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
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
|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.