Recommended time to leave Gibraltar: about 2 hours after HW in Tarifa

Blue Note
Marco M.
Wed 8 Oct 2014 00:30

Below are few links on the recommended optimum time to be at the Gibraltar strait (right in front of Tarifa) in order to take advantage of the westerly tidal current.
Bottom line: the W tidal current  starts 6 hours after high water in Tarifa.
Given that from La Linea to Tarifa is bout 17 NM (about 4 hours of sail/motor considering casting off and low speed getting out of the marina and Gibraltar harbor.
It implies leaving  from La Linea about 2  hours after high water in Tarifa.
(Note HW in Gibraltar is about 30 minutes after HM in Tarifa)


Strong currents and tidal streams may be experiencied in the Strait. The maximum rates of surface flow in each direction which may be expected are about 2 knots in the W-going direction and about 4-7 knots in the E-going direction.
The maximum rates of tidal streams are about 3 knots in the W-going direction and about 2-7 knots in the E-going direction.
In the middle of the strait the E-going stream commences about the time of high water in Tarifa and the W-going stream 6 hours later. The times at which these streams commence become earlier rapidly as the shores of the strait are approached on either side, as indicated by pecked lines on the nautical chart.


The reason you are getting different answers about the tidal streams is because they differ on the Spanish side to the African side. Taking HW Tarifa as the "bench mark", On the Spanish side, the E'ly flow begins at HW Tarifa, becoming up to 2kts Springs, 1 kt Neaps. The Westerly flow begins at HW Tarifa + 6. On the African side, E'ly flow starts at HW - 4 and Westerly, HW + 2. Once down the Straits, towards the Western end of the Separation Lane, roughly in the middle, the Easterly starts at HW-1 and the Westerly HW +5.

You have lots of room well outside the Traffic Lane for the 14-odd mile run down the Spanish side to Tarifa. If you do it in daylight, the majority of the Spanish fishing fleet will be in port selling their catch. Night time can get quite busy with erratic fishermen! You can stay on the Spanish side till the end of the Separation Lanes then cut across smartly to Africa - best done at slack water so that you are not "crabbing" across since you should cross at 90 degrees to the traffic.