2003 11 03

Join Chris and Jackie Lambertsen and their two cats, Nevis and Saba, in Spain during the winter of 2003.


SHIBUMI Stops in Rota to Winter in Andalusia, Spain

New:  Thanksgiving aboard SHIBUMI

Perspective:  we agree over a cup of coffee .. or grog .. that we have traveled at a faster pace than we will in the future.  Since leaving the United States in June,  we have cruised the Azores, Galicia, Spain, and Portugal. The longer we are live aboard, the more we realize that the cruising experience is not measured in the numbers of ports or miles that you achieve, but your  understanding of the people and their environment in each location.  One cannot accomplished this arriving in one port a week.

On our way to Gibraltar, we stopped in Rota, Spain, to visit our friends, Riitta and Jochen Wieck aboard Sea Princess.  We hop-scotched together through many ports in the rias of Spain before they sailed ahead of us to the Algarve.  Once in Rota, the marina’s winter rates, the approaching winter weather, and a friendly cruiser community appealed to us…we decided to stop for the winter. 

Cruising guides warn that Rota is home to a major US naval base and not cruiser friendly.  We found the opposite.  The US military personnel blend easily into the Spanish community.  We occasionally notice US personnel in restaurants, shops, or the local library, but the advantage to us in Rota is that more locals speak basic English than in other parts of Spain and some “foreign” i.e. US goods are available in shops.

As fall approaches Europe, North Atlantic storm systems begin to track a more southerly route. One factor in our decision to stop was the onset of this winter weather pattern:  three systems blew through Rota in one week.  Although we have experienced gales before, it regularly blows 45-50 here during a storm and we have clocked gusts of over 70 knots.  We gimbal the stove in those winds even when docked to brew the morning coffee.

The marina in Rota is west of the naval base and north of Cadiz.  This winter we plan to complete boat repairs, learn Spanish, tour Andalucia, and develop relationships with the European cruisers also wintering in Rota.  Before we disabled SHIBUMI for alternator repairs, Chris invited some of the other boaters to go “tunito” (little tuna) fishing one afternoon.  No fish, but a good time for all as evidenced by the photo!

Touring Andalusia by land is one major goal during our winter in Rota so we decided to purchase a used car.  This decision began a bureaucratic process which would try the patience of a saint.  However the end result is that we now do not need to rent an automobile for each excursion to Seville, Gibraltar, or Cadiz.  Rota is a wonderful small coastal Spanish town, but we need the ability to explore the region once SHIBUMI is tied to the dock. 

Before we were certain about wintering in Rota, we rode our friend Riitta on a day trip to Ronda, a medieval city perched atop a geological delight.  Ronda is in the mountains approximately 80 miles due east of Rota. 

The scenic trip to Ronda includes meandering through the valley of the Puertos Blancos, or white villages, a national park.  In the past, people settled in these hills in compact villages to protect themselves from banditos.  We accidentally discovered the town of Zahara, a beautiful heritage site atop a peak in the foothills which time has left relatively untouched over the years.

After our four hour leisurely drive to Ronda, we toured the old town on both sides of the chasm.  As is typical in this region, Moorish influence is evident in architecture, and Ronda, with one of the two most famous bull fighting rings in Spain, is a sought after destination for aspiring matadors.   There is only one weekend of bull fights annually in Ronda which adds to their exclusive nature. 

After visiting the bull fighting museum, Chris decided that attending a bull fight could drop a few spaces down on his list of critical items to do in Spain.

In the never ending area of boat maintenance, Chris began his winter “to-do” list:  remaking a stainless standing rigging gizmo that had developed micro fissuring, recoating the exterior bright-work, welding the main boom, rebuilding the engine alternator, and converting our propane gas system to butane.  To “Europeanize” SHIBUMI, he has converted the electrical dock plugs, replaced fittings for water attachments for our hoses, and installed new motors for our heat pumps to allow us to use 50 cycle electricity instead of 60 cycle.

On a lighter note, we have learned to cook fish the Spanish way, i.e. grilling it lightly with olive oil on the stove.  Our Spanish friends from Marta II gave us a “tunito” for dinner which Chris filleted with instructions in Spanish from a friend…Marta’s husband Antonio.  We have been fortunate to meet Spanish families who have adopted us during our sometimes laughable exploits to nest in Rota, notably our Spanish teacher Reza and his wife Aurora who works in the Tourist Office.  Reza is Iranian and works as a tour guide during the tourist season in Cadiz.  He has been a life saver interpreting the Spanish laws and customs, especially during our efforts to secure a used car.

 We have learned never to say never in Spain!

On a sad, but life lesson, note, Rota was the center for the recovery of more than 40 bodies of Moroccan refugees who had fled their economic system in search of a better life for their families.  This is the same story as Cuban refugees fleeing to Florida.  Unfortunately a major storm overturned the refugee boat with only five surviving the ordeal.  Bodies were literally floating onto the local beaches for three weeks. 

The Guardia Civil rescuers docked next to SHIBUMI making us unwitting observers to the recovery process.  All the cruisers in the harbor once again recognized how  blessed we are to live freely and eat regularly.  Each of us paid tribute in our hearts to the unsuccessful effort of the refugees.

As the only Americans in the marina, Chris and I plan to invite several couples over this Thursday to celebrate turkey day and to renew our sense of thankfulness for the ability to live aboard and cruise.  We may stay in Rota through March or beyond, but we have had a great adventure for the first six months of our endeavor and we are truly grateful to be here now.

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