Wednesday 7 September 2011

Gibralter and Costa del Sol

As we left the huge natural harbour of Cadiz, we imagined Sir Francis Drake 'singeing the king of Spain's beard' by setting light to the city; and then later, Nelson blockading the Spanish Armada for months before engaging them at the battle of Trafalgar. As a result the English ships had become hardened men of war who had practiced running out their guns with daily target practice in the rough seas and consequently their rate of fire was much faster than their Spanish opponents - a significant factor in the English victory.

We sailed down the coast of Spain, passing Cape Trafalgar and then sailing inshore of Trafalgar Bank, the scene of the battle itself. It is said that at Tarifa, the southernmost point of Spain, the wind blows at 30 knots for over 300 days in the year, and as we neared the point, the hillsides were covered with huge wind turbines, their large blades cart wheeling across the barren landscape as they captured this free energy from mother nature.

Entering the harbour at Gibraltar, the tide had turned in our favour pushing us along at over 11 knots. A Guardia Civil police launch roared up, did an abrupt u turn alongside us, then after a brief pause, the uniformed occupants waved a greeting and sped off again, presumably looking for illegal immigrants from the troubled north African states. It was a strange sight, seeing Gibraltar on one side and only a few miles away the north African coast - such a long way from Portsmouth Harbour.

In Gibraltar we met up with Mervyn and Amanda, friends of the Taylor's who we had first met last year in Mallorca when they had just begun their new life cruising on their sailing boat. It was great to see them and to compare notes, particularly now that we had experienced four weeks at sea and 1500 miles under our keel since leaving the UK. They are working their way west, with plans to stop off at Madeira before heading south to the Canary Islands in time for the start of the ARC trans Atlantic rally which leaves in November (and which we plan to do next year).


The next day we took the cable car up the rock of Gibraltar and spent hours fascinated by the Barbary Apes which live wild on the heights of the rock. Their human behaviour and their comic mannerisms had us captivated for hours, watching the young apes playing games with the long suffering attendants who man the tourist office at the top of the mountain.

The next day Tom, Jamie and Mat left us. Tom and Mat to Ibiza and Jamie to Haslemere to start earning money to fund his gap year. We felt sad leaving the boys as we motored out of Gibraltar, just Caroline and I on our own for the first time for several weeks. First stop was Benalmadena, a ghastly marina that adjoins the holiday town of Torremolinos, and then the following day onto Marina Del Este, a beautiful little Spanish harbour, very much like the French Riviera, nestling at the foot of the hills. All very stylish and
far away from the beaches and the holiday trippers of the Costa del Sol. This was where Saz was to join us later that evening having flown from the UK to Malaga.

Next we sail along the Costa Blanca towards Catagena and Alicante before leaving the mainland at Altea and heading west to the Balearic Islands of Formentera, Ibiza and our final destination of Mallorca.

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