Captain Hugh and the Reluctant Navigator
The Voyage of Vega

Night Boat (to Cadiz)

Sunday 6th to Monday 7th September

We have been feeling more like tourists than intrepid nautical adventurers. Not that I’m complaining; I have enjoyed the mostly relaxing sailing in gentle winds and I am happy to get good weather and in particular reliable wind forecasts so that we can avoid setting sail if winds above force 6 are forecast (although Hugh tells me that we have happily sailed in force 8, gale force winds, on several occasions).

We set off from the Rio Guadiana for the 65 nautical mile trip to Cadiz at 10am on the Sunday. The winds were only 4 to 5 knots so we had to motor, on a smooth sea, weaving around the numerous little fishing buoys. Three men in a small motor boat came alongside asking for ‘agua’ and then ‘cerveza’. We threw them a bottle of water and they seemed happy enough. After about 5 hours the wind came up to 10 knots and we were able to get out the mainsail and genoa and to sail for a few hours before the wind dropped and we had to motor again.

I had wondered before setting off on the Grand Voyage how I’d cope with long trips, which I’d found so tedious in the UK. Somehow the sun makes all the difference and as opposed to feeling cold, uncomfortable and bored, it is a pleasure to sit and read, write my diary, look out for fishing floats, even occasionally practice my saxophone, or just look at the sea. Anyway time passed and night fell, Hugh cooked supper and we slowly approached Cadiz. By 11pm we were nearing the Bay of Cadiz and on the plotter a fleet of a dozen fishing boats were coming out of Cadiz and heading straight for us, so we turned sharply to port to avoid them, then other blips on the radar showed various small boats. It is hard not to get too focused on the radar and plotter, and to look up and realise that you can see the lights of these boats, although in the dark it is hard to tell just how far away they are. As we crossed the Bay of Cadiz we needed to identify the individual red and green lights, all flashing with different patterns, which marked the safe passage into the harbour, and which needed to be picked out from all the lights of the surrounding coastal towns. We found the Canal Principal, the deep water channel leading northeast into the Bay of Cadiz,  the harbour wall to our South, and tried to find the narrow entrance in the black water to the marina Puerto America, on the dark moonless night. Eventually we could see the torch of the marinero who we’d called up earlier, guiding us in and showing us to our berth; by now it was 2am.




Cadiz is on a peninsula, surrounded on three sides by the sea, and we entered much along the line shown above, turned right and there is now a dock and marina to the north of  the old city.

The next day having recovered from our late night we walked the 1km past the docks and container yard into Cadiz in the afternoon. After tapas in a pretty square with a fountain, we wandered around, looking at the Cathedral and up the Torre Tavira, the tallest of the old watchtowers in Cadiz with a great view over the city and a Camera Obscura (which was closed…. but I’m sure not as good as the one in Bristol 😉 ). Two huge ficus trees and fountains  in the Alameda gardens, shady cobbled streets, plazas and the old city wall. and in the shopping area shops such as Zara, Topshop and BHS, with windows full of autumn clothing… which feels a million miles from where we are now, in  shorts and t-shirts in the sunshine.


Having looked at wind, weather and tide forecasts, in order to get favourable currents to pass through the straits of Gibraltar against a light wind from the east, we should have left Cadiz at 2am the next morning to pass Tarifa on the Spanish side of the Straits at midday. Being us we decided to leave later, which meant arriving around midnight in Gibraltar. A combination of both laziness and liking a bit of a challenge? Another night entry…..



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