I am an early riser and it's not because I can bound out of bed totally refreshed after a solid 8 hours sleep. In fact I can't remember how many decades it's been since I've actually had more than a 2 hour stretch of continuous sleep. I live with sleep apnoea and my body constantly wakes me up throughout the night whenever the apnoea stops me breathing. So generally after about 6 hours of combined sleep/non-sleep my brain begins thinking about the coming days events and once that process starts there's no going back to sleep. So I get up and start my day, whatever time that may be, usually it's around 05:00-ish.
When I had my computer repair business in Australia, the hours between 05:00 and 08:00 were very productive hours. I could achieve a lot before the world started making demands on my time. Flash forward 3 months on from leaving Australia and finding myself on a sailing school yacht in a Mediterranean marina, my early mornings were just as productive.
I made the short stroll to the marina facilities a leisurely one and also used the walk time to share my experience on camera or grab some footage of the marina for future videos. And at that time of day I was generally the only person taking a shower which meant there was no pressure to quickly get in and get out, so that first morning in Alcaidesa Marina I took all the time I wanted and enjoyed my long hot shower.
Feeling refreshed, I stepped back on board Rockefeller as Dan was coming up to the cockpit with his morning cup of tea. "We're going to La Duquesa." he said "The wind's made the decision for us." Inside I was a little disappointed to be going further North, but I was also quite excited about the 24 nautical mile sail ahead of us. After breakfast we prepped the boat, slipped the lines and headed back out into Gibraltar Bay, dodged around the big ships at anchor, gave a wide berth to the southern tip of Gibraltar and pointed Rockefeller's bow in the direction of Puerto de la Duquesa. The weather was perfect, blue skies, white fluffy clouds and a 20 knot wind on our beam. We made good time and our skipper Mareike decided to use the afternoon to teach us more manoeuvres in the uncluttered water just outside the marina entrance. Eventually the sun began heading towards the horizon and we headed into our marina berth for the night.
La Duquesa is a small but very nice marina with lots of pluses. When you check in they give you a complimentary bottle of wine, which is actually a really nice drop of red. Their free marina Wi-Fi is super fast too. Back in Australia, connected to ADSL through a phone line, if we got 5mbps download and 0.7mbps upload speed that was considered a good day. Here in La Duquesa Marina the download speed was 19mbps and the upload was 7mbps. It was actually uploading 2mbps faster than the best download speed I ever got in Oz.
Then there are the facilities. If there was an Olympic event for
the best marina facilities (so far) then Puerto de la Duquesa would win gold. The first thing that impressed me as I closed the door and shut out the cold early evening wind, was the fact that they had a wall mounted space heater. It wasn't blasting out heat, but it was warm enough to take the chill away and make it comfortable to get undressed prior to entering the shower cubicle. The facilities were spotlessly clean and everything worked, there was even a small bookshelf were you could leave the books you'd finished reading and pick up some replacements.
Just a 2 minute walk from where Rockefeller was berthed there were plenty of restaurants and bars. Many were closed for the winter and those that were open were not packed, so finding a spot for a couple of cold beers was easy.
The next day there was no wind so we had to motor-sail the 28 nautical miles to Ceuta - an autonomous Spanish region on the coast of north Africa next door to Morocco. There was a light drizzle falling as we docked stern to and began putting the boat to bed. As the night wore on the drizzle turned to rain and the following morning we woke up to intermittent showers. Thankfully there was some wind and it was mostly heading the way we wanted to go which was back to Alcaidesa Marina in Spain next door to Gibraltar. The sail was straightforward but the rain and wind chill made it uncomfortable.
From Alcaidesa we took Rockefeller back to Gibraltar on Friday afternoon where we were debriefed by our skipper Mareike and told that we'd all passed the Competent Crew course. I still had some more work to do on my knot tying skills, but I now at least knew which end of the yacht was the pointy end.
Saturday morning we said goodbye to Dan who was flying back to the UK, and got to meet Ryan and Colm our two new crew mates who were also doing the RYA Day Skipper Course with us on Rockefeller. I have explained in a previous blog about how, as we began the Competent Crew Course, my whole world took a 180 degree turn as our skipper Mareike started talking in a foreign language - not her native German language - the language of yachts. Well that curved ball got even curvier over the next 4 days in the 'greenhouse' classroom as we began to work with charts, tides, currents and plotting a course. My already bewildered brain felt like it was being turned into mashed potato.
After completing our 4 days of Day Skipper classroom theory it was time to get back out on the water and turn theory into practice. Our sailing itinerary for the next 5 days was a rehash of the first week in reverse. We sailed from Gibraltar to Alcaidesa on Wednesday, to Ceuta on Thursday, to La Duquesa on Friday, to Alcaidesa on Saturday and back to Gibraltar on Sunday. Once again we had a mixed bag of wind and weather and on the Saturday afternoon coming around the southern tip of Gibraltar we even had to plough through a force 8 with wind gusts up to 39 knots.
It was another great week of learning and sailing and by the end of it we were becoming a fairly good team, each of us knowing what to do and when to do it. By 15:30 on Sunday afternoon Rockefeller was put to bed for the last time by our crew and it was time for our final debrief from Mareike. This time it was done on a one to one basis and I will admit to being slightly anxious as I waited to find out if my efforts in the classroom combined with the last 5 days sailing had been good enough. When Mareike told me that I had passed the Day Skipper course I got a little teary, I think a lot of it was relief that the 12 hour days had paid off. There was plenty of beer and red wine consumed that evening as we toasted our course success and said our goodbyes to Ryan and Colm who were heading off to The Caribbean and Mareike who was moving to the yacht next door to begin a new sailing course with a new crew.
The morning of Day 17 I awoke with a slight headache that was easily chased away with lots of water and a big bowl of cereal. Then at 09:30 Peter, the owner of Rock Sailing Gibraltar, came on board Rockefeller and began teaching us our last course, marine diesel engine maintenance. It was a great way to end our experience and it just added an extra layer of confidence to top off what we'd already learned.