Thursday, September 29, 2011

Letter from Seville

Noel and Ceu:

Sailing from Portimao to Seville is an easy four day venture: Portimao to Culahtra, Culahtra to Ayamonte on the Guadiana, Ayamonte to Bonanza on the Guadalquivir, Bonanza to Gelves just outside of Seville.
We did find a repeatable pattern of wind along the south coast of Portugal and Spain - strong offshore breeze every morning which would slowly peter out as the sun warmed the land.  By noon near calm and we motoring.  As the heating continued the wind built from offshore and quickly made it to 17 knots where it held for the afternoon.  This was our experience for each of the three days we took out of Portimao.  

The first evening we slipped into the Guadiana River to anchor on the Spanish side of the river just north of Ayamonte in mud with good holding.  The usual strong current runs as with all the river anchorages along this coast.    A long entry into the river ate up an hour of daylight.  The Guadiana did not look interesting enough to bother sailing up but we have heard good things.

Entry into the Guadalquivir is easy.  A wide deep marked channel leads you in.  Likely you will be coming in in the afternoon and so will have a following wind and waves.  Not a problem for us and the wind had been blowing 15 to 20 all afternoon.  Travel upstream until you are just off the small town of Bonanza.  You will see a line of vessels anchored on the west bank of the river.  Proceed upstream until you are just past the last of the vessels.  Anchor on the west side in 15 feet of water in mud.   Good holding. 

We left for Seville at slack before low tide but you could profitably wait half and hour or so after low tide and might get a bit more push.  Still the trip upriver took less than 8 hours.  

When you get to Seville, which you can tell because you come upon a big concrete and steel structure on the East side of the river.  You cannot miss it.  

Now you must decide:

Go to Seville.  Not recommended.  Turn right at the lock and try to get locked up.  When you are locked up you will have to anchor because you need to wait for a bascule bridge to open.  So far as we can tell the bridge only operates at 2200 on Monday and Wednesday and then only if the Club Nautico calls ahead to tell the operator you are coming. Then you pay huge for a slip at the marina which despite reports does not look all that appealing.  It seemed to us that city buses do not come within half a mile of the marina.

Go to Gelves.  Recommended.  In Spades.  Just take the left branch past the diversion to the Canal de Alfonso XIII and carry on upstream for another two miles or so.  You will come on a dilapidated tiny marina on your port side and a few small sailboats anchored in the river.  Just past the anchored sailboats is a bridge that you cannot pass.  

This stretch of river past the sailboats is a fabulous anchorage.  Mud with good holding in about 30 feet.  Strong current running I would say up to 4 knots so set the hook well.  Dinghy to the marina which is actually part of the Puerto de Gelves.  There is very little traffic past this anchorage so wake is minimum - nothing like the continuous wake of Portimao.  

For €2 a day you can land your dinghy, use their modest but welcome showers and laundry facilities, fill with water and all that stuff.  Staff are very friendly.

Once ashore you have two resto bars and a minimercado which is adequately stocked.  You are close by several good groceries only a short walk or a bus stop or two away.

The bus stop is just outside the marina on the major road.  We recommend the charcoal grilling at the Taverna del Puerto, a family run resto bar.  The bartender, Fernando, is a cocky 18 year old who wants to take marine biology at university.  His brother is even cockier but both of them in a delightful way.  We have persuaded Fernando to come to Canada to check out universities in St Johns and Halifax.  We are delighted that he has accepted, tentatively of course.  No contracto.  The father is a master on the grill and will prepare a true feast for you if you want.  Mom is a Spanish delight.

Say hello from us.  It will give the family a tickle.

Now, for buses and this gets a bit complicated:

1. There are three separate transportation systems: Metro, Tussam and Consorcio de Transport or Intercity Bus.  They do not cooperate much.

2.  From the marina you take the No. 140 Intercity bus to Seville.  It runs every 20 minutes or so and takes you to a stop right in old Seville.  You cannot miss  the stop.   Once over the bridge the bus turns right and runs a short distance down the river.  It stops beside the river at a city bus stop.  Cash fare is €1.35 each and the driver will make change.

3.  Once in the City you want to get to a Metro station.  There is one close to the downtown Intercity bus stop.  The signs are green and you go underground - NOT THE ABOVE GROUND TRAM.  In the Metro are machines that will sell you paper cards with magnetic reader devices.   You pay €1.50 for the card and put some money on it, I think the minimum is €8 or so but don't worry you will use it.  

With this card your bus only costs you €0.88 per trip.  It is also good on the Metro which is really handy.  There are no transfers between intercity bus and Metro even though you use the same card.  However you get a reduced fare if you transfer.  Your card keeps track of where you have been and when you climb on the bus from the Metro or vice versa it automatically reduces your fare by almost half.  Not quite so good as a transfer but pretty decent none the less.  

4.  If you want to take a municipal bus, the TUSSAM bus system you have a problem.  Just pay the cash fare of €1.35 per person is our recommendation.  We looked for a frustrating 3 days to try to find a vendor of the Bonobus card used by the Tussam buses.  With the card the cost of bus fare is reduced to €0.88 but they are hard to find.  They are supposedly sold by every tobacconist.  Most tobacconists are never open or closed their businesses down years ago.  We finally found a vendor at the Gran Plaza Metro stop.  Just walk around the plaze in a circle until you come on a kiosk in the street.  The guy there sells the cards.  If you are at Gran Plaza anyway take the B4 bus.  It is a long meander through "real" Seville - apartment blocks, shopping centres and the local big box stores.  Takes over an hour for a circuit but you are likely tired anyway.

After you find a Tobacconist suddenly they are everywhere.  Seems like they hide until you do not need them. 

You will get the standard tourist map at any of several tourist booths downtown and then you are on your own.  You could spend a week just walking around the old downtown. 

Yours truly

Curmudgeon and the Budget Committee

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