Sailing to Gibraltar from Mallorca. Join us for our maiden voyage on Britican! Our very first sail in our Oyster 56′. We were a family of three that were excited and scared (to death). Simon, Sienna, and I didn’t know if the risks we were taking would pay off. We sold everything we owned, bought a beautiful big boat, and headed out into the unknown.
Here marks the true beginning of our sailing story – December 2013.
Our first sailing video shows me at my best and my worst! For the first time in my life, I spent longer than hours sailing. We sailed for three full days. I experienced sunsets, moonlit evenings, continuous greetings from dolphins, and I also experienced, seasickness, a Force 10 storm, and a longing for dry land! Enjoy the video and then carry on reading below to read about my thoughts on Gibraltar.
Arriving In Gibraltar.
One hour before arriving in Gibraltar, and 3 days after leaving Palma, I forced myself to pull my body and head off the bed and get up on deck. For over 24 hours we endured terrible weather resulting in Force 10 conditions and exhausting sea sickness.
Knowing that land was within sight, I used every bit of willpower to convince my body that I was able to get up, put oilskins on, and make it into the cockpit. My efforts paid off. As soon as I smelled the fresh air and felt the coolness on my face, my sickness subsided slightly.
Also, the sea state reduced in turbulence the closer we got to land.
As evening approached, I could see several cargo ships, the large and famous ‘rock of Gibraltar,’ and a very lit up Mosque situated along the cliffside. My first words were, ‘Is that a Mosque?’ My husband, Simon, responded, ‘Yes – I asked the same question.’
I suppose I was expecting a large rock, monkeys, and loads of boats. I wasn’t expecting a Mosque, the tankers, an airline run-way jetting out into the waterway, loads of industry, and several oil tanks.
Upon visiting most destinations you can compare it to somewhere familiar – Gibraltar was different.
For the first time and a very long time, I couldn’t compare it to Spain or England or Africa or anywhere. It was the strangest place I’ve ever encountered – and it wasn’t just on our approach to the marina that felt weird. When visiting the town I surveyed the scenery and people and kept saying under my breath, ‘this is such an odd place.’ And when I say ‘odd,’ it’s not that it’s bad, it’s just different.
The high street is filled with English stores like M&S, BHS, and Banks like HSBC and Barclays. At first glance, you’d think you were in the UK, but at closer examination, you’ll see palm trees, European architecture, and every nationality in the world.
There were Gibraltarians, British, Indonesian, African, Spanish, Americans, and Chinese.
You name the nationality and it is there! There were a variety of religions too – Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and on and on. And the fascinating thing is that it seemed as if everyone mixed comfortably.
While stopping off at one of the newly refurbished playgrounds for my daughter, I spoke with a woman born and raised in Gibraltar. She explained that there is a huge mix of ethnic backgrounds, nationalities, and religions and everyone gets on very peacefully.
My experience at every restaurant, shop, and service provider was excellent.
Everyone seemed very happy to help and eager to have a chat. Not once did I feel unsafe or uncomfortable. I assume crime must me extremely low – there’s nowhere to go if you’re trying to escape!
Gibraltar is typically not known as a sailor or holiday island although tourism is on the increase due to government initiatives. Most sailors that find their way to Gibraltar make a temporary stop to take advantage of tax-free fuel, servicing and/or repair parts.
When fuelling up, we were shocked at the discounted price we received. Rather than a cost of 700 – 800 euros, we paid under 600 to fill our tank up. And the tax-free savings for various repair parts definitely brought a smile to my face. When maintaining a yacht you’re either paying for repairs or buying spares to preempt the next breakage! At least in Gibraltar, we felt like we were getting a deal.
The marina is affordable, has great facilities, wonderful staff, and a wide variety of restaurants.
Our mooring fees are around 500 euros per month with water and electricity charged by a meter. The Queensway Quay Marina has very nice clean facilities, laundry service, and several restaurants offering a wide spectrum of food and drinks. The marina attendants are very helpful. When we arrived they took our passports, did all the paperwork, and sorted everything out while I was siping my much-needed glass of white wine. They helped us dock the boat, get the electricity working, and set up the freshwater.
A quick tour of Gibraltar
Fortunately, a friend I met on Twitter offered to take us for a tour around Gibraltar. Stephanie, a Meteorologist, and I had been connecting on Twitter for the last couple of months so it was so nice to put a face to a name. Steph took us up to the top of Gibraltar, introduced us to the cheeky monkeys, showed us some absolutely awesome caves, and drove us around the various areas of Gibraltar. I’ve added the experience to my top 10 life experiences ever.
Not only were the sights amazing but I was overwhelmed by Steph’s generosity. On her day off she took us around, joined us for lunch, and helped us get diesel and gasoline for the boat. Since landing in Gibraltar it seems as if everyone we’ve met has been kind and helpful.
The combination of stress, fear, and anticipation contrasted with a day out seeing beautiful sites, spending time with friends/family, and chilling out was noticeable.
Pros and Cons of Gibraltar.
- The area is very industrial along the port: tankers, airport, fishing boats, oil refineries, oil tanks
- The area smelled of fuel or perhaps sulfur. It wasn’t a massive smell that was irritating, but there was definitely a constant hint of fuel smell in the air
- Getting in and out of the Spanish border can be a serious problem. At times the Spanish decide to cause massive tailbacks. The relationship between Gibraltar and Spain is not very good so crossing the border could be complicated.
- The water in the marina was filthy. Bags, rubbish and even pooh floating around. Sadly, that’s common around the Med.
- Provisioning wasn’t any cheaper than other places and there wasn’t a massive selection. There’s one grocery store – a Morrisons.
- It’s a small place. After a few days, you’ll see everything you can possibly see if you are in site-seeing mode.
- There seem to be more cars than people.
- Inside the marina and town center, the scenery is beautiful. When shielded away from the industrial areas, the region is very beautiful.
- The food is excellent – whether we had a quick sandwich or beef wellington we were always very pleased. Furthermore, every restaurant catered to children. Prices of meals varied but overall we felt we got good value for our money spent.
- Tax-free fuel, parts, and servicing!
- An eclectic range of people, foods, and scenery
- Loads of history. Gibraltar is full of all sorts of historical events and figures. Everywhere you look there’s a statue, cannon/gun, plaque, or historical building or ruin.
- Great service from everyone.
- Queensway Quay Marina: very protected berths, locked gates, excellent facilities (although they close at night), a wide range of restaurants, laundry service, close to the town center, great service.
Overall, I was very impressed by Gibraltar. It’s unlike any other place I’ve ever been to. If you’re in the area and deciding whether or not to visit the area, I highly recommend that you do! The people, food, lack of tax, and interesting sites are a fantastic experience.
The next stop was Malta – an 850-mile sail!
If You’d Rather Read About Our Early Adventures In Book Form, Get My Book
My book Changing Lifestyles – Trading In The Rat Race For A Sail Around The World included everything we did to make our sailing dreams a reality. I cover what it felt like to sell all our possessions, the courses we took and how we navigated through the stresses of such a massive lifestyle change. The book then covers our sailing adventures all around the Meditteranean, across the Atlantic Ocean, and all the way up to Florida. You can order the book on this website and get a digital version or head over to Amazon and type in the title to find it there 🙂
Find Out How We Got This Far And Where We Went Next
If you’d like a breakdown of all the places we’ve visited while sailing the Mediterranean please read our destination overview: Sailing The Mediterranean.
- Sell up and sail away video 1 – Shows our sea trials and survey
- Sell up and sail away 2 – A film about selling all our stuff and moving out of our home.
- Sailing Gibraltar To Malta – To buy time to deal with our VAT issue we had to sail to a non-EU country. On our way to Malta, we were stormbound in Algeria, had various complications with our headsail, and had quite the adventure.
Check Out The Other Sailing Destinations We’ve Been To
Come Sailing With Us
|THE BRITICAN EXPERIENCE - A WEEK-LONG BLUEWATER CRUISING EXPERIENCE|
|During Merrill's Britican Experience he learned how to book out and into a different country, what it's like to fly a mainsail, genoa, and staysail, how to anchor, tie onto a mooring ball and dock up at a marina. And unfortunately/fortunately Merrill managed to experience what it was like to ride out a surprise tropical storm. If you'd like to experience what it's truly like to live and cruise on a bluewater sailboat, come join us for a week. Check out our availability here: Click here for more information.|