Seventy-three-year-old yacht crewmember Len Helfrich has become quite an expert on Gibraltar – having been stranded on the Rock for a fortnight.
Hailing from KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, Len flew into Gibraltar on Tuesday 17th April expecting to disembark the aircraft and immediately board Phoenicia.
The 21 metre sailing yacht, built as a replica of a 600BC Phoenician cargo ship, had previously visited Gibraltar during an epic 20,000 mile circumnavigation of Africa.
On this occasion, the unique vessel was on its way to ‘the Rock’ for some much needed R&R en-route from Sardinia to London, and also to collect Len. Yet high winds and turbulent waves delayed its journey across the Mediterranean.
Len, meanwhile, was confined to the Peninsula because of Visa regulations – and made himself quite at home. “It wasn’t until I was in Gibraltar that I realised quite how delayed Phoenicia was going to be and I don’t know what I would have done without the help of Ocean Village marina,” he said.
“I literally had nowhere to stay and limited euros as you don’t need much cash at sea. The marina team pointed me in the direction of affordable accommodation and after endless days exploring I became quite the Gibraltar expert.
“I climbed the Rock a few times, acted as impromptu tour guide for disorientated visitors and took plenty of group photos using their own cameras. I’ve also been impressed with Ocean Village, a very hi-tech marina with fabulous facilities.”
Phoenicia eventually arrived at the Rock on Thursday 3rd May – around 16 days behind schedule. By then, Len was happy to bring his unexpected fortnight’s holiday in Gibraltar to a close.
“I couldn’t decide what was worse, waiting or sailing… At least onboard Phoenicia I will be making headway and doing something constructive,” said Len, who previously crewed Phoenicia during her African circumnavigation and is no stranger to the trials of sea life.
This especially applies to his experiences aboard the 600BC Phoenician cargo ship. “If the ship gets wet your bunk gets wet, there are no winches so 30 metres of anchor chain can take up to an hour and a half to haul up,” said Len.
“The toilet facilities are at best described as ‘rustic’ but she sort of grows on you and I found it difficult to resist a second stint onboard.”
Phoenicia is likewise happy to have Len back, and to return to the Rock for another visit. Said her Captain, Philip Beale: “Phoenicia is delighted to be back in Gibraltar and hosted once again by Ocean Village.
“We first visited Ocean Village towards the end of Phoenicia's historic circumnavigation of Africa in August 2010 and we received exemplary service and support from the team. They have also worked tirelessly for our current visit and offered vital assistance to crew member Len who has been a fortnight in Gibraltar in anticipation of our arrival.
“We are still urgently looking for one or two other crew members for our sail to London’s St Katharine Docks where she will be transformed into a floating museum for the summer. If you’re keen, get in touch.”
Phoenicia will now retrace the ancient Phoenician-Cornish tin trade route and head towards Falmouth and finally London, arriving at St Katharine Docks on 2nd June.