I sailed away from the rock as fast as the board would take me. Out into the distance, over towards Africa. As long as I could still see the rock through the haze I wasn't gybing. Except..........minutes earlier Tom had uncharacteristically wiped out - that double crossing of the straits had taken it's toll on us and we were both exhausted and beginning to make mistakes. Last time I'd seen Tom he was in the water.....if he was still in trouble now it was my duty to wait - even with what might be an attendant shark? - I wasn't so sure! - luckily, I never did have to make that call - a sudden sight of him and I knew he was OK, a fair way back, but surfing steadily towards me. I blasted on out into the straits, waiting till the Rock of Gibraltar was disappearing into the haze, and then gybing the board..............the one gybe I couldn't drop...........no falling in...........that/those sharks weren't having me.........I began telling myself not to fall, realising that the harder I thought about it, the more nervous I was becoming, the more inevitable the mistake. Sod it! Don't even think about it, just gybe....you know you can do it........and I did. Perfect.
Tom caught me up round the back of the rock, snared in the warmest of doldrums......the towering sheer grey brown easterly face of Gibraltar spent all it's day staring out into the sun, heated like coals in a sauna, and then, as night was falling, it radiated back out into the Med............we were sailing past a giant, natural radiant heater! Much more than warm gusts falling down from the cliffs, these were hot exhausts venting themselves across the flat inshore waters and onto our sails, fierce enough to make my cheeks glow......surreal!
"Sorry for not waiting back there," I said "think I saw a shark". "Apology accepted" replied Tom. The wind was still up, from here the resorts of the Costa del Sol stretched tantalisingly towards the horizon, but we were absolutely exhausted, not an ounce of energy left. We'd not left shore till gone two pm, but the strong winds, the short, sharp seas coupled with the emotional toll of those two crazy crossings of the straits left us totally beaten. One last spurt saw us past Gibraltar's bizarre runway ( the peninsular is so narrow that the only road on and off also forms part of the airstrip ), though by now I had too little energy left to survive even the gentle shore break of the Med and landed in a twilight heap on the grit-grey, grainy sand of La Linea , crossing into Spain for our fourth and final time (from France, Portugal, Morocco and now Gibraltar).
We'd made it! Finally! From Hayling Island, UK to Gibraltar, UK.....two and a half thousand miles of windsurfing, circumnavigating the treacherous, inhospitable, Atlantic coast of Europe. We survived the 'Coast of Death' (north eastern Spain's 'Costa de la Muerte'), we'd sailed round the end of the world, 'Fin' 'Terra' in Latin, three times: France, Spain and Portugal had each called their lonely western most rocky capes the world's end ( Finstere in French, Finisterre in Spanish and similarly in Portuguese - though this last, the gnarliest of the lot was renamed a few centuries back). And the other capes too... we'd survived the overfalls at the Alderney Race and the mauling at Raz de Seine, we'd crossed the English Channel and the straits of Gibraltar, we'd been endlessly pounded and trashed by the swell in the Bay of Biscay. We'd survived the surf at Trafalgar and the standing waves that had sunk Columbus at Sagres. Yes! We'd made it!
Dwarfed by the magnificent rock of Gibraltar I shook hands with Tom: "Thanks for coming along for the ride." I said, "Thanks for taking me" he replied, "....for a ride!". And that was that. Two and a half thousand miles of lunacy over without argument. I ain't the easiest, but in five outings over seven years Tom and I had never crossed swords, this amicable yorkshireman had stoically handled my stubbornness, my stupidity, my fits of pique and the numerous 'international incidents' that had inevitably ensued. He'd been my safety line whilst we'd tiptoed wantonly over Davy Jones' locker; I knew I could count on him on the water and Fab on the shore, she'd find us through thick and thin, driving more than five thousand miles with a young family in tow, all the while shielding us from the troubles that they surely sufferred. Show me another travelogue that kept the same crew over so many years!
My thanks to Tom and Fab and everyone else who so willingly and unsparingly indulged me, especially the other drivers Jayne, Kevin and, of course 'Uncle' Jon Williams, who was still texting us with weather forecasts even as we landed at Gibraltar. A crazy, stupid, dangerous and pointless idea finally and successfully completed ........................... completed? what about the Med?.....and Suez?...the Red Sea?....none of those Atlantic swells...surely we could hack that in our old age? We carved a last 'X' on the sea wall at La Linea.......just in case!