Tue 14 Jul 2009 23:59
15 July 2009

Barbate, Spain

Volare has brought us from old Cadiz to the town of Barbate, about 35
miles down the Spanish coast. We have celebrated our safe arrival in the
usual way by reaching into the fridge and pulling out a couple of cold
beers. The afternoon sun is still hot, but there is a nice cooling breeze
and we are sitting in the cockpit in the shade of the bimini watching the
world go by. It’s a pleasant way to end a day’s sailing.

On the way down, we passed Cabo Trafalgar and dipped the ensign, in
tribute to Lord Nelson. A French-flagged yacht was passing in the opposite
direction at exactly the same time and only a few yards away. It was good
to remind her crew of his Lordship’s brilliant and decisive victory. I
know it was all a long time ago and tuning up the French shouldn’t be
enjoyable, but it most certainly was.

We have encountered quite a few warships along the way from various
countries and navy crews are invariably polite and courteous in their
dealings with other vessels (providing you’re not at war with them,
presumably). On one occasion, Volare was minding her own business, wafting
down the Atlantic coast of Portugal, when a warship appeared on the far
horizon and started heading in our direction at speed. After not many
minutes, she was up behind us, sitting on our port quarter, about 50
metres away, looking menacing. Some of the crew came on deck and peered at
us. After several minutes of this, I cracked and called them up on the
radio, asking if they wished to speak. I was expecting to be boarded,
searched and led away in irons for some infringement, but this was not the
captain’s intention. He just replied (in perfect English), ”Good morning,
sir. We do not wish to speak. We were just admiring your beautiful yacht!”
I was briefly tempted to tell him he also had a beautiful warship, but
decided not to push my luck. We exchanged a few further pleasantries, then
went our separate ways with a few cheery waves on each side. About 30
minutes later we heard the same warship call up an American yacht and this
time they did board her to carry out an inspection, presumably for drugs
or evidence of people smuggling, so their yacht can’t have been as

Half way across the Bay of Biscay, we encountered a Royal Navy destroyer
steaming in the opposite direction, probably heading for warm beer, soft
beds and home. I had been told by our friend Chris (who was in the senior
service a very long time ago) that if you saluted a Royal Navy ship by
dipping your ensign, she would do likewise. It seemed unlikely to me that
they’d bother, but I gave it a try and to my amazement, I got a salute
back! Marvellous!