It was the first tango with bureaucracy and ultimately it would have been more constructive to build a boat out of the paperwork.
Having thought I'd fulfilled the guidelines set out by the Harbour Master, before I set off from Paris, (which included mobilising an ambulance, two life boats and getting a fitness approval) I was then told that we had to allow three weeks to plot our route and conduct shipping traffic around the kayak. The Strait is one of the biggest shipping lanes in the world and so the guidelines were understandable. Unfortunately in the three weeks the Harbour Master required, the lifeboat operator ceased operations for the winter, until January.
Not only a frustrating delay, but one which would have ruled out the impending Atlantic row for one year until the trade winds started once again. This chain of dominos was still making more ground than me, and so the decision was taken to cycle west for Portugal now and commence the ocean row from Lagos on the south west coast, heading for Guyana in South America in January.
After the one month hiatus it was back to Gibraltar, and I must have been showing signs of stress as I was offered both a Christian blessing at Saint Joseph's Parish Church and a card of Rabi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, with an inscription of a prayer on the underside, on the same day.
When myself and Louise had last cycled to Seville several weeks before, we were both easily picked out from the crowd by our lobster-red skin. Now everyone was walking around in jackets and scalves, instead of clinging to the shade of the narrow streets, but perfect for a fair skinned Englishman in need of a rest and able to tolerate the 20oC the Sevillians found chilly.
The main road wasn't offering a huge amount in the way of scenery, but after an underwhelming border crossing between France and Spain (no checkpoints, bollards, guards, not even a 'Welcome to Spain' sign) there was a mighty suspension bridge passing over the Rio Guadiana and separating Spain from Portugal. Not completely confident this was entirely legal for a cyclist to be on the highway I rolled through at a pace which wasn't so fast that it suggested I was attempting to flee a crime scene, but not so slow to encourage conversation with the border guards.
Food, as it so often does, is one thing which can gain my attention from an uninspiring cycle ride and throughout Portugal road-stands selling oranges lined the streets, each using an individual approach to marketing. I picked up a dozen 'sumo' oranges for a Euro from a gentleman taking shade under an umbrella, but other sellers literally sold from the back of a van, from the seats of cars, dangled the netting of the orange bunches from post boxes, and my personal favourite, a chest of drawers positioned on the road side with oranges on each shelf.
I was clutching at oranges for entertainment slightly, but it was very quick progress to Lagos, and the relief of completing the first leg of the journey soon followed, closely accompanied by the first sense of aprehension in rowing the North Atlantic ocean.
The sea lightly rolled to the shore and as I posed for a few pictures and completed the baptism of the front wheel, but for now it's back to Birmingham. In eight weeks I'll return with the crew of ocean rowers to row, through the marina waters only a few meters from this beach, across 3,500 miles of North Atlantic ocean to arrive in South America. Hopefully it will be less problematic than that 18km journey across the Strait of Gibraltar.