Meridians and Parallels:  Let’s Go Sailing

Join Chris and Jackie Lambertsen sailing the islands of the western Mediterranean during the summer of 2004.


SHIBUMI Prepares to Leave Rota, Our Winter Port

The winter of 2003-2004 was a learning experience for both of us.  We never quite adjusted to “Spanish schedule” despite our good early teachers in La Coruna, our friends Carmen and Javier.  We tried rising at dawn for coffee, lunch between 1300 and 1600, a bit of a siesta after lunch, and dinner after 2100.  Well, we almost learned to eat at 10 pm at night, but never actually made that transition.  It works for the Spanish quite well.  Shops open between 0930 and 1000 in the morning,  close at 1300 for lunch and reopen from 1700 to 2130.  Great for the hot summer but somewhat inconvenient during the cold winter months.  The Spanish eat late and some party until the wee hours of the morning, usually during holidays with family and friends!

Chris enjoyed the experience of several simultaneous European Christmas traditions, depending on whether you were entertaining or being entertained by the Spanish, Germans, Swiss, Swedish, Finnish, or English.  Both of us learned that five months attached to a dock is more of a challenge  than five months at sea.  This was true despite a wonderful group of marina mates in Rota, unusually good weather for most of the winter, and the luxury of a car for excursions. In truth, it was a great experience for us both, complete with surgery in the States for Chris, cats swimming at regular intervals, cruising couples separating and reconciling, car trips around Andalucia, trips to Gibraltar and more trips to Gibraltar, lots and lots of boat maintenance…and finally fields green with winter crops followed by Spring and flowers.

And it is at last time to take in the lines and go.  This is a task in itself as after six months SHIBUMI has become rather attached to the docks with double lines, innumerable fenders and meters of now partially worn through chafe gear.

Andalucia is  the southernmost region of Spain, lying directly across from the North African Sahara Desert and directly in the path of warm Atlantic currents.  This proximity has driven its rich history and its current growth and prosperity.  The result is a region of sometimes gently rolling hills, sometimes dramatic craggy gorges, and a limitless sky.  The dramatic and ever-changing sky has dominated the winter canvas here in Rota.  The flat lands and the lack of trees create vistas for miles and miles.  The backdrop of the Sierra Nevada mountain ranges frame the separation of the sky and earth, sometimes with high snow for added measure.

When you travel into the interior of Andalucia, the terrain changes dramatically.  Short, impromptu diversions in road trips reveal dramatic scenery and spectacular vistas.  The photo on the right illustrates the point:  Garganta del Chorro is in the middle of a mountain range where eons of water have cut through the limestone to create chasms.  There is a huge cistern on the adjacent  mountain top that feeds a  power plant on the edge of the river below the gorge. The area is a popular destination for hikers and bikers who enjoy the challenge of the mountain roads and passes in this remote area.

Other geological wonders include the city of Ronda which sits on a massive set of rocks connected by a limestone bridge.  The old city resides on one side of the ravine and the newer town housing one of the two most famous bullfighting rings in Spain on the other side.

During their occupation of Spain between 711 and 1492 AD, the Muslims infused their art, architecture, cuisine, technology, and religion into the entire Iberian peninsula.  They introduced such technologies as the water wheel, the Arabic numbering system, and the astrolabe which is a device used by navigators and astronomers.  New crops such as oranges and rice migrated from North Africa. 

Throughout Andalucia, from Rota to Granada and beyond, one visits monument after monument which was originally a Moorish facility built on top of a Roman, Visigoth or prehistoric site.  Within which you might discover a Renaissance facility.  In Cordoba, the Mezquita contains a colossal  cathedral;  in Granada the Alhambra is dominated by the Palace of Charles V, never completed since work began five hundred years ago.

In the midst of the 94% Roman Catholic population, one cannot easily find a functioning Muslim mosque or Arab restaurant.  There are stores selling Arab items but most of the Arab people who populated this region for so many centuries have disappeared.  Of course so have the native Indians in America.  The mixed feeling associated with the recent Madrid bombings is reflected by Thomas L. Friedman in his March 18, 2004, New York Times editorial:  “The notion that Spain can separate itself from Al Qaeda’s onslaught on Western civilization by pulling its troops from Iraq is a fantasy. Bin Laden has said that Spain was once Muslim and he wants it restored that way.” We will wait and see.

The first Christmas holiday season far from home is always an wonderful surprise.  Not only did the cruisers rally to sponsor two buffet dinners on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, but our Spanish friends shared their season with us too!

First of all, Reza and Aurora Nevisi invited us for a Sunday Christmas tea where they introduced us to many delectable Spanish holiday pastries.  Aurora was our invaluable contact in the Rota tourist office as we learned about the region surrounding Rota, and Reza was our Spanish tutor during his winter sabbatical. 

Marta and Antonio Jimenez graciously invited us into their home Christmas Eve for a home-cooked meal and a night to remember as we celebrated and danced until the wee hours of Christmas Day. 

And then there are the friendships developed with the other cruisers in the marina.  Chris and Jackie were the only Americans wintering in Rota, but we were joined by English, Swedish, French, German, Dutch, and Swiss boats.  English proved to be the common language of choice when we needed  a second language.  The good news is that we understood most conversations and made many close friends.  The bad news is that despite our best intentions and many lessons,  we didn’t use or learn much Spanish!

For several days during the winter, we struck out in different directions and tried different things.  Chris wanted to see a bullfight so Lars and Lena Akerlind found one and escorted us both to it.  We had visited the bullfighting museum in Ronda so Chris knew what to expect.  He said that he actually attended two fights that day:  his first and his last!

And the long winter months with reasonable weather conditions gave Chris the opportunity to upgrade several systems on SHIBUMI.  He was able to rebuild the alternator, to install a new winch on the forward deck for the forward sails, to install a new fanny-stand beside main halyard as a safety device while handling sails, to rework the electrical system to accommodate 220, 50 cycle, European shore power, to rework the gas system to accept either propane (US) or butane (non-US) bottled gas, and to varnish the forward cabin. 

Jackie assisted by keeping all the daily activities of life, notably laundry, cleaning, shopping, and cooking, running smoothly while Chris “diddled” at these tasks.  SHIBUMI is now completely outfitted and sparkling clean:  ready to cruise to The Baleares, Corsica, Sardinia, and other places unknown to us at this time!

As our time in Rota comes to a close, we have pondered what we will remember.  First of all, we are thankful for the weather.  Rota has been one of the warmest spots in the Mediterranean this winter.  We were forced to stay inside only about 30% of the time due to inclement weather. The photo on the left shows Jackie in the Cadiz flower market at the end of January.

But when the wind blew, it roared like a lion.  In October and November we had the harshest weather of the season, with gales blowing through every 4-5 days and winds once gusting to 70 mph. 

Lastly, we will remember the church bells that chimed the quarter hour faithfully from 0800 to 2200 and played a hymn at noon each day!  We will remember our new friends and the village of Rota, small enough to walk everywhere and large enough to contain everything we need.

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