Wednesday 15 November 2023

Kicking our heels in La Linea

Our first night in La Linea brought an air of both excitement and deja vue to Offbeat. We found ourselves in a similar position to when we set sail from Ipswich in England. 

We hadn't been quite ready, but we knew that we had to make the physical and emotional break from the town otherwise we may have forever continued to find jobs that needed doing before setting sail. This time would be different though, as we knew that we would return to Estepona sometime in the future. 

And if we had any lingering doubts, these dispersed at the sight of a spectacular sunset. Our plan was to stay in La Linea until Jo arrived to join us as crew and then set sail a few days after that. Unfortunately Maria couldn't make the journey with us as her plans had changed (I hope we didn't put her off on the journey down!). 

Over the next few days we would be studiously watching weather, checking forecasts on various sites and planning our 5 day sail to Lanzarote, which is the first island you come to sailing to the Canaries from the North. Although I had stocked up on food in Estepona, there were still more provisions to buy, meals to be planned and crew rotas written. Plenty to keep us busy.

But, before that, a bit of exploring of La Linea was called for. Whenever I arrive at a new town, I like to go exploring and get a feel for the place and people. Most important is to find a good bread/cake shop, a bank and a supermarket. So, off I went on Monday morning to see the sites and get some bits for lunch.

Set in the province of Cadiz, La Linea de la Concepcion (known locally as La Linea, derived from the word lĂ­nea, meaning line or boundary) it is often referred to as the gateway to Gibraltar as it divides Spanish territory from the district of Gibraltar.  

Spain and Britain have been battling over ownership of the Rock since 1704 and culminated in the closure of the border from 1969 to December 1982, with full public acccess only from 1985. With frontier crossings now open 24 hours a day, Gibraltar is a tourist hotspot, particularly as it enjoys duty free status.

Highlights of my wanderings were the beach on the Mediterranean side. Miles of golden sandy beaches, with structures that would be at home in a 1950s setting. Plaza Farinas, with it's Casa de Cultura and palm trees shading numerous cafes. And Plaza de la Iglesia with its shrine of the Immaculate Conception, with its simplicity and beauty and the Three Grace's Monument based on the Greek mythology of the three Charites, Aglaea (Shining); Euphosyne (Joy) and Thalia (Blooming).

Oh, and I found a wonderful bakery, selling scrumptious tarta manzana and bread and butter pudding, known locally as 'puddin'. That shop became a regular on my daily walks!

Mark's sister Jo arrived on Thursday, but so did the bad weather. High winds and torrential rain set us back our hopes of heading off at the weekend. The long term weather forecast foresaw gales coming in across the Atlantic from the west, hitting the coast of Spain and Portugal, the Bay of Biscay and up as far as the UK. With it came waves of up to 5 to 6 meters. We decided to stay put until things calmed down!

Jo and I decided to use the time wisely and have a day out in Gibraltar. It's one of those places you have to go to at least once. 

Taking the cable car up to the top of the Rock, the views over the western side of Spain were spectacular. We also had a great view of the marina, although we couldn't quite make out Offbeat. Once at the top, we were visited by the monkeys, albeit with a glass screen between us and appreciated the views across the Mediterranean. It was such a beautiful clear day that we were able to see the Sierra Bermeja and make out the coastline at Estepona. 

Back at ground level, we had a wander around the town. It's quite a unique town, a blend of English and Spanish, set in the 1950s. However, when the 18th century soldiers marched past in full uniform carrying muskets, it was like being in a parallel universe!

That evening we decided to eat out, so went to the restaurant of the local yacht club. When we arrived, the restaurant was laid out for a 25th wedding anniversary but no problem, we could eat there too.

By the time we had finished our meal, the party was in full swing and the dancing had started. Next thing we knew, we'd been invited to join in with the party and we were all up and dancing.

We finally got back to Offbeat at about 1.30 am. A great end to a very surreal day.

During the course of the next couple of days, we continued to watch the weather, looking for that 5 day window to sail to the Canaries. 

By Wednesday it was clear that we weren't going to make a clear run to Lanzarote as southerly wind was forecast for Monday and Tuesday.  But, what we could do was leave on Friday and head down the coast of Morocco to Mohammadia. Although it would mostly be under engine, we could wait there for the wind to arrive on either the Wednesday or Thursday. 

So, we had a plan!  We would leave La Linea at 2pm on Friday, fuel up at Gibraltar and be ready to head out of the Straits by 18:00. 

Mark had worked out that if we left Punta Carnera around 18:00 local time, we would go close inshore and stem the 3 to 4 knot flood tide to Tariffa. We would then cross the busy shipping lanes in the Straits at slack tide around 21:00. Once near the Moroccan shore we would then have 1 to 3 knots current lift from 22:00 for 4 hours.  And when we reached Cape Spartel on the north-west  corner of Morocco we would turn south-west  for about 30 hours and adjust our speed to arrive at Mohammadia on Sunday morning.

The next couple of days and final preparations were made. Fresh food bought, water topped up, sails, rigging and engine checked and the details of the route put into our electronic navigation gear and drawn on our chart.
Friday morning and with final checks and sea stow completed, lunch prepared and the sun shining, we slipped our lines just before midday.

This was it, our adventure was about to begin!

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