9 Oct – more tales from Gibraltar


October 9th, 2017


Gibraltar, North Atlantic 2017 – 2019

Written by

Richard Farrington

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By Richard. Posted on October 9th, 2017 in Gibraltar, North Atlantic 2017 – 2019.

36:08.1 N 005:21.3W


The girls had climbed the ‘Med Steps’ on Saturday whilst I wrestled with the engine cooling pipe, so on Sunday we climbed up to the Moorish Castle in the heat of the day for a look.  They wanted £10 a head to go in; it takes two minutes to look round, but the
ticket covers you for many of the other interesting features of the ‘Upper Rock’.  We didn’t really have time for any of those as Lizzie had a flight back to London in the evening and we had planned a late lunch onboard. So the secrets of the castle remain
intact and we settled for coffee instead – but the walk opened up some new nooks and crannies of Gibraltar which the majority of visitors never see.   I’ve often wondered why the cruise ship passengers (the majority of whom are British) make a bee-line for
the fish and chip shops and Marks and Spencers on Main Street rather than wandering ‘off piste’.  Part of it is the herd instinct and part of it may lie with the Gibraltarians, who want tourism – just not on their patios!  If only Main Street had a few tapas
joints instead of an endless stream of perfumeries, jewellers, electronics shops and off-licences… but I guess that ‘patatas bravas’ don’t generate quite the same profit per unit as the steady stream of last year’s mobile phones?

Superyachts are growing in importance at Gibraltar.  This one (named ‘Garcon’) is actually the TENDER for something else.  All it does is carry the toys…

Lizzie flew home with ‘SleasyJet’ to Gatwick just hours before Monarch ceased trading.  Apparently they had 40% of the Gibraltar market so it will be interesting to see who takes up the slack in the market and how.  We departed Marina Bay on Monday afternoon
so have not been able to tell whether the volume of aircraft flying in and out has changed significantly.  We anchored off La Linea to put our furling mainsail back on (you need to point into wind to do this and the marina berth was not suitable) then made
our way down into Gibraltar dockyard and brought Escapade into Queensway Quay marina.  This wasn’t here when I visited Gibraltar regularly in the 1980s and is one of the first major bits of development that resulted from the gradual downsizing of the military
presence here.  Now over 20 years old, the place looks quite mature alongside some of the more glitzy constructions springing up on reclaimed land in almost every direction.  It’s built around Ragged Staff Steps – a much earlier example of land reclamation
and development of Gibraltar dating back to 1736.  It’s a peaceful spot with some attractive restaurants on the waterfront and just a stone’s throw from the centre of town, but when the wind blows from the east (as it has done fairly consistently since we
arrived) the characteristic cloud that forms on the top of the rock acts as a very effective local sunbreak.  It also makes it quite hard to dry your laundry.

We came in to await spare parts: Julie’s SIM Card and the ‘below deck’ element of our Iridium Pilot satellite communications equipment.  Both arrived in Gibraltar on Tuesday afternoon and Julie’s phone number is now back in use.  The Iridium part, which was
despatched from Mailasail in Wimbledon on Monday afternoon, took 24 hours to reach Gibraltar but then a further 48 hours to crawl the 500 yards from the runway to the marina.  DHL blamed it on the chaps at HM Customs; I’m not so sure and I think it fell behind
the sofa when nobody was paying much attention.  Regular phonecalls and a personal visit from Julie, who was out walking with Sylvia Sanguinetti, had a cumulative effect: eventually we wore them down and I had the part in my hands at 5pm on Thursday.  By 6pm
we had learnt that it was not the faulty part of the system.  Earlier in the week Julie had cycled round to the huge marina at La Linea to see if any of the yachts there had the same system and we were lucky to find Clive and Caroline Fedida, who kindly let
me put my Iridium SIM Card in their working Pilot to check it out. 


I now know that the fault lies either with the cable or with the antenna.  I’m afraid I suspect the antenna, but I hope I’m wrong as we are now waiting for a new cable to arrive from Mailasail.  That left Wimbledon on Friday afternoon, drove to Stansted and
then Heathrow, where it had a quiet weekend and remains there as I write.  I fear another week of increasingly grumpy phonecalls…

Still, we haven’t been idle whilst waiting for spares.  We have been reading up on Morocco and through Bob and Sylvia met and had a very interesting chat with Dr Graham Hutt, who wrote the Royal Cruising Club pilot book on North Africa.  By chance, he lives
at Queensway Quay so came onboard to give us an invaluable couple of hours spinning dits about the Navy (he’s an RNSA member – the first we’ve met since May!) and the Atlantic coast of Morocco.  We plan to leave here as soon as we can and sail down to Rabat. 
We might spend just a couple of days there if we are running out of time, or perhaps tarry a while and do a ‘road trip’ to Fez and Marrakesh.  Or what about some trekking in the Atlas Mountains?  I liberated a dusty copy of the Lonely Planet Guide out of the
Gibraltar Bookshop and we’re ready for the ‘off’!  We also conducted sea trials on the new outboard motor: it passed with flying colours and the rubber boat planes with two of us in it – so pleased I did not succumb to the temptation to buy the much heavier
9.9hp model!

The new 6hp Mercury.  Currently ‘my favourite thing’…

On Saturday we ventured into Spain with the Sanguinettis and enjoyed a beautiful walk-cum-clamber around the hilltop ‘pueblo blanco’ of Casares high in the Sierra Crestellina hills above Estepona.  Fairly mountainous – not quite on the scale of the Picos de
Europa in Asturias –  it’s a spectacular area where hunters of all types thrive and we enjoyed speculating about life in one of the picturesque fincas that dot the landscape as well as watching some vultures who were soaring on the thermals coming up from
the Mediterranean.  You could almost imagine yourself on the set of Hemingway’s ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ (although that was filmed much further north, I believe).  A reviving ale in the whitewashed town was essential before we descended to the Mediterranean
shores and the resort of Sotogrande.

We climbed up above the picturesque town of Casares…

Tinto Sanguinetti poses for photo with the Escapaders in the hills

Sotogrande is an impressive privately owned residential development dating from the 1960s when a couple of visionary Spanish Filipinos bought up some farmland and began building.  It’s well known for its excellent sporting facilities, natural beauty, decent
architecture and jet-set appeal.  Apparently Tony Blair has a house here…   We didn’t meet him (luckily for him) but we did enjoy a good lunch in the smart marina, a swim in the warm waters of the Mediterranean and a good nose round at how the other half live. 
It reminded me of the smarter parts of Florida and seems immune to the ebb and flow of global finance.  But I’d rather own one of those mountain fincas we saw in the morning.

On Sunday I gave the watermaker a makeover and in the evening we were very privileged to join the Wallikers in their ‘rocktop’ eyrie, Rooke House, to observe the ancient Naval ritual of Sundowners amongst good friends.  Returning to the boat for supper, we
were unable to walk past the Raj Curry House at the entrance to the Marina without sampling their produce.  Amusingly, it’s rated as the top restaurant in Gibraltar on TripAdvisor.  Not sure I’d put it in the same league as Casa Pepe (apples and pears spring
to mind) but it’s certainly a fine curry house.