In the footsteps of Nelson

I’m not sure the terminology of the title is completely correct – its hard to be in someone’s footsteps if you are both on a boat. But whatever, I was really excited to sail past Cape Trafalgar, which had a significant impact on the last 200 years or so of history. Especially now that they have discovered the fact that Napoleon was planning to invade Sydney, right up until the point where Nelson wrote his name into the history books.

I always thought that Trafalgar was somewhere around France given it was a French-English get together and was quite surprised to find it way down the bottom of Spain. Well there you go.

Anyway, it wasn’t til about 11am that we managed to get La Mischief into the water and off we headed East. As we closed in on the Straits of Gibraltar, we started to see Africa off in the distance.

Those wonderful northerlies suddenly deserted us as we headed towards the Straits of Gibraltar and we found the wind right on our nose.  On with the iron sails.

With the wind against us and the late start, we were going to break our 2pm rule by quite a bit. And did we pay for it. Cape Trafalgar is a nasty little Cape to go around with lots of shallow water quite a fair way out and boy to we feel it.

La Mischief handled the rough and tumble with a plumb, and we were tied up at the collector jetty in Barbate just after 8pm. Fredy had advised to go around the Tuna nets that go way out to sea, but the charts were fairly good and we could easily go through the 500m gap between the start of the nets and the harbour break wall, so we went the much more direct way.

We were surprised to find the office still open and I’ve got to say it was one of the best little marinas we’ve been to. We ended up checking in two nights as the next day was no good to go through the Straits.

Paul and Ness, whose 60 foot catamaran Paradise, we had anchored beside in Cascais came and helped tie us up and low and behold, Stan and Paul both worked in nuclear power plants, Stan being an engineer and Paul a nuclear physicist. Paul had also worked on nuclear subs, which had Stan fascinated.

Two days gave us time to check out Barbate, and despite what the cruising guide said, we found it a great little town. Fredy told us about how the King of Spain goes to Barbate just to eat their red tuna so Stan and Judy hopped on their bikes, after chatting with Paul and Ness and headed for a restaurant at 10pm. I stayed and went to bed.

Next day, I went and explored the town and checked out red tuna sashimi at one of the many beachside restaurants. Found some good internet access so was able to chat with both Cas and Alex, which was great.

In the afternoon, I trekked along the top of the impressive cliffs towards Cape Trafalgar. Saw a mad kite surfer miles out to sea, skimming along in the stiff breeze. Tarifa just up towards Gibraltar is world-renowned for its wind surfing and kite surfing. Hence why we were waiting an extra day.

Back at the marina, I called in on Paradise and Paul and Ness fed me a beautiful curry. It was finally good to get into the social side of the cruising life. One of the attractions is the friends you quickly make and bump into from time to time. Up until now, we hadn’t seen too many cruisers, but now the cruising season was starting and boats were appearing.

Then it was off to bed, ready for an early start as we sailed out of the Atlantic ocean and into the Med. Wow.

For photos of Barbate see


On our way into Puerto Sherry, we sailed straight past the ancient walled city of Cadiz. The sights of the old walls and the geography of Cadiz, which looks like its built on a small island at the end of a spit, had us curious and excited to go and visit its sights. Which was just as well, as La Mischief was up on the hard for the weekend and we weren’t allowed to sleep on her. 

But before I could plonk myself on the ferry and get over to Cadiz, I had to spend a night at the marina hotel as we needed to do some work the next morning. After that, I wandered over to a function that was happening at the Marina as part of a Festival of Water and chatted with a few people, before getting on the 5pm ferry from nearby El Puerto de Santa Maria and heading for Cadiz. Interestingly, these ferries stop running earlyish (for Spain) at night.

Arriving in Cadiz, my first job was to find some accommodation – and this was harder than I thought because there was a huge religious festival going on. Cadiz is a small city and there were people everywhere.  After checking about 5 different places, I finally found one, and it was nothing to write home about. I booked in for one night and found a much better one for the next (Sunday) night.

Cadiz is said to be the oldest city still standing in Western Europe.  Supposedly, it was founded 80 years after the Troyan Wars, around 1104 B.C. Makes Perth look like a new-born baby, all soft and cuddly.

The link with Seville is interesting. For 200 years Sevilla had the exclusive rights to all trade with the Americas. However, come the 18th century, the sand bars of the river Guadalquivir forced the Spanish government to transfer the monopoly to Cadiz with its better access to the Atlantic. During this time, the city experienced a golden age where it became one of Spain’s greatest and most cosmopolitan cities and home to trading communities from many countries, among whom the richest was the Irish, believe it or not. May explain why Lord Bryon dropped in to declare it the most beautiful town he’d ever beheld. He obviously hadn’t done enough behelding in the vicinity of Sevilla.

After organising my bed for the night, I spent the rest of the afternoon/evening wandering around and photographing a whole heap of beautiful historic buildings and delightful squares in the Old City. It really is a most beautiful city to photograph.

I came across a particularly impressive monument celebrating the fact that Cadiz was where the liberal Spanish Constitution was proclaimed, and where the good citizens of Cadiz  revolted in 1820 to secure a renewal of this constitution. From here the revolution spread right across Spain, leading to the imprisonment of King in Cadiz.

I also spent a bit of time wandering around the top of the wall that surrounds the old city, which is walkable the whole way round.

The next morning was a Sunday and the place was abuzz with people participating, following and spectating on a whole series of grandiose religious  processions with lots of colour and pageantry. It’s evidently a huge annual event and lucky us had stumbled across it quite by accident. More clicking of the camera.

After another morning of pageantry and sightseeing in the old city it was time to check out the beach. Cadiz has got a 4km stretch of sandy beach on its Atlantic side and I think I managed to walk along most of it and back. It was packed, being reasonably hot. I went for a couple of quick swims, but its a bit like Perth water in November, a bit too cold.

Next morning, it was up early and to the ferry terminal to catch the first ferry back to the boat. La Mischief was going back in and we were off again.

For photos of Cadiz see