The Levante had always threatened to scupper this trip. In the Straits of Gibraltar, it can blow 40 to 50 knots day and night non stop for a week and we can't sail in that. The friendly Skegway policeman had said that they had a rule of thumb: if a Levante begins on the Monday of one week, they would expect it to blow till the Monday of the following week If that happened now we'd struggle to reach Tarifa before we had to go home, never mind cross the Straits to Morocco and back.
So far the wind had always been strongest in the afternoon, so Tom and I were up at eight to try and make some progress before things went ballistic. It was already set, white caps out to sea, on the nose, beating again. At nine o'clock when we launched it was 15 knots. The windiest start to a day so far. We raced up the coast in warm flat water, but by the time we'd reached the pretty little river estuary at Sancti Petri, I was already hanging on for all I was worth. I tensioned my sail up to my 'nuclear' setting and tacked inshore to stay out the worst of the wind, but it was gusty in there, a couple of the gusts wrenched the boom out of my hands, sending me flying into the sail, the second time it happened I put my foot through the foot of the sail.
We telephoned ahead to Fab, she'd meet us on the beach at Conil with a spare sail. My rig was still performing all right even with the rip in the foot and it was tempting to soldier on without changing it. But ahead lay Cape Trafalgar, we could already make out the lighthouse, and, behind that, Canos de Meca, renowned for having the best waves in the area, with the wind blowing it's tits off and the sea likely to jack up at any moment there was every chance that the damaged sail, already under mental tension, might explode, so, relunctantly, we headed in.
I've long had a soft spot for this southern corner of the Costa de La Luz; parched mountains, clear tepid azure waters, soft sandy beaches, white washed ribbons of conjoined houses, moorish towns, warm winds. Conil de La Frontera was all of the above and beautiful beaches, which were also fantastically warm in the shallows. Now we've sailed past every beach in western europe, the wide expanses of Le Touquet, the pink granite of Isle to Brehat, the endless sands of Aquitaine and the towering dunes of Arcachon, remote coves in the Cantabrian cliffs of the Basque country, gnarly Galician beaches with austere spiked rocks, still sanctuaries in the tranquil rias of North West Spain, steep pounding shelves on the Portugese Atlantic and remote inaccesible sand bars off the Algarve............Costa de La Luz still ranks with the best.
The life guard was on me before I hit the shore, explaining in spanish that I could only windsurf in the channel between the red and green marker buoys and not in the area marked out by the yellow cones. The fact that I had done just that, sailing meticulously between the port and starboard markers, seemed of little interest to him, that was in the past and his concern was with what happened in the future. He was nice enough though. Walking up the beach to find Fab I passed another lifeguard up in a watch tower, the first bloke had already radioed ahead and asked him to re-explain in English (which he bellowed from the top of the tower). He was friendly too, especially when he found out where we'd come from and that we'd only come ashore to make repairs - even came over to the camper van to say goodbye before he left for lunch.
Re-rigged and with even more downhaul, I bludgeoned on into the wind towards Trafalgar, where the lighthouse sat atop a low sandy bluff. White water strecthed out to sea for several miles from the point. We stopped short of the cape, a lovely little beach with a few wooden bungalows, a small restaurant, some craft stalls and a few thatched tables, very caribbean.
"That surf'll be Canos de Meca, told you it was a wave sailing spot" I said.
We were already on the limit, it seemed unlikely that we could handle this much wind in proper waves. I'd found it hard hanging on till here, never mind in anything worse, the new sail was not setting as stable as the previous one. We had another go at rigging it and then decided to sail up to the point and check it out - it looked as though there might be gap in the surf close inshore that we could get through . There wasn't. And I'd been wrong, that white water was not the surf at Canos de Meca, not at all, that was a couple of miles of overfalls, standing waves thrown up by the currrent gushing round the point.: Ahead lay a true rounding, we had another proper cape to pass.
I don't know why I hadn't seen it coming. I'd reckoned that Sagres, two hundred miles back, was our last, and potentially most dangerous, rounding, Atlantic rollers, sheer cliffs.......between a rock and a hard place......... but Trafalgar, wasn't that in the gentle waters of the bay of Cadiz? and it was sand for goodness sake, if there'd been any sizeable currents wouldn't they have wiped it out? But the sand was just a cloak, a camouflage, a few miles inshore, in a direct line, lay a large mountain bending down towards the sea, there was rock here, they hadn't built that lighthouse on sand.