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.

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 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. the Rock of Gibraltar

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