Well, here we are back in Gibraltar almost exactly two years after our first visit going the other way. We opted for Gib rather than the Spanish side at La Linea in the end, as was easiest after our 2 days and nights at sea and was right next to our refuelling stop as we arrived.
We had an interesting, and at times challenging, passage along the southern coast of Spain. Unfortunately, the wind was on the nose for the entire way – yet again not what was forecast – we have learned not to be too surprised by that, but it is still very frustrating. The seas were also quite rough, especially the first afternoon and evening. It meant we had to motorsail almost all of the 51 hours if we were not to take an extra night or stray too much into the busy shipping lanes approaching the Straits of Gibraltar.
So the first evening out saw us in a force 6 (a “yachtsman’s gale”) with Red Panda rocking about so much that cooking supper was “entertaining” to say the least! First mate decided to cook from scratch whilst hanging on to any hand hold for dear life. Apart from losing some carefully chopped onion onto the floor in transferring it to a moving saucepan, a wonderful (skipper’s judgement) meal was produced, which was quite satisfying for the cook. Then we decided to heave to (when you stop the boat by manipulating the sails in a certain way) in order to eat more easily. The boat didn’t exactly stop as we carried on doing over 2 knots (in the wrong direction of course), but we had a less stressful eating experience!
Luckily, the wind and seas abated a bit for the night passage and David was on watch as we rounded Cabo de Gata on the “corner” of Spain. The second day out was quieter than the first although still with the head wind against us. The evening turned into one of those special ones that make up for the horrible ones you also go through. We had a very warm spell and showered off the back of the boat whilst chugging along. Then we had a glass or two of wine (only very small ones!) and were very excited when we spotted some whales very close to us. There were about 4 or 5 long-finned pilot whales we think and were accompanied by dolphins too. They disappeared after a few minutes but half and hour later we saw some more (which may have been the same ones). Then we had a lovely bird of prey (a hobby we think) visit us and try to perch on various parts of the boat for some time. The evening ended with a good sunset but then started to liven up again in a less charming way as the wind and waves increased. Poor skipper had to take a very long watch while first mate got over 6 hours in bed – a real luxury on a night passage. Needless to say, we were grateful to reach Gib and get some welcome rest.
We had forgotten how weird a place Gibraltar is, a little bit of Britain in the Med, but with a Spanish overlay as most of the locals are bi-lingual. Everything around the town and marina is pretty down market in terms of the eating and drinking too. There is even a KFC and a Pizza Express!
A Hobby coming in to land, 20 miles off the Sierra Nevada coast: