Monday, 12 September 2016

Chipiona and Rota

After the rather barren surroundings of Mazagon, we were looking forward to a little civilization at a summer resort and headed for Chipiona.  We pulled up to the waiting pontoon and Patrick went to the office to register and get a spot.  He came back with a funny look on his face, saying that there were no visitor’s spots available because of work on the docks, but at the last minute they managed to squeeze us into an owner’s spot with the understanding that we had to leave before noon on the next day.  Better than nothing and we enjoyed Chipiona for the evening that we were there.  Nothing special, just charming streets, architecture, restaurants, bars, boutiques, and ice cream shops !

The next small hop down the coast was to Rota.  The marina was practically empty when we arrived and we only saw a couple of non-Spanish boats while we were there.  The town is charming and there is enough to hold your interest for a few days.  When we arrived on a Sunday, we noticed lots of boats moored off the beach between Rota and the US Military naval base on the other side of the small bay.  We decided we would spend our last night there at anchorage.  Bad idea.

Rota Marina
Rota Market
We pulled up around 6pm and anchored about 200 meters from the naval base jetty, where we could see naval ships of all sizes peeking over the breakwaters.  We joked that we were under surveillance and should remain appropriately clothed, and that this would not be the right time to bring out my big camera and start taking pictures.  There were 3 other boats in the area and we settled in happily with sundowners in the cockpit.

Just as the sun was going down, a small high-speed pilot boat came around the corner with a blue siren flashing.  They went to a small fishing boat first (“great…it’s just for that guy who’s too close”) and then they came straight up to us.  With a loud-speaker, they said “Do you speak English?” too which I responded “Yes, I’m an American.” This seemed to puzzle them (or perhaps disappointed them as they were all geared up to harass some French frogs).  The nice young man kindly explained to me that we were too close to the naval station and that we needed to move at least 500 meters away from their jetty.  We moved and put the anchor down just as the sun sank.

Now, surely, they saw where we were… we were on their radar from the beginning.  But they waited until HALF PAST MIDNIGHT to come back to us, sirens and flood lights blaring into our windows, screeching out “You are too close to a US naval installation.” I fumbled around in a panic and pulled on some shorts, stumbled out into the cockpit and we started the whole thing all over again.  “Do you speak English?” “Yes, I’m an American.”  I then explained that his colleague already visited us and told us to move 500 meters from the jetty and that our chart plotter showed that we were more than 500 meters away.  He said that we needed to be east of a red beacon light on the shore, about 200 meters further away.  We turned on the deck lights, dug out our headlamps, and fired up the instruments to prepare to move again.

As we motored to the area they suggested, we noticed that we were getting dangerously close to some rocks.  The other alternative was getting too close to a roped-off beach area, where the risk would be to get the rope wrapped around a rudder in the middle of the night.  Fed up with the whole thing, we just decided to head back to the port of Rota.  It was well-lit and we knew the port already.  We just tied up to the waiting pontoon, pointed ourselves in the departure direction, and set our alarms for a dawn departure.

All of the towns along this coast are proud of their links to Columbus' voyages.  Many crew came from this area.

It turns out that we were happy to have returned to port, since the winds picked up to 15-20 knots unexpectedly during the night.  The next morning, we still had 15 knots and quite a lot of swell and chop to push through, but we just gritted our teeth and pushed through the 5 miles to Cadiz.  The military had a last parting gesture for us, though.  They patrol a large square area in front of their base that is marked on the charts but with no indication that we are not allowed to pass.  However, as we headed on a direct route for Cadiz, we noticed the warship turned to intercept us and turned its stern to clearly indicate the limit of their zone.  We tacked out to make a large swing around their zone and were very relieved to be finished with that area.  When we arrived in Cadiz, we had an email waiting for us.  The port of Rota noticed we had spent the night (from 1:30 am to 7:30 am) on their waiting dock and said we could pay the 30 Euro fee in Cadiz if we preferred.  You can run but you can’t hide.


Astrolabe Sailing said...

Gosh! How ridiculous!!