we tacked our way along the coast.  The rain came - the first I have seen since the UK in July and the boat got a good wash only to have the salt spray all over the decks as we crashed our way into the short chop.  As we moved westwards the swell increased as did the period.  We were in no rush because we had to wait for the tide to turn and come in between the break-walls on a half rising tide.  The wind picked up as we approached as did the well and we made a cautious entrance in 22 knots of cross wind but a deep entrance.
The Rio Formosa is a huge delta with sand dunes along the coast. A shallow channel leads towards the town almost 2 miles from the coast.  At low tide it dries so we along with a number of other yachts dropped our anchor next to a isolated fishing village perched on the sand strip between the ocean and the delta lagoon.  It has a small fishing harbour.
The wind was still blowing as the sun set and we turned in for an early night.

Malua is at 37:07.74N 08:31.59 at Portimao on 26/09/2012

We left the Straits of Gibraltar with little wind but it increased from the west, since that day we have had wind with a westerly component in them which in sailing terms if you are going westwards is on the nose. Now gentlemen only sail down wind but there again men of leisure have lots of time on their hands. We on Malua want to cover the ground and get to new destinations so waiting for the wind to come from behind is not really an option. We either beat into the wind like yesterday when we covered 60 nm to travel only 35 nm along the coast or motor which is not what we do.
We are almost at the corner of southern Portugal where the coast turns north towards Lisbon. The forecast for the next week is northerly winds with a few days above 15 knots so again we would have to beat into the wind to make Lisbon.
So if the wind wont come to Malua, we change destinations. We are off to Madeira. It is about a three day sail south and with the winds from the north we will have them behind us in true gentlemanly style. The cruising guide speaks highly of the island so we hope to have a few days on the island before heading east to Rabat in Morocco. Now which way will the winds blow for that passage? It doesn’t look good but we can only hope. We may even have to change destinations again and work our way up the coast in short hops.

Malua is at 34:29.97N 13:35.13W at sea on 1/10/12

Yesterday after the strong winds of the previous night was great sailing.  The wind was aft of the beam and we were romping along with one reef, stay sail and Genoa out.  There was a bit of a cross sea so all was not smooth down below.  Pete and I both caught up on some sleep.  I ran the generator for two hours to charge the battery because the autopilot and fridge was draining is at about 10 amps.  That done we settled down to a easy passage through the night with a big full moon.
Suddenly a call on the radio.  Please look out for the two yachts on a collision course with you.  The AIS had just picked up on at about five miles on the starboard side and well clear.  I could not see the other on the AIS or radar so I called him on the radio.  Do you have AIS and how far are you ahead of your mate.  The answer was no AIS and at least 5 nm.  It was nothing to worry about so I turned in asking Pete to call me when we were closer to the leading yacht.  About a half hour later I was on deck with the stern light of the yacht off the starboard bow but we were closing fast.  I adjusted the helm and we slid past his stern and we were off on our course to Madeira.  They more than likely to the Canaries.  That is at least 6 yachts we have seen on that route – why not stop at Madeira?
This morning I could not start the generator so turned on the major Yanmar engine.  It did not sound right.  I looked over the side and no water was coming out the outlet.  Stop the engine.  I knew I should have changed the impeller while in a marina.  Out with the tools, take the cover off and there appeared to be nothing wrong except I could not get the impeller out.  Apply some Australian lanolin.  Turn the engine over and the impeller slid out easily.  I replaced it from my store and put everything back again but still no water.  I filled the filter and the inlet hose, started the engine and the full flow of water gushed over the side.  One of life's little mysteries that make a simple day at the office at sea quite challenging

Malua is at 33:16.79N 15:17.83W at 0600 on 2/10/2012 at sea

Land appeared at 9:50 out of the blue sea off the starboard bow just as the chart plotter said it would.
We have had a very down wind sailing 24 hours with the wind at 12 to 16 from aft.  The main is out with a preventer and the genoa slightly rolled out to starboard with the spinnaker pole.  The motion was easy and we settled into a leisurely lifestyle after the engine incident.  I find reading my tablet lying in bed a bit heavy so I will have to devise a means of suspending it.
Sundown saw us dip into the freezer for a beef stew I had prepared at Portimao along with some fresh cauliflower and broccoli.  There will be no scurvy in this vessel.
We will go into the marina for a day or two, recharge the batteries and look around then move to the main island.
Noon 2 noon run 144 nm last 12 hours 84 nm


Have a look at some photos here

Malua is at 33:03.73N 16:18.94W at 1500 on 2/10/2012 at Porto Santo

Our crossing from Portugal to Madeira ended when after three full days we arrived at the small harbour of Porto Santo.  We have travelled 450 nm at an average speed of just more than 6 knots.  That is not bad with our best noon to noon run of 151 nm.  The first night the sea was confused, lumpy and the wind was up at 25 knots with a bitter chill.  I had full wet weather gear.  Malua as usual handled the conditions very well and we as crew have started to work as a team although Pete still has a lot to learn and remember.  Malua is not a simple boat and because of its size things have to be done right.  Nothing broke but a few places on the woodwork will have to have some work.
We are here for a few days the will sail south to the main island to have a look around before pointing the bow towards Morocco – where we actually land will depend on the wind.

Malua is at 32:44.1N 16:44.0W at Conical Marina on 5/10/2012

We had an easy sail south from Santos to the main island of Madeira and checked in to the smaller marina here at Conical. It is a huge development with a marina at the base of the hill surrounded by very upmarket apartment blocks. I took a bus into town which turned out to be quite small and clustered around a fishing harbour and up a steep valley. - Not a place for bicycles. I had to walk home because I could not wait for the bus. Today we set off on one of the many tramping paths on the island.

Malua is at 33:22.67N 14:30.51W at 0600 on 9/10/2012 at sea

On Sunday we set off on the local bus for Machica which is down the coast from Quinta de Lorde Marine to find a levada – water canal.  I had first come across them in Portuguese Timor in the ‘70 when we were leaving Australia.  (The water still does not run up hill even today – note to friend).  We boarded a local bus which took us up into the hills behind the town.  The driver dropped us off at a point that the road crossed the levada.  These are water canals which start high up in the valleys and channel the water along the contour towards the sea.  Because they follow the contour they go into the smaller gullies and valleys, usually above the house line and below the tree line.  The trees generally give you shade as you walk along the path next to the canal which is only half a meter wide and about a meter deep.  While we where walking the levada was only half full.  Where is meets a river they have built a bridge for the rive which now flows over the canal with only a small inlet to add water to the canal.  There are openings closed with a stainless steel gate that can be raised to allow the water to escape the canal and flow down onto the fields below.  At many points the land owners had placed garden hose in the canal and syphoned water out of it to water their vegetable patch.
Our walk was 15 kn along the levada all at about the same level.  We stopped at a convenient bar for a refreshing drink just ahead of a 20 strong party of German trampers along with all the correct gear including walking sticks.  We left them behind drinking their coffee and discussing the merits of the walk.
Monday saw us get Malua ready for sea.  This time the boxes under the sink had been repacked so nothing rattled and all things put in its correct place – no cupboards flying open and boxes on the floor!  We headed out for the 510 nm trip to Rabat with a weather forecast of little wind and not in the right direction.
As night fell the wind had not come up and the sun set to a glassy night.  One could not distinguish the sea from the sky.  Pete at the change of watch pointed out a ship in the distance.  I watched as it rose into the sky – the planet Neptune in the NE.  At my change of watch the quarter moon rose and we could at last make out a horizon.  The Yanmar continued its beat right through the night.  At daybreak we had made 112 nm in 18 hours.  Still almost three days to go.

Malua is at 33:57.47N 12:05.07W at 0600 on 10/10/12 at sea

The forecast estimated that there would be a low pressure ridge 200 nm off the Moroccan coast and the wind would blow into this ridge but generally from the north.  Well the wind gods did not listen to the American forecasters and decided on this occasion not to send wind.  We have sail for about 4 hour of the total passage we have made of 350 nm so far.  At the moment we are 245 nm from Rabat and the wind has not filled in.  I did a check of the available diesel and we will have sufficient to motor all the way.  We last filled in Gibraltar.  Lesson learnt always keep 20 litres in a can just in case.  Luckily Moroccan fuel prices are very low.  I hear as low as 30c/l so we will be able to fill to the brim when we get there.
The AIS has been quiet with only the occasional ship or mega yacht passing.  I expect the number to increase as we near the land because the traffic down the coast must increase as the head for Gibraltar from the south as well as increase in the number of fishing boats as we approach the coast.
Our estimated ETA is in two day Friday just after day break.  We will have to stand off until the tide reaches high at noon before we will be escorted over the river mouth bar into the new marina at Bouregreg, Rabat.

Malua is at 33:57.47N 12:05.07W at 0600 on 10/10/2012 at sea off Morocco

Last night as well as the previous night I could see the stars reflected in the still sea all around Malua as we motored through the flat calm of the night.  The deck log states under conditions: glassy – no wind – no swell.  It was a beautiful night as I came on watch at 02:00.  This is the third day in a row that we have had less than 4 knots of wind as the sun set.  The AIS can pick up a vessel more than 200 nm away under these conditions.  Thankfully it has filters so we only get those ships displayed that are within a 12 mile radius.  Two passed in the night.
We had run out of bread so I set about turning the French flour into bread.  My first attempt a few weeks ago resulted in a rather tasteless white loaf but this time the newer darker flour produced a nice round loaf which was eaten with relish along with the kidney beans, onion, red pepper, tomatoes and fetta.  A great meal to keep us occupied for the rest of the day.  A slow day as the engine droned on, three days non stop.  There are only 90 nm to go – about 13 hours at this pace.  We will have to slow down to reach the river mouth at sun rise on Friday.
Pete and I have slipped into a good routine in these conditions.  I can fall asleep almost instantly my head hits the pillow knowing that little will change in the next three hours.  Entering Moroccan continental shelf will add some challenges as the ships traffic will increase along with fishing boats and the associated fishing nets.  The moon only rises at 3:00 so the night will be dark, a watchful eyes will be needed.

Malua is at 34:02.55N 06:50.76W off Rabat at 0800 12/10/2012

After almost four days of flat seas - and I mean flat like a mill pond Malua arrived off the Regreg river mouth and Rabat. We had covered the 510 nm almost all the way using the engine and slowed to arrive at sunrise. Unfortunately the tide only reached high at noon so we had to wait off the bar for three hour to get sufficient water to cross. The marina when contacted on ch 10 sent a boat out to lead us in. On a 3.1m tide we only recorded 2.9 under our 2m keel right at the entrance of the second set of break-walls. We proceeded up the river and tied to the customs dock. Two French and English speaking official in smart suits and leather sole shoes came aboard and got us to fill out the many forms required. The drug squad arrived with the sniffer dog who did a cursory smell of the deck and down below. After that we were free to go. I visited the office and again filled out forms and was given a wifi password - an essential element of informed cruising.
Today start the land travel. in Morocco here...

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