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August 19, 2007

At the beaches of Barbate

BY: Carlos Pérez


© OCEANA / Jesús Renedo


We woke up in Barbate. Atlantic heat, sandy shades of colour and the large, pine green dunes. We are tied at the same port and pier that received the Ranger for the first time on Spanish land after the 2005 expedition from the U.S. city of San Diego. Wow… I’m having a déjà vu!

The wind has eased up quite a bit and the typical song of the Straits is no longer in our ears. Technical stop in the land of the almadraba and plans to sail towards Gibraltar. Technical stop also in Gibraltar for permits and customs paperwork. Gibraltar, … “gibral Tarik”, “the mountain of Tarik”, the one who started the adventure that lasted a few hundred years and turned a large part of the Iberian peninsula into the land of Island, according to the stories they told me in school some time ago. Another story was recently told that began … “when the Moors invaded Spain”, but I prefer the one my school teacher told me.

We untie at mid-morning and start heading towards Tarifa. The weather is good and bad, depending on how you look at it, but the crossing will definitely be unforgettable.

Apart from the famous Calderón de la Barca, whom I believe had nothing to do with sailing, there are other “calderones” (pilot whales), whom I believe have nothing to do with literature, swimming around oil tankers and container ships, immersed in a spectacle that left us dumbstruck. The biggest ones … man were they big! The babies, … well, they were turning over. There was even applause!

Hold on, let me explain: one of them, quite a large one, spent the entire time we were there swimming belly up, rubbing up against other whales and hitting the water with his fins, applauding tirelessly. After a couple of hours filming and taking photographs at our leisure, we continued our voyage towards the Rock, hurrying because the fog was closing in quickly at the entrance to the bay of Algeciras.

Last year, I remember we had a difficult time sailing into Gibraltar. Three hours in the thickest fog you can imagine, the merchant ships blowing their horns, the wakes and sounds of engines. All of us on deck, straining our ears and expecting to see a skyscraper appear at the bow any minute while Jordi was playing air traffic controller with the ARPA. It is really not much fun. At least this year has been somewhat less extreme and we have managed to cross quite peacefully. At last… the Rock.

I have always liked Gibraltar’s exoticism. That blend of British tidiness and order with the confusion of the most extroverted and improvised immigrant communities is “attractive” to me. And to top it all off, that “ango-andalusian remix” is sure to greet us with an authentic summer fair complete with horror house, crazy worm rides, target shooting, raffles and refreshment stands offering ham sandwiches, Spanish tortilla and gazpacho. All this at the foot of the famous Waterfront wall, complete with Bobbies donning helmet and truncheon, next to Queensway Marina. Just like that. That is, well, exoticism and… certain amusing memories of a few years ago.

We spent the night at Queensway Marina and refuelled the next day. Later on, it’s back to the ocean on our way to Placer de las Bóvedas, in front of Puerto Banús. As soon as we pass Punta Europa we see a semi-sunken junk boat, another dying ghost, but that’s another story.