The trip upriver was lovely but we had an ulterior motive in going. We had lost the wind. Our experience of this side of Portugal and Spain (the Algarve and the Costa de la Luz) has been very all or nothing in terms of wind and weather. Normally, if you are sailing round the world, then you are relatively relaxed about deadlines and happy for even the slightest wind to puff you along gently at 2 or 3 knots. However, we have friends waiting to join the boat in Gib for the Atlantic and we need to both get to and be leaving the Canaries at the right time of year in order to progress forwards.


The upshot of this is having to motor-sail more then we had wanted. This is when your sails are up and filled as best they can be but getting a bit of extra help in your forward motion from the engine. No wind often follws periods of big, fast, violent wind (the calm after the storm) but doesn’t mean that things will necessarily be smooth. Big winds whip up the sea and often there is still huge amounts of swell days after the winds have gone.


So with no wind but an awful lot of sloppy, choppy swell, we left the mouth of the Rio Guadiana and made a quick hop to Punta Umbria, to lie at anchor upstream from their army of a fishing fleet. We like these very functional Spanish fishing ports as they aren’t even slightly touristy. And our arrival here marked us passing into Spain once more and rather reluctantly changing the clocks. Not that it made much difference mind you as, being a Spring tide, we realised that we would need to leave Punta Umbria by 6am at the lastest in order to not be fighting a 5knot ebb tide (for the uninitiated this amounts to a hell of a lot of strong and fast flowing water against you).


Next stop was Chipiona, where we ended up somewhat stranded for a few days in their marina (after convincing them NOT to charge us for a 20m berth just because they were full and that they must move us to one of the local’s berths that was empty). However, the stranding was not down to fighting Spanish beaurocracy but to a number of thunderstorms that took any decision making out of our hands.


But there are worse places to be stranded. Chipiona has a really lovely old town quarter, cobbled pedestrianised streets, good quality gelatarias, a beautiful old church and museum with hand-painted tiles depicting saints. Our first night finds us in a gorgeous wood-panelled bar, sipping ice cold Manzanilla (a sharp, white sherry) while picking caracoles (Spanish snails) from their patterned shells with little pins, nibbling plump, emerald green olives and letting wafer thin slices of Iberico ham melt on our tongues. Yup, as far as our storm tactics go, this is one of my favourites.


James and I joke that in all these delicious places we go to we just walk around aimlessly buying food. There is a certain amount of truth to this but we’ve started to relish the difference in the items we get from each place, which is why there are a number of provisioning trips recorded in our photos as “Food Glorious Food”. It is interesting to me though that super fresh and flavoursome bread is always extremely cheap; fruit and vegetables seem to vary the most in terms of quality of flavour versus price; and, hands down, olive oil ever since we left England has the most extraordinary nutty, fruity flavour to it, making you question what that stuff you’re buying in Sainsburys really is.


Anyway, the weather eventually cleared up enough for us to leave Chipiona which allowed us to make a break further south. Much though we’d enjoyed Chipiona we’ve really grown to love staying at anchor rather than in marinas (which can just feel like carparks) so our plan was to go to Sancti-Petri. However, with the residual swell left over from the storms the entrance would have been impossible so we went further South to Puerto de Conil, a tiny fishing harbour with a small spot for anchoring just outside. It made for a very bumpy night even though it was sheltered from the South Westerly swell but we consoled our sleepy heads with the thought that we were now only one move from Gibraltar.