The little old lady* who went to sea

5 and 6 August 2022

Gibraltar to Barbate, 36° 10′ 87″N 05° 55′ 23″W, 36nm,

to Cadiz, Puerto America, N36° 33.57′ W06°  18.42′

* we wish to make it clear that we would never dare call Chris ‘a little old lady’ but her self moniker made for too perfect a blog title to miss!

It is fair to say that we are ambivalent at best about having non-sailors on board when we are sailing. The wind will inevitably blow up to 30+ knots. Dolphins will decide to visit, causing novice crew to hurtle towards the bow for a closer look whilst I scream ‘get back in the cockpit NOW’. But ever since we got to know Chris back in 2016 we had been promising to take her out and all the times we were in Gibraltar we never managed to find the right time. This time, however, she had a few days free just as we were heading back towards Portugal and it seemed like the perfect time.

First, however, she had to be convinced.

It took a week of (sometimes not so) gentle persuasion and the fitting of a new hot water heater at her flat to get Chris to agree to join us for the two day sail up the Andalucian coast to Cadiz. She was worried about getting seasick – her last sea voyage on a ferry to the Scilly Islands had not been a very pleasant one. Despite that experience, and having stocked up with Gibraltar’s last supplies of Stugeron, she bravely arrived at Queensway Quay in time for our departure. We knew she was going to be the perfect crewmate when she brought with her a big batch of her wonderful Quorn and pea curry for our meal that night!

We were sad to be leaving Gibraltar again after such a short time but delighted to have have stolen one of its inhabitants to navigate the Strait with us. Our first day at sea was as wonderfully calm as we could have wished for our first time sailor. We were escorted out of the bay by a pod of dolphins but Chris was not remotely tempted to leave the safety of the cockpit. It took some persuasion even to get her onto the aft deck for a photo! We had reassured Chris that the danger of the orcas had passed but that nonetheless we would hug the coastline in shallower water to avoid any chance of bumping into any stragglers on the summer migration north.

This was our sixth passage through the Strait. You would think we would have got the hang of the tides by now. Yet again, however, we didn’t manage to calculate it quite right and made slow progress. But that gave time for lots more catching up.

Given the reputation of the winds around Tarifa and knowing we would have Chris on board we had chosen the calmest of days to leave and we motored passed the lighthouse in barely a breath of wind.

We arrived at our first stop in Barbate by early evening. The marina was as bleak and semi abandoned as we remembered it from 2016 but, unlike last time when we got stuck there for a week, we would only be there for one night. The cat colony was still going strong and was amongst our only company for the night.

After a shower we gobbled Chris’ delicious curry on board and took a sunset walk to show her the anchors for the tuna nets that the area is famous for and then to the beach. There we could look out towards Cape Trafalgar, which we would pass the following day.

Chris’ second day at sea started early. We left Barbate at sunrise and motored into glassy seas. It was one of those mornings when we couldn’t tell where the sea finished and the sky started. Stefan and I crossed our fingers that we wouldn’t encounter the fog we had run into on this passage in 2021, when we thought we were saying goodbye to the Mediterranean.

In the calm of the morning, Stefan decided that it was time for Chris to learn the ropes – literally – and so he set about teaching her some knots!

As we rounded Cape Trafalgar, it was Chris’ turn to do the honours to Nelson by dipping the ensign. One of her favourite places on this part of the Costa da Luz is the beach town of Zahora so it was great to be able to give her the chance to see it from a completely different perspective.

As we made our way round towards the Bay of Cadiz, we finally got the sails up and had a proper sail. By now, Chris was a natural and even took a turn on the helm! We were really looking forward to returning to Cadiz, which to this day remains one of our favourite Spanish towns.

Once Pintail was safely tied up in Puerto America, we were able to get ourselves reacquainted with its narrow lanes and squares. We stopped for tapas to celebrate Chris’ first ever sailing trip.

and enjoyed a sunset stroll back to Pintail along the seafront.

Putting Chris back on the bus to Gibraltar was tinged with sadness because we didn’t know when we might see her again but what we do know is that we will, somehow, somewhere. She is one little old lady who is welcome on board any time…

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