We arrived in Gibralta a couple of days before National Day. A day to celebrate the referendum held on 10th September 1967 when there was a resounding vote to reject joining Spain and keep Gibralta British. So it was with more than a little embarrassment that we chose this week to mess up on flag etiquette. We sailed into Gibraltan waters and right into the marina still flying our Spanish courtesy flag. When in foreign waters you must fly your country’s ensign off the stern and on the starboard spreader a small courtesy flag of the country you are visiting. We have been in Spain for so long we had completely forgotten it was there!
We have had a very pleasant week here. National Day was on Thursday and it was one big party with absolutely everyone dressed in the national colors of red and white. Having made such a faux par earlier in the week we searched the boat for red and white outfits and joined in the fun.
Many of the boats around us were dressed in full national regalia and all the marina restaurants held special events and we were entertained by live bands all afternoon.
To end the day there was a Grand fireworks display. It was set off from just outside our marina entrance so we had a perfect view. The fireworks were great but the most striking part was the echo of cracks and bangs booming off the Rock, the whole bay seemed to be shuddering.
As we near the Canaries and the beginning of the ARC we are meeting more and more boats that will be crossing with us and this week have enjoyed comparing notes and sharing a glass of wine or two with the crew of Euphaxia a Discovery 55, a very similar boat to ours. We have met some great people on this trip and it is going to make for a very good time when we all reconvene in Las Palmas.
With the ARC in mind Morrisons has hosted us for two visits as we restock the cupboards with British goodies and start to provision for the three weeks crossing of the Atlantic. We still think the freezer is not quite right but as it has been behaving recently we have risked putting some stuff in there. However, we need to ensure that we have enough protein to sustain us if the freezer fails and we have to eat all its contents in the first week. As neither of us or our crew have ever fished before there is a possibility that fresh tuna might not make it on to the menu and so it was we found ourselves at the canned meat section of the supermarket buying such blasts from the past as Fray Bentos Steak and Kidney puddings.
There is a huge list of preparations and information required by the World Cruising Club that run the ARC and we are slowly plowing through them. Rick has been working out the size of our sails, neither of which are standard and which we have no information about, but the WCC requires their size to work out our handicap for the race that is not a race, so the tape measure is out and calculations have been taking place. I joined together 40 flags, the whole set of international flag codes, ready to dress the boat before the start as stipulated, hopefully in the right order and correct orientation. And we have double checked we comply with the long list of safety requirements.
We have also been preparing for our more immediate journey, the passage to Lanzerote in the Canary Islands. It is about 650nm which should take us 4-5 days and will be the longest we have sailed in one hop and more than twice the time we have sailed just the two of us. It should be mostly down wind, Rick has been making sure everything is ready to set the sails easily, fingers crossed it will be a pleasant sail. I have plotted our route, not difficult – out of the Straits, turn left down the west coast of Morroco, until you bump into Lanzerote. The trickiest bit will be leaving Gibraltar, trying to minimise the amount of current and wind against us in the Straits then successfully negotiating the busy shipping lanes on our turn South.
We had planned to leave on the afternoon tide on Sunday but the wind looks much better for a Monday departure so that’s what we are going with. Today has turned into a free day and very relaxing it is to.