Sunday, 31 July 2011

45 Nights in Gibraltar!!!! ….. July 2011

09 – 31 July 2011

So we thought the freezer was repaired.  We had returned from our great excursion to Ronda, I thought I had gone off to Morrisons Supermarket to stock up of English goodies for the last time and Skipper thought he would give the engine and freezer a final run before our departure the following day.  Well WE THOUGHT WRONG!!! 

When I returned laden down with bags of groceries one look at Mark told me all was not well.  The engine had been running smoothly, the freezer had been cooling down – but then the freezer went into overdrive causing the engine rev’s to drop dramatically, and the newly repaired freezer condenser copper pipes fractured causing  frion (freezing gas) to escape around the engine compartment.  This was not a good thing and we were back to where we had started 3 weeks previously.  2011 Ceuta & Gibraltar

It almost goes without saying that it was now the weekend and it was the beginning of a 2 week long summer fiesta in Algeciras, Spain where the shipyard was located that had performed the repairs.  We really weren’t that confident in sending the condenser back to somewhere for the 3rd time but Marcus assured us they normally were very good at what they did and and we had been very unlucky, and basically we had little choice.  We looked into the options of having a whole new condenser made but it was decided that they could just chop both ends off, totally replace the serpent copper coil inside and weld the ends back on.  Sounds straight forward, but then they couldn’t get the right sized copper so Marcus had to source that for us and they were only working 4 hour days because of the holidays – time to sit and play the waiting game - again.

To add insult to injury we noticed our water pump going when we weren’t using any water and investigated further.  Our newly installed (in Gibraltar when we arrived) fresh water pipes had all cracked and were leaking into the bilge.  How can this be?  We decided that when the frion escaped from the gas pipes it would have chilled the air dramatically and possibly cracked the pipes, there was no other explanation, and no solution except to remove and replace them – again.  We like to have things to do but this was getting ridiculous. 

To keep our chins up, we now had some kiwis in harbour to wait and play with.  John and Maudi on Ariki Tai had just brought a brand new, straight out of the shipyard, Cigale 16m speed machine, had sailed it down from France and were having it shipped to Australia.  The shipment date kept being delayed so they were playing the waiting game too.  Then there was Berserka II with Craig and Pam from Auckland, they have been living in England for a few years and decided to buy a yacht and sail home instead of flying.  They had had quite an adventurous crossing of the Bay of Biscay in some big seas and strong winds, then more lively sailing down the Portuguese coast.  So they were doing a few repairs and projects before heading across the Med with a view to going down the Red Sea and heading for Asia.  This was a talking point over several kiwi happy hours.
2011 Ceuta & Gibraltar-2

Pam and Craig were the first to escape Gibraltar’s clutches.  A few days later we joined Ariki Tai for a harbour tour, as we had offered to help with their loading.  They had been advised to be ready to be hoisted onboard the ship at 7pm and had checked with the agent at 4.30pm to check all was on schedule and advised it was.  We had left the marina at 6pm and at around 9.30pm we finally moved alongside - well they had waited 2 weeks, what was another few hours - the ladder came down and several men boarded, the slings were attached and some time later the hoisting began – eeek we were pointing downhill this is not a good thing so we were slowly lowered again and the slings moved, on the 2nd attempt all went well and Ariki Tai was onboard the Seven Seas Transporter Ship.  P7230012 It had been a long afternoon, we should have packed happy hour nibbles, refreshments and probably dinner but we never expected such a delay. 

Maudi had emptied all the food off to comply with Australian Quarantine laws (and kindly given it to us), so the cupboards were bare, it was water all round.  It was Johns 70th birthday and he got a packet of crisps and a beer for his birthday dinner at 1am!!!!  Maudi emailed us to say they finally left the ship at 12.30am, they had spoken to the Captain who had told them that as far as he knew the ship was not bound for Australia – we will be very interested to get further updates, just how many Brisbanes are there????

Friday afternoon Marcus called to tell us the condenser was ready, but it was too late for him to get across to Spain to collect it before they closed, and guess what – Monday was a public holiday!!!!  But there was cricket, golf and another Grand Prix on over the weekend so the days just passed by, never has Mark watched so much sport while cruising.  Tuesday morning the condenser finally returned and we set about to re-install it.  We are getting good at this now, practice makes perfect, but it became apparent to both of us immediately that all was not well.  It can only go in one way and it was all back to front.  They had welded the ends on the wrong way round and the pipes were now facing in the wrong direction.  P7300001 Not surprisingly we were not impressed. 

So for the fourth time the condenser leaves Gibraltar bound to Spain.
It is back Wednesday and we finally get it installed for what we hope will be the last time, the gas pipes are reattached, and it is refilled with frion.  The engine is run for a couple of hours and the freezer is working, what relief.  We have now run it three days in a row and it is still working, so at last we are ready to leave Gibraltar.  Yesterday we cleaned all the aviation fuel, dirt, dust, bird droppings etc off the boat, polished it all up and she was looking great.  After 44 days of mostly sunshine this morning it was raining and we have had wind gusts up to 30 knots, it has rained dirt and Balvenie is filthy.  The rain looks to have passed, time to clean up again.
The weather and tides will now dictate our departure.  There is no escape from Gibraltar for Balvenie just yet. 

For info on the marinas and onshore facilities in Gibraltar click here to go to Balvenies Cruising Info blog.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Ronda, Andalusia’s gem ….. July 2011

With all the repairs completed and the boat systems put back together again we felt happy to leave Balvenie in Ocean Village at Marina Bay Marina in Gibraltar.  We changed our original plans to hire a car for a couple of days after reading of the scenic train journey inland from Algeciras.  After checking the timetables we voted to utilise public transport so we could both enjoy the scenery.

So with passports, euros, camera and a change of clothes packed we walked across the Gibraltar Airport runway (which doubles as the only road into Gibraltar), left the country and wandered back into Spain.  The bus station at La Linea is just a couple of blocks from the boarder, from there we caught the bus around the Bay of Gibraltar to the port town of Algeciras.  Straight off the bus, across the road into the train station, all going well so far.  With tickets purchased there would have been time for a quick coffee if there hadn’t been a tour party of around 20 people with the same idea.  With 3 minutes to departure we finally got to the front of the queue, got two excellent cafe con leches to takeaway (good thinking), ran for the train, settled into our seats and enjoyed our coffees leisurely as we headed inland.
P7070029The scenery as we headed north and slowly climbed up the El Tajo valley was just beautiful.  It started with orange groves, the trees heavily laden with fruit.  Then at times we could have easily been back in New Zealand, huge freshly bound hay bales lay scattered in fields,  the rolling hillside in the distance covered in bush, even small herds of cattle grazing in shade of trees.  Next we moved through fields of sunflowers, for me there are two things that always bring a smile – dolphins playing around the boat and fields of bright, happy colourful sunflowers pointing their heads high to the sky.  They were all in full flower, there were thousands of them.  Then to add to the tapestry came orchards and vineyards, it was all just a feast for our eyes.P7070079

We passed small farm holdings, with cute bougainvillea covered stone houses built next to the river,  colourful pots of geraniums surrounded inviting looking swimming pools, pockets of small vineyards and orchards were nestled in the grounds.  This is one of the loveliest regions we have seen in our travels - and then we arrived in Ronda

Several friends had said “don’t miss Ronda”, we have been to several great Spanish towns, cities and cute little villages but Ronda was just something else.  It is an absolute credit to everyone that lives and works there, the tourism department, the council, town planners and the mayor.  P7070068 
From the moment we alighted from the train to the clean and well kept train station and walked out onto the orange tree lined streets it just had a really good feel about it.  There was no litter, no graffiti,  most of the properties seemed to have been freshly painted, the streets all had signs, as did all the important buildings and monuments – all had explanations in Spanish and English.  We walked down to the Hotel Morales, which we had pre-booked,  checked in and freshened up then hit a local tapas bar recommended by the extremely helpful gentleman on reception at the hotel.  We sat outside in a small local side street, nothing special about it but again everywhere clean and tidy, helpful staff, great food and ice cold drinks, Ronda rated as an A+ so far and we hadn’t even got anywhere near the good parts.   P7070031  

Ronda has a population of around 40,000 and is at 744m altitude perching atop the El Tajo gorge, surrounded by the Serranía de Ronda. The river which flows 100metres below, dissects La Ciudad - the Muslim fortified old town, from El Mercadillo on the northern cliff.  Across the steep gorge spans the majestic Puente Nuevo completed in 1793, quite some project in its time.  Sited in the “newer town” is the Plaza de Espana, large and open, lined with busy umbrella shaded outdoor cafes overlooked by handsome buildings.  There is the Paseo de Blas Infante a well planted shady area along the cliff top, with lookouts affording stupendous views out over the surrounding countryside.
Then there is the Plaza de Toros, one of Spain's oldest bullrings, with the first bull fight taking place in 1785. This area is the birthplace of bullfighting with a huge history.  Bull fights still take place annually in September.  It also houses an informative Bullfighting Museum with many Goya sketches and prints of bull fights, Matadors costumes and other memorabilia. P7080122
For firearms enthusiasts there is also a large privately owned Antique Fire-arms Collection comprising of 290 shotguns, hunting pistols and duelling sets.  Adjacent within the same complex is an Equestrian School and a collection of Harnesses and Livery from the Royal House of Orleáns.  Entry fee €6 each. 

There was a concert advertised in the Bullring for “Tangos and habaneras in the music of Spain” that evening so we purchased tickets, headed back to the hotel for a late siesta and cool down before hitting the tapas bars again early evening.  P7070087 Something got lost somewhere in translation, the concert was a soloist piano recital in the library of the Bullring (it was a lovely library though!!)  and the music wasn’t quite the “tango” we were familiar with – not really our scene but the pianist was excellent and it was just an hour, and there was a complementary local red wine tasting afterwards which perked skipper up a little!! 

We went for an evening stroll, all the buildings, statues and bridges were very well spot lit, care and attention really has been taken to ensure maximum effect making sightseeing by night just as impressive as by day.  We stopped for more tapas and a nightcap in a busy little lane filled with locals, before heading back to the hotel for a peaceful nights sleep.P7070044
Next morning we headed over the bridge and into the rabbit warren of lanes in the old Islamic quarter.  We took an exit out and down a long twisting walkway to the bottom of the gorge, everything looked just as spectacular from below as it did from above.  We tried to find a walkway that we thought circumnavigated the old city at river level but ended up deep in undergrowth, jumping from partially submerged stone to stone under the foundations of the ancient bridge. We took the sensible option and turned back and completed the rest of the circuit on the Camino de los Molinos, now in the searing hot sunshine, time for a drink.
2011 Spain1

We discovered the shady Plaza de Mondragón, surrounded by small museums, palaces and churches, its cobbled orange tree lined pavements again adding to the overall beauty.  The tiny alleys leading off the square were full of whitewashed homes,  window boxes with geraniums flowing down added vibrant colour and the most wonderful collection of heavily carved wooden doors completed the picture.
It was time for a long lazy tapas lunch again, then a final walk around ensuring there was nothing we had missed.  We had checked the bus times and there was only one which left early afternoon so we caught the train back to Algeciras, the bus to La Linea and walked back into Gibraltar.  Ronda is highly recommended and we both agreed it was one of the loveliest European historical town we have visited.  to see the rest of our Ronda photos click here
For info on how we got to Rhonda from Gibraltar, where we stayed what it cost and what we saw click here

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Gibraltar – Solid as a Rock ….. June/July 2011


18 June – 05 July 2011

After our short lived stint at anchoring we are back in a marina.  We have tied up in the new Ocean Village part of Marina Bay Marina in Gibraltar, it is handy to everything and it certainly is a welcome change to be able to speak English and understand people again (well I say that loosely, there is a huge selection of English speakers down here and quiet a variety of different accents.) 

Our main reason for tying up again is to get our refrigeration fixed.  We have a huge freezer and 2 fridges that are cooled via a compressor driven by the engine. Very efficient when we are running the engine to move in and out of anchorages, but the down side is having to run the engine if we are not moving each day.  As a result, we added a 12 volt motor to one of the fridges back in Turkey enabling us to use the boats stored battery power and we have used this fridge for most of our time in the Med. Its enough to keep wine and beer cold and hold a few provisions.  So every now and then we turn the freezer on to make sure it is still working, and we did that coming into the La Linea anchorage adjacent to Gibraltar, and no prizes for guessing – this time it didn’t work.P6220026

Our fresh water pipes had developed a small leak over winter and we hadn’t been able to source the correct sized piping in Spain to replace it, so that was also on the “to do” list.

We arrived in the marina on a Saturday and decided to take the weekend off, Skipper indulged in watching several sporting fixtures on the very big screen televisions in some of the bars adjacent to the marina, with the added bonus of having a English commentary.  There has been a frenzy of summer sport for him, golf, tennis, cricket, Grand Prixs, cycling, what more could he ask for.  We decided to do as the Brits do, even in this warm climate and enjoyed a fine Sunday roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, yummy.  We had been for a big walk earlier in the day so it was well deserved!   

The Gibraltar maintenance diary reads as follows -

Monday - it was back to work, Mark found someone that could come the following day and check the gas levels in the refrigeration.  

2011 Ceuta & Gibraltar-1 Tuesday – Marcus turned up with his gas bottle and pressure gauges to check refrigeration gas levels. Hmmm… no pressure. We had no gas.  Then as he starts refilling, a loud hissing noise not unlike the noise of escaping gas could be heard. Bugger !!. We had a pin hole leak in the copper piping.  

Wednesday – Tony turns up with his welding gear to repair the leak.  But the leak was under the wooden support that holds the stairway in place, and it was both screwed and epoxied in, it wasn’t coming out anytime soon!  So Tony tried his best to access the pipe with a small blow torch but in doing so burnt a hole in an adjacent pressurised fresh water pipe under the galley.  Gave the saloon a nice fresh water hose down. Things had just got worse. It was clear that the copper pipe and attached condenser would have to be removed for a proper welding job to be done.  2011 Ceuta & Gibraltar1

Thursday – Skipper and able bodied helper (me) start the long and fiddly procedure of removing the condenser from the bilge for possibly the first time in 20 years, it looked suspiciously like the boat had been built around it!!  At some point before dark we got it out, after damaging one tube on it, removing lots of engine hosing and disabling the engine. 

Friday – We give it to Marcus for repairing, and it makes its way across to Algeciras the big Spanish port on the other side of the bay for repairs.

Saturday and Sunday saw Skipper well rewarded for his hard work with as much sport as he could squeeze in, sometimes watching two big screens at once.

Monday and Tuesday – We found a plumbing store with all the piping and IMG_0010-1 connectors we needed to replace the sizzled fresh water hosing. So it was time to hacksaw up our existing leaking pipes and replace them.  Sounds easy enough, but lying upside down attaching pipes with glue that sets in seconds to other parts of pipes you can’t even see, requires a certain amount of skill, flexibility and just as much luck.  After the 3 hours required time for the glue to cure we turned on the water pump and no leaks, yippee we have a fix.   

Wednesday – the repaired condenser returns and we spend several hours trying to re-house it back in its cradle without snapping anything off.  Success at last, the water pipes get attached, the seacock opened, and seawater spurts out of the gas pipes!!!!  This is NOT a good thing, there is an internal leak, it should have been pressure tested.    Out it comes again and we give it back to Marcus who sends it back to Spain, flip!P7010002

So we took some time out and explored Gibraltar, which really doesn’t take that long.  We have walked miles and seen most of what Gibraltar has on offer.  The Botanical Gardens are very pleasant, plenty of shade on a hot day.  We caught the cable car up to the Top of the Rock, (£9.00 each return)  it was just too hot to face the walk.  The Barbary Apes are definitely the main attraction up there, they are the only wild primates in Europe, although I am not sure how wild they are, they certainly were at ease posing for photos.

There are old derelict army buildings up there, bunkers, lookouts, half torn down fences all in a dilapidated state –and litter everywhere. They really should be investing some of the entrance fees into tiding it all up, I imagine every visitor to Gibraltar (cruise ships by the dozen for a start)  goes to the top of the rock and it really is a disgrace up there. The Mayor of Gibraltar and the Head of Tourism should catch the ferry across the straits to the Spanish enclave Ceuta and see what a wonderful job the Spanish have done to restore and preserve the historical fortresses and buildings. P7010017

As I was once told…”There are ruins and there are ruined ruins”. I’m afraid the Upper Rock Nature Reserve in Gibraltar is a classic case of the latter. 

Tuesday – the condenser and attached copper pipe return with assurances that it has been repaired and pressure tested.  We did our own little pressure test with the use of a dinghy pump and water hose.  All seemed good.  We set to and reinstalled it, we now know which pipe to pull, push, squeeze etc to get the condenser in!

Wednesday – Tony returns and finalises the plumbing, attaching the gas pipes to the condenser, then Marcus comes by to re-gas the whole system, no leaks, this is good.  The engine has all been plumbed back together and we run the engine and freezer for 2 hours.  It all works, no leaks and the temperature drops at the regular rate – maybe we will be able to stock up the freezer for the Atlantic Crossing after all – or maybe not (don’t miss the next instalment!!!!!)

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Back across the Straits to Europe ….. June 2011

P6140005 14 – 18 June 2011

We enjoyed Ceuta and our short hop into Morocco, but after the lively sail we had had across the straits we decided to take advantage of a somewhat calmer forecast to venture back out.  We had checked the weather sites – the GRIBS give us a good overview of the weather patterns and although they aren’t too accurate for inshore/coastal sailing they are useful, combined with Windguru a windsurfing web site that shows generally accurate wind gusts for thousands of points around the world – the GRIBS showed 7 knots in the straits, Windguru was showing peaks of 12 knots at Tarifa and 6 knots at Gibraltar, looked promising. 
2011 Ceuta & Gibraltar
I popped up to the indoor market to stock up on some fresh produce and on my way back down to the marina noticed quite a few whitecaps outside the breakwater, mmmm, maybe tide against current as there was still no wind.  So we let the lines go and motored out into the outer harbour to raise the main.  We hadn’t gone more than 50 metres and it was now blowing over 20 knots, so with 2 reefs in the main and a reefed headsail – yet again – we headed north, pointing as high as we could on a tight reach across the Straits of Gibraltar.   This time we were on the ferry route so we had an added dimension of excitement keeping out of their way as they power towards us at speed.  The commercial shipping wasn’t too busy and visibility was better than our trip down.  Things did get pretty lively as we logged gusts up to 37 knots, but we must have got the current and tide right as the water was reasonably flat and we whizzed across doing over 8 knots, at least you get there quick – so much for the forecast!!!   

P6160013We entered the Bay of Gibraltar amazed at the the amount of anchored shipping, later when we climbed up the rock we counted 37 ships at anchor – it’s busy out there.  We weaved our way into the bay and headed up past Gibraltar and the airport runway and back into Spanish waters.  We motored around the outer breakwater in La Linea and dropped anchor inside this breakwater but outside the inner new marina breakwater.  There were a couple of other yachts at anchor so we were hopeful that we would not be moved out of the anchorage, as had happened to many of our cruising friends at anchor here last year. 
It was great to be at anchor again with The Rock a spectacular backdrop.  We settled back into life at anchor, skipper braved the somewhat chilly waters and spent quite some time overboard cleaning the bottom of the boat.  There wasn’t too much growth, the two speedy trips across the straits had loosened any nasties that had been hanging on for a free ride out of the Med.  

We had developed some more maintenance issues to deal with, they just seem to keep on coming this year, good thing we are not in a hurry to get anywhere.  Coming across from Africa our main B&G autopilot was sending out error messages and would not hold a course.  Out had come the manual and it suggested a problem with the rudder, everything seemed ok there so skipper kept on looking and discovered both the positive and negative wires had come out of the actual autopilot motor, very strange as this is a fixed unit and nothing could have dislodged both the wires, but it had certainly happened somehow.   So off came the unit and at first glance it seemed just a simple case of rewiring them in.  We have an excellent selection of wiring connectors accumulated over the years, but did we have the right ones?, of course not, we had never even seen connectors that looked like this so our easy fix was looking harder by the minute.
Time for an excursion ashore, back to Spain.  We dinghied into the yacht club and asked if there was an electrical store nearby.  Amazingly there was one right across the road, over we went, showed them the connector and presto they produced a little box full of them – we just couldn’t believe it.  While we were ashore we went for a walk around and into the small old town area which has been tidied up, restored and turned into a pleasant pedestrian area, we were definitely back in Spain.  We walked across the isthmus to the eastern shore, the fog had come down again and was so thick we couldn't even see the sea lapping at the edge of the sand, the fog horns were trumpeting all around us, I was certainly pleased we were on land and not sailing out at sea. P6190023

Skipper replaced the connectors and put the autopilot all back together again, all seems good but it will need a good run to confirm it has been fixed.  We spent 4 calm nights at anchor, the fog came and went at random, apparently it is most common with light winds and when the wind changes directions, we got used to the fog horns blasting all night long at times.  On a windy morning the Guardia Civil motored around the breakwater and approached all of us at anchor and told us we must leave, there was no reason given just that we can not anchor there, there are no “No anchoring” signs displayed and it is shown as an anchorage in the Cruising Guide.  It is a huge area and it is not a thoroughfare, rumour has it the new marina in La Linea asks the Guardia Civil to move the boats so we all will up anchor and go into the marina.  Well it didn’t work on us, our refrigeration had recently stopped working so we decided it would be much easier to have it repaired by an English speaker so we dropped our Spanish courtesy flag, raised both our Gibraltar courtesy and quarantine flags and motored the one mile to Marina Bay/Ocean Village Marina in Gibraltar, it was time to speak English again, yippee!!

For cruising and onshore info for La Linea, Spain  June 2011 click here to visit Balvenies Cruising Info blog