Anchored Among Giants

Read Dream Time's August/Sept
article in Cruising World Magazine


Sept 26, 2019 (Day 4,501)
Quick Fix: 35° 47.2 N / 05° 48.7 W
Tangier, Morocco

A Little Morocco
Just 10 miles separates Spain from the ‘Door of Africa’, so this week we took a detour across the Straits of Gibraltar to see a little Morocco. Tangier is an ancient city dating back 10,000 years BC, a gateway port where merchants from Africa and Europe haggled for centuries in crowded souks over exotic wares. The Phoenicians, Romans, Spanish, English, Portuguese and French have all fought, too, on these lands. But it’s the Moroccans who rule, and since 2009, thanks to King Mohammed VI, the city, ports and shorelines have been restored, and for tourists, no longer do criminal elements lurk down every shadowy alleyway. But care must still be taken. Some local men eyed us with an intense and keen interest, so during our first trek through town we marched, wearing headphones, with an assertive purpose as though late for a meeting with the king himself. But it was entirely unnecessary. Once settled, we wandered slowly through the narrow streets of Medina, the ancient city, drank local sweet tea in glass mugs half filled with mint leaves, and in the evening dined on tajine lounging on a sofa piled high with soft cushions while a belly dancer wiggled around for our delight.



Sept 25, 2019    |  Gibraltar - The Rock, facing north, with a flowing white mane of lenticular cloud across her back.


Sept 22, 2019    |  Gibraltar - In search of the 'Gibraltar Ape' - Top of the Rock via the Mediterranean steps.

Sept 22, 2019 (Day 4,497)
Quick Fix: 36° 09.4 N / 05° 21.3 W

King of The Hill
Great Britain has ruled Gibraltar, a tiny protrusion of land covering no more than 2.6 sq miles, since 1713. Its position at the entrance of the Mediterranean Sea makes it an ideal location to keep on eye on things, and 'The Rock', a towering Jurassic monolith with a 1,398 foot summit, makes the perfect vantage point. The British army patrol the territory, but it's the Barbary Apes who appear to rule this land. Well, at least the rocky part. The apes (they're really monkeys - a breed of tailless macaque) have lived on the summit since long before the Spanish and English fought for control. They're the only wild monkey in all of Europe and they are well cared for. The British army was once charged with their wellbeing, even Winston Churchill insisted that their numbers be nurtured during WWII believing that as long as 'the ape' ruled The Rock, Great Britain would continue to rule Gibraltar. They are now 300 strong (the apes, not the British).



Sept 20, 2019    |  Gibraltar - After 2,388 Mediterranean miles, we have raised the Rock, a Pillar of Hercules, and the gateway to the Atlantic Ocean.



Sept 14, 2019 (Day 4,489)
Quick Fix: 37° 35.8 N / 00° 58.8 W
Cartagena, Spain

A Beeline
Big and small, we've had all manner of creatures hitching rides on Dream Time - a Guatemalan gecko relocated 900 miles to Colombia; tiny finches have joined us for a night of comfort, and I like to think, companionship, during their exhausting migration to distant shores; gannets and gulls have found a perch for a wink of sleep; and in the Galapagos we even had sealions claim our dingy for the day. Many of these hitchhikers left, shall we say, unsavory deposits during their stay, but one visitor last week was the perfect guest. Between Ibiza and the Spanish mainland a fluffy bee clung to a halyard for 3 hours until land was in sight and the smell of pollen, no doubt, was in the air. We're just 230 miles from Gibraltar, as the bee flies, but unsettled weather tumbling across Spain - record breaking squalls and last night, hailstones the size of olives - has us, like our fluffy friend, sitting quietly, resting, and waiting for a better time to fly.


Sept 5, 2019 (Day 4,480)
Quick Fix: 38° 53.1 N / 01° 13.4 E
Sicily, Italy

Our Last Anchorage in The East?
Just a day sail from crossing into the Western Hemisphere, we are now anchored on the SW tip of Ibiza with Es Vedrà, a towering limestone spire, as our sentinel. This isle seems slightly out of place here. Indeed, it could even have mariners believing they are in Tahiti. In fact so convincing is this tower of rock of Polynesian origin, it was used as the mystical Bali Hai in the 1958 movie, South Pacific. Local legends also whisper Es Vedrà has magical powers. Some claim it the third most magnetic spot on earth. Others hold that portions of this rocky isle were used to build the pyramids of Egypt. UFO sightings are common here, apparently, and a handful of mythologists would like to convince you it is the very tip of Atlantis. There's no denying it is an impressive monolith, and we, too, have been drawn to it. Not through instrument failure or by tractor beam, but just because it reminds us of our most favorite cruising region in the world.


Sept 5, 2019    |   Ibiza, Spain - Es Vedra, a navigational beacon to extraterrestrial crafts?



Sept 2, 2019    |   Isla de Cabrera, Spain - Standing atop a rocky summit, this castillo seems carved from solid stone. The tattered flag is evidence of the recent storm.



Day 4,476 - Majorca, Spain
18:47 hrs - September 1, 2019
Rain Before Wind, Reef It In

We decided on a short pitstop in Majorca on our way west, to wait for some unsettled weather to pass. It was forecast to be 15-25 knots with rain so we'd decided it would be nicer to be anchored and dry till it passed. We chose a pretty little bay on the south side of the island, the holding wasn't great, rocks with some sand, but it had a fairly good reputation and we thought we'd be fine with the other ten boats in there.

We woke to a morning that was already cloudy, windless and hot and it looked like rain was coming so we zipped up the cockpit canopy and went below for a rainy reading day. By noon the rain started, and I absentmindedly mentioned the old sailors warning 'wind before rain sail again, rain before wind reef it in.'

At 12:30 we felt a sudden SW shift and we both went up to the cockpit to see what was happening. The sky had turned an ominous black and the rain suddenly became very heavy, then in what seemed like a second, the wind rose to 30 knots. We quickly started the engine and Neville ran forward to take the bow canopy off. Minutes later the wind went from 30 to 60 and then to a jarring 70 knots, and the rain, which was now torrential and blindingly horizontal, reduced our visibility to zero. We quickly put on life jackets, just in time for the cockpit canopy to tear away. Neville now had to race to take down all the remaining canvas before the wind turned them into deadly whips, and I took the helm. The dingy which we had hoisted and secured alongside was now swinging and crashing into the side of the boat but there was nothing we could do about it.  

With no visibility, we could only watch in horror as boats appeared and then disappeared again into the torrential fog. The large Beneteau that had been anchored beside us was now heeled hard over beam to the wind, very close and fighting for its life. A large power boat swayed and swung motoring wildly among the boats trying to re anchor. It was all happening so fast I could hardly figure out who was moving, us or them, who was adrift? The GPS was our only point of reference but even that wasn't clear. Somehow in the middle of all the noise and chaos we both heard a loud low thud somewhere forward. I went below and could hear a steady chain sound, but couldn't figure out what was happening so I came back up, told Neville and he told me to take the helm while he went forward on deck.

He came back to tell me the snubber hook had bent and broken away and that our entire 300 feet of chain had paid out so now he somehow needed to attach another snubber on the last remaining chain to hold us. He reached behind me to grab his diving mask and for a terrifying moment I thought he was going to get into the water?  I yelled "You are NOT going in! " He looked at me confused and smiled, "I just need these to see", he yelled back as he raced forward again.

By the time he had done that, we were much closer to the rocks and could now see that the Beneteau had lost its terrible fight, and was now firmly up on the rocks being pushed around by the crashing sea. We tried to see if we could see anyone on deck, but we couldn't. There was nothing we could do. Neville then turned to me and yelled over the screaming wind, "If we end up on the rocks, we stay on the boat. OK." I agreed and said OK.

Then with everything done that could possibly be done all we could do was hang on and try to hold the boat into the wind as long as we could and wait for the system to pass, all the time listening in silence to the seemingly endless frightened emergency calls and distress alarms broadcast on the VHF.

The weather did eventually move on and anyone lucky enough to still be on their anchor including us began the process of figuring out what had been damaged, broken or lost and those still afloat thanked their lucky stars.

About an hour after the worst had passed a coastguard helicopter flew over and then hovered over the grounded Beneteau where it lowered a rescue person and a basket and airlifted an injured person off the rocks. Later, a rescue lifeboat moved around the bay, from boat to boat. When they got to us the two people on the bow made eye contact, and as I raised my hand to wave they made a thumbs up sign and waited for me to do the same, are you OK? Without saying anything I returned the thumbs up, we're OK. Then they moved on to the next boat. And at the end of the day police divers started working around the four boats in our anchorage that had not been so lucky. On the island at least twelve people died and local authorities said "It was a storm unlike any in living memory."

I like to think it was our little Dream Time who decided, in the strongest wind we've ever experienced, to throw off the snubber hook and pay out all of the chain, because we were both frantically doing everything else we could think of, and because she knew that deploying all our chain was our best chance of getting through this in one piece.  And she was right.

Thank you Dream Time