Tuesday, October 6, 2009

First days in Spain

We reached Mazagón, Spain, just before sunset because our departure from Vila Real de Santo António, Portugal, had to be delayed until slack water. Vila Real is a little way up the Rio Guadiana, the border between Portugal and Spain here, and there is definitely current in the marina as we discovered when we docked. We wanted to exit with a little more dignity than we entered. It was another day of motoring, boring and tiring at the same time.

This morning we left Mazagón, after having seen nothing but the marina, with plenty of time to get to our next stop, Chipiona, in time to explore a bit. Alas, some Spanish dudes in a RIB (rigid inflatable boat) had other plans for us. Instead of following the most direct route we got to participate in a military exercise that seemed to consist of giving sailboats bearings to clear the military practice zone, multiple times with different bearings each time. With us they got to practice in English. We noticed that the sailboat ahead of us changed course several times too. By the fourth course change the poor guy on the radio was apologizing somewhat profusely. The guys in the RIB disappeared after the second visit, which was to tell us what radio channel to monitor to get our instructions. We never did see or hear any evidence of military activity in the area, but we were taken several miles out of our way.

Military practice areas line the coasts of Europe. When we first started planning routes here, we stayed out of them even though the shortest route usually crossed them. After watching many other boats cut through, we decided not to worry about them unless we were kicked out or saw signs of military activity. This was the first time we've been diverted.

Tomorrow we get to sleep in a little since we're less than 20 miles from our next stop, Rota. We've been sailing to a schedule since Lagos because we had to make reservations for the marina at Rota where our friends Richard and Andrea Black on Saeta are moored. We have reservations for three nights there, but John wants to do some boat jobs, so we're going to see if we can stay a fourth night. We expect Rota to be our last stop before Gibraltar, but there is one marina in between where we could stop if we need to.

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