Rock of Ages

Trip Start Aug 01, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

We made it to THE ROCK! This is another of my major milestones on our journey. Our passage from Almerimar was thankfully uneventful - until we got to Gibraltar harbor. We waited for Jeff and Jeanne to return from a bus trip and took off within hours. The wind had finally died and we were able to slip away from the dock as easy as spitting out a watermelon seed. Our new friends on Gilana didn't have such luck. They left earlier in the day with the wind still blowing strong. As Mike was backing away from the dock, his prop caught the "lazyline" which is the rope connected underwater to a cement block to which one ties their boat. These lines usually sink nicely after a moment or two, but for some reason, his didn't. Boat propellers don't work nearly as well when they have a wad of rope tied to them. Mike was able to maneuver the boat to the end of the dock where two men, Chris and I waited to catch lines so that someone could jump in the cold water and cut the rope free. Before we noticed, Liz, Mike and Laura's teenage daughter was coming back from her dive with a whole bundle of thick rope. She was a chilly girl, but obviously very capable. Gilana planned on going to Ceuta, a Spanish town off the African coast opposite Gibraltar because Mike heard the fuel was much cheaper there. When you have 1000 litre tanks to fill, it adds up quickly. (Mike, Laura, Liz and their wonderdog, Jack are also heading to the Caribbean on their 50 ft yacht and they are the ones who knew the designer of our boat).

We left Almerimar at 10:00 pm under clear starry skies and following seas. We made great time and once again decided instead of stopping at two closer harbors, we'd just push on to Gibraltar. The weather window would be shut within three days and we wanted to make sure that we made it to "Gib" before the weather turned winter again. I got up for my 11:00 pm - 2:00 am watch and had the incredible view of the Rock of Gibraltar off our starboard bow. We had 15 miles to go to the entrance of Gibraltar Harbor and had lots of tanker traffic in the shipping lane off the port side. Just past the tankers, we could see the lights of Africa.

Once again, the song titles came flooding to my mind - ROCK of Ages, ROCK around the clock, ROCK-a-bye baby...

As I watched the well-lit Rock get larger as we neared, I thought that it looked quite like a giant baboon butt. It was too dark to take a photo, so I will leave it up to you to conjure your own image.

After a little more than an hour, the wind picked up and I thought it wasn't quite right that I was having all the fun myself, so I called Chris up. We scoured the water for "tunny nets" and other fishing boats, not wanting to encounter either close-up and personal again. When we were rounding Gibraltar Harbor, we called Jeanne and Jeff up to add to our eyes on the water. The Harbor was chock full of tankers and other assorted incredibly LARGE ships coming and going. Our computer hiccupped and we lost our ability to view a detailed chart of the area. This was not too much fun with all the ships and darkness. As we crawled in, Jeff, Jeanne and I were on deck and Chris was at the wheel. We would tell him, "port" or "starboard" as needed. All of a sudden, we saw that we were headed to an unlit rock breakwater. I yelled to slow the engines and turn around. Depth perception is not too good at night, but it seemed like we were within feet of the rocks. Whew. We managed to find the anchorage that we were looking for and got the hook down. The engines were turned off at 5:00 am - after a 31 hour run. Chris and the J's put on a pot of water for some hot cocoa, but my body was screaming - bedtime, so I made haste to the warm covers of our bunk. We all slept soundly until around 10:00 am.

The sun was out and we enjoyed the warmth as Jeff readied the dinghy for a trip to shore. They had a computer part shipped here that they needed to pick up and we still had the old (broken) tracker that we hadn't been able to send back since Athens. We needed to find a FEDEX office and asked at the customs tourist info desk. The woman said, no FEDEX. Jeanne had searched online in Almerimar and assured me that there was one in Gibraltar. The woman pushed over the phone book and said to have a look. Thank goodness for logo recognition. I saw the FEDEX sign and the woman showed us where it We had thought of calling Gilana on the radio to see if they made it OK to Ceuta, and when I went up to the pilot house, I did a check of the boats around us just to make sure that everyone was where they should be, I saw the bow of Gilana! They came in quietly and we didn't notice them. I shouted across the water and said hello and how glad we were to see them.

After waiting out the weather in La Linea (the Spanish side of the breakwater at Gibraltar), we picked a day to take a hike to see the Gibraltar monkeys. They call them Barbary Apes, but they are actually monkeys and they have the run of the Rock of Gibraltar. As we walked up the narrow road (no taxi tours for us!), we saw some of the monkeys on the side of the road. They are not shy at all, and will climb on your shoulder if you let them. I have a photo of Liz with one picking at her hair. The signs say not to feed the monkeys, but those guys are after any handouts they can get. The battery on our camera went out and as I tried to find new batteries in the backpack, I felt a pulling at my pant leg. I looked down and a large monkey was begging for a handout. When nothing was forthcoming, he actually put his hand into my jacket pocket (before I could stop him, not that I could have done anything at that point but run) and pulled out the contents: the two dead batteries and a perfectly good chapstick (SPF 35). I was able to grab the batteries, but the chapstick was history, now firmly in a monkey's fist. Pickpocketed by a hairy monkey! The last I saw of the chapstick was the monkey trying to open it up! I don't think that is considered feeding the monkey, but he probably has the softest lips in all the monkey kingdom on the Rock. Liz however, unthinking, took out an apple for her snack. That lasted all of about 20 seconds before an even larger monkey practically climbed up her front trying to get it. Laura shouted for her to drop the apple and stand back. This monkey was probably much happier than the chapstick thief.

Tomorrow we head for the Canary Islands, 700 miles south where we hope to be able to shed our winter clothing for a while and spend a few weeks before heading across the Atlantic.

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