Thursday, September 30, 2010

Leaving for South Africa: Gibraltar's Airport

Sail boats had to wait for a light to change in order to sail in front of the runway!
 Gibraltar, UK---I flew out of Gibraltar today, heading to London and then to Johannesburg, South Africa. The first adventure was just leaving this airport.

There is water on both side of the runway with the tarmac protruding up at the end

Gibraltar's airport separates Spain and the UK. It is a narrow strip of land that barely fits this runway. Through the middle is a busy road. Motorcycles, cars, trucks, bicycles and walkers cross the tarmac to get to and from Spain. Like a railroad track, there are crosswalk bars that come down when a plane is coming. We had waited for about 20 minutes the day before, so this was my day to make other people wait!

  The flight had a 6 hour layover in London and then the red-eye to Africa on a 12 hour flight.

A very long day.

Having cousins in foreign service there is great as they arranged for a company to be there early in the morning with my name on a poster to pick me up, saving me from a taxi ride.

Looking back at our Marina from the Plane

Everything went perfect and I was extremely lucky with a seat that had no seat in front of it, giving me full leg room. With some sleep on the 747 jet, I was so excited to be there,  but not enough to hit the road running. First, a full night's sleep.


Leaving Gibraltar

The Rock through my window seat

People waiting for the plane to land and pass so they can walk across.

Standing in the middle of the runway!

Flying into the sunset to South Africa

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Reflections: 6 months of Changing Courses

Arriving at the Rock of Gibraltar

Gibraltar (UK)---
What I have learned so far.

In the marina of Sibari, Italy: Never, never ever judge someone by the way they look.
Post 4/27/10. When I first joined the boat, two hippie-ish looking people, Jane and Neal, a couple from England lived on a brightly colored, converted old wooden fishing boat. They had rescued animals from their travels, leaving them with 4 dogs and a male cat named Doris. I thought they looked interesting and I got to know them a little. They were the first to walk by me sobbing after the news about my father’s death. As virtual strangers, they showed immediate compassion and that theme ran through them. They respected ALL life, even the tiny dying newborn puppy they had found by a Greek trash can and came from an attitude of helpfulness. Looking at them, you would have never thought that she was an internationally acclaimed children’s artist and author, and he was a recorded musician.

In the little Island of Trazonia, Greece in the Ionian Sea: Seek contentment, not happiness.
Post 5/13/10. Rhinehart, a well traveled old man who “picked Trazonia as a good place to die” was someone I found rapport with. A sailor, a German and retired electrical engineer. We talked about humanity and he was interesting explaining to me that his hobby was anthropology. He told me that a Sikh of India had once told him that seeking happiness was foolish, because happiness was something that no one could define. What we need to strive for is Contentment in our lives and with our lives.

In Crete, Greece: Look closely at a Man’s ego.
Post 6/13/10. After chatting a while, Georgas, a gold shop owner in Crete with a huge ego, became very interested in meeting me “later for dinner.” In between his wife (!!) coming in and out of the shop he said, “I want a divorce, my wife is fat.” As I soon left, I smiled as I passed him and patted his huge belly and said, “You are a hypocrite, you are even larger”. Ego. I know it sounds logical but for me, it hit me. A man lacking humility is an insurmountable red flag. Nip it at the bud, baby.

In Mykonos, Greece: Create Beauty for beauties’ sake and share it openly. (Affordably)
Post 6/26/10. An artist in Mykonos, Greece, as good as Andy Warhol, chooses to be with family and friends during Christmas season and not make money. She also chooses to price her things very affordably. “I want people to be able to own art. To take them home and enjoy.”

In the City of Methoni, Peloponnese, Greece: Be free inside yourself.
Post 7/17/10. A shopkeeper Zoe, who with her daughter and husband embraced me and their shop became my retreat during a difficult time on the boat. As the artist who created most everything in her shop, Zoe was working herself to death. She longed to leave it all and go away, knowing the reality of that was unrealistic. Yet she danced. She was free within her prison. We shared some Ouzo as her and her daughter restocked the shelves and they danced about the shop to the Greek music they were playing loudly.

In Espalmador, Spain’s Island: Live confidently in your body.
Post 9/16/10. Vick and Jo, an older couple enjoyed life naked. As most of the island, it was hardly noted. I had swum over to ask about the inflatable kayak I saw on their deck (as I am looking to buy one). Without another word, they insisted I try it out. Later, the naked couple paddled over to tell me something. There was no discomfort about their older bodies. They were simply living. “Don’t worry. We don’t do complicated,” Vick had said to me as I was trying to explain my situation. Confidently naked and uncomplicated living. I like that.

In the tiny beachfront hippie commune of “San Pedro Naturale”, Spain: Life CAN be lived simply.
Post 9/21/10. It was a simple life living in tents and shacks. Everyone got along. Simple strict rules. They had everything they NEEDED. How much do I have that I need and how much do I have that I simply WANT? I am disproportional in comparison.

It’s been 6 months. Hard to believe, yet my head swims as I recall everything I have seen and done. I was on the phone with one of my girl friends last week. She asked me if I was having fun. My immediate reaction caught me by surprise. I didn’t know how to answer. “AM I having fun?” I asked myself. I have had some fun times. I am where I think I should be right now in my life. I love this sailing lifestyle. But I am not “having fun” or by any means “having a blast” as some emails to me are assuming. But I mulled over these thoughts for a few days and realized: THIS is my life right now. It’s not a vacation. It is day to day being. So, if someone asked me in my past “Are you having fun?” the answer would be the same. I have fun times but it is a balance of good and bad, fun and not so fun, happy and sad.

I am worried sick about my 15 year old dog Turbo and that has consumed a lot of thoughts. I am mourning the parting of a friend. I am still processing the deaths of my Father and Aunt during this trip. I am learning more patience and refrain by living with children. I am starting to think about what to do career wise, when I return.

I can only hope that I try hard to not judge, seek contentment, look about for the smallest creatures because all life is precious, look first at a man’s ego, feel at peace with my body, be uncomplicated, create for the sense of giving, remember how simply you can live, and dance. Dance about to very loud music.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

LOCATION of Sail Boat


Gibraltar, UK---Today, I sat where I had been 15 years earlier. On a pier, in a restaurant, in Gibraltar. It is a HUGE relief to know that we are safely here at what feels like the half way point of this trip and the transition between the Mediterranean and the Caribbean.

Fifteen years ago, I sailed into Gibraltar with the same captain but a smaller boat and different crew. A lot has happened in fifteen years and I find myself in a very different place and looking at the world with a different perspective.

In this amount of time I have lost both parents. I have run 4 Marathons and 8 half marathons, 3 friends have died, I have watched, with the rest of the world, 9-11 happen and all that came with it. I have bought 3 houses and lost 2 to the terrible economy. And I have closed my business of 26 years and said good bye to 2 employees that I cared about. I have given my beloved 15 year old dog to someone else’s keeping. And, of course, I have made this decision to sail for a year.

And here I am. Back on this dock where at that time, my 25 year old boyfriend and I were ready to hit the euro train and backpack for another 3 weeks then I would go back to the states and my job. Instead this time, we will be preparing to sail to the Canary Islands as the first stage of our Atlantic Crossing.

The Rock of Gibraltar has always held a fascination for me. The first time I saw it, I gasped. I could understand why it was such a landmark. I like rocks anyway and have picked up more on this trip than the Captain approves of. Then when my Mother died we found a something very special in her will. She had the lawyer write in the gift of a Bible verse to each of her daughters. Mine: “God is my refuge and strength, THE ROCK in times of trouble.”

And the circle of life continues. Gibraltar will always be here, as will my ROCK.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Sailing to Gibralter

Along the coast of Spain---Gibralter is our destination. There is "weather" off the coast so we have chosen to sail along the coastline to avoid beating upwind. The weather dramatically changed and it went down to 61 degrees in the night during my watch. After being in the 80's the days before, this was torture. I started randomly putting on more clothing until I had five layers. Here are some sights along the way.
Sailing around the Rock of Gibraltar

Anchored before dark at destination!


3 am

5:30 am

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Christopher Columbus was HERE "X"

Alhambra (Granada, Spain)---After catching the morning train, the 2 hour trip to Granada, Spain was a lovely ride through Spain's countryside. Views of olive groves, windmill farms and greeneries passed us by at about 100mph. Not the fastest European train but it was fast enough plus clean and comfortable.

The city of Granada is located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains. With an elevation of 2,400 feet above sea level, yet close to the Mediterranean coast, I knew we were traveling up the mountains when my ears started popping (and on the way down, our water bottles got very “skinny”.)

The Alhambra is a palace and fortress complex constructed during the mid 14th century by Moorish rulers. Personally, after seeing a lot of ancient fortresses and palaces, I never thought anything this magnificent still existed. The Palaces were so well preserved and rich, I truly felt I was in a place of royalty. 

The room that Columbus pitched his idea to sail to Americas

Close up of what is on the walls...detailed engraving!

"X" Where Columbus stood!
 The last Muslim ruler surrendered here in 1492 without the Alhambra being attacked when the forces of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella took the surrounding territory with an overwhelming force of numbers.

It was also in this setting that Christopher Columbus received Isabel and Ferdinand's support to sail to the "New World". In this room they authorized the expedition of Columbus, who was given the name of "Admiral of the Ocean Sea" by the monarchs. One guidebook another American was reading out loud said that Ferdinand, knowing the world was round but thinking it was much larger, thought he was a crazy sailing captain with this hair-brain idea. HOWEVER, Isabel saw value in this exploration. AH HA!...womankind to the rescue.

After being allowed to fall into disrepair for centuries, the Alhambra was "discovered" in the 19th century by European scholars and travelers and fully restored. It is now one of Spain's major tourist attractions, exhibiting the country's most significant and well known Islamic architecture, together with 16th-century and later Christian building and garden interventions.

I bought the book "Tales from the Alhambra," by Washington Irving that I plan to read on passage across the Atlantic. So, let the photos show some of the amazing sights and GO THERE if you are ever in Spain!

Photos: Tiles from Alahambra

The Ancient Tile is famous at the Alhambra. Here is a collection of photos.

Almeria, Spain

Almeria, Spain---(pronounced Al-maria) We have been here in a marina since Tuesday and it has been a great break. We are tied up long side to the very end of a dock and can get on and off at will. The marina bathroons have HOT water and my showers have been long and luxurious. We had our laundry done for the first time since Sicily IN JULY!!! ...I had hand washed my things several times but it's just not the same. Two months is an all time world record in my life as I would do laundry for only me at least once a week.

Redefining "what is clean, and what is dirty" has been a new experience.

This city is large, so I have walked for miles each day, looking at the sites and popping into shops to see the local ware. They have a beautiful castle fortress from the 4th Century called Alcazaba that I went to and even though it was raining that day, it was beautiful.

Today we go by Train to Granada, then leave for Gibraltar tomorrow, which is a about 1-1/2 day sail.  I leave for South Africa on Thursday around noon and can't decide if I should try to get to Cape Town, a 2 hour flight. Regardless, I have a lot of activity ahead.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

There’s so much to see waiting in front of me

Almaria, Mainland Spain---“Yesterday’s over my shoulder, I can’t look back there too long. There’s so much to see waiting in front of me and I know that I just can’t go wrong.” Jimmy Buffett’s Changes in Latitudes.

For me, it’s changes in Laditudes literally and soon: on Sept. 30 I’m going to South Africa for 10 days!

In 150 miles, the boat will be safely at the trips cross-over point when we leave the Med and head for the next phase: the Transatlantic crossing to the Caribbean.

Soon, the family I’m sailing with will enjoy a visit from The Captains wife and some family time, as well as preparing the boat and fixing things that can only be done in Gibraltar, a town with huge boating resources.

So, for me, I am heading South…far South to Johannesburg where my cousins work for the American Embassy. So how do I describe this feeling…taking a vacation from my vacation? No, this has NOT been a vacation…it is a lifestyle; but so different than sitting behind my desk, going to see clients, selling advertising. A life I barely remember. So, regardless, it is a break that I think I need as well as the family I’ve been with for 6 months.

It struck me the other day that I have never spent 6 months around only 3 people, day in and day out. What makes it odder, is they are not my children or husband, so it is amazing for one, that we have not gotten on each others nerves more than we admittedly have. And for two, I've been handed more than I expected and didn't bail. All in all, the four of us get along well. With kids around, I’m still learning the patience thing…will it ever be mastered? And they are putting up with my silliness. (Remembering one of the kids say: “Miss Edee, you’re acting very childish” comes to mind). With The Captain, a friend for 25+ years, I have seen aspects that you would not be privileged to without living with them; an intense love for his kids and family and a constant anxiety about weather, boat mechanics, deadlines and our safety.

But, all that warm and fuzzy stuff, still leaves me feeling like I need a break. So I’m told it’s springtime in South Africa now and there’s so much to see waiting in front of me.

LOCATION of Sail Boat

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

“People have to find out there is life before you die,” Paul in beach commune.

San Pedro Cove, Costa Blanca. Spain---At first it looked like a camp site on the beach of the cove we had just anchored in. But looking closer, the tents blended in with the lean-to shacks and shantys. Looking up the mountain, the “ruins” sited in the sailing pilot book, had a solar panel permanently affixed to a stone window frame. In the morning I was determined to find out more.

I swam the close distance to the beach with flip flops and a wrap in a zip lock bag attached to the bottoms of my swim suit. After a nice conversation with three Frenchman who had swum in from one of only four boats that had anchored there last night, I headed up the hill towards the castle-looking ruins.

I passed sleepy residents crawling out of their “homes” and glanced into one open-aired shanty sparsely covered with dried palm fronds and saw a naked man casually sitting Indian-style, with a clothed women enjoying their morning cup of coffee and chatting.

Others were milling about, some naked, some clothed.

Through the dense brush, a path lead higher and shanties that could not be seen from the beach unveiled themselves along the way. It felt hippie and very homie-comfortable. Beach wraps decorated several seating areas giving view to the gorgeous bay where our boat bobbed gently in the clear blue sea.

Reaching the Castle, I rounded the side we could not see from our vantage point and briefly saw someone standing on the cliff looking over the sea. So I called out “Hello, Hola” in case I was invading someone’s private space. He turned and greeted me with a big smile.

“Hablo Ingles?” I said poorly.

“Huh” he responded.

“Do you speak English?

“Oh yes, yes,” he nodded.

Oh good.

His name was Paul. He was very slim and had brown stained teeth. I've learned enough on this adventure and in this environment to know you can't ever judge anyone by their appearence. It wasn’t until I asked him to take my picture with the cove in the background that I realized he had no right hand. A stub that was mid forearm was evidence of a hard past. Paul explained that this was indeed a commune called appropriately; San Pedro. He said I could google it and find much information of its history and existence. He spoke great English and was very friendly.

 Paul had been in San Pedro for seven years. But the longest resident had been there living this hippie-ish lifestyle for 16 years! He explained that it had everything that one could want.

A fresh water stream came down from the mountain and they had gardens, bananas, oranges and lemons. Anything else could be purchased in the village around the mountain. There were no roads but a dinghy would bring campers on and off and an hour hike along the mountain would get you to the village.

In the middle of our chat, a gruff looking naked man appeared from a room behind the lean-to and passed us with a mutter and headed to the marked “WC” (bathroom) or an area that was designated as such. Paul explained that the man was just not awake yet and that he was the commune’s “Baker”; making bread every day for residents. I'm glad I had been in the Med for six months and that having him walk by did not shock me, or as I recall, even phase me...I might have been here too long.

I asked if there were public areas or common areas to meet and he said “everything here is public”…in fact, we were standing in the Bar. I looked around and yes, there were three picnic tables and a dart board. A speaker was in the corner powered no less, by a wind generator above our heads or one of the numerous solar panels!

Everyone got along, he told me, and the rules were posted in several areas in several languages. They were simple. Use designated “WC” areas (bathroom spots) and bury that waste, and bury all other food waste, don't use Chemical products. That’s it.

Paul was from Holland and explained that he had spent four years sailing on Rainbow Warrior with Green Peace. It wasn’t until later that I realized the significance. I’m sad that I missed the powerful meaning of that, asked him more questions and that my reaction were not what they should have been.

NOTE: The Rainbow Warrior was sabotaged and sunk just before midnight on July 10, 1985 by two explosive devices attached to the hull by operatives of the French intelligence service. One person was killed. The revelations of French involvement caused a political scandal. After facing international pressure France agreed to pay compensation to Greenpeace, and later admissions from the former head of the French inteligence service revealed that three teams had carried out the bombings. ---Wikipedia

A face built into the side of the rocks by the fountian

Paul lead me to the fountain where a couple other men were gathered getting their daily jugs of water. I tasted the water and it was as delicious as any Colorado Rockies Spring found on the several backpacking trips I’ve done. One man stood up and looked down on the long stem of dried buds he was carrying. I teasingly said “what’s that?!” and everyone laughed even though the other two didn’t speak English. Marijuana seems to be an international hippie, free-lifestyle, anti-society, past time.

I said goodbye to Paul and told him he had a wonderful home, like being on vacation all the time and he said,“People have to find out there is life before you die.”

Returning to the beach I talked to two others. Sitting in front of a tent surrounded by a three sided structure designed with several woven rugs as the roof was a Spanish young man with dreadlocks pulled back into a ponytail. He had been there for 2 months but was running out of money and needed to go get work so that he could return. The other, a man from Sicily, sitting naked on a surrong cloth, had discovered San Padro last summer and spent 2 months there. This time, he was only here for a visit. “I love it here,” he said quietly, peacefully, staring at the sea.

I swam back to Juno over a school of needle nose fish, tiny back fish and the cobalt blue and white fish that we’d seen thoughout the Mediterranean. The boat was anchored in 15 feet of crystal clear water.

Watching the commune disappear as we motored away, getting closer to Gibralter each day, I had to wonder if people in the commune were doing what I was doing. Changing courses from a life they had grown tired of. Searching for options and discovering new possibilities.