Bilbao to Cartagena (Part 1)

Well, we finally left Bilbao, we carried out all the last-minute checks,  filled up with diesel and water, paid our bills and set off.

As this was the first sail in nearly a year (often called a shakedown cruise) you expect little things to go wrong, but apart from the steaming light (part of the navigation lights) not working and the Bowthruster sticking just as we left the marina everything else worked. The bow thruster is a small propeller built into the front of the boat – about the size of a small outboard motor – which allows you to steer the bow left and right when you need to move the boat quickly in close quarters.It makes manoeuvring a big boat like Allegrini a whole lot easier, so when it stuck on we were being pushed over to starboard (right) onto the pontoon.  I managed to grab a screwdriver, pop off the control and disconnect the wires snd then check it out once we were out.

Our First run was from Getxo to Ribadeo and we were blessed by lots of dolphins pretty much the whole trip.  We had stayed in Ribadeo before pre-Covid on our way down to our Atlantic Crossing back in 2018.  It’s a very pretty town on the side of a river, under a road bridge, the marina down at river level and the rest of the town up a steep hill.

Of course, we had to have the obligatory churros with coffee, occasionally with a very thick chocolate drink!

We left Ribadeo, with lots of dolphins en route and headed for A Coruña, again this was a port of call during 2018, so we only stopped a couple of nights, visited the lighthouse and surrounding area with the dog, sampled the local food, and moved on.

We popped around the corner from A Coruña to the first of the western Rias, Ria Camarinas, and anchored in the bay. A stunning little Ria, with beautiful long beaches and yes we had lots of dolphins along the way and in the Ria itself, chasing tuna as the tide came in and out.

We soon came to realise that this part of the voyage was no longer a holiday cruise, but had turned into a bit of a delivery trip, for two reasons.  One was we had committed to a winter contract in Cartagena and the other was that until we got down past Lagos and into the Algarve we had pretty much explored a lot of it on the way down in 2018!

So after a couple of nights in Baiona (the last Spanish town before Portugal) and meeting up with friends of friends, Iain and Kate who are just setting off on their adventures on Intrepid Bear, we “hot-footed” down the Portuguese coast doing overnight stays, and if too tired, sometimes two nights,  first stop was Porto (with another great night out with Intrepid Bear), then  Figueira da Foz, Peniche, Cascais, Sines (Birthplace of Vasco de Gama) and then a long sail from Sines to Lagos.  Dolphins appeared every single trip multiple times to cheer us up when we were flagging.  You just never tire of seeing them off the bow or jumping in front of the boat showing off.

When we were in the Caribbean and Bahamas our biggest threats were hurricanes, insurance companies made demands that tried to ensure you were in a place, where you weren’t at risk. At this stage of our journey, our biggest risk seemed to be Orca (killer whales), that towards the back end of the summer had been attacking boats from A Coruña all the way down to Tarifa. When we say attack we mean ramming and taking bites out of rudders.

Some of the attacks were so bad that yachts needed to be towed into port. (check out the Orca Iberica site)

We, however, managed the whole trip without any interaction but did see them in the distance just off Cascais, close enough thank you.

Once in Lagos we needed some downtime, so we stopped for a few days and caught up on sleep, reprovisioning and friends from the last voyage, Charles and Diana from Astraia.

From this point on we were in new territory, when we left Lagos last time it was a 4-5 day sail south down the coast of Africa to the Canary Islands, this time we were turning east and heading to Albufeira.  As many of you will know, this was probably one of the first Portuguese holiday destinations for brits from as far back as the 1960s, it’s looking pretty tired now but still attracts a lot of tourism, 5 million a year to be precise! Also another useless fact, it appears that Bonnie Tyler wasn’t “lost in France” after all, but has been living in Albufeira since the 1980s.  Didn’t see her though.  Nor any dolphins which seemed to have left us at the corner of Portugal.

After a couple of nights we moved onto an anchorage in Faro, it was a little blowy and rolly and therefore not a great night’s sleep, so we pushed onto Rota at first light.

Rota was a lovely surprise and a beautiful little town, nestled directly opposite Cadiz, its tiny little streets with restaurants, little bakeries, and cake shops were delightful – this coupled with an incredibly long stretch of sandy beach and amazing sunsets! We stumbled upon a unique little tapas bar that if you find yourself in Rota you should definitely visit, run by a Romanian called Danny and his Spanish wife Juanita, who the tapas bar is named after.  It’s a great fusion of his roots and her Spanish tapas, making for a really different kind of experience.

Next Rota to Gibraltar!



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