Tuesday 29 January 2013

To the Top of the Rock of Gibraltar - again

29 January 2013

 After some pretty miserable weather last week here in Gibraltar the last couple of days have been magnificent again. While still tied to the dock, we made the most of the sunshine and very light winds yesterday getting our main up and genoa unfurled to make sure they dried out after the rain. We also took the opportunity to mark our halyard and reefing lines to make it easier to set our first and second reefs in future. Throw in a half a dozen other boat jobs and it turned out a very productive day. Marc was particularly impressed as the AIS system he ordered from a New Zealand company, Watchmate, turned up right on time after its very express trip from downunder.

It's a long way to the top if you want to rock The Rock

Using the Universal Automatic Identification System (AIS) the AISWatchMate 850 Transponder will transmit our AIS data and display data from all AIS equipped vessels in our vicinity. Audible warning alarms are sounded if a potentially dangerous situation exists. The alarm sounds whenever a ship is detected that will come dangerously close even though the ship may still be many miles away. We will be alerted immediately with the closest point of approach (CPA) and the time until CPA. It means not only will we have accurate information about how close a big ship headed our way may get we’ll also show up on their AIS system so they’ll be aware of our presence. It’s going to make things a lot simpler in busy traffic areas, particularly at night. Now all we have to do is get it fitted. That should be fun.

Today Karen and Rob decided some exercise was in order and set out to climb to the top of the Rock of Gibraltar via a trail known as the Mediterranean Stairs that runs around the southern side and then up the east face of the rock. Rob had done the climb a couple of weeks ago and after seeing his photos Karen wanted to give it a go too.

We left Marc giving his Kindle another vigorous workout on the lounge in the salon and made our way about three kilometres up the hill to the start of the trail at Jew’s Gate. The whole top of the rock is nature reserve and we had to buy a fifty pence walking permit to tackle the climb. If you work it our as a per hour cost for the four hours or so we spent up there it is certainly extremely cheap entertainment.

The trail ranges from rough track in places to very steep stairs cut into the side of the rock. You make your way through moderately dense foliage in a couple of spots but mostly have clear, uninterrupted views looking across the Straits of Gibraltar to Morocco. It’s pretty cool to stand in Europe looking at Africa. As the trail reaches the Eastern side of the rock, the Mediterranean Sea and Spanish Coast come into view. Today we could see all the way to the snow capped mountains of the Sierra Nevada Ranges near Grenada.

While the path is fairly rough, the greatest danger is in fact the magnificent views. It takes discipline to keep your eyes focused on where you are putting your feet and not the incredible scenes that unfold at every turn. There’s even a couple of caves along the way to explore. The sea was so calm today we could see a distinct current line where the constant stream of water pouring into the Med from the Atlantic Ocean met the counter current that runs westwards along the Spanish Coast. Ships anchored on one side of the line hung off their chains facing the Straits while a couple of hundred metres away others faced exactly the other way towards the east. We will definitely be trying to make sure we stay on the advantageous side and use the current when we head back into the Med next month.

Ships anchored this side of the current line faced east while on the other
they all faced west pointed into the water pouring in from the Atlantic
It's a long, long way up. 
Awesome views unfolded at every turn
There's even a couple of caves to explore along the way

The climb to the top is certainly a challenge. The temperature topped 23C today which is the warmest it’s been since we arrived back in October and we were very glad we took plenty of water with us. Our Aussie friends will be thinking we’ve gone soft struggling in 23 degrees but when the average temperature range has been Mins of 10C to Maxes of 17C or so, the extra few degrees were felt. It would certainly be an arduous trek in the height of summer here. We were both a little puffed when we crested the top of the trail. Our high fives were well deserved but our jaunt was far from over.

We parted with an extra Three Pound Fifty each and paid to wander through the installations at O’Hara’s Battery. These massive gun emplacements were the Brit’s sentinels guarding the Straits of Gibraltar and were capable of pitching a massive explosive shell virtually all the way to Africa. The Battery is also located on the very highest point of the Rock. Of course Rob climbed the ladder onto the top of the turrets to make sure he got some photos from absolute highest vantage point possible. We’re not sure whether your actually permitted to do that but he does subscribe to the old theory, “Sometimes it’s better to ask for forgiveness rather than permission.”  

The views from atop O'Hara's Battery were breathtaking
The big guns could virtually reach all the way to Africa
The Bay of Gibraltar from the very top of the rock

We took our trusty Spot Tracker GPS with us so if you’d like a look at the location of Gib’s highest spot, click the link, http://www.findmespot.com/mylocation/?id=A_U20/36.12392N/5.34290W Go to the satellite view for the best result.

From O’Hara’s Battery we made our way north along the ridgeline of the rock exploring other gun emplacements and sentry towers dating back centuries. Along the way we took a break to devour a couple of healthy nut bars for sustenance. The sound of plastic wrapper crinkling was all that was needed to attract one of the locals so we shared our lunch with a very well behaved Barbary Ape. She arrived out of the bushes, waited for food to be offered to her and then sat on the wall posing for the obligatory photographs afterwoods. A very cool ambassador for Gibraltan tourism.

Sentry Box on the ridge line in Gibraltar
Excellent hearing and impeccable manners - what more could you ask for in an ape?

By the time we stepped back onto Alcheringa in Queensway Quay Marina, Marc had defeated the battery of his kindle and moved onto the I-Pad. We very quickly headed for hot showers to sooth our complaining muscles.

We love to receive comments on our blog from readers. If you do leave a comment and you also have a blog, please leave a link as well. We'd like to click over for a visit and leave you a comment too.
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If you have only recently discovered our blog and would like to read how it all started, or work through our previous adventures, click the link to go back to our first blog entry. Stuff it. Let's just go sailing anyway. 
We hope you enjoy reading the previous posts to catch up on our story.

Friday 25 January 2013

A Blog about Sailing Blogs

25 January 2013

 When Karen and I made our life changing decision to walk away from the 9 to 5 world and run away to sea we also resolved to set up a blog to make it easier for our family and the friends that we were leaving behind to keep up with where we were and what we were getting up to.

The first chapters of our Dreamtime Sail blog were all about the frustrations we were experiencing as we tried to sell up and turn our cruising dream into reality. The story then progressed to our forced decision to delay buying our own boat but how we intended to keep the dream alive by sailing away as crew on someone else’s.
We longed to sail away into the sunset

At that stage the actual process of writing the blog was probably more effective in steeling our resolve to continue pursuing our dreams than in actually communicating our story with all that many people. To be honest the readership statistics that the blogspot site provide showed there were all of twenty or thirty people reading what we spent hours committing to the electronic screen.

Then it all became real as we finally said our goodbyes, jumped on a plane, flew to Cairns in northern Australia to join a 57 foot yacht as crew and sailed off around the top end of the great south land headed into south east Asia with over a hundred other boats on the annual Sail Indonesia Rally. Whether it was the fact that we were no longer writing about what we were ‘gunner do’ but rather about the places we were seeing and  what we were out there experiencing on the boat but the blog was suddenly of interest to more than just our amazingly supportive, loving family and very close friends. Heck, our readership more than doubled to reach a still extremely modest fifty to sixty.

We actually discussed if the blog was worth all the time and effort or if it would just be simpler to just send an email out to people at home about what we were up to. However, even at this very early stage of our life afloat, we could see that the blog was coming together as a good record of our wanderings. In years to come we would be able to refer back to it regarding the places we’d been, the people we met, the fun times and the not so good days we’d lived.

And so the Dreamtime Sail blog avoided the executioner’s delete button. As we travelled further through Indonesia making many, many new friends along the way, thousands of words accompanied by hundreds of photographs recorded our journey. More importantly it recounted how our dream of casting off the lines and embarking on a life of cruising the world’s oceans had indeed become reality. We didn’t really care who or how many actually read our scribbling. This was our blog, our story,  written for us. A funny thing happened though. As weeks became months and the word count continued to grow, slowly so did the readership. At the time we put it down to the fact we’d met so many new people that some must be following along.
We have sailed to some amazing places over the last 18 months

Fast forward 18 months and we’ve now sailed over 7,000 nautical miles as crew on four different boats, and covered more than 1,000 miles cruising the western Mediterranean with our crewmate Marc on Alcheringa. Now our blog readership has grown from the twenty or so a month when we started to almost two and a half thousand and is still growing fast. What we’ve come to realise is that, as we sat at home in Ipswich, Australia dreaming of sailing away, living vicariously through the pages of cruising magazines and sailing blogs we eagerly sought out, we were not alone. There are tens if not hundreds of thousands of people all over the globe just like we were.

Although even now we still find ourselves avid followers of the twenty or more sailing blogs we have listed in our favourite websites, we still struggle to fully  comprehend the phenomenon. These days when we look at the statistics blogspot provide, we scratch our heads as to how the 40 Germans, 31 Canadians, 30 Russians, 25 Brits, 19 Frenchman, and the list goes on, who read our blog this week discovered us in the first place. For two Australians that simply yearned for a better lifestyle, it’s also a little surprising that over forty percent of our blog readers come from the USA, a country we have visited a number of times but where only a very, very small handful of our friends live.
All we can say is, welcome and thank you to our new American friends and to those from literally all over the world that are now following our adventures. We certainly hope that if you too dream of a new life it can happen for you. Until then, please continue to sail along with us on Alcheringa. We look forward to meeting some of you in the real world as we make our way around its seas.
If you're already a fellow wanderer of the oceans, we hope our tracks cross and we get the opportunity to enjoy a 'Sundowner' or two with you.
Come along with us on Alcheringa

UPDATE: 2nd May 2015

A lot of water has passed under the keel since we wrote this blog chapter and the reach of our little tale has continued to grow. Today we passed the 80,000 page views mark which is incredible considering it took almost a year to reach our first milestone of just 1,000. We now average four to five thousand blog reads a month with the audience literally coming from all over the world. These are very modest figures compared to some of the leading sailing blogs around but we are very appreciative of each and everyone of the readers who have joined us on our journey. Cheers, Rob and Karen.

This week the top ten countries in order reading our blog were the United States, Australia, United Kingdom, Russia, Canada, Ireland, France, China, Netherlands and Germany. The U.S. regularly provides around 50% of our total readership.

We love to receive comments on our blog from readers. If you do leave a comment and you also have a blog, please leave a link as well. We'd like to click over for a visit and leave you a comment too.
To stay right up to date with what we’re up to  and see lots more photos check out and 'like' our Dreamtime Sail Facebook page at Dreamtime Sail
If you have only recently discovered our blog and would like to read how it all started, or work through our previous adventures, click the link to go back to our first blog entry. Stuff it. Let's just go sailing anyway. 
We hope you enjoy reading the previous posts to catch up on our story.





Saturday 19 January 2013

Winter has arrived in Gibraltar

19 January 2013

 Well it had to happen sooner or later but at least, fortunately for us, it’s been later. Winter has finally reached us in Gibraltar. We arrived here in late October and after an initial three of four days of wet, blustery weather, the majority of our stay has been beautiful with clear blue skies and very mild temperatures.

It all changed overnight as a weather system has come in off the north Atlantic with strong winds and rain. Fortunately we’re fairly protected by the surrounding apartment buildings here in Queensway Quay Marina and have only seen a high of 38 knots on our gear but the Gib airport is recording gusts of up to 53 knots (98kph) so far this morning. We’re glad we chose Queensway and not the Ocean Village Marina right next to the runway. It’s quite open and we imagine the boats over there would be getting hammered now.

The seven day forecast is predicting much of the same to continue so we’ll definitely be limiting our onshore excursions to a minimum for a while. The good news is that, if you can avoid the wind chill factor, temperatures are still quite reasonable in the mid teens centigrade. It’s still nice and comfortable down below so I’ll have no excuse not to get some more writing done. I’ve got a few projects I need to get on with before we set sail again and finding time at the keyboard gets more difficult.

We do hope winter only pays us a fleeting visit and we can get back to our regular sunshine soon.


After doing the above post this morning, the wind has kept up all day but the clouds cleared for a while this afternoon so I thought I'd get out for a bit and see how our berth here in Queensway Quay Marina compares with Gibraltar's other facility, Ocean Village Marina.

I took the opportunity to take some short video footage of how boats are moving around here first.   We're not really having too much trouble on our boat as we've got our mooring lines nice and tight but some of the unattended boats around us are rocking around a bit more. Alcheringa is the yacht with the inflatable dingy tied to the mast.

After shooting this I headed straight down to Ocean Village. I expected it to be less protected than us but was quite shocked by what I found. I apologise for the shaky camera work but I was struggling to stay on my feet on the floating pontoon let alone hold the camera still. Take a look through this series of scary short videos. 

I saw burst fenders, broken warps, boats hitting the dock, boats hitting each other and lots of worried looking owners.  A number of yachts and power boats in the marina have been left for the winter and if these conditions persist for a few days I can imagine a lot of mooring lines parting on these unattended boats and damages mounting. 

I'm very, very glad we chose Queensway Quay Marina for our winter layover in Gibraltar. It's not perfect but it's got a lot more protection that's for sure. Nice yachty friendly bar too, 'The Lounge'.
Queensway Quay Marina - Gibraltar on a nicer day

 We love to receive comments on our blog from readers. If you do leave a comment and you also have a blog, please leave a link as well. We'd like to click over for a visit and leave you a comment too.
To stay right up to date with what we’re up to  and see lots more photos check out and 'like' our Dreamtime Sail Facebook page at Dreamtime Sail
If you have only recently discovered our blog and would like to read how it all started, or work through our previous adventures, click the link to go back to our first blog entry. Stuff it. Let's just go sailing anyway. 
We hope you enjoy reading the previous posts to catch up on our story.

Monday 14 January 2013

Christmas abroad and onboard in Gibraltar

24 -28 December 2012

We’ve now spent our first Christmas afloat, albeit bedded down comfortably in Gibraltar’s Queensway Quay Marina where we are sitting out the northern winter. It’s the first time Karen and I have ever spent the festive season away from our family and not having our son, daughters and grandkids around was certainly a unique experience for us.
Alcheringa snug in Queensway Quay Marina Gibraltar. She is the second boat in from bottom right of the photo

We had very briefly considered flying home for a few weeks but four and a half thousand dollars in airfares guaranteed it was a very brief thought indeed. Being a Londoner, for our crewmate Marc the option of taking a short flight home was much more affordable but we were very pleased that he also decided to stay aboard for an Alcheringa Christmas.

Being in a time zone nine hours behind our Queensland home provided another twist to ensure this would be a very different Christmas experience for us. All our family gathered at our daughter and son-in-laws home on the evening of Christmas-eve and arranged to go on Skype so we could log in and be part of the gathering, even if only in ‘virtual’ form. It was great to see and talk to all of them in one place but it did feel a bit strange watching them cooking up steaks on the barbecue and enjoying a few drinks while we tucked into our breakfast muesli and morning coffee.

It was late morning in Gibraltar by the time we said our final goodbyes, shut the computer down and started getting last minute details organised for our Christmas afloat. We headed to the local (predominantly Spanish) fresh food market to pick up our copious food supplies. Karen had pre-ordered a rack of lamb which was to be the centrepiece of our Christmas dinner. At least she hoped she’d ordered a rack of lamb. Due to the language gap between her and the Spanish butcher she wasn’t quite sure. The boys couldn’t help but tease her a little suggesting she’d arrive to find a whole side of mutton waiting for her. She became so stressed about it all she actually had a nightmare the night before in which she found herself in tears because she ended up with a rack the size of dinosaur ribs and couldn’t fit them down the companionway into the galley. Strange dreams that girl has.

Needless to say, Karen was very relieved when she did in fact receive a rack of lamb not a rack of stegosaurus. She was even more relieved next day when it actually fitted in our smallish oven. There was all of a centimetre or less to spare but it did fit. Seafood is very affordable here so three beautiful, fresh lobsters were acquired for entrĂ©e. A side trip to a British supermarket saw us able to supplement our usual fare of cheap local wines with a couple of fine bottles produced by one of Western Australia’s magnificent Margaret River vineyards. Add in the obligatory nuts, Christmas sweets and Robs favourite of liquorice allsorts we were certainly well provisioned for our first floating Christmas.

That evening a mini-Christmas tree sat on the salon table with a smattering of gifts around its base ready for the next morning’s ritual unwrapping.  A couple of bottles of Spanish Carva were in the fridge chilling down for champagne breakfast and we even had a Father Christmas decoration climbing over the pushpit onto the boat. We were ready as we could get and about to retire for the night when the laptop buzzed with an incoming Skype call. Our youngest grandson, four year old Kristian, was already up in Australia and wanted to show Nanny and Poppy what Santa Claus had brought him.

While we delighted in witnessing his innocent excitement onscreen it was nothing like being there and we were both feeling a little flat as we climbed into bed. We are loving our cruising life but being away from the family can feel a high price to pay for it on occasions. To add to our melancholy rain began to tumble down on the deck over our heads.

We’ve been in Gibraltar over two months now and have been surprised by just how mild the winter weather has been. Most days have been clear and fine with temperatures reaching into the high teens C. Even the nights haven’t dropped below nine or ten ensuring it’s been quite comfortable living aboard. We’ve been hoping it would stay this way for our whole stay and really didn’t look forward to the idea of a wet Christmas. Fortunately the weather gods were generous and we woke to bright sunshine next morning lifting our spirits no end as we set about enjoying a fantastic day.

Chrissy goody haul
Marc unwrapping his personalised very exclusive Alcheringa coffee mug
A great breakfast - Open presents with nice little surprises all around – Pause (with bubbles in hand of course) – Magnificent fresh lobster done by Karen in a Nigerian sauce - Pause (still with drink in hand of course. OK and nibbling some of the nuts and sweeties too) – Mid afternoon Karen excels presenting the world’s largest rack of lamb ever served to just three people, washed down with a very, very nice 2004 Vasse Felix Shiraz – long pause (with a second bottle of that very, very nice 2004 Vasse Felix Shiraz) – time for desert? You are joking aren’t you? Settle for a coffee in our brand new, very exclusive Alcheringa mugs instead – Three well fed, well watered, very contented cruisers aboard.

And so passed Christmas Day 2012, done and dusted.

Rob and Marc ready to tuck in. Just a lobster each to kick things off
Followed by the world's largest rack of lamb and fine Aussie wine.
The sun setting on our first Christmas Day afloat - Gibraltar
Of course Christmas is never just about a single day. December 26 is Boxing Day. For some obscure reason that’s said to be worth celebrating too, apparently. And so after partially recovering from the over indulgence of the previous day the Alcheringa crew headed a couple of berths down the marina to accept an invitation to join fellow live aboards Chris and Jeanna on their Dufour Deca-Dance for yet more Christmas cheer. We realised just how much this pair were in the spirit when they welcomed us onboard in matching red Santa suits. With not so much as a red hat between us we were graciously forgiven for being underdressed and had a fantastic afternoon that stretched into a late night of food, wine and good conversation. It’s what cruisers seem to do best.
Karen and Jeanna onboard Deca-Dance on Boxing Day
Santa Chris performing some Christmas magic card ticks on Deca-Dance

Chris and Jeanna mentioned that they had arranged to take some friends out for a day sail on their boat later in the week and we quickly decided we’d join in too. Alcheringa had been too long against the dock so we’d take both boats out. As well as a bit of fun it would also provide a perfect opportunity for us both to get some photos of our boats under sail which are often very difficult to obtain.
Alcheringa and Deca-Dance motoring from Gibraltar together out into the bay

Two days later we motored out into the bay side by side with a mild 7-10 knot breeze blowing. We decided to try using our genaker alone with the following breeze and were more than pleased with the resulting 7.5 knots of boat speed showing on the log. We then hoisted the mainsail and headed out into the Straits of Gibraltar chasing a bit more wind and were able to sail back and forwards past each other getting plenty of good shots of both boats.
We were very pleased how well Alcheringa went downwind with genaker only
It was great fun criss-crossing the bay creating photo opps

Deca-Dance in the Straits of Gibraltar

Alcheringa dodging yet another ship in the Straits of Gibraltar
Karen playing 'rail meat' with Gibraltar's Europa Point in the distance

After a couple of months in the marina it was great to be out on the water again, sailing, not to get somewhere, but just for the sake of sailing. We decided it’s something we will be doing more of while we’re here in Gibraltar.

For more about our travels and lots more photos check out and 'like' our Dreamtime Sail facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/DreamtimeSail?ref=hl 

 Rob has recently added a new album to the facebook page with some great photos he took when he climbed right to the top of the Rock. Click on over and check them out. Here's a little sample.
http://www.facebook.com/Climbing the Rock of Gibraltar

We love to receive comments on our blog from readers. If you do leave a comment and you also have a blog, please leave a link as well. We'd like to click over for a visit and leave you a comment too.
To stay right up to date with what we’re up to  and see lots more photos check out and 'like' our Dreamtime Sail Facebook page at Dreamtime Sail
If you have only recently discovered our blog and would like to read how it all started, or work through our previous adventures, click the link to go back to our first blog entry. Stuff it. Let's just go sailing anyway. 
We hope you enjoy reading the previous posts to catch up on our story.