It was well and truly time to get back on the water and after spending winter, a wonderful 3 months in Morocco, followed by an unplanned 6 week trip back to Australia our scheduled January departure for our 2019 sailing adventures into the Mediterranean didn’t eventuate until mid March.
It was late January when we got the heart breaking phone call that Phil’s mother Vera had fallen over in her garden and was in hospital, very ill. Unfortunately hours later we were arranging flights to come home for her funeral – such a shock.
We hadn’t been home since leaving Australia in mid 2015 and despite the absolutely heart breaking reason behind the return, there was a silver lining in the fact that we were able to see and spend time with our much missed families and friends, even meeting two new editions to Phil’s clan that had been born since we left.
The long haul from Africa to Australia and return had us travelling around the world (these were the most economical ticket choices for us, cheap to buy but long hours/days travelling). Departing Morocco we flew to London, Los Angeles then to Melbourne with the return from Melbourne via Hong Kong, Zurich, London, Morocco. Not forgetting the few internal flights within Australia to family and friends in Queensland and Tasmania.
We were home for 6 weeks and it flew by. The first two weeks were very emotional with the funeral and everything associated with the loss of a loved one. There was the overwhelming feeling of loss and really missing Vera from the family home where we stayed.
We also spent a lot of time doing many menial yet frustrating and time consuming tasks relating to being out of the country for so long such as renewing drivers licences, passports, new medicare cards, a few visits to the doctors for check ups, dealing with the banks to get new cards issued with longer expiry dates, etc. As well as a lot of shopping (we wish they had Bunnings and Spotlight in Europe) resulting in many weigh ins of our return luggage.
“A huge thank you to our families and friends we really appreciate all you do for us, with each of you going the extra mile for us whilst we were home. We were made welcome in your homes to stay, you fed us (good Aussie tucker), you travelled to see us, you lent us cars, or drove hundreds of kilometres to pick us up and drop us back to the airport, and went above and beyond to cancel your normal plans to set aside time to spend together. You certainly made what was an emotionally hard time into a wonderful memory.”
Once back in Morocco the final stages of preparation before leaving involved one of us getting wet and to my delight it was the Captains turn. It wasn’t the warmest day for it but in he went giving the bottom a clean, clearing all thru-hulls (we had some little marine critters making themselves at home) and giving the prop a clean Red Roo was looking in tip top shape.
17th March was leaving day, not only for us but for all the boats with people onboard who had been calling Tangier home for the last few months or weeks, we had all been waiting on this weather window. After check out procedures and clearing customs we had all departed within a 2 hour window, which made it a little competitive for the 33 nautical mile sail across the Strait of Gibraltar to La Linea, Spain, just north of Gibraltar. It wasn’t long before we had Adventurous in sight (they were first to leave) but we also had Caffe Latte making miles quickly behind us closing in (last to leave).
We had the sails up within 100 meters from the end of the fuel pontoon in the marina and cut the engine immediately due to floats, nets and fishing pots in the bay. The wind was fickle in the bay meaning a slow start but we stuck with it and the wind and speed increased as we continued out into the strait. We ended up averaging 6-7 knots in F4 winds.
We all took slightly different routes depending on the wind and traffic (all trying to get any advantage we could) as we had to cross the major shipping lanes in and out of the Mediterranean Sea, usually very busy but was relatively quiet on this lovely Sunday sail.
The wind increased significantly once we entered the large body of water in Gibraltar Bay, we ended up having to reef the head the sail and probably really should have reefed or dropped the main too, but it is a big bay and the speed was welcome as we navigated past many large ships at anchor.
Arriving in La Linea we all (Adventurous, Caffe Latte & Red Roo) dropped anchor in the bay with much radio chatter about what a great sail it was after being so long tied up in a marina.
The weather window for the crossing was a short one, Caffe Latte left early the next morning in an attempt to get further in the Med and make some easterly miles but once out of the bay found it impossible to make any sort of way against the strong easterlies and ended up back in the anchorage with us late in the day.
We were all staying at least a week looking at the immediate forecast, it almost felt like a false start after such a good run the day before. The easterlies continued to blow and blow hard. Caffe Latte and ourselves moved into the marina not because of any discomfort in the anchorage, but the strong winds would have made the dingy ride to land quite hazardous and if we were stuck we wanted to take the time to explore Gibraltar a short walk from the marina over the border into English territory.
We also needed to make quite a few trips to the Spanish Supermarket as three months in Morocco had pretty much depleted our entire alcohol stores – being a Muslim country alcohol wasn’t readily available and when found was really expensive. Obviously replenishing our stores was addressed as a priority! The beer and wine being very cheap in Spain was an opportunity not to be missed.
Readily available washing machines were also a highlight of being in the marina, trust me after three months hand washing everything in a bucket this really deserves a mention here! The highlight of these few weeks stuck in Spain was finally having an address and the time to receive our parcel of boat bits that we had been ordering from the UK since November last year which family in the UK had been collating for us. A huge thank you to Wendy and Mike for being our address and then boxing up our many, many (strange) bits and sending to us. No excuses now for not finishing all the little jobs we were waiting on parts for.
We explored the Gibraltar and the Rock as well as La Linea as the wind continued to blow and blow hard, that one week soon turned into three! Adventurous also left the anchorage and joined us in the marina, it felt like winter again with our three boats close together in a marina.