Sailing with Balvenie: Spain's Atlantic coastline

Balvenie 2011 cruising route
Yacht Balvenie
Sherry with a coffee chaser - Jerez
Yacht Balvenie
New Zealander cruising couple Amanda Church and Mark Farrell continue to cruise in their 47ft fractional rigged sloop Balvenie, in which they have already covered over 25,00nautical miles. They are now exploring the Atlantic coastline of Spain:

The weather was calm enough for us to enjoy four nights at anchor at Puerto Sherry.


We had been lucky to meet Ted, a fellow cruiser, who did some work on our Single Side Band Radio for us, it had been having intermittent problems - always the worse kind - but he happily sat and took it apart, fiddled about, cleaned inside and presto, it is now as good as new. It never ceases to amaze us the skills different cruisers have and their willingness to share them whenever they can.

We were ready to move across to the marina in Cadiz, we wanted to explore the city, take in a flamenco show and do some inland touring. We checked the weather sites and one out of four (we like plenty of opinions when it comes to the weather) was showing building southeast winds on Monday evening, our anchorage was exposed to the south, so it was time to move on. We motored across the bay in light winds on Monday and secured a berth on the visitors’ pontoon at Puerto America Marina.

We thought we had a great spot, easy access by the entrance, a view out into the harbour, chance for the breeze to come around the breakwater, other cruising boats
Narrow streets of Cadiz
Yacht Balvenie
nearby ……. and then the 'levante' started blowing. We had heard about the levante, winds from the east, which in these parts come off the land, carrying with it all manner of dust, dirt, sand and anything else it can pick up enroute.

Our easy access by the entrance gave us no shelter from the waves building across the harbour, they came straight in, crashing over our stern and causing us to snatch constantly on our lines, our view out now meant we had very little shelter, and the breeze coming around the breakwater turned into a gale over 30 knots for 3 days and nights!!!! There was very little rain, but salt water flew around freely, giving the dust and dirt a great moist layer to stick to, they blended well and almost turned into cement … never before, not even with all the sand and dust in the Red Sea, has Balvenie been so dirty, inside and out, oh well what can you do?

So we abandoned ship and took to the streets day and night - we had the wonderful city of Cadiz to explore. Historians say it may well be the oldest city in Europe, dating back to 800BC when Phoenician traders arrived. In more recent times it became a very important harbour following Colombus’ trips to the Americas.

The cobbled streets in the old town area are the narrowest we have seen in a city, I am sure neighbours could pass the odd bowl of olives across from balcony to balcony without a stretch.

There are countless plazas, old knarled trees provide much needed shade, sidewalk cafes spill out
Seafood
Yacht Balvenie
and the smell of calamari frying fills the air. The Central Mercado was a bustling place, with the catch of the day not smelling quite as appealing as the fried calamari, but we have never seen such a collection of prawns and shrimps, and in such pretty colours!

As with all Spanish cities the Cathedral is huge and dominates a large plaza, it took over 120 years to build so displays several types of architecture. Nearby is the Roman Theatre, excavation is still a work in progress as it was not discovered until 1980, yes the Romans have been here too!!

We spent a few hours in the Museo de Cadiz. There was excellent display of archaeological findings from
Balvenie Spanish dancing
Yacht Balvenie
settlements and burial sites, dating from prior to the Bronze Age. Then there were two exceptional sarcophaguses (burial chambers), we have literally seen hundreds of them, lying around all along the coast of Turkey, but these two were in ‘as new’ condition, sculptured in marble and dated fifth century BC, one was discovered in 1887, the other as recently as 1980.

Imagine digging up the back garden to plant a lemon tree and finding one of these, amazing. There really was an excellent display of statues, glassware, tools, pottery and art, it was well worth the visit.

One evening we booked a table at La Cava Flamenco Bar. Cruisers passing through in previous years had recommended so it was on our ‘must do’ list. Flamenco dance, music and singing are very much part of the history and culture of the Andalucian people.

We arrived early, ordered our drinks and plates of tapas and settled in to enjoy the performance. And quite some performance it was, the Spanish guitar player was exceptional, his fingers flew around the strings with ease, the accompanying male singer was both passionate and soulful, the 3 dancers (1 male, 2 female) were just amazing – never before has tap dancing looked so sexy! The energy and expertise of all 5 performers was incredible. The show was 2 hours long and it was certainly a night to remember.

The following is a contribution from Skipper -

Interestingly, although Cadiz is steeped in nautical history, there is absolutely no mention anywhere of the great sea battle that took place off Cape Trafalgar just a few miles down the coast in 1805. The course of history changed on that day.

Napoleon had 250,000 troops ready to invade Britain and was camped on the northern coast of France. All he needed was for his navy to turn up and secure the English Channel. One problem….the British Royal Navy had the French and Spanish fleet trapped in Cadiz harbour.

The British endured two North Atlantic winters at sea, on a lee shore, positioned outside Cadiz just beyond the range of the Spanish and French guns, effectively blockading them inside the harbour. After two years the Spanish and French fleet made a run for it and were obliterated off Cape Trafalgar by Nelson and his much more battle ready British fleet.

So…there would be no invasion of Britain…. and Amanda, who has spent most of her adult life striving to learn French, lost her best opportunity to have become a fluent speaker at birth…along with the rest of us !!


To follow Balvenie in their cruising adventures of the world, go to their http://www.yachtbalvenie.blogspot.com!blog_site.