Wednesday 21 November 2012

Gibraltar - Alcheringa finally leaves Spain

October 30, 2012

We chose this day for our final hop to Gibraltar based on looking at a raft of weather forecasts which all pointed to us having some light overcast and a good offshore breeze which would provide us with a nice reach down the twenty miles of Spanish Coast. What the morning brought was cold rain and a weak breeze from behind us.
Dawn over Estepona - The cloud got heavier and delivered plenty of rain

The boat was loaded, we’d checked out of the Estepona marina and had changed our booking at Gibraltar so we decided we’d better go anyway. We’d also tried to clear Spanish customs and emigration at the Harbour Master’s Office the previous afternoon but when we arrived with our ships papers and passports, the counter staff simply said they didn’t do that stuff. ‘Boats sail to and from Gibraltar all time, just go’. So much for worrying about our Schengen visas.

Shortly after we cleared the breakwater we raised the mainsail in the hope the wind would strengthen and change to the predicted direction allowing us to sail but the motor ended up being required for the whole trip anyway. What wind there was hardly enough to keep the sail filled as the motor and strong current pushed us south at good speed. The rain never let up all the way along the coast making things quite uncomfortable as we kept watch on the scores of large ships making their way in and out of the Mediterranean through the straits. We really had hoped for a more pleasant farewell from Spain but it wasn’t to be.

As we rounded Point Europa on the southern tip of Gibraltar the rain finally eased. We were about to drop the mainsail in preparation for our approach to the harbour when we picked up a big push along from a localised wind blowing down off the rock. It was great to feel the boat heeling and zooming along again even if it was only for fifteen minutes or so on the run up to the harbour entrance.

We radioed Queensway Quay Marina for mooring instructions and were soon securely tucked in, stern against the wall pontoon. We’d taken just under three hours to cover the 23.6 nautical miles at an average speed of 8.0 knots. (43.7k at 14.8kph). Customs and immigration procedures were handled by the marina office during check in which was very civilised and within thirty minutes we were wandering around checking out our new winter home.
Queensway Quay Marina - Gibraltar. Our winter home. Alcheringa is second yacht from right. Cats don't count.

Unfortunately our first few days in Queensway Quay Marina were very wet with some serious winds howling down off the rock looming above us. There was also a serious surge entering the marina at times which saw us resort to four stern lines plus a pair of amidships lines run back to the pontoon and two bow lines run down to the marina floor. Alcheringa may have been trussed up like a hog tied boar but we were still moving around a fair bit and jerking to a stop at the end of what movement our lines permitted. The boats each side of us are unattended having been left by their owners for the winter and weren’t as well secured. They certainly gave our fenders a good workout especially when the 48 footer to starboard broke a stern line in the middle of the night. Rob wasn’t too impressed running around in heavy rain at 3.00am using one of our spare warps to pull it back off us and get it resecured. Good thing it’s an Aussie boat from Port Douglas. After the fun we’ve had with German boats over the last few months it might have been the last straw if this one had been flying a black, red and yellow flag.

The weather has since improved and we’ve spent about an equal amount of time crossing boat maintenance jobs off our lengthy off season to-do-list and exploring Gibraltar. Highlights so far include discovering an amazing but tiny little Moroccan Restaurant hidden away in a back street. It’s run by an old guy on his own and only offers lamb or chicken kebabs or tagines but they are to die for. Gibraltar is very British and the majority of food on offer at most places is pretty depressing standard Brit Pub Grub so this was a great find.
Our awesome kebabs being cooked. The Tagine was fantastic
Some things are cheap in Gibraltar. Karen's in Vodka heaven.

We also really enjoyed the Gibraltar Museum which is built on the site of the Moorish Governor’s residence and includes an incredibly well preserved Moorish baths in the basement. The museum building itself looks quite small but is like a Tardis as we discovered more galleries around every turn covering everything from the pre-historic occupants of the rock through the Phoenician, Moorish and Spanish eras to Britain’s occupation and rabid defence of Gibraltar through the Great Siege and World Wars. Admission is just 2 Euros and we spent over three hours there and still didn’t quite see everything.
The Moorish baths in the Gibraltar Museum are very well a visit.
We enjoy wandering the town and soaking up the history here. It’s a very small place but has plenty to see. We haven’t ventured up to the top of the rock yet or over to the eastern side but the plan is to spend four months here so there’s no rush.

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