Pillars of Hercules

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The southern pillar

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the northern pillar

 

With brute strength, Hercules forced his way through the mountains at the western edge of the Mediterranean, creating the Straits of Gibraltar. The Pillars of Hercules on each side bore the notice “ne plus ultra” as a warning to those who might contemplate travelling between and beyond them.

A huge lump of Jurassic limestone is an impressive northern Pillar of Hercules, but at dusk we had only seen the Atlas Mountains on our port bow.

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Just before dawn we entered Gibraltar Bay and hove to off La Linea until we could locate the marina. For me it was a great relief finally to be out of the Med. It was barely 5 am, but we celebrated the end of Tainui’s trip with more than just one glass of something spirituous.

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Gibraltar is quite a silly place, a Toy Town. It is redolent with British naval history and there are quaint streets and battlements wrapped round the base of the Rock. But the red telephone boxes, the Real English Fish and Chip shops, the bobbies in their 1950’s police helmets, the gin tipplers on their apartment balconies, and thousands of fat English tourists thronging the streets are a bit much to take, really.

Just how Britain got Gibraltar is a complex story. To me the 1713 Treaties of Utrecht, like the Spanish-French-British wars they ended, are utterly incomprehensible. But Britain got Minorca, Gibraltar and a 30-year concession to transport slaves from Africa to the New World, while France got St Pierre et Miquelon but lost Newfoundland and Labrador. And so on.

Tainui is at La Linea in Spain. To cross into Gibraltar you cycle across the airport runway when the light is green. Linea is earthy, poor and much nicer than Gibraltar.

I have decided to leave the boat here for 3 months, fly home to repair my mood, my bank balance and my relationships with dear Chris and the children. Maxine, who has been (so typically) a tower of strength during this tedious trip from Mallorca, has rushed home to her man. I have a week’s work putting Tainui to bed, then I’m off too.

We will put the boat back in the water in early January for the winter trip down to the Canaries and Cape Verde Islands.

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