26th March 2021
Barbate, Spain – Cala Salitrona, Spain via Gibraltar & La Azohia, Spain
According to old soldiers somewhere in the world is a bullet with your name on it. When it’s your time that bullet will fly towards you with devastating force and that will be the end of your days. On Ruffian, as we have sailed through the straits of Gibraltar and into the Mediterranean, we have missed a bullet that could have ended in disaster. Fingers crossed the bullet with our name on it will never be fired.
Once again, the weather was perfect as we headed south to Gibraltar. The horizon was full ships of every shape and size, heading in every direction at every conceivable speed. The world’s trade was infront of us and we resolved not to interrupt it as we headed into the bay.
The draw of going into Gibraltar wasn’t to see the monkeys, nor to step foot on English soil or to fill up our stores with Marmite*, it was for the nearly free diesel. All that stood between us and it were a raft of regulations, a flotilla of police boats and a line of customs officers. Fiona was all ready to turn tail and head to Spain, so sent Iain off to call the fuel dock and smooth relations.
Quick as a flash with to go ahead from the fuel dock the police line broke, the customs officers watched curiously and we proceeded to fill every container we carried with the precious tax-free nectar.
The next day with the sun rising over Gibraltar, our tanks full of diesel and a gentle wind still pushing us east we sailed into a new sea, the Mediterranean. Suddenly the VHF cracked to life with sounds of recuse boats being scrambled, a yacht in distress and tankers taking evasive action. The Orca’s that had been quiet for months, that we’d all thought had disappeared, were once again on the prowl. They were attacking a small sailing boat in the very piece of water we had sailed through the day before; breaking its rudder, making it immobile and endangering life. The bullet had whizzed past us hitting another poor unsuspecting boat, but it could have so easily hit us.
Leaving the carnage behind we sailed on and into the night. This new sea was not what we expected; the water teamed with life, snow-capped mountains rose high above the shoreline, ships sat lazily in the deep water just drifting, and the water was sheer blue. After 300 long miles we were finally able to anchor and once again this new sea surprised us.
As usual we checked for the rise and fall of the tide and the sum total was … 10 cm. We knew that there was no tide, but old habits die hard and not allowing for it just felt wrong. Then as the anchor ran out we could see it hit the bottom, see the little puff of sand and see the chain lay out in the clear clear water. The Mediterranean was surprizing us and all in a good way.
The surprises were not over as we were finishing out first day at anchor in this new sea. We’d noticed a fierce looking customs boat anchor nearby and they were a hive of activity with people running about on deck and rib’s being launched. With the rib gentle surveying the bay, we were on their target list and a surprise boarding was in order.
Black clad, gun toting figures and the word ‘lovely’, don’t often get combined in the same sentence, but these but these officials clad head to toe in black fatigues, guns on their waists had ‘lovely’ written all over them. Their rib softly kissed Ruffian and they made their way on board, whereby one officer transposed all our documents, while another made charming small talk with us. This was heartening for many reasons, but mainly because all our research about cruising Spain in this time of Covid was proving to be right and officialdom had confirmed it.
Their leaving was as gentle as their arrival and we took it upon ourselves to live but the same mantra as when we survey nature. We took nothing but photographs and they left nothing but footprints.
After a big day in the hills that towered over the bay we reflected that we were lucky in so many ways. Lucky that the bullet had missed us**, lucky that the Mediterranean is surprising in good ways and lucky that even in this time on Covid we are able to sail, explore new lands with the blessing of officials.
* Although filling the cupboards with marmite would fill Iain with joy.
** We’ve found out since the attack on the 23rd there have been 2 or maybe three subsequent Orca attacks. Our hearts go out to those poor cruisers directly impacted (in more ways than one).
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