It was too far to sail direct from Rota to Gibraltar in a day, so we chose Barbate (40 miles away)as a quick overnight stop. Unfortunately the weather and wind direction were unkind to us and we remained in Barbate for two nights. The town was a short bike ride away but was ‘closed’ as the season had not started yet, however we did manage to find one rather nice tapas bar near the Marina and spent a pleasant afternoon with Hakan & Eva where we all sampled the local tapas (and the ale of course!)
On 31st March at 10am we left Barbate and headed for the Straits of Gibraltar.
celebrating in the Straits!
The sail to Gibraltar, alongside Sally, was an exhilarating one. The currents through the Strait are mainly caused by water of different salinity flowing between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean sea. The water in the Atlantic is less salty and less dense and therefore flows eastwards into the Med through the Straits on the surface to about 125m deep at a speed of two or three knots. Add tidal flows of up to 4 knots to this and the flow eastwards can either speed up or slow down depending on the point of the tide at the time. There are lots of other more complicated factors that cause eddies and back eddies etc but I won’t bore you with this. The bottom line is that we sailed through the Straits at between 4.8 & 10.8 knots!
At the entrance to the Port we thought we were back in the Milford Haven Waterway, where at least two very familiar tankers were at anchor. We were very glad we were used to the size and manoeuvres of these huge vessels. There were a number of yachts getting extremely close to the bows of tankers as they made their way in to the Port.
We were welcomed by two marina operatives (not marineros as we were now in Gibraltar), who helped us moor up in Queensway Marina, (only £21 per night, £’s not Euros), right in the heart of town. Our GPS was now reading a total of 3339 miles since leaving the UK!
Despite being just a stone’s throw away from Africa and on the boarders of Spain, this is a British enclave. It has been fought over by the British and Spanish for centuries and officially decided to remain part of the UK in a referendum on 10th September 1967. The residents of Gibraltar celebrate Gibraltar National Day on that date every year.
During our 4 days in this British enclave, we spent our time getting to know this fascinating place and it’s history. We cycled around the ‘Rock’ – a 426 meter high limestone rock rising out of the sea - taking in the most fantastic views and visiting the many caves and fortifications used during the many wars (including WW11) and changes of occupation. In the late 18th century Gibraltar had faced fourteen sieges in 500 years!
We took the cable car to its peak and visited the famous Barbary apes, walking back down to the Marina through the Upper Rock Nature Reserve making the most of the views and attractions on the way down. St Michael’s Cave, with its stalactites and stalagmites and unique natural auditorium used for concerts, was a welcome break from the heat outside.
We were running low on baked beans and marmite so a trip to Morrisons was also on the cards! Try shopping in Morrisons and then cycling a mile or so carrying the shopping…… not an easy feat but worth it!
We thoroughly enjoyed our time here and would recommend it to anyone looking for a short break or, of course, sailing the Med! NEXT STOP MOROCCO!