Souther Still?!?!

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Finally, the winds moderated and came round in a vaguely helpful direction so we set sail for Gibraltar - another 150 mile hike, but the marinas along the coast are touristy, where "Full English Breakfasts" are the norm so we decide it wasn't worth stopping.  We drop anchor in La Linea de la Concepcion, which is in Spain but just across the Gibraltar border, north of the runway.  We want to stay in Gib for the minimum time possible.  We're here only to collect some electronics equipment shipped from the UK and to buy duty free fuel.   Oh, and to pick up Rob  - but more on that later.
Well, since our last visit to Gib, Sheppards Marina has been closed and Marina Bay can no longer take us - for security reasons. Apparently our mast is now too tall to be that close to the runway.  Our mast is actually closer to the runway, where it is in the anchorage at the moment, than it would be if it was in the marina, but logic is not apparently related to security in any way.  We call, Queensway Quay, the last marina, which can (with much sucking of teeth) just fit us in - actually when we arrive we will find them half empty.  So we make a reservation for a few days hence - there's the weekend and a public holiday coming up so no point in arriving any sooner as our parcel will be stuck in customs .  We weigh anchor and head south to Ceuta. - at 90 degrees to one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world and high speed ferries on our course - interesting!  Ceuta  and Melilla are Spanish possessions on the north coast of Morocco with a very similar status to Gibraltar ie Tax free and the Moroccan government would like them back as much as the Spanish would like Gibraltar.
Unlike Gib,  Ceuta is charming!  An interesting mix of Spanish and Arabic cultures and almost devoid of tourism or commerciality - there is a down side to this of course - we can't find a restaurant and all the shops (even the multinationals like Beneton) are closed on Saturday afternoon.  In the harbour we do a double take.  We've just noticed that the French yacht next to us has our old flexible water tank strapped to its deck.  We'd given it to another French boat in Alghero, and they'd obviously swapped it or passed it on.  Actually no, it was the same boat - Vent de Folie with Rémy, Danièle & their daughter Candice on board.  They'd just painted the boat blue in the meantime and the flexible tank now formed their hot water system.  Dinner, much wine and a very late night with them and then MacDonald's (the only place open) for Mac lunch and large beers to recover the following day.

 

Back to Gib across the now foggy shipping lanes - ++interesting!  FedEx clear all our equipment through for £10 - this avoids long walk to airport with our ships papers, so a bargain.  Open all the boxes.  Everything is there except the cables to connect the new SSB radio to its antenna tuning unit.  Contact supplier - "yes they're an optional extra."  But your e-mail says "I supply everything you need, including all cables, all ready to go" - "yes but these cables are an optional extra". "Will the system work without them?"  "No of course not".  "Then how can they be optional?  Surely they fall into the 'everything you need' category" etc, etc.  Finally a deal is struck and the cables are shipped to Rob & Kate in Rota to await our arrival together with an increasing pile of other stuff.  Which comes right back round to Rob who has come down from Rota to join us for the sail  through the Straits.
Well the weather's no good so we can't leave.  When we do finally get away a couple of days later the tides are nearly at neaps (the weakest), which means there's not enough tide to overcome the constant eastbound current in the Straits for more than a few hours, but with good wind and the help of Mr Perkins we made Barbate Marina, by early evening.  Barbate is one of a string of marinas owned by the Junta de Andalucia - the regional government.  They are all the same price (reasonably low), but all have a slightly local authority feel.  There are a number of manifestations of this at Barbate: one is that although the visitors berths are directly under the marina offices,  to reach the offices one has to walk quarter of a mile to the security gate and then quarter of a mile back on the other side of the fence to reach them.  When we check in we discover that there are no swipe cards available for the security gates to the pontoons anyway so the only way back to the boat is either to find a security guard to walk back with us each time we leave the boat, or to climb the fence and negotiate our way via the greasy pile of the floating pontoon down the 4 metre harbour wall.  We opt for the wall!  We also opt to eat on board rather than try to find the one restaurant on the other side of the marina which may or may not be open.

 

The next day we sail up to Rota and try to check into the marina.  We want a 14 metre berth for 2/3 weeks.  This is not possible - We can have a 16 metre berth for a month or we can have a 14 metre berth for a week and we can reserve a 2nd week, but not a 3rd.  We struggle with this, but agree to take the 14 metre option.  We offer to pay for both weeks now.  This is not possible, we must pay for the 1st week and pay a deposit for the 2nd week, but can't pay for the 2nd week until next week - if you follow me.  At this point we're sure that our Spanish has let us down and find Rob, who is fluent, to translate.  Nope, we have it right, it's just because it's the Junta.  Logic doesn't apply.  Well we stay for a month and it's never a problem except we would have got a discount if we could have paid for a month up front.

Rota is much as we remember it, except that there has been an awful lot of building going on.  We set a few things in train  (like sending the watermaker back to the manufacturer in Italy again) , then hire a car for a month (the same as two weeks!) and set off to Lagos to see Steve & Jan who have bought a house there.. 

And it's a beautiful place, up in the hills above Lagos with stunning views over open countryside, and of course a swimming pool. This is the life!  We ask ourselves briefly what we're doing living in a 14 metre steel box that always seems to need repairing when we could be living somewhere like this.  But after a couple of days by the pool by day and going out to dinner in Lagos by night we remember that this is not really the life for us, or at least not yet.  And actually amongst all this slothfulness we do find ourselves drawn to visit the boatyard and a couple of chandlers.

 

Back in Rota we busy ourselves with boat jobs like fitting the new SSB radio and AIS system.  As always this is more complicated than it should be because the new stuff won't fit in the spaces vacated by the old stuff, so half the instrument panel has to be rebuilt.  But finally it's finished and we can now send and receive e-mails via SSB (and hence access detailed weather info) from just about anywhere on the planet - eg mid-Atlantic.  

We also do non-boat things like going to dinner with Rob & Kate and going with them to a small bullring in the mountains to see another corrida.  Also because we have the luxury of a car we can visit other places independently - like Puerto de Santa Maria where something very strange seemed to happen to our Spanish because after asking several people for directions to the post office (correos), we are directed to the outpatients department of the local hospital (ambulatorios).  Never did work that one out.  We also visit Jerez and of course Sevilla, which is even more beautiful than we remember it and we're tempted again to sell our house back in the UK and buy something here.  But we know this will mean suspending our sailing for a year so we don't.  Sevilla will still be here when we get back (we hope).  We do though notice some bull fight posters and take the opportunity to visit another corrida.  This is to be a very different experience from the first two.  Sevilla is one of the most important centres of bull fighting in Spain.  The crowd is knowledgeable, and are used to seeing the best bulls and the best toreros week in week out.  They expect the best and are absolutely unforgiving of any weakness or hint of timidity on the part of the matador (or the bull). One weak element in an otherwise faultless display, particularly the failure to kill cleanly first time and by going right over the horns of the bull (probably the most dangerous moment of the whole fight for the matador) will be met with a stony silence which is deafening in its intensity.

 

Back in Rota we wait for things we've ordered to arrive and for good weather to sail south.  Our biggest wait is for some stainless work we're having done.  Rob has a contact who has a stainless operation in Jerez which has made a lot of equipment for his factory.  We go and visit him.  He's (Antonio) incredibly busy, with work stacked up 6 months ahead, but agrees to take on our small job as a favour to Rob, and it will all be ready next week - fantastic.  Actually, this all turns out to be a mistake.  Antonio is away on business for the next week and a half and then goes on holiday for a week.  Our job is initially forgotten and it's hard to chase it too hard as it's only a favour, but finally the job is picked up by Antonio's second-in-command, Carlos.  Carlos speaks great English and is also a sailor, and seems to understand and agree our requirements so we feel we're getting somewhere.  There are two other problems though - it turns out that Carlos has only ever sailed in small boats and has no real concept of the loadings on a boat the size of Samarang - so although he agrees things both with us and with Rob, it transpires that he skimps on some things when he hands them out for manufacture.  The second big problem is that all the workers on the shop floor are on a bonus/piece work arrangement tied to the big jobs that are going through the factory so really aren't interested in working on our stuff, so without Antonio being there nothing much happens.  The result is that the stuff gets later and later and our weather window for leaving is getting smaller and smaller.  Finally, after countless phone calls - "it will be ready this evening"  and if we collect it and set sail immediately we can just about catch the wind for the next 5 days.  Otherwise it will be another week or more before we leave.  So that's what we do.  I drive to Jerez early evening while Lindy is getting the boat ready.  The order isn't quite complete so I wait, pay and as soon as the last piece leaves the welders' hand, I throw it in the boot,  rush back to Rota, leave the hire car with keys under the seat and we set sail.  Not the way we ever want to leave harbour, and certainly not for what is going to be the longest trip we have ever made with just the two of us on board.  And of course when we find the time to inspect the stainless work, we find that not one piece of it is useable without some further work or modification!

But most importantly we've left and we're off on the the next stage of our adventure!  It is now the beginning of October 2006 - normally the time for considering settling down for the winter - but not this year.

 

Up Las Canarias

 

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