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

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