Barbate to Gibraltar
Stuck in Barbate but needing to be in Gibraltar.
Barbate is the one place in the world you wouldn’t want to be stuck in, I promise you, especially when Gibraltar is just around the corner. Where were we? Stuck in Barbate whilst the wind howled and the seas crashed over the wall.
We wanted to go to Gibraltar but knew that for 300 days of the year, Tarifa point along the way would funnel the mildest of winds through the straits between Africa and Europe at up to 30 knots and sometimes more. There were also strong tides and under currents to contend with and if the wind was from the east then best reasoning is to just stay where you are. Some things are just wrong such as going into a Muslim clothes shop and asking to see a selection of bomber jackets. Being stuck in Barbate or setting off in adverse conditions was also wrong.
Unfortunately we were there for Jordan’s Birthday and our first opportunity to escape fell on Aiden’s Birthday. We asked Aiden if he minded sailing on his special day and there was no hesitation. We were off.
At last, we are heading for Gibraltar
When we eventually extricated ourselves from the self-impose prison there was little swell and no wind what so ever. It would mean motoring rather than sailing but the good news was that we were putting distance between us and Barbate. The current was also against us part of the way but we just didn’t mind. We even had time for a quiz which I lost by one point. It was a stupid question anyway. Name one thing that is commonly found in cells. Apparently the correct answer is not people from Liverpool.
Tarifa Point in the Gibraltar straits
As the straits narrowed between Africa on one side and Europe on the other we approach Tarifa point ready and waiting for the expected winds. As it was there was less than a woman blowing on her nail varnish and we just had to carry on motoring. We even got the current with us and were flying along at 8 knots knowing Gibraltar was only two hours away behind the next headland.
This sailing malarkey was a doddle, the sun beating down on a moving conveyor of sea between two continents.
No sooner had some prat opened his big mouth then it all changed. It was like a cartoon as a big black cloud came from nowhere and settled above our mast following us wherever we went. Then came the winds and the sea began breaking all around. Within ten minutes we had over 25 knots of wind against tide and horrible seas. The good news was that the unmistakable rock that is Gibraltar had just come into view. Once we got into the bay the winds and sea should die down a little, we hoped. We also were reading through the boat insurance to make sure it was in date.
For the next hour or so we battled the wind and sea to get into the bay but all that did was funnel the winds more making it windier and rougher. We now had over 30 knots of wind before the digital readout stopped working. I don’t know how strong it got but it played havoc with our hairstyles. To add to our misery there were cargo boats of every conceivable size anchored everywhere in the bay and constant traffic going in and out.
La Linea and Gibraltar
Eventually the marinas of Gibraltar and La Linea became visible. We had planned to go into La Linea as it has less swell and was cheaper. It is actually still in Spain and a stone’s throw from Gibraltar with only the border and a runway separating the two. Flights to Gibraltar come in or take off only three times a day. Imagine how surprised we were to have to duck as we passed the end of the runway as a sleazy jet came into land. For one moment we thought we were going to have to become an aircraft carrier like it or not!
Going into the outer harbour at La Linea the wind was still howling and we seriously considered dropping anchor to wait for the maelstrom to die down. Parking 17 tonnes of boat in a marina is not easy at the best of times but in a big wind it is a recipe for disaster. Then again, it was Aiden’s Birthday and we wanted to be somewhere to celebrate so we decided to go for it.
We were allocated a pontoon with the wind blowing us off towards the expensive looking boat next door. Unlike “The Apprentice” we were all equal to the task of bringing her in and tying her up alongside perfectly without having to say “You’re fired”. Once again I was proud of our crew.
Which marina to stay in, la Linea or Gibraltar?
La Linea Marina
We decided that we would give the marina a week before we decided if we would stay here for winter or move on further. The signs were looking good. There were several boats we had met during the year staying here, the airport was ten minutes’ walk away with flights to the UK and best of all, we had one amazing view of the rock from the boat.
Being in La Linea is a bit like being a schizophrenic. On one hand you are in Spain, speaking Spanish, living their way of life and using the Euro but in Gibraltar it is in effect like being in England, living a completely different life, speaking English and using the pound. La Linea is not actually the most affluent town in Spain or the most picturesque but they do have a good bus service to other places we would like to see in Spain. The supermarkets are cheap and the marina is new, modern and does not suffer swell to the same extent as the two marinas, Queensway and Marina Bay, in Gibraltar.
Crossing the border and runway into Gibraltar
Gibraltar is a ten minute walk away and crossing the border couldn’t be easier. You hold your passport up and someone might actually glance at it when they are not chatting on mobile phones.
Gibraltar / La Linea runway
Once through the border you then walk across the runway and you are in a very familiar world of red phone boxes, British policeman and signs you can actually read. The main supermarket there is Morrison’s and you will find exactly the same foods as you would find in England. Gibraltar was once described as 30,000 drunkards clinging to a rock. I am not surprised as it is tax free making spirits about 8 pounds a bottle, cigarettes 2.20 a packet and diesel about 1.05 a litre. Add to that perfumes and electrical goods and you can see why the border can be very busy.
Everyone in Gibraltar speaks English (although sounding more Welsh) but they do have their own language. It is a mixture of English and Spanish in the same sentence and is known as Gibraltarish or Spanglish. The British could not understand this Gibraltarish which got shortened to Gibberish.. So now you know.
Mugged by monkeys and footballers
In England you have thugs. In Gibraltar you have monkeys. The only difference is that the monkeys here are classed as a tourist attraction but both should have ASBO’s as there is no difference in their behaviour. Both will mug you without a second thought and then taunt you afterwards.
Gibraltar is pretty sports crazy and if you are that way orientated there is nothing they haven’t got an organisation for. Aiden has become an international on a free transfer and joined one of the local football clubs called the Lions. It was raining on his first practice night so they went for a run … around Gibraltar. After two years on a boat it almost killed him but some of the players looked after him and encouraged him on the run. He even got invited out with them for fish and chips afterwards. Hopefully he will make some good friends his own age which he needs.
With everything available, especially for the boys we have decided to stay here for the winter. Even the weather has been like the UK for the week we have been here and it has rained most days. Is it the right decision? We shall see.
Oh and before I go, remember that a hurricane can be like a wife. Exciting and unpredictable but both will also take half your house as they leave!