Tue 27 Nov 2007 00:21

Our crew - Keith, Brian & Ian - arrived lunchtime on the 4th, and we
decided to R&R in the afternoon, so awarded ourselves a trip via cable car
up the Rock of Gibraltar to visit the barbary apes. The apes are a
grumpy bunch that grab visitors bags, and will bite if approached,
especially if youngsters were about - so we were naturally apprehensive
when they approached us! Amazing views from the Rock and lots of history
here, with ruined fortifications, World War 2 tunnels and a souvenir shop
to boot... enjoyed a good meal out with our crew, and sampled some fine
Italian wine.

Decided to provision in the morning of the 5th, prior to departing early
afternoon for our 4-5 day and night run down to the Canaries, and a very
helpful suggestion from our revered Captain, was to travel across the
Frontier into Spain and visit either Carrefour or Mercadona as the
supplies would probably be cheaper and better quality - so Keith, Brian
and M walked the mile and a half (or so) over the runway, through the
fairly stringent border controls for Spain and the Brits - still
maintained, as the Spaniards still would like to acquire Gibraltar for
some reason...- enquiring at the tourist office and finally finding a
Mercadona in the back streets of La Frontera! Several trolley loads
later - having provisioned food and water for 5 days for 5 people, we
managed to acquire a taxi to take us back to the boat - or so we thought
!! Due to the stringent border controls, the taxi would only take us as
far as the Spanish side of the border - and from there, despite pleading
with the border guards, police, customs etc, we were forced to walk the 20
odd full-to-bursting carrier bags, plus the very heavy 8 litre containers
of water through two border controls and one customs hall to put our wares
in a taxi on the English side for the trip back to the boat. A narrow
escape also when a diligent customs man spotted a bottle of red protruding
from the bag, and pointed out nicely that we were liable for duty on the
alcohol being taken back into Gib, as there was no duty free allowance -
aaarrrggghhh! A flutter of the eyelids by M and some sweet talking, and we
were on our way again, with our 6 bottles of wine and numerous beers,
without parting with a penny. Left our berth around 5pm, and headed out
into the very busy Gibraltar straits, playing chicken in quite heavy seas
and force 6 wind, with some very large and not very far away tankers !
After a close call with one that eventually changed course suddenly (thank
heavens) to avoid us, we made it through the straits and out into the
Atlantic for our trip down to Las Palmas. Crew worked well together,
three night watches of 2 hours on and four off, meant that we weren't
totally shattered the following days. M and Brian managed to have most
of the close-calls with other shipping, particularly fishing vessels and
nets, and dolphin spottings. Our Raymarine lifetags keep going off with
false alarms, which is not good when the skipper has just gone down to
sleep! Most memorable moments were suddenly finding yourself on watch in
the middle of what appeared to be a sea of flashing lights, all attached
to fishing nets, not easy to avoid, and the highlight of all was at about
0800 at the end of M & Brian's watch, when we were suddenly in the middle
of a huge feeding frenzy, with dolphins, seabirds and 20-30foot minky
whales as far as the eye could see - what a sight!! Some worrying
moments too though, when you saw the massive arched back of these
magnificent creatures diving underneath the boat, and then a waterspout on
the other side and broaching whales a few boat lengths away!