Lots of Sailing!!! - Lagos to Gibralter 3-5th Sept.

Fri 5 Sep 2008 15:24
In total a 200 mile trip, but we decided to split it into 3 legs.  The first to Olhao, which is basically Faro (Portugal).  We were at the entrance of the narrow channel at high water and this gave us sufficient water to navigate up the channel and we anchored about 3 miles further down, next to Ilha da Culatra. 
The narrow entrance in Olhao                                                      and the tidal effect on the water
The area looked lovely to explore but we left at first light next morning and headed the 85nm to Cadiz.  We have a great beam reach sail for most of the way, but decided to put the engine on to complete the last few miles and to try and get into Cadiz before dark.  As usual this didn't happen and we had an interesting time trying to work out the entrance to Peurto America marina, as there was the usual green light marking the starboard entrance, but no red marking port side.  Instead there was another green flashing light in the same entrance and when we shone our 'super dooper' torch at the entrance, we noticed the other green flashing light was marking an empty pontoon, which was to the port of the entrance, so surely the flashing light should have flashed RED not green??.  Anyway as soon as we pulled into the marina we were greeted by the sound of a marching band practicing in the buildings next to us and also security wanting us to check in and pay. 
We understand Cadiz old town is well worth a visit, but as we only had a day, we decided to leave this delight for another time.
Leaving Cadiz
So we watered up the next day and headed for Gibralter.  We rounded Cape Trafalgar and not too long after Michael noticed a tanker on the AIS (Automatic Identifcation System) about 4 miles away on converging course.  Although we were sailing, we didn't see the tanker make any correction to his course and so we ended up having to.  The MV GIESSENBORG eventually passed less than 50 metres away from us and you can imagine, Michael was not best pleased.
Cape Trafalgar                                                                               The culprit MV Giessenborg
I had carefully studied my recently purchased Gibralter Straits handbook and was by now beginning to bore the rest of the crew with the detail, but the Straits can be a tricky place and is perhaps one of the most consistently windy stretches of water.  The Strait is situated at the juncture of the two major bodies of water, the Atlantic to the west and the Mediterranean to the east and much of the water lost through evaporation in the Med. is replaced by the Atlantic and it has been estimated that approximately one million cubic metres of water per second flows through the Straits of Gibralter into the Med.   Therefore an understanding of what the weather, currents and tides are doing before you arrive there is a wise move.  As we headed for the Straits the wind was less than 10knots and my tidal and current calucations worked perfectly as we were soon having the benefit of 3knots of tide and current with us.  It could have been worse as Tarifa, being the most Southerly city of mainland Europe is renowned for winds in excess of 30 knots blowing for 300 days of the year!
Snapshot of Gibralter Straits and the ships seen on AIS taken from our chart plotter.
The red boat shape is Nimue's position.
Ferry leaving Tarifa for Tanger                                                    Tarifa Lighhouse (further point south in Europe)
As we headed through the Straits we both marvelled at the sight of Europe on one side and North Africa on the other (18km wide) and both really felt a sense of achievement.  We had a lovely sail as the Rock of Gibralter came into sight and again we ended heading into the busy harbour in the dark.  However we decided to drop anchor just the other side of the airport runway in La Linea, Spain, quite odd?
Container ships in the Sraits of Gibralter with Morocco in the background
The Rock in the distance (left side of picture)                              Heading into Gibralter Bay