Our own fight

Cadiz and the Battle of Trafalgar

20th October 2012
Seville, Spain


Cadiz and the Battle of Trafalgar


From the marina in Rota there is a ferry that goes the short distance across the bay to the old city of Cadiz. Taking that and not sailing over seemed a good opportunity to take a bus man’s holiday when we visited for the day with Tim and Nancy from the boat “Lazarus”.


Cadiz and singeing the kings beard

Cadiz may have been spoilt for us after witnessing the splendour of Seville but it is another Spanish city that is well worth making the effort to see. Cadiz is the oldest city in Europe, crammed onto a small spit of land and does have that old world feel to it. The city has been blockaded by the British on many occasions, often for several years at a time. In April 1587 a raid on Cadiz by Sir Francis Drake occupied the harbour for three days, capturing six ships and destroying 31 others as well as a large measure of stores (an event popularly known as ‘The Singeing of the King of Spain’s Beard‘). The attack delayed the sailing of the Spanish Armada by a year.  Columbus set out on his 2nd and 4th journeys from Cadiz and the massive trees growing in the parks are rumoured to have been brought back by him.


The fish market in Cadiz is amazing

Angelina in Cadiz

Angelina in Cadiz

There are many old and beautiful buildings mainly in the central old quarter but in all honesty it is not my favourite place. The one place in Cadiz that is worth visiting is the fish and fruit market. It has more fish than Harry Ramsden would know what to do with. Some sea creatures we easily recognised but others I swear were used in episodes of horror movies. They were just plain weird and should only be eaten with closed eyes in a darkened room.

There was the remnant of a hurricane blowing over in Rota whilst we waited for a weather window to get to Gibraltar. We would like to have reached there for the boy’s birthdays. Last year they got a pack of coke (the drinking stuff). This year we may even stretch to an ice creme. The thing is, whatever we get them we know they understand our financial position and will not grumble. Tell me how may teenage kids you can say that about? In so many ways we often feel humbled by our own children, which is why this journey is so special.


Sailing in the battle of Trafalgar

We did eventually manage to get out of Rota in a two-day weather window that should have allowed us to get to Barbate one day and then onto Gibraltar the next. It was pretty windless on our motor down to Barbate which is just around the corner from the famous Capo Trafalgar. As we sailed over the very seas where the battle of Trafalgar took place we reminded ourselves of the history.


Tribute to Trafalgar

The French and Spanish fleet with some 20 to 30,000 men were massed in Cadiz just prior to the battle of Trafalgar. One of Nelson’s ships watched the combined fleet leave Cadiz heading south and through a relay, Nelson’s fleet of 27 ships closed in on the bigger Armada catching them at Cape Trafalgar. The rest is as they say history. What did surprise me was the shallowness of the waters well out from the coast which was even a challenge to us in a far smaller boat with modern electronic charts. There are also so very strong currents in the seas around here. We are merely playing at boating but these sailors in Men of War, fighting for their lives were the real deal. The battle took place on 21st October 1805. We passed the over the very spot where the battle took place on the 20th October 2012. We paid tribute to the men of both sides who lost their lives and protected our freedom in our own way and said a few words.


Between continents (Europe and Africa)

As if being in one of the most famous parts of the sea wasn’t enough to bring a lump to the throat when we looked across from Trafalgar we could quiet clearly see Morocco. Granted we could not see people wearing a Fez but at 20 miles away Tangier’s was actually closer to us than Gibraltar. It was another continent and we were in touching distance. What’s more important was that we had also done it together.


Barbate, the second worst place we have visited

Next to Capo Trafalgar is Barbate where we moored in the marina for the night. Gibraltar can be a challenge with strong tides and winds so we wanted to go during daylight the following day.

barbate anchors

Tuna net anchors

Barbate I have to say is the Ramsgate of Spain. I would like to say it is worse but I can’t. It is not very nice at all although that may be because it is a very fishing oriented town. There is a huge, horrible trek to get into town along a dusty, dirty road and is just not worth it. It is run down and although surrounded by some beautiful scenery and beaches when you get up close and personal there is rubbish everywhere. It is just not the place to be. To add to our misery it rained which in one way was good as it stopped a plague of flies invading our boat. It also kept the flick knife carrying gangs of ferrule cats that kept dumping all over the pontoons away. Barbate must have one redeeming feature I hear you say… well, no it hasn’t.


Sailing troubles

We decided to leave at 0800 the following morning in the dark before the town rose and realised we had escaped. Initially there was not enough wind to sail and it was slightly from behind. We pulled out our big front sail (genoa) but kept the engine on. The seas were very rough and bouncy but we knew as we got further along and turned for Gibraltar they would be running behind us and it would make things a lot calmer. As we were about a third of the way there the wind very quickly rose to well over 20 knots so it felt a good time to reef the genoa (pull in some sail to make the boat more controllable). This is where things went really wrong.


The sail is stuck!

The reefing line to pull in the sail was stuck around the furling drum. I went forward to try and release it but it was tighter than a Gibraltar monkeys grip on a stolen ice creme. We had to release pressure on the drum and line as the sails kept tugging at it spinning the mostly enclosed drum just enough to stop me being able to free the line. Jordan helmed into the wind but the bow of the boat was now digging into the big waves and I was getting drenched. It was also dangerous with the sails flapping all over. With the help of Angelina and Aiden we managed to drop the sail from the masthead completely as there was no way that line could be undone in those seas.

We were worried about the sail going over the side and getting wrapped around the prop or so full of water we wouldn’t be able to get it back on-board. After an all in wrestling match we eventually beat and tied the sail into submission. Once that was done we motored back to Barbate under some very rough seas but it was much preferred to the sail being stuck up in strong winds.


Proud of the Cygnus III crew

Looking back I don’t think any of us were too scared and we did everything we could do given the conditions and circumstances. It is in challenges like that you find an inner strength. Nobody wanted to be on the fore deck in those conditions but we all went, we all did our bit and we all looked after each other.

Since our first attempt other boats have tried and failed also, some more than once. With strong winds forecast for a couple of days it looks like the Spanish version of Stalag Ramsgate has got us well and truly trapped. Fear not however, even as we speak we are devising a cunning plan to escape Barbate..



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