Monday 19 November 2018

We made it into the Med!

Monday 8 October 2018

As we left the entrance to the marina and headed out to sea, we were greeted by glorious sunshine and light wind, so yet again we were under engine but this time we didn't really care, we were heading into the Mediterranean. 

Sailing along the coast, we saw some amazing sights. First up was the ancient Roman ruins at Bologna. Baelo Claudia is one of the best examples of urbanism, with most of the buildings being built under the rule of Claudius. 

The site, set slightly back from the shoreline contains wonderful examples of an ancient forum, viaduct and dwellings.  Unfortunately the photos we took don't do the site justice so I've included a couple from the website.

As we continued to sail towards the Straights of Gibraltar, we stayed close to the shore so as to avoid the very busy shipping lanes.  The fog still hadn't disappeared completely and at times ships disappeared from view. This made us slightly nervous as we knew from experience that the fog could descend upon us at any time and would stay until the wind was strong enough to disperse it.

On we motored, absorbing the views of the coastline and checking the AIS to make sure we weren't on any collision course. By about 2pm the fog was dispersing when Mark said in a very excited voice "bloody hell, I can see Africa". And sure enough, through the fog we could make out the western end of the Rif mountains in Morocco.

Rif Mountains, Morocco

Words cannot describe how excited we were to be able to see Africa in the distance.  Mark wanted to tell all our family and friends and Whatsapp'd everyone.  In his excitement he got the wrong country, but not to worry, it was still AFRICA.

From this point on, we were mesmerized by the African coastline as the mountain range came in and out of view.

Rif Mountains, Morocco

Spanish Naval Ship 

One of the things that was really evident was the number of Spanish coast guard and Spanish naval ships patrolling the sea.  The closest point between Spain and Morocco is 7 miles, so the Spanish are very vigilant in watching for unusual activity.

Passing Tariffa, the southern most part of Spain was another big occasion for us as this is the start of the Straights of Gibraltar.  From here we got our first glimpse of the Rock, which was a gulp it back moment.  We could not afford to get over emotional just yet, we still had the Straights of Gibraltar and the Bay of Gibraltar to traverse.

First glimpse of Gibraltar
By about 4pm we were passed Tariffa and on course to Gibraltar. We were still motoring, but the wind had increased  enough to raise the Yankee (front sail).  Mark had always said that come hell or high water he was sailing around Gibraltar and as raising the sail only gave us an extra 0.5 knots, I think it was more about fulfilling his dream than giving us speed.

Approaching the Rock of Gibraltar 

Crossing the Bay of Gibraltar 

Sailing across the entrance to the Bay of Gibraltar was very tense.  All sightseeing was suspended as we took our positions on deck.  Mark was on the helm and I was look out and on AIS vigilance. 

The Bay of Gibraltar and the Straights are one of the busiest shipping areas in the world.  On average 300 ships pass through the Straights daily and high speed ferries run from Algeciras in Spain to Tangiers in Morocco and Cueta, a Spanish province next to Morocco. 

We rounded the Rock of Gibraltar at about 1/2 mile offshore, which gave us great views, but our sightseeing was hindered by the 30 to 40 ships that were in sight, a couple of which came far to close for comfort.

It was bad enough for us, but this was nothing compared to the nutter who was kayaking across the harbour mouth in front of all this traffic!

The mayhem taking place took the edge off the excitement of being in sight of the African coast and getting Offbeat successfully round the Rock of Gibraltar.  But it was with relief and exhileration that we turned north into the Mediterranean and towards the Costa del Sol.

As Gibraltar faded into the distance, the sun began to set so we headed into Sotogrande as night fell.

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