Cadiz Bay and surrounds


We had called at Cadiz on our way east, but had not stayed nor looked around properly, so we felt we should spend some time there. We left Gibralter and headed first to Sancti Petri, where we stayed for some time. We then went around to El Puerto de Santa Maria, from which we were able to travel by ferry to see Cadiz itself.

Sancti Petri estuary

We spent a short while anchored immediately north of the moorings in the estuary. Inland, there are extensive creeks and 'marismas' - salt marshes, while to seaward sand dunes have formed outside the marismas. The area is designated as National Park. North from Sancti Petri, a channel leads some 3 miles and is navigable by a yacht as far as the marina at Gallineras. It is possible to land here and access the shops and other facilities at San Fernando. Beyond this, the channel is navigable with the tide by small boats and outboards, and continues, looping south (from here it may be possible to access Chiclana), and then back north to skirt the southern edge of the town of San Fernando. It passes under road bridges, past the naval shipyards at Carraca, before emerging into Cadiz Bay itself, a total of some 9 miles.

Sancti Petri

Sancti Petri was developed as a tuna fishing and canning village in the 1920's, but the bottom dropped out of this market in the 1970's, for some reason we did not establish. The village was abandoned to the military, and fell into disrepair. Many of the buildings lack roofs, but some rehabilitation is occuring, and the church building has been re-roofed in recent times. It has an active fishing community, and sitting at the entrance to the estuary of the same name, it lies at the end of extensive beaches. Opposite, the dunes that protect it form part of a National Park, while sailing schools and canoes operate from the beaches. At present there are no facilities, other than a few bars and restaurants. The marina is operated by the Club Nautico, while further pontoons appear to be administered by the port authority.

Buses run infrequently from Sancti Petri to the town of Chiclana de la Frontera, where supermarkets and other facilities, including a Lidl, may be found.

San Fernando

San Fernando is a town occupying much of the 'island' on which it is situated. It has major shops and supermarkets, including Mercadona, Carrefour and Super-Sol. While the centre of town is reasonably attractive, the outlying developments are not, and some buildings have been abandoned incomplete.

Access by foot to the shoreline to the north is limited by the dual carriageway road and railway line. A 'yacht club' with pontoons in a dredged pool and dredged access channels is being developed at Caseria, a village that is cut off from the rest of the town by a combination of the railway, road, and military establishments. Opposite the railway station, however, there is a Mercadona.

Much of the shoreline to the south is salt marsh, but to the west there is a marina at Gallineras, operated by the Club Nautico. It may be possible to lie alongside here. We were allowed to leave the dinghy there without charge. It is a long hike from here into the centre of town (about 1.5 miles): we took a taxi back with our shopping.

Cadiz and its bridges

As far as we could determine, the Puente Carranza lifting bridge does not open except for major vessel movements to and from the Arsenal de la Carraca shipyards. As its air draught is restricted to 17.9m, this prevented us from exploring the estuary south of it, although much of the area is occupied by drying mud flats. It seemed that there is a potential spot to explore here. The new yacht club basin and channel leading to it may only cater for smaller local boats, but it does potentially provide access to a Mercadona supermarket (opposite the railway station), albeit with a bit of a hike.

At present, the bridge provides the major and most direct link for traffic in and out of Cadiz. When the new suspension bridge north of it is completed (work has currently stopped mid project) then the regime on the lifting bridge may perhaps be relaxed.

Cadiz is a delightful city, but the only facility for visiting yachts is the Puerto America marina, a long and rather unattractive walk from the city centre. Our log describes our day's exploration.

El Puerto de Santa Maria

We decided to go to El Puerto, as at that stage we needed water. The Club Nautico administers pontoons on the left bank of the river. There are no other facilities for yachts, although one was moored in mid stream below the bridge, and a larger yacht was alongside opposite, above the fishing quays.

Arriving on a Saturday afternoon, the office was closed. We tried calling on VHF, but there was no response, so we chose the only possible vacant outside berth where there was limited room. It was tricky with wind and tide, until a nearby volunteer came to help us. We checked in with the porter, and handed over the 45 euro fee, but as he had no English and we had no Spanish, we did not discover where the facilities were (near the swimming pool), nor did he offer us a key to the pontoon. The club has a restaurant, bar, swimming pools and tennis courts.

Santa Maria is an attractive town, and still has 'Bodegas' whence sherry was once shipped out, some of which offer tours, others have been converted to other purposes. It has a magnificent church, and castle. A frequent ferry service runs across the harbour to Cadiz.

Puerto Sherry

On our way past, we dropped in to Puerto Sherry. The marina is surprisingly full, and many foreign boats appear to be kept here. The yard was unsurprisingly empty at that point in the year, although the travel lift was operating, and there were a handful of yachts on the hard.

We understand that it is relatively expensive (3500 euros for a 36 foot boat for 6 months). It is out of town, in a half completed development, and did not seem to have much to commend it.


We did not visit the marina, but have since heard that it is full. Chipiona, on the other hand, has plenty of space.

We were almost run down by the Spanish Frigate F83 Numancia in the approaches: he seemed oblivious to the Collision Regulations in his rush to enter the naval base to the east. Presumably it was nearly lunch time?