Tuesday 26 February 2013

Gibraltar you’re nice but please let us go!

26 February 2013

 The first thing you learn about cruising under sail is that all plans are fluid. Any attempt at having hard and fast departure and arrival dates are pure folly as you are always at the whim of uncontrollable forces that pay no heed of your plans. The biggest of these is of course the weather but other factors also seem to love to pop up and complicate life.
We have been here in Gibraltar since late October sitting out the northern winter and literally cooling our heals until we can get underway again. It’s actually been very pleasant. For winter, the weather has been remarkable with much, much more sunshine than grey skies. The people have been very hospitable and we’ve made many new friends. We’ve loved exploring the Rock and its remarkable history and have also enjoyed ample time to get on with pet pastimes. Karen’s been able to get the paint gear out and produce a wonderful collection of portraits and illustrations for the book project that has kept Rob occupied at the keyboard. The draft now sits at 85,000 words and still growing. Who knows, it may actually get finished one day.
 As nice as it’s been here in Gibraltar we want to leave. It’s time to move on and start our migration back into the Mediterranean where we are looking forward to exploring many new destinations and meeting more new friends. All the jobs we wanted to do on the boat while we were here have been accomplished and even a little ahead of schedule. We’ve decided on our first destination which will be the Spanish enclave of Ceuta on the North African Coast, a great base from which to explore neighbouring Morocco. We’re loaded up and raring to go so why are we still tied to the dock in Queensway Quay Marina?
We're ready, the boat's ready, but it's time to hurry up and wait.
We fear Gibraltar doesn’t want to let us go. Not until we began speaking about leaving and set a target date of February 22 have we run into any hurdles here at all. But that all changed the moment we started telling people of our departure plans. Firstly, three parcels sent from our daughters back in Australia that were due to arrive the previous week failed to turn up. Then a new dipstick/filler cap for the boat’s transmission on order from the UK did arrive but proved to be the wrong one. It’s nothing essential. The old one may be super-glued together at the moment but it is serviceable. However we’d rather replace it so the correct one was reordered. But the cruncher is that suddenly, the brilliant weather we’ve been boasting off has disappeared. Instead of clear skies and fair winds we’ve had days of blustering westerly gales and heavy rain which have now been replaced by strong winds blowing from  the east, exactly the direction we want to go. It’s a triple whammy.
One upside of the delay has been getting all the paperwork printed out, signed, scanned and emailed back to Australia for the sale of our rental property to top up our cruising fund. This is the only net cafe we've found on the Rock which is apparently so busy they have to work real hard. Check out their opening hours.

Here we are, four days after we planned to leave, writing a blog instead of touring Morocco. We are getting closer though. One of the wayward parcels has finally reached us from the far flung colony of Australia while the new, and this time correct, dipstick has also been delivered.
So do you want to know when we’re planning on casting off now? Well we’re not going to tell you. We don’t want to risk the Rock finding out and trying to stop us leaving again.
Since WW2 Britain's military presence on Gibraltar has been progressively shrinking with the withdrawel further accelerating since the end of the cold war. Compare this photograph of the airpower present in 1942 to the one below of Gibraltar's current air fleet. No wonder the Rock's sick of people leaving.


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