17-Feb-2004 -- On Feb. 5th at midnight, - en route from Vlissingen (The Netherlands) to La Goulette (Tunisia) with potatoes - a forty nautical miles West of the Strait of Gibraltar, our engine had a sudden breakdown due to a bearing became worn out at the crankshaft and the respective pin was damaged as well. Such a damage requires repair which cannot be carried out by our crew, and so the ship's owners asked us to proceed as carefully as possible to the port of Gibraltar, where the technicians of a specialized workshop and the necessary tools and equipment were already waiting for us.
The repair, - machining down the crankpin -, took ten days, and today we could resume our voyage to the port of La Goulette (near Tunis), where they are already impatiently waiting for their 2500 tons of potatoes.
Heading towards Tunisia I decided to visit 36N 5W, the Westernmost offshore confluence in the Mediterranean Sea.
The most prominent object which can be seen from this confluence is undisputedly the Rock of Gibraltar, attaining an elevation of well over 400 m, and standing on a peninsula extending N-S for a distance of 5.4 km and being about 2 km wide.
Gibraltar, whose name comes from the Arab Jabal al-Ṭāriq ("The Mountain of Tariq") and in the old mythology was known as the "Columns of Heracles" is a British possession since many centuries and claimed by the Spaniards for almost the same period as well. Gibraltar played a significant role in the past wars and is heavily fortified. Every traffic in and out of the Mediterranean Sea can easily be controlled and even stopped from there, if circumstances do require it so. Britain is present there with warships and submarines. Luckily I could take a picture of one during our port stay. It surfaced, changed a few people and after two minutes or so it disappeared again to continue patrolling.
Further it is the only place in Europe where monkeys are native. According to an old legend British rule will cease here as soon as the last monkey has disappeared. Accordingly the British pay utmost attention to them and thus these apes enjoy the best treatment and cure.
At the Strait of Gibraltar Europe is closest to Africa. On the right we see Gibraltar, left is Punta Almina, which belongs to Spanish Morocco. The mountain near Punta Almina is only half as high as Gibraltar Rock and of darker color, thus, although a little bit closer, it is far not so well visible as Gibraltar.
The area is a melting pot of many races. The British have brought mainly Indians, and for the North Africans it was easy to cross the Strait, being only a 15 km wide. Hundred thousands of refugees from Africa have crossed this Strait, looking for better life conditions in wealthy Europe. Since several years the "Fortress Europe" with its strict immigration regulations is trying to stop this constant flow of unwanted immigrants. Traffic, especially of small boats during night time, is vigilantly monitored there.
On the Southern side of the Strait, just opposite Gibraltar, there is the Spanish town of Ceuta, a busy ferry port and a good place for bunkering (i.e. refuelling ships) as well. Ceuta lies on a peninsula extending E-W, of which the Easternmost point is Punta Almina.
The visibility was not so bad today, but for those preferring to see Gibraltar better I enclose a postcard. Gibraltar has its own stamps, coins and banknotes. The money I have spent completely during port stay in the local casino, and so I can no longer make a picture of it :-(
Ships of all kind and shape daily pass the Strait of Gibraltar. Here an interesting one, - a car carrier from Korea, full of KIAs and Hyundays.
Last but not least I am pleased to introduce my new confluence companion: It is Chief Officer Leon Leprozo from the Philippines, who recently signed on in the Netherlands for a period of 12 months.