The Catamaran Adventures of Noel and Ceu
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Sailing The Gibraltar Strait from West To East

Current Location: Gibraltar
Current Position: 36 9.45 N 005 21.92 W Click to view map.
Distance sailed since last post: 84 nautical miles. View the map of our voyage track here

We had it all figured out. A neighbor in the marina lent us Colin Thomas’s guide to sailing the straits (yes, the same Colin from Summer Breeze that we sailed with two years ago), so we had all the gen on the tides, which are very complicated. This book is the definitive work, and is pretty much essential if you want to get these 3 knot tides figured out. You really don’t want to be trying to sail AGAINST a current like that!

The forecast was for Force 5 Northerlies, decreasing through the day to end at about a Force 2 or 3 Westerly in the Strait.

High tide at Gibraltar was about 4:45pm. We wanted to be off Tarifa at High Water so as to catch the strongest tides across to Gibraltar.

I figured out that if we left Cadiz at 6am, then we would make a good 5 knots in that wind (with engines to help if needed), and so we would be at Cabo Trafalgar (Where Nelson did his stuff) at about HW minus 5 hours, giving us 5 hours to complete that final 25 miles to Tarifa. At Trafalgar we would still have some current against us, but it would be turning over the next couple of hours.

So we went to bed in a howling gale (or at least it sounded like it) and hoped that the storm would have settled in the morning.

At 5:30 we got up, picked up the forecast (still the same) and decided to go.

Leaving the harbor was a bit bumpy with big waves and 18 knots of wind against, but as soon as we turned south it all disappeared. Soon we were motoring in a flat calm, doing barely 2 kts against the tide. Meanwhile, the weather updates on the radio were still talking about the Force 5. How can these forecasts be so wrong??????

We arrived at Trafalgar 3 hours behind schedule. Gradually the tide turned, and our speed (but not the wind) improved. We arrived at Tarifa about 2 hours behind schedule. But now the tide was strongly with us. Soon we were moving at 9kts, with the wind picking up too. The sun was shining, visibility was good, and the sea was smooth. There was constant chatter on the radio with all the ships going by and checking in with Tarifa radio.

Some poor soul was getting heck from a Spanish warship who said he was in a military practice area, even though the other ship’s chart said he was outside it.

Then, on top of everything, our autohelm decided it didn’t want to work any more. So now we had to hand steer for half of the journey. Well, at least we didn’t have to do that for half of the Atlantic!

We arrived at Gibraltar just as the sun was setting. Spectacular! So many ships at anchor in the bay, so many lights on the ships and on the shore. Could have been Christmas.

Now all we had to do was find our way to La Linea (the Spanish town that borders Gibraltar) even though our chart plotter didn’t have a detailed chart for the area. It seems our charts only go as far as Tarifa! Fortunately we had a backup chart on the laptop.

We pulled into La Linea harbor in the dark, found a nice spot to anchor just next to another catamaran, poured ourselves a rum punch, and sat down to write this.

A full and interesting day! We look forward to exploring ashore tomorrow.


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