Portimao to Culatra
Our previous day together had gone well, getting us from Sines on the Altlantic to Portimao anchorage in the Algarve, with our last post. We continue our adventure into the Algarve with experienced sailors by our side. Patsy and Dave are relaxed enough to let us find our own feet. They were happy to share their extensive knowledge when we needed it.
In Portimao we anchored in a beautiful bay that was quite busy with day-trippers and jet skis. We also caught up with our friends on Saviour who gave us an assortment of screws to fix our falling down clears. It would have been a lovely spot to spend more time but we were on the Schengen clock.
From Portimao it was only 36 nautical miles to Culatra, so we set off after a leisurely breakfast. We needed to run the watermaker to fill the tanks but overnight there was so much flotsam that came in with the tide we decided to make it while underway.
It took a while to work out how to get the mainsail down, the Karver hook loop appeared to not like the new Dyneema line. We just couldn’t get the loop to drop into the hook on the way up. If it doesn’t engage before the first spreader, the main just won’t drop later when you most need it. Finally, we reversed the toggle on the Karver loop and used olive oil to make it slip more easily over the stiff new Dyneema halyard, and it did the trick. The last photo below shows how neatly the sail dropped and flaked itself into the bag, with no assistance at the boom!
The sea state was calm and the route uneventful. Using the mainsail and genoa, and both engines, we averaged 6 knots and slowed considerably once we reached the canal entrance. There was so much traffic it took over half an hour to travel one nautical mile. We arrived at the anchorage with plenty of daylight.
Arriving at Culatra
The captain noted that this anchorage was not nearly as nice as the reviews had painted it. It was rather congested with working boats as well as many cruisers. There wasn’t much scenery to note.
We anchored, made dinner, and set up the gennaker. Although they had shown us back in La Rochelle, it was a bit of a blur and we had forgotten more than we knew about it! Dave helped us get it sorted.
How to set up the Gennaker
If you want to know all the steps of setting it up and using this sail, please refer to the articles for more detail (https://eucalyptusleaves.com.au/the-gennaker/(opens in a new tab). Thanks go to Patsy and Dave for all their help.
It was so exciting to know we had a simple to use light wind sail ready to go. The gennaker is like a genoa in set up: a furler at the bowsprit with a halyard to the mast. Both sails have two sheets each. However, being so light, it doesn’t have the weight of added UV resistance, as the genoa does. It can’t be left set up permanently as it will deteriorate due to sun damage. When the forecast looks favourable, then it can be put up.
The furler opening on the gennaker is not nearly as nice as on the genoa. On the gennaker, it is an endless fuller that needs to be used close to the trampoline, so someone must go forward to unfurl it. In the light winds that this sail needs, this should not be a problem for safety considerations.
Sunset followed by sunrise at Culatra
As we finished organising the sails the sun started to descend. What a sight ! I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.
Culatra to Cadiz
We had planned a route right across the Bay of Cadiz, bypassing most of the Algarve. This meant a day of over 82 nautical miles. So we got up before the sun rose and started motoring out of the canal at 6 am, bypassing many fishing boats on the move. Within half an hour, we witnessed a superlative start to the day. It was the most magnificent sunrise I’d seen so far.
A huge school of fish attracted the biggest dolphin pod we had ever seen. The birds and the dolphins were diving for the fish. Despite hundreds of dolphins, it was very difficult to photograph them as a group. They seemed to be distributed over one nautical mile and were very lively. Up to 10 dolphins were seen at once, leaping and diving in unison. Jill did get some good footage of the masses in the video at the end of this blog.
After we are out into the open bay, people relax and start to enjoy the day .
First time using our Gennaker
The wind was light as forecasted so we raised the main with the first reef in to see how the boat went. Then we opened the gennaker. We increased our speed by 1.5 knots using both sails. We brought the main down as the wind dropped right off. Despite the true wind speed being only 2 knots on the beam, we still achieved 7 knots with the engines on and just using the gennaker.
The pleasure of sailing
As the day progressed, the apparent wind speed increased to an average of 8 knots, and so we were able to keep on using the gennaker. With the engines both going and the one sail, we got up to 8.6 knots, averaging 7.5 knots. We made good progress as the sea state was very slight. The deep water of the Bay of Cadiz meant that there were very few fishing pots to avoid. The sun was out and sailing was relaxed. Some bottlenose dolphins visited us briefly in the early afternoon. We continued to make good progress and it looked like we were going to going to reach Cadiz in daylight. As we neared our destination we were back on the lookout for fishing pots.
We moored at Peurto Americano Marina, Cadiz. Prices for marina berths were escalating as we were now in summer and the demand for berths is high. There was no wifi and the amenities were basic. We berthed opposite the breakwater and like Peniche, we were exposed to strong wakes and hit by one wave wall that was so long/wide, that it reminded me of watching the waves roll in at Ocean Grove on the Victorian coast back in Australia. If you choose to stop at this marina, request a berth away from the opening of the breakwater.
We loved exploring the old town of Cadiz. It was a decent walk from the marina, but well worth it. Because the old town had very few cars, it was easy to explore on foot. Abuzz with people, the market’s seafood was fresh and vibrant. We took home a variety of fruit and vegetables to replenish our stocks.
Walking around, it is delightful to discover gardens, monuments, many tiles and doorways. There is so much to admire.
Occasionally we stop for coffee. It is a chance for Pasty to shine with her Spanish. She was speaking full sentences, while we were still only able to order “Cafe con leche, dos! Por favour!” (Two white coffees, please). Sometimes the dogs accompanying other diners were tempting to photograph. The man next to us was feeding tidbits to the dog in his lap, which the dog behind, watched carefully.
I noticed a very old method of protecting brick corners in tight lanes. A beautiful cast iron piece is wrapped around the two sides of the corner. The quirky door knockers made of brass hands are a novel design, spread by the Moors. You can see them in Portugal, all through Spain to Morocco and even in Gibraltar. Below are three examples from Cadiz.
Night sky of Cadiz
The summer evening turning into the night was later and later the more we headed south. A beautiful feature of our position in the marina was the unobstructed views of the night sky. The Constitution Bridge was highlighted by dark clouds as the sun descended, while boats slid past offering great silhouettes against the changing light.
Cadiz to Gibraltar 30 july
We got up early and saw the beauty of the sun coming up.
The journey started at 7.20 am with a very roller coaster ride, and wave troughs thumping the bow. Once we stopped going West and turned South, the 2- 3 m troughs settled to 1 m following sea, which was much more comfortable. We had 72 nautical miles to go and used both engines at 2100 RPM the whole day.
It was an exciting discovery to see the continent of Africa around 1 pm. Soon after the sea flattened out, the current in the Strait of Gibraltar had us moving up to 10.7 knots for the next two hours. Our top speed was 11.3 knots. After a few more hours, we turned from nearly heading Southeast to nearly Northeast, towards Gibraltar. The sea state was like a washing machine. It was quite unsettling. We’d experienced this previously in Sydney out through the heads, so we knew what it was. New to us, though, was also a booming sound, I presume from the agitation echoing against our hulls. Finally, the sea state settled to just a little wavy as we swapped our Spanish courtesy flag for a Gibraltan one.
Queensway Quay Marina
We reached Queensway Quay marina around 4.30 pm and faced new challenges. Jill took the tight position and med mooring approach in her stride as she spun the boat around to put her stern to the pontoon. I had the distasteful task of wrangling with the aptly named “slime” lines, dredged up from the bottom of the harbour to attach to the bow cleats, both sides. Once secured, then Jill had to back slightly to ensure they were holding. This new method of marina berthing, without the fingers along the side of the boat made us dig out our passerelle for its first use. We were not getting off the boat otherwise!
Gibraltar reunion of 9 Fountaine Pajot sailors from “La Rochelle Class of 2019”
The ‘La Rochelle Class of 2019’ is, in fact, Multihull Solutions Class of 2019. In 2019 Multihull Solutions, delivered 15 FP catamarans. To assist new boat owners, we were banded together as a Facebook group and in La Rochelle we were able to meet each other. We really enjoyed meeting all the new owners as our boats were delivered one after the other- as a run of 5 Helias, the last of the model, amongst an Astrea 42, and Lucia 40. We had welcome drinks, boat naming parties, lunch and dinner dates. Romaine Crozon, Rachel and Michael Crook, Joe and Karen Atkinson ensured we had a good time.
So when we finally arrived in Gibraltar, we arranged a meet up at Roys Fish ‘n’ chips. Roys is renowned, but we are surprised by how expensive they are. We caught up with the news from Odyssea X ( Roman and Ali), Wild Odyssey (Debbie, Paul and Amalie), and Irradiance (Diane and Peter). It was so good to see the gang again. We hadn’t caught up with the Helias since they briefly stopped in La Coruna. Previously we met the Irradiance couple, who have a Lucia 40, at our naming ceremony, the night before we left La Rochelle. So a catch up was in order.
Gibraltar- first impressions
The name Gibraltar is derived from Arabic: Jabal Ṭāriq (Mount Tarik), honouring Ṭāriq ibn Ziyād, who captured the peninsula in 711. https://www.britannica.com/place/Gibraltar
It is impossible to not notice all the fortifications built on Gibraltar. The control of this area has changed hands over centuries of sieges and battles. The “Eighth Siege” brought an end to an Islamic Gibraltar, just over 751 years after the Berber Moor, Ṭāriq arrived at its shores. In 1462 the Spaniards took over. Finally, the British took over in 1727. Each conquering force contributed to the defenses, improving construction as armaments changed from cross-bows & arrows to cannons.
Immediately outside the marina on Queens Way is Wellington Front, which we passed through to reach the Casemates when we wanted to go shopping. It was the last of the fortifications to be built by convicts in 1840, built on the site of a pre-existing Spanish fortification originally errected in 1618.
Gibraltar- an eclectic mix, but noticeably British
After three months in France, three months down the coast of Spain, passing Portugal then back to Spain again, it seemed like such a luxury to speak English again. There were many kind Europeans along the way who did speak English, but finding it normal in shops and cafes seems such a treat. It is delightful to see a red pillar posting box and the British uniforms on police.
The cafes are typically Spanish, Indian or British. And being a tax-free haven there are duty-free goods everywhere. Most shops sell stuffed monkey souvenirs made in all types of colours and sizes, souvenir mugs and fridge magnets.
Gibraltar to Tangiers, Morocco 3 Aug 19
The trip we took to Tangiers is recorded by red lines at the bottom of the last Cadiz Gibraltar map, above, but to save you losing your place scrolling back, here is a map showing the big picture- Spain above left, Gibraltar above right and south of the Strait is Morocco. The route taken is drawn roughly on the right.
We set off via the fuel dock, just before 10 am. At 62 p a litre, it was our cheapest refueling so far. By midday, we were crossing the strait. There was no wind and so many commercial vessels to avoid so we motored across. It was very turbulent with the currents and tidal streams crossing each other causing little white waves. As much as we benefited from the tidal streams going east, we were considerably slowed going west. The next paragraph explains why.
“In the Mediterranean Sea, the evaporation of water surpasses the influx of water from rivers and rain. This leads to a steady inflow of water from the Atlantic Ocean.”
And from Wind Tarifa, “Strong currents and tidal streams may be experienced in the Strait. The maximum rates of surface flow in each direction which may be expected are about 2 knots in the W-going direction and about 4-7 knots in the E-going direction. The maximum rates of tidal streams are about 3 knots in the W-going direction and about 2-7 knots in the E-going direction”.https://www.hydro-international.com/content/article/tidal-currents-from-ais and https://www.windtarifa.com/eng/anavegar/corrientes/currents.htm
The ever-vigilant Captain Jill spotted a thresher shark and I noted the current was two knots on our beam around 2 pm. Perhaps it might have been 5 knots ( west current 2 knots plus 3 knots tidal stream) but we weren’t heading directly west. An hour later, we arrived in Tanja Bay Marina and put our clocks back an hour.
Moroccan Immigration formalities
We did not know what to expect from the Officials. We were entering our first Islamic country and knew that drones could not be taken in, and were mindful of the respectful dress code that was expected. This meant women are advised to wear modest clothes covering the thighs and shoulders.
The customs officials boarded the boat and searched for illegal items. The Captain was taken to the offices to present our passports and formalise entry requirements. After some time, Patsy, Dave and I were called into the offices to verify our passports.
With our Moroccan stamp in our passport we were free to move our boat to the allotted berth. Nearly all catamarans for long stays are tied to the hammerheads of each pontoon which makes for quite a walk to the showers and toilets.
The Marina is new and very well cared for. Each pontoon has a marinere allocated at the security gate on the end of the pontoon, so if you forget your key pass, they know who you are and will let you in. We befriended a very helpful marinere from another pontoon, Youssef Lazaar. It was a pleasant surprise that he spoke such good English. Morocco regards French as a prestigious language and it is often used for business, diplomacy and government. It serves as a bridge language with non-Moroccans and non-Arabs. Although road signs were in Arabic and French, most people I met spoke Spanish as their second language. So my French did not end up being as useful as I had hoped. I didn’t study Spanish until later when we were locked down in 2020. More about Youseff in another post.
New noises !
The first day and night on the boat was not what we expected. Being a Muslim country the Call to Prayer, five times a day, was a new experience. It seemed quite discordant, each mosque was simultaneously using different vocalisations to make the call. After quite some time, we managed to ignore it and not wake up to the first prayer of the day.
Preceding the first Call to Prayer was a more annoying sound that we didn’t get used to. It took the whole three months to even detect how the screeching sound was being made. It sounded like cars were racing in the streets, doing drag races with wheelies. We couldn’t understand how such discord was allowed night after night some time between 2- 4 am.
Our marina friend explained that it was Moroccans who had made money in Europe and returned to show off their flash and fast cars. They would go to the bars until the early hours, then after closing time, they would start their wheelies. I couldn’t imagine where these antics took place. The squealing of the tyres sounded as if there was a big open space that I couldn’t see so close to the marina. There was a very large expansive pedestrian space close to the marina, but I could not find the tell-tale marks of burned rubber evidenced on the concrete. Besides, there were steep steps and barricades that prevented cars from driving over these spaces. It remains a mystery.
The pedestrian spaces included a huge fountain spread over two separated areas approximately 10 m wide and 50 m long, with a large space between each group. The groupings comprised individual spouts placed largely evenly apart along the whole length. Each one spurted random heights from 200 mm to 2 or so meters, and changing colours. The children loved to run to a non-flowing base, and squealed with delight when it shot upwards or tried to stop its upward spurt. I’ll add a video below Jill’s of the fountains working for those who may like to see it in action. In my 60 odd years, I have not seen such an unusual and beautiful fountain.
Road trip to Chefchaouen, Morocco
We arranged a trip to Chefchaouen which is known as the blue city because nearly every building is painted blue. The first car we booked was a disaster, it was too small for the long hot trip. We refused to get into the tiny car and started to walk back to the marina.
As we returned, our contact had rung us to find out what had gone wrong. He said he would correct the booking. Zhouhair himself pulled up in his spacious, air conditioned four wheel drive black SUV van. We had plenty of room and were most comfortable. Zouhair proved to be a very useful contact and we referred everyone to him.
The road trip bypassed by the King’s residence in Tetouan. Zouhir offered to drive us there but it was such a hot day, we preferred to focus only on our destination. The road climbed ever upward, and we enjoyed vistas of the valley as we drove along, noted grazing goats sheltered by the vegetation, workers on donkeys, and the first sign of the famous blue color announced the promise of what to expect, on the entrance structure of Chefchaouen.
A brief history of Morocco & Chefchaouen
(If history doesn’t interest you, please skip this section. Click the link to the next heading Why is the city painted blue?).
Morocco is a country that has constantly been invaded, yet has managed to retain its independence. The Romans initially introduced Christianity late in their rule (3rd century), but then Arab immigrants invading the original Berber inhabitants introduced Islam. Idris founded the first Muslim dynasty in the 7th and 8th centuries.
Moulay Ali Ben Moussa founded the town of Chefchaouen in 1471. It began as a small fortress to fight the Portuguese invasions of Morocco. Just two decades later, the city expanded with the arrival of Muslim and Jewish refugees fleeing forced conversion to Christianity from Granada, Spain. These new residents built Chefchaouen’s signature whitewash houses and courtyards with citrus trees, giving the city its European flair, which still exists today.
In the sixteenth century, the Ottomans fighting in Algiers attempted to invade Morocco. They failed. Known as the Battle of the Three Kings, this win was claimed as a Moroccan victory and put an end to European incursions onto Moroccan soil for three centuries. The Moroccan Alawite dynasty of Sharifs fostered trade and cultural relations with sub-Saharan Africa, Europe, and the Arab lands. Religious tensions between Islam and Christendom often threatened the peace.
By the 20th century, the young Sultan Abd al-ʿAzīz had squandered Moroccan autonomy and the Europeans started to call the tune. The 1906 Aljeceras Conference affirmed the Sultans domains but allowed the Spanish and the French to police the ports, collect customs dues, and act as trustees of the new Banque de Moroc. The Sultan’s brother led a rebellion against him because of his collaboration with the Europeans. Eventually, the challenger took refuge in Fes with the support of the French in exchange for the Treaty of Fez in 1912. Abd al-Ḥāfiẓ was established as Sultan. Later, in 1920, Spain seized Chefchaouen, and it became a part of Spanish Morocco until 1956 when Morocco declared its independence, and Chefchaouen rejoined Morocco again.
www.britannica.com/place/Morocco/ wikipedia.org/wiki/Reconquista/ Morocco Everyman Guides. 1994, London: David Campbell Publishers: 55.56etc
Why is the city painted blue?
Some cite the reason the medina walls became blue was associated with Religious practices. The Jewish sector revered blue as the colour of the sky so started painting their section in blue during the 1930’s. One theory spread the blue colour because it was thought to deter mosquitos. As it was observed, there were less mosquitoes in the Jewish sector, the colour blue spread as others painted their walls blue, trying to mimic the same effect. Some say the blue colour is cooler in the hotter months. According to a few locals, Chefchaouen’s walls are bathed in multiple shades of blue reminiscent of the striking blue of the Mediterranean Sea. Others believe that the blues represent the Ras el-Maa Waterfall. The citizens of the town get their drinking water from this waterfall, so the painting was done to always remind them that life-sustaining water allows them to survive in an otherwise hostile environment. Finally, the blue colour in Islamic tradition is said to signify the impenetrable depths of the universe, and turquoise blue is thought to have mystical qualities.
Whatever the origins, the locals probably keep washing the walls in blue to keep attracting the tourists.
Zouhair dropped us in the centre of the city and arranged for us to explore, to return when we were done. The heat was blistering. The blue wash was dazzling. The people were fascinating. Some stray cats caught my eye. The Blue hues were everywhere.
It was just before the Muslim festival of Eid al adha. I didn’t realise that I had photographed a goat earmarked for sacrifice, as seen by the yellow ‘authentic raised kindly’ tag attached to the sold stock. Rather, I thought it was a fine-looking animal being cared for by those leading it. ( More about Eid later). From our vantage point on the top floor of a cafe we choose for lunch, we were able to witness the general passing by of the locals in their routine. Chefchaoeun offers a feast for taking photographs.
Around the marina at Tanja Bay
The marina is new, and staffed by security guards who screen all vehicles arriving by road. Then each pontoon locked gate is serviced by a marinere. Every morning the pontoons are washed to remove all the seagull droppings, and two men in a dinghy cruise all morning to collect rubbish floating on the water. The promenade has small trees and green grass nature strips, with benches regularly placed. Here we find some marina cats in the shade.
The pontoon ramps rest on hillocks of rocks, where we find a new litter of kittens tucked into the crevices. It isn’t long before we start to leave water for the cats, and buy kibble to try to fatten up the skinny mother. We even imagine choosing a kitten to rescue, but resist. Over our time there, clearly, others have the same idea and slowly one by one the kittens disappear. Then a tom starts hanging around, and the cycle of life goes on.
The Kasbah & Medina
Everybody’s heard the song “Rock the Kasbah”. But does anyone really know what a Kasbah is? It is a North African fortress, typically located high above the surrounding areas. On the top of the hill in Tangiers, the Sultan’s Palace (Dar el Makhzen) from the 17th Century is found within a courtyard of the citadel/Kasbah. From here, there are excellent views of the Gibraltar Straight and across to Spain. The Dar el Makhzen is now serving as a museum. The Kasbah spreads out from here into the Old Medina (Old city) which includes a Souk (an outdoor market place), that descends into a cavernous warren of market stalls that barely see daylight.
The warrens of alleyways are a feast of Moorish tiles, painted doors, walls, and even pallets set upon the wall as a decorative installation. Occasionally you can look up and see the blue sky. It is wondrous to wander around seeing such vibrant colours, fascinating architecture and the old buildings.
What is Eid al Adha? ( Kurban bayramı – Feast of the Sacrifice)
There are two eid festivals each year. Ramadan ( Eid al-Fitr is the breaking of the fast of Ramadan earlier in the year). The Kurban bayramı is the Muslim festival marking the culmination of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca and commemorating the sacrifice of Abraham ( Ibrahim). It honours the willingness of Ibrahim to sacrifice his son Ismael as an act of obedience to Allah’s (God’s) command. Ibrahim was prepared to submit to the command, but Allah stayed his hand. Instead, he was told to sacrifice an animal, likely a lamb or sheep. To this day, Muslims worldwide honour this Feast of the sacrifice. The rules to follow for sacrifice are very prescribed.
The briefest of the rules, to note is that the sacrifice is humanely done and that ⅓ of the beast is given to the poor. (if you are interested, there is a link below to read the detail). After the Eid festival, I noted the dirt areas around the sides of the road were now soaked with blood, the boots of cars being washed of blood and the queues of people lined up at the supermarket butcher with the carcasses of the sacrificed animals in shopping trolleys, waiting to be carved up. It was all rather confronting seeing all this and for once, I didn’t try to photograph any of it. It didn’t seem right to intrude.
The detail about Qurbanihttps://www.muslimaid.org/what-we-do/religious-dues/qurbani/qurbani-rules/
Patsy & Dave wave goodbye
We enjoyed exploring the Kasbah, the medina and the foreshore, and playing the ukelele and the many jobs done on the boat. But finally the time had come and that Patsy and Dave were leaving.
They choose to leave on the Eid holiday. They thought that fewer people traveling would help them get a good position on the Ferry. So after a round of selfies, we said goodbye. It’s been nearly a month of easy traveling together, great friendship and new discoveries. We were sad to see them go, but know we will see them again.
The Main Video- Jills
Shelley Beer 14 July 19 to 12 Aug 19, edited by Jill de Vos