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Date: 31 Oct 2010 19:29:53
Title: Gibraltar

29/10/2010    Distance: 53 NM    "36:09N 5:22W"

 

On our way to Gibraltar. It is a very pleasant day but no wind whatsoever, so we are motoring along the shore enjoying the spectacular scenery.

We arrived to Gibraltar around 18.30 and tied up the boat (very easy with 4 people). The Queensway Quay Marina is at a beautiful location. Immigration and check-in was, believe it or not, conducted at the same place, in the Marina office. Their staff  were attentive and efficient. Perhaps they have one rule too many for the marina. By the time the friendly officer listed them all my head was spinning. We went out for dinner on the quay. As it later turned out this was a terrible mistake as  Pepe, the restaurateur, runs a “get rich quick” scheme, charging horrendous prices for his pretty average creations.

 

30/10/2010

 

Due to forecasted bad weather: W/NW head wind, Beaufort 8 gusting to 10 we resigned to spend a couple of days in Gibraltar. What  luck! I could imagine many worse places to be stranded.

 

We all visited Gibraltar, the town, which is an incredible time capsule of all things British. If you are interested how Britain looked 30 years ago, come and visit Gibraltar. The Main street (aka Royal Street) looks like a proper English town main street should look. Two-three story buildings in orderly fashion, shops with traditional shop windows displaying goods in conventional arrangements. None of that fancy, innovative crap when you cannot tell what exactly they sell. Mind you, the buildings were built by Genoese and Sicilians builders who were invited after the Great Siege (see below) to create a town over the rubble generated by 80 years of war. Honoring its duty free status every second store sells either alcohol or perfume. I was wondering if they were originals. Also, the red phone boxes and Royal mail boxes looked like we were in England.

 

The police (at least some of them) still sport their famous “Bobby” looks with the hat and all. Actually, they greeted us with a friendly “Good Evening” as we walked through the Main Street at night. And above all, the time honored sign of Britishness, all hand wash basins equipped with two taps. Hot and Cold. No continental mixer taps for the proud Gibraltarians!

 

History Lesson: The Rock “came” from Africa approx. 200,000 years ago, around the same time the Mediterranean basin was filled by a giant waterfall 10 km long and 10 km wide from the Atlantic ocean. Gibraltar has been populated from 50,000 BC. Perhaps the same people who managed to reach Australia across the Torres straight also wondered through the Gibraltar straight? In the ancient world Gibraltar was known as “mons cappe” the legendary pillar created by Hercules as a religious shrine and as an entrance to Hades. To many it signified the “non plus ultra” the end of the known world. The usual tussle between the Mores and the Spaniards was acted out for 1,000 years, then the Spanish took solid possession of the Rock until 1704. But, during the Spanish Succession War Archduke Carlos invited the Anglo-Dutch forces, who duly took Gibraltar, never to return it to Spain. The fate of Gibraltar was sealed by the Utrecht Treaty in 1713. But the Spaniards never accepted this decision and they fought 13 wars to return the enclave to Spain. The last and longest siege, now referred to as the Great Siege, started in 1779 and lasted for three years, during which the Rock was cut off. The garrison was saved thanks to three reliefs by the Royal Navy. Of course Gibraltar played a vital role in WWI and II.  It was bridgehead for the Antant/Allied forces. With Italy and Spain on the side of Hitler, Yugoslavia and Greece occupied, this was the only way for the American and British forces into the Mediterranean basin. Though, threatened by an all out war by Churchill, Franco never let the German troops to march across the Iberian Peninsula, the situation remained precarious for the Allied forces.  (The drama was wonderfully played out in the famous movie “Das Boat” through the pursuits of a German submarine crew who dived to previously unimaginable depth and managed to sneak through the blockade. Their achivement was in vain though as they were bombed into oblivion on their glorious reception. Until the movie was made, at least.) The Spanish remain unhappy about Gibraltar, talking about a long memory. The threat of war was replaced by economic blockades in 1969and 1985. However in spite of its turbulent history and posturing by the Spanish government Gibraltar is a very pleasant place where there is no sign of anonymity between the inhabitants.

 

For supper I, cooked Beef Provencal, so we denied Pepe another good night’s income. It tasted wonderful with the South African red, courtesy of Mark and Kynan. Then we hit town and with high hopes we visited the pub on the main square to experience how the locals celebrate Halloween. According to Kynan they need more practicing. Some people returned to the boat very late (early). Those American sailors must have taught the locals well and Kynan revised his views.

 

31/10/2010

 

Sunday was a lazy day. Everyone was taking it easy. But, we managed to visit the Rock, St Michael’s Cave that is supposed to connect Africa with Europe, the Tunnels where all those wars were fought and met the monkeys. According to the legend they arrived through St Michael’s Cave. According to another legend the day they disappear Gibraltar will cease to be British. In this enlightened world, of course no one believes in these superstitions but, just to make sure, not only the Royal Army takes care not only of their diet and medical requirements but each monkey has a name and I suppose it receives physiological counseling if required.

 

01/11/2010

 

Working day, continuing the preparation of Fenix for the crossing.


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