Gibraltar and Onward
24 May 2011 | North Atlantic
We arrived in the Bay of Gibraltar on Saturday evening and tried to moor at a marina on the Spanish side of the bay. Within an hour we had the Spanish police telling us that we were not welcome and must leave. The one policeman could speak a bit of English and told us that we had to go to the British side of the bay. I tried to explain that we had Schengen visas but not British ones, but it made no difference - we left before it was too dark and headed over to "The Rock".
Sheppard's Marina was full and the next one, Queensway Quay Marina, where I had been before, welcomed us. As Mathys and I are South African, we now need visas for Britain and for Gibraltar, so we had to pay Pounds 75.00 for a short stay "letter of permission" plus the marina fees. What the hell, we paid and had a darn good sleep that night with no bouncing and banging.
Sunday was spent checking all our rigging, engines, cordage and a hundred other small items on the boat that could break, chafe or go wrong. Then Dave and I set off to the local supermarket to get some extra fresh provisions, returning with just enough to get us back to the boat without ripping our arms off - we had to walk the two kilometres back carrying everything.
Monday morning we fuelled up the boat. Let me explain that Gibraltar is supposed to be "duty free". Diesel is expensive, so for others following, buy diesel elsewhere and save some money! Then off we went - back to bashing into a twenty knot wind for the rest of the day. As I write this, it is Tuesday morning and the wind has died, the sails are stowed and we are motoring with just a slight breeze out of the east. The weather forecast is that it will remain like this for the remainder of the day and tomorrow we should have even less breeze as we motor into the centre of a high pressure system.
Coming through the Straits of Gibraltar is always an eye-opener for those that have not done that trip before. We entered via the northern small craft lane and had no problems with the numerous fishing nets on the southern small craft lane, which we were monitoring on the VHF. Now we are further into the Mediterranean Sea, the shipping is still all around us but far better spread out and a person can see the lanes the commercial ships generally stick to.
At the moment it is cold and we can even see the snow on the mountains well to the north of us. We have about 1600 nautical miles to go to our destination, which should take us about a week and a half, depending if we have to motor or do get some wind up ahead to be able to sail with. More on progress in a future blog report.
Now let's get back to that pigeon. We did not eat it! It spent the night on board and took off, flying south (back to Africa), when we were in the Straits of Gibraltar. It did leave its calling card in the form of guano everywhere it had been on deck, which was washed off the moment it took flight. So far this trip we have had a number of birds landing on the boat - two common noddies, two swallows, a dove and the pigeon. There was one other bird that wanted to take refuge in the sail cover but I have no idea what it was and it only stayed for about half an hour.
I had a query from somebody "down under" regarding how I communicate and send and receive email. It is actually quite simple. I have a small Icom HF radio (IC 706 Mk IIg), which is connected to an SCS PTC-IIpro radio modem, which plugs into my laptop, using Airmail software. The antenna side is cabled aft to the engine room where there is a small AH-4 automatic antenna tuner. The antenna side of the tuner is connected to a 13.5 metre long electrical wire which is inside a length of ski rope, which in turn is taken up the mast. The earth side of the tuner is connected to another 13.5 metre length of electrical wire, which I tow behind the boat and acts as the earth or ground to the system. I work the Winlink station all over the world with this setup, and have been doing so for many years. It is free to all licensed HAM's and has been of great value for email communications. On the other side of the coin, I can also communicate via voice using the radio, if the need arises. If you want further information, drop me an email via the link on the right of this page and I will let you know once the delivery is over and I can sit down and write further about the system.
I wish you all well for now and send greetings from Mathys, Josh, David and myself, John.