18 March to 30 April 2021
Our American friend Tom from up the pontoon on SV Katface tells a story of how when he and his wife Katherine first arrived in Gib he was concerned that all the drivers had serious cases of road rage because they use their horns so frequently. Then he realised that in this small community sounding the horn was a greeting to friends and acquaintances. He knew he had been here too long when people started to sound their horn at him!
We find it hard being in one place for any length of time and this is now officially the longest we have ever spent in the same town since we closed the door on our 10th floor flat in the East London sky in April 2016. We had spent five months on this tiny rock at the mouth of the Mediterranean, unable to venture beyond the 7 kilometres of its mostly vertical space and it had become impossible to wander down Main Street or browse in M&S without bumping into someone we knew. By April we couldn’t walk to Morrison’s or down to the lighthouse without someone beeping their horn at us! We were ready to leave physically and mentally but Gibraltar had one last gift to give us that would keep us there just a little while longer.
Right at the end of March, when we had mostly given up hope, that call we had been waiting for finally came and we had that magical appointment for the first of our vaccines. The fact that it was scheduled for April Fool’s Day was not lost on us after all the drama of getting it in the first place but we couldn’t turn it down now so we resolved to stay another month.
And as it turned out it was one of the best months we’ve spent in Gib. The sun was mostly shining, the spring flowers at their best and the infection rates were diminishing. With most restrictions lifted and indeed most of the population vaccinated, life really was getting back to normal and we were getting to know the liveaboard community in the marina better. It felt good to be able to get back to hanging out in other people’s cockpits and chatting about adventures old and new. Friendships grew and advice, skills, tools and sewing machines were swapped. Dörte’s card school became a fixture in the social calendar. We got into a nice routine and started to feel really at home in Gib.
We loved having Babs and Rene back in town and were not disappointed when fixing stuff and boat part deliveries extended their stay from one week to five. And we had a surprise reunion with our other favourite Dutchies, Annemieke and Steve, when they came over from Almerimar for a few weeks.
Pintail’s new heat exchanger had finally arrived from the UK and was swiftly installed by Stefan. Pintail was ready to leave even if we weren’t. But that didn’t stop us heading out of the marina into the Bay on a blustery day for a sail in the company of Yvette and Derek and SV Delite
who were able to capture some rare snaps of us too.
We spent an enjoyable morning dodging tankers. Yvette was momentarily concerned about us when we boldly sailed across the bow of a moving bulk carrier Icy Bay only to pop out safely on the other side!
At Europa Point we contemplated sailing around to Catalan Bay but as always the wind and sea state in the Straits was feisty so we headed back into the marina early leaving an intrepid SV Delite to continue round. As we headed back another marina neighbour, Peter on his brand new catamaran, SV Anahata, was also heading out for a test sail. We were all itching to get going further afield.
At the end of April we had the privilege to meet and to thank the Mayor of Gibraltar, John Goncalves, for his support in securing vaccines for us liveaboards in the marina. We could have spent many more hours hearing his stories of life on the Rock. Born in Madeira to a Gibraltarian mother who had been evacuated there during WWII, the sudden death of his father saw him suddenly transplanted to this strange and tiny land at a very young age. He grew up to run the airport, become Mayor and help twelve stranded sailors get their vaccinations. We were all incredibly grateful.
By the time we had our second jab at the end of April we started wondering why we were so keen to leave. The weather was warming up and we had a great network of good friends. Spain and Portugal were still in varying states of restrictions with vaccine programmes no where near as advanced as Gibraltar or the UK.
“We’re jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire only we are not even in a frying pan” said Stefan as we contemplated leaving.
But others had decided the time had come to jump out. At the end of April we waved goodbye to Babs and Rene heading off intrepidly in the direction of the Azores and to Dörte and Jens off to Portimao. We hoped to catch up with them in a few weeks somewhere on the Portuguese coast and set ourselves a nominal leaving date of 10 May…