The Big Voyage of the next Velvet Elvis

Ships, Fog, Undocumented Immigrants, Africa, and an Orca

April 05, 2024

I mentioned it in a video that I posted during the wee hours this morning, but let's talk more about the orca swim-by that happened yesterday morning.

We set out from a Spanish marina that is right on the border with Gibralter. When we pulled out into the bay, we pulled into a pretty thick fog bank. For a little bit, we were going to find a spot close to shore to anchor. But as we motored toward a spot that I picked out on the chart, the visibility got a little better, so we inched forward very slowly.

It was kind of eerie. We were constantly passing the shape of huge container ships outlined in the fog, accompanied by the music of various ship horns sounding near and far.

Foggy at Gibraltar

Vanya and I were at the stern (back of the boat) coiling lines and putting away fenders. He saw the big mammel lift up out of the water right beside him. I didn't turn until I heard it take a breath, and I saw a huge black curve, longer than our boat is wide sliding back down into the deeper water.

I was right by the helm, and I threw the boat into hard reverse. This was a manuever I've been mentally practicing for months.

She (I'm going with female but who knows) didn't show herself again, and she didn't bump the boat at all. My heart, on the other hand, pounded as hard as it ever has for a good half hour.

The intense day was just getting underway. As soon as we got out into the open water, a huge ferry was zooming towards us at a speed faster than boats should go, even while sounding their fog horn. That was the beginning of several hours of constantly calculating where giant ships would be, while they all traveled at slightly different speeds and angles. We were under sail downwind in a strong blow, and we couldn't maneuver freely due to fear of an accidental jibe.

I need to back up and talk about why were in Spain rather than in Gibraltar to begin with. Cruising rumor has it that there's a marina in Gibralter with big private bath tubs, and that is very appealing to me.

I'm not sure why this rock is so famous. It's not really that pretty.

It is big, though. See the sailboat for scale.

But we've been in the Schengen zone since January 8. This is a treaty amongst most of the EU countries (and maybe a few that aren't EU) that lets you check in to Europe and just bounce from country to country without going through customs and immigration at every new place. Americans are allowed 90 days inside of Schengen out of every 180, and our time is pretty much up.

We went to Spain to clear out, and save our remaining few days to legally tour the Canary Islands, which are also part of Spain. But it turns out that when we exported the boat from Slovenia, they also stamped us out of the country in our passports. We didn't know, and we didn't check in on the next stop, so we had been travelling illegally since the first week of February.

The Spanish border police were very nice. They conferred amongst themselves for a little while and then just decided to stamp us in as if we had just shown up by boat, and then stamp us right back out. It took us longer to find the right building than it did to get our passports straight. My catch phrase for them is "No lines, no fines, no jail time!"

Now, we're headed South along the Moroccan coast. Once we turned the corner and were in the Atlantic Ocean looking at Africa, everything changed. It went from cold to warm, the wind died down, and insects showed up. All of that in the space of an hour. It's wild over here.

Someone wanted a photo in front of the big rock but couldn't handle the bright light in the sky.
One of these stupid little bastards actually did bump into a rudder, and then it swam off in a hurry, no doubt sore and embarrassed.