Strictly speaking Gibralter  is out of our way now that we have decided not to go into the Med , but it seemed to be one of those places that you SHOULD visit ,so here we are.

One of the pleasures of the trip so far has been visiting all the old natural  sailing ship harbours – la Corunna , Bayona , Cadiz – (you name it , Drake sacked it!) so I wanted to see what all the fuss was about here. It turns out that having put up a pretty good fight against the Phoenecians,Romans, Visigoths ,Moors , the Spanish ,and finally  the Germans Gibralter has finally been overun – by cruise ships and high rise buildings.

The Straits themselves are great fun. The wind either blows East or West- with  usually a gale at the leeward end. The current is unbelievably complex being part tide , part wind driven surface flow and part inflow to replace evaporation. It seem to  frequently be opposite directions at the edges compared with the middle and just to make things even more interesting there is a deep outflow due to ( I think)  dense salty Med water escaping to the Atlantic. Outside there was only 5 knots of breeze which increased to 18 knots at the leeward end of the strait – so it must be pretty impressive on a windy day. The old city of Tarifa is so windy that apparently its occupants tend to commit suicide rather than put up with the wind , although I suspect its the wind surfing dudes that come looking for the wind that drive them to it.

We arrived at night and were told there was no place for us . After a while it became “OK we have a place – but you have to be gone in the morning.” In the morning it became – “OK , you can stay but only for one more day” and I suspect that tomorrow it would be “only one week ” and the day after that we would be fully signed up members of the boat bum crowd that wanders aimiably around between the bars!

The town itself is like a big , downmarket Guernsey with touches of Anglo-Indian influence and a soupcon of Casablanca – there are loadsa characters here that would be a shoe in for the fat crook in a Fez in the Bogey film of that name. Now that the Brits no longer want it as a Fortress , you cant blame the locals for making a buck. I suppose it does have some  charm –  there is a 50’s English influence  in the mix somewhere and remarkably little of Spain except for  some of the older houses. We joined the hordes for a while but gave up queuing for the cable car  and found a great little musem where in an hour or so we learnt more of the history , geology and biology of the rock than we could  in weeks of doing the tourist thing . Amazingly we were the only people there .What was obvious ( from the old paintings) was that the astonishing physical presence of the rock has been lost – dwarfed by high rise buildings which block your view of the physical environment.

We seem to have caught up with many of the migrants – there are a lot of boats flying ARC flags . It will be interesting to see how many of them leave with us tomorrow as I think the wind is going NE again for a few days.

Maybe we will walk up to the top tonight – or maybe just join the boat bums in a bar and people watch. Hopefully our next posting will be from one of the Atlantic islands , so perhaps an early night should be on the cards.


  1. Somewhat soberingly, when you have tired of the delights of Madeira, you have about 2,850,000 smoots to go to get to the Windward Islands. However, since you may reasonably expect to average at least 125,000 smoots per day it is not as bad as it sounds.
    Happy travels

  2. John , what is a smoot?If its a wave that causes a creak I dont want it!

  3. John , what an earth ( or presumably on the sea ) is a smoot?

  4. The smoot is a nonstandard unit of length based on the height of Oliver Smoot – sometime chairman of the American National Standards Institute. He was five feet and seven inches ~1.70 m tall and to indicate the inaccuracy of the measure, it is sometimes given + or – an ear. However, given a distance approaching 3 000 000 smoots, I think an ear between friends can be ignored

  5. P.S. I am thoroughly enjoying the vicarious journey. Keep it coming

  6. Ere ere – we’ll ‘ave a drink to that!

Leave a Reply