Into the Mediterranean.

September 17, 2009

OK, make yourself a cuppa (or alternatively pour yourself a stiff a drink!) switch off the phone & relax – we have much to tell you about our adventures since our last blog entry:

We finally managed to leave Barbate on Sunday afternoon.  After having been plagued by gale force easterly winds for the preceding week, it rapidly became clear that it had now disappeared altogether so we wound up motoring virtually all the way to Gibraltar.

I went for a sleep at about 10pm and was woken by Duncan at 12.30am to say that we were in Gibraltar Bay & all pairs of eyes were needed on deck.  What a sight it was when I came up the companion way steps – a blaze of lights all round.  There were lots of very big ship, mostly at anchor, including two big cruise liners and a ULCC (Ultra Large Crude Carrier.)  There was also quite a lot of traffic moving about on the water – hence the need for several look-outs.

David did a 14 week Yacht Master course based out of Marina Bay in Gibraltar at the beginning of this year so it was all fairly familiar to him and we found our way into the marina without any real difficulty.  We found a berth and were in the process of tying up with a little man appeared to tell us that if we had not booked we could not stay.  Apparently they were expecting lots of boats in for a rally.  Duncan argued that there were lots of spare berths and as it was 01.30 in the morning, could we not just stay put until morning?  At first it seemed that he was going to dig in his heels but then David suggested that there might be spare berths belonging to the school he had trained with.  The guy suddenly changed his mind and rather reluctantly said we could stay put until morning but must then find somewhere else.

In the morning we decided to do the shopping before visiting the marina office.  David showed us the route through town to Morrison’s and then went off to find his chums at the sailing school.  Duncan & I loaded our trolley with such delicacies as muesli (v expensive in Spain,) baked beans and Patak’s curry paste & then staggered back to the marina with it all. While I found homes for everything, Duncan went off to the chandlers’ to buy charts for the Mediterranean coast of Spain before facing up to the marina office.

Whether the guy the previous night had been over-officious or whether David’s connections with the sailing school helped, who knows, but suddenly it was fine for us to stay another night in the same berth if we wished.  Gibraltar was the first place where we had to berth bow-to as opposed to alongside a finger berth.  It meant climbing over the pulpit and anchor to get on and off & I was a bit nervous at first, not being the most nimble of souls, but it wasn’t actually too bad.  Duncan reckons I’m just a weed, a wet and a girlie.

We had discovered that morning, that Rose and Brian, our friends from Barbate, were berthed on the other side of the pontoon.  When Rose learned that Duncan and I were planning to visit the Rock that afternoon, she asked to join us as Brian had no desire or interest in going. 

Our departure was fairly delayed by a latish lunch so by the time we’d walked the 1½ miles or so to the cable car, it was about 4pm. While we stood queuing for 45 minutes or so, we discussed the type of ticket to buy.  In the end we splashed out £16 per head which entitled us to a return trip on the cable car and entrance to various attractions. 

The marina from the top of the Rock

The marina from the top of the Rock

Only Rose was able to obtain an audio guide because neither Duncan nor I had any form of ID on us.  However it turned out to be fairly useless and kept stopping and refusing to respond to the control buttons.  The second one we were given was equally hopeless because the volume kept fading away so in the end we handed it back and managed without.  It wasn’t particularly easy; there were no guide books or maps available and signage was unclear.  We coped with a town plan that Rose had picked up in the marina office.

Barbary apes doing the cute thing for the tourists

Barbary apes doing the cute thing for the tourists

It cannot be denied that the view from the top was spectacular: Gibraltar Bay and the Atlantic to the west, the Mediterranean to the east and the mountains of Morocco to the south across the Straits.  We could easily see the marina and Duncan was able to zoom in and photograph Rampage, far, far below.  There were plenty of apes everywhere hustling the tourists for food and posing for photos.  The babies were particularly appealing.  While trying to find our way out of the cable car station, (not as easy as it sounds,) we were suddenly accosted by the Danish couple who had been berthed next to us in Barbate marina! 

Looking north towards Spain

Looking north towards Spain

And west to the Atlantic

And west to the Atlantic

We then set off south along the Rock to visit the first of the attractions.  St Michael’s Cave turned out to be magnificent – caverns in the limestone with breathtaking stalactites and stalagmites.  We wandered along the various paths and passageways until we reached the main cavern which had been set up with seats and lighting for stage productions and concerts.  It would be a most impressive (if rather damp) backdrop for something like Lord of the Rings.

St Michaels Cave

St Michaels Cave

After leaving the cave we set off to the opposite end of the Rock to see the tunnels where people took refuge during the Great Siege during the 18th century.  Rose particularly wanted to visit the Siege Tunnels.  We walked the 3½ miles or so fairly briskly, only to be told on arrival that they, (and all the other attractions,) had just closed for the day.  We had been making our way downhill from St Michael’s Cave and we were told that it was easier to carry on making our way down the hill than to try to make our way to the middle station on the cable car.  So, with resignation, we carried on down the zigzagging road past the Great Siege exhibition, the World War 2 tunnels and the Moorish castle, all firmly closed.  We reached the marina at about 7.45pm, fairly weary and footsore having walked somewhere around 7+ miles.

Advice to any of you readers, should you plan to visit the Rock of Gibraltar at any time:

  • Think long & hard about what sort of ticket to buy.  We wasted most of ours.
  • Arrive early in the day if you wish to see more than just the view.
  • Wear sensible shoes.
  • Seriously consider taking one of the many minibuses to the top rather than the cable car if you are remotely idle.

On Monday we bid farewell to Rose and Brian again and set off for Fuengirola.  The marina only charged us £30 and we had understood that the cost was £20 per night for our size of yacht.  It seems they only charged for half the first night, possible because we arrived after midnight.  We did not complain.

David at the helm as we pass the Queen Victoria off Gibraltar

David at the helm as we pass the Queen Victoria off Gibraltar

We had a cracking sail to Fuengirola, mostly just using the headsail with and westerly 5 – 6 pushing us along.  On arrival we were met by a friend of David’s and went for a delicious meal at a restaurant John knows well.  The mussels au gratin were to die for. It was very sad to say goodbye to David as he has been our constant companion now for just on two months – a great source of help and advice to us both and very easy-going to be around.  He tolerated manfully our need for 18 hours sleep in every 24 and our bickering.  He ate everything we put in front of him (even potatoes occasionally) & insisted on finishing up stale bread and some disgusting cheese we’d bought.  He scrubbed decks and mended sails and generally made himself part of the family.  Life without him seems strange and a bit daunting.  

Farewell to Gibraltar.... hello the Med

Farewell to Gibraltar.... hello the Med

Our first day’s sailing without him to advise us went smoothly.  We had good winds again and reached our planned destination of Marina del Este at about 5pm.  We then spent the next two hours trying to find a suitable sheltered anchorage before surrendering to the inevitable and going into the marina itself and paying the reputedly exorbitant fees.  In fact they were not too outrageous and they softened the blow by presenting us with a very pleasant bottle of red wine.  The marina is probably the smallest and prettiest we have stayed in to date, and not the most expensive.

Marina del Este - pretty little place with everything laid on

Marina del Este - pretty little place with everything laid on



  1. Great to see you are making progress towards barca.I had trouble getting the internet to work until today in my apartment. I would once again like to thank you both for a wonderful time aboard.I also have an apology to make.When I was unpacking I found the computer mouse in my gear.I will return it when ever we meet up again sorry!!Hope you get favorable winds for the rest of the journey

  2. Hi Kiddoes, awake early so thought I’d catch up on some of your blogs as I am way behindhand – how frustrating about the Rock of Gibraltar and missing so much of its attractions. I must say I hadn’t appreciated how many different things were there to visit. I thought you just climbed up it, saw the apes and that was about it but then I’m pretty ignorant about most things. I am getting very envious reading your travel accounts although not so much about the actual sailing! Not too much excitement this end – went for a lovely walk on Saturday morning as the weather was unexpectedly warm and sunny and then did a bit of planting and tidying in the front garden. Strictly Come Dancing has started a new series until Christmas so I will be pretty hooked until then – have signed up to continue my own dancing lessons on Thursday evenings. Sadly John has too little free time or energy to join me – he had to speak sternly to his new sous-chef last week for bad time-keeping and generally messiness. This didn’t go down too well and the chap decided to leave. So we are back to square 1 again. Did you get my e-mail last week asking about the equipment necessary for Skype? I’ve also relogged onto Facebook after registering about 18 months ago but generally find there is an awful lot of rubbish on there which I can’t be bothered with and frankly don’t have the time for. Does that show my age or good common sense? John is still asleep so I’m going to get another cup of tea and read up on some of your past blogs on the Rampage. Love and kisses and good luck on your own without David. What good fortune to have had him. P.S. What happened to the other crew member? Lizzie xxx

  3. Not going to write much as I am not sure this will get to you, it’s all new to me!! Great pics of gib, funny to think i was there thinking about you only a few weeks before!! Baby still not arrived but hope to meet it this weekend

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