Fifty-seven days out of Jamaica – forty-two days after I picked up Raven – we caught sight of the Rock. Gibraltar was originally called jebel al Tarik, Tarik’s Mountain, after the Moorish general who led his mixed Arab and Berber forces north across the Strait in 711 AD on their way to conquer Spain. Raven explained this to me; while studying her Hispanic heritage, she had become something of an expert on Spanish history.
The Nile, the Danube, the Rhone and thousands of lesser streams feed the Mediterranean, yet it is never filled. Surrounded by the land masses of Europe, Asia, and Africa, and sheltered from the cold currents of the North Atlantic, the warm basin of the Mediterranean becomes a great still, sending billions of tons of water into the air every day. So much so that a current of cold salty water from the Atlantic flows into the Mediterranean through the Straits of Gibraltar.
For us, the current wasn’t enough. We first gained, then lost, sight of Gibraltar. The levante was blowing in our faces and the current could not overcome it. For two days we tacked around outside the Strait until the wind shifted far enough to the north to give us a slant we could use. We crossed into the Mediterranean on the twenty-seventh of May.
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Since our first night of passion, everything had changed between us. Raven had become easy in my presence. On days when the sun was warm, we rarely bothered with clothing. We turned brown. We made love when the mood took us, mostly on deck in the sunshine. We discovered that the cabin house was just the right height for certain interesting games.
It was an extended honeymoon for two strangers. I grew to know her body in every way, and her mind in some ways, but her soul remained beyond my grasp. I could see hints of it in her smiles and in her sudden brief angers, but she kept the innermost parts of her self barricaded behind her smooth manner, her sunny smile, and her supple body.
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My original plan had included stops in the Azores, Lisbon, Gibraltar, Cartagena, and Barcelona before delivering Wahini to Will in Marseilles. After Raven came aboard so abruptly, all that had to change. There was nothing in my ship’s papers to account for her presence and she had no passport. I was, in essence, smuggling her in. Wherever I first landed, I would have to explain her presence to the port authorities. I wanted the backing of a friendly consulate when I tried to convince some foreign government that she had “fallen” off a cruise ship and I had picked her up. We were certainly not going to complicate our lives by saying that she was thrown off her ship.
It seemed a good idea to sail directly to Marseille, but the wind was not cooperative. The levante continued to blow in our faces. We could make a close reach most of the time, but Wahini didn’t like that point of sailing in her boomless condition. Our progress was slow.
Eleven days after Gibraltar, we passed the Chateau de If on its island outside Marseille harbor. Alexandre Dumas had placed both The Count of Monte Christo and The Man in the Iron Mask in that prison. It looked the part. The entrance to Marseille was difficult, so we brailed up the wounded sail and went in under power. more tomorrow