Sunday 6th September 2015
As I write we are under full sail doing 7 knots with 11knots of wind in perfect sunny weather. We have just left beautiful Rota where we spent the night and we are now heading from Spain to Portugal .. our destination is Lagos and we are looking forward to arriving ‘home’ to see our friends there. We have friends aboard – John – an old friend of Marks and Nisse – we make a good crew and are having a lot of fun. John likes to fish and we have just caught a small Tuna – 10lbs – a perfect size for our lunch.
I am taking time to sit in the sun beside May to reflect on the time we had in Gibraltar – what a strange, strange place. I honestly do not know how to describe it. Most people who do not live or work in Gib do not stay as long as we have – we were there for five weeks. Five weeks and we didn’t go and see the Monkeys or take the Cable Car! I like that…a small rebellion? I once went to Memphis and did not go and see anything to do with Elvis!
Gibraltar has many layers – like the rock itself. On the one hand those who live there are viciously proud of their ‘land’ their piece of rock – ‘Gibraltra shall always be ‘free’ the flags say. They love where they live and so they should be, as it is their home. But we have to be honest in our reflections and we did not love Gibraltar.
We left just as the National Day celebrations were beginning. We are going to miss out on the concerts and the red and white flag waving and the special offers on fish and chips.
So Gibraltar – we made the best of our stay and got Magic in great shape with her new Generator, Watermaker, Satellite phone and Downwind sail – our list of things to do is now down to one missing screw and squeaky floor board. When Nisse came on board our list had 30 things on it and we thought it would take weeks – but Nisse is a boat fixing dynamo and most things were fixed in the first day. He flew about the boat often fixing two things at once – Mark in awe and learning like a sponge. Nisse is like Simon (our delivery skipper friend) they create a wake of repaired things – everything aboard gets tested and oiled and repaired and polished. Mark and I are both reluctantly giving into the fact that we must learn to fix everything on board.
Back to Gibraltar.
I wish Gibraltar was a wonderful shining testament to the UK. So many thousands of people from all over the world visit Gib so it would be fantastic if it made us proud. But instead we were disappointed and even embarrassed by it. We hope that people don’t think that it is representative of what the UK.
Before I continue however we want to say that in Gibraltar we met some great people who have helped us and the place is not a reflection on the people. I don’t like to be negative but also I like to be honest about what we have experienced and seen.
Here are a few reflections…
The narrow Main Street with its Dorothy Perkins and BHS is often bloated with up to six thousand people who have poured out from the cruise ships. They shuffle up and down the main street in search of bargains on sunglasses, booze and perfume. The main street is one massive duty-free shop dotted with English pubs with offers on all day breakfasts and fish and chips.
The streets are filthy – dotted with black disks of chewing gum. The rubbish swirls around on the streets with the wind. They do brush and was the streets but with-out care.
The weather is dirty too – in August the Rock has its own cloud – the grey Lavanter and it rains rust coloured dust which has been carried on the wind from Africa.
The small busy beaches enjoy views of giant moored tankers.
There is a tiny bit of colonial architecture and the rest is soul less blocks of flats and offices.
There is an ugly and aggressive war between the Yellow Dolphin Tourist boats and the Blue Dolphin Tourist Boats – the sales representatives from the Yellows seem more predatory than the Blues and their game is to mark the blues and pounce first at key strategic locations where unsuspecting tourists walk by.
There are lots of places to gamble or eat junk food or drink 2:4:1 cocktails but if you would like theatre or fresh salads or live music you will be disappointed.
But having said all that Gibraltar is fantastic for a day…
There is a Morrison’s where you can fill your boat with food from home and you can get a great pint of Speckled Hen. You can get cheap alcohol and cigarettes and sailing around the huge oil tankers is fascinating. You can get help with most repairs and maintenance. The chandlery is Shepards, we called in about 6 times and each time they didn’t have what we needed – it was funny in the end!
The staff at Marina Bay Marina were fantastic – Tony and Mini were stars – they helped and make our stay safe and fun. It was odd where we were moored – right in front of a cruise ship that has no engine and is a hotel – The Sunborn. We never visited it in the five weeks were there. and thank you to that diver who saved the day by finding my purse from the bottom to the sea!
So sorry Gib we didn’t fall in love with you and we think you could do better – perhaps if the new Governor coming in would bother less about the Spanish and more about Gibraltar it would help…just a thought?