Thursday, 8 September 2011

Grumbling Anchor Chains and Cristóbal Colón (who???) ….. August 2011


15 – 27 August 2011

We ended up staying in Puerto América Marina in Cadiz for a week.  We planned to do a quick supermarket run then head on out, but alas, yet another public holiday in Espana and everything was closed, oh well.  We decided to leave anyway and head over to the north western corner of the Bay of Cadiz and anchor off the town of Rota.   It was a beautiful day and I’m sure that everyone that owned a boat in the area had let the lines go from their marinas and also headed for Rota, it was jam packed.  We found a good sized empty spot (the fact that it was empty probably should have been our first warning), but we dropped and set anchor in the sandy bottom.  By 9pm everyone had left except for a large powerboat nearby then just before dark they attempted to lift their anchor but it was snagged.   It took them an hour to free it and we suspect their anchor windlass motor may never be quite the same again.  (This should have been our 2nd warning).  During the night there was a slight breeze off the land which swung us around and we started to hear the anchor chain grumbling and then it snatched tight – (3rd and final warning!!) not a good thing at 3am so we let out some more chain and looked forward to dealing to it in the morning.

Morning dawned damp and foggy.  Sadly a miracle hadn’t occurred overnight and the anchor was still snared.  We tried the usual back, forward, this way, that way – then Skipper jumped in to dive down and investigate, visibility was very poor and his ears wouldn’t equalize so I volunteered.  Swimming at 9am in the Atlantic in a foggy bay, what was I thinking?  I could see the chain going to the bottom but then just disappearing, it was wrapped tight around or under something but I couldn’t stay down long enough to investigate properly.

P8190075 It’s times like this when you wish you’d learnt to dive and had dive gear onboard, or at least a hooker (power driven apparatus that pumps air down a tube), or another boat nearby that has one, or had trained our lungs to hold breaths for much longer.   But none of these were options, so we set off into the nearby marina to see if we could arrange for a diver to come out.    Must add here that finding the marina was a challenge, it was maybe 500 metres away at most and the fog was now that thick we couldn’t see it!!  The marina staff were very helpful and called a diver for us, but it’s August, in Spain, and he is on holiday.  They direct us to the nearby chandlery who also have a diver.  A quick phone call and guess what …….. he is also on holiday.  Feeling somewhat dejected we return to Balvenie.  The tide was going out, the wind had completely dropped and the fog was clearing – these were all in our favour, visibility was now much better with the sunlight on the water and the water level had dropped over 1.5 metres so not so deep to dive, and with no wind there was no pressure on the anchor chain.  Lets try again!!  Skipper tried first but was still having trouble with his ears, so in I went again, 2 Atlantic swims in one day – good grief.  First time down I got to the bottom and could see it disappearing under a big flat rock, second time I managed to start pulling it out from under and freed a couple of metres which Skipper pulled up onto Balvenie.  Third time down I gave it all I had and freed as much as I could, Skipper took it all up and the anchor windlass just kept on going, yippee, free from Mother Earths clutches at last.  We re-anchored, hoping to be in a huge sandy patch and celebrated with an espresso coffee.  IMG_0020

It was now too late to leave so we dinghied back ashore, went for a very long hot walk to the supermarket to stock up on much needed fresh provisions, treated ourselves to lunch out after our hectic morning then took the afternoon off.   Next morning was far less eventful, we lifted anchor, hoisted sails and sailed out of the Bay of Cadiz heading north.  We had lovely conditions, clear skies, flat water, light breeze off the land so we put a little westing in, in preparation for the afternoon seabreeze which came in every afternoon from the west.  Well every afternoon except this one, the wind dropped out completely and we ended up motoring the last 4 hours of our 43 mile trip to Mazagón

IMG_0022-1 It was a pleasant surprise to see 4 other yachts in the anchorage inside the wide river entrance, but next morning they all left!!  The small town of Mazagón sits at the entrance to the Rio Huelva, further up the river it joins the Rio Tinto and it was from this area that back in 1492 Cristóbal Colón set sail to discover ‘The New World’.  When exactly his name got changed to Christopher Colombus I have no idea, it’s on the list of things to google one day!!!  We spent a day visiting the Muelle de las Carabelas, a museum that has replicas of the 3 ship fleet.  Barely longer than Balvenie but much more beamy and higher, you just can’t imagine how all the supplies, livestock and crew managed in such small confines.  Inside the museum there were several interesting exhibits, charts and treasures but unfortunately all the information was only in Spanish. 

We ended up spending a few nights in the marina - just can’t seem to keep away from them this season – we had checked the weather and saw over 40 knots forecast from the southeast, the only quadrant we were exposed to so moved in and tied up.  We ended up getting 47knots so were pleased with our decision.  We also got covered with sand from all the beaches south of us and we looked like a boat shaped giant sandcastle, we are getting used to it now but great to have the chance to clean it all off again before leaving the marina.

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