17 October 2008


Gibraltar, Gateway to the Atlantic

Mediterranean Sea

Sandpiper is securely anchored in Gibraltar, right under 'The Rock'. From where we are anchored, we are just under 'The Rock' and it looks just like in the Prudential logo "Get a piece of the rock". We made much better time from Almeria than anticipated and was able to set the hook before the sunset among about 20 other boats from all over the world.

I had said in my last update that we were not worried about a night approach to the anchorage here. But now that we are here, I take that back. I had not anticipated the amount of shipping underway and at anchor and at anchor. Gibraltar is a crossroads for mariners traveling to the Med or to the Atlantic, and most yachts stop here, along with a lot of ships.

As we have stated previously, the weather in the Med can turn bad in a very short amount of time. This is why we were quite happy to motor in windless seas. As we approached Gibraltar, right under the lighthouse were the remains of a ship that was pushed up on the rocks just last Friday in a major storm that blew through thru. The ship was at anchor and when the storm hit. They drug anchor right onto the rocks. Some of the crew was taken off by helicopter until the helicopter had to make an emergency landing due to mechanical failures. The rest of the crew was taken off by a crane that lowered a basket down to them from the cliff above. While this was going on, the ship cracked in half. When we passed yesterday there were salvors all around the remains mostly trying to pump the ship's fuel out. We passed thru some of the fuel in the water, and the main port was closed off with oil booms to protect the boats in the harbor.

When we approached the anchorage we stopped and talked to a small Canadian boat that had been here for the last week, after a transit from New York. They told us that they had been anchored there when the storm blew through, and they showed us where a section of the break wall used to be. The waves were so large that inside the bay that the waves tossed all the rocks off the middle of the break wall. This was the same storm that passed over us last Friday after our arrival to Almeria. Lucky for us we were no longer in transit from Malta when this passed over.

One note to add about this area. The border between Spain and Africa is wide open for smuggling, mostly people and cigarettes. We had one small inflatable boat with 3 persons onboard pass us, headed from Spain to Africa, when we were 20 miles offshore. These guys looked pretty suspect being so far offshore in a small inflatable.

Gibraltar is just a small piece of land that is self governed and is a territory of England. But the land just off our stern is Spain. After we got the hook dropped last night and had gone to bed we heard a small outboard and Spanish voices. I popped my head out and saw 2 young guys in a dinghy holding on to our starboard side talking into a hand held radio. I said "Hola", and they started pointing outside the anchorage and then at us saying "police". I was a bit confused. At first as I thought they were saying that THEY were the police and that we had anchored to close to the Spanish side of the border between Gibraltar and Spain, and were asking us to move.

They kept chatting into their radio. With my very broken Spanish, and a lot of pointing, they told me that they were smuggling cigarettes with their dingy between the Spanish shoreline and Gibraltar. I am not sure which way they smuggle the smokes. They told me they were hiding from the police who were out in boat looking for them, and a friend of theirs was on a radio telling them where the police were. Once the coast was clear they took off, saying 'Adios'. At least they were honest smugglers and told me everything they were doing.

Our current plans are to stay here till we get a good enough weather window to head south to the Canary Islands 700 miles from here.

More once we step ashore.
Tom and Amy

Notes From Ron:
  • The cigarette smugglers are bringing cigarettes in to Spain, via Gibraltar. Here is an article.
  • Technically, Tom and Amy are in Spain. They are anchored just a few yards north of the border.
  • Gibraltar is so small that the only road in and out of the country has to cross the middle of the county's only airport runway. Take a look.

1 comment:

ames said...

shady spanish smokers!