The very name Cádiz has always held a special place in my imagination from schoolboy days, when I learned that, in an act of great ‘daring do’, Sir Francis Drake ‘singed the King of Spain’s beard’ by sending in a fireship to scatter his fleet.
But I could never have dreamt, back then, that one day I, too, would sail into the Bay of Cádiz, as part of an extremely peaceful and most welcome visiting fleet, along with nearly 4,000 of my fellow Brits.
We were all, in fact, taking part in a ‘Captains in Cádiz’ event, organised by long-established cruise operator Fred. Olsen, who had cleverly arranged their sailing schedules so that all four of their classic ships could be in the famous Spanish port city on the same day.
My wife, Jenny, and I were aboard the 1972 Helsinki-built Black Watch which had been on a cruise from Liverpool to the Azores and Madeira before arriving in Cádiz at dawn to tie up next to her sister ship, Boudicca.
There, we were joined by the ships’ consorts Balmoral and Braemar, for a day of festivities to celebrate Fred. Olsen’s 170th anniversary and its special long-standing relationship with this most attractive port city.
All eight of the cruise line’s Captains came ashore to exchange plaques with the Mayor of Cádiz, José María González, who officially welcomed the fleet and declared open the festival of dance and local cultural events including traditional sherry pouring and artisan food tasting. While the onboard professional entertainers reciprocated by staging their own show, other members of the ships’ crews hosted stalls to raise funds for the RNLI, the line’s chosen corporate charity
Generous guests donated nearly £11,000 to this seafaring good cause through the purchase of tokens for the various fairground-themed quayside games.
It was also ‘open ship’, allowing all the guests to step aboard and look around each other’s ships, which in turn led to a number of spontaneous reunions between Fred. Olsen ‘regulars’ and long-serving ships’ crew members.
Fred. Olsen also marked the occasion by launching all four of its new high-speed rigid inflatable boats – RIBs – recently introduced to Black Watch and Boudicca, to add a new maritime dimension to the traditional shore tours.
Such was the success of the day that Fred. Olsen Junior, who flew in from his home in Tenerife for the event, confirmed that it should all be repeated with great fanfare in Funchal, Madeira on 4th April 2020.