Friday, December 1, 2017

1985 (10) – Whale Sightings

Gone Fishin'  Mixed Media, 8" x 10"
Acrylic paints, polymer clay, sand, shells, fabric patch

To go to the beginning of this book, Tropic Moon: Memories, click HERE.

Perhaps the area around the Balearics was an especially good one for spotting marine life because, during our nine-hour day sail from Ibiza to Majorca, we had another treat in store for us.  On my watch in mid-afternoon, the autopilot was steering as usual.  I was sitting on deck deeply engrossed in a paperback.  I almost jumped out of my skin at the sound of a very loud snort nearby, and looked up to find two large whales had surfaced close to the boat.  I called Ed, who came up from below to have a look at the whales, who obligingly reappeared.  It was the closest by far we had ever seen whales.  I was torn between nervousness at their proximity, and the awe and excitement of seeing the long sleek black bodies gliding in our company. 

Puzzled Parrot, Mixed Media, 8" x 10"
Acrylic paints, jigsaw puzzle pieces

Later I saw several spume clouds astern, followed by glimpses of the dark bodies as the whales came to the surface to breathe.  A study of our whale book led us to believe that what we saw were finback whales, a common whale of 30-70 feet, second in size only to the blue whale.  The description of the high spout, the sleek back followed by a view of the dorsal fin, and the fact that the whales didn't show their tail flukes when they dove, all tallied with a sighting of a finback.  

Puzzled Horses, Mixed Media, 8" x 10"
Fabric background, jigsaw puzzle pieces

As we'd been promised, there was little wind that summer, but when it did come, it made for some peaceful, pleasant meanderings on Tropic Moon.  When we were ready to leave the small harbor of San Telmo on Majorca, Ed stopped me just as I was poised to push the button to start the engine.  He had decided we would sail out of the harbor, and asked me which sail I wanted to put up.  I raised the mainsail, while Ed took care of the mizzen.  I took the wheel, and slowly tacked the boat forward, while Ed pulled in on the anchor rope.  When the anchor was stowed, he raised the jib sail.  We sheeted in the sails as tightly as we could, and slowly - but very slowly - tacked out of the harbor in virtually nonexistent wind.

Disco Dancer, Mixed Media, 8" x 10"
Fabric background, Polymer clay head,
Glitter glued for body, Button for disco ball

Having nothing better to do that day, we decided to sail all the way to our next anchorage, though it ended up taking us around five hours to do about eight miles.  The wind was what weather people jokingly refer to as 'variable,' which means it goes from nothing to light, and continually changes direction.  Really getting into the spirit of things, we hand-steered, did a lot of tacking, and ho-hummed our way through the calms.  We went so slowly that often, though we knew we were moving by the bubbles in the water, we were still registering zero on the knot meter.  

Thursday, November 30, 2017

1985 (9) – The Lighthouse Keeper

Tropic Moon at anchor, Isla Conejera.
The island of Ibiza is visible in the background.

To go to the beginning of this book, Tropic Moon: Memories, click HERE.

A less pleasant aspect of cruising was keeping up with the boat maintenance.  Our topsides paint had suffered grievously over the winter from oil spills in the Gibraltar harbor, chafing fenders when we were sandwiched in between other boats, and the occasional rude encounter with a marina dock.  We decided to repaint the white hull while at anchor in our peaceful cove.  Ed spent one day cleaning and sanding the hull, and epoxying over a few of the scars.  Unfortunately, on the following day when we were ready to paint, our cove was less than peaceful.  The wind had shifted, and Tropic Moon was rolling in response to a gentle swell.  After setting a stern anchor, Ed and I climbed into the dinghy.  With me hanging on to the cap rail as the dinghy rose and fell, Ed proceeded to paint his way around the hull.  He had some competition from the swells as to who would wet the waterline first.  Occasionally, when Ed was the winner, a wave would then come along and playfully wash off some of the new paint.

The lighthouse, visible on the top of the promontory.

We were anchored near the middle of Isla Conejera, while the lighthouse was located at the northern end.  Before our hike up to the lighthouse, (which we found deserted), we had enjoyed some interesting speculation about the keeper of the light.  It was Ed's opinion that the keeper was locked away up there in the tower.  Ed mentioned his possible presence when we took to sunbathing nude on the deck.  I couldn't believe that anyone would be living in the lighthouse when there wasn't even another boat at the island.  I chose to elect a man as keeper when he showed up in a small boat, and then disappeared for a time.  Ed took him to be a fisherman. 

A beautiful stone wall.

I then elected a second man, who came in a powerboat with his family, which he moored at the landing dock.  He also disappeared (he was probably napping on the boat), while an older woman, robed in a somber black dress, stood atop a rocky abutment, and wielded a fishing rod with considerable success.  (I watched her catch fish while she watched us paint the boat.)  Two younger women in bikinis were sunning themselves, and keeping an eye on a couple of youngsters, while a frisky black dog gamboled about the cliffs, no doubt bringing terror to the resident lizard population, and consternation to the sea gulls attempting to sun themselves in peace.

At the lighthouse.

Conejera may translate to "rabbit-warren," but it was lizards we saw everywhere, and nary a rabbit in sight.  The lizards scurried from rock to rock, most of them colored in a drab gray-green to blend in with the landscape, while others were arrayed in intense blue-greens, appearing iridescent in the bright sunlight.  There seemed to be almost as many seagulls as lizards.  I remember one particular gull that, unlike his friends, didn't fly off at my approach, and who seemed unconcerned by the loud-sounding snaps on my camera case that broke the quiet when I opened it.  The gull appeared to straighten his neck, and then stared straight ahead at the camera.  I wanted a shot of the gull turned sideways, and madly waved one arm in the air.  I didn't expect the gull to understand what I wanted, but I thought my actions might cause him to prepare for flight.  He was having none of it, and insisted on posing stiff-necked, face forward, until I had taken his picture.
My seagull...

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

1985 (8) - Isla Conejera

Postcard from Ibiza, Spain

To go to the beginning of this book, Tropic Moon: Memories, click HERE.

Before traveling to the Balearic Islands, we had spent five months wintering in the hustle and bustle of Gibraltar, and then cruised to some of the tourist-oriented marinas along the Costa del Sol.  Tired of mooring lines and fenders, we left the Spanish mainland to make our two-day sail from Almerimar to the island of Ibiza.  After putting in at a deserted cove on Ibiza's southern shore, where we swung at anchor for several peaceful days, we headed up the western coast of Ibiza, making our way to San Antonio, and fresh bread, fruits and vegetables.  Perhaps a reluctance to return to civilization kept us out of the city for one more night.  We put in at Isla Conejera, which had a large, lovely bay on its eastern coast.  Spending one day there was nowhere near enough.  After restocking the larder in San Antonio, we returned to the little cove tucked into the northern part of Conejera's anchorage.

Tropic Moon at anchor, Isla Conejera

Conejera was a small island, about a mile in length, located just outside the harbor of San Antonio, on the western coast of Ibiza, about fifty miles east of the Spanish mainland.  As far as civilization was concerned, the island boasted only a lighthouse, and a small landing dock overlooked by a cinderblock garage housing the lighthouse keeper's truck.  A gravel road connected the garage and the lighthouse, covering about half the island, and climbing the hill to the lighthouse in a series of meandering zigzags.

Our dinghy, sitting at the landing dock.

The island of the conjurer?  That's how I chose to think of it until I looked up the word "conejera" in my Spanish-English dictionary and found it to mean "rabbit-warren."  Despite the evidence of the printed word, the island was still a magician for me, conjuring up memories of some of our favorite cruising days.  An uninhabited island, a lovely rock-bound cove, and a peace and solitude seldom interrupted by visitors, brought comparisons to mind with Harbor Island, south of Stonington, Maine, and Great Bird Island, off the northeast coast of Antigua in the Caribbean.  While the vegetation varied from the wild succulents and cacti of Great Bird Island, to the pine forests and purple lupine of Maine, with a middle ground found in the junipers and arid, rocky soil of Conejera, the similarities far outweighed the differences. 

Isla Conejera.  On a hike.

There was, firstly, one of the greatest pleasures of cruising - finding a little corner of the world all to ourselves.  Of being able to enjoy not only the sights, but also the sounds and voices of nature - lapping waves, calling gulls, whistling breezes, rustling leaves and chirping insects.  We were also in a place that seemed bound by no nationality.  A sign in Spanish reminding visitors that it was forbidden to light fires on the island was the only indication that Conejera was a part of Spain.  Nor did Great Bird Island strike one as a British domain, or Harbor Island seem particularly American.  It was a pleasure to know there were still places in the world where politics didn't intrude.

Isla Conejera, Spain

Was there a magician on Conejera?  If so, perhaps he was living in the old stone well perched on the hilltop near the lighthouse.  When I peered into the well's seemingly bottomless depths, I saw my reflection mirrored back at me.  When I called to Ed to come over, my voice echoed loudly in the cavern.  I dropped a coin into the well, and made a wish for a future of cruising with many more special anchorages like Isla Conejera.

Monday, November 27, 2017

1985 (7) - The Balearic Islands

Mermaid.  An art quilt. 20" x 16"  Detail

To go to the beginning of this book, Tropic Moon: Memories, click HERE.

In mid-May we did an overnight passage from Almeria, on the Costa del Sol, to the beautiful Spanish islands of the Balearics:  Majorca, Menorca, Ibiza, and Formentera.  When we left Almerimar, we had a 250-mile sail to Ibiza, which took us fifty hours.  During that trip we were able to sail about one-third of the time, motor about a third, and motor sail, when the wind wasn't quite strong enough to do the trick, for the remaining third.  As the wind came and went, the sails went up and down quite a few times.  We left the steering to the autopilot.  We were free to watch or sleep or read as we pleased, with one of us keeping an eye out for other shipping.  

Mermaid.  An art quilt. 20" x 16"

Ed and I kept our regular watches.  One of mine was from midnight to 4:00 a.m.  On the second night of the trip, I was nearing the end of my night watch.  The wind was gradually dying yet again.  Only the jib sail was still up, but I hesitated going forward on the rolling foredeck to take it down by myself, preferring to wait for Ed's assistance.  I called him fifteen minutes early.  He came on deck, took down the sail, and we started the engine.  While up forward, Ed noticed several dolphins playing around the bow. 

Mermaid.  An art quilt. 20" x 16"  Detail

Though it was quite dark, the dolphins were plainly visible.  Their movements through the water generated phosphorescence, giving them the appearance of silver torpedoes streaking through the sea. Starting the engine didn't disturb them - they seemed enlivened by Tropic Moon's movement, porpoising through the water alongside the prow, and diving back and forth under the boat, through the phosphorescent bow wave generated by Tropic Moon's passage.  Though only a few minutes before I had been on the verge of falling asleep, I was now fully awake.  I watched the beautiful silvered dolphins at play until common sense finally took me below to my bed.  

Friday, November 24, 2017

1985 (6) - Man-Overboard Drill

Alcohol Ink Paintings on Yupo Paper.

To go to the beginning of this book, 
Tropic Moon: Memories, click HERE.

While in Almerimar, we met John and Trisha, from British Columbia, who were living on their sailboat, Satellite.  The day after we met them, friends of theirs, Lydia and Dennis, arrived from Canada to do some sailing on Satellite.  The six of us got into an interesting discussion on one of the hazards of boating - falling overboard.  Trisha had an almost pathological fear that if John were to fall overboard, she wouldn't be able to get him back on the boat.  Her fear had grown to such proportions that she wouldn't do even a day sail if she and John were alone.

John and Trish had recently invested in an interesting harness contraption, which would be thrown overboard if someone fell into the sea.  The harness was at the end of a long rope.  The theory was that you would use your boat to circle the person in the water until they were able to reach the floating harness.  Then there was a pulley system, attached to a winch, so the person could be winched back on board.  I didn't think it would serve any purpose to point out that this method presupposed that the person in the water was still conscious, and capable of getting into the harness.  Or to mention our belief that the most likely time for one of us to fall overboard was when the other person was off watch, and asleep below, so there wouldn't be anyone on deck to throw the harness over in the first place.

John and Trish had raised four children, and had always been involved in boating.  Trish told me they had done man-overboard drills with the children.  Proving that I'd never been a mother, I foolishly asked, "Did you throw one of the kids over?"  That gave Trish a moment's pause, but she recovered quickly and said that, no, they had used a boat cushion.  Dennis and Lydia had taken sailing classes at their local yacht club, including practice in rescuing inanimate objects.  They were surprised to hear that in all our years of cruising, we had never done a man-overboard drill.  Quite frankly, who wants to risk losing a boat cushion?

Thursday, November 23, 2017

1985 (5) - Granada and The Alhambra

The Alhambra, Granada, Spain

To go to the beginning of this book, Tropic Moon: Memories, click HERE.

For us, Granada was the main point of the trip.  Our three days there turned out to be well worth the wait.  Located in a mountainous region of great beauty, the lands, which once attracted Moorish sultans, now beckon skiers who flock to the popular resorts of the nearby Sierra Nevada.  But the true attraction of Granada is the Alhambra, a palatine city that stands on a hill above Granada like an Acropolis, defended by a series of towers and walls. 

C'mon, Ed.  Smile!  It won't kill you....

Cumulative history was evident at the Alhambra, starting with a military fortress from the 9th century, and beautiful palaces built by the sultans of the Muslim dynasty, which ran from the 13th to the 15th centuries.  When Ferdinand and Isabella, Spain's first Catholic rulers, defeated the Moors, they moved into the Moorish palaces, combined them, and built chapels and the like.  When Charles V came along in 1526, he found the facade too unimposing for his tastes, and added a rather incongruous Renaissance palace.  

The Courtyard of the Lions is the main courtyard of the Nasrid dynasty
Palace of the Lions, in the heart of the Alhambra, the Moorish citadel
formed by a complex of palaces, gardens and forts in Granada, Spain.

But it was the Moorish influence that dominated, with pillars, arched gates and passageways, and lovely stucco artwork in intricate geometric patterns covering the interior walls.  Gardens of great beauty, courtyards with reflecting pools and spraying fountains, surrounded by masses of blooming roses greeted the eye at every turn, and enhanced the view from every window.  While we had a lot of competition from tour groups while we were viewing the palace, by late afternoon things had quieted down considerably.  We did a little peaceful contemplation in the rose gardens of the Generalife, with the snow-capped Sierra Nevada peaks ranged behind us, and the city of Granada, the view framed by arches and palm trees, nestled below.  


After our time in Granada, a bus ride returned us to Almerimar and Tropic Moon.


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

1985 (4) - Madrid

Internet Photo.  Prado Museum, Madrid, Spain

To go to the beginning of this book, Tropic Moon: Memories, click HERE.

At the end of our stay in Toledo, Frank and Marie Anne headed south again; while Ed and I took a short train ride on to Madrid.  We spent our first full day in Madrid at the Prado, the national art museum, visually feasting on the work of Spain's most famous masters:  Velazquez, Goya and El Greco.  The day was a lesson in history, as well as art, as we followed the line of succession to the Spanish throne through the work of Spain's great artists. 

Internet Photo.  Royal Tapestry Factory.  Note the
beautiful tapestry in the background.

A guidebook we had read spoke about the existence of a Royal Tapestry Factory, where Goya had worked in the late 1700's.  There, he designed many of the paintings that were still used as weaving cartoons.  From the cartoons, the picture was traced onto the warp on the loom, and then the cartoon was used as a guide for the colors as the tapestry was woven.  The original paintings that Goya did while employed at the Tapestry Factory occupied several rooms of the Prado.  

Internet Photo.  We only saw men weaving on our visit.
They obviously employ women now.

The following morning, we navigated our way by foot and map to another part of the city.  After a bit of searching, we found the Royal Tapestry Factory.  There were many similarities to the use of traditional techniques employed at the sword factory of Toledo; the wall hangings were still woven by hand on upright tapestry looms.  The looms looked like they had been in service for several centuries.  They were about eight feet wide.  Up to three men (we saw no women), would sit behind a loom, weaving with a speed that was difficult to follow.  We stood before the looms, entranced, watching the development of brightly colored, highly detailed tapestries of some of the very designs we’d seen the day before in the Goya halls of the Prado Museum.  

Internet Photo.  Dining Room at the Royal Palace, Madrid.

That afternoon we visited the Royal Palace, no longer the residence of the royal family, who lived in a "suburban" palace, but now a museum open to the public.  Of the 2,800 rooms in the palace, we toured 45.  Every room seemed more ornate than the one preceding it.  The palace defied description, especially by my feeble efforts.  Suffice it to say, the opulence was beyond anything I had ever imagined.  We saw the dining room with a table that seated 145.  The room had fifteen chandeliers (I counted them).  The walls in many of the rooms were hung with beautiful tapestries, some Flemish in origin, but many "home town" products, woven a couple centuries earlier at the Royal Tapestry Factory.   

Internet Photo.  Display of Tapas.  Madrid, Spain

In the evenings we would wander the streets of Madrid, a city of dark, bulky, brooding buildings.  We didn't find it as pretty as Lisbon but, like any place, it had its own charm.  We saw a lot of the city while waiting for the dinner hour - never before 8:30 p.m. - and if you wanted to be Spanish, you'd starve till 10:00 p.m.  Or, far more likely, you'd visit one of the many bars, and sample the "tapas" (bar snacks), which ranged from olives and omelets to baby eels and pickled tripe!  

On our last night in Madrid, we boarded an express train at 10:30 p.m., and settled in our comfortable private compartment for the overnight ride south to Granada.  We had a sleeper compartment with two berths, a sink, and a cute little chamber pot.  We spent the first hour mesmerized by the passing countryside, slept well to the train's motion (good experience from Tropic Moon), and switched bunks in the middle of the night so we each got a turn at the upper.  First class all the way - the train slowed down during the night so passengers wouldn't arrive in Granada at some ungodly hour.  Each compartment was called on the telephone to give people a half hour's notice before the train's 8:00 a.m. arrival.  

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

1985 (3) – Toledo, Spain

Approaching Toledo

To go to the beginning of this book, Tropic Moon: Memories, click HERE.

We were concerned that Toledo’s history might have been overtaken by civilization, but that wasn't the case.  The Tajo River protects the ancient walled city on three sides.  We wandered the streets of the old city; saw El Greco's house, as well as the museum bearing his name.  We visited a church made famous by the El Greco painting, The Burial of Count Orgaz, which covered one of the walls.  We walked through the mammoth cathedral, and saw such an overwhelming opulence of statuary, paintings, altars and alcoves, as to almost stun the mind.  While most of the church was fairly dim, there was one very bright spot near the front of the cathedral.  Craning my neck, I looked up into a niche that extended well beyond the level of the ceiling.  Marble statues of saints guarded the entrance way, fresco paintings of heavenly scenes could be glimpsed behind the saints, and a window tucked almost out of sight at the top of the niche provided natural lighting for this peek up into the heavens.  

Frank, Marie Anne, and Ed

It was an El Greco painting of this hilled city, which we had once seen in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, that had tempted Ed and me to Toledo.  For Frank, it was the fact that Toledo had long been acknowledged as the sword-making capital of the world.  Frank, who collected walking sticks, particularly wanted one with a double-edged sword hidden inside.  (We didn't ask why....)  We found swords in virtually every shop, and the occasional walking stick, but no combination of the two.  Frank was disappointed, as the walking stick had been his main reason for visiting Toledo. 

Toledo, Spain

But then our wanderings took us down a narrow back street where we saw a sign marking the entrance to the sword factory, saying "free entry," and definitely not listed in any of our tourist literature.  A narrow shop fronted the ‘factory,’ displaying swords of various styles (some with marvelously ornate hilts), including rapiers, and even a battle axe or two. The man who waited on us demonstrated the wares by taking a very solid looking sword, resting the tip against the wall, and bending the excellent blade almost double, as if it were made of rubber.  While Frank again couldn't find exactly what he wanted, he did settle for an attractive walking stick with a "stabbing" sword, rather than a "slashing" sword, secreted within. 

Internet Photo.  Polishing the blade of a sword.

We asked to see the factory, and were taken first into a blacksmith's forge where the blades were shaped and tempered, and then into a room with lathes where men were putting the finishing touches on some of the metal hilts.  All the handles were cast in the shop.  Everything was done by hand, or with the most primitive equipment, as it had been done for centuries past.  This small, totally unassuming factory still maintained its worldwide reputation.  They were in the process of packing a case of competition swords for shipment to Australia.  

Toledo.  Another view.

Monday, November 20, 2017

1985 (2) – Spain

We found fancy envelopes and lovely postage stamps in Spain.

To go to the beginning of this book, Tropic Moon: Memories, click HERE.

By March we'd been in Gibraltar for over five months.  When the weather improved, we decided to make the break (got out the ax and chopped off the roots we'd grown), and sailed out of Gibraltar on March 24th.  We had been told repeatedly (to the point I was sick to death of hearing it), that the Mediterranean provided two kinds of sailing conditions - either a flat calm or a full gale.  We were pleasantly surprised when we had a lovely day sail in gentle breezes for our twenty-mile jaunt to the harbor of Estepona.  It was a nice way to start off "the season."  

Estepona postcard

We spent three nights in Estepona.  On our last morning, when we were getting ready to leave, I wanted to mail some postcards, but couldn’t get any stamps.  I met an older British woman in the grocery, and asked if she would mail them for me.  (You can always depend on women like her – they must have been the backbone of the British Empire.)  She asked me where we were headed.  When I told her Almerimar, she took me by the shoulders and declared, “God help you!  The wind blows like crazy, and there’s absolutely nothing to do there!”  With that pronouncement, she sailed out through the door.

You can see Almerimar on the southeast coast of Spain.

We were pleased we’d had a look, on our road trip, at the upcoming marinas.  We knew ahead of time there wasn't going to be much of interest to us along the Costa del Sol.  So we picked Almerimar Marina (about 150 miles east of Gibraltar), in the province of Almeria, as our next "mail stop," and made tracks in that direction.  Leaving Estepona, we had day sails (I use the term loosely as there was no wind and we motored all the way), of about 30 miles each.  With a favorable current, that meant around five hours of traveling.  We stopped two days each in Fuengirola, Torre del Mar, and Puerto de Motril before arriving at Almerimar.

While we arrived in Almerimar in a calm, it wasn't long before the wind was howling.  (Yes, I remembered what the British lady had told me.)  The occasional day when it did stop was a very welcome respite.  And there really was almost nothing to do there.  The nearest village was four miles away, and the nearest city, Almeria, about thirty miles distant.  But the isolation of Almerimar was one of our chief reasons for selecting it.  We wanted a safe place to leave Tropic Moon while we did some touring inland through Spain.  

Internet Photo.  These days, Almerimar is a golf resort.
You can see the marina in the background.

We had stopped our mail from home weeks before we left Gibraltar.  From the time in Gibraltar when I called my mother to restart our mail with the new Almerimar address, till we actually arrived there, was another three weeks.  Mounds of mail had accumulated in the marina office.  When we went to collect the mail, Paco, one of the men who handled the desk, cried out, "You are here!  I begin to wonder who the Moon is!" 

A near-empty marina, when we were at Almerimar.

The next morning, when I was on the dock, a man came up to me on a motor scooter.  He asked if we'd gotten our mail.  I told him we’d picked it up the night before.  We got to talking.  Frank (British), and his wife, Marie Anne (Dutch), were traveling on a catamaran, and came from Holland by way of the French canal system.  They were both physiotherapists, and were taking a couple years off.  They planned to set up a new practice in Wales.  They’d been working in Holland for nine years.  Frank and Marie Anne had visited Granada (our prime target), but were planning to drive up to Toledo in a borrowed car.  In typical "open boat" fashion - though we'd only met five minutes before - Frank asked if we'd like to go along.  It was too good an offer to pass up; a few days later the four of us left for Toledo.

Not a great photo, but can you spot the windmills on the hills?
We not only visited the ancient walled city of Toledo, but also Madrid, Spain's bustling, cosmopolitan capital, as well as the old Moorish stronghold, the Alhambra, at Granada.  We toured castles, cathedrals, fortresses, museums, palaces, age-old factories, and beautiful gardens.  But what really captured our imaginations, far more than buildings and fountains, were the history, legend and romanticism of Spain.  On our drive to Toledo, we passed through the province of La Mancha, the legendary setting of Don Quixote who, on his horse Ronzinante, and with his faithful squire, Sancho Panza, had done battle with the windmills of this area.  We were watching for windmills, and saw very few at first, causing Marie Anne to comment that Don Quixote must have been more successful in his quest than she had been led to believe.  But then we approached a hill with a ruined castle on the peak, and two rows of unvanquished windmills marching proudly down either side. 

Internet Photo.  Windmills, and castle, in La Mancha

The scenery in the mountains was beautiful, and very appealing in its agricultural simplicity and vibrant colors.  From a distance, the hills appeared to be the work of a meticulous seamstress specializing in patchwork quilts.  We gazed on a tapestry of fields done in golden browns, deep reds and lime greens, under a blue sky stitched with puffy white clouds.  Included were hundreds of olive trees, painstakingly added in forest green French knots, on a background of rich red ocher cloth.  

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

1985 (1) – Road Trip

One of the many interesting shops in Gibraltar.

To go to the beginning of this book, Tropic Moon: Memories, click HERE.

Our weeks in Gibraltar turned into months.  On February 5, 1985, the border between Gibraltar and Spain reopened after sixteen years.  That was a Tuesday.  On Friday, Julie (a friend from another boat), and I walked across into Spain.  The town on the other side of the border is La Linea de la Concepcion.  We wandered around looking in shop windows, and stopped for an ice cream cone.  It turned out to be Julie’s treat because I hadn’t thought to change any money into pesetas!  We walked for three hours, and were pretty tired when we got back to the marina.

I watched many movies at this theater.  The cost was one dollar.
The movie changed at least once a week.  They never knew
what movie they would be showing until the film arrived in the mail!

One day in early March, we were surprised to be hailed from the dock with a loud call, "Can't believe you're still here in Gibraltar."  It was Tony and Marjorie, a couple who had been friends while we were in Portugal, and who had stayed in Vilamoura for the winter.  Their boat, Marjorie II, was still in Vilamoura, but they had driven to Gibraltar in a rental car.  Their intention was to check out the marinas along the southern Spanish coast, and select a nice one to moor in when friends, who were expected in mid-April, came to visit.  They had decided to stop in Gibraltar to see if we were still around. 

The Rock of Gibraltar, rising behind buildings at the marina.

We were really pleased to see them, and talked them into staying overnight.  That evening we took them for curry at our favorite Indian restaurant, the Maharaja.  I was fairly new to curries, and always ordered my lamb with "very mild" flavor, done in a delicious cream and coconut sauce.  Ed that night braved "medium," but Marjorie and Tony, old hands at curry, went straight to "very hot."  The waiter asked them if they meant VERY hot and they said, yes, very, VERY hot.  Without even seeming to sweat, they thoroughly enjoyed a meal that would have sent me straight to the hospital. 

Gibraltar street scene

Tony and Marjorie invited us to go for a ride with them the next day to see the marinas along the first section of the southern coast of Spain.  We visited four marinas by lunchtime.  The marinas were fine, but everything was very tourist-oriented, with high-rise apartment buildings.  There was lots of new construction, all part of Spain's tourist industry.  Tony and Marjorie selected Duquesa because it was clean and quiet and far from any town.  We decided to give that one a miss - for the same reason - because it was far from any town.  

Internet Photo.  The 18th century bridge at Ronda.

The four of us had a pleasant lunch in Marbella at an outdoor cafe alongside the marina.  After lunch, Tony got out the map and suggested we return to Gibraltar by a different route, taking a drive through the nearby mountains.  Making what turned out to be a good choice, we decided to pass through the city of Ronda.  The only information Marjorie's Michelin guide had on Ronda was that it contained the oldest bullring in Spain.  After a couple hours of climbing over 3000 feet on a new, winding, well-built road, we reached Ronda.  In the center of a mountain range that bears its name, Ronda is set on a plateau on the edge of a gorge, overlooking a plunging ravine.  Peering straight down 650 feet from the 18th century bridge that spans the ravine was enough to give anyone a case of the dizzies.

While we didn't have much time to spend in Ronda, we particularly didn't want to miss Spain's oldest bullring.  We bought tickets to go inside.  A guide led us through the bullring and told us some of its history.  Built in 1784, it was still in use, with bullfights held at the time of the local fiestas.  King Juan Carlos attended the September bullfights.  Our guide pointed out the royal box to us, as well as the area where the band sat to perform.  We squeezed ourselves behind the boards where the matadors go to escape the bull's horns, and then our guide took us to the center of the ring.  There he clapped his hands, and the sound reverberated around the walls of the bullring.  Marjorie and I tried some foot stomping and a few "Oles!" while Tony and Ed pretended not to know us, and the guide smiled indulgently. 

Postcard I purchased.  Not the bullring we visited.  We were up in the
mountains.  This bullring was in Malaga, down by the sea.

The guide then pointed us on to the museum, and told us that we would see "toro" inside.  The museum was an experience - there were several bulls' heads attached to the walls, a pictorial history of bullfighting at Ronda, and cases containing retired-matadors' hand-embroidered costumes (called a "suit of lights"), several of which had dark stains which our new guide explained to us were "bwud" from the bulls.  (It took us awhile to catch on to his highly accented English.)  Bullfighting was often a family tradition.  Portraits of successive generations of bullfighters, grouped by family, also adorned the walls.  There was even an old photograph of Ernest Hemingway attending a Ronda bullfight.  In Ronda's long history, only one matador had ever been killed in its bullring -- illustrated in another graphic pictorial display.   

The drive home to Gibraltar was breathtaking.  An older road, full of impossible curves and switchbacks, meandered through orange groves of colorful fruit, passed shepherds tending their sheep, and zipped through small hamlets of whitewashed, red-roofed homes, suspended precariously on the slopes of the mountains.  It was the time of the full moon.  We watched it rise like a pale, colorless orange from the mountains to the east.  As we descended from the heights, we would get the occasional glimpse of "the Rock" far below us, with the Atlas Mountains of Morocco ranged behind it like protective parents, across the narrow Strait of Gibraltar.