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From Cabo de Gata to Gibraltar

We did it... We sail from Barcelona to Gibraltar. We are tired but happy. I think it was easy to than what I expected. 

We anchored for a few nights in a bay (Puerto Genoves) near Cabo de Gata. The winds came in the night reaching 45 knots and like many sailors before I wondered if our anchor would hold. If it didn’t, we would be on the rocks or the beach if lucky. In the morning all was calm except the force of the wind had bent our snubber hook made from 1cm thick steel. We left in the morning in a rough sea drinking tea whilst pounding into the huge waves and swell. The wind was behind us, but I had not yet used the poles to hold the sails out in such a situation, so we sailed when we could and motored the rest. We motored through the night, on our port (left side) were huge ships all squeezed around the Spanish coast to the Alboran Sea and heading to the Straights of Gibraltar into the Atlantic and the rest of the world. 

I love to be anchored. When you wake up, you don't need to wash your face or have a shower because a beautiful see waiting for you... Hugging you, healing you, cleaning you without any expectation. You are always able to start a day peacefully.  When the sea becomes rough, then you can hear its song like a symphonic rock, you only need to respect, that's it. 

I am amazed by AIS, a system that uses VHF radio waves to show on a screen (iPad in our case) all other ships visually and whether they are going to come close or hit us. With the little moon and no other boat lights visible, I feel we are alone in the Alboran Sea. I am well aware of a huge cargo ship, or tanker can travel at three to five times our speed and be invisible until it is 10 minutes or less away. Go below and make a cup of tea to return to a mega-ship bearing down. Such a boat could run over us without notice. Fortunately, AIS alarms for-warn of this and take the stress and fear away. I can’t imagine sailing in such a busy shipping lane on a moonless night without it. To avoid the currents and take advantage of the wind, we sail close to the main shipping lane. The chart shows a strong adverse current and at 3.00am we hit it, and our speed slows to 2 knots. At dawn, we can just make out Malaga on the coast and lots of container ships and tankers on our port side. 

I am on watch. I must check the AIS regularly in my night watch, but when the alarm starts I am easily panicked. I'm the lucky one because nearly all my watch
 was very calm and quiet. My favourite sailing time is night. It's like you are living a totally different world. Me and nature... alone at that moment...  And sometimes joined by Andy and his ukulele. When the sea and wind get angry, then I know I  have to be calm and patient. I know a lot of people don't like this because night sailing means being alone.  I am alone with my thought in the dark and you have a thoughts shower... Thoughts, memories, words, concepts... It's time to be a conscious witness... This time I listened to the book 'Stop People Pleasing" By Patrick King.  I learned a lot about myself... I saw how I lost myself trying to please others and forget myself...  If you try to please and to fix everything for them, be sure when they don't need you, you become the worst person in their world and become their enemy... I thought it's only my story but now I know I'm not alone... So lesson learned, don't try to please people, please your self...

Meltem prepares our evening meal which is an absolute treat, eating as we watch the sunset over the Sierra Nevada mountains and before the dark night descends. She is really excited by the dolphins, and I worry the lurching of the boat will toss her in the water as she moves forward,  hand over hand towards the bow. I shout to her to squat down, keeping her centre of gravity low as the squeaking of the dolphins grows louder. They are truly amazing creatures, and unlike us, they belong to the sea. It is a privilege to be able to share these moments, indeed the whole experience with someone so grateful, kind and lovely. 

Dolphins are my remedy, my soul animal, my family in the sea, my friends and they are my guardian... Even only seeing them makes me so happy. Of course, I prefer to swim with them, but it's not easy whilst sailing. When I see them, I become 5 years old... shouting, prancing about, and feel so happy... They change my mood in a second. They came and played with us, and it was enough for me to feel very happy.

For the first time, the evening is freezing as we near the Atlantic. The sea is rough with the wind blowing against the current, the engine struggles against the waves, and we close in on the Rock of Gibraltar. We see the cloud about the rock first, and then the rock itself is slowly revealed as we inch closer. This is a wild place with the currents, ships and narrowing of the sea. I am not surprised to see dolphins, lots of them. This is their place, wild chaos and plenty of food. About 70 flying fish emerge from the water, and we see the fins of 30 or so dolphins in pursuit, an awesome sight. 

It isn't important for me what the weather is, how the wave is big and strong, how much wind is blowing when a lot of dolphins are around us. But this time they are hunting, and they have a lot of babies with them... I thought I would be able to swim with them in Gibraltar, but it is strictly forbidden. They have a tour of watching dolphins but no way to swim with them. In Gibraltar, I tried everything to convince one of them who making a tour but no way... Rules are Rules... No privilege... So my dream of swimming with them postpones until maybe next year... But who knows what 
life brings me... Maybe...

We finally enter the Bay of Gibraltar, followed by a 100-metre superyacht. We look her up on the internet and get a guided tour of her interior, her history and day rate. This bay feels poignant to me. Throughout my life, Gibraltar has popped up in the news as the Spanish-
English dispute over her sovereignty flares and subsides. In recent history, it has been occup
ied by the Moors, the Spanish and since the early 1700’s Britain. I am excited as we pick our way through the moored tankers, cruise ships, oil rigs and cargo boats either unloading or waiting for a post COVID improvement in the economy. Oddly the marinas are all listed as too small to take Karisma, so we head for La Linea in Spain, less than three miles from the Southerly tip of the rock, squeezed right next to the airport runway. A plane lands as we approach and it is a sight to see, touching down on the west coast of Gibraltar and coming to rest on the east coast, so narrow is peninsular. 

The first day we were in Spain part of Gibraltar but in 2 days we have to go to the British part of G
ibraltar because Andy bought a radar and it will be fixed on Karisma there. I ask Andy how many days it takes for all this RADAR work and he said that "one or maximum two days" but in my experience, fixing something in Karisma always take a lot of time and I said " I said 'I think we will stay here a week "Andy disagreed with me... Guess what happened... The answer will be the next post...

We book into the Marina and are directed to our berth. Many people find mooring stressful, so I don’t feel alone in this. We have a narrow gap to reverse into, and the lady on the boat next to us stops sunbathing and stands glaring in case we touch her boat. Blonde hair, stern face upright posture I silently name her Helga and oddly with this, my concern is gone. Finally, we tie up and relax and have a well-earned beer. 

It's very interesting for me to watch peoples' reactions. Normally when you are mooring everybody tries to help you. People always nice but this time "Helga's" reaction very different. I  feel so uncomfortable how she stands on the bow of her boat staring at us. I'm so glad we didn't need her help. Andy mooring there perfectly. I feel relaxed and happy. We did it... We sailed from Barcelona to Gibraltar. 

All the words in italics have been written by our captain Andy Parker


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