21 October 2008


Gibraltar , Gateway to the Atlantic

Mediterranean Sea

Happy Trafalgar Day! Sandpiper is still anchored just under 'The Rock' waiting for favorable winds to blow us to the Canary Islands 700 miles south of here.

Since arriving we have been busy exploring the surrounding area and getting the 'Piper ready to leave. The only safe anchorage in Gibraltar is north of the runway that separates Spain from Gibraltar. Being on this side of the border (Spain), then crossing over to Gibraltar is a bit like crossing over to Tijuana. We go from one country where no one knows what we are saying to a country where everyone speaks English, our first English speaking country since leaving Australia.

Gibraltar is rich in maritime history. It is only two and a half miles long and barely a mile wide. Most of the country is an enormous rock that forms a peninsula. The rock drops from a hight of 1400 feet to sea level.

Gibraltar has been a part of all major wars for the last two centuries. For a little history... Gibraltar was used as a base during the battle of Trafalgar. And it is where the body of Admiral Nelson was brought ashore by HMS victory. Gibraltar was also a major base in WWII, used to block German shipping from entering or leaving the Med. And to try to trap German U-boats. You can see this in one of the greatest movies ever made about WWII called 'Das Boot'. Towards the end of the movie, after their brutal Atlantic patrol, they have to skip pass the Royal Navy at Gibraltar to try to get back to their base in France.

Since our arrival to Spain at our last stop in Almeria it was never clear where we were supposed to check in. So we never did, figuring we would do it once we got here. Now that we are here, once again no one can tell us where to go to check in. And it seems that no one really cares. When we walk across the border from Gibraltar the Spanish customs officers ask us where the stamps are in our passports.  We explain that we can't figure out where to check in. So they say "That's OK. Don't worry about it." I believe that none of the other boats here are clearing in or out either since its to confusing on the Spanish side. And it is so busy here that they are not too concerned with the visiting yachts.

Storm Update: That storm that blew through here 2 weeks ago, the one we hid from in a marina in Almeria, Spain. That storm was only forecasted to blow 30 knots. Turns out that same storm was the worst storm Gibraltar has experienced in 40 years. Most people we talked to say they have never seen anything like it. Along with the broken ship on its coast, the storm caused much damage to the harbor, with both marinas being closed due to storm damage. [Video of damage]

One of the things we have been trying to accomplish these last 4 days is trying to get Sandpiper's propane tanks refilled. While this is always an adventure in every county we have visited, we have always found someone that had the right fittings to top our tanks. Here in Europe, everyone swaps their empty bottles for full ones. And it is illegal to refill tanks in Europe. We have only recently been educated on this after the last 4 days, one of the days walking around town with our propane tank behind us on a small cart only to find out that no one could help us. Sandpiper has to large propane tanks that have lasted us since stopping in Egypt.  But are now they are almost empty. We are not sure that we want to leave on this next 700 mile passage with a chance of running out of propane en route. So we might be staying here for a few days until we can get this worked out.

We are working with another California boat to get the right propane fittings to fit the EU bottles. If  that works, then we will just connect the European bottles to ours and fill them that way. Hopefully the next entry we will be at sea cooking something.

More soon,
Tom and Amy

No comments: