Seville to El Puerto de Santa Maria

James & Amelia Gould
Thu 19 Jul 2007 21:27

1 – 13 July 2007: Seville to El Puerto de Santa Maria


We sailed from Seville on 1 July, sad to leave such a great city but also pleased to escape the heat.  We made it through the lock without incident, this time we shared the lock with a tourist boat which left Rahula plenty of space.  The journey down river was just as boring as the way up, but quicker because we had more tidal stream helping us along.  Rather than heading back to the marina in Chipiona we anchored for the night in the last bend in the river near a town called Bonanza, opposite the nature reserve on the banks.  Contrary to the statements in the pilot book it was a lovely quiet anchorage and we enjoyed the peace of a cool evening at anchor after the bustle of Seville.


The following morning we weighed anchor with a strong tide still running hoping it would shoot us out of the river entrance with minimal effort.  There was barely any wind at the anchorage, but once we rounded the bend in the river we realised how sheltered we had been.  It was blowing quite hard into the bay from the NW, and wind over tide conditions turned the river entrance into a confused bubbling sea.  Rahula struggled on being tossed around by the short waves, and for the first time we had something fall over inside – our coffee pot had spilled its guts out in the galley!


Finally we were free of the narrow entrance channel to the River Guadalquivir and we could turn south towards our destination – Cadiz Bay.  We enjoyed the downwind sail, deliberating on where to go once we had reached the bay.  In the end we turned into the marina in Rota because it was the closest and the guidebook said it was a nice town.  The marina was nice, but there wasn’t much in the town.  It was a standard European coastal town with concrete blocks and a long beach.  The old town was pleasant, and the only “site” was the castle, which had been heavily restored and now housed the town hall.  The beach had a long promenade that turned into a wooden walkway, meandering through the trees and sand dunes beyond the city and made a nice run.


Rota Castle


The following day we sailed across the Bay of Cadiz to El Puerto de Santa Maria.  The pilot book recommended the yacht club there, and when we rang them to check for a berth it turned out that they were cheaper than any of the other marinas in the bay.  We decided to stop somewhere for a while to do some maintenance on the boat and wait for James’ parents visit later in the month.  The yacht club seemed like the perfect place as they did not charge us extra for being a catamaran. 


As soon as we arrived and I went to the office to sort out the paperwork I realised we’d made a good decision.  The club area was really nice and well kept, the staff friendly (unusually for Spain…) and there was a relaxed atmosphere.  The boon was when we discovered just how much we were getting for our 27 Euros a night – full use of the club’s 2 swimming pools, tennis courts, gym, free Wi Fi and much more.  We planned to stay for 7 nights and ended up leaving after 10!  It was the first place we had been to where we really wanted to stay longer and were sad to leave.




Real Club Nautico de El Puerto de Santa Maria


Our berth at the yacht club was also the location of several nets lying on the river bottom collecting micro organisms from the water.  They belonged to a PhD student from the university of Cadiz who came by every morning to collect the samples.  She was a very pretty girl who spoke good English, and by the second morning James was chatting away to her (just practicing my Spanish…J) while I was below washing up.  By the third day James was flirting outrageously with her (actually it was the other way round, her eyeballs weren’t painted on you know!…J), and I had to stick my head out!  There were several times when we were using various nasty chemicals to clean or fix the boat that we wondered on the effect it will have on the little things trapped below (I think our coffee grouts might have made them a bit hyper as well!…J)


It wasn’t all play though.  It had been a while since we had done some deep maintenance on the boat, and we had a long list of things that needed doing.  Most of it was general maintenance to keep the boat going, rather than fixing things we had broken.  We worked our way through the list of jobs and there was nothing better after a hard day sweating on the boat than to go for a long dip in the club’s pool or have a cold beer on the terrace.


We finished the list of jobs quite quickly and decided to do some extra things (doomed – we should have stuck to the list!) like clean out the bow and stern lockers.  While cleaning one of the transom lockers James found a small crack in the fibreglass on the floor of the locker, and being a Yacht Surveyor he poked around to check its extent.  He found that water had been seeping in through the crack so that the fibreglass was no longer bonded to the plywood forming the floor of the locker.  It wasn’t about to sink us, but it needed seeing to.  So out came the grinder and James won the lovely job of removing the old fibreglass.  It is a horrible, nasty, job, as the fibreglass dust gets everywhere, and in the heat makes your skin feel prickly all over for days afterwards.


Once the fibreglass was removed we found that the plywood floor was soaked, which probably meant that water had got into the buoyancy locker below (this is a completely sealed locker supposedly full of air which is supposed to stop the boat sinking).  James drilled a small hole to have a look inside, and found that there was water there.  So he drilled a bigger hole, and we pumped the water out.  We were amazed to find that there was nearly 40 litres of water in there!  The water was horrible and brackish so it had obviously been collecting for a long time.  We checked the locker in the other hull and found that it was also full of water.  Once we had pumped out both sides Rahula’s stern went up by about 1.5 inches!  No wonder she had been sailing so slowly recently – she was carrying half the Atlantic in her stern!


James ready for grinding
The water in one locker…


Once the locker had dried completely we re-glassed it, this time fitting an inspection hatch to the buoyancy locker below so that we can check for any water ingress.  We have left doing the other locker until the next maintenance period – one major fibreglass repair is enough for anyone!


Waiting for the locker to dry meant we had some time to kill, so we explored Puerto.  It is a pleasant town with a long sandy beach and bustling town centre.  Not many of the historic sites were open to the public, but it was nice to go for a wander and look around.  The main tourist attraction is the sherry bodegas, which are the warehouses used to store sherry that came down the river from Jerez.  We visited the Osborne bodega, and had a guided tour of the warehouse where we learnt about the sherry making process (very similar to making Port – make wine, add alcohol, leave in barrels for a while).  The tour was interesting, but it was also a big marketing exercise to sell the brand and sherry (Despite the 6 Euro entrance fee they charged!) and wasn’t as detailed as the Port tour we had in Porto.  We had the obligatory wine tasting at the end, but as it was still 11am neither of us could stomach too much sweet sherry (had to make sure I understood the differences though…hic…J).


Osborne Sherry Warehouse

Osborne Sherry Museum


El Puerto also boasts the oldest bull ring in Spain.  We did consider going to see a bull fight, but I didn’t think I’d be able to stomach it.  It was interesting to see the bull ring, with the score marks made by the bulls in the wood surrounding the ring.  While we were there some children were having Matador lessons, complete with a mock bull on a bicycle frame to charge at them – it reminded me of a rugby rucking machine, only meaner.


Bull Marks

Bull Machine


Eventually it was time to leave the El Puerto and head to Cadiz itself to meet Alan and Judi, James’ parents.  It was sad to go, but we had a whole new and exciting city to explore!